Les Miserables Review – A Sombre Sililoquy


Director: Tom Hooper

Writer: William Nicholson (screenplay), Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil (musical), Victor Hugo (novel)

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried


Release date: December 25th, 2013

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: UK

Running time: 158 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: Oscar-worthy performances from Jackman and Hathaway.

Worst part: The love triangle.

A young girl’s visage is draped across the screen, her voice whistling in the wind as she drags her suitcase cross a bitterly snow-covered French landscape. This devastating image is part of what makes 2012’s Les Miserables such a profound piece of theatrical storytelling. This story now has a cinematic opus worthy of its esteemed emotional core and harsh re-telling of the French Revolution. Les Miserables is a moody and eclectic adaptation of this epic story of rebellion in the heart of 19th century Paris.

Hugh Jackman.

Les Miserables captures the visceral qualities of this historically significant tale. Based on the 1862 Victor Hugo novel, the stage musical has been adapted countlessly on stage and screen. This adaptation begins with Jean Valjean(Hugh Jackman)’s release after a 19 year imprisonment. Locked up for stealing a loaf of bread, his courage and tenacity have led to an exiled existence. Cast out into the cold by both the law and the lower class, Valjean’s religious awakening leads to a life in hiding. 8 years later and Valjean, having broken his parole laws, is the target of Parisian prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe). Valjean seeks a peaceful life in France as a factory owner. Despite Valjean’s efforts to keep women in his factory and out of the cold, the ill-fortunes of single mother Fantine (Anne Hathaway) go tragically unnoticed. Valjean swears to protect her daughter Cosette, feeling he has wronged Fantine in horrific ways. Years later, the ‘June Rebellion’ affects both Valjean and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), as Cosette falls in love and Valjean’s time on the run may soon be at an end.

Russell Crowe.

Les Miserables is much more of a sweeping epic than a dull period piece. The film captures one of Europe’s darkest times through a haunting visual style. Each filthy, claustrophobic setting becomes a dark labyrinth. This is a story where good people are made to suffer and wallow in filth while people who can help stand over them. For example, the first scene is one of astounding beauty and severe consequence for our hero. A ship is pulled into the docks by an army of prisoners. Their chant is a battle cry of hatred and despair, while Javert looks down upon them with an unmistakeable sense of disgust. ‘Look Down’ is one of the film’s greatest musical numbers and a perfect way to introduce the increasingly sombre tone. Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) once again proves to be an Oscar-worthy visionary. His take on a beloved classic is an emotionally powerful stance against crime and corruption. Hooper has created an uplifting modern musical and a stirringly cinematic Spartacus/A Tale of Two Cities style epic. Atrocities in 21 century France, Egypt and Libya make this harrowing story of teenage rebellion as relevant today as it was during the acclaimed novel’s creation. The ‘June Rebellion’ is one of the film’s most powerful sequences.

Anne Hathaway.

Guns and ideologies clash as political uprising rears its ugly head. ‘Red and Black’ is harmoniously voiced in unison; becoming a rousing musical number with moral and social importance. Despite this story’s stance on civil upheaval, this is an operatic tale of loss and redemption from Valjean’s perspective. Valjean is a man convinced that religion and humanity have shown him the way to a better life. He is a strong protagonist in this cat-and-mouse tale as he constantly searches for a way to enlighten his tragic existence. Fantine, however, becomes brutally disfigured by loss and heartache. Her sacrifices were made so that Cosette could live a peaceful life. But Fantine tragically falls into the depths of tuberculosis and prostitution. Javert, on the other hand, is a vague character. His obsession with catching Valjean remains sorely enigmatic and understated. This bombastic affair is tempered by Hooper’s choice to have his actors sing live. Instead of the over-dubbing process used in most screen musicals, this unique process allows the vocals to intertwine seamlessly with the soundtrack. Each sputter, tear and torment comes across in each note, aiding the darkness of this adaptation. Hooper’s hand-held camera-work also adds to the film’s gritty edge. Focusing on the wavering emotions embedded in each character, the camera tracks across each scene and illuminates the endless emotional current.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” (Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), Les Miserables).

Amanda Seyfried & Eddie Redmayne.

Amanda Seyfried & Eddie Redmayne.

The camera-work matches each crescendo, using swift crane shots to transition from one scene to the next. The film’s stellar performances are likely to garner Oscar acclaim. Jackman has never been better. He is a captivating presence as every ballad is delivered with melodic force. ‘Valjean’s Soliloquy’ is performed with a devastating amount of pain and anger. Hathaway is a remarkable talent here as Fantine. Her portrayal is one of harrowing sorrow; providing the definitive version of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. Bravo! Russell Crowe is always an intense presence on-screen. He continues this here going scene for scene with Jackman. He is however unable to match Jackman’s stellar vocal range. His gruff tone hammers each ballad with a thud instead of a ring. The sickening tone is balanced by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as ludicrous thieving innkeepers, the Thenardiers. ‘Master of the House’ is a harmonious and whimsical number illustrating the depths they have sunken to. Seyfried brings a canary-like chirp to scenes of emotional dexterity. The love story however is underdeveloped. Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks are convincing yet shift the focus too far away from Jackman’s enthralling embodiment of Valjean.

Hooper’s adaptation of Les Miserables hits the high notes. Powerful performances and rousing musical numbers stand out in this cinematic extravaganza likely to compel audiences during Oscar season.

Verdict: A stirring and sumptuous screen musical. 

The Best & Worst Movies of 2012


This blog has been a rewarding experience. One that emptied my bank account and, much more importantly, opened my mind to the majesty of film. My top 10 is based on films that expanded and enlightened. My bottom 5 however is full of ‘WTF!’ moments. I’ve had a blast and I look forward to 2013.

p.s. Sorry if my English hasn’t been the best. I’m getting a lot better. Trust me.

Top 10 of 2012

10. Seven Psychopaths

9. My Brothers

8. Skyfall

7. Killing Them Softly

6. The Descendants

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

4. The Avengers

3. The Dark Knight Rises

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

1. Argo

Honourable Mentions:

The Cabin in the Woods, Midnight in Paris, The MasterHugo

Biggest surprises:

Dredd, Chronicle, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games

 

Bottom 5 of 2012

5. Battleship

4. Red Dawn

3. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

2. Alex Cross

Tyler Perry.

1. Resident Evil: Retribution

Dishonourable mentions:

Total Recall, Dark Shadows, Mirror Mirror, Savages

Biggest Disappointments:

The Bourne Legacy, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Taken 2, Safe House

Wreck-It Ralph Review – Arcade Aggressor


Director: Rich Moore

Writers: Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee 

Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer


Release date: November 12th, 2012

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 101 minutes


 

3½/5 

Best part: The video game universe.

Worst part: The sugar-coated humour.

Video games are merely seen as a way of escaping reality. But the imaginative worlds created for every Halo, Call of Duty or Super Mario Bros. game may be small parts of something much greater. This is vaguely the premise of Disney’s new animated feature Wreck-It Ralph. The video game universe is given a new lease of life here. This behind-the-scenes look at our favourite pixelated heroes and villains is a testament to how far technology has come in the past 40 years. It’s a fun, vibrant and heart-warming journey through the 32-bit universe.

John C. Reilly.

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is one of two main characters in the arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr. (inspired by Donkey-Kong). His destructive ways have left him isolated from the game’s other characters, forced to watch them side with its titular hero Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). After a disastrous support group meeting for disgruntled villains, Ralph comes back to his game having not been invited to its 30th anniversary party. Ralph’s existential crisis pushes him to strive for hero’s status. Hopping games inside the grid, Ralph will find his courage and humility in two games; Hero’s Duty and Sugar Rush. His illegal pursuit into the realm of Sugar Rush leads to his greatest challenge- friendship. This comes in form of young sugar-fuelled racer Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). Vanellope and Ralph must bond to achieve their goals before the video game multiplex becomes obsolete.

Sarah Silverman.

Wreck-It Ralph is a surprisingly inventive animated feature in the vein of Hoodwinked and Kung-Fu Panda. Disney has learnt from Pixar’s standard of breath-taking animated film-making. Disney animation has developed an epic, brightly-coloured and energetic version of Toy Story set in a multi-layered video game universe. Ralph’s journey towards both a hero’s medal and salvation is exhilarating whilst tugging the heartstrings at just the right moments. Ralph is ostensibly a nice guy in a bad guy’s intimidating exterior. Kids will enjoy this story of self-confidence and determination. Despite using the undying animated film theme of ‘always believe in yourself’, the film depicts a sensitive outlook on how our differences make us truly special. The main characters are all outsiders in their own games. They become the heroes they choose to be and never forget about each other along the way. Ralph and Vanellope’s instant chemistry works out the kinks in their contrasting personalities. Wreck-It Ralph‘s comedic moments however strictly serve the younger viewers. Vanellope’s goofy humour steadily becomes tedious. While Sugar Rush is a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-like plethora of candy related puns.

Jane Lynch.

Wreck-It Ralph smartly bases its characters on the actors portraying them. The characters exude the same interior and exterior traits that make these actors some of the most likeable in Hollywood today. Reilly embodies Wreck-It Ralph with his usual every-man persona. Known for playing likeable characters in dramas such as Magnolia and We Need to talk About Kevin, Reilly’s portrayal of this down-on-his-luck hero comes off as a loving representation of his own indelible on-screen attitude. Silverman energetically voices a fun-loving child. Vanellope’s optimistic attitude keeps Ralph on his toes, proving that persistence is the key to happiness. Her snarky jokes at points crackle, drawing a sense of heart from Ralph’s tough exterior. Glee‘s Jane Lynch is hysterical as the Ripley-esque bad-ass chick. Lynch’s tom-boyish silver haired warrior is in desperate need of a silver lining. While 30 Rock‘s McBrayer plays an enjoyably optimistic character willing to give Ralph a chance.

“When did video games become so violent and scary?” (Wreck-it Ralph (JohnC. Reilly), Wreck-it Ralph).

Jack McBrayer.

Jack McBrayer.

Director Rich Moore is clearly inspired by the great Disney animated features that made the company an overwhelming success. The universe that Moore and Disney have created rivals the luscious landscapes of Pixar’s greatest feature films. The fore and backgrounds are teeming with classic video game and film references. Modern entertainment owes Disney many debts of gratitude for changing cinema throughout the past 40 years. However, this film is Disney’s homage to other popular genres and movements in the entertainment industry. Both adults and kids will have fun pointing out multiple arcade and 3-D video game references. The support group for example includes Pacman’s ghost nemesis, Bowser and Street Fighter‘s Zangief. The grid is also a plethora of video game influences. Any video game junkie will love the realm filled with Halo-meets-Aliens-like first person shooters, Nintendo/Super Mario Kart inspired racing games and every classic arcade game character imaginable. Look out for Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat contestants and Q*Berg.

Disney’s latest animated feature is perfect for the holidays. Swerving away from Dreamworks’ generic pop-culture obsessed animated material, Wreck-It Ralph is a pacy mix of delectable set-pieces and likeable characters.

Verdict: A nostalgic and colour-saturated thrill ride.