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BY Steven D. GreydanusRegister Film Critic
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Robin Hood (2010)
At last! New on Blu-ray and DVD, Babies is one of the year’s most delightful films, a celebration of new life, love, family, and the wonder of the world. It belongs in every Catholic family’s home-video library. Don’t think about it: Buy it now.
Directed by documentarian (and father of three) Thomas Balmès, Babies documents the first year of life for four babies growing up in four corners of the world: California, Tokyo, Namibia and Mongolia. Their circumstances are very different in many ways, but in one way they are all alike: They have all been welcomed with open arms by loving parents.
Balmès captures tears, frustration and mishaps as well as love and laughter. At times there are eye-opening glimpses into other cultures lacking our standards of safety and hygiene (a newly postpartum mama riding home with her newborn on the back of papa’s motorcycle; an African baby lying face down in the dust sucking a rock). All in all, a joyous, revelatory and, of course, adorable film.
A charming featurette documenting Balmès’ return visits to the families three years later to show them the film and a two-minute short on a baby photo contest are the only extras. Why so stingy? Balmès shot lots of additional footage that should have been mined for the DVD.
Also new on home video, Iron Man 2 is a worthy follow-up to the first Iron Man, and one that provides what the original most crucially lacked: worthy opposition. If Iron Man was a popcorn redemption story, the sequel is about speed bumps on the road to redemption, from unwelcome revelations about Tony’s father to the toll the suit is taking on Tony’s health. Tony still has feet of clay, but he’s making progress.
Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell tag team as hilarious odd-couple villains, one with a grudge and technical know-how, the other with means and motive. Once again Gwyneth Paltrow provides the film’s beating heart as Tony’s assistant Pepper Potts.
Finally, skip Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe as a remarkably unmerry Robin in a downbeat, grim take on the legend of Sherwood Forest. Even more than Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, it’s an ugly, shabby take on the Middle Ages. Godless Crusaders, oppressive bishops, and constant brutality, hypocrisy and debauchery define a world all but unmoved by beauty, serenity and humanity. Who wants to see this? Can anyone imagine a sequel?
Content advisory: Babies: Maternal and ethnographic nudity. Fine family viewing. Iron Man 2: Much comic-book action and mayhem; brief bloody aftermath of a deadly attack; limited profanity and some crude language; suggestive dialogue and innuendo; a scene of drunkenness and operating dangerous machinery while intoxicated; a couple of shots of a woman in states of undress (nothing explicit); a production number with scantily clad cheerleader-type dancers. Teens and up.