Movie Review – Les Miserables (2012)

Earlier this year I saw a preview/trailer for yet another movie version of “Les Miserables.” There have been many movies made based on this story, but this one was going to be different. It was to be based on the Broadway musical! Moreover, the filming technique is something that has never been done before. The actors both acted and sang their musical roles. The full orchestral score was recorded AFTER filming and tailored to the singing of the actors. (It’s usually done the other way around.) The trailer alone gave me the chills and a teary eye!

It opened Christmas day and I vowed to see it. It is a vow I have kept; Amanda and I saw it last night. While excited, I had my doubts about this endeavour. Cameron Mackintosh was essentially trying to bridge the genres of Hollywood and Broadway in a way that had never been tried before. Movies have been made of musicals and musicals have been made of movies, but usually with great liberty and sacrifice of some core material. At nearly 160 minutes, I had hopes that there would be little of either of these. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. I have listened to the Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Miserables dozens of times over the years, seen the 25th Anniversary Concert (DVD) and seen the musical on stage. It’s fair to say I know the show well. This proved somewhat frustrating as I did note some omissions–some glaring, some subtle. But my observation in this regard is likely atypical. More casual fans aren’t likely to notice, for example, that Valjean’s lines, “I run a business of repute, I am the mayor of this town” are juxtaposed in the factory scene. (Although, now YOU will!)

The biggest concern I had was about the casting. I saw Russell Crowe cast as Javert and winced, thinking only of Pierce Brosnan in “Mamma Mia.” OK, so the guy’s easy on the eyes and has a British accent; but dear GOD, never let him sing!! Crowe can carry a tune, however. His singing voice is rather pleasant, but lacked the…the…the “dark power” I have always conjured in my mind and come to expect in other performances of Javert. “Stars” did not move me, and it usually does. Hugh Jackman was awesome, but I expected that. The only defect I saw in his performance was his rendition of “Bring Him Home.” I believe it was written to be sung falsetto in parts. Jackman stuck to his natural vocal range and it seemed forced. Eddie Redmayne’s Marius was spot-on. Amanda Seyfried (also from “Mamma Mia”) was amazing as Cosette. She was no slouch in “Mamma Mia,” but she really blew me away. I think perhaps she’s had some coaching. Her range is incredible. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers were brilliant, but I knew they would be. And Anne Hathaway’s Fantine was sublime. Anyone without a tear in their eye after “I Dreamed A Dream” simply doesn’t have a soul.

If none of that convinces you to go see this movie, then go to see and hear Samantha Barks as Eponine. If you saw the 25th Anniversary Concert, then you’ve already seen her. Mackintosh tagged her to reprise the role in this film and her performance was flawless. The victim of unrequited love, she makes you feel it right along with her. You can almost forget you’re watching an actress playing a part–it’s like she’s really living it, and you’re living it right along with her. “Heart-wrenching” is barely adequate.

I could nitpick all day–there were little things that could have, that should have been different. Fantine’s afterlife self should have had long hair, for example. If I recall the stage performance I saw, Valjean’s prisoner brand is on his chest and he rips open his shirt in the courtroom when he confesses that Javert has the wrong man in custody. But none of my nitpickings should dissuade any fan from seeing this film. However, if you’re looking for a Broadway performance on film, you will be disappointed. If you’re looking for a traditional Hollywood Musical, ditto. This is something new–something different. I liked it. I hope you do too!

Speed Racer

I had no intention of seeing this movie myself, never having seen the cartoon on which it’s based.  I’ve never been a fan of "Japanimation"/anime myself, with "Voltron" being a possible exception.  But Kyle wanted to see it, so we went this past Saturday. 


I know critics have panned the plot.  But I’m a sucker for the oh-so-naive underdog protagonist who is told he can’t possibly win/beat the odds against the (often corrupt) System, yet does so anyway.  (Yes, I liked "Roadhouse" too.)  So I liked the story.

From an Adult perspective, the opening sequence can lose you quickly if you’re not ready for it.  It’s a not-so-obvious flashback detailing the fate of Speed’s older brother, Rex.  You’ll get lost if you’re not paying attention.  From a Kid perspective, there’s so much color and action you won’t get bored. 

And the EFFECTS.  WOW.  This movie is worth the price of admission just to see what they’re doing now.  If it wasn’t true before, it is now: You can NOT tell where the live actors end and the green screen/digital effects begin.  It truly is amazing.  The COLOR in this flick is SO over-the-top that the Real World seems genuinely pale in comparison for awhile when you leave the theater.  But in a good way.  (At least, in a way *I* like.)

I also have to comment on the orchestration.  Usually I prefer a soundtrack that does it’s job so well that you don’t even notice.  But in this flick, I found my own heart pounding near the end of the final race and I realized that this was largely due to the music that was–pun intended–DRIVING.  In fact, I’m thinking of seeing it again just to pay attention to that particular race and the music to better appreciate this effect. 

As I said, I have never seen the original cartoon.  I have no idea if this adaptation is true to it, or trashes it.  All I know is that I was surprised to find that I LIKED it.  It’s not thought-provoking.  It may be schmaltzy.  But it’s also FUN!


It’s like someone took the pilot for a proposed TV series and stretched it out to make a movie.  You know what happens when you stretch something?  It gets THIN.  That’s a great word to describe this movie. 

David is a "Jumper", and after having discovered his ability and Jumped around for a few years, he discovers he’s not the only one.  As I write this, I realize just how much of a rip-off of Highlander the basic premise is.  These Jumpers are stalked by Paladins.  However, unlike the Watchers from the Highlander series (TV), these Paladins are spiritually self-righteous and are intent on destroying the Jumpers by any means possible.  And they have some pretty impressive means.

That’s pretty much it.  The movie’s predictable, and lays the foundation for a possible sequel, but would make an "OK" TV series.  I don’t predict either will come to fruition.

If you decide to see this movie, wait for DVD.  The popcorn’s cheaper that way.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Some day I’ll learn my lesson and I will STOP watching Will Ferrell movies.  Today was not that day.  I awoke at 4:30 A.M. for some reason beyond bladder maintenance and simply could not get back to sleep.  So I watched this thing.  Was it funny?  Sure.  Was it scary?  Yes, because I firmly believe there is a large segment of the American population who watched this movie and believed that it was SOMEONE’S biography or, worse, now aspire to the "ideals" exhibited by Ricky Bobby and his wife and kids.  I fear these people and their capacity to breed.

Gary Cole was a hoot as Ricky’s father.  I’m convinced he can portray anything and pull it off.  He is one of the more underrated actors of our time. 

If nothing else, I have another item for my Bucket List:  To tame Komodo Dragons in Sri Laka and train them to perform Hamlet.