*(OUT OF FOUR)
Alright, what's going on with Kate Winslet? A few months ago, I was feeling bold enough to proclaim her as the best and brightest actress of her generation. Now, after bearing witness to the twin disasters of "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader," I have to wonder if I wasn't a little hasty on the "brightest" part. Winslet has received the greatest acclaim of her career for her role here as a Nazi war criminal who refuses to defend herself against murder charges, and that praise isn't entirely undeserved; this is as sensitive a portrayal as we've come to expect from this immensely talented actress, but as in "Revolutionary Road," she just isn't given much to work with. The film is classic Oscar bait (and it worked, as the movie is up for five Academy Awards), but its attempts at profundity are utterly transparent.
It seems to go against my adventurous movie-going spirit, but I love genre movies that deliver exactly what they promise to, in exactly the way you expect them to. Take "Taken," a preposterous kidnapping thriller that really isn't all that different from any other cheap revenge fantasy, with some key exceptions. Most importantly, this skillfully assembled film recognizes and even embraces its own superfluous nature, and never even attempts to make any kind of serious statement about its subject matter. You're paying to watch a gracefully aging Liam Neeson tear through the streets of Europe with extreme prejudice and reckless abandon, taking out anyone or anything that comes between him and his little girl, and 93 minutes of badass Liam is exactly what you get.
I watched a movie called "91/2 Weeks" for the first time the other day. It's a "sex flick," but a great one, and a stark reminder of why I've always considered Mickey Rourke to be one of cinema's most appealing leading men, and perhaps - just perhaps - the sexist bastard to ever flash his mug on a movie screen. But that was long ago. He could have been his generation's Brando, but a string of bad choices both onand off-screen (including a brief, devastating stint as a boxer) led Rourke down a bad path that ended with him existing on the margins of the movie industry, beaten down to a pulp on the outside and scarred internally by the knowledge that all of it was nobody's fault but his own. He'll never be handsome again, but thanks to Darren Aronofsky's wholly remarkable "The Wrestler," Rourke has at least gotten one last shot at stardom. And he makes the most of the opportunity with his Oscar-worthy turn as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a big-time pro wrestler who peaked in the late 1980s but, 20 years later, finds himself broke and alone.
Movies are reviewed by News-Sentinel movie reviewer Jason Wallis every Saturday.