Monday, December 31, 2012

Character by Character SMASH DOWN: Les Miserables

Prologue -

If I started by saying Les Miserables is my favorite musical and book, I would not be saying enough. It's my favorite musical and book by at least 100 degrees. It would fill the first hundred slots of favorites, and finally you'd get to 101 and that slot would be filled with some other musical the world, and Boonie, could live without. I'm sorry fans of other musicals, but as far as I'm concerned no other musical, and no other novel, comes close.

To explain to you why Les Miserables is such an amazing book seems almost pointless. Those of you lucky enough to have read the entire thing understand completely why I love it. Those of you who haven't read it couldn't possibly understand the entire beauty of it; so why bother to explain?

Instead, I'll simply tell you what's right and what's wrong with THIS production.

I should also include that I've seen this musical performed on Broadway, off-Broadway, and by a high school. I've sung Fantine's I Dreamed a Dream in concert. I appreciate ANYONE who puts on this musical or sings a song from it, no matter how terrible a job they do. I enjoy every second of this musical so entirely that when they're performed, and while I might find fault with the performances, I'm grateful for them.

I'll also remind you that there are productions I hate. I hate the 25th Anniversary edition, although I'm glad they did it, (I've just explained why.) I'm also hardly fond of any of the non-musical movies and mini-series versions. Some are better than others, but none capture the essence of the book quite like the musical does. I'm aware that sounds cheesy, but I lack the ability to explain it differently, although I'll try: The movies tell the story of Jean Valjean, but a novel is more than its story. Perhaps only music can capture the emotions without the aid of a narrator, (a narrator being provided in the novel.) Or perhaps what's lacking is proper character development. While the acting in these movies is usually fair, I might point blame at writing, and editing. Movies that leave out Eponine might as well leave out all the Thenardiers. Movies that leave out Gavroche might as well leave out Marius. Movies that leave out Enjolras might as well leave out the entire battle at the barricade.

One thing I learned in my study of acting is that you must find the moments in the script. The musical provides moments. The musical shoves the moments in your face and screams, "This is a big deal! Pay attention! Be moved!" When I saw one production of Les Miserables sung by PCPA in Solvang, CA, they did one of the best jobs of "finding the moment" that I had ever seen. Movie versions tend to roll over moments. Yes, yes, they do. And it matters.

You should know I'm a snob about this musical, and I have strong opinions about the best and worst performers of it. And if you haven't seen the 10th Anniversary edition, you should. Most of the parts are done better in this edition than anywhere else on earth. However, a few of the performers I wouldn't mind replacing. But I'm not here to critique that one, so I'll just provide a link so you can get your head out of your movie-going butt, and watch someone with an enormous vocal talent play the part.

In this version of the movie/musical, we sacrifice some vocal talent for acting talent and raw emotion. In the play the beauty of the songs and the beauty of the singing almost distracts us from the gruesome happenings. The movie hits us over the head with the gruesome happenings, and includes elements from the book nowhere found in movies, or the play. Watching this film is a different experience from seeing the play. If you've seen the play and want to skip the movie, go for it. But if you haven't seen the play, see the movie. Let it move you. But know that those songs are more beautiful on stage, whereas in a movie theater they don't need to be sung at the top of their peaks; the acting, cinematography and closeness takes care of the agony a better singer might show us.

All right, now. Don't mind me while I do a character by character smash-down. I have to.


Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean (right)
If you've ever seen the worst production of Oklahoma! that has ever existed, then you know that Hugh Jackman has an outstanding talent, as he almost, very nearly saved it. His acting was phenomenal, however I found myself wishing that his voice was a little more solid. What can I say? He was brilliant, and probably the best pick for the job.

Russell Crowe as Javert (below)
I'm endlessly proud of Russel Crowe for hitting the note so many Javert's cheat. He did an amazing job countering Jackman's Valjean during The Confrontation. That timing is not easy. As always, his acting is superb. However, I wouldn't have blamed them, no offence, Russell, if they dubbed his voice, or at least spent a little more time with it. I'm thinking he doesn't have the range the role requires, which might be why they left out his lowest note. He sings like a tenor, which is probably why he was able to hit and find his most impressive high note. The problem is finding a shockingly talented Javert is more important than casting a talented Jean Valjean. The antagonist is always the most important character cast, so having a Javert who isn't a very strong singer is kind of a big deal.

Anne Hathaway as Fantine (below)
I'm so proud of our "dreaded" Anne Hathaway. She's come a long way since The Devil Wears Prada. This role must have exhausted her, for she truly gave it all she had. I found no fault with her at all, which is refreshing to say. I also didn't find myself envying her the role of Fantine. I wouldn't mind playing the part on stage, where it's cozy and pretty, but I'm rather glad I had nothing to do with the depression that role carries on the screen.

Samantha Barks as Eponine (below)
Yeeeeeeep. You might recognize her from the dreaded 25th Anniversary of Les Miserables. She was one of the better talents there, but here.... Excuse me! Did everyone forget that Eponine is spunky!?! Sigh. Oh well. She sings well enough, but... girl's got no spunk. No spunk I tell you! Plus, they kind of dance around her character almost as if she has no purpose, which doesn't help the vanilla-ness of her acting. No purpose, no spunk... yilsh. No point.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius (left)
I'll take anyone over Nick Jonas! But honestly, this Marius might be one of my most favorites ever. Marius is a kind of "Raoul role," in the fact that the man playing him usually lacks great talent, has a wonky face, and possesses  one-sided acting. But not Eddie! His Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was gorgeous. He brought the role from drab to stunning, and the so-so singing to, "Hey, you're almost as good as Enjolras!" If not better.

Which brings me to -
Aaron Tveit as Enjolras (right)
He was okie-dokie, but I'm not sure I'd follow him to my death, if you know what I mean. Or even if you don't know what I mean - he didn't have the charisma most Enjolras's display. He was talented, for sure, but all his impressive notes were sung by the entire chorus. While this made the impressive parts powerful, it somewhat wussed-out Enjolras's part.

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette (below)
Raise your hand if you should have been replaced! **Amanda raises hand** That is all. **Amanda fans sob** FINE, I'll tell you why she should have been replaced. Well, I can name that reason in two notes, or, one note, sung twice, and sung badly.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Thenardier (below)
The Thenardiers play the role of villain/comical relief. The movie skipped Dog Eats Dog, (previewed here by my favorite Thenardier, Robert Billig,) one of the more sinister songs of the musical that is oddly and eerily beautiful. I did not approve of them cutting this song, which is sung by Thenardier while he robs corpses in the sewers. Personally, I feel without this song you miss part of the nastiness of Thenardier, and only really see his comedic side, (or, well, his MORE comedic side.) But that's not Sacha's fault. He did an excellent job. He could have been MORE, but we hardly needed him to be.

Helena Bonham Carter as Mme. Thenadier (right)
Notice the similarities between her name and Sacha Baron Cohen's. Weird! Anyway, you aught to know by now that she is my favorite actress and has been since Fight Club. Move along.

Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche (left)
In the play Gavroche annoys me and I love Eponine. In the book Eponine annoys me and I love Gavroche. In this I loved Gavroche. Daniel didn't play him like a pig-nosed little punk, but as a street-wise little gallant. Brovo, little Gavroche.

Isabelle Allen as Young Cosette (right)
Where did they find such a cute little talented girl? Just excellent!

And I'll end the smash down with

Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop of Digne (below)
You can catch Colm in that little video I attached as the greatest Valjean ever. He's the original, as well. Don't go home without hearing his Bring Him Home. I'm so glad they had him as the Bishop. And SPOILER I'm glad he was at the end. For in the play it's just Fantine and Eponine who are there. But in the book, all who's there is the Bishop of Digne. That's right; the guy's important.

So, I enjoyed it. It was epic, and moving, but it's not the play, and it's not the book. It's the best movie we have of it though. Although the music was over shadowed by the movie's movie-ness. I didn't leave the theater singing the songs, but nor did I leave washing my ears out. However, I don't think it will go down in history, or be remembered for the greatest film of all time, the way we remember the musical as the greatest musical of all time.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why You Haven't Seen The Hobbit And Why You Should

You haven't seen The Hobbit because it's splint into 3 movies, and that exasperates you. You may have other reasons, but I don't care. The truth is, you ought to go see the movie. So go see it.

Oh, still not convinced? Okay, so I'll tell ya a bit about it. They added an orc dude. He's pale and he rides a big pale wolf-thing. He's not very nice. The idea is that Thorin, (King Under The Mountain,) cut Mr. Pale Orc's arm off, and orc-dude wants revenge. This little plot insert is kind of... well, differenter. It wouldn't be much of 1/3 of a story without this major villain keeping us going. You take out orc-dude, and we're left with a dragon that's really far away, a necromancer who we're not sure is much of a threat to anybody besides bunnies and pooh-stained wizards. And then there's Gollum, who's pretty easy to ditch once you turn invisible. But, on the other hand... we're not really all that interested in this orc-dude side plot, because we've read the book and we've seen the cartoon, and we know it's the dragon and the war at then end that we really have to watch for.
Then there was the other orc, the orc with the ugly neck. He reminded me of Boss Nas from Episode One. And you know what we say about Episode One, right?    
I almost wish this movie had come out before Lord of the Rings, because then we would have been more afraid of Gollum. Those who do not know The Hobbit, have no reason to fear Gollum. When I saw Lord of the Rings, I was surprised at how unafraid of Gollum I was, because the cartoon Gollum was terrifying! But it wasn't the cartoon version that was terrifying, it was The Hobbit version of Gollum. This Gollum's main desire is to eat Bilbo, while The Lord of the Ring's Gollum's main desire is to get the ring back, never mind eating.
The Hobbit is more jovial than The Lord of the Rings,as orc-Boss Nas so kindly reminds us, but it's DEFINITELY not for children. About 5 creatures get their heads chopped off, there's some gutting, and it's just a little... disgusting at times. Don't take your little ones to see this one. It's not a cozy PG-13; it's a down-right disturbing PG-13. A little more blood and it could have been R.

Did that not convince you? Oh well. I kind of don't care. I found the movie enjoyable, although I really, really wish, like you, that it was all just one flippin' movie.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Problems With Your Favorite Christmas Movie

Every year TV decides to have a marathon, NO, not of It's a Wonderful Life, not of The Nightmare Before Christmas, not of Die Hard, not even of Elf! It's of the classic, A Christmas Story (1983.) And how did this movie become a classic? By TV playing it over and over! By the Rule of Radio, if you hear something over and over, you start to like it.

While I do at times enjoy parts of the movie, and while I might have laughed a few times, I have some huge moral and un-moral problems with this movie. Why don't I go into depth about what those are right now for ya!

Problem #1. The leg lamp. This is your favorite part about your favorite Christmas movie, is it not? I'm sorry, I think it's the worst thing ever. Even my husband knows how much I hate this lamp, and all the Hallmark ornaments fashioned after it. Sexism is never funny! "Haha, his wife is jealous of a plastic lamp!" That's not funny. In fact, it's a serious problem in America, and jokes about it just make everything worse. Now, if she had smashed that stupid lamp and said, "Dam# straight I broke it! And I'll break your freaking face!" then this movie would rock. That's all it would take! At least she yells, "That lamp was the ugliest lamp I have ever seen in my entire life!" Which is a pretty rewarding moment, but... not as rewarding as it would have been if she threatened to break his face as well, in my humble opinion.

Problem #2. Where's the story? What's the plot? What lesson does Ralphie learn? And what is with that ending? What is with that beginning? It starts with them looking in a store window, and it goes to them standing IN LINE waiting for Santa. Then they go to SCHOOL! Goodness, it's as if they made a movie out of the most boring parts of life. They even have a scene where they change a tire! Snore!

Anyway, I think 2 problems with the movie are enough for one night.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Movie Batman Love Interests

We can go off forever about the different Batmans, but let's go off about their ladies instead, just for kicks.

If we go all the way back to the 60's we can start with Miss Kitka/Catwoman. I love how dense Bruce Wayne is, and how he can solve Riddler's many riddles, but cannot figure out that his lady-friend is Catwoman! Anyway, I love this Catwoman, (right,) or Dorkas as she's known in 7 Brides for 7 Brothers.

Travel ahead a few years to the wee early 90's and we get Vicki Vale, (left.) I have nothing against Kim Bassinger, and I LOVED Vicki Vale when I was a kid, but the last time I tried to watch Batman I wanted to cut my ears off with a toothpick I was so annoyed by her constant screams! And, apart from dreaminess, and blondeness, I couldn't figure out why Batman AND Joker liked her so much.

Let's move on to Batman Returns's Catwoman, Michelle Pfeiffer, (right.) I like her just fine, although she's a little literal. Let's move on again.

We come to Nicole Kidman's Chase Meridian, (below,) in Batman Forever. This isn't the greatest role Nicole Kidman ever played. She spouts a bunch of one-liners and miraculously decides she prefers Bruce Wayne over Batman... which kinda doesn't matter.... Anyway, it's a forgettable role.

Then we get the world's worst movie, Batman and Robin, and our love interest is some super model we see with Bruce Wayne. I don't remember if she has a name or not, nor should I. But we also have to suffer with Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy, (below.) If this were Uma's only role, I would hate her lousy guts! This is her worst acting job EVER, and to be fair, that's probably because she knew the script was stupid and couldn't take the job seriously. However, this woman is just the worst!

Now let's move on to something else that's also "the worst." Katie Holmes's Rachel, (left,) in Batman Begins. Personally, I think Katie was cast because she was in the news a lot that year. She had just married Tom, or they had just had a baby, or whatever, but for whatever reason, she was in the tabloids a lot, and... I guess that made her resume shining or something. As it is though, I don't believe a word Katie says, especially when she has to act like she's talking on the phone. And I don't believe she's an Assistant DA. I think at most she might be a coffee deliverer to the DA.

Then we have the "other" Rachel, a much more talented Rachel, Maggie Gyllenhaal, (right.) She's so much better than Katie Holmes that it's hard to find fault with her at all!

Lastly, we have another Catwoman, (left.) I've already filled you in on how much I hate Anne Hathaway but like her a lot in this role/movie. I hope I like her in Les Miz.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Disney's BEST Characters

To be positive and fair, I thought it best to recognize my favorite animated Disney characters, but only some since there are several. I'm limiting it to 10.


Nope. Not doing this.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


So many super hero ladies today, and even normal hero ladies, are rogues, (except Rogue.) What I mean is, they're out for themselves. Sometimes they're wicked, sometimes they're on the side of good, and usually they like their super hero dude counter-part.

This is called Catwoman Syndrome. Catwoman, originated as a prostitute who knew karate and stole things. Now-a-days she's a woman who steals things and knows how to fight. She doesn't really kill people, or scare people like The Joker does, and she's not even as psychotic as Poison Ivy. When arrested, she doesn't go to Arkham, she goes to jail. Sometimes she helps Batman, 'cause she finds him dreamy.

Now you might be asking yourself, "Okie dokie, but how is this a syndrome? Who else is like Catwoman?" I'LL TELL YOU! Keep your pants on.

I know very little about Sherlock Holmes except for what's in the movies. But since this is a movie blog, you'll just have to get over it. Irene Adler, played by our favorite Mean Girl, Rachel McAdams, has a sever case of Catwoman Syndrome. She steals stuff, she gets in deep with worse people than herself, and she's more than "just frenemies" to Sherlock. 

WHO ELSE!? Well, The Avengers has brought us a Black Widow, (Scarlett Johansson,) character who, at least in the movie and the new animated TV show, finds Hawk Eye appealing, and has a criminal history. In the movie she's on a path leading her to redemption, but sometimes we see Catwoman on the path to redemption, so we'll go right ahead and completely indict her into Catwomanhood. 

But why does this stock character exist? Probably because if Batman's love interest was Batgirl, or some other hero, we'd all be pretty bored. Even the love-interest Thalia (right,)  is infested with Catwoman Syndrome. We could almost go as far as to say Andrea from Batman Mask of the Phantasm is a kind of Catwoman. (<-- 10="10" a="a" card.="card." case="case" day="day" however="however" i="i" in="in" it="it" m="m" more="more" of="of" playing="playing" rule="rule" s="s" spoiler="spoiler" the="the" this="this" year="year">

Now it's your turn! I can't blog anymore because I'm tired. I had to work early. That's what happens when you don't make enough money writing a blog to support your rock-n-roll lifestyle!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Top Worst Animated Disney Characters

Disclaimer: I'm not counting straight-to-video movie characters. That would take forever.

10. Nakoma (left) from Pocahontas. Tattle-tale, and over-all lame-o. Side note, did you know that David Ogden Stiers played both Governor Ratcliffe AND his man servant Wiggins? Also, as I've mentioned in a recent post, Christian Bale played the small role of Thomas, and is arguably now a bigger star than the lead male, Mel Gibson, who played John Smith. I know you should know all this, but considering the movie came out so long ago, I'm thinking you might not depending on who you are. You might be one of those people who don't know Heath Ledger and Joseph Levitt Gordon as the kids from 10 Things I Hate About You.

9. Pinocchio from Pinocchio. Don't'cha just wanna grab him and shake him and scream, "Stop being disobedient, you little punk!" I do.

8. Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Whine, whine, whine, bad choice, bad choice, bad choice. Is it horrible of me to say I like her better when she can't talk/whine?

7. Snow White from Snow White. To her shrill voice to her disgusting goody-goodyness... there's just hardly anything about this woman that's not annoying.

6. Dr. Finkelstein (right) from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Creepy d-bag!

5. Pain and Panic (left) from Hercules. Sometimes comic relief goes bad, and sometimes it goes horribly bad. Hades's henchmen are among the most awful.

4. Zazu from The Lion King. Oh man, Zazu. Just shut up already!

3. Ray from The Princess and the Frog. I don't remember what it was about this firefly that I hated so much, but I do remember that I hated him.

2. Hugo (right) from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Perhaps Imagineers felt that in order to happy-up the Gothic Victor Hugo novel they had to add obnoxious comic relief on top of comic relief, (we could have been just as happy with only the other two gargoyles to amuse us, or get rid of them too and leave us to Phoebus who is a lot funnier in this movie than he was in the book.) But for whatever reason, Seinfeld's Jason Alexander voiced the most obnoxious Disney animated character. Even his song was obnoxious.

And have I already gone off about the missed opportunity? Disney named two of the gargoyles after the author of the novel, Victor Hugo. However, Victor Hugo's middle name was Marie. They could have easily named the lady gargoyle Marie, instead, they named her Laverne. Whatever.

FYI, and this is completely off the topic, but did you catch that Hugo is a homosexual? He is in love with a goat named Djali. And Djali is a dude. Esmeralda even refers to Djali as "he" in the movie; Djali's maleness is not just something you'd pick up on only if you read the book. I guess it's not that surprising; Hugo also cross dresses.

1. Terk (left) from Tarzan. Tarzan come out during a time when the world reviled Rosie O'Donnell  but guess what? She's obnoxious, and so is Terk. Terk is one manipulative, bratty, little gorilla, and I don't like her one bit.

Now for the characters my friends wanted to add:
Iago from Aladdin
Madam Mim from The Sword and the Stone
Lefou from Beauty and the Beast
JarJar Binks, since Disney now owns Star Wars. He IS often animated so....
Lawrence from The Prince and the Frog.

Thank you friends for your input. Add more in the comments!