Les Miserables, Not in Tune with Stage to Film Productions (Film Review)

 

Not many musical plays get translated to screen with pleasing results and Les Miserables barely makes the cut.  The lavish film production of the heartfelt story wins with sets, music and cinematography, but not desirable enough in the acting development. While the strongest performances come from support characters the leads just couldn’t make the grade with the vocals. For stage production purest, this may not be your cup of movie magic.

The light opera opens with Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) on the day of his release from prison for stealing food.  Tired and crushed by seventeen years of incarceration, Valjean jumps parole and makes his way to a small town where he gets befriended by a priest who allows him to steal valuable items and start a new life.  Hunted by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) for breaking the law of his conditional release, Valjean finds himself avoiding major French cites and settles in one where he finances a factory and becomes its mayor.  In a quark of fate Javert gets transferred to Vanjean’s town and narrowly misses capturing his quarry. When Valjean gets confronted by Fantine (Anne Hathaway), an ailing factory worker of his who was fired without his knowledge, he agrees to care for her illegitimate child Cosette. So starts an adventurous journey of hide and seek that leads to a remarkable resolve. Read more

Django Unchained, a Very Creative Western (Film Review)

 

Taking a page out of history, Quentin Tarantino adds his version of the unsettling times in his newest film Django Unchained.  Much like his Inglourious Basterds this outrageous adventure generates tongue-in-cheek satire and raises eyebrows in it’s nearly 3 hours of ‘creative’ damnation. Taking the film with a grain of salt, the audience should get as much movie madness out of Django as they were exposed with Basterds.

The story finds bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) traveling in his tooth topped horse and buggy on a lonely deserted road two years prior to the American Civil War.  Traveling toward him on the same road a slave trader with several chained slaves are about to cross his path.  The two meet up, start a cautious conversation and Schultz offers to buy one of the slaves.  The slavers resist and a gun fight pursues with Schultz taking the slave Django (Jamie Foxx) from the group.  After Schultz turns Django into a budding bounty hunter, the two start out on a blood curdling rampage across the south. Read more

Jack Reacher, an Edgy Mystery Drama (Film Review)

Back again in a taught mystery drama, the ever popular Tom Cruise takes on the Lee Child novel “One Shot” in the title role of Jack Reacher.  Expecting a bold action thriller, slow moving suspense filled Jack Reacher doesn’t come near the entertainment of Cruse’s action filled bread and butter Mission Impossible franchise. While my expectations were dampened because I believed it would be like the glitzy fast moving television trailer, I wasn’t completely disappointed. Like most movie franchises, the first one has to begin somewhere. Read more

The Hobbit, a Magnificent Start to a Trilogy

 

Middle-earth returns to theaters with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and it’s a welcome home to J.R.R. Tolkien’s storytelling.  I didn’t realize how much I missed Lord of the Rings on the big screen until seeing this beginning of another Peter Jackson trilogy.  If you are a ‘Rings’ lover, then it’s time to put on that special pair of Hobbit feet you bought a few years back and sit yourself in a theater seat for nearly a three hour treat.

Its 60 years in the future when we see Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) writing the story of his past called “The Hobbit”.  The time is somewhere between his return from his adventure to the introduction of Frodo as his nephew tying in the Lord of the Rings saga with his past.  As he digresses the first of a new trilogy begins. Read more

Generation P, a Satirical Look at New Russia

With an admirable attempt to make a comedy about a challenged Russia the movie Generation P gets a little overboard on the satire.  Although I like the quirky script, I don’t believe there will be a huge audience for the comic spoof mainly because of America’s lack of knowledge about Russia’s aversion for capitalism. For die hard indie fans however, this is your cup of ‘Mushroom’ soup.

It’s post-soviet capitalistic Russia and we find people doing odd jobs in order to keep afloat in the new world that has been handed to them.  A woman sells Snicker bars on the street from a blanket laid down to guard her space from others who may want to nudge into her special spot.  Others sell anything they can but with Babylen Tatarsky (Vladimir Yepifantsev) a poet of sorts, his income comes from a cigarette stand living off the meager income he makes from the Russian Mob owned Kiosk where he works. Read more

Smashed, Lessions Learned (Film Review)

Nicely acted the film Smashed takes you on a journey of alcoholism and denial.  The movie does a good job of opening windows into the humiliating, demeaning and dire consequences of addiction to alcohol.  While not a Days of Wine and Roses, the film does make good grades as an educational tool.

The movie centers on a young married couple, Charlie (Aaron Paul) and Kate Hannah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), both addicted to alcohol.  While Charlie has accepted his fate and feels he has control of his addiction, Kate’s way off the radar when it comes to realizing the consequences of her actions.   Read more

Breaking Dawn Part 2, for Fanatic Fans of Twilight (Film Review)

No matter what I say about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the fanatic female fans of The Twilight Saga will head to the theaters in droves.  A flick for the chicks, the men may as well stay at home from this mushy romance that thinks it’s a fantasy yet panders to lust and a family affair.  A far cry from Breaking Dawn Part 1 the film could have been and should have been more of a barn burner like Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The series finale centers on Bella (Kristin Stewart) working out the ticks of her new found powers, getting her father (Billy Burke ) to accept her and his new granddaughter and becoming the clan attraction that’s the key to staving off the inevitable conflict between Read more

Lincoln, American Politics 1865 (Film Review)

The biopic film Lincoln provides a look at how politics changed the United States in the final months of the 16th President’s life.  It’s a dark boding story that takes you into the heart of a historical political debate, a congress divided and a family being pulled apart. If you like films with educational substance, excellent acting and dark cinematography, then Lincoln should top your “must see” list.

The Civil War continues to drag on with over 600 thousand casualties and there doesn’t seem to be an end to the continental dispute.  Republican President Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) finds himself getting close to an amicable exit plan, but he wants to tack on an emancipation bill. It will take major Read more

The Sessions, a Creative Comedy Drama (Film Review)

Based on a true story The Sessions will open your eyes, titillate and warm your heart.  The strange account features excellent convincing acting on the part of John Hawkes and Helen Hunt earning them what I feel will be an Oscar Nomination.  If you want to see something completely different, poignant and unusual presented in a very creative film, then The Sessions would be an excellent choice.

The film delves into the life of poet Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) who during his adolescent years contacted Polio leaving him debilitated and dependent on an iron lung. Able to live outside the apparatus for good periods of time, he earned a college degree and was able to go out in society.  At the age of 38, Mark decided that his life would not be complete until he had sex.   Read more

This Must Be The Place, an Eccentric Comedy (Film Review)

Doing what Sean Penn likes best, acting in indies like no other performer can, he’s latched on to the film This Must Be the Place.  Released in Europe a year ago, it finally makes its way to American movie theaters.  This simple little film should have large appeal to the film festival crowd and those who have a penchant for eccentric comedies.

The film involves a former rock legend Cheyenne (Sean Penn) who’s now retired and living off the continuous flow of money still being earned by the sale of his records.  Dressing in the same stage make-up and clothing style he wore when he performed before millions, his daily trips to town are noticed by Goth chicks who swoon over him. His wife Jane (Frances McDormand) loves the fact that he still lives in the past as she too shared that part of his life.   Read more

Skyfall, James Bond at its Best (Film Review)

One of the best James Bond pictures ever made, Skyfall makes its way into theaters this weekend for what I believe will be a box-office blowout.  The action packed thriller starts with a bang and doesn’t disappoint in the finale.  For all you 007 addicts it’s time to check it out on the 50th anniversary of a solid film franchise.

Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself vanquished when a bullet meant for his foe takes him out atop a train.  His mission was to retrieve a list of secret British agents before they got into the wrong hands.  With a mission failed, M (Judi Dench) finds herself under the heat of the British Government when six of the spies on the list get targeted for death.  When M gets a formal threat on her life and they find Sylva (Javier Bardem) an ex-spy is involved, Bond shows up to track him down. Read more

Wreck-It Ralph, an Animated Nostalgic Blast

Whether you’ve ever heard of the video game “Fix-It Felix” or played it when you were young, Wreck It Ralph provides a fun time in this adventure for the whole family. Filled with action and comedy the animated film grabs you from the start and involves you in a tale of wonderment and hope.  From sassy to sinister, clumsy to crusher the characters are likable and engaging.

Ralph (John C. Reilly) has been toiling in the game “Fix-It Felix” for years never getting the recognition he deserves for his part in entertaining youngsters.  Each day as the machines get turned off and the owner of the video arcade leaves, the tenants of their tall apartment house in the video game go to the roof. Here they make a presentation to Felix (Jack McBrayer) the repairman while Ralph gets tossed off onto the ground. On this one occasion however, a private party is being held to celebrate 30 years of the game while uninvited Ralph wanders off to the pile of bricks he made from tearing down the building. Read more

The Other Son, Switched at Birth

Probably the most terrifying thing that can happen to a woman is that her child was inadvertently switched at birth.  But, what if those two children were brought up as enemies before the unbelievable was discovered.  This happens to be the premise of the foreign film The Other Son that’s now playing in selected theaters around the country. Read more

Cloud Atlas, a Complex Fantasy

Tedious comes to mind after watching this tale of fantasy that spans six time periods within five centuries played out in nearly 3 hours.  Cloud Atlas, although an admirable piece of movie making tends to be so complex that viewers I’m afraid, will just not get it.  It’s a brain teaser of sorts, one that challenges an audience to connect the dots between repetitive periods of time for a final resolve.

Breathtaking cinematography, fine acting and amazing make-up are the benefits from the movie, but the storyline gets so complicated it becomes ‘work’ instead of entertainment.  Most audiences want to see stories play out to an understandable realistic manor. Here, with six stories going at one time, the chore of working out the meaning of it all in one’s mind takes away from its intended entertainment value.   Read more