What A Dream Can Bring

les-miserables-picture04At the brink of the French Revolution, Les Misérables follows Jean Valjean, a ex-prisoner who tries to better his name through the assisting of others who are hurting. Singing every lyric and song live, this musical was a revolution in itself for the genre and showcasing some astounding moments (Anne Hathaway, anyone?).

For what is most likely the most divided film of the year though, many loving it, many loathing it, I can see, at times, where both come from, but Les Mis‘ drama and tear-inducing story-lines won me over.

Hathaway, like said before, gave one of the greatest performances of the year. Although her total time doesn’t rack up very many minutes, she managed to intoxicate with her vulnerable portrayal of the fallen Fantine, forced to sell not just her possessions, but at times herself to give her daughter a better life. Every sang word from her would send chills up my arms and once one of the musicals most well known songs, “I Dreamed A Dream” began, it was impossible to not be enthralled with the one take scene of not only Hathaway’s decent voice, but her finest acting achievement to date.

Hugh Jackman surprises with his operatic sounding voice throughout the course of the 2 hour and 37 minute movie as well. His own performance held the grunge of his torn Valjean, and the composure of his Mayor status throughout. Even newcomer Samantha Barks, who reprised who role as Eponine, should be on her way to stardom, herself, for her role.

There were problems though. First, Russell Crowe. Sometimes his clearly untrained voice managed to pass as alright, but at times, his whiney tone could become annoying. Second, the cinematography. Throughout most of the songs, director, Hooper, seemed to have decided to hold the camera on close-ups for a good deal of the time. It worked perfectly for some scenes, like during “I Dreamed A Dream” and a scene with Eddie Redmayne later on, but at times it became distracting, which is the exact opposite of a close-up’s job.

Close-ups should be used sparingly in order to achieve the usefulness they hold in enhancing the emotion of a scene, such as in the scenes previously mentioned. But when used so often, they lose their meaning.

These two factors do not ruin the film, by any means. They were more nuances at times. At the end of the day (one of my favorite scenes and songs), the jam-packed stories of melancholy drive the long feature film and helped bring out the best of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, alike. B+

Catch what I consider one of the bets trailers of the year below, too!

The Silver Lining of This Playbook

silver liningsOn rare occasion, there’s a movie that manages to tickle your humor with laughter while still maintaing a sense of realism in its dramatic, sympathetic characters.

Revolving around Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) and his recent release out of a mental instituion where he was put in for violently beating the man he caught in the act with his wife, all the while hearing his Kenny G wedding song breakdown in the background, a wide range of comic hysteria surrounds Silver Linings Playbook.

With it’s star studded cast, Silver Linings is a sure favorite for the Academy Awards. Robert De Niro, who plays the O.C.D. crazed, Eagles fan-father of Pat, and his quiet-spoken wife, played by Jacki Weaver (recently nominated for her eerie maternal role for Australia’s Animal Kingdom), all give honest, yet bombastic performances. Even Cooper manages to surprise audiences with his on-the-edge, quick-tongued Pat, growing off of his growing potential from last year’s Limitless (we forgive you for the second Hangover now).

Throughout all of the intricate jokes and sharp-witted drama, there is one truly visible silver lining in this film: Jennifer Lawrence. Having proven her own abilities to act in her first nominated role, Winter’s Bone, which basically landed her one of the most sought for roles in Hollywood as Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games’ “Girl on Fire,” Lawrence finally got to showcase her hugely likable comical side that she has so memorably flaunted on talk shows (she even finally just landed her first stint as host on Saturday Night Live which you can read more on here). As the recently young widower, Tiffany is everything you want to see in a character. Insanity. Hilarity. Yet altogether, relatable. After all, everybody has had to go through a tragic spousal death and deal with it by having sex with everyone in their office. Well, not necessarily, but it’s her yearn for love and compassion that make her so absolute.

Lawrence earns her right as Silver Linings’  show-stopper since it’s physically impossble to take your eyes off of her every moment she graces the screen, especially in this clip below where Pat joins his best friend, his wife, and her sister, which is Tiffany, in what could be considered a fairly awkward family dinner.

For a film that, personally, and among many others, had such a built up hype, I can firsthand say that the David O. Russel directed dramadey does not even come close to disappoint  Throughout the actual cackling moments of laughter, maybe even a few overdramatic tears, Silver Linings Playbook is a must see not only because of the coming Awards season (check out where I rank it on Take 1 and find out if it’s rank changes in the soon to come Take 2!), but also because it’s a timeless movie that will beg for a good, occasional watch. A

The Slow and Steady Rise of Argo

01_argo_iphoneWith a few weeks out in theaters under its belt, it took a total of three for Argo to finally rise to the box office following its release. The Ben Affleck directed tale of how a CIA agent teams with filmmakers to stage the production of a movie in order to save six captees in Iraq.

Sound dramatic enough? Well the direction done and the executed intensity throughout many scenes only adds to Affleck’s growing repuation as a much better director than he is actor (even though he does do a fine job in Argo). After the critical success of Gone Baby Gone and even more so, The Town, Argo will easily make up for the award snubs Affleck recieved in the past.

Despite the fact that there isn’t a distinct acting performance deserving of the award, except for the more than likely to be nominated Alan Arkin (see where I rank him and why in my first Take on the 2013 Oscar Lineup), Argo works as a cast instead of individuals. The chemistry held by the fugitives and the humor that evokes from them, and even Arkin and John Goodman’s character, is welcomed and surprisingly suiting for such a serious drama.

That is all thanks to great writing and directing. Without it, the intensity that balances with that humor and seriousness wouldn’t be as successful as it felt.

Be sure to catch this wartime drama before the big Oscar night, because it is bound to grab some serious attention just like it has for the Golden Globes and SAGS. A-

Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln

Telling the story of the 13th Amendment’s long journey of induction into the Constitution, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, in the biopic tale of The Great Emancipator.

The soft-spoken, yet at times assertive approach that Day-Lewis takes as Lincoln is so dead on, it’s uncanny. At times, the believability of his portrayal almost makes you think that the actual President Lincoln has returned from the dead to reprise his role as the savior of slavery. But that isn’t the case.

In what many call Day-Lewis’ performance as more “Lincoln” than Lincoln, it would be a shock for him not to only be the front runner for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but a shoo-in for the win.

Even though his particular performance may outshine others, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the cast is by any means underwhelming. Just like 2012’s The Help, which wasn’t likely to take the top Best Picture prize at the Oscars, but won the SAG Award for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture, it wouldn’t be impossible for Lincoln to follow in its footsteps.

Every actor balances both a touching emotional edge, but also an ode to a more old-fashioned style of acting that is all the more refreshing. Sally Field, who plays First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones, as Thaddeus Stevens, will most likely add another Oscar nod for their roles not only because of the love held by the Academy, but because of their strong screen time. Plus, the comedic relief given by James Spader, John Hawkes (who’s Day-Lewis’ main competition for Best Actor with his role in The Sessions), and David Strathairn and Gloria Reuben, who Entertainment Weekly is strongly enforcing the Academy to “Consider This”, and among many, many others, all combine to create such a great cast.

Clearly, the acting is a huge part of making this movie a success. At times, particularly towards the beginning, the story is a little slow and takes a while to pick up, but every moment that President Lincoln graces the screen, it creates a moment to remember. A moment cinematic magic.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Spielberg never fails to make an entire film full of breathtaking shots. After building up the story, the humor in Lincoln’s random stories, and the ways in which 13th Amendment supporters garner up votes from Representatives, all of the film ties together.

Regardless, Lincoln is an ensemble film and there is no doubt: you will leave thinking that Daniel Day-Lewis not only aced the role of President Abraham Lincoln, but also truly believe that he is Honest Abe, himself. B+

Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Review Grade: B+

An animated film brought to you by Disney about video game villains? I was excited to embark upon the journey of a poor giant villain named Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, as he struggled with his duties to pound and destroy bricks in a classic arcade game called Fix-It Felix.

After being introduced to the arcade and Ralph’s unsatisfying job as a human wrecking ball, we are introduced to the hard lives of the struggling villains at a cleverly set-up “Villains Anonymous” meeting containing the bad guys from classic games from Street Fighter to Pac-man. This sets you up for the world inside the video games and how these characters interact after the arcade closes.

Ralph, wanting to make a different turn in his life, is challenged by a townie of his home game and decides to wreck his way into another game to attempt his dream of being a hero. Thus embarks the mission of Ralph and the encounters he makes along the way, including a funny and extremely appropriate commanding woman soldier voiced by none other than Jane Lynch.

The cast is full of wonderfully funny celebrity voices to complete the ensemble.

While it may not have been my most favorite Disney animated film I’ve ever seen, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Laughs were genuine and not forced. The attention to details of pixellating the game itself and having the characters move about in a “jittery-like” way was intriguing. The ode to old-school arcade games is nostalgic fun for parents and gives their kids an introduction to life before computer-animated video games. And then the new characters are enjoyable for all to learn to love.

Definitely go see this film in the theater while you can.