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Les Misérables (2012)
Great film, but the voices could have been stronger
On the whole, I enjoyed the film. Though I would prefer to see it on stage, it's good to realize that a lot of people who otherwise would not get to see the show will be exposed to this great music. One reason I prefer the stage play is that the violence and grime are better left to the imagination. The main problem I have with the film is the decision to cast film stars in the leads instead of talented singing actors. I know a number of opera singers who could have handled these roles more convincingly. Contrary to the opinion of several previous reviewers on this site, I did not like Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." She over-emoted what otherwise is a beautiful song. Hugh Jackman was outstanding through most of the film, but he does not have the range for "Bring Him Home." And you need a real operatic voice to sing "Stars"--my favorite song from the show--convincingly. I realize they needed name stars to recoup their investment, but some better singers would have made the film a more enjoyable experience.
Zohi Sdom (2010)
Lots (pun intended) of LOL
It seems I enjoyed this film more than did the other reviewers. I laughed out loud several time, something I don't do often at American films. Someone said there was no satire--but there was one really biting moment of political satire, when the angels brush off Hagar and Ishmael as Arabs who therefore do not deserve their attention. There are some clever in-jokes, though I may have missed much of the Israeli humor. Feminists have often commented on the fact that many Biblical women have no names. In the film, Lot refers to his wife as "Lot's wife." Abraham refuses to share a bowl of shellfish with God, who then gets even by banning it. I also liked the reference to the story of Solomon and the two mothers. Many people have cynically pointed out that the mother who tell Solomon not to kill the child could have fooled Solomon by reverse psychology. Here. Lot knows the story and gives the "right" answer, but it backfires. In short, what I liked best is that the film pokes fun at the Biblical story but is directed at an audience well versed in Bible. I've often said that the Bible is too great a book to be monopolized by the pious. I thought the funniest scenes were those involving God and Abraham. Behind the humor we can sense the real questions theologians have raised about God's call to Abraham.
POINTLESS SATIRE (spoiler alert, if anyone cares)
I had high hopes for this film at the beginning. The scene where the Jennifer Anniston character pitches her save-the-penguins film to HBO satirizes both her and the network. And the montage of the auto trip, showing the various changes of mood they go through over several hours, is both realistic and hilarious. But I didn't laugh much after that.
The real problem with this film is that it is essentially a satire directed at the hippie movement. There might have been a point to this thirty years ago, but now??? I don't know if there even are any hippie communes left, but they are hardly significant enough in our culture to rate a full-length satire. And are we surprised that the most outspoken proponent of free love and spirituality turns out to be a hypocritical jerk? And how about the attack on the heartless developers? Are we supposed to take that seriously? This theme was developed more effectively, tongue-in-cheek, in "The Muppets" where at least we knew it was intended as a cliché.
I usually like Paul Rudd, but I found his attempt to come off as macho to get into bed with a gorgeous blonde totally unconvincing and unfunny. He is such a cool guy that I could not believe he would not know how to approach a woman for sex.
For me the one bright spot in the film was Alan Alda's portrayal of an aging hippie, possibly in the early stages of Alzheimers. He was the one character who came across as genuine. In fact, in a better film he might have gotten some Oscar buzz for best supporting actor.
Overall, a pointless film.
A different kind of realism.
I enjoyed this film a lot more than most American films I have seen lately. Granted, the plot is somewhat absurd and based on improbable coincidences--but the characters are real. I have often found this true of Israeli films. We get the feeling that we are looking at a real slice of life, whereas in the typical American film we seem to be in some make-believe world. I don't know why American scriptwriters can't seem to create the same mood that their Israeli counterparts can.I especially liked the way the child's personality developed. The scene where he teaches the adults how to eat Chinese food is priceless. It's also refreshing to see a film about essentially decent people (except for the bureaucrats).
Michtavim Le America (2006)
In general, whenever I see an Israeli film I come away with the impression that the Israeli film-makers are superior to their American counterparts in creating real, well-rounded characters. This film is no exception, despite the somewhat far-fetched plot device. The characters seem to be real people, not caricatures. All of the Holocaust survivors in the film are affected by the condition which today we call PTSD, and much of their anxiety is passed on to the next generation. The film avoids the temptation to turn these people into saints, but rather shows them with all of their shortcomings and makes us aware how their character flaws were shaped by their experiences in the Camps. However, the film's creators assume that we know enough about the Holocaust that they do not need to provide more than a brief description of the characters' Holocaust experiences rather than dwelling on them. The film is not about what they suffered but rather how they cope or tried to cope.
Rumor Has It... (2005)
Better than I expected
I originally went to see this film because of my fond memories of "The Graduate" (which came out when I was about the same age as the title character), but the story really stands on its own, despite the in-jokes (apparently, Aniston's sister is married in the same church featured in the original, and one character says "you've got to hide if from the kids.") Shirley McClaine should get Oscar consideration as supporting actress, even if her character is somewhat reminiscent of the one she played in "Steel Magnolias." This is the best performance I have seen from Jennifer Aniston, who may be becoming the successor to Meg Ryan as "America's Sweetheart." Despite the near-slapstick comedy, there are some genuinely touching conversations between Aniston and the other family members. And there's a wonderful twist at the end which I won't reveal here--it brings the plot together nicely. This was exactly the sort of film I look for during the winter holiday season.
The Fantasticks (1995)
Respect your material
This is a film that could have had a lot going for it. I liked the set, which was a clever solution of how to film a play with such a minimalist set.
But how could they destroy the material like this? This is one of those handful of musicals ("Oklahoma!", "Fiddler on the Roof," "Guys and Dolls" are some others) where everyone knows the opening song. "Try to Remember" is totally eliminated at the beginning, and at the end, El Gallo sings only two of the three verses. "Plant a Radish," one of the show's highlights, is totally gone (except on the DVD as an "extra"). Some of my favorite moments on the CD are Jerry Orbach's poetic narrations, especially "You wonder how these things begin." Here, only one of the three--or rather half of one--is preserved.
There should be a rule somewhere that if you don't like the original you shouldn't get to film it.
Would it be too much to ask if