Tag Archives: Film

Les Miserables will make you miserable! (But in a feel-good kind of way)

15 Jan

I wasn’t exactly sure of the plot of Les Miserables, but I understood what the title meant: “The Miserables.” So, one thing was certain; I wasn’t signing myself up for a family comedy.

Even so, I was convinced that I had to see it. After all, it’s a musical, and I haven’t yet met a musical that I haven’t liked.And I had always wanted to see the play. So, as the lights dimmed and the music drummed up, along with a surge of sea-sounds and booming baritone voices, I felt a thrilled chill dance along my vertebrae.That chill was only the start of what felt like an enveloping experience at the movie theaters.

If one has never seen Les Miserables, it is a mildly difficult thing to try to explain in mere words the emotional force that the music seems to contain. (But I will do what I can!) Les Miserables is a musical emotional force. It starts and ends with a heavy orchestral hand that leaves you slightly a-gape. Les Miserables is more like an opera than a musical, as there is little to no spoken dialogue and nearly all of the major plot is in song, which could have been a huge drawback if the singing wasn’t generally well done. (With an exception of Russell Crowe, who plays the chaotic good cop, Javert, who comes to an end that I believe should come to all poor singers.)

Each scene is loaded with a raw humanity: a prisoner who has hardened his heart, a priest who opens it again, a mother who does anything she can to support her child alone, a child abandoned and found again, a man rebuilt, learning to love, be loved and let go, a young man finding his place in the world and learning loss. Saying that this movie is heavy, hardly covers the plunge into problems that Les Miserables rockets its audience through. This film is not for the faint of heart. (I recommend stocking up on extra napkins at the concession stand if you don’t have tissues on hand.)

Les Miseables opens with the main character, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), working as a slave in a shipyard. The prisoners are waist deep in seawater as they struggle to bring a wounded ship to port. Manacled at the neck and hands, they sing a powerful baritone rendition of, “Look down”. Here the audience is also introduced to the main villain, Jevert (Russell Crowe) who seems to particularly loves to break Valjean. Valjean, having filled his prison sentence, is handed his papers to be free, but they mark his as a “dangerous man”. Once free of the prison, Valjean is still treated like a criminal and finds himself unable to find a job or shelter. Instead, he finds himself sleeping on a doorstep. Luckily, a kindly priest discovers him there and takes him in for the night. Desparate, Valjean steals away the Church’s silver in the night and runs off before they wake–but is immediately caught and brought back before the priest by the police. But the priest proclaims Valjean innocent and the police are forced to let him free. Valjean then makes a point to turn his life around and the movie follows his story.

There are of course multiple branches, time frames and points of views throughout the film. The character Fontaine (Ann Hathaway) is introduced next as a factory worker who is separate to support her child, and ends up selling her teeth, her hair and her body to male strangers. Her story is a tragic one, but her daughter Cosette(Amanda Seyfried) is more fortunate as Valjean takes her in as his own daughter and raises her under his new alias.

Yet, Javert soon discovers him and realizes that he is the former thief who skipped parole and seeks to recapture him. The story leads the audience through the brutal French revolution, introducing yet another character, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who falls for the lovely Cosette.

Though the story is full of absolute misery, death, and despair–it has such a powerful beauty that though you might be a little boogery by the end you feel a sense of revitalization. Small flecks of humor lighten the otherwise heavy atmosphere throughout the film, and the tiny glimmers of love throughout the otherwise dark film seem large and luminous in comparison.

All and all, I would see this film again and found myself humming “I dream a dream” all the way out of the theater. Les Miserables brings humanity back to film and I give it four cupcakes out of five.

Les Miserables

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Holy Hunger Games, Batman! A Book VS Movie Review

24 Mar

May the odds be ever in your favor.

This phrase should be a familiar one to any of you out there who had the pleasure of reading Suzanne Collin’s book, The Hunger Games. And even more familiar to you non-readers out there who have been recently bombarded with advertisements for the new film based on the novel.  However, the odds will definitely not be in your favor, if you see this movie before first familiarizing yourself with the novel.

Though the movie got nothing but whining and mainly unpleasant reviews yesterday morning–my friends and I had our minds set on going. But once in the theater, lights dim and room packed with eager faces, I couldn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about. Then–the camera had a seizure. The opening scene introduces Katniss Everdeen’s home in District 12. The problem was–that apparently the camera man was brand new, and had never heard of a Tripod. The opening scene, which should have been fairly calm, just setting the scene, was so jumpy and chopped-looking that I felt momentarily cross-eyed.

However, after a few moments, the overly bouncing camera style improved slightly, and presented to the audience a very, Schindler’s List, feeling moment: The Reaping. Filmed in a toned done color scheme, and with terrified children lined up according to age and height all in drab, almost unformed “best clothes”–I could only compare their small, frightened faces to images from Nazi Detention Camps. I loved this parallel. A lone oppressive government, crushing the spirit of it’s”underdogs” as Snow calls them later in the film, is very much reminiscent of the Nazi Regime.

Fast forward to the main event–the blood, tears and gore of the event known as, The Hunger Games. What is the Hunger Games you may ask? A brutal, fight to the death between 24 children. If that’s not enough to make you ask–WHAT?–then you have no feelings. Our journey continues to follow Katniss, who volunteered to save her little sister, Primrose from having to fight, as she tries to impress the public of Panam. Why? Because this sick and twisted “game” has Sponsors of course. Not only do these children have to worry about the other “tributes”, but also, how to survive a harsh and contrived wilderness environment and how to impress “Sponsors” that will pay to send them parachuted gifts in the wilderness that could ultimately save their life.

How does Katniss survive? By playing up the Romance card with fellow district 12 Tribute, Peeta Meelak of course. Now, here is around the time where things will get hazy for all of you non-readers out there. As the movie has a time limit, you are not given the amount of information needed to establish how emotionally torn and how difficult this whole thing is for our leading lady, Katniss. The relationship instead, feels flat and more inauthentic than I believe it should have felt. Any non-reader could have easily brushed aside most of the moments that should have been establishing relationships in this film, including the relationship between Gale and Katniss, which is shown in small reaction shots. As someone who read the books over a year ago, I laughed a little at these shots, because I knew how awful the whole thing was. Non-readers may not have understood why this was happening and found it generally funny due to awkwardness. In fact, the whole segment of the movie while Katniss tries to survive the games would feel confusing and almost in genuine or over-the-top if I hadn’t read the novel. The movie lacks the proper introduction or analysis of characters that you get in the novel, so the kids chasing each other around feels more like Lord of the Flies, than really intimidating.(Though still very much unnerving)

The finale is also a real miss-out for anyone who hadn’t read the book. Mutts or mutants, are never really explained, so the giant man-eating dog-creatures that chase Katniss and Peeta, and eat a few other players, are just not as impressive in the film. In the novel, it is brought to light that these creatures resemble fallen Tributes as if they were made from parts of them. Both grim and terrifying in the novel, these dog-creatures fall short in the film when they are supposed to be a strong finale.

All and all, I liked the movie. It wasn’t nearly as poorly done as all the critics seemed to imply, as long as you can get past the bad camera-angles. It helps too, I think, that I had read the novels. For once, I felt that this movie was geared toward the avid-reader, putting those out of the loop, out of favor.