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Les Misérables (2012)
Not done in the style of most musicals and an excellent movie.
Just to warn people, there are two big criticisms you really shouldn't let bother you: 1.) It's not Broadway, because it's a movie. No matter what, it was never going to be the same thing as a good stage production of Les Miserables anyway. 2.) No movie should be expected to be completely faithful to a book. If somebody paints a painting about something, and later, somebody writes a song about the exact same thing, people don't expect the lyrics of the song to perfectly explain the painting, but this movie is fair and true enough to the original Victor Hugo novel and story. In the case of the original Les Miserables, Victor Hugo's novel from the 1800s is 1,900 pages long and it wasn't a musical anyway. You couldn't fit all of a book that size into 5 movies, but this movie is true enough to the original story. Plus it fits in almost all of the original Broadway production music.
That being said, I'm not really a big fan of musicals, in fact I tend to not like them, Oklahoma-boring, South Pacific-who cares. About the only musicals I ever really liked include Pink Floyd The Wall and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But this movie is excellent, as in everybody-in-the-theater-claps-at-the-end excellent.
It's basically not done in song and dance style. Characters are moving around and in action the whole time. There is some spoken dialogue, but it is done very much in the style of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a movie in which 100% of the dialogue is sung. These are basically the only two musicals of this type of style or technique. In The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, you quickly don't notice they are singing at all anymore, and you go through the whole movie as if you are just listening to people talking or arguing, but in this Les Miserables, sometimes you don't notice that they are singing, while other times, well, they are definitely belting it out, but still within the flow of dialogue, and the action of the movie keeps going. They don't interrupt the action to stop and do a big tap dance and singing number or anything like that. In fact, you don't even notice when they are going from straight spoken dialogue and back to singing, sometimes even mid-sentence, and sometimes a character is replying to singing with spoken dialogue, as the two get mixed right in together perfectly.
It you just want the Les Miserables story in a movie but without the music, then watch the 1997 version directed by Bille August, as that is a really good movie. (And includes stars Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman, Claire Danes and Geoffrey Rush.)
But remember, the musical Les Miserables has been more to the stage than what movies like The Godfather or even Casablanca ever were to the silver screen. It's number one, with more people having seen a stage production of Les Miserables than Annie, Cats, South Pacific, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Rent, Miss Saigon, Evita, or anything else, and there is a reason for that and that reason is basically the music. Along with the story of course, but its music is really just that powerful.
You could just watch a recording of some NYC or London stage production of Les Miserables on DVD. There are plenty of those, including ones that are hardly even stage productions but rather more so just opera singers on stage taking turns singing the music. But you aren't going to get a movie type story experience out of those. Just the same, no matter how well done, a good Broadway quality stage performance of Les Miserables is going to be 5 times better than even a perfect Les Miserables musical movie.
This movie is produced like a movie and not as the filming of a stage production.
A movie movie, as we expect it, sets its scenes wherever they need to be. When a character is hiking over the top of a mountain, they are actually there filming on the top of a mountain. That is how this movie usually is. When they are out on the streets of Paris, they are out on the streets of Paris. It's a movie. And it's the story well told. And it's the music. All in one.
Putting all of those things together in one Les Miserables movie, well it's hard to imagine anybody doing it much better or even trying to. A few imperfections or weaknesses are there, but not enough for anybody to try to outdo it anytime soon. Some of the outdoor scenes could have been shot on a location in some French city or town, rather than having buildings or skylines look so much like stage sets or computer generated images. Next to none of the waterfront scenes looked like they were just shot on an actual location, with all sorts of ships and things looking like stage sets or computer generations. Some of the actors could have cut their cockney stage accents for just straight modern English occasionally touched with French accents or pronunciations as needed. (After all, they already weren't shooting in French, so why bother with any fake old timey stage accents that only make characters that much harder to understand?) They could have taken a page from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and seriously stuck to realism and naturalism, rather than appearing as stage performers performing on a stage so much. There were some mighty wobbly cameras in a few scenes.
Even if you are not big fan of Victor Hugo or of musicals, this should still be enough of an action and adventure movie to keep you well entertained. It's long, but that was something unavoidable in order to fit in both enough of the story and the music.
Overall, it's excellent. A rare 9 out of 10 stars for me.
Kariera Nikosia Dyzmy (2002)
A comedy that well meets its mark.
Warning, this reviewer's spoiler comes right up front here, although it isn't really revealing anything that previews, trailers and reviews didn't let onto to begin with, to just note that this movie is in many ways comparable to being a post-Soviet version of 1979's BEING THERE, staring Peter Sellers, just being a bit more modern and a lot more hilarious with its own post-Soviet twists. Comedies, particularly the zanier ones, just can't be compared with the same standards as one might use to judge a drama, but as far as comedies go, this one well hits it mark. It's entertaining, light hearted and funny and with some frolicking nudity, including that of Anna Przybylska, that certainly doesn't hurt it at all. It's not very long, short compared to most movies, keeps moving right along and entertaining, and this movie watcher would think most anybody would enjoy it. This movie watcher gives it 8/10 and would gladly watch it again someday.
Slow, tedious, very little pay off.
Okay, so a lot of old Russian movies seem to want you to experience the poetry blowing through the trees of the Siberian countryside or drag along a good bit to permit you to get in touch with this spirit of the Russian countryside or some various other patriotic connections with the essence of Russianism and such, but this movie is no Siberiade or Russian Ark even. If I personally had grown up in the Russian countryside and if this movie's reputed dreamy, poetic, non-linear recollections were those of my own grandfather, I'm afraid I still would have found this movie to be on the slow, boring and underwhelming side of things. I'm really confused as to how it has scored such a high rating, seriously. If this movie is an 8, then Siberiade, and Come and See, should be about a 16, and even Dr. Zhivago would have to be about a 14. I don't usually post negative comments, and probably wouldn't have bothered if this movie's IMDb average rating was a 6 or maybe even a 7, but as it was an 8 when I decided to watch this movie, well, I just can't figure how that is possible, unless there is some committee appointed by the Russian communist party politburo that is charged with just logging onto IMDb and voting for this movie. I just don't see how it possibly ever got a rating so high. I'll give it a 4, just because there were a few spliced in documentary clips that were interesting, but there were no extraordinary scenes of the countryside, the narrative poetry was not overwhelmingly great, no particular plot, no drama, wow, nothing really, but a slow, tedious movie without any real payoff, unless you can really just thrive on music, Purcell and such, that occasionally breaks the monotony, but then again, hopefully your refrigerator will make some entertaining noises while you are slogging through this movie.
Another Earth (2011)
The big thing a lot of viewers didn't figure out...
This comment is for those who have already seen the movie, as my comments mainly pertain to the last scene.
It would seem that most viewers didn't get something I just automatically figured out during the course of the movie...and this thing has to do with the broken synchronicity. Earth 1 and Earth 2 didn't just automatically start to become different, something had to break synchronicity, and those differences would only occur with the two planets interaction and then have to domino or butterfly effect from there. When she was driving in her car, looking up to see the blue dot in the sky, her double was doing the same thing. But, the other planet was not a mirror image, it was a duplicate, so unlike in a mirror, where when you raise your right hand you see your reflection raising its left hand, what she saw was more like looking into a rorrim, which is a type of mirror where things are not reversed, so you actually see things as others would be looking at you and seeing things...the print of a book you are holding up to a rorrim isn't reversed and you can still easily read it, and so on. When the blue dot was first noticed and the disc jockey was announcing it she looked up into the sky and her body double was also looking up, but exactly where that blue dot was in the sky was different for the two of them. So, given her body double's different positioning of her head, her different angle of viewing, she noticed the other car in time to brake or swerve and miss it. Similarly, when Dr. Joan Tallis was on live TV making live radio contact, at first she thought she was getting feedback, because in reply to anything she said, she was hearing the other Joan Tallis who was broadcasting the exact same radio message to her. This was a frustration for her, until something different about the radio waves traveling through space meant that one of them would hear something differently, and respond differently, so that instead of just saying the same thing to each other at the same time, back and forth, one of them somehow responded differently, "Hello? Hello?" as they undoubtedly had heard something different, or failed to hear something because it was blocked by interference. Then their synchronicity was broken enough in that small way for the two of them to actually have a conversation, and undoubtedly, television viewers on Earth 2 might have experienced a small break in synchronicity, as their Joan Tallis was answering the question about what she bought at the space store in Cape Canaveral, so the viewers on Earth 2 didn't have their Joan Tallis holding up the words "space strawberries," on her yellow pad to possibly provoke the obvious reaction that Rhonda's brother on Earth 1 was having. (And obviously, Rhonda 2's brother didn't have a sister who went to prison, so very likely in that family's life, along with Rhonda 2's friends at MIT, quite a bit of synchronicity had been broken by then.) So, the Rhonda 2 didn't crash, did go to MIT, did study astronomy or astrophysics, which was her area of interest, and won the contest for other reasons, probably just for being a motivated MIT graduate student specializing in space and astronomy. She had nobody to consider giving up her space flight to, since she didn't kill anybody's family. John Burroughs undoubtedly joined his family, now having two fathers, only one being slightly banged up and with minor head injury issues. This was already a question in my mind and in other viewers' minds, whether by looking up at the sky at different angles the two Rhondas had broken synchronicity enough to where one of them had swerved and missed hitting the other car. The final scene didn't raise any questions at all, rather, it quickly and refreshingly answered the really biggest question that viewers who got it were already asking themselves and wondering about. For me, that final scene was a magical and beautiful moment, but not wonderful at all, as it replied to all the wonder by answering every question and tying-up all the loose ends of the story very well, at least as far as the story line was dealing with. (Of course to follow the story one had to at least suspend belief enough to not stray from the story, wondering about things like whether the two planets would be experiencing tsunami tides because of their gravitational pulls and such, etc.)
There was no moral difference between the two Rhondas, it's not that one of them decided to go the party and drink while the other didn't, they were the same person, they were the same drunk, just one was a drunk trying to look at a blue dot in the sky over here, while the other was a drunk trying to look at a blue dot in the sky over there. Face to face, they should realize that were the same person until then, only one, like most drunk drivers, just didn't end up in an accident by mere chance, just dumb luck and nothing else.
I just thought it was a wonderful movie and the final scene answered that wonderful with a terrific happy ending. The two Rhonda's certainly have a lot of catching up to do, and undoubtedly, John and Rhonda are the only people who ended up on the same planet as their other selves, and the other shuttle passengers certainly arrived to notice little or no difference with the planet they left, probably feeling more like returning astronauts than true space explorers. The Rhonda 1 and John 1 switch proved to be an additional but major break in synchronicity for the two Earths.
Skyggen af Emma (1988)
Oh, it's a very choice, unique, touching story...
Okay, not really any spoilers per se, but since I might just allude ever so slightly to content of the character of the movie, rather than any specifics, I thought a spoiler alert only fair.
I did read one critic, somewhere, who thought this movie was unrealistic, asking what planet this story must be from to even be possible. But wait, during my college days, wasn't the country this very film is from one of those countries where murders and handgun killing numbers were being compared to the American numbers, like in 1978 in the U.S., 15,000 were killed, in Sweden, 6, France 9, yes, Finland, like 2 or something, so yes, these planets do exist, right here on earth, even today, although increasingly rare. There still exist even cities that house relatively peaceful cultures were this story could just as well be based on a true story. The movie is set in one of those foreign cities where people could actually memorize the names of everybody murdered in their country last year, because the list is just that short! I seem to remember a time in the mid 1960's when places in the US were still this peaceful and trusting, people leaving their house doors unlocked all day, nobody knowing where the kids were at until they came home at sundown, and so on. This movie is just set in one of those sorts of cities, a planet, or world rather, right here on earth, that does exist. One of a few such cities were this story would be very possible, just exactly as it is. So, why not just enjoy the beautiful story for just what it is, rather than doubting it even possible, and assuming it just can't be possible, because there no way that we can stop being suspicious of certain classes of people enough to just believe that people, even young people, could form a connection of trust and friendship with them. Seems to me when I was a young child, most of us tikes had our favorite old people we actually liked and enjoyed seeing. I just believe this movie, and I love it.
I just want to know, am I going to have to keep my VHS player, just because they won't put it on DVD for me?
Private School (1983)
It's just got the greatest soundtrack...
I'm giving it a seven, which I will admit would be high if my enjoyment had anything to do with just dialogue or story content. But honestly, I'm about to buy the DVD, because there is no CD of the soundtrack available, if there ever even was one, but it's why I used to watch the movie again and again whenever it came on the tube. I have seen something about some CD, but with only 5 of the movie's songs on it, and not available for sale!!! But, if everybody burned out on that Big Chill soundtrack, hopefully everybody by now if not ten years ago already, then this is it, the best movie soundtrack there is! Only, you can't buy the soundtrack, so, you have to just watch the movie! Not a great movie, nothing to study with the lights off or even make popcorn for, but if you like music, for that reason, you might enjoy watching this, perhaps just some weekend afternoon when you are just moping about the house and would have been flipping channels with the remote if you weren't watching the movie, under those conditions, if you like music, you might also like the movie, and perhaps wonder why they don't sell a complete soundtrack to the movie! (Okay, The Big Chill soundtrack album/CD didn't include The Rolling Stone's "You can't always get what you want," but it had the rest.) I've searched the web repeatedly, no soundtrack release for this movie ever seems to have existed. And yet, it's an absolutely great one! So, for the music, and the fact I'm even going to buy the DVD, just to hear all the music again, I'm giving it a 7. So there!
Still the greatest movie of all time!!!
Casablanca is still the greatest movie of all time! Its stars shine, there are memorable lines, quite a few which have been repeated elsewhere or even become the titles of movies themselves, there is superbly artistic and notable cinematography, heartfelt romance, inspiring and touching music, heroes, swelling feelings of sentiment and patriotism, and it is in no way too long, too weird or different. Just an all around great movie, and even for the few of those who can't agree that Casablanca is the all-around greatest movie of all time, they perhaps would at least agree that it has all the elements and plenty enough of what it takes to be putting up an honorable fight to claim that top spot, and most definitely should be on any critic's short list of greatest movies, if they expect to really be taken seriously. .
Time seems to date some movies badly, while it has worked greatly in favor of some movies, like Casablanca. It was made in the day when color was rare, yet, used black in white so well that it seems to be a great example of a movie that should have been filmed in black and white, even if doing such were to have cost more than color. The false looking backgrounds in its Paris automobile scenes in particular, although perhaps not so intended, has actually been used as a purposeful technique of dreamy recollection and such, in a few more modern day films. And again, even though perhaps not intended at the time, and even though the entire movie was made in studio, the fact that the Paris scenes are the ones that look so particularly fake is appropriate, since, at that very time, those scenes had to be fake, as Paris wasn't available, because it was under German occupation. There is no understating that this movie was a part of the arsenal of democracy itself, its story, themes and passion are set in the very center of what was then the raging battle for the world in what would become the single most defining event of the 20th Century, World War II. Every actor in the film, the director, the producer, and anybody and everybody working on the film or in any way involved with its making, were, in fact, at war with Nazi Germany.
There is no need for a learned critic or professor to explain this or anything about the movie, anything about its producers having used some new technique, some new technology, or any particularly notable new style of cinematography to just enjoy Casablanca. It's very touching in its story of human relationships and it is so noted for its black and white cinematography that some of its most ardent fans consider any colorizations of it sacrilege, even among those of us not generally opposed to the idea of colorization. And, it is the story of its times. Its depiction of challenged French patriotism brings tears the eyes of many a repeat viewer time and time again, when The Marseilles is sung. There are lines that people repeat, songs that even today people sing and whistle. In terms of just all around sheer entertainment, the movie is petty much as good as it gets. It is not only difficult to come up with a suggestion of what movies of the 20th century could be considered as good, it's impossible to find any movie that has anywhere near as many people thinking of it as the greatest movie of the 20th century. It's as if a clear majority think it the greatest movie of all time, and as for what other movie is even a contender to Casablanca's claim to the title, well, there is no clear single contender. I doubt fans of Casablanca could even form a majority as to what the second greatest movie of all time is. Even if all those who have another movie in mind could have a run-off to determine their party's candidate, it wouldn't matter, as Casablanca already has 65% of the general electorate locked-up. Although all-time is far from over, it's safe to say that Casablanca is now the for-all-time greatest movie of the 20th Century. Its as if Indiana Jones was involved in some battle, in the middle of some war, that we were actually passionately involved in at the time, with our entire economy geared towards the goal of winning that war, against actual Nazis soldiers, rather than the theatrical Nazi-ish soldiers that Indiana Jones was having problems with. Except Casablanca's actors are legendary movie icons. The dialogue is superior. The musical score is among the best of movies, as memorable as even the best of musicals, only Casablanca isn't a musical. Just as the main song of the movie is about a fight for love and glory, exactly what the entire free western and allied world was engaged in at that time, so the viewer feels where they stand in their heart of hearts. The viewer relates to the characters, and anybody familiar with history who believes in freedom and democracy isn't just cheering for our characters in the end, we truly feel as if we are on their side! Had the allied battle been lost, Casablanca may very well have quickly become a controlled, discarded and forgotten piece of illicit war propaganda. But as things turned out, it's Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, along with Dooley Wilson, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains and many others, starring in the greatest roles of their careers in what clearly still seems to be the greatest movie of all time. Casablanca's being part of the patriotic effort itself, is perhaps one of its greatest advantages in cementing its claim as the greatest movie of all time, and this is a concrete advantage that will only continue to strengthen and harden, "As Time Goes By."