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Non-Review Review: Les Misérables

It’s hard not to admire Les Misérables. It’s the first honest-to-goodness entirely sincere and mostly unironic big budget musical that we’ve seen released in quite some time. While song and dance will always be a part of the movies (The Muppets, for example, carrying many a dainty tune last year), there’s something quite impressive about seeing a music as epic and as iconic as Les Misérables carried across to the big screen. The stage musical became something of a cultural phenomenon on the West End, and Tom Hooper does an effective job of transitioning from stage to screen – even if he doesn’t consistently capitalise on the format shift.

There are some fundamental problems. The second half is a little too awkwardly paced and too disjointed to come together as well as it should, and Hooper seems to have a great deal pitching the right amount of camp (and humour) for an Oscar-bait musical about the aftermath of the French revolution. However, if you can look past those problems, the opening half is a superbly staged musical and the performances are impressive. Including the much maligned Russell Crowe, who might – hear me out – be the best thing about the film.

Sing when you're winning... or at least nominated...

Sing when you’re winning… or at least nominated…

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Non-Review Review: Jaws

Jaws is a pretty impressive film. Not only did the film serve to launch Steven Spielberg’s career and subgenre of monster creature features, it also effectively kick-started the summer blockbuster. However, watching it again all these years later, it’s amazing how well Jaws holds up – far better than the vast majority of films that it ultimately inspired. There’s a lot of reasons that Jaws works, and a lot of them come down to Spielberg working as director, but also in the scripting and the acting. It’s rare for a movie to produce one character that we truly care about. Jaws manages to produce four compelling leading characters – the three men who ultimately end up on the boat, and the shark itself.

Finally copping on…

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Watch! Live Singing in Les Misérables…

Universal Pictures Ireland just sent over this behind-the-scenes look at Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. The film is opening here in January 2013, and I’m actually quite curious to see how it pans out. We’ve had juke box musicals, and modern movies like The Muppets incorporating songs, but there really haven’t been too many legitimate old-school-style musicals in the past number of years. Even Sweeney Todd seemed remarkably subversive. I’m fascinated with this attempt to play the genre straight, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a musical in a cinema. I can’t remember a large-scale musical like this, with a lot of pundits suggesting the genre has been relegated to history.

I actually find this snippet quite insightful, because I would have assumed – for purely practical purposes – the film would have been shot with actors recording the songs separately to filming the scenes. It also illustrates just how skilfully Hooper has put all this together – even offering an off-hand reference to a tune from the musical, Hugh Jackman has a fantastic singing voice. Anyway, check it out below.