Saturday, December 22, 2012

Les Miserables (2012)


Year: 2012
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen

Before I begin my review….
With the exception of some films which definitely don’t stand a chance, this section of my reviews should be renamed, “ Let’s Talk About Nominations” for the next few months.
And this is one of those films that should.
The big question on everyone’s lips when it comes to Les Miserables and the Oscars or Golden Globes is whether this is Anne Hathaway’s year. One might argue that it has been already with her recent marriage to Adam Shulman and two career milestones playing Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises and Fantine in Les Miserables, but a golden statue or two might just top this off for her.
In all honesty, just from seeing the trailer to Les Miserables I was already in belief that she was going to win the Oscar. I’d tear up every time I heard her sing “I Dreamed A Dream” and I thought that if she was able to do that to me in the trailer, what could she do in the film?
And yes, I was in tears when she sang the whole song in the film. Hathaway has come a long way since we first saw her in The Princess Diaries eleven years ago. She is brilliant every second she is on screen in Les Miserables, but it is in that 4 minutes and 40 seconds of “I Dreamed A Dream” that she has given one of the best performances of a female actress of the year.
Well, I have actually yet to see better if there is going to be.
Team Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture.
And Team Jackman for Best Actor In A Musical/Comedy at the Golden Globes. He’s not to be forgotten in the Hathaway hype. If all goes his way, there may well be an Oscar nomination there for him too.
Les Miserables will have its lovers and haters and people will love it for the reasons people will hate it.
If you are familiar with the stage production, then you will love it for how true the film stays to it. However, if you are not and are not prepared for two and a half hours of song with barely any spoken dialogue, then you are probably going to be wishing you were outside the cinema doing something else for that period of time.
Yet, there is no denying that Les Miserables is a beautiful film with amazing cinematography, music and some of the best acting performances of the year. Not to mention you can tell how much hard work has gone into this epic production by director, Tom Hooper.

Based on one of the world’s most popular musical’s and the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables is set in 19th century France.  Newly released prisoner, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) violates his parole and Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) is in constant pursuit of him. Valjean turns his life around after being shown kindness by a priest. He encounters a young woman, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who has turned to prostitution in order to care for her young daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried) and his life is forever changed. He raises Cosette as his own and together they travel to Paris where their journey eventually takes them to the June Rebellion.

Tom Hooper has certainly put his heart and soul into this film, there is no doubting that. Gone are the days when singing is dubbed into the film, as Les Miserables contains all live performances by each of the actors. The musical numbers are wonderfully choreographed and the editing splendid. When you look at how much power is behind the majority of these voices and the brilliant acting that goes along with that, doing that over and over would be an extremely gruelling and exhausting process.

Although the cinematography is breath-taking the majority of the time, there are some moments where it is completely obvious that this is a green screen moment for the stars. Some of the CGI which is supposed to make you believe that characters are actually in a location such as the shipping yard and the night sky of Paris, seem more like live actors set against an animated backdrops.
The highlights of the film are the musical spectacles and the acting involved in them. As these are the focus point, some of the relationships between the characters get lost and the story slows down. This is what can be frustrating about the film. It is a long film and although Hooper tries to make the most of every scene (which he nearly does), the story slows down and you are sometimes so caught up in the main songs that you almost forget what is going on and why they are actually singing the song. However, this is what the musical is all about on stage so it is Hooper staying true to its basis.
Hooper has once again proved that he can direct movie stars to some of their best work. Hugh Jackman  gives his first musical big screen performance (not counting Happy Feet). While no stranger to working in stage musicals, on screen this is new territory for him and he is brilliant. He is captivating from the opening scene of the film and gives an emotionally charged performance. Not to mention his absolutely exquisite singing voice he makes the most of.
Anne Hathaway gives the performance of her career as Fantine. She completely personifies the character and is heartbreaking from her first moment on film to her last. “I Dreamed A Dream” is one of the most amazing musical moments on film in years, where you almost forget that she is singing this beautiful song as you are so captivated by the way her character’s heart is breaking at the realization that all the happiness and freedom to dream happy dreams has been sucked out of her by life.

Russell Crowe is quite lack lustre compared to Jackman and Hathaway. Although he is not bad by any means, he doesn’t give off as cruel a vibe as one would hope in the “villain” of the film. He is serious and there is no problem believing that he is law abiding, but you don’t see in him any of the feelings he is professing to feel when he sings. Therefore his climax in the film does not really seem justified.
Amanda Seyfried, though sweet, is over-shadowed by her fellow actors. She is a lovely Cosette, but Isabelle Allen, who plays the younger Cosette, is even lovelier.
Eddie Redmayne also gives his career best performance so far. It’s actually a lovely shock as to how good he really is in Les Miserables , as he gives a completely different performance to anything he has ever done on screen. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” is his moment in the film where he shines and shows how much talent he really has.
Samantha Barks makes her film debut as Epinone, a role she has played previously on London’s West End. What a film debut. ”On My Own” is one of the best known Les Miserables songs and Barks performs it with such ease and natural beauty, although it is again one of the most heart breaking moments on screen. During “A Heart Full Of Love” in which Seyfried, Redmayne and Barks all sing, you just want to hear more of Barks.
And Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are a fantastic team as the comical inn-keepers. Daniel Huttlestone, who plays young Gavroche also gives a wonderful breakthrough performance.
Les Miserables is a must see for any musical fans and especially fans of the original stage musical. Those who aren’t won’t understand the hype, but still won’t be able to deny some of the best acting of the year.

The Official Les Miserables Site
USA Today
The Internet Movie Database

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Dresses On Film

As my post about the Top 10 Movies To Influence Fashion was such a success, I thought I would present a list of another fashionable topic. 

There are some beautiful, memorable images of actresses in film in some amazing dresses.  The film may not even be as memorable as the dress, but as a girl, it is only natural to see an actress wearing a beautiful dress and want to look like that yourself…if you have somewhere to wear it!

I figure that we all have different tastes and not all of the dresses that I think should be in a certain place in a list of a certain number will be what everyone agrees on.  So the following is a list in no particular order of dresses in film which I think are the most memorable.

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffanys
Now I know I just said that this list is in no particular order, but when I think about dresses in film, the little black dress in Breakfast At Tiffanys is the first one that springs to mind.

Audrey Hepburn’s image will always represent class and fashion. There is no image more fashionable than that of her at the beginning of Breakfast At Tiffanys in the long black dress, pearls and big sunglasses, getting out of a cab at New York’s Tiffanys store.

What makes this image of her so appealing to women and has done now for over 50 years, is that she looks a million dollars, but it is also a style that every girl can replicate. Throughout the film, Audrey don’s a variety of black dresses as her character, Holly Golightly, each gorgeous and classy. The little black dress has become a staple of a girl’s wardrobe and is something you can dress up or down for day or night.

This dress was designed by Hubert de Givenchy, who designed many of Audrey’s beautiful dresses over her career.

Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
Audrey makes her second appearance on this list with the beautiful gown she wore in Sabrina as the titles character to meet her long time crush, David at his party.

This dress is a dressmaker’s dream. It could be a party dress, prom dress or a wedding dress. It is a stunningly exquisite dress, but at the same time is not overdone. The way Audrey glides into the party just adds emphasis to the beauty of the dress. Her image is just dazzling and her beauty captures the heart of the man she has always had a crush on and even his brother.

Isn’t that the way every girl wants to feel when they enter a party? That the world just stops because of her and her beauty?

The concept for this dress was first thought of by legendary studio costume designer, Edith Head.

Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch
Could any image possibly be more iconic than the image of Marilyn Monroe with her white halter-neck dress flying up above the New York subway in The Seven Year Itch?

While you may not want your dress to fly up, Marilyn Monroe is a cultural symbol of beauty and female sexuality. This image sent men mad in the 1950’s when the movie was released and enraged Marilyn’s then husband, Joe DiMaggio. Yet, even though Marilyn did many other movies and appeared in many other dresses during her film career, when you see a Marilyn impersonator, it is this white dress that you will more than likely see them in.

Again, this is a completely timeless dress and although it does have a touch of nostalgia about it, the halter-neck style never goes out of fashion.

This dress was designed by William Travilla.

Keira Knightley in Atonement
Jumping forward now nearly 60 years, one of the most memorable dresses from a movie in recent times is the emerald green, floor length dress worn by Keira Knightley in Joe Wright’s Atonement.

Atonement may be set in the 1930’s, but this dress belongs in another time, yet seems extremely appropriate for the night in which the dress worn is set in.  It is extremely sexy and sensual and a perfect fit for the minutes of passion between Cecilia and Robbie. Yet, it is very glamorous. The most striking feature of the dress is its deep green colour. It is quite unusual as it is not normally a colour dress that you would see in a movie, but it works and creates a lasting impression in your mind.

This dress was designed by Jacqueline Durran, who was also nominated for an Academy Award for her costume design in Atonement.

Kate Hudson in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days
This decision of mine will certainly seem left field to many people, but it is one of the gorgeous dresses that springs to mind when I think about dresses in film.

What makes this floor length, glossy yellow dress that Kate Hudson wears in the comedy, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days so memorable, is that it is not only sleek and beautiful, but it proves that yellow is not a colour to be afraid of! Yellow doesn’t normally spring to mind when you think about the colour of dress you may want to wear, but this yellow is light and edging on towards gold. Kate Hudson pulls the look off perfectly and her character, Andie leaves Ben (Matthew McConaughey) gasping for air.

This dress was designed by Karen Patch. 


Photo Credits

Friday, December 14, 2012

Love, Actually (2003)

Year: 2003
Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman

Now this is the movie I have had the most requests for the review this Christmas season, so I should be hearing a lot of cheering from outside my window when this review goes live!

Love, Actually is one of the most popular and successful Christmas films of the past decade. There are so many reasons why it is so successful. It is a romantic, feel-good movie that appeals to both males and females and is genuinely funny.  All this in a Christmas movie would normally be ultra-corny, but in Love, Actually it is just beautiful.

So where do you start?

Love, Actually is a multi-protagonist film, which means that there are several main characters and each of these characters have their own story. As is a fairly common in this type of film, all the characters are somehow linked. There is Daniel (Liam Neeson) who has just lost his wife, David (Hugh Grant) who is the new Prime Minister, Sarah (Laura Linney) who is in love with her work colleague, Jamie (Colin Firth) who has just found out his girlfriend is sleeping with his brother, Karen (Emma Thompson) who suspects that her husband, Harry (Alan Rickman) is having an affair and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) who is in love with his best friend’s wife, Juliet (Keira Knightley).

But…….the question on everyone’s lips is….will aging rocker, Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) has the number one song at Christmas with the catchy and ridiculous, “Christmas Is All Around”?

If you haven’t seen Love, Actually, from my above plot summary you are probably thinking that the movie just sounds a bit messy. It is anything but. Director, Richard Curtis gives each character the same amount of screen time and the best thing is, you feel an emotional connection to each of the characters. That is something that is hard to grasp in your straight forward film, even harder in a film with as many characters as this. However, there are tears of triumph, happiness and sadness for all in the film.

During the film, there are so many unforgettable moments. You will never hear “Jump For My Love” again without thinking about a dancing Hugh Grant. “Love Is All Around” will always ring of “Christmas Is All Around”, the song that opens the film with obscenities from getting the two songs mixed up. 

It does set high romantic standards for everyone who watches it, which could be dangerous. Who doesn’t want the perfect moment at Christmas though? Love, Actually just brings them to the screen!

There is no one star or standout performance in Love, Actually, but many. Bill Nighy as Billy Mack is absolutely hilarious and so different from any of his other roles. Hugh Grant is an absolutely charming Prime Minister who you wish you could vote in to parliament. Colin Firth is just wonderful and his restaurant scene is what every woman dreams of. Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman work so well together, even when they are having marital problems on screen.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays young Sam who has just lost his mother, but is also the victim of his first love. He is an absolute scene stealer, even with Liam Neeson by his side, who is also wonderful.

Love, Actually is a one of a kind film and the fact that it is a Christmas film makes it even more likable. There is so much beauty as well as humour in the film. It is the best Christmas film to have been released in the last ten years…actually.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd
Before I begin my review….
 I’ve got to say that I have been extremely impressed with Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson post Harry Potter.

Back in June, I reviewed The Woman In Black, which was Daniel Radcliffe’s first role post- Harry Potter.  It was always a worry of mine how the Harry Potter “kids” would go once the films came to an end, so I was pleasantly surprised with Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman In Black. Not once during the film did Radcliffe do something that was Harry Potter-esque. I didn’t once in my mind link Radcliffe’s performance back to Harry Potter and that is a sign to me that he will really do well away from Harry Potter as he has more in him that just the boy wizard.
 The same can now be said for once Hermione Granger, Emma Watson. I didn’t think her performance in My Week With Marilyn was a clear indication of whether she is going to have a successful career outside Harry Potter. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower does wonders for her in that department. Hermione is gone and Emma Watson has arrived, and she is a very versatile, gorgeous and talented actress. I’m actually very excited now after seeing her in this film to see her in Sofia Coppola’s upcoming film, The Bling Ring.
 It is great knowing that both Radcliffe and Watson are not going to fall into the trap of being typecast because of their previous roles which they will be forever known for, and that there is life after Harry Potter.
 I guess now it is Rupert Grint’s turn to show us that he is now longer Ron Weasley.

  The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is one of those rare films that is heart-breaking and also heart-warming.
 Based on the best-selling book by Stephen Chbosky who also directs the film, it is obvious why the novel is such a success. The characters are ones which so many teenagers can relate to and addresses those deep, dark secrets some of us have that shape who we are. On the big screen, the characters and situations are relatable and it is the must see film of the year for anyone who has ever felt like a misfit or a wallflower.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a troubled young man who is just about to enter high school, which he knows is going to be torture for an outcast like himself. He is terrified at the prospect of having no friends and starts counting down the days till he finishes as soon as he starts. He soon befriends step brother and sister, seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who take Charlie under their wing and introduce him to their band of misfits. Charlie comes to be one of them and for the first time feels like he belongs, but do your inner demons really disappear if you don’t acknowledge them?
It is a huge advantage for The Perks Of Being A Wallflower that the author of the book is also the director and writer of the film.  Stephen Chbosky has brought to the big screen the true essence of what the book is about. The story doesn’t lose anything when it is told through images and dialogue rather than just words on the paper. There is so much emotion involved in the film and it can really be beautifully depressing at times. A film set in a high school is normally a film that can get caught up in comedy and light fluffiness, but The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is not one of those films.  
The script is really very good. There are some really beautiful quotes in the film such as “We accept the love we think we deserve” and when Charlie says that he didn’t think anybody knew he existed, Patrick replies “That’s because we didn’t think there was anybody cool left to meet”.
However, it really is a very sad film. Some moments are really heart felt and you love watching the friendships move from one stage to the next and how these high school students become like family. However, it does remind you that if you don’t deal with your past and the demons there, they never disappear.
Logan Lerman is just perfection as Charlie. From the word go, you establish a connection with him and feel so sorry for him that it is agonizing. His character is a true wallflower, but on screen he is just magic.
Emma Watson has so much star quality in this film that it is unbelievable. She is just radiant in a role that is so different for her and proves that she really can do anything. Watson has those great moments in scenes where you are actually able to see into her soul and see her pain, even though the character is trying to hide it.
Ezra Miller is also very good and perfect in his role, as an outcast but an extrovert.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a film that every teenager going through the turmoil of high school should watch. It can be very hard hitting at times, but is the perfect way to remind them that they are not alone in the way they feel.

Internet Movie Database
And Pop

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

Year: 1947         
Director: George Seaton
Cast: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, John Payne

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

So let’s get this Christmas party rolling on Movie Critical!

I’ve had quite a few requests as to which Christmas movies I should review, but I have decided to start with Miracle On 34th Street. What better to kick of my Christmas reviews with than the film that traditionally kicks off the Christmas season in the United States by following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television.

Well, Miracle On 34th Street is a classic for a reason. It appealed to people as much in the 1940’s as it does now. It was remade in 1994, but the updated version didn’t offer anything new so the original is still by far the most popular and widely watched.

Miracle On 34th Street is about Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), mother and Macy’s employee who has brought up her daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood in one of her very first roles) to believe in common sense and no fantasy. This includes not believing in Santa Claus. However, when an old man is in the right place at the right time and believes that he himself is Santa Claus, he has to convince more people of his true identity than just Doris and Susan.

The film has always had a sense of magic about it and achieves so without having pretty sparkly festive images constantly through the film or crazy special effects. It just addresses one of the vital aspects of Christmas and indeed of everyday life. Having faith and believing in something. Is it worth not believing in something just for the fear of getting hurt or something not turning out the way you would like it to? Is there anything wrong with having fun with daydreams? Santa Claus is one of the most beautiful things to believe in because he represents the joy of giving and of shared happiness.

Miracle On 34th Street is one of those films that will always bring a tear to your eye with its beauty. The family dynamics as well as the friendships in the film are heart-warming and everyone loves a happy ending.

Edmund Gwenn is, I believe, the best Santa Claus on the big screen. He completely embodies the character and even you believe that Gwenn is the real Santa Claus. Gwenn earned an Academy Award for his efforts and to this day remains the only Santa Claus to do so.

Natalie Wood is just adorable. She always was a beautiful woman and amazing actress, but this film shows how she was so from an early age. Just like Gwenn, she becomes her character and is an absolute joy to watch.

Miracle On 34th Street is and has always been the perfect film to kick off the Christmas season.

Courtesy of, here are so fun facts you may not have known about Miracle On 34th Street.

*Throughout filming, eight year old Natalie Wood was convinced that Edmund Gwenn really was Santa Claus. It was only when she saw him at the wrap party out of costume that she realised that he wasn’t.

*Edmund Gwenn actually did play Santa Claus in the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

*Actual footage of the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was used in this film.

*The film was originally given a ‘B” rating as it was deemed slightly offensive as Maureen O’Hara’s character was a divorcee.

*The scenes inside Macy’s were filmed inside the 34th Street store in New York itself.

Photo Credit
The City Wire

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Master (2012

The Master
Year: 2012
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern

Before I begin my review….
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..

I love Christmas, but I am not talking about Christmas. I am talking about a film lover’s Christmas which is awards season!

So for another film which has Oscar buzz surrounding it, The Master. What is my opinion of the Oscar buzz for it after seeing it? Well, I’m not convinced it is the film that is going to win the big one, although it will most probably be one of the ten films in the running. Paul Thomas Anderson should receive a nomination for Best Director, but I don’t think the film has the same suspense of those films chosen for the number one honour in the past few years and may be a tad too confronting.

The acting is the main draw for this film. I am fairly certain that Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams will all earn nominations for this film. It is going to be a big year for the Best Actor category. Including Phoenix, I can see four actors who are going to be up there for the category. That being Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, Anthony Hopkins for Hitchcock, John Hawkes for The Sessions and Phoenix for The Master. As I haven’t reviewed the other films as yet, it is impossible for me to determine who will win, but as far as Phoenix is concerned, he does give a brilliant performance. However, as he has made his dislike for awards season and everything to do with it known, his chances may have been slaughtered significantly as it is more than likely he would ruffle some feathers of those who make the final decision.

I’ve always been a great admirer of Phoenix’s acting so his outspoken opinion on the matter of nominations and top honours did not really impress me, as I would love to see him win an Academy Award one day, but I would like to see him win it in a gracious and grateful manner.

On the other hand, Hoffman is a big chance for Best Supporting Actor and very much deserving. Adams could well be nominated for Best Supporting Actress and if she does it will be the fourth time she would have been nominated in the category. Even though she was very good, I am not convinced this year will be her year. Again, I will make a more accurate opinion when I see all the other films which have nominees. Rumour has it it may well be the year of Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables.

                The Master is Paul Thomas Anderson’s long awaited follow up to his superb There Will Be Blood. His new film contains the same brilliance in direction and knockout performances as it’s predecessor, but is very confronting and as a result isn’t a film for everyone.

                Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) has returned home from the war front into a life without direction and without purpose. One night, he by chance encounters the leader of faith based organisation The Cause, Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who takes Quell under his wing and tries to change his life. However, through the many tests Dodd gives Quell, he still exhibits violent actions and erratic emotions, which makes other members of The Cause, including Dodd’s wife, Peggy (Amy Adams) wonder if Quell can really be changed.

                The basis of the film is really an interesting one. Can people really be changed? Quell displays all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder which has been brought on by his experiences while at war, but no matter what Dodd puts him through, he doesn’t seem to stray too far from the behaviour we see him exhibit at the beginning of the film. Maybe he was always this person even before the war, or maybe Dodd’s strategies for changing him are just not adequate or useful in such a situation. Or did Quell even really want to change?

                The Master is a very confronting film. Partially based on Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, the activities that you see members of The Cause are quite disturbing and unsettling. The thoughts and activities of Quell are also unsettling. So this film is really not one for the faint hearted and one some people will find vulgar and other people will find weird.

                The pace of the film is very slow and there really is no suspense or feeling of wanting to find out what is going to happen at the end. At no point in time you can see how the film is going to end, which isn’t a bad thing, but what is a bad thing is that lack of wanting to know what is going to happen.

                However, Anderson’s direction is very good. Anderson has a real knack for making things which are not normally considered beautiful so with his choice of images, editing and audio. The film in many ways is a winner visually as he takes pride in every single scene and how it is presented.

                The acting in The Master is just superb by the three main actors. Joaquin Phoenix makes his acting comeback with an explosion. He has some brilliant scenes such as when he is subjected to Dodd’s processing, which are very intense and scary due to his fine performance.

                Phillip Seymour Hoffman is also brilliant. He is extremely charismatic as Dodd and is believable as the sect’s leader who has so many people hanging off his every word. He embodies everything of what this character should be. Amy Adams is also very good as his wife, Peggy. She is a strong female figure that the film needs alongside two very strong male leads.

                The Master is a brilliant film for certain aspects and film scholars will love dissecting each part it. However, it’s slow pace and confrontational fa├žade make it a film which isn’t everyone’s taste.

Just Jared
The Internet Movie Database
The Guardian