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Les Misérables

25 Dec

les-miserables-four-new-production-featurettes

Synopsis: From the novel by Victor Hugo, Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption-a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.

CAST:

Hugh Jackman………………………………………..Jean Valjean

Anne Hathaway………………………………………………Fantine

Russell Crowe…………………………………….Inspector Javert

Amanda Seyfried……………………………………………Cossette

Eddie Redmayne………………………………………………Marius

Sasha Baron Cohen……………………………………Thernardier

Helena Bonham Carter…………………..Madame Thenardier

Review:Go see Les Misérables, it’s that simple. I will not talk about plot points, I feel unless you are a Tibetan Monk, there isn’t an adult on the planet who hasn’t seen the  play or read Victor Hugo’s epic book. The Broadway show was eye candy compared to this realistic, gritty in your face interpretation. Director Tom Hooper delivers outstanding performances from his world class troupe of actors, so this is where I shall begin, from best to least.

Anne Hathaway will take your breath away as Fantine.  As Fantine, mother of Cosette, sacked factory worker turned prostitute, Hathaway delivers the show stopping number I Dreamed a Dream. Her soul searing, gut wrenching, sympathetic, performance of the song, will stay with you long after you leave the theater. Her interpretation of the song is so real, like the way Judy Garland sang, she just doesn’t sing the song she feels every emotion in it. Her performance is so strong when she appears toward the film’s end, her redemption of Valjean fills you with tears. Trust me there wasn’t a dry eye of any gender in the house.  Kudos to Hathaway, whatever awards she has been nominated for she certainly earned them with this performance.

Hugh Jackman no stranger to musical theater, delivers a solid performance as Valjean. Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving baby. Branded a thief, he spends the next 19 years at hard labor. His emotional transformation from criminal, to a man with a heart of gold, is both enthralling, and masterfully navigated by Jackman.  Blaming himself for Fantine’s downfall, he promises her, while she is dying in the hospital, he will find her daughter Cosette, and give her the life she deserves. It is through Cosette, he finds the love in his heart, and the goodness in the world he thought he had lost as a slave. His face says it all.

Sasha Baron Cohen chews scenery with comic timing. He plays Thernardier the pick-pocket, insidious, opportunistic, money grubbing low-life inn keeper, who is Cosette’s guardian. Cohen plays the part with much glee. The song Master of The House tells you everything you need to know about Thenardier. He would sell his own mother if he thought he could make a few francs. He is also quite stupid.

Helena Bonham Carter plays Madame Thenardier, she chews scenery with comic timing as well as Cohen. Together they make a nefarious pair. Madame has a daughter whom she loves, she took in Cosette to get Fantine to pay for her support. Fantine leaves Cosette with the inn keeper and his wife when she is left a single mother, and has to make it on her own. Madame takes full advantage of this and is always sending for more money. Obviously she is using the money to buy her daughter gifts and fine clothes. Cosette, until bought by Valjean, is forced to work as a servant at the inn. Carter is always fun to watch no matter what role she plays. This time she reminded me of her work in Sweeney Todd, with Johnny Depp.

Amanda Seyfried plays Cosette. Here is a young actress with a healthy future before her.  Her Cosette is lovely, innocent and yearning. Her juxtapose between her longing for Marius and her devotion to Valjean is hard to do for a seasoned actor, here she makes it her own.

Eddie Redmayne is Marius and delivers a heartfelt performance. His love for Cosette is real, you feel every twist of his emotions. He is torn between his love of country and his comrades fight for freedom, and his love for Cosette. When he finds out Cosette may be leaving the country, he fights with his comrades behind the barricade. Valjean finds out Marius loves Cosette, so he risks his life to save Marius. The revolution scenes tear at you as the songs of freedom and revolution are sung by Marius and his comrades.

Russell Crowe as Javert was unconvincing. His performance lacked what everyone else had, heart. Even when he sang his arms hung limp at his side, his face stoic , he didn’t reveal through his song his inner demons.  As much as Hathaway and Jackman let you see inside them, Crowe did not. There where times you felt Crowe would rather be anywhere else but playing Javert.  In fact when he struggles with the notion that Valjean represents God’s goodness and he, Javert, perhaps was wrong all along to stick with his sense of duty, you remain unconvinced. Javert final moments should have some sympathy, but not so with Crowe’s performance.

They say true art can change people. If that is truth, then Les Misérables is a work of art. Everyone at the film felt every emotion through the journey Hugo’s story takes you on. Despite what people say about the emotional manipulation of the book and score, the underlying themes of love and redemption are universal.

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Recent and new on DVD

1 Apr

HUGO:

REVIEW: What do you get when a film produced by Martin Scorsese and Johnny Depp, directed by Scorsese with a world class cast of character actors in the backdrop of 1930’s Paris?  You get HUGO what is in my estimation the finest film I’ve seen this year.

Hugo played by young actor Asa Butterfield, is the story about a young boy as the film title suggest is named Hugo. He lives inside the walls of a train station in Paris in the 1930’s. His father dies, leaving behind a mysterious automaton that, when fixed, can write. Hugo makes it his mission to fix it, believing that it will reveal a message from his father. With the help of an eccentric girl named Isabelle,played beautifully by Chloë Grace Moretz, he tries to uncover a magical mystery about the old man at the toy booth (Isabelle’s godfather) and enchanting early films.

Hugo is pursued by the station inspector played to the hilt by Sasha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee plays a wise, kindly seller of books who inadvertently helps Hugo and Isabelle uncover their mystery. Ben Kingsley plays Isabelle’s godfather George Méliès the once famous film director (think  “A Trip To The Moon” with rocket in the moon’s eye) who the mystery is centered around.

Other cameo stars you will recognize include

Richard Griffiths as Monsieur Frick (better known for his portrayals as Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films)

Helen McCrory as Mamma Jeanne (better known as Narcissa Malfoy of the Harry Potter Films)

Emily Mortimer as Lisette ( better known as Holley Shiftwell from Cars 2)

Just to name a few Martin Scorsese himself does a cameo as a photographer.

At the heart of the story is the message of finding who you are in the world and the importance of love and family.  I can’t imagine that this film will at the very least not be nominated for best picture it is a masterwork and Scorsese’s love-letter to the art and magic of the movies.

Recommended:

The Essential laurel & Hardy:

Stanley: You can lead a horse too water but a pencil’s made of lead!

This ten disc set is the one L&H fans have been waiting for a long time. Included are all the classic Hal Roach Laurel and Hardy Sound shorts and features from the 20’s and 30’s.

“Eternal pals and eternal antagonists, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are the great partnership of movie slapstick. They finally get their DVD due with Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, a 10-disc orgy of pratfalls, slow burns, and slap fights–in short, a collection that truly qualifies as a must-have for connoisseurs of comedy. The collection contains the sound films that Laurel and Hardy made for producer Hal Roach, the man who teamed the simpering English vaudeville player and the rotund American actor in the first place (although their laughs are evenly divided, Laurel was the creative force and chief gag-inventor of the duo). Their track record is proof that it isn’t merely the jokes that make for comic success; it’s the personalities of the comedians. Thus, Stan’s dimwitted innocence and Ollie’s perpetually exasperated reactions (raised to an exquisite art by Hardy’s comprehensive glances at the camera, assuring the audience’s complicity in his misery) are the essence of their success. Some films are great, some merely passable, but all stick blissfully to character. This is on glorious display through these Roach pictures, whether it’s the boys sharing one small train berth in Berth Marks, executing their famous synchronized dance in Way Out West, or laboring to get that piano up a very steep flight of stairs in the Oscar-winning The Music Box.

The films look as good as movies from 1929 to 1940 can reasonably be expected to look. Included in the boxed set are seven foreign-language films (six in Spanish, one in French), shot in order to keep the duo popular in overseas markets, before dubbing made that goal easier. Fascinatingly, these films often extend the English-language films they are ostensibly adapted from, with different gags and plot turns–and it’s fun to hear Stan and Ollie speaking in another language. Special features include a ho-hum 40-minute tribute with testimonials from fellow comedians (especially talkative are Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Lewis); an “”Interactive Map”” with Los Angeles location sites from their movies; three Roach shorts in which L&H pop up in cameos; and a 1942 short produced for the Department of Agriculture (another L&H cameo). A few (not many) films have commentaries that include the informed Laurel and Hardy buff Richard W. Bann; Sons of the Desert has a track with Tim Conway and Chuck McCann, who don’t seem to know how a commentary track works but have a nice time watching the movie. –Robert Horton

When you think of all films that pass as comedies to a modern audience you must look upon Laurel and Hardy as the giants whose shoulders today’s comedians stand upon. Although the quality varies from film to film L&H are masters of mirth. This must have set is available at Amazon/Barnes and Noble etc.

Recommended:

Johnny English Reborn:

Synopsis

Rowan Atkinson returns to the role of the improbable secret agent who doesn’t know fear or danger in the comedy spy-thriller Johnny English Reborn. In his latest adventure, the most unlikely intelligence officer in Her Majesty’s Secret Service must stop a group of international assassins before they eliminate a world leader and cause global chaos.

In the years since MI7’s top spy vanished off the grid, he has been honing his unique skills in a remote region of Asia. But when his agency superiors learn of an attempt against the Chinese premier’s life, they must hunt down the highly unorthodox agent. Now that the world needs him once again, Johnny English is back in action.

With one shot at redemption, he must employ the latest in hi-tech gadgets to unravel a web of conspiracy that runs throughout the KGB, CIA and even MI7. With mere days until a heads of state conference, one man must use every trick in his playbook to protect us all. For Johnny English, disaster may be an option, but failure never is.

Review:   by Randy Bucknoff

Rowan Atkinson aka Johnny English in this brilliant James Bond send-up proves once and for all a ” little intelligence goes a long away”. (Double – entendre’ intended). Rowan Atkinson star of Mr. Bean and of course the Black Adder series is a bumbling MI7 agent reminiscent of Clouseau in The Pink Panther films. Like Clouseau the fun takes place in the details, touching a button on a chair in a meeting with the head of MI7 played by Gillian Anderson and the British prime minister, causing the chair to rise and descend at inappropriate moments.

Many gadgets abound including a voice activated Rolls Royce, voice changing throat lozenges, an agent in distress signaling device and a rocket launching umbrella all misused at one time or another by English.

The Rolls-Royce (updated from “Goldfinger”)  responds to the name Royce by speaking in a sultry woman’s voice . When instructed to “come” (double-entendre intended), the miraculous vehicle obeys by unleashing laser beams and cutting a hole in the wall.

Johnny, a snob and a racist, is teamed up with Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), a smart, black junior agent who good-humoredly endures Johnny’s outrageous condescension as they pursue three assassins known as Vortex. Think Clouseau and Kato.

English manages to burst the bubble of pomposity of many people including The British Prime Minister, The Chinese Premier and The Queen of England.  The sad fact is that Mr. Atkinson’s brand of British lunacy, in which the humor breaks through a pose of stiff-upper-lip propriety, is too contained to excite the jaded American audience for gross-out pranks. Mr. Atkinson is never ferocious or lewd. He is however laugh out loud hilarious and reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy with a little Chaplin thrown in. Go see this movie, watching Atkinson is worth the price of the ticket. Also check out the killer cleaning lady. 😉

Johnny English Reborn

Directed by Oliver Parker; written by Hamish McColl, based on a story by William Davies

Cast

Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English), Gillian Anderson (Pamela Thornton), Dominic West (Simon Ambrose), Rosamund Pike (Kate Sumner), Daniel Kaluuya (Agent Tucker), Richard Schiff (Fisher) and Pik-Sen Lim (Killer Cleaner).

Recommended: