Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Movie Day Reviews: Only Good Ones

These are all good movies this week. I'd recommend every one of 'em.

Iron Man (2008): Okay, Robert Downey Jr. rocks. I honestly couldn't imagine him in the role of a super hero, but his witticisms and uber-cool banter throughout the film are even Oscar-worthy. Yes, Oscar-worthy. I had my doubts coming into the film, but the film itself was very well done, down to the script and the acting. There was a balanced romantic tension between Tony Stark and his assistant Pepper Potts. There was a great villain in Jeff "The Dude" Bridges. There was a good balance between action and character development. It was just plain fun. I did notice a strange parallel between Iron Man and another recent film about robots--Transformers. Does this sound familiar? A battle in the Middle East connected with the search for a revolutionary energy source used to power a life-like robot(s), all while a quirky secret agent guy makes awkward jokes, ending with huge robot fight scene in the middle of a city. Lots of CGI, lots of robots, lots of military guys, lots of sarcasm. Hmmmm. Does anyone else see the parallel here?

Ultimately, Iron Man is about a man's transformation from hedonistic frivolity to meaning and purpose after a near-death experience. He must evaluate the legacy he is leaving on the pages of history and decide what is most important. It's good enough that I'm including it in an upcoming junior high teaching series, "Jesus Goes to the Movies." (8.5 out of 10)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007): This film is a perfect example of film-making as an art form. This true story is about Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffers from a stroke and is entirely paralyzed apart from his left eye. The film's title refers to Bauby's mind, trapped in his broken body but filled with memories, dreams, and a vivid imagination. Much of the film is shot from Bauby's point-of-view, with a first person shot allowing us to hear his thoughts and see through his only connection to the outside world. It's an incredibly unique form of story-telling, and I found myself almost incarnated into the mind of Bauby, seeing what he sees, feeling what he feels. Through patience and determination, Bauby learns to communicate through a form of blinking, ultimately dictating an entire autobiography with only his left eye. It's an accurate look at the human condition--broken and disconnected, yet filled with great capacity for hope and beauty. (9 out of 10)

La Vie en Rose (2007): Named for one of her most famous songs, this biography of French singer Edith Piaf seemed greatly overlooked until Marion Cotillard won the Best Actress Oscar for her amazing portrayal of Piaf. You might recognize Cotillard from her roles in Big Fish and A Good Year, but this is by far her best performance. She definitely deserved her Oscar. The entire film revolves around her feisty and passionate portrayal of Piaf's intriguing life. Raised in a brothel, a circus, and on the streets, she has a powerful gift in her voice that leads her to fame. The film is told in a scattered sequence of flashbacks and -forwards, which left me more confused than intrigued. Due to the editing, there are unexplained characters and circumstances that don't seem to add much to the film, apart from being mildly connected to Piaf. This editing might be purposeful of the director, focusing the entire film on the character of Piaf to the exclusion in-depth development of any other characters. Katie and I just found it confusing. Outstanding performance from Cotillard, good film overall. (7.5 out of 10)

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