Monday, June 9, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

PHENOMENAL: (Julian Schnabel) A truly emotional masterpiece, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the few films to encase a realistic tone throughout beautiful and creative cinematography. From the beginning, as seen through the half paralyzed eyes of Elle editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the film is raw, candid and heartbreaking. Bauby, the former editor of Elle magazine in France, suffered a massive stroke while out for a drive with his son. After months in a coma, he awakes to complete paralysis, and only the use of his left eye. Through months of intense occupational therapy, he learns to communicate through a series of alphabetic blinks. With this string of communication, he lives his last year writing a novel blink for blink about the cage he lives in. He says, "I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed, my imagination and my memory." This attitude carries throughout the film, riding a roller coaster of emotion as he watches through tunnel vision as his children play on the beach, as friends come to visit, and as his father delivers a heartbreaking birthday goodbye via telephone. What exists as the most heartbreaking and unimaginable story to date for me is at the same time one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. Inspired by Bauby's determination to finish his life's novel and the absolutely spectacular filming, this true-story drew me in immediately and will be in my heart forever. Phenomenal performances credit Schanbel's direction, and extremely detailed writing brings an otherwise silent story to life. As a viewer, you get to see (and arguably feel) what Bauby does, and with his words to narrate us along the way, we are spared no frustration, no pain, and no remorse alongside him. Don't miss out on this film. It will forever remain in the top tier of my most memorable films.

Sex and the City

MUST SEE: (Michael Patrick King) LOVE THIS FILM! For someone who never watched SATC as a TV Series, this film completely roped me in and entertained for its two hour span, leaving me wishing for more and hoping for infinity. Combine that with the world's biggest product-placement movie and the world's most popular NYC women, and you've got a everyone pleaser. The story is fresh, despite a decade-old series. The humor is unending, and pertaining to all audiences. The moral is simple, unbiased and sooo believable. It is the first happy movie I have seen (and liked) in a long while. How much I enjoyed it actually surprised me, but I urge you to give it a chance. Yes, expect some raw sex, but know that it is in spurts and never in a fashion that makes you uncomfortable. Yes, expect lots of attention on cool cell phones, ridiculous outfits and sparkly shoes, but admit it makes you drool and enjoy the free (well, $10) fashion show. Plus, seeing this film gives you a glimpse of the fabulous Jennifer Hudson, playing a realistic role that adds credibility to the NY crowd. Plus, she is always a treat and proves her Oscar was only the beginning. The bottom line is this film captures the essence of a great film. It carries a love story, a heartbreak, a girls night out, a NYC fantasy, humor, realism and raw entertainment for a long two hours that will keep you hoping each fade out frame doesn't bring an ending. And when that end did come for me, I could only hope for another. Bravo.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Strangers

WORTH-IT: (Bryan Bertino) What begins as a bad teen horror movie, eventually takes flight into one of the best real scary stories the cinema has to offer. Based the the true story of unexplained deaths discovered by two young boys selling door to door, The Strangers takes us along with Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as they escape to an isolated vacation home for some romantic peace and quiet. Once the script diverges from a love-story gone awry, we are threatened by three masked strangers who appear at every open window, and suspiciously, around corners of the locked-up house. Not only does this plot play on everyone's fear of a lonely quiet house, but amplifies the mind tricks that silence creates. Only in this story, there are no tricks, except for the ones that are tricking you into dying. Once the masked trio make their move, the film is an endless downhill thriller, revving chainsaws, shredding prom dresses and breaking ankles. What is Tyler doing in a horror movie with no other big names (well, since Felicity)? The story is that good. In fact, it's underlying truth only makes this more unbelievable and worth talking about post-cinematic disappointments other horror movies have proved. See this one, expect a little more reality out of a stereotyped story, making staying home alone not okay.

Made of Honor

ALMOST: (Paul Wieland) What appears as a match made in heaven, that is McDreamy as the next Romantic Comedy man, is easily lost to stereotypical chick flick in Made of Honor. First and foremost, the fact that this film is simply a rip off and gender switch of the classic My Best Friends Wedding is just the icing on the wedding cake in this scenario. This story brings us stereotypical guy mottoes, feigning bridesmaids and romantic and over-the-top advances in an equally unrealistic storyline. Take Michelle Monagan's assertive, intelligent and mature Sarah, who in the blink of three weeks is engaged to a randar she meets on the road in Scotland. Where did that character flip take place? And where is it justified? The answer is in whatever explains Dempsey's character to trust the bitch bridesmaid out for his lucky position to hire an exotic sex toy educator to preach her ways and hand out Thunder beads at a wedding shower. It's all simply outrageous. But to be fair, and before you cast this one out... Isn't that what makes a good chick flick worth it? As women, we know we see these films to satisfy the truly unrealistic yearn we all have for what we watch. It's an escape, a fantasy, and a break from the droning rigmarole that awaits us outside the theatre. And in Made of Honor, we get a cherry on top with McDreamy as the star, and a humor-packed script. Save this film for a girls' night and the need for some good quality cheesy romance. Don;t disregard it for measuring up to its reputation. When compared, it's funny, entertaining, and perfectly predictable.