Thursday, December 27, 2012

some comments about Les Mis

The actor in me is moved to the brink whenever I see something so brilliantly rendered as the breathtaking movie of Les Mis, and director Tom Hooper deserves to take a big bow. His direction is indeed brilliant every step of the way. In its stark depiction of poverty and deprivation the camera could not get any closer. Close-ups rule the day with rotting teeth and dirty fingernails defining the neglect of this band of corrupted, struggling souls from Valjean (Hugh Jackman) to Fantine (Anne Hathaway) to Javert (Russell Crowe) right down to little muddy-faced Cosette (little doll Isabelle Allen) and stalwart/brave Gavroche (scene-chewing Daniel Huttlestone).
My early prediction: Oscars to the film as Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway) - although Samantha Barks is equally riveting as Eponine - and Best Supporting Actor (Eddie Redmayne) as Marius. I'd award him just for his amazing rendition of "Empty Chairs, Empty Tables". Who knew he could sing, in some ways better than Hugh Jackman? Of course, there will also be a mantlepiece of awards for William Nicholson's screenplay based on Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil's musical play, the astounding cinematography by Danny Cohen and the great technical achievement of sound, costumes, set decoration et al.
Musically the score onstage makes for better listening entertainment. But one must remember that this is the screen and so numbers are slowed down, especially the ballads, toned down to almost a whisper at times. Russell Crowe is not a great singer, but does just fine considering that he must sing at such a high register. With his fierce acting intensity, his Javert is certainly well wrought. Hathaway takes an amazing turn into a role totally unlike her and is emotionally resplendent; Redmayne is such a fine character actor and proves once again just how strong/resourceful he can be. His heartfelt performance in My Week with Marilyn was overlooked; hopefully, his Marius will run away with the awards. As to Jackman, the performance is just splendid. He makes Valjean a lovable and indefatigable hero.
5 stars

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

news - People Like Us

Stars Chris Pine, who was so outstanding on stage at the Geffen in Farragut North and at the Mark Taper Forum in The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

a few observations re Dark Shadows 2012

3/5 stars
Visually alluring - the seaport town of Maine comes vibrantly to life... and Colinwood - I understand, a set at Pinewood Studios - is awesome.

A fascinating performance from Johnny Depp, as always - loved how he uses his long fingers to great hypnotic advantage, just call him Barnabas Scissorhands - and good work, although on one note, from Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth and an engaging turn from stunning Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard.

The first hour gets most of its humor from culture shock: for example, Barnabas is released from his coffin after 200 years of imprisonment and views the golden arches of McDonald's for the very first time, with the blood of several construction workers, he has just fed off of, dripping down his chin...

After the first hour, Tim Burton's creative juices begin to dwindle and special effects take over: it's a competitive war between Angelique and Barnabas as to who can produce the biggest interest began to diminish, as the script became less imaginative.

Also, as a devoted fan of the 60s/70s soap, I hated how the character of Dr. Julia Hoffman is drastically changed. In the soap as played by Grayson Hall she was in love with Barnabas and did everything to try to help him; in the film portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter she is a bitter, selfish alcoholic who surreptitiously gives herself transfusions of Barnabas' blood in order to live eternal, regaining youth and sex appeal. And what about her going down on Barnabas midway - talk about a crude, tacky, unnecessary act - what was Burton thinking????!!!!

The film takes place in the 70s--- we hear "Nights in White Satin", The Carpenters' "Top of the World" and Alice Cooper --- but much of Burton's style has the ultra quick pace of NOW, so much so that I couldn't tell when it was all taking place...I half expected Barnabas to produce a computer or ipod from under his cape...Burton's 70s seemed foreign to me (and I lived through them!) nor could I get into the characters' conflicts or was all a very fast, cold, superficial excursion...
Entertaining and enjoyable, certainly left open at the end for a sequel...but, if it does return next summer, I hope it brings back more of the class and originality of the series... writers John August and Seth Grahame-Smith, take note, please!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Albert Nobbs A Little Gem of a Film

What a year for great acting performances by women! Six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close should have won by now, and in this year 2012 when her chances to win are slim, it is indeed a shame that she has one of her finest roles as Albert Nobbs. This is not a drag but an honest account of an Irish girl in 1898 Dublin who had disguised as a boy after being sexually abused and then remained that way for 30 years in an effort to find work. She and Janet McTeer, also a woman disguised as a man, become buddies and strike up a friendship that by film's end, in spite of some tragedies, is guaranteed to pay off.
It is also great to see Pauline Collins - remember her as Shirley Valentine and then in City of Joy with Patrick Swayzee? Another fine actress playing Nobbs' boss, bitchy Mrs. Baker who runs the Morrison Hotel with an iron fist. Also on board is Academy Award winner Brenda Fricker as Polly the cook, a small role to be sure but she hardly goes unnoticed. Mia Wasikowska plays beautiful Helen Dawes and Aaron Johnson is Joe the sexy young rascal who wins and then breaks her heart. Yes, this is a love story - one for Nobbs as well - so be prepared to shed a tear or two. Rodrigo Garcia directs sublimely this quaint, poetic movie that allows us a glimpse of 19th century Ireland and its ferocious tenacity to survive at all costs.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

review - The Descendants (2012)

Alexander Payne's quiet film The Descendants about a distraught business tycoon trying to pull a dysfunctional family together after his wife's tragic accident has a lot going for it. Firstly, an especially fine performance from George Clooney, secondly, the beautiful Hawaiian scenic background and most importantly, a cautiously realistic approach to presenting the complex psychological functioning of the human mind. Little by little, Clooney as Matt King learns what is important for him, his children and his extended family by engaging himself fully in the problems of their lives - something that many do not do, especially when going through a personal tragedy. It's hard enough to deal with your own needs let alone consider the feelings of everyone else. But he does, and as the windmills of his mind turn and turn, we are still surprised by many of his actions. Particularly admirable is the acceptance of his own responsibility. Payne directs evenly and thoroughly. Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller and Nick Krause lend wonderful support as King's daughters Alex, Scottie and Alex's supposedly goofy boyfriend Sid, respectively. Matthew Lillard as King's wife's lover has a wonderful scene in which he reluctantly comes to terms with his guilt.
5 out of 5 stars

Friday, January 20, 2012

review - The Artist (2012)

Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, which won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Comedy, is a great homage not only to the silent film era but also to fine movie making period. This elegant black and white, edge-of-your-seat romance stars handsome Jean Dujardin, who resembles matinee idol Gilbert Roland and Berenice Bejo, both of whom show that emotions engage sans dialogue.

One of my very favorite scenes is when Peppy ( Bejo) sneaks into Valentin 's (Dujardin) dressing room on the lot of Kinograph Studios, starts touching the jacket he wears and finds herself wrapped up in it literally feigning his arm around her. (picture below) It's funny, alluring and delightfully original. It's great to see character actors John Goodman - looks fantastic! - James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Beth Grant in featured roles, but Uggie as Valentin's best friend - you've got it, his dog - steals every scene he's in and saves the day more than once.
This is entertainment at its very best and should be used in film class to show students just how important subtext is in preparing a role ... and being able to use your eyes and body language effectively!

5 out of 5 stars