MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And now, a little cinematic pallet cleanser. With Thanksgiving upon us, the studios are releasing some big movies today to get an early jump on the holiday weekend. Here to tell you what the nation's critics have to say about these new releases, here's Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.
Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Movie Critic, Slate.com): Christmas is right around the corner, so here's the typical big-studio release along the lines of "Christmas with the Kranks" and "Deck the Halls," only this time, we have "Four Christmases." Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as a couple that usually escapes the holiday craziness by running off to some tropical vacation paradise. But bad weather forces them to stay put and spend Christmas with their extended dysfunctional families.
(Soundbite from "Four Christmases")
Mr. VINCE VAUGHN: (As Brad) What do you think?
Ms. REESE WITHERSPOON: (As Kate) You look fine. I'm trying to get you...
Mr. VAUGHN: (As Brad) What about my man skirt? Is that too short, or is that OK? Honestly?
Ms. WITHERSPOON: (As Kate) It's a little short.
Unidentified Woman: OK, here's Jesus.
Ms. WITHERSPOON: (As Kate) You don't use a doll?
Mr. LEGAN: The critics say, bah humbug! Even though Entertainment Weekly snickers, crassly enjoyable, Variety snarls, thoroughly cheerless, and the Seattle Post Intelligencer finds "Four Christmases" neither clever nor heartwarming.
Director Gus Van Sant, who's made everything from "Good Will Hunting" to "Drugstore Cowboy," brings us the biopic "Milk." Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay American to be voted into major public office back in 1977. Milk faced many challenges and was becoming a popular figure until his murder shocked San Francisco and the nation.
(Soundbite from "Milk")
Unidentified Man: By the way, you can do better.
Mr. SEAN PENN: (As Harvey Milk) When I come home to Jack, I don't have to talk politics. I don't have to talk intelligently. I don't have to talk at all. And besides, when is an ugly old man like me going to find a handsome young man like that?
Unidentified Man: You're not that old, and you look handsome. Happy 48th.
Mr. LEGAN: "Milk" is getting very strong reviews. A total triumph, cheers Rolling Stone. Vibrantly entertaining, shouts the New Yorker. And USA Today calls "Milk" engrossing and that Penn's Oscar-caliber transformation is breathtaking.
For those who complain they never make any old-fashion romantic epics anymore, you may want to book a ticket to "Australia." Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman star in this action adventure set before the dangerous times just before World War II.
(Soundbite from "Australia")
Ms. NICOLE KIDMAN: (As Lady Sarah Ashley) You don't want to go to the ball?
Mr. HUGH JACKMAN: (As Drover) Ball? Sarah, I'm as good as black to that mob out there. And I mix with dingos, not duchesses.
Mr. LEGAN: The reviews are split right down the middle. The New York Daily News dismisses it as an unwieldy mess. But Time magazine says, "Australia" delivers with real panache, and the Hollywood Reporter promises, the film defies all but the most cynical not to get carried away by the force of its grandiose imagery and storytelling. So, there you have it. A movie set in the land down under.
What I'm sure is not covered is the fact that all of these Aussies keep coming here, taking what few movie star jobs there are, winning Oscars and Golden Globes. You know what I'm talking about, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts to name just a few.
Boy, I hope once President Obama is in office, he doesn't get distracted with frivolous issues and focuses on the important stuff like the economy and this high influx of Australian celebrities. Vote yes on the Keep Our Street Safe from Olivia Newton-John bill.
Unidentified Announcer: Paid for by jealous Americans who know they will never have that cool Australian accent.
BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. More to come on Day to Day.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.