Let us all say a silent prayer and thank God for Smurf ice cream. It’s a favorite from my youth, something I had only once on vacation one year. I never forgot it and years later when I moved down to Florida, I rediscovered the place I got my beloved Smurf ice cream still in business. I had it yesterday too, after seeing Hugh Jackman belt out some tunes while everyone starved around him. I know I should have felt guilty enjoying my ice cream – blue raspberry with marshmallows in it – while all of France died in the gutter, but this was my time. When I got home, I was perfectly ready to tackle another two films after that.
DAY 9: JANUARY 9, 2013
LES MISERABLES (2012) – I am very familiar with the LES MIERABLES stage musical. I had seen it performed live twice and listened to the music many times more. Way back in high school, I was even in a non-musical production of the play, where I played the priest that gives Jean Valjean a chance at a new life. You will all have to take my word for it that I was nothing short of wonderful.
Tom Hooper’s (THE KING’S SPEECH) film of the musical is very well done. His camera tends to linger on people more than spectacle, so he was a fine choice. The ballsiest of these choices comes with Fantine’s iconic song (this thing is filled with iconic songs), “I Dreamed a Dream.” Hooper keeps the camera on Anne Hathaway for the duration of the song in one single shot, allowing us to see Fantine’s anguish and Hathaway’s incredible performance. Seriously, it seems like she is one of those few actresses who can do anything she puts her mind to and we just pray that she never does another BRIDE WARS. She’s better than that.
Most of the cast is very good indeed. Hugh Jackman carries the film nicely as Jean Valjean. Russell Crowe has gotten a bit of flack for his low range of singing, but does quite well in the role of Inspector Javert. Amanda Seyfried has the dramatic chops for Cosette, but her singing range left a lot to be desired. Samantha Barks makes a remarkable screen debut as Eponine, reprising her role from the play.
The film doesn’t have the same power to move me to tears like the play did. But “A Little Fall of Rain” and “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” are still enough to make me feel a bit verklempt. Hooper casts a dingy, dirty look to the proceedings that at times increases the drama and at others makes everyone look like gargoyles. Still, the film is a decent adaptation of a great play. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
THE AVIATOR (1985) – No, not the one where Leonardo DiCaprio revolutionizes the airline industry and starts bottling his own pee. This is a 1985 film starring Christopher Reeve as a grizzled pilot forced to take the talkative young Rosanna Arquette along as a passenger during one of his runs, back when air freight was in its infancy. When the plane crashes and the two are stranded on a mountain, they have to learn to survive both the elements and each other.
And since this is a 1985 film, you’re just going to have to wait for my opinion on it. Don’t forget that our first episode of FILM GEEK CENTRAL PRESENTS: THE FILMS OF 1985 premieres on Friday – a year-long tribute to every film released back in 1985. Don’t miss it!
THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012) – Following the one-two punch of THE HUNGER GAMES and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, I made the conscious decision to see every film that Jennifer Lawrence is in. That includes this unlikely film, a film I would have probably overlooked had Lawrence not been involved.
A teenage girl (Lawrence) and her mom (Elizabeth Shue) move to a new neighborhood. The house next door was the site of a grisly murder, where a young girl murdered her parents. Now the only resident there is the son of the family (Max Theriot), who keeps to himself away from the prying and judgemental eyes of the townspeople. But as Lawrence starts to feel closer to him, it becomes obvious that he is still harboring some deep, dark secrets about his family.
I gotta say I was pretty surprised by this film. It’s well shot, with some creative direction from Mark Tonderai. The film seems to have a better head on its shoulders than most of the other films going for the same demographic. The characters are well written. Lawrence does a good job again, even if her part isn’t as dramatically demanding as HUNGER GAMES or SILVER LININGS. And to top it off, the film contains moments where it’s genuinely scary.
Of course, it isn’t all roses. There are a few hackneyed moments within the film. Also, two scenes at the end ring false – one because it’s too conventional and the other because it wraps things up a bit too neatly. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 23
My soundtrack for January 9, 2013: Rather than post a quote, I’ll just say that this is a fine example of the exquisite performance of Samantha Barks in LES MISERABLES. She reprises her role as Eponine in Tom Hooper’s film.