Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Let’s Review: Les Misérables

Welcome back to the Geekdom, I’ll be your Guide. Now I’m sure I know what you’re thinking.  Clearly being a guy instantly means I hate musicals. Well you would be wrong; I was raised on watching The Sound of Music, and as such there are very few musicals I don’t like. I was actually quite excited to see this film as I have heard that Les Misérables is one of the highest praised musicals. So did this film live up to my expectations? Let’s review Les Misérables.

The Negative

One of the most advertised aspects of this film was that their songs were recorded live without pre-scripted recordings to work off of. This technique allowed the actors to perform the songs to their choosing in order to better coincide with their acting. I think this technique worked well, but at many instances in the film, I felt that some of the songs suffered from light speaking instead of actual singing. Russell Crowe in particular was the flattest singer in the bunch. He did perform one or two really beautiful songs, but he mostly just bellowed out his lyrics in the flattest way possible.

The story is split into 3 different sections. The third is considered the most important part because most of the biggest plot elements occur here. Unfortunately, there was just something about this section that I didn’t like. I personally believe it was the make-up. The make-up department did an amazing job at making everyone in the first two parts look absolutely starved and dirty, but the third part feels entirely different. All the young actors look far too clean and seem to have a fine layer of make-up applied to them. This aspect didn’t irk my editor, but it’s something that kept bothering me.

Now this next part contains major spoilers to the story, if you don’t care than keep reading, but if you do care, just skip down to The Positive segment.

We good? Okay

Javert’s Suicide nearly ruined the entire film for me. That’s not to say that the action of the character killing himself was so terrible that it made me hate the film, nor does it mean that I hated the song with the same name, it is a very beautiful song and I loved it. It was his fall from the bridge going into the river. Whoever decided to add that horrifically cartoonish thud when he hit the rocks is one of the biggest idiots in the world. That noise ruins that entire moment. This is Javert’s big defining moment where we get the clearest look at his character, and it’s such a moving song to be ruined by such a ridiculous thud was moronic. I literally burst out laughing after hearing that noise, my editor slammed her hand upon my mouth to stop me from disrupting the other audience members. If it weren’t for the following song ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ bringing me back into the feel of the film, I fear the entire movie might have been ruined for me by that one sound.

The Positive

Now you heard me praise the make-up department before, and I want to again. The make-up in the first two segments was amazing and it really sold me on the story. Everyone in the picture truly looks miserable as if they are truly suffering from famine and disease. I really wish that this quality make-up had continued on to the third part of the film because it was a really great tone setter for the feel of the movie.

Significant praise should be given to a number of the actors in this film. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway were significant highlights of the film as the emotion they displayed onscreen was brilliant with every set piece. I have researched that the actors would dehydrate themselves on set in order to appear even more miserable on screen. While I feel that actors sometimes go too far with their performances, it really showed that they gave it their all with Les Misérables and were really dedicated to giving a realistic adaptation.

I would say that I have enjoyed musicals before, but I would never site them as being among my top favorite films. My editor made me watch the 1998 adaption of the film starring Liam Neeson, so that I would at least know the plot of the story before I went to go see the musical. I had never heard any of the music before going in to watch this movie and I have to say, it has made me a fan.

This movie actually made me go out and buy the greatest excerpts CD and then eventually the deluxe 2 disc CD collection that has all the songs from the film. I have a very odd taste in music, and it was only recently that I discovered how much I actually like music (it’s a whole story that I won’t get into) but for me to go out of my way to buy these CDs and still being singing these songs months after seeing this film, is an incredibly rare thing for me to do. I loved this musical, and I truly hope that it has enlightened a number of other viewers to its brilliance. If you have never listened to Les Misérables, I beg you to, because it has become my favorite musical. If for nothing else, this film has succeeded in its goal of attracting new viewers to the source material, something I think all adaptations should strive for.

In Conclusion

 I honestly don’t care what diehard fans have to say about this movie in comparison to the theater performances, this was an incredibly beautiful movie with stunning performances and wonderful music. I hope I gain the opportunity in the future to see this performance live in the theater, perhaps it will be just one day more. 4.3 out of 5.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Let's Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Welcome back to the Geekdom, I’ll be your Guide. I have a confession to make. I have never read The Hobbit, nor have I read The Lord of the Rings. I know I’m a terrible person; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. My knowledge of the LOTR world is limited to what I have seen in the films and my editor’s extremely thorough knowledge, but even I can tell what an odd move it is to turn this one book into an epic action packed trilogy. Like many of you, I wasn’t sure if what I was about to watch was going to be any good or not, due to the nature of what it was. So without further ado, let’s review The Hobbit.

The Negative

Now I saw this movie with my editor and therefore everything the film had gotten wrong about the plot was described to me in fine detail. Suffice it to say if you are a major fan of the book, be prepared to find that the movie has changed a few of the details. This is not to say that every addition of change was a bad thing, nor necessarily incorrect within the LOTR universe, but a good majority of the changes were created for extending the plot so that it could be made into a trilogy. In my book, padding is never the highlight of a story.

The high definition of this film was both its blessing and its curse. Every image was really sharp and clearly defined, down to the make-up effect mistakes and poor CGI. At certain times you could see where the actor’s leg would end and the fake hobbit foot began. There was a thick ring around his lower leg that would give it away; the issue was that it was hard not to see it due to the high definition. The high definition in the film made everything look really good, but also pointed out ever error.  The other problem stemmed from the CGI. I personally couldn’t look at the Goblin King without seeing a blobbing mess of poor CGI effects. While the high definition looked fantastic, it also made all of its technical flaws rather glaring.

The Dwarves. By the end of the film I couldn’t tell you much about any of them, none of them were developed that well, other than the leader Thorin. To be fair this is something shared by a good number of stories that have a large main cast. When a main cast is too big some of the characters have a tendency to be overlooked. While I am certain that these characters will get more development over the course of the next two films, I can’t help but think that the Fellowship of the Ring did a much better job at introducing a large main cast than this movie.

Lastly, they tried really hard to make the ending epic in order to justify ending the film there. The final action sequence is way too over the top with extreme amounts of slow motion just to get you to understand how much of an epic fight this is and why it’s the perfect stopping point. This falls under the same issue of padding in order to extend the story, but this scene was incredibly unashamed of its padding nature. (Also my editor informs me that if you have read the book it is almost ridiculous how epic this part is, especially when it removes most of the actual villains who were in the scene).

The Positive

This is not Lord of the Rings. Don’t go into this movie expecting to see more Lord of the Rings. This is an epic fantasy film whose tone is far more for the light-hearted. Most people would look at that as a bad thing, but I personally see it as the film’s shining aspect. The film is allowed to not take itself as seriously as the LOTR trilogy did, granting it the ability to visit the more fantastical elements of this world. I couldn’t see the rock giants sequence fitting in too well with the LOTR trilogy but with The Hobbit it feels like a neat addition to a fascinating adventure.

The acting was amazing as was expected. I feel special praise should be given to Sir Ian McKellan for returning to the role of Gandalf but not entirely being the Gandalf we knew. Gandalf is a fairly somber character in the LOTR trilogy but that was because he was facing such dark times. This Gandalf is hamming up the scene with some of the most humorous dialogue. This added to the effect that this wasn’t just a copy of Lord of the Rings, the journey will be almost entirely different.

The music in the film was beautifully orchestrated. ‘Of course it was, this is Lord of the Rings you’re talking about’ you say, but the reason I make particular note of it here is because of the few songs performed by the main cast. The songs add their own particular elements to the film. ‘Far Over The Misty Mountain Cold’ in particular adds such a powerful daunting element to the night before the first day of the journey. Some of the songs were taken directly from LOTR, but the new additions were a great asset to the film.

The action sequences were spread lightly throughout the movie, but whenever they appeared it was always incredibly fast paced. While I didn’t like the Goblin King’s CGI, the entire goblin chase sequence was an amazing scene to watch. The screen was always busy with our heroes sprinting through this world of rickety walkways while goblins climbed on all the walls. It truly made the film feel like a fun thrill ride from start to finish.

In Conclusion

Our return to Middle Earth was a little bumpier than expected, but still an enjoyable return none the less. I wish the film didn’t have as much padding as it did, and the high definition made it suffer more than it added, but the acting was fantastically splendid and I look forward to the next one. 3.9 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let's Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Hello and welcome back to the Geekdom, I will be your Guide. I was really looking forward to this film….sort of. To understand my hesitation is to recognize that this isn’t a Pixar film. Disney hasn’t had the best track record for CGI films when they make them themselves.  This reputation would have kept me from this film except for one thing…..IT LOOKED SO COOL! How awesome is it to see all of these classic video game characters within the same film. So did my excitement beat my initial judgment? Let’s review Wreck-It Ralph.

The Negative

The issue with this film is that it is far too predictable. A Disney children’s film is never going to try anything truly drastic or new in this day and age. While the premise is a really neat idea the actually plot of the movie is nothing we haven’t seen before. We are presented most of the problems that will, rest assuredly, resolve itself by movie end. By this I mean, Ralph rather bluntly says why he is unhappy, and then resolves that problem. You can even tell who the main villain is from a mile away. I won’t say it ruined the film for me; it’s just that it was hard not to predict the outcome of the film after the initial 10 minutes.

There are multiple game worlds that Ralph enters in the movie. Most of the film is spent within the Sugar Rush world which is basically Mario Kart fused with Candy Land. The first 20 min of Sugar Rush is stuffed with candy puns. Some are good and some are bad, but it is just way too much. My friends would describe me as a lover of really bad puns, so when I say it has way too many puns, it really does.

This guy, Mayor Gene. Re-watch the scene where Ralph returns back to his game before the final act where he gets confronted with Mayor Gene. I honestly need someone to explain how in this scene Mayor Gene is in the right. If you cannot explain to me how Mayor Gene is right in this scene, then you should be just as confused as I was regarding the moral theme of this movie. I honestly just don’t get it.

The Positive

By the end of the film, I had to keep reminding myself that what I saw wasn’t a Pixar film, that what I saw was actually significantly better than the Pixar film, Brave, that was released in the same year. Wreck-It Ralph was an amazing film and I simply enjoyed every moment of it.

The humor in the film was a really key piece that kept the movie going for me. I may have complained about the puns in the candy section earlier, but that was just one segment of the film. The style of the humor and animation struck me as the kind you would see in a 16 bit parody video online. This sense of humor was very refreshing to see in a children’s film.

A difficulty found in most films is creating a new game that actually looks like a game. I’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it before. Anytime a character is sitting there and has to act like they are really engaged in the crappy CGI the effects team were able to whip up at the last second, it doesn’t look like any game anybody would be caught dead playing. Not only did this movie feature new games that actually looked like fun to play they also felt like games I had previously enjoyed. Sugar Rush in particular felt like a Mario Kart game with a candy theme. Watching the film, I really wanted to go home and play that race course on my game. This effect is what truly won me over toward the film. This really felt like a video game story with a truly ingrained video game atmosphere.

In Conclusion

This film really surprised me. I was expecting at least a watchable movie, but I hadn’t anticipated how much I would truly love this film. This film brought back a very nostalgic feeling for the gamer in me and I would love to see more films like these being produced by Disney. 4.2 out of 5.