Sunday, December 30, 2012

Four for Four ~ Movie Reviews


Watching movies in the theater has been a rare event for me in the past years. Usually I log one or two a year. Some years, none.

This week? Four in four days.

Movie reviews are, obviously, not my forte, but I have one in particular (take a wild guess) that I’d like to talk about so I may as well mention all four.

#1: Skyfall

If you like action flicks (I do) and Bond movies (I do), Skyfall delivers. Russ and I enjoyed a date night on Wednesday with Holly and Casey at our local vintage theater. I think that is the first double date we’ve ever been on with them in 17 years. The movie was entertaining, though I apparently have a different rating system than the MPAA (shocking). But if you’ve seen Bond movies before, you won’t be surprised.

#2: Les Miserables

Do you hear the people sing?

In eighth grade I read the masterpiece by Victor Hugo. In ninth grade I memorized most of the Broadway songs. In tenth grade I went to see the musical live. The love-affair was inflamed, and I’ve had a passion for the story and music ever since. Glorious is the only way to describe it. I’ve spent the past years enjoying (singing my heart out along with) the powerful, emotional songs on DVD and on YouTube.

When I found out they were turning the Broadway musical into an epic film staring none other than Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe (two of my all-time favorites), words can’t begin to describe my anticipation. Would they slaughter it? Knock it out of the park?

Thursday evening I headed to the theater with my sisters, mom, and other ladies from my most awesome book club to finally watch the masterpiece.

Masterpiece it was.

Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

Anne Hathaway as Fontine was stunning. Hugh Jackman as Valjean, insane. He brought so much depth, raw emotion, tenderness, and reverence to the role. Outstanding. Eddie Redmayne as Marius grew on me. His "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" was phenomenal. My fondness for Russell Crowe and the epic cinematography while he was singing made up for his weak voice (comparatively). I adore the fact that they cast Colm Wilkinson (the original Jean Valjean, also starring in the 10th anniversary concert) as the bishop, and that they gave him a part in the very end of the movie (which was very moving and beautiful).

Cons: They pushed the envelope as far as they could with the prostitution and innkeepers scenes and still maintain a PG-13 rating (though I wouldn’t consider it appropriate for early teens). The prostitution scene emphasized the theme of redemption in a fallen world and adequately portrayed Fontine’s shame rather than glorifying the situation. (To quote my friend Jessye, Victor Hugo did such a good job portraying how disgusting a society is that leaves women no other option than to sell herself. It would be a shame to lump that idea with "just another sex scene.") I personally have always disliked the scene/song with the innkeepers, and it was more crass and cringe-worthy “in your face” in this film version. (You can read more discussion on the subject at CiRCE Institute, in the comments as well.)

I missed the full effect of "One Day More" when they had to switch screens quickly to show each character singing, and the general shakiness of the filming drove me crazy a couple times. There is virtually no spoken dialogue. This may be a drawback to some (especially men, or viewers who don’t realize that going into the film), but the music is the story.

Overall, I thought the film was outstanding. Les Miserables is such a shining picture of grace and redemption, and the film did not back down from that at all.

Oh, and I loved the fact that a couple of the emotional songs were filmed up close and personal. It was all about the emotion of the character. The oft reappearing candlesticks were a beautiful reminder of Valjean’s redemption. Also, I adored the touching scene right after Jean Valjean gets Cosette from the Thenardiers (blech!!) and they are driving away. Is there anything Hugh Jackman cannot do?

If you want to read an excellent review, this one came as close as possible to my own opinion of the film.

The clash between law and grace is well known. Javert is the man of the law; his moral compass is like the stars in the heavens, unbending and unyielding: "So it is written on the doorways of paradise / that those who falter and those who fall / must pay the price." His is a closed universe, cloaked in strict justice: it is karma in which he believes, that fate that provides a world "that can hold" together. Javert's worldview cannot account for grace. Grace moves, as Bono of U2 sings, "outside of karma." It upends our facile assumptions about strict cause-and-effect justice. Law, in Javert's worldview, freezes an individual for all time as one who obeys the law or a lawbreaker. He has no room for real mercy and real transformation, such as occurs in the life of Jean Valjean. Javert cannot understand or deal with a man who forgives others and shows mercy to the "miserables" of this world. And, when shown mercy himself by his dreaded enemy ("The man of mercy comes again!" he derisively sings), chooses not to live in such a world any longer, a world "that cannot hold." He "escapes now from that world / from the world of Jean Valjean." Karma and grace cannot coexist. One either lives perfectly by the whole law, or one casts himself upon God's mercy in Christ. Those are the only two options, and that is why so many Christians the world over have loved and cherished this musical. It presents the options as clearly as anything.

Please read the rest by Brian Mattson at this link.

#3: The Hobbit

On Friday evening I took Levi and Luke to watch The Hobbit. I chose an older theater, not 3D, and we sat toward the back. Levi has read all of the Tolkien books several times, as well as watched all the Lord of the Rings movies at home. He re-read The Hobbit to prepare himself for what creatures would be in the movie. He is a little on the sensitive side, but fantasy in general, and Tolkien in particular, are his thing. Luke is my non-sensitive, action- and gore-loving kid, and he has watched the Lord of the Rings movies as well, so I knew he would be able to handle it.

The movie is beautiful and epic…and intense and grotesque in parts. The boys hid their heads a few times, but they did really well. (I would not suggest taking sensitive children to this movie. There is a reason it is PG-13.)

As for me, I strongly identified with Bilbo Baggins at the beginning of the film, and the voice of Richard Armitage carried me through the rest (insert swooning smile). I have confirmed that fantasy isn’t really my thing. And that’s okay. (I reserve the right to make exceptions, such as the Narnia series/movies.)

#4: Here Comes the Boom

Have any of you even heard of this one? It almost seems sacrilegious to mention a Kevin James movie after Bond, Les Mis, and Tolkien. But, sometimes ridiculous (clean!) humor is just what the doctor ordered. So, after watching the trailer, I suggested to Russ that we should go with another couple up to the cheap dinner theater and watch it on Saturday. Surprisingly, every one of us loved it. Laughing my head off is exactly what I needed yesterday, when I was feeling a little burned-out. And Russ is taking the boys out of my hair today to watch it again at another cheap theater so that I get a quiet day to myself. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!! Bliss!

(Please don’t think less of me.)


Heasleye said...

Love your movie choices! :) I've seen all but the last, but now that is on our list as well.

I read a great post about Les Mis this morning that I think you will enjoy. This young man traveled around France using Les Mis as a guide and made some wonderful observations and discoveries:


Amy said...

I want to see every one of these movies you reviewed. Thank you for taking the time to write about them.

This "review" made me laugh out loud :)

Andrea said...

Yes, Les Miserable was excellent. Jackman and Hathaway were fabulous but a big thumbs down for casting Crowe. The Inn scene was way too over the top raunchy and vulgur. It was so unnecessary to make the movie un-see-able for anyone under 16. The Hobbit was too long. The violence of the movie just strayed too far from the book. Those scenes in the book were brief. Very brief. I'm looking forward to Lincoln.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

That Kevin James movie does look funny! Clean humor is a good thing. :-).

I'm less than 100 pages away from finishing Les Miserables for the first time. Dh and I saw the movie right after Christmas, but after I finish the book I think I need to go back and watch it again.