Tag Archives: featured

Hitchcock (2012)

Let me tell you, I was in quite a rut with the movies that have been released in the past year. As I’ve said a million times, technology is replacing the tasteful charm that originally constructed a good film. The authenticity has been lost, I would say. Well, I have been proved wrong once again.

Another perfect cast, another great group of writers. Anthony Hopkins nails it, to say the least. Helen Mirren was Helen Mirren, but her go-to character is so unbelievably likable that we don’t mind. The most pleasant surprise was Scarlett Johansson, who was absolute perfection as Janet Leigh.

The basic premise follows the production of Psycho. Since this is my favorite Hitchcock flick (besides Shadow of a Doubt and Notorious of course), I was totally and completely captivated from beginning to end. If you are a Hitchcock fan, please see it. You won’t regret it. Five stars!



Les Miserables (2012)

So I’ve allowed myself a little time to simmer down after I saw this movie Wednesday night with my musical fanatic family. To say the least, never before have I been so pleased with an adaptation of a musical theatre production to film.

Starting with the essentials: I avoided reviews like crazy prior to seeing the film, now lightly surfing the web I find many viewers to be quite unsatisfied with Hugh Jackman as Valjean. I was confused by this reaction because I thought he was absolutely superb. Sure, his voice might have been a little too rah-rah for some of the intentionally understated power solos that were so mastered originally by Colm Wilkinson. However, he voice had character, I prefer that to some other cases of the film. Music set aside (which is extremely difficult for me to do), I thought he captured the role incredibly well and I don’t think I could have found someone to be quite as successful with such a difficult task.

The other side of the coin here is Russell Crowe. With essentially an opposite background, Crowe fell a little flat for me. I am extremely aware of his insane acting abilities that I understood and even appreciated this new interpretation of Javert. However, when I saw the show both times on Broadway, Javert’s bass/baritone voice was so rich and I found myself longing for the depth and devotion that Crowe definitely lacked. He was the worst part of the movie experience, but as you are about to see, if that’s the worst part, this film was pretty incredible.

The ladies: Anne Hathaway – very low expectations, I really only assumed they cast her to draw in tickets, a method I’m sure was very effective, but I didn’t even consider the amazing possibilities of her performance. I Dreamed a Dream, a song I’ve heard a million times before shook me to the very core. And to be a film major for just a minute, that entire song was in ONE SHOT. There were no cuts to complicate the scene, it purely relied on the talent of the actors, and in this case, it was wonderfully successful.

Amanda Seyfried – Cosette is an easy role, let’s be honest. To quote my sister, all you need for the role of Cosette is a killer super soprano vibrato and a pair of bright eyes. This role I believe was perfectly cast by Amanda Seyfried. The airy tone of her voice is not my favorite, but it definitely works for the innocence of the role. She exists purely as a counter-part for both Valjean and Marius, a duty that was definitely fulfilled.

Samantha Barks – Eponine is the role I was meant to play on Broadway if I ever had any business in musical theatre – HA. She’s always been my favorite character of both the story and the music and I was relieved to find that this was yet another perfect casting call. On My Own was in mostly one shot as well. Brilliant.

The men: Eddie Redmayne, I’ll refrain from obsessing over his attractiveness as I’ve already driven my family crazy with that behavior. Good looks set aside (another difficult thing for me to do), I was extremely impressed byRedmayne’s performance. He was the cute and innocent love struck boy-man in My Week With Marilyn. Les Miserables casts him as this same character, but he must be a killer tenor. Well, surprise, surprise, who’s insane falcetto comes out of absolutely nowhere and breaks my heart during Empty Chairs and Empty Tables? Damn. His acting was superb – he gave Marius a story – a depth that one wouldn’t see in the role otherwise.

Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, oh my God.

Everyone else: Brilliant, just brilliant.

The movie in general: After countless disappointments in the theatre this year, I really needed something to prove me wrong. Everything was overzealous and exhausting to watch, with flashy angles and super vibrant color schemes throughout every scene. The constant stimulation that is required by today’s audience could not be more apparent on today’s silver screen. A black and white film of folks talking around a table would never fly in 2012, and for me, that’s pretty tragic.

The film was shot classically and simply. I argued with myself as to what I liked more: the solos of one shot that merely relied on the talented actors or the ensemble tunes that could have been so chinsy in their execution. I left the film feeling proud of everything I just experienced, the cast, the camera, the music, the story. My childhood love for the show was instantly rejuvenated.

What was obvious to me was the production’s goal to please the theatre fans. There were countless shots and tidbits that paid homage to the theatre production, both through the set and iconic imagery, such as the death of Enjolras and the very presence of Colm Wilkinson to introduce and conclude the film.

The movie reminded us of the dark beautiful magic of the stage and why we fell in love with the story in the first place. I give this one ten billion stars.

Film Title: Les Misérables

Anna Karenina (2012)

How must I begin? After spending all of my free time this semester reading the 800 page Tolstoy novel, I was incredibly excited to go see the beautiful new film. I didn’t even allow myself to watch previews until I finished the book. I finished it on a Sunday night, went to see the movie on a Monday night. Then I died.

It was a film that completely forgot about its roots. Tolstoy is currently turning over in his grave. Besides the fact that I was incredibly proud of myself for completing such an ambitious reading task – which for me, is saying a lot – I adored the book. When it was over, despite the tragic conclusion, I felt content. The resolution of Kitty and Levin, looking at society’s ability to singlehandedly ruin a life right in the eye, and the numerous epiphanies made by key characters made reading the book a worthwhile experience.

So here’s why it killed me – it completely striped the story of its eloquence. Instead of admiring the drama presented by Tolstoy, it was ignored – and replaced by a strange need to provide a deeper concept. Here’s what needs to be said: Tolstoy already has the romantic depth, the spiritual development, and the ability to keep an audience intrigued. There is NO NEED to further these ideas.

Okay, so the entire film was presented on a stage. Obviously this signifies how one life in society is a spectacle – the presence of the audience defines this life. The response of the audience can lead to either its success or its demise. We get it. For five minutes. The full length feature film was not necessary and made the entire concept beat itself into the ground.

Another deal breaker was the writing. There are so many passages in the book that I absolutely fell in love with – the romance between countless characters, especially Levin coming to his religious epiphany. The words have such perfection, why do they feel such a need to take these pieces away, only to fill them with overzealous and dramatic one liners of characters to whom we have zero connection.

The most frustrating aspect of this was that it was perfectly cast. Kiera Knightley has done her fair share of British literature heroines, so we knew and fully expected a wonderful performance. Sure, Anna Karenina could hardly be seen as a heroine, perhaps more of a martyr to a society held responsible for her demise. Frankly,Knightley was among the biggest disappointments (she’s great, I blame the writing). Matthew McFadyen was PERFECTION as Oblonsky. Alicia Vikander and Domnhall Gleeson were amazing as Kitty and Levin (and that helped that they were my favorite characters). Jude Law as Karenin. The list goes on – it was perfect. So why did the film have to be such a serious let down?

That’s all – you can tell my ramblings stem from a weeklong frustration. Sorry there’s no organization in this review – one star. This star is for the cast and the costumes, otherwise it was the biggest disappointment to date.


To Rome, With Love (2012)

Just saw the newest Woody Allen movie, and it was pretty good. My sister convinced me to see it saying it wasMidnight in Paris, but set in Rome. Midnight in Paris was much better, and this film’s series of vignettes allowed for a much more scattered movie-watching experience, which you get already from Woody Allen‘s writing. 

The characters were endearing, filled with ditzy tourists and pseudo-intellectuals that fell in love, suffered from paranoia, and took initiative in the opportunities that were presented to them. They were blubbering and babbling, as if they gave the actors the outline of the scene and told them to just go

The shots of Rome were beautiful, the music was fantastic, and the cast of characters caused one surprise after another. First of all, Woody Allen himself finally stepped in front of the camera again for the first time since 2006. He could have been Mickey Sachs from Hannah and Her Sisters, just the sequel. 

Another great thing I noticed was that he has chosen great young actors to take the reins on the “young romance” quota of the film. Diane Keaton and Woody himself have been replaced by Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg, and they definitely fill the large shoes left for them. They both have the nervous babbling down from previous roles, so matching that with the genius writing of Allen, and you have a masterpiece. 

Some parts were slow, so I’ll give it four stars. 



Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Wow, that was a great movie. I actually understood what was going on! And apparently, that’s something I should be proud of considering that the only feedback I’ve heard about this film was that it was extremely difficult to follow the plot.

The basic idea (really basic) is that Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a “retired” agent for the British Intelligence, asked to return to work to uncover a double agent that has been planted in the British office for a long time. There’s a lot of great acting, particularly Gary Oldman (obviously) and Benedict Cumberbatch (his eyes!). Great music, great cinematography, it had a late Hitchcock style to the filming, in the sense that the viewers’ eye slowly unfolds the answer at the same rate as the protagonist. The camera angles highlight the answers, and I’m sure, if I were to watch it again, there would be a million clues suggested by the camera itself.

I have always loved espionage films, it’s exciting and thrilling to not know who to trust, and there’s an unnerving sense of doubt in the conclusions you draw throughout. In a lot of Christopher Nolan movies, there’s that constant back and forth between illusion and reality, to the point where no character, no audience member, can truly decide what is true and what is not. This is applied to several espionage films, even like James Bond, in the extreme amounts of double crossing, undetectable lying, and the shattering of trust in both the characters and the storyline itself.

It really is thrilling. See this movie, see it!


The Descendants (2011)

I watched this the other day out of obligation: the Oscars are slowly approaching (which I am going home from college that weekend just to celebrate the occasion), there was slight conflict within my family about the movie, and I was simply curious.

I’ll say this once and won’t mention it again: George Clooney will always be Doug Ross to me. He’s the same in everything and despite his charm, no one can possibly argue me on that. But I don’t suppose the film wanted anyone different. Clooney‘s type casting character was ideal for this role, one that separated his emotions from the situation. This is either full of courage or cowardice, I’m not sure which.

I often associate my relationships with the characters with their relationships with one another. The family drama had very little visual emotion, so my reaction was no different.

I find that the argument here draws from what an audience is really looking for.

If you’re me, you look for that one character to pull for. There needs to be one person that reacts the same way you would, the same way so you can understand. Julie Speer, played by Judy Greer, was my favorite character because she was so caught in all this complicated emotion: her husband was cheating on her with a woman who is now a coma. Talk about conflicting emotions. She was frustrated, hurt, and stuck between hate and compassion. Finally, she is the first character in the whole movie to just scream about it. For me, it was kind of a nice release. I understood her emotion.

Other audiences pull for realism, another completely understood approach at watching a movie. Some viewers just like the characters to act as they would, by not lashing out every time things get tough. They put on a brave face to hold themselves together, which, now that I think of it, is just as honorable as lashing out all together.

I couldn’t see myself having any strong emotion about this movie. I couldn’t love a film that had this story line (though it is a plot that I have seen a thousand times before) and I couldn’t hate a film that was about a father rebuilding his relationship with his kids.

My favorite scene was the final one: with the slightly smaller family gathering together on a couch under one blanket, sharing ice cream. To me, this is was family is, and choosing to use this scene as the one to wrap it all up was the best decision they made.


The Artist (2011)

I just got home from The Artist, I did my best to have zero expectations. Being a big  Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow fan, these intentions were unsuccessful. There were several moments when I thought, well in real silent films they did this and that… blah blah blah and I had to keep reminding myself that this was no silent film from the 1920s.

My sisters and I decided on the way home that it was all about taking something old and dated and adapting it to modern media. The quality was obviously far better than any film from 1930, and the cinematography was much more sophisticated than anyone would have come up with back in the roaring twenties. So taking the core ingredients of silent film and spicing it up with flare of special effects and technique: you create an entirely new genre of film. This innovation transcends boundaries that were once uncrossable, and the ability to swing from silent to sound allows the audience to be hyper aware of both the audio and visual experience.

This adaptation was also represented in character development. Like so many real life actors and actresses (Clara Bow, Lillian Gish, Gloria SwansonMary Pickford), the change from silent to sound film ended George Valentin‘s career. After years of depression, both emotionally and financially, Valentin takes his expertise and submerges himself into the musical theatre era. Though he was not desired for drama or swashbuckler films as before, he learned to adapt.

Here is the parallel. A silent film from the 20s released now would not be as well received just as Valentin attempting to continue his classic characters would not be successful. The film discusses movement with the changing times, adapting to technological advancements, and proving talent can transcend time and era.

All in all, I liked it. I thought it was a refreshing take on producing a classic genre film while allowing it to become part of the modern cinema. And let’s be real, it allows film fans like myself and my sisters to spoil ourselves on this holiday with some good ole silent movies. I’m considering putting in City Lights right about now.

Oh yes, it’s a flick worth seeing. Happy holidays!