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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Les Miserables

I have always liked Dreamgirls since its release in 2006. Musicals has always fascinated me. Chicago, Mama Mia and Moulin Rouge are just some of the contemporary Broadway musicals which were transformed to the silver screen which I really find interesting and has withstand the test of time for me.  There are some that hits but there were a lot of misses as well like Rock of Ages and Hairspray. This year, we are in a surprise with the release of the highly acclaimed Broadway Musical Les Miserables.

Based on Victor Hugo's classic novel of the same name, Les Miserables is an adaptation of the hit Broadway Musical to the big screen. It follows the struggle of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) for redemption after he was convicted for stealing a loaf of bread. Consistently sought by Javert (Russell Crowe) after Jean suddenly disappeared, Jean became a wealthy man swearing that he will always find justice to those who are in need. However, a sudden turn of events made Jean to keep a promise to a dying woman who was a victim of circumstances, Fontine (Anne Hathaway) to have her daughter be rescued in the clutches of an inkeeper. While the French has a revolution to fight, Jean is torn between making his adopted daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfreid) happy in the arms of the man she loves or keep on trying to protect her by escaping constantly on the clutches of Javert.
This is the beauty of transforming the great Broadway musicals into a movie feature. It allows other audiences to enjoy the material without going to New York. Les Miserables is a wonder to behold. Right from the first frame of the film, one can see and feel the grandiosity of the film. As the first lyric was uttered, one may be amazed as how it was delivered. I can see no flaw as the movie progresses and did not notice that it is running for almost three hours and to think that I am watching it at around 2am in a local cinema. As the characters are being bloomed and understood with each note they sing, I was emerged into their own emotions. One of the defining moments was Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" where she was submerged into pure emotion coupled by sincere rendition of the song, feeling each words that were uttered like it was hers to sing in the first place. Much applaud are given to Anne that even with a small screen time, she has affected me most with such powerful performance. One could not also deny that Hugh Jackman shined brightly as the lead. Backed by his Broadway experience, Jackman is a surefire to nail Valjean's character. Samantha Bark's Eponine is also a sight to behold as she renders such depth to her wounded character. While Rusell Crowe may have struggled in some parts, he has proven that he is the actor and that he can also sing. Seyfreid and Redmayne are great as well but somehow has been overshadowed by the other leads. 

One of the wonders in this film is that all of the songs were recorded live on set with only a piano as an accompaniment and background music were just mixed in post production. This allowed a more emotional rendition of the songs than the usual pre recorded music and later lip-synched during the film production. One can feel the emotions to every lyric with this type of approach in a musical, making it feel like you are witnessing the Broadway musical itself. Director Tom Hooper was successful in capturing the essence of the film. The actors gave justice to the material. 

One could only be emotional as emotions are escalated up to the great finale making you breathless until the very last note making Les Miserables one of the best Broadway Musical adaptation of all time.

GRADE: A+ 

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Life of Pi

Ang Lee has been around for years and he has chosen his movies well. (except for The Hulk). It has been expected of him to make really good movies after his worldwide phenomenon better known as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. His latest offering is nothing short of amazing as he delivers one of the best known books that are considered to be at par with The Alchemist.

Life of Pi follows the story of Pi as he struggles his way to Canada after the shripwreck with a tiger as his companion. Plots like this are not very inviting to some moviegoers but what is special with this film is the story itself, not the superficial plot that one has to see in trailers. Life of Pi touches the most sensitive topic which is religion. Though it may not seem to be that evident at first, you will know that this would be one of the most important films of the year as it tackles a topic that is somehow considered taboo in Hollywood. 

Life of Pi may seem a bit familiar to most of the moviegoers who has seen Cast Away. While Cast Away tackles how a man could survive a tragedy, Pi's story us more personal as he struggles in faith. What is more surprising is how Lee transforms this movie into a visual journey without making the story beneath it. As Pi, struggles to his survival, we are also transported into his own spiritual journey.

Several questions were raised as the film ended. Questions like, which story would you prefer? Which is more appealing? How would we face reality? How did Pi found God in his experience? This is one strength of a film. How to make its viewers think even after the show, how each moviegoer would see the entirety of the film and sees it for the message it wants to convey rather than the display it was able to portray. 

The deep connection of characters in the film is what makes this different from all the rest. Life of PI should be seen years from now and see how it has changed the lives of those who have seen it. Though it may have imprinted a small fragment or changes in how we view life, the mere fact that it has shown us that even at the most impossible times, there is someone out there who still is present looking down, never to have left us.

GRADE: A-

trailer

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Hobbit

It has been 11 years since Peter Jackson released The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and 9 years when the series concluded with Return of the King. It has been rumored that Jackson will proceed in directing The Hobbit following the success of the trilogy, however, he decided to direct a remake of a Hollywood classic and stalled The Hobbit for a few years. And now,it is totally here, the 1st half of the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures in Middle-Earth.

The Hobbit is mainly about how Bilbo managed to acquire the One Ring from Gollum during his adventures together with the dwarves as they reclaim The Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. Their journey started when Gandalf tricked Bilbo into hosting a gathering of Dwarves headed by their leader Thorin. They went to the wild encountering different creatures which eventually led them to Rivendell, the lair of the Elves. It is there that they were able to decipher the events.The group continued their journey, walking through each obstacle and knowing that Bilbo is just not a hobbit, but a Hobbit.

I am always amazed of how vast Middle Earth is.It was also refreshing to see it back in the silver screen. Going back to The Shire is like arriving back home. One of the key factors why The Hobbit works for me is that it was able to rekindle my liking to the series. To see old characters such as Gandalf (who is still Gandalf The Grey), Galadriel, Frodo and Bilbo back is such an overwhelming feeling.

Peter Jackson is still in control of Middle Earth and with this film, he was able to make a lecture out of the movie by making conversations between characters feel like they are introducing to us Middle Earth in a deeper manner. For a book that was actually short compared to the Lord of The Rings series, one might wonder why it has to be split into two. Jackson made it sure that fans will be able to totally relate with the characters and add tidbits about Middle Earth itself.

There was a great improvement in the special effects division. When we see Gollum back in 2002 we were amazed on how detailed the animation was. But when we saw The Hobbit, they pushed the technology to the limit that he seemed to be so real. Peter Jackson wants his Middle Earth to be perfect and he succeeded.

This has been a great comeback for the series. For years, Tolkien fans and Jackson fans alike will be in great happiness with the translation of the hobbit and once revisit the place that has triggered our imagination with wizards, nobility and greatness that comes from the smallest person one can imagine.

GRADE: A

trailer