On the Aisle (2007)

Great

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on August 2, 2007 in Fayetteville Free Weekly.

Jason Bourne is so cool.

In The Bourne Ultimatum, the intrepid rogue agent continues on his heady spree of action and intrigue. He's always on the run, and always in trouble.

Jason Bourne makes a motorcycle dance, drives a car off a roof, crashes through windows, falls 10 stories into water, and pummels scores of hapless operatives, cops, and assassins. He is always a step ahead of his lethal pursuers. He is one clever whirlwind.

But Jason Bourne is also human, wracked by guilt over the deeds he once did, and tormented by the death of Marie, the love of his life, who became a victim of his past.

In The Bourne Ultimatum -- based on Robert Ludlum's novel -- Bourne tries to trace his roots back to what started him on his dire career. He is committed to avenging Marie and finding out about himself.

The Bourne Ultimatum is like taking a travelogue on a jag -- Moscow, Turin, Paris, London, Madrid, Tangier, and New York. Bourne is after his truth, and everybody is after Bourne.

One very positive element of the Bourne films is that they always get fine actors to play their villains. David Strathairn is the latest as a nefarious operational head. Joan Allen returns as Pamela Landy, who becomes an ally of the desperate Bourne. He also is helped by Nicky Parsons, the appealing Julia Stiles. Paddy Considine is effective as an ill-fated journalist who is unable to keep up with Bourne, in a great sequence.

Director Paul Greengrass again brings his frenetic camera work to Bourne's exploits and Christopher Rouse's staccato editing adds potent punctuation. The music by John Powell also increases energy.

The Bourne Ultimatum keeps the pedal to the floor and burns serious rubber.

What a wild ride!

Talk To Me

Talk to Me is two films.

The first is the rise of Washington, D.C., radio icon Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene in the 1960s. It is lighthearted fun with a punch. The second -- the fall of "Petey" -- is standard stuff. It peters out. The direction gets away from Kasi Lemmons.

The performances are generally stellar. Don Cheadle plays the "miscreant" Petey with great flair and energy. Chiewetel Ejiofor (pronounced Chew-it-tell Edge-oh-for) plays the sometimes cautious station manager Dewey Hughes, and his chemistry with Cheadle is effective for much of the movie. But then the script and direction fail Ejiofor -- they turn his character into a generic success story.

The focus of the film wavers and goes away from Petey and onto Dewey. The film loses its direction and slides into blandness.

Martin Sheen, as the station owner, excels as a fitful bundle of frustration. Several of his scenes are hilarious. Taraji P. Henson plays Petey's pepperpot girlfriend.

For much of the film, Talk to Me is an incisive portrait of a provocative figure. It comes very close to caricature, but remains human and lively. Ironically, then it gives into "signifying" which Petey hated. Petey would have walked out before the movie wasover.

La Vie en Rose

In La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard has the role of a lifetime. And she relishes it.

Cotillard portrays Edith Piaf (born Edith Giovanni Gassion), the brash, tortured Gallic songbird, who had the voice of an angel and the demeanor of a demon. Sometimes boorish, often brilliant, Piaf had one of the most recognizably evocative voices of the 20th century.

After a dismal childhood, Edith -- a young vagabond -- was discovered as a street singer by club owner Louis Leplee (Gerard Depardieu), who named her "La Mome Piaf" -- The Little Sparrow. But there was a lot of hawk and a little bit of vulture in this sparrow.

Cotillard portrays Edith Piaf from age 20 to her death in 1963 at the age of 47.

Lip-synching can be a problem, but Cotillard's artistry is seamless as she embodies the haunting voice of Piaf as Piaf herself sings 11 songs.

Jil Aigrot does cover versions of Piaf in three other songs when the recordings of Piaf were unusable because of poor sound quality.

Cotillard goes from Piaf's passionate highs -- often drug and alcohol induced -- to her awful lows -- often drug and alcohol induced. She captures the bliss of Piaf's love affair with boxer Marcel Cerdan, and the devastation of its sudden end.

Cotillard's Piaf is fierce and vulnerable. The first part of La Vie en Rose -- Edith's childhood -- is melodramatic and contrived. She's like a refugee from a bad production of Oliver Twist. It's studied and cosmetic -- street urchins with artful smudges on their faces.

Director Oliver Dahan and co-writer Isabelle Sobelman create an unpromising beginning, but the film comes to life with the appearance of the phenomenal Cotillard. She gives aching personality to Piaf's thrilling voice.


You might be interested in reading my most recent reviews, all of my reviews from this year, or all of my reviews from last year.

For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).


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