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Les Miserables (2012)

I’m going to be 100% honest here. I hate musicals. I don’t like when I’m watching a movie, and I get so into the story, and then out of left field someone starts singing and then a few others start singing and next thing you know everyone is all singing along to the same song that so happens to relate perfectly with what’s going on and all dancing to the exact same choreography and… just no. I hate musicals. Always have. Always will –

Scratch that. I don’t know if it’s because Les Miserables is the exception or what, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film… and the ENTIRE film is a musical.

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Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption-a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. In December 2012, the world’s longest-running musical brings its power to the big screen in Tom Hooper’s sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale. – (C) Universal

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Les Miserables is a true work of art and there are so many aspects as to why that is.

The music. Straight off the bat, this film couldn’t have possibly been as incredible as it was if the music wasn’t on par. The music sets the entire tone, feel, and atmosphere of the movie and – well, it’s a musical.

The cinematography was wonderfully done overall with absolutely breathtaking images.

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The story. It’s the story of Les Mesirables by Victor Hugo so there’s no question that the story was something special. I personally believe the best stories are the kind that make you feel something, and I mean truly and fully cause you to experience a deep human emotion. Les Mesirables does exactly this.

And last but most certainly not least, the acting. Was. Impeccable.

Hugh Jackman – Magnificent.

Anne Hathaway – Incredible.

Amanda Seyfried – Wondrous.

Eddie Redmayne – Fantastic.

Samantha Barkes – Wow.

Helena Bonham Carter – She’s Helena Bonham Carter.

Sasha Baron Cohen – Awesome.

The entire cast – Ridiculous. Ly. Perfect.

Wait, rewind. Minus Russel Crowe. I’m just going to have to call him out on it – he’s not that great. Worse actually. He kind of sucks. He can sing, I’ll give him that. But I didn’t feel anything when he was on screen. I understand his character is supposed to be an emotionless man but he was still supposed to be the villain and villains are expected (to some degree) to leave an impression on the audience as this terrible monster or what have you. Everytime Crowe was on screen, I got bored. And actually yawned. He stuck out like a sore thumb within this cast.

Harsh, I know. But it’s the sad truth.

Overall though, Les Miserables is a true work of art and an outstanding achievement in cinema!

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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Everyone of us is a little fucked up mentally. But Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) are two crazy people (quite literally) who are in weird situations. Pat has lost everything – his house, his job, his wife. He’s moved back in with his parents (played by Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro.) And he’s vowed to turn his life around and do anything to get his wife back. Then when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with troubles of her own, things get even weirder. And complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll return the favour. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond grows between them, and silver linings appear in both their lives. ‘

Actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence deserve a round of applause for their incredible performances in this movie. They both play people who have mental disabilities, albeit different kinds, and they do it convincingly. Cooper is the film’s greatest surprise – he evinces his character’s manic episodes with just the right amount of panic, fear and stress without ever overplaying his hand. However, it’s Lawrence’s turn that’ll have you talking as you exit the theatre. The young actress plays her character with an engaging aggressiveness that lets her dominate every scene she’s in, whether she’s wildly charging out of the side of the screen while Pat is on a run or shutting down Pat Sr. when he suggests that she is “bad juju” for the Eagles.

David O. Russel’s direction reflects the film’s themes and tones perfectly. He mixes tones brilliantly, and is able to orchestrate emotions with soft and jagged camera movement. Throughout the film he makes a point of having the camera come rushing up to actors until its right in their faces. It’s sometimes disorienting, but it creates an atmosphere for the movie and makes you feel as though you’re watching the story through the eyes of the characters.

There’s a thin line to walk when crafting a comedy film revolving around mental illness, to be sure. Going about it in the wrong way could not only result in something insensitive, but also foolish and overdone. But Russel didn’t let that happen.

Silver Linings Playbook is probably one of the most romantic modern films I’ve seen. The plot has a unique outlook, with interesting characters, it’s never overdone and it most definitely is not a typical love story. It has a subtle quirkiness to it that makes it seem that much more real and raw.

What I love most about this film: In the end, they fall “crazy in love” with each other. Get it?

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Gangster Squad (2013)

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Gangster Squad is set in Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) takes over and runs the show in this town. He reaps the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and – if everything goes his way – every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does this all with not only the help of his own paid goons, but also with the police and politicians under his control. It’s enough to intimidate the bravest, most street-hardened cops around… except for the secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together and decide to stop at nothing to destroy Cohen. This movie is action-packed and full of beautiful scenes of a film noirish Los Angeles.

The atmosphere of the film – the cinematography was stupendous. The overall “film-noir-in-colour” theme was perfect. But what made the movie wasn’t just the cinematography and costumes and old school cars.

The plotline was filled with action, surprise, romance (between Jerry and Grace) -and the whole “good vs. evil” theme which was carried out perfectly at the story’s climax in the scene where Sgt. O’Mara and Mickey Cohen wrestle it out with their bare fists. No guns. (Interesting when considering the fact that the entire movie had gun shooting in every other scene). The transitional cuts and scenes are smooth and well done, making the movie flow perfectly. Clever, witty, and funny lines throughout the film keep the audience laughing and rooting for the kick-ass Gangster Squad cops.

Let’s move over to one of my personal favourite aspects of film watching. Observing the actors. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and the extraordinary Sean Penn. These three right here, demonstrated what it really means to act. Josh Brolin plays the perfect hero cop, who would much rather burn down a pile of dirty money than pocket a dollar. He acts perfectly as the macho Sergeant. Ryan Gosling’s acting in this film was also really incredible – he was able to pull off a completely different character, complete with mannerisms and speaking ticks, beautifully.

But Holy F****** Shit. Sean Penn steals the god damn spotlight from everyone in this movie. He makes the audience feel intimidated, anxious, and uncomfortable every time he appears on screen with his droopy, uninterested, and condescending facial expressions. He forces the audience to absolutely and entirely loathe him. Penn doesn’t just have an angry face – he has the face of a cold-stone killer in this movie. He portrays an ultimately evil character, and he pulls it off brilliantly. And his bursts of angry violence are totally believable because they’re done so well.

In my opinion, the man deserves yet another Oscar. That’s just my opinion, sure, but watch the movie and we’ll see if you’ll see it differently.

Fantastic acting. Fantastic action. Fantastic plotline. Brilliant and truly entertaining movie.

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Atonement (2007)

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Atonement is a story about a young girl named Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) who sees something that she thinks she understands but she doesn’t, and because of this she causes the ruin of Robbie Turner’s (James McAvoy) life. This ultimately leads to the separation of his epic love with Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley). The film follows Briony as she grows older, and we see that she tries everything to restore her wrong doing, but ends up not being able to, which causes her to grow up with an everlasting guilty conscience. This is the story of a girl who could never make atonement.

This film, directed by the wonderful Joe Wright, was well-recieved, receiving an Oscar for the Best Original Score at the 80TH Academy Awards, and was nominated for six others, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Saoirse Ronan). At the 61st British Academy Awards it won Best Film and Production Design awards.

The acting was impeccable. Saoirse Ronan was a brilliant actress at such a young age, able to portray a certain aura of naivety while also expressing a sense of maturity and independence as a young child character. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy were great at invoking emotion, and making the audience believe in their epic romance.

The cinematography was breathless. With great scenery, and delicate attention to detail – the beautiful landscapes, the horizons, the fog, clouds, skies, sun rays, silhouettes of soldiers, and much more – the film was a pleasant vision.

What a clever, ambitious, compassionate picture it is; what a success for Joe Wright and for Ronan, Knightley and McAvoy.

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Jack Reacher (2012)

Jack Reacher was filed under the action genre. That must have been a mistake because most audiences were laughing the entire way through, and I think people can agree it would be better off categorized as comedy. And even THEN it would have been a terrible comedy.

The idea was there. The story had potential. Too much was unbearably predictable, however, and too much was uncomfortable to watch. I blame it partly on the acting. The actors were horrible to watch, but I guess it was because the context in which they were acting was awkward.

Most of the blame though, has to be on the writer. The script was absolutely terrible. I mean… I haven’t seen such a terribly written movie like this one in a long time. I could tell the movie was going to be a bad one as early on as the beginning scene… there was no dialogue, but not only that, I was already losing interest. If I hadn’t watched it in theatres, I would have abandoned that movie. There were too many awkward scenes, which made it uncomfortable to watch (like where the guy had to try to eat off his own fingers. But WHY? What was the point of that scene? Like the guy didn’t even end up biting it off anyway, so there was hardly any shock value.. it just made no sense and felt like such an amateur scene because it should have been removed). There was an absence of chemistry between the two characters, Jack and his “love interest”, and an absence of any emotional invocation for that matter.

This movie was awful, not even in the slightest entertaining, unless you’re the type to be able to extract yourself from the context of the film and look at it with some sense of humour. I guess some could just point and laugh, but I couldn’t. It was just such an empty movie. I feel like they made this movie just so they could drive around in nice cars.

 

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Django Unchained (2012)

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Set in the south 2 years before the civil war, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as Django, whose brutal history with his previous slaver lands him with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the murderous hunt for the Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him straight to them. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: the finding and rescuing of Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), his wife whom he lost in the slave trade long before. Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of the infamous plantation called “Candyland.” Throughout the events that unfold, both Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave.

This incredible film is directed by the wonderful film visionary Quentin Tarantino. THE Quentin Tarantino. There is no other like him. Django Unchained contains great cinematography, a clever plot with great dialogue, and so many brilliant actors. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson all did their own thing, but they did it well. They all had unique characters and they shined portraying their different roles (I personally believe that Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson took the show though).

There’s a sensible reason why nobody ever wanted to be an Indian whenever we played Cowboys and Indians as kids. That’s because the white man was invariably the hero of the Westerns on which we’d been weaned, while the red man had always been presented as a wild savage dismissed by the dehumanizing affirmation that, “The only good Injun is a dead Injun.”

Hollywood has also promoted a set of stereotypes when it comes to the depictions of black-white race relations during slavery, with classics like The Birth of the Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) setting the tone. Consequently, most movies have by-and-large suggested that it was a benign institution under which docile African-Americans were well-treated by kindly masters, at least as long as they remained submissive and knew their place. – by film critic Kam Williams

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Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to put a fresh spin on the genre, just as he did in the World War II flick Inglourious Basterds (2009). This is the first film I’ve seen that truly tried to portray a revenge story for the slaves, in their POV, and did it INCREDIBLY well. Finally, the audience is encouraged to take a deeper look at the excruciating suffering and bullshit the slaves had to go through, and Django welcomed us to sympathize with them and root for them throughout the entire film. Ofcourse, we can’t forget the bonus gory scenes, where Tarantino just ultimately wanted to add shock value to his film, as always.

The soundtrack made the movie though. It added the final touch. Rap music in a western film? It just really felt like this movie was for the black people, and rap music is a huge part of their culture, so why not embrace it and add their music to the scenes where Jamie Foxx is kicking ass, right?

 
 

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Milk (2008)

This film is so great and inspiring on so many levels in so many different ways.

(I know I’m a few years late in watching this, but it’s been on my list to watch and I finally did. Now I’m just trying to recommend it to people who still haven’t watched it yet, because it’s worth the time. It really has the power and ability to open the eyes of those who have no empathy towards, or feel indifferent about the gay community and their rights.)

It’s such a powerful movie and not only does it stick up for gay rights, it represents gays in a realistic way. This movie wasn’t scared to explore the many details of homosexuality, and I admired that.

One of the first scenes is the meet cute between Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and Scott Smith (James Franco), where Harvey picks up Scott at a New York subway station. The mood of the moment, which ends up with the two men eating birthday cake in bed, is casual and sexy, and its flirtatious playfulness is somewhat disarming, given our expectation of a serious and important movie grounded in historical events.

But before that subway station encounter, we have already seen real-life news video of the aftermath of Milk’s assassination, as well as grainy photographs of gay men being rounded up by the police. These images don’t spoil the intimacy between Harvey the buttoned-up businessman and Scott Smith, the hippie who becomes his live-in lover and first campaign manager. Rather, the constant risk of harassment, humiliation and violence is the defining context of that intimacy.

And his refusal to accept this as a fact of life, his insistence on being who he is without secrecy or shame, is what turns Milk from a bohemian camera store owner, into a political leader.

James Franco was wonderful. He played a gay man, while not overdoing it. He played a realistic gay man. He made sure it was believable.

But I have to say, the man who stole the show was definitely none other than Sean Penn. His performance was breathtaking. He presented a gay man while conveying the message he was a powerful political leader, standing up not only for the gay community, but for the black community, the asian community, latino, homeless, senior citizens, and all minorities.

Overall, this movie definitely pulls at the heart strings. It covers so many social issues at once, and has a powerful aspect throughout the film. That power lies in its uncanny balancing of nuance and scale, its ability to be about nearly everything — love, death, politics, sex, modernity — without losing sight of the intimate particulars of its story. Harvey Milk was an intriguing, inspiring figure. “Milk” is a marvel.

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