Monday, December 24 2012, 01:24 PM MST
Recommended Films: December 25-January 4
By Ryan Painter
(KUTV) Recommended films showing in Salt Lake City for the week of December 25 – January 4, 2013
1. Les Miserables (PG-13)
2. Lincoln (PG-13)
3. Silver Linings Playbook (R)
4. Django Unchained (R)
5. The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey (PG-13)
1. Frankenweenie (PG)
2. Life of Pi (PG)
3. Rise of the Guardians (PG)
4. Wreck-It Ralph (PG)
5. ParaNorman (PG)
1. Argo (R)
2. Holy Motors (NR)
3. The Sessions (R)
4. Hitchcock (PG-13)
5. Anna Karenina (R)
4 out of 5 Stars
Director • Tom Hooper
Starring • Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway
Rated • PG-13
Recommended to • Fans of the musical who understand the cinematic version will be as different as it is familiar to its source material.
It is impossible for the cinema to replicate the experience of going to see a live performance. What it can do is take the essence of play and transform it into something new. That’s exactly what Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables” sets out to do. It features the familiar songs and the truncated version of Victor Hugo’s novel that audiences have come to love, but swaps out the rotating stage for a real-world environment. It also allows the audience to be right in the middle of the action, rather than watching from the 32nd row. Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) decent into the underworld is harder to watch when it’s not hidden behind a large production number. Jean Valjean’s (Hugh Jackman) soliloquies are given a different cadence; his inner turmoil more subtle and internalized.
For all of these wonderful moments there is a payoff in the form of scenes that don’t work as well on the screen. Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), the corrupt innkeepers entrusted with the care of Cosette, feel out of place. The comedic shift in tone works on stage, but here it is jarring and overblown. Also some of the chorus numbers feel a bit thin, less bombastic.
The performances are generally good. Hathaway is stunning as Fantine. You miss her whenever she’s not on screen. Jackman’s Valjean is a different take on the character, but ultimately it is a strong performance that will surprise those who aren’t familiar with his theater background. I was also impressed by Samantha Barks’ Eponine and Eddie Redmayne’s Marius. I found Russell Crowe to be a little out of his league, but not nearly as distracting as some have suggested.
“Les Miserables” works better as a stage play, but I’m still happy with Hooper’s film. Its weakest moments are still better than Joel Schumacher’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”
4 out of 5 Stars
Director • Quentin Tarantino
Starring • Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio
Rated • R
Recommended to • Fans of Quentin Tarantino and those looking for a modern twist on the blacksploitation films of the’70s.
Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave, is purchased by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) so that the pair can track down and kill a trio of wanted men.
“Django Unchained” may have been inspired by the spaghetti western “Django” (it even features Franco Nero in a small role) but it’s far more a blacksploitation film than it is a western. Exploitation films want to shock audiences. They show little restraint when it comes to the mixture of violence, sex and disregard the whole notion of “political correctness.” Where “Django Unchained” strays from the old formula is that Tarantino wants his film to force audiences to look at the history of slavery in America. He wants to shock, but he also wants there to be a purpose. Does he succeed? I don’t know. It’s hard to look past all the exaggerated elements of the film and see a serious message.
Beyond the shock value “Django Unchained” is not quite classic Tarantino, but it close enough that fans won’t find much to complain about. Critic? Well, the critics are going to be divided because the film does have some pacing issues. Things slow down far too much when the story shifts to Candyland, the plantation owned by Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Calvin Candie. The film also suffers a bit when Waltz isn’t on screen. Foxx is great, but his character isn’t nearly as captivating. Django isn’t the wild card. His purpose of being at Candyland is quite clear. Dr. King Schiltz is the one who understands that his association with a black man makes him a lesser white and Django’s relationship with Dr,Schiltz some how makes he a lesser black. Zebras have been able to figure out how easy it would be if we were stropped like them.
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)