Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Holiday Season Cinema Roundup 2012 Part 2

Continuing Film Babble Blog's end of the year roundup (check out Part 1 here), we now take a look at several more movies currently playing this holiday season:

LES MISÉRABLES (Dir. Tom Hooper) 

I was surprised at how many of the songs that I was familiar with in this adaptation of the wildly popular musical based on the 1862 Victor Hugo novel. I had forgotten that a long time ago an ex-girlfriend had the CD set of the Original Broadway Cast Recording from the late '80s, so much of it came flooding back as the film unfolded on the screen.

As my memories and the movie coalesced, I took in this French revolution era tale about Hugh Jackman as an escaped convict, who after becoming mayor of a small town, agrees to take care of deceased factory worker Anne Hathaway’s daughter (played by Isabelle Allen as a child; Amanda Seyfried as an adult). As sleazy innkeepers, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron-Cohen bring on the bawdy and steal the movie whenever they appear.

Jackman, Hathaway, and Seyfried, who all sing their parts live, are in fine voice, but Russell Crowe, as a ruthless policeman who’s hunting Jackman, has a rough warble that can be painful to endure - especially when the songs go on and on, which they often do. Hooper’s epic production, which clocks in at 157 minutes, wonderfully wallows in the muck of its dark, grotesque imagery, but its messiness can be overwhelming at times. Folks who aren’t fans of the musical, or musicals in general, will find it hard to take, but for the most part, I took it just fine.

JACK REACHER (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie) 

Looks like Tom Cruise wants another franchise as this is an adaptation of one of seventeen in a series of novels by Lee Child. This action thriller formula is competently constructed, but its story - Cruise as an ex-army military police investigator tries to get to the bottom of a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random people - isn't very compelling. 

Some excitement is there in a few set-pieces, but its climax containing a shoot-out at a construction site, only hammers home how routine a genre exercise it is. Still, Cruise fans should love it as he makes a convincing unshakable badass, and Werner Herzog makes a great villain. Read my full review here.

THIS IS 40 (Dir. Judd Apatow)

Judd Apatow’s glorified home movie is his third film to feature his wife (Leslie Mann) and kids (daughters Maude and Iris), so you know he thinks they’re funny. To his credit, for a lot of its running time (another long one at 134 min) they are funny, but this is a big sloppy comic drama with too many storylines that never really get resolved. Paul Rudd and Mann, reprising their married couple roles from KNOCKED UP, have good chemistry together, and Albert Brooks, as Rudd’s father dealing with new triplets, is highly amusing, so there’s enough here to satisfy most comedy fans. Folks who aren’t fans of heavy amounts of profanity, or Apatow’s brand of man-boy humor in general may want to skip it however. Read my full review.

(Dir. Joe Wright) 

Leo Tolstoy's 1868 novel has been adapted many many times, but Wright, in the third of his “literary trilogy” with Keira Knightly, has a meta take on the material involving setting the late 19th-century Russian story in a lavish old theater that evolves within the production into whatever backdrop is needed. Knightly, as the title character, works around the ropes, pulleys, curtains, footlights, and appropriate props, to portray a virtuous woman in a loveless marriage to an imperial minister (a balding, bearded, and quite boring Jude Law) who has an affair with Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a dashing cavalry officer. It can get a bit strained at times in its second half, but Wright's inventive reworking of the well worn material makes it recommendable. Read my full review here.

Well, that's it for this not bad Holiday season. By the way, I appeared on a Special Christmas Edition of fellow Raleigh, N.C. based critic Craig D. Lindsey's podcast Muhf***as I Know last week. We recorded a commentary (of sorts) for what Craig calls “one of the shittiest sex comedies ever made: THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1980). The movie is available on Netflix Instant, so queue it up, go here, and listen to us babble all over it.

More later...

1 comment:

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