Les Miserables – A Musical On Screen

I love this musical!

Les Misérables is one of my favorite musicals.  I have listened to it for decades.  I know every track by heart as well as the lyrics within.  Tracks like I Dreamed a DreamThe ConfrontationCastle on a Cloud, and Do You Hear the People Sing – they move me every time I listen to them.  My friends told me that I should have watched the musical while I was studying in UK.  True.  But alas.  Back then, every penny counted.  Luxury was something for the future.  So, in short, I did not have the chance to visualize this musical, till yesterday when we watched Les Misérable, with the usual Movie Review Squad and two of our friends from Google+.  It was two men and three ladies.  The girls cried profoundly during the show.  I cried a little, inside.  TK cried for a totally different reason: Russell Crowe.

This movie stays more or less faithful to the original musical score.  To that end, I have enjoyed the delivery thoroughly because I am so familiar with the music.  On the flip side, since I have an exceptionally high expectation on how Javert, Valjean, Fantine, and Cosette should sound like, I feel somewhat let down by the fact that not all the actors in Les Misérables can sing musical scores.

Russell Crowe has played a stunningly convincing stern looking police inspector.  Almost as convincing as Geoffrey Rush in the 1998 film adaptation of the same musical.  Sadly, Russel Crowe is also the weakest singer among all.  I cringed uncomfortably whenever he sings.  Huge Jackman, on the other hand, has done a much better job as Valjean thanks to his experience in theater.  Combined that with his acting skill, some scenes are pretty powerful.  Amanda Seyfried takes up the role of the most loved character Cosette.  She has sung in the movie Mamma Mia!  She sings OK in Les Misérables.  Not spectacular but OK.

Anne Hathaway’s performance is a surprise to me.  I Dreamed a Dream and Fantine’s Death: Come to Me are so moving and I have enjoyed every moment of her acting.  She deserves to be recognized, especially for her act in I Dreamed a Dream.  Definitely the highlight of the entire film.

During the movie, I observed that actors’ lips match perfectly with the singing as though it was recorded live.  I read later on that the singing was indeed recorded live and the orchestral tracks were added as a post-production activity.  This would mean that the actors have to act and sing perfectly in one take for each song.  Pretty amazing.

After watching Les Misérables, one question I have is: Do we need movie stars for a musical film?  Or would real theater actors from this very musical do a much better job?  I suppose in a film format, star power and acting is as important as singing, if not more.  Many of the scenes that move me emotionally are performed by the movie stars.  It is a trade off I guess.

All in all, I am happy that finally, I get to put all the musical notes and lyrics that I have learned by heart all these years into faces and scenes, visually speaking.

The Dark Knight Rises: Excruciatingly Boring

I don’t sit well with Batman fans, I know.  Specifically, the Batman according to Nolan.  So glad, this trilogy is finally over.  Sandwiched between Cynthia and TK in the cinema, I had to stay entertained.  The girl sitting beside Cynthia was playing with her wireless phone throughout the 165 minutes show.  I can totally relate.

This show is boring.  My brain bled in utter boredom.  It is hard to stay spoiler free for a not so positive write-up.  Hence, if you are planning to watch The Dark Knight Rises, read no further.  Chances are you will thoroughly enjoy the movie.  Many do, especially when you love the previous Nolan installments.  The aggregated score for this movie is very high, which I struggle to understand why.  But that is just me.

This movie is called The Dark Knight Rises.  I want to see Batman in action.  Majority of the film has nothing to do with Batman.  If it was up to me, I would rename this film to Bane: Power to the People.  For most part of the movie, I see the villain Bane way more than I see anyone else on screen.  The fear and destruction Bane has laid upon Gotham City.  The long and emotional speech Bane gave, which I wish Batman could have had a similar opportunity.  Screamed in my head I did: “Shut up! I want to see Batman!”  I get it. Batman franchise is always about the villains.  Like Joker and Two-Face.  Bane gives me nothing.  He is a fat and buffed man that seems to punch hard (reminds me of Butcher in Diablo 3).  He has a strange mask over his face that synthesizes his voice in a hollow and an unrealistic way.  He commands a terrorist network.  Gotham City has to be destroyed, once again.  With a mask covering his mouth (how does he eat or drink anyway?) and that computerized voice, I find it hard to connect to the character.  His weakness?  The mask over his teeth.  It takes Batman 165 minutes to figure that out.  Oh God.

The chemistry between Bruce Wayne or Batman and his potential love interests is terrible.  For no reason or whatsoever, Bruce is in bed with Miranda played by the beautiful French actress Marion Cotillard.  Since when Bruce Wayne is into one night stand?  No courtship, no relationship development thereafter.  It is the finding of solace, and then business.  Heroes wearing masks to protect those they love.  Who is Bruce Wayne trying to protect?  I was in joy when I heard that Anne Hathaway plays the Catwoman (actually not officially mentioned as one even though the costume has suggested so) or rather Selina Kyle the cat burglar.  There is no transformation on Selina Kyle.  No background story on her becoming a cat burglar, except she is doing it for the people or to erase her past or a bit of both.  The drama between Batman and Catwoman is a tease.  The relationship could have been so much more.  What about Catwoman is the reason for Batman’s comeback and it follows through?  In the end, it is reduced to two big kisses (I think), from Catwoman to Batman.  What a huge disappointment.  Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman still holds a special place in my heart.  Sadly, Anne Hathaway is likely to be one of the two reasons why I can tolerate The Dark Knight Rises.

There is something tragic about The Dark Knight Rises.  The background story of Bane’s younger day, Miranda’s childhood, and even the story of Ra’s al Ghul has a much better potential than this Batman story.  It touches my emotional core so much so that I could weep on that.  I wish there will be a spinoff like the Scorpion King story from the Mummy.  Too much of this movie is focused on the plan to destroy Gotham City.  Too little has been told about such a potential powerful story of Ra’s al Ghul and his heir.

To say that Batman is missing in action most of the film is also not entirely correct.  First part of the story, we see a crippled Batman in retirement.  Doctor has already told him that his body can no longer take all the physical punishment.  His joints are giving way due to years of beating.  Bruce could hardly walk!  Yet, donning the Batman suit with an artificial kneel assist device, Batman is out to take on Bane.  And he failed.  For a good part of the movie, Bruce was stuck inside a prison cell.  Sure, fans would want to see the comeback of Batman.  The so-called transformation through training and willpower can be motivating.  But have we not seen this sort of plot time and time again?  Miraculously, Bruce’s body is totally healed inside a prison cell where he should have died of malnutrition.  He is even strong enough to punch Bane to his face, this time with better precision and power.  Yet, what kills Bane is something else.

There is this one scene when the truck carrying an atomic bomb fell down a bridge.  Maybe a four stories fall.  The young one seated at the front of the truck trained by the legendary Ra’s al Ghul could not survive the fall while an old man inside the cargo area at the back next to the bomb could.  Mind you, this old man was supposed to recuperate in a hospital.  He got out the back of the truck OK.  No bruise no shock, it was a miracle.  I was like: Huh?!

TK reminded me that this is a fantasy story and I should not read too much into it.  Perhaps I should have switched my brain off for this 165 minutes movie.  Logic glitches aside, I find that the ending sequence very exciting and satisfying.  I wish the filmmakers show more civilians in the last part of the movie rather than a school bus full of children.  Batman has saved a lot of people.  It doesn’t appear so.  To sum up, I love the ending; I love the Bat-bike and the Bat-plane.  The bike is so hot.  Having Catwoman on it makes it even hotter.  The rest is a yawn.

Will I watch another Batman movie?  Why not, since TK and Cynthia are such huge fans.  There is always hope for a better reboot.  The Amazing Batman perhaps?

Alice In Wonderland

3D or not 3D?  I say 3D, and go for the experience.  Pleasantly surprised I was, the overall 3D effect seems to have better clarity than Avatar.  I wonder why.

It must have been a long time since I last read the book “Alice In Wonderland”.  All I remember were the rabbit hole, the potions, the card soldiers, and the little girl called Alice.  I wonder what makes this story lasts through the century.  There have been films made in the name of Alice, believe it or not, since a century ago.

Pleasantly surprised I was, with the film’s adaptation as the story is more like an extension to the original series.  Tim Burton’s Alice is now a teenager revisiting the “Underland”.  While the storyline can be predictably simplistic, the graphical effect is very pretty to look at, magical in some scenes.  Figures are artistically distorted – be it as the overall size, or the enlarged head or eyes.  The line of realism and illusion has blurred so much these days on the big screen.  How technology has progressed.

Cynthia seems to love the film.  My mother too, even though there is no subtitle for her.  I am thrilled by the 3D experience, more than anything else.

Now, why is a raven like a writing desk?  It is a riddle in the original story.  And I still don’t quite get it in this movie.  Looks like I have to watch it again!

Bride War – Chick Flick Double Dose

Bride War

How much weight has Kate Hudson put on?!  I wonder if it is part of the acting in character process that some actors or actresses have to go through.  However, even if she looks like a smurf, her smile still melts hearts.

Cynthia disagrees.  She prefers Anne Hathaway.  I too am a big fan of Anne, on the record.  And when you put the two onto one film, although the general review is pretty bad, we just have to see for ourselves.

Just minutes into the show, I started to think of my favorite Sophie Kinsella‘s chick lits.  Not that the storyline of “Bride War” is that great.  Like my favorite chick lit series, the character development of the male species is pretty non-existence, which is OK for this genre.  Though I wish there is more chemistry between these two beautiful brides and their counterparts.  Having said that, the chemistry between Kate and Anne is pretty convincing.  They have acted like best friends – a tiny little bit like Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married” kind of finishing-each-other’s-sentences scenes.  And when they fight, boy, it is sexy.

I am not entirely sure how friendship in the world of female species works.  But if there is something realistic that comes out of “Bride War”, this could be it.  A light hearted movie, predictable storyline, lots of eye sweeteners, and lots of moments that you just hope that they-didn’t-do-that.  Would there be a “Bride Wars 2: Baby Shower”?  OK.  This begins to sound very much like going into the direction of another click lit series.

On a side note, I am really looking forward to watching the film “Confessions of a Shopaholic” staring none other than my favorite actress Isla Fisher.  My fingers are crossed hoping that this adaptation won’t be a screw up.  If so, I will certainly join the Sophie Kinsella fan club to protest.

Rachel Getting Married – Intense Family Drama

Rachel Getting Married

Cynthia raised a good point.  Had the character Kym not played by Anne Hathaway, would we feel annoyed by how self-centered the character is?  It is hard not to love Anne, even in her state of depression with cigarettes after cigarettes in her hand and bruises on her face.  A Global Globe award nominee for best actress and more, I am much impressed by the sheer number of actors and actress on screen giving us the audience a convincing performance of them having known each other for years and in Rachel’s wedding, they meet and have a good time.

A very good time indeed.  Jokes are made, live music is performed, songs are sung, poems are read – it is watched like a real wedding, with friends taking photos and videos, with the wedding couple and the helpers busy attending to the crowd.  Camera angles at times are switched to the lower quality hand held camcorders taken from the wedding guests.  The conversation seems spontaneous; the responses seems genuine; friends finishing each other’s sentences. How did they do that?!  We are not talking about a few actors exchanging lines with one another.  We are talking about a long table full of people.  We are talking a tent full of people.  Such realism, such joy to watch.

In parallel with the happy scenes is the intense family drama between Kym and her sister Rachel (who are getting married) and their divorced parents.  Character development?  Checked.  Genuine emotion?  Checked (Cynthia teared).  I think most of us have our own share of untold family drama behind closed doors.  Hence, we shall be able to relate, one way or another.

“Rachel Getting Married” has the great music, great script, and great acting performance to go for, something to ponder after the film.  TK felt nausea in the initial part of the 2 hours show because the camera moves too much.  He joked that both Cynthia and I are seasoned computer gamers so we didn’t feel a thing.  All I can say is … the Spanish horror movie [●REC] is ten times worse in terms of camera shake.  I personally feel that the mild hand held simulated effect used in “Rachel Getting Married” has it own charm in bring out the theme of it-is-what-it-is.

How in the world do we get to watch Anne Hathaway in “Passengers (2007)”, “Rachel Getting Married (2008)”, and “Bride Wars (2009”) here in Singapore almost at the same time?  The Movie Review Squad is giving “Passengers” a miss.  But we are keen to check out “Bride Wars”.  The pairing of Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway is too good to be missed.