Thursday, February 14, 2013

Les Misérables (2012)

As a musical film, this version of Les Misérables is rather disapponting. When I see a musical film, I expect to see the songs sung properly: the melody are sung well(some spoken parts here and there to enhance the acting are understandable) and the lyrics can be heard clearly. However, in this movie, acting is put first; it's okay to sing and weep at the same time, with the result that the singing is weak and the dialogues cannot be heard clearly (unless you are a fan of the musical and know the lyrics by heart). I think this is something between regular drama movie and a musical movie, where the writer is too lazy to write dialogues for the characters and borrow them from the musical.

I am even disappointed with Hugh Jackman. I know he could do better than that. I watched him in Oklahoma! and I knew the guy could sing. Russell Crowe was also disappointing. I am not a fan of him, but I was impressed with him in Virtuosity and I watched several of his movies and knew he was a wonderful actor and that he had a band. Perhaps the director told them to play it that way? Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop of Digne almost didn't sing either. Of the main actors, I think Samantha Barks did the best job, and the guy who played Grantaire.

It is not that hard to sing properly and act at the same time.

At first I thought Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter did a good job, but the song 'Master of the House' apparently had been shot and edited many times. It was hard to see what was going on (unless you have the DVD to pause again and again) and in the end it looked unnatural to me. It's over the top.

I like the additional parts, which are not in the original musical, such as: Marius's grandfather appearance, Fauchelevent's opportunity to return Valjean's kindness, Valjean buys a big doll (Catherine) for Cosette, Javert's chase at the city gate, Gavroche brings Valjean Marius's letter.

After Fantine sells her hair (I prefer that she is a blonde. The book says 'The gold was on her head and the pearls in her mouth'), she sells her teeth. I believe 2 of her front teeth were taken because it's said she was ugly after. However, when she sings 'I Dreamed A Dream' I see all her teeth are there.

The ending is so ordinary. I hoped that because this was a movie, special effects could be used. Couldn't they make the spirit of Fantine look better than that? And after that, when 'Do You Hear The People Sing' was sung, I hoped to see Valjean and the deads in heaven... They will live again in freedom, in the garden of the Lord. ... not in the streets of Paris.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour (2012)

This musical has grown on me. When I first listened to one of its recordings I thought it was so noisy --> it's a rock musical. Then I watched the version on video, the one with Jérôme Pradon as Judas, and I started to like the songs. This new version is even better.

Laurence Connor, the director, did this very well. It seems like it happens in recent time. The scene opens with young people wearing hoodies in protest versus the police, and they hope that Jesus will lead them, which made me think I had more understanding about the situation in that era. Later, when Jesus explained that he was not going to lead them against the government, I could understand Judas's disappointment. This musical, anyway, was made to make us have more sympathy for Judas. Tim Minchin, who played Judas, did it so well. In The Last Supper, he was still torn about giving Jesus up; but Jesus challenged him to do it, so he went. We could see how much Judas loved him and thought he was doing it for Jesus's good. Now, if someone could tell me the trick in Judas's suicide scene, I will be very grateful ;-)

The big screen on the stage was used efficiently (better than in 25th anniversary of the Phantom of The Opera in the Royal Albert Hall). We see the kids use modern technology to spread words about Jesus in What's the Buzz (on the screen we can see the text messages they send) and in Herod Song (Chris Moyles who played King Herod was a famous DJ in the UK), we see King Herod as a TV Quiz Show presenter who creates a poll about Jesus.

Ben Forster as Jesus was also good. His Gethsemane was very powerful. His Jesus was bitter, resentful, and for a moment I thought he was challenging God.

If I had to say something bad about this version, I'd say there were too many people in The Last Supper, not only Jesus and the twelve. Then I would ask 3 disciples to accompany Jesus, while the rest could move away, in the end of the song. The lyrics say: "Will no-one stay awake with me? Peter? John? James?" Yet these 3 were among the crowds, in different places, too.

"Now why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you'd come today you could have reached the whole nation..."After watching this version, I think no matter when he comes or where he comes to, people will still be denying him.

Some things in this are against my believe, but it's still a very enjoyable musical to watch. Glad it's on DVD!

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies

Finally I watched the DVD last night. This is not a film of a live show, I think, but some parts were shot live in Regent Theatre, Melbourne, Australia; because you can hear the audience's applause. The costumes are great. The sets are wonderful: I like the harbour and the room with prism/pyramid shapes. The songs are not very memorable, though.

What I dislike most is the story. When I read the Gaston Leroux's novel I had this impression that Christine and Raoul were in love with each other and that she was only mesmerized by the Phantom's talents. Many fans of  ALW's the Phantom of the Opera don't agree with me and they believe that Christine's true love is the Phantom. It's understandable because the musical was written to make us sympathize with the Phantom. I  myself felt the same when I watched the show in London back in 2004. We had then John Owen-Jones as the Phantom versus Ramin Karimloo as Raoul--> I vote for John Owen-Jones anytime.

Now, in this sequel, 10 years later, the Phantom, Madame Giry, and Meg join a traveling circus and they arrive in Coney Island, New York. Meg is now a leading lady and has been trying to impress the Phantom, who in return never notices her. The Phantom lures Christine, now Madame de Chagny, to sing in the circus. Raoul is now in gambling debts and needs the money. This couple comes with their 10 year old boy, Gustave. It seems Raoul never loves Christine and he only wanted to win her from the Phantom then. Later, it turns out that Gustave is the Phantom's son. Apparently, after 'Music of the Night', Christine made love to the Phantom.

Apart from the story, I think this musical still needs more work. It's perhaps not that bad if it's not called the sequel of the Phantom of the Opera. About the cast, I think Anna O'Byrne (Christine), Sharon Millerchip (Meg), Maria Mercedes (Mme Giry), and Jack Lyall (Gustave) were wonderful.

El secreto de sus ojos (2009)

Not as good as I thought it would be, because I had expected a serial killer story. "The Secrets in Their Eyes" is about a retired Argentinian federal justice agent Benjamín Espósito, who is writing a book about an old case, where a beautiful young woman was raped and brutally murdered. It seems the case possessed him then that he and his assistant Sandoval followed a lead, against their boss's advice. Meanwhile, Espósito fell in love with his new department chief Irene Hastings, but stood back as she was out of his reach.

They could catch the killer eventually, thanks to Espósito's sharp eyes; but the killer was free because he had been working for the government as an informant. The release of the killer made Espósito's life in danger, especially after Sandoval had been killed. Espósito decided to leave: leave the city, his work, and Irene.

20 years later, he is back, and finds that the thing that haunts his life for the last 20 years, was actually taken care of then. It's very sad, really.

The scenes move back and forth, with the same cast, but with the superb make-up, we won't have any difficulty to tell if the scene is telling the recent time or the past.