Les Miserables (2012) [Blu-ray]
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Hugh Jackman, Academy Award winner Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway star in this critically-acclaimed adaptation of the epic musical phenomenon. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells the story of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman), hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe), after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. This enthralling story is a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit and "an unforgettable experience" (Richard Roeper, RichardRoeper.com).
DVD - Region 1; Blu-ray- Region Free.
Les Misérables is a deeply powerful film that's rich with raw feeling, the grittiness of life in 19th-century France, and the conflict between right, wrong, and the concept of redemption. Les Misérables takes viewers on an emotionally exhausting journey as it follows ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) after his release from prison. Valjean breaks parole, but he is granted a second chance by a kind bishop. He then moves from place to place throughout France, trying to live an honest life while ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) hunts him relentlessly. Valjean meets the broken-spirited Fantine (Anne Hathaway), promises to care for her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) as Fantine is about to die, and finds his own life completely changed as a result of that promise. Like the stage play, the film is dark, gritty, and passionate, but it enhances the sense of place in early- to mid-1800s France as a staged version simply cannot. The intricately woven plot is somewhat easier to understand here, thanks to an abundance of visual cues and the camera's unique ability to focus in so closely on the actors' faces. In fact, the intimacy of the extreme close-ups used throughout is at once uncomfortable and hugely effective. The vocal performances are generally quite good, especially considering the decision to record them live versus the customary overdubbing. Sure, some of the actors' voices seem pushed and strained at times, but that fact often only adds to the emotional intensity of the moment. Hathaway's performance is stellar, both for her vocal prowess and for the depth of feeling conveyed and maintained in her facial expressions throughout even the lengthiest and closest of close-ups. While Crowe seems an odd choice for Javert and is definitely outsung by the other members of the cast, he holds his own when it really counts with solos that are on-pitch and arguably even more powerful for their imperfections. Discerning listeners will not choose the film's Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack over the full-length London or Broadway cast recordings, but sometimes an outstanding performance isn't all about musical perfection--the overall Les Misérables film experience is definitely one of those cases. New for the film is the song "Suddenly," written by the musical's original composer and lyricist Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. Trivia buffs will note that the bishop is played by Colm Wilkinson, who originally played Valjean in the London and Broadway stage productions, and Whore #1 is played by the original London and Broadway Eponine, Frances Ruffelle. --Tami Horiuchi
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For example, take Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream". At this point in the story, we don't know Fantine very well, but we see the struggle that she's put through. She's at her lowest point. Hathaway half-belts and half-sobs the iconic song, the entire thing being filmed in one take. It's an extremely emotional performance that will bring any person with a heart, to tears.
Criticism that I've been hearing of the film mostly revolves around the performances of Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, as Javert and Valjean. I think both of these guys did fantastic jobs, quite frankly. Crowe isn't the best singer in the world, but his voice fits the part of Javert very well. As for Jackman, well, it could be argued that he carried the entire film. I think he did a splendid job; the role of Jean Valjean is a giant undertaking, and I think he nailed it.
However, the real excellence of this film lies in the supporting cast. Everybody is perfectly cast, but particularly Samantha Barks in the role of Eponine. She played the same character in the 25th Anniversary performance of Les Miserables, only two years ago. One small criticism; my favorite part of Eponine's solo (and theme song to self-loathing masochists everywhere) "On My Own", the beginning part, is cut entirely. However, once you see what Barks does with this song it's easily forgiven.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, who look like they're in "Sweeney Todd 2", are great comic relief as the Thenardiers. Cohen is the only cast member in this Paris-set film who sings in a French accent, however... I find that strange. Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit are perfect as Marius and his colleague Enjolras. Redmayne's "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", near the end of the film, will make you cry. His voice goes to extraordinary places, and in such an emotional number, where he's telling the story of his friends who are no longer with him, this is a place where the live singing truly shines.
The live singing, itself, is a huge undertaking, cinematically. Director Tom Hooper certainly had alot at stake with this project, however, there are still things that he could have done better. There are so many close-ups in the film. While they work for solos like "I Dreamed A Dream" and "Empty Chairs", they don't work for others. I also kind of feel like Hooper used the fish-eye camera lens a little too often, but these are inconsequential criticisms that don't make the film any less powerful. I saw this movie a week before it came out because I won advance screening tickets and I have known the song I Dreamed A Dream my whole life but I have never seen the musical on stage or any of the adaptations before. I went into this with no expectations at all. At first I thought the movie started off kind of fragmented and I figured because it had to introduce everybody and I was right. The film ended up as it went on drawing me in more and more and making me fall in love with it and by the end i was mesmerized with how wonderful and amazing the movie is. I believe they picked perfect roles because after i saw the movie i listened to the Broadway soundtrack and i believe they did very well on picking out the cast for their vocal ranges and capabilities. I think anyone who loves the musical or is a musical person should defiantly see this movie because they will not be disappointed one bit by how amazing it is
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