Monday, May 19, 2008

Just Some Other Manic Movies

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
What a wonderfully depressing movie. Based on the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a famous French journalist and former editor of Elle magazine, this film is derived from Bauby's own novel — which he wrote after suffering a "cardiovascular accident" that left him with "locked-in syndrome." That is to say, he was entirely paralyzed and unable to communicate by any means other than blinking his left eyelid. While in this state, Baubly reflects on his life (he was a bit of a philandering jerk); his mistakes (he was good with his children when he saw them, but seldom did); and his regrets. You can sense his agony with this film, not only for his inability to speak his thoughts and rise from his bed, but also the emotional turmoil that haunts he and his family. FINAL GRADE: A-

Prince Caspian
Based on the second-published (fourth installment if read chronologically) novel from The Chronicles of Narnia, I found this film adaptation to be a deserving follow-up to the first. There's never a boring moment in this almost three-hour film, which marks the return of the Pevensie children to the mythical land of Narnia, some 1,300 years after their reign (though only a year has passed in the "real" world). They were summoned by Prince Caspian, the rightful heir to the throne after he's driven from his kingdom (and into Narnia) by his despotic uncle. But as C.S. Lewis intended these books to be for children (though they're also favorited by adults the world over), some elements — especially as conveyed by filmmakers — test the boundaries of the suspension of disbelief. That is to say: there were definitely some moments where I felt inclined to roll my eyes, but I was otherwise amused, intrigued and entertained. FINAL GRADE: B+

Death at a Funeral
The first 25 minutes of this British comedy were hilarious: one of the most consistently, subtly humorous starts of a film in recent memory, in fact. But at one point the humor slows and things don't so much grow stale as they almost grow too serious for the film's own good. But that's the beauty of the film, as a whole: forcing the audience to laugh precisely when it knows it shouldn't. In short: the entire film centers around the funeral (go figure) of a wealthy businessman; his family (two sons, a wife and the goings-on his nieces and nephews); and the gay lover who changes everything. FINAL GRADE: B+

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
This film was pitched as a parody of the rise, decline and fall of your typical pop star... and yet it makes no apologies for pretty much satirizing the life of Johnny Cash and parodying Walk the Line to a T. As a fan of the late Mr. Cash, this disturbed me a bit. And yet: I still found the film to be goofily funny, with John C. Reily creating a character that is loveable and minutely comedic even when at his worst. And, well, let's be honest: Johnny Cash's story did pretty much set the mold for future musicians to follow.: the infidelity; the drugs; the alcohol; the stints in prison; etc. In all, this film will make you laugh... and even though "smart" in some ways, you'll also never be able to shake off the feeling that it's horribly silly and a bit irreverent. FINAL GRADE: B-


michele said...

Great reviews, as usual!

One of my students was telling me about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but you did a much better job of selling it! And I too enjoyed Prince Caspian - more than I thought I would. I read the series to my children when they were younger - all three crowded onto one bed while I read, which was great fun - so it was a bit of revisiting that phase of our lives to see the movie. That might have something to do with my enjoyment of it. And thanks to you, I'm definitely putting Death at a Funeral on my ziplist!

disgruntled world citizen said...

i saw Death at a Funeral a couple weeks ago. it was cute, but it didn't do much for me. its not one i need to see again.