("Oh What a Circus" "Music of the Night" "Bring Him Home" "House of the Rising Sun" "This is the Moment" "MLK' "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" "My Way" "Danny Boy" "Empty Chairs, Empty Tables" "Gethsemane" "Mack the Knife" "You'll Never Walk
A musical that spans 15 years sports a principal cast of 10 and attempts to recreate the 1832 Paris Uprising is going to have a lot of meat to it. And the big screen adaptation of the stage hit Les Misérables manages to weave it all together (in a nearly 3-hour cut). Performed almost entirely in song director Tom Hooper (Oscar-winner for The King's Speech) sticks to source material while reinventing the movie musical with live performances. No lip syncing here — stars Hugh Jackman Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe belt their tunes with all the imperfection of real life. It's a tactic that works wonders and at times falls completely flat. For that Les Mis is daring and sporadically electrifying but may leave purists wanting more.
After 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread Jean Valjean (Jackman) is released into a world that no longer has a place for him. As a convict he wears a marker of shame. It's only after meeting a forgiving priest who gifts with a church's silver and an alibi from the police does Valjean see a path to redemption. He rips up his parole papers and sets out to put "Jean Valjean" behind him. In his journey he becomes the owner of a factory meets a struggling woman Fantine (Hathaway) who sells her body to earn money for her daughter tracks down the young girl Cosette and helps people in need to live better lives. Les Mis has a large girth filled with plot and characters and Hooper keeps it all intact.
But it's for better or worse. What works on stage doesn't always click in on screen characters appear and reappearing without much explanation. Valjean's former incarcerator Javert (Crowe) is always on his tail even when the parole-breaker hasn't seen him in nearly a decade. When Valjean eventually makes his way to Paris the action of the film completely switches focus to a new set of characters: heartthrob rebel Marius (Eddie Redmayne) his band of protesting students and grownup versions of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Éponine (Samantha Barks). The cinematic treatment spotlights the show's clunky construction — threads could have been snipped but who wants to be the guy that cut a number from Les Misérables?
With the breadth of drama going in the film there is still plenty of good to be found. Jackman delivers as Valjean a physically demanding part both in voice and presence. While not as adept at the gentler moments (with all the liberties taken with the on-set singing rarely does the musical soften and hush the performances) Jackman blasts Valjean's many professions to godlike fanfare. Eddie Redmayne enlivens the part of Marius a thankless love-stricken part that the young actor deepens with ideas of war and friendship. And the talk of the town Anne Hathway lives up the hype: her single-shot rendition of "I Dream a Dream" shot up-close and personal is worth the price of admission alone.
Sadly the other half of the ensemble rarely live up the high expectations established early on. Crowe shines in the in-between moments of high drama but can't land either of his two big numbers sticking to one note and draining the film of bravado. Almost the inverse is Barks who was cast from the West End production of Les Mis. While everyone else is in a movie she's stuck in the stage production going big and showy when the movie needs subtlety the most. Much of the flaccid nature of the second act of the film is on Hooper whose bold unflinching close-ups are magical in the early portion of the movie and are relentless later on. He overdoses us with the style — "One Day More " the number that closes Act I of the stage show is so lacking in the necessary spark that it's hard to imagine another hour more of the movie.
Les Misérables is the definition of mixed bag and it's due to an adherence to the show's 30-year history. With an incredible cast vivid photography and booming sounds the film version needed more of a stamp to make it its own beast. "Who am I?" You're just another Les Mis production.
Wilkinson has a small role in the new film and plays opposite Jackman in one scene, but the Australian star felt strange playing the part that his co-star is famous for.
He tells EW.com, "It felt odd because Colm was one of the most famous people to ever play the role. I saw him a year before when I did the film, when I was doing my one-man stage show, and it was great to meet him and work with him. There was this strange feeling of him saying, 'Hey man, it's all yours. It's all good.'
"I did ask him a couple questions, but I remember him saying at one point, 'It doesn't matter in the end. What matters is you do it your way.' He said, 'I've been to some shows, and I see them trying to do it the way I did. And I actually didn't do it the way it was written. In the end, the way it was written didn't really serve me, so I changed it. And now people think that's how it was written, when it wasn't.'"
A sizable portion of the audience that flocks to theaters this December to see Les Misérables will be fans of the original Broadway show. Les Mis stands as one of the longest running shows in every country in which it has premiered, running from 1987 to 2003 here in the States. Many people have an idea of what Les Mis is, and more specifically, what Les Mis looks like.
A pair of new posters unearth my own preconceptions. Is Hugh Jackman fitting as Jean Valjean?
My clear concept of a "Jean Valjean" is completely informed by original Broadway cast member Colm Wilkinson. Older, bearded, and lived in, Wilkinson doesn't have the movie star physique that Jackman naturally sports. Though that might be one of the downsides of theater — an actor can only evolve so much over the course of a stage show. Perhaps Jackman transforms into an aged version of Valjean, but it's clear director Tom Hooper was going for something different with the star's casting. Here's Wilkinson performing "Bring Him Home" from Les Mis, for comparison:
Then we have Russell Crowe as the ruthless Javert:
The persistent inspector was originally portrayed by Philip Quast, who rocked some serious mutton chops along with a ponytail of pure evil. Crowe is his inverse, sporting a goatee and a well-trimmed hairdo. Here is Philip Quast, knocking Javert's famous number "Stars" out of the park:
It's hard to shake the impact of Wilkinson's and Mann's iconic performances. That's one of the biggest hurdles facing the movie version of Les Misérables. Jackman and Crowe have commanded the screen in the past, but can they wash away memories of the keystones of what made the stageplay a staple of Broadway? In this struggle, a change in looks may be vital. If Hooper dressed his leads up like their theatrical counterparts, fans (like myself) would likely recall them, perhaps to the movie's disfavor. By departing from the established look — and boldly presenting them in these posters — the creative team has made Les Misérables their own.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures (2)]
'Les Misérables' Poster Recreates Broadway Original with Vivid Reality
Hathaway and Jackman Redefine 'Les Misérables' with On-Set Singing — VIDEO
'Les Miserables': A Fan Breaks Down the Trailer
Colm Wilkinson and Frances Ruffelle, who played Jean Valjean and Eponine onstage at the Barbican in 1985 and later transferred to Broadway, have landed speaking roles in the new film, which starts pre-production next week (beg30Jan12).
According to the Daily Mail, Wilkinson will play the Bishop of Digne and Ruffelle a whore.
With Hugh Jackman officially on board, Universal's adaptation of the stage musical Les Miserables is coming together quickly. THR has several cast additions to report, the most significant of which is Russell Crowe. The pugilistic Oscar winner is in talks to play Javert, the police inspector who will stop at nothing to capture and imprison the fugitive Jean Valjean (Jackman). Also set to join the cast of are Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, both of whom worked with Les Mis director Tom Hooper on his previous film, The King's Speech. Rush and Carter will play the Thenardiers, greedy innkeepers whose shifty business practices are chronicled in the comical duet "Master of the House."
Universal today also announced a release date for Les Miserables: December 7, 2012.
While Jackman is no Colm Wilkinson, he is no stranger to musical theatre, having starred in The Boy From Oz on Broadway. Click on the image below to check out his gallery.
Inspired by true events we are told Emily Rose's harrowing tale through her priest Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson). As sanctioned by the Catholic Church Father Moore tried to perform an exorcism on the girl but failed. On trial for what the prosecution calls Emily's "negligent murder " Father Moore isn't afraid to go to jail. He is just desperate to tell Emily's story--how this fresh-faced seemingly healthy 19-year-old farm girl (Jennifer Carpenter) goes off to college and comes back home speaking in tongues eating giant bugs and apparently inhabited by not just one but six separate demons who finally kill her. This is what Emily's family and Father Moore firmly believe happened to her. The medical community however claims Emily suffered from a combination of epilepsy and psychosis that without proper medication resulted in her death. In a case that will certainly further her career if she wins whip-smart defense lawyer Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) sets out to prove Father Moore only wanted to help. While the facts are laid out the underlying question as to whether supernatural and evil entities truly exist remains constant. Don't expect any answers.
The cast's riveting performances is the real reason why Emily Rose isn't an original TV movie. Through Linney (Kinsey) Wilkinson (In the Bedroom) and Campbell Scott (Roger Dodger) who plays the prosecuting attorney we get three varying views on the subject of demon possession. Erin represents those who just don't know what they believe and Linney does a convincing job portraying a woman who is trying to do her job but at the same time is bothered by how it's affecting her. As the prosecuting attorney Scott is the naysayer. He's a devout Methodist but he doesn't believe in the Catholic notion of possession and exorcism. And of course Father Moore is the true believer. Wilkinson doesn't play him as a crackpot; rather he gives the character a calm intelligence. He also shows us a man who has been deeply affected not only by his failure to help Emily but by his compulsion to tell her story to the rest of the world. Then there's Carpenter as the tortured Emily. Apparently after director Scott Derrickson saw what the young newcomer could do with her body and voice to make being invaded by demons believable (pay close attention to her hands) he knew he would need very little special effects. Carpenter does an amazing job--without ever spewing green goo.
More than just a head-spinning pea-soup-vomiting horror flick Emily Rose roots its terror in reality which in a way makes it creepier. Now I'm not saying The Exorcist isn't one of the most frightening movies ever made but Derrickson who also co-wrote Emily Rose takes the horrifying idea of demon possession and turns it into something less graphic and more thought provoking. To begin with it's a little unnerving to know the Catholic Church is taking exorcisms pretty seriously. You might scratch your head on this one wondering if angels and demons really do exist. If at 3 a.m. the witching hour does indeed begin then the smell of something burning (sulfur perhaps?) means the demons have come out to play. Still in analyzing Emily's case through a courtroom the movie leans toward those soapbox Perry Mason-style speeches about fact vs. faith. Some of them work and are executed with full effect especially Erin's closing argument. But you know that if the same film starred Melissa Gilbert and Richard Chamberlain it'd be on the USA Network.
Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) has a really bad rep and with good reason: Five years ago convicted killer Riddick escaped the galaxy's law enforcement during a botched interplanetary prison transfer and has been on the lam ever since. As The Chronicles of Riddick picks up our antagonist finds his relative freedom has been compromised when mercenaries out for the $1 million bounty on his head discover his location and hunt him down. Riddick escapes their clutches steals their ship and sets off for Planet Helion to find Imam (Keith David) the Muslim cleric he rescued in Pitch Black and the only person who could have squealed his location to authorities. But while Riddick's hunch about Imam are correct the cleric has a reason for luring the mammoth murderer out of hiding: Helion is falling to unholy armies of Necromongers--warriors who conquer by force in the vein of Star Trek's Borg. Of course Riddick doesn't give a damn about the Helions or their plight--until he gets wind that the Necromogers want to kill him because of an old prophecy that foresees their end at Riddick's hands. Like it or not Riddick is left with no other choice but to battle the Necromongers.
The character of Riddick is unquestionably what made Pitch Black one of the most sequel-worthy sci-fi films in years. And Riddick would not have been one of sci-fi's most intoxicating characters if it weren't for Diesel. Like his Dominic Toretto in the 2001 actioner The Fast and the Furious Riddick is a villain of few words but when he speaks his carefully chosen words have impact--even if the dialogue is at times overly theatrical. Riddick is the perfect antihero; a cold-blooded and indifferent being who somehow evokes more compassion than the film's so-called good guys. Joining Riddick are some recurring characters including David as Imam but Riddick benefits the most from the addition of some new characters particularly Colm Feore as Lord Marshal the Necromonger leader whose goal is to rid the universe of all human life. Feore channeling nuggets of Julius Caesar into his role makes for one of Riddick's most thrilling foes. Another prominent addition to the cast is Judi Dench who has a surprisingly small role as Aereon an Elemental captured by the Necromongers and used for her special powers including ESP.
Writer/director David Twohy took his horror pic Pitch Black which gained a cult following since it was released four years ago and managed to successfully turn it into an sci-fi actioner of epic proportions. Everything is grander here which is almost a given considering Twohy shot Pitch Black on a dime in Australia using colored filters. In Riddick the director distinguishes the film's different environments--the Necros' mothership Crematoria's cavernous prison and Helion--using warm to cool tones that are dazzling yet more subtle than its predecessor. The CGI effects get a little gamey at times but production designer Holger Gross' gargantuan sets are impressive and help craft Twohy's otherworldly vision into a plausible one. And although Twohy jumps genres from Pitch Black to its sequel his storyline evolves logically from the original premise. But while moviegoers unfamiliar with Pitch Black will be able to follow the story easily enough they may have a difficult time grasping what makes Riddick such a big deal; the film explains the legend but never fully captures its quintessence. This could hurt Riddick's chances to broaden its Pitch Black fan base.