Tag Archives: Oscar

Les Miserable – Film Review

18 Dec

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“Can you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men?” no? Well neither did I at this screening… as it was indeed more about jubilation as Les Miserables took from stage to screen in Tom Hoopers bold production.

The all singing story follows prisoner 24601 aka Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) ,imprisoned for stealing some bread for his sister, as he breaks parole and becomes a better man thanks to the compassion of a priest and a promise to young mother Fantine (Anne Hathaway) as she lays on her deathbed. The only problem being that persistent and law obsessive Javert is on a manhunt and nothing will stop him bringing this convict to justice.

Les Miserables is the longest running musical in history and its success is a testament to the story and the incredible musical numbers that expertly guide the audience through this complex tale. Tom Hooper has embraced this and done a valiant job in making it more widely available through the Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 11.26.17silver screen. To this I’m grateful, but as a Les Miserable fan, I can’t help but be a little nit-picking. After all, some of the wonders of the theatre production can never really have the same impact on screen, but it was interesting to see where the balance shifted and what surprised me the most.

First, lets look at the casting. By far the standout performance is from Anne Hathaway, in fact her portrayal as Fantine is Oscar worthy. She managed to reduce me to a quivering wreck throughout I Dreamed a Dream. The raw desperation in her performance will move even the biggest sceptic. I have seen the stage show six times and I have never seen a performance quite like this and I challenge anyone to not shed a tear throughout this song. The power that Hathaway possesses in this is also balanced with the simplicity of the shot which remains in a medium close up following her intimately.

Hugh Jackman is incredibly competent as Jean Valjean, he guides the audience with ease, and delivers some impressive vocals, however you can’t help but think that Alfie Boe would have delivered a far more commanding version and be able to hit the correct register as intended (and is the challenge) for numbers such as Bring Him Home. Never the less, out of Hollywood’s hot pickings, there is none more suitable than Jackson who, we must not forget has his roots firmly planted in Musical Theatre.

Pleasant surprises come also from baby faced Eddie Redmayne, who, bar an occasionally distracting “jiggly jaw” as I like to call it, demonstrates that his choir boy days at Eton have served him well, and he embodies Marius with ease and sends an exemplary chill down the spines of the audience throughout Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Samantha Barks also shines as Eponine, however does not manage to provoke quite as much emotion from the audience throughout On My Own. However this may be down to the uncomfortable shot position given by Hooper throughout this song. Regardless, who would have thought that a spot on BBC’s I’d Do Anything, would have seen her just a few short years later be part of a major Hollywood film.

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen delight as Monsieur and Madame Thenadier, and provide the light relief necessary throughout the Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 11.23.59film. Cohen is particularly standout with his ad-hoc one liners and surprisingly good singing voice. For Carter, although good, you can’t help but think you’ve seen her character multiple times before, as she dons a Tim Burton esq portrayal which is delivered like clockwork. Their biggest number Master of the House, is played for laughs as it should be, but is slightly drowned by the background noise and ambience that some of the particularly funny one liners are somewhat lost on occasions as it could have been one of the most memorable numbers.

The biggest surprise has to be Russell Crowe. Huge skepticism surrounded his casting as Javert, however, although clunky at times, he delivers an impressive performance.

Overall this film rests, as it should, on the ability of its cast members, but Director Tom Hooper brings to life a convincing 19th Century France. Some of the settings, particularly the rounding up of revolutionaries (shot in Greenwich) is visually spectacular, and you feel the excitement building for the big barracade showdown. However, when the time comes to see this spectacle, which on stage is one of the biggest wonders and ores of the production, you are left slightly underwhelmed. The enclosed area of streets in which this is set, very much look like part of a set and takes away from the marvel of the scene we have just seen, this is a shame, because it makes viewing inconsistent and those Les Mis fans who are very familiar with the stage production will be particularly observant in these parts.

Hoopers’ camera angles at times are also interesting. He mixes some of the most simple shots with some which more feel like he’s puffing up his peacock feathers to show his dominance in the film world. Ironically, it is the more simplistic work, which demonstrates his talent more effectively, Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 11.25.01rather than the more auteuristic attempts. It’s interesting however, seeing what works better on stage than on film. The magic of the theatre is about pushing peoples imagination, and scenes like the sewer are not as impactful in the film version. On the flipside, the visual portrayals in Master of the House really help elevate the song and the comedic element to the scene.

Overall this is a strong attempt at taking this concept to a cinematic audience. The faults are highlighted but are in no way damning to this pleasing production. Never before has anyone brought this musical version of the Victor Hugo novel to the cinema successfully before, and although I think there are far too many strong contenders for best picture at the Oscars this year, I think Les Miserable will have a considerable run at the awards ceremonies.

But whilst we wait for the award based outcome of this film, we can check out some interviews from the New York premiere…which aren’t quite what they seem…

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Get ready to laugh, cry and add this film to your top ten list… Untouchable review

21 Sep

The Plot: 

A rich quadriplegic, living in a mansion in Paris, requires a live-in carer. A young offender turns up for an interview, but he is not really looking to get the job. However, to his surprise, he is hired. The two men then develop a close friendship

The Good:

Untouchable probably isn’t going to be the film that is marketed across the UK as the next big “blockbuster” movie, more the dark horse in the running. But if you do catch it, and we thoroughly recommend that you do, you will hopefully remember it as one of those cinema gems that you’ll want to return to time and time again.

The true story of an unlikely friendship provides the platform for fantastic performances from Francois Cluzet (Little White Lies) as Phillippe and Omar Sy as Driss and a small but important supporting cast. The two leads are thrown together in an unlikely pairing which is not only heartwarming but endearing too. The film is a simple story and simple setting but through the actors charisma and chemistry with each other, audiences will find themselves laughing, crying and dare we say it, feeling that “warm fuzzy feeling inside.”

Untouchable was not the film we were expecting to watch, prepped with a box of tissues we thought we’d be weeping from start to finish, but instead were engaged in a story about a man, who with the help of a pitiless, bolshy and honest care assistant was learning to live again, learning to look beyond his disability and still managing to get the best out of life. Its hard not to be almost sycophantic about this film, it shows the best side in people, and probably is the reason why its been catapulted to the top of some box office charts and has sat comfortably as the second highest rated French film in history.

What this film reminds us is that you don’t need all these amazing effects, A-List stars or big budget studios, the essence of great film making is a brilliant story, and that is exactly what Untouchable is, a true and wonderful story.

The Bad:

As you can probably tell, its hard to find faults with this film, however as is often the case, the fact that it is in French may initially put off some audiences. However if you are the kind of audience goer who would normally walk on by when faced with a foreign language film, we would urge you to stop and take a punt on this one.

The Ugly Truth:

This is the type of film we would love to see getting some awards buzz later this year. The worldwide box office figures would hopefully provide some backup that Untouchable is worth a nod or two for Best Foreign film and Best Actor/Supporting for Cluzet and Sy. A film engaging from start to finish and simple storytelling at its finest. A must see.

WRITTEN FOR REDCARPETNEWSTV.COM

BFI Day 6 – We Need to Talk About Kevin – Women Be Warned this will put you off motherhood!

19 Oct

Not bonding with your child is one thing. Giving birth to Damien from the Omen is quite another! My favourite film of the festival so

far this expertly put together and acted film makes me proud that the director, crew, financing and lead actress are all British. I’m hearing award bells ringing left right and centre and and hoping its wipes the floor with the competition.

In a nutshell the story is of a mother – once free spirited, well travelled and with the world at her feet, finds later in life that she is pregnant. Once the child is born, despite best attempts, she cannot bond with it and through the years sinks lower and lower into depression over the fact that her child, Kevin, is one person to her and another to her husband. This isn’t as you’d expect from the trailer a film which focus’s solely on a Columbine esq shooting, it goes much deeper into the psyche of a child (hugely intelligent) and his unexplained resentment/torture towards his mother. The film is just punch after punch of heavyweight acting from Tilda Swinton (who was so passionate about the project that she spent five years with Lynne Ramsey trying to get this project off the ground) – and she will reap the rewards come Oscar time!

Ezra Miller who is the third actor to step into the shoes of Kevin, shows that he’s destined for big things following his performance. Intense, disturbing and like his character this hugely intelligent portrayal should put him as one of the kookiest members of the A-List pretty damn soon! The two younger Kevins should not go without a mention either, it’s a stroke of genius how Ramsey managed to get a three year old to look quite so damn psychotic by just playing ball!

John C. Reilly again brings a stellar performance as the blindsided husband who cant get to grips with Swinton’s exhaustion, frustration and ability to blame all errors on her child. If anything, in his mind it should be her that needs to be locked up not their son.

All in all this is an artistic film – adapted beautifully from the book which I can only say has inspired the film rather than provided a step by step structure for the finished product. Its not for the faint hearted and builds to a heart stopping climax. Truly a brilliant film with a fantastic director and a well formed cast.

BFI Day 5 – Coriolanus – Ralph Fiennes sits in the directors chair for this Shakespeare Adaptation

17 Oct

Lining up a stellar cast for not the easiest of Shakespearean adaptations must have been daunting for Ralph Fiennes, but as he put it at  the press conference, he was obsessed with this character and how relevant the play is to our modern society. That is the beauty of Shakespeare, its adaptability and ability to impact audiences around the world year after year and in so many different forms.

I wonder how difficult it must have been for Fiennes to pitch this to the financiers though, as on paper its not a well known play, its dark, aggressive and political. However when you know that Vanessa Redgrave is on board as well as Brian Cox and the then unknown Jessica Chastain – you must be on to a winner. Gerard Butler may have been somewhat of a wildcard in the first instance due to his action and rom-com notoriety however if you watch the film, you’ll notice how he holds his own just fine amongst these distinguished thesps!

The setting is Serbia, Belgrade in the midst of political turmoil and uprising against Coriolanus. The Serbian actors in the film adapt to the prose expertly and provide small but valuable parts in the film. The action, particularly at the beginning of the film is electrifying – particularly in a cinema surrounding and you feel like you are a part of the warfare yourself. You get inside the skin of Coriolanus, brilliantly portrayed by Fiennes.

However, it may have been the time of day in which the film was shown, but there was a considerable lull in the middle of the film. For wider audiences this is no Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, it was never an easy play to take to, and despite Ralph Fiennes valiant attempt – it just misses the mark. The real star of the show is Vanessa Redgrave, there have to be Oscar bells ringing, this performance is one all actors should watch and aspire to emulate in their careers, a real master at work – particularly in her closing speech. This film has all the right tools to make it magical but is just a very near miss. Die Hard Shakespeare fans may love it, I’m not sure, but for the wider cinema going public, I’m not so sure.

It still however managed to successfully pull in the crowds at the premiere and hopefully thats a reflection of the same level of people that will support this film. We’ll have to wait and see. Its out on UK general release on the 20th January 2012.