Les Misérables Review (Kirk Haviland)

Les Miz Banner

Les Misérables (2012)

Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, with Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

Based on the Original Stage Musical: Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables

Screenplay by William Nicholson, Herbert Kretzmer Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg

Directed by Tom Hooper

The director of 2010’s multiple award winning “The King’s Speech”, Tom Hooper, is back with his latest Oscar baiting offering, an adaptation of the award winning and long running play based the Victor Hugo  book “Les Misérables”. The production is a huge undertaking and has assembled a high profile cast under Hooper’s guiding hands to bring the tale to the screen. But is Hooper ready to helm a film that is well beyond the scope and scale anything he has ever done?

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story full of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption and stands as a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.  Ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman), after breaking his parole, has managed to start a new successful life under the guise of Monsieur Madeleine, a small town mayor and factory owner. But all the while Valjean is being hunted, for decades, by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) who is determined to see Valjean back on the chain gang after breaking his parole.  When Valjean agrees to care for former factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. Valjean raises Cosette (Seyfried) until she is a young woman, but as the french student revolutionaries poise themselves to make their first strike against the government led by Marius (Redmayne) and Enjolras (Tveit), Javert has picked up Valjean’s scent yet again.

Les Miz Eddie Redmayne

Tom Hooper’s take on Les Misérables is very successful, but is not without its flaws. Not having seen a stage production of the play, the film is very long at 2 1/2 hours, but keeps a reasonable pace throughout. Audiences who do not like musicals should know that the combined amount of dialogue not sung in the film is probably half an hour of the runtime at the most. Some of the staging of the songs and placement of intro and outros do come off as awkward. The songs are quite good, the play has been around for decades because of its writing, and Hooper plays it mainly straight here without different interpretations. In fact many scenes are staged as they were on a stage instead of for film, with very mixed results.

The performances are just as varied here. Hugh Jackman is likely one of the few in Hollywood with the traditional chops to take on Jean Valjean, and he gives a solid performance in the role. Sadly his counterpoint is Crowe playing Javert and Crowe struggles mightily with the performance as many times the songs he is required to perform are well beyond his range. Anne Hathaway is phenomenal as the tragic Fantine. Her performance is strong, fragile and tragic all at the same time, and she delivers a brilliantly stirring rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”. Matching her brilliance is Redmayne as Marius. This is a star making performance for Redmayne as his performance outshines all of the other males here. And in a supporting performance, Samantha Barks in the role of Éponine is simply divine.

Les Miz Hathaway

Some of the films missteps, other than Crowe’s, come in supporting roles and overall staging. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the innkeepers are performances that start strong but become very distracting towards the end. One of the bigger set pieces of the film is the barricade set up by the revolutionaries after they ambush a public official’s funeral. The siege at the barricade is where Hooper’s limited experience in shooting action comes to light as the sequence becomes a mish-mash of quick cuts, screams and people barking orders. The sequence is poorly shot and seems out of place with the pacing and tone of the rest of the film. Where the final shot staged in front of the French parliament buildings works brilliantly being set as if on the stage, the barricade being built as a stage style prop, does not help the action sequence at all. But these missteps do not hinder the overall enjoyment of the film.

Les Miz Jackman

Some amazing performances and fantastic music make Les Misérables as extremely satisfying cinematic endeavour. The film will be relevant around awards season and hopefully the performances from Hathaway, Redmayne and Barks do not go unrewarded. For these noted performances alone Les Misérables is a strong recommend.

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

Follow me directly on twitter @moviejunkieto and by liking my Facebook page at Movie Junkie TO

Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

Rise of the Guardians Review (Kirk Haviland)

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Starring the voices of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher and Hugh Jackman

Written by David Lindsay-Abaire based on the books written by William Joyce

Directed by Peter Ramsey

New in theaters in time for US Thanksgiving weekend, and ready to fight for box office domination against stiff competition, Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures bring us the new animated film Rise of the Guardians. Classic iconic characters such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost are all in this rousing tale of camaraderie and teamwork. But how does Rise of the Guardians fare against other options out there this weekend?

Rise of the Guardians starts by introducing us to Jack Frost, the fun-loving yet very lonely master of ice and snow, who runs around in secret as the humans of the world cannot see him. When an evil spirit known as Pitch lays down the gauntlet to take over the world the Guardians, the group of legendary characters mentioned above, are re-united to defend the earth and its children. But Pitch knows the Guardians’ weakness and is ready to take them on. It’s up to Jack to decide whether he will change his solitary lifestyle and become a true guardian.

Dreamworks has managed to produce what is destined to be another holiday classic, yet for Easter, not Christmas. You read that right, the film is set three days before Easter, not Christmas. The script is very funny and while it still hits familiar notes, the film makes these conventions work and introduces its own rules specific to this universe. We see not just Santa’s Workshop but the Tooth Fairy’s palace and the Easter Bunny’s burrow. Many films have shown Christmas in full prep mode, but Guardians shows us a fun, if not slightly Willy Wonka creepy, interpretation of the Easter Bunny’s prep. Having the writer of the original books William Joyce along on the production adds to the quality of the film and has obviously helped in the creativity department.

The voice cast here works for the most part, even though it is a touch gimmicky. Chris Pine as Jack Frost and Isla Fisher as Tooth Fairy are both charming and sweet. Jackman’s bunny and the non-verbal Sandman are highlights for sure. Alec Baldwin doing basically the Russian version of Mike Myers’ goofy Shrek accent works most of the time, but does to go over the deep end at times. The best work though belongs to Jude Law, whose work as Pitch Black, the villain, is impeccable.

The CG animation work is great, with many photo realistic touches and elements. The character models are updated takes on the classic imagery we have of these iconic characters. Santa becomes a large tattooed burly man with a thick Russian accent; The Easter Bunny is a 6 foot tall Kiwi with boomerangs for weapons and the Sandman is actually made out of sand. These ingenious little touches lets you know right away that we are dealing with new takes on these characters and set the right tone for the adventure to come.

Destined to become a crossover holiday classic, much like Henry Selick’s Nightmare before Christmas is both a Christmas and Halloween favorite, Rise of the Guardians will be the same for Christmas and Easter. Fun, smart and endearing, Rise of the Guardians will be fun for kids of all ages. Rise of the Guardians is a definite recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

Follow me directly on twitter @moviejunkieto and by liking my Facebook page at Movie Junkie TO

Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑