THE READER and ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO

New films reviewed by Film Mafia on Tony Delroy’s Nightlife on the ABC radio network throughout Australia.

THE READER ****
Academy Award Best Picture nominated film from Stephen Daldry stars Kate Winslet as an ex-SS Guard who starts a strange and one-sided affair with a fifteen year old boy. Old-fashioned, intelligent and thought-provoking adult entertainment; David Hare’s script, from Bernhard Schlink’s novel, raises extremely delicate and thought-provoking questions concerning sexual obsession and forgiveness, morality and legal versus personal ethics. Newcomer David Kross is excellent, playing young Michael Berg from 15 into his late twenties; Ralph Fiennes makes delicate and full use of the hardest part, Michael Berg as as older man looking back, and dealing with, his simultaneously traumatic and thrilling youth). Kate Winslet steals the show in a supporting part; her Hanna Schlink is unlikable, unintelligent and potentially monstrous: her bravery in the role really gives her right to claim the mantle of the “New Meryl Streep”, and I suspect she’ll beat her older rival (nominated for Doubt) for the Best Actress Oscar this year. Going against her: She plays a Nazi. Unlikely to win Best Picture against Slumdig Millionaire, this is nonethess a very fine film indeed, and likely to cause a lot of thought and discussion afterwards.

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO **1/2
Kevin Smith’s latest film is certainly racy and revels in sexual freedom (and four-letter words) but unfortunately it corrupts itself by ultimately copping to a schmaltzy and formulaic structure. Kevin Smith has betrayed, and insulted, his very loyal audience with this one: the same people who will love the first two-thirds of the film will really dislike the last, which buys into Hollywood formula and cheap sentiment unashamedly and, disappointingly, in a misguidedly ambitious way: why does Smith want to be want to be Nora Ephron or Penny Marshall as well as Kevin Smith? And if he wants to be the Judd Apatow of Knocked Up, he needs to spend more time on his scriptwriting: this one is shallow and lazy in comparison to that, very well constructed, “rom-com for all”. That said, the first half is spirited and there are some very funny moments (Brandon Routh and Justin Long have a great scene as a gay couple); Seth Rogan brings as much as he can to a role that feels tailor-made for him; and Elizabeth Banks continues to be delightful: she is a great contender for the mantle of “comedy beauty queen”. Ultimately, a good Friday Night date movie, but nothing more.

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