Who Am I? – Les Miserables

Les Misérables - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Les Misérables – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Les Misérables (2012)

Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: Claude-Michel Schönberg (book) & Alain Boublil (book) & Victor Hugo (novel) & Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics) & Alain Boublil (original: French text) & Jean-Marc Natel (original: French text) & James Fenton (additional text) & William Nicholson (screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway

I have always loved musicals. I grew up watching Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, etc, and loved everyone of them, good and bad. My favourite film is Singin’ In The Rain and will continue to be until my life’s end. I say that in order to justify my instant love of Les Misérables. I have never seen it on stage but I have had friends in the past who have raved about it.  I now understand why.

Although there are parts of the film which could be improved, *cough Russell Crowe cough*, the musical is adapted onto film brilliantly. It has a raw and gritty quality to it which makes the story feel real and grounded in history. The music is beautiful and the integration of story-telling with the music is seamless. Hugh Jackman does a great job of Jean Valjean and really carries the film and us with him on the journey of his hard life. However, the kids in the film are what really make it for me. Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche) and Isabelle Allen (young Cosette) are incredible little talents. They come alive on screen and steal every scene they are in, especially Daniel.

The best thing about this film is that it has real heart. I cried, nay, I sobbed as Eddie Redmayne sang about how his friends would never sing again. Oh my gosh did I sob! Every moment was breathtaking and heartbreaking and heartwarming and oh just everything! It wasn’t that this was a brilliant film, or a brilliant musical, but it is a great story, well told, and in a lot of ways that is what films should be, even musicals.

4/5

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To make or to remake? – Footloose

Footloose - 2011 Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Footloose – 2011 Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Footloose (2011)

Director: Craig Brewer
Writers: Dean Pitchford (screenplay & story) and Craig Brewer (screenplay)
Stars: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid

There is nothing new under the sun, or on our movie screens. Whether it’s book-to-movie adaptations, comic hero films, version 2, 3, 4 or 5 using the same characters over and over again, or just Disney rehashing the same old princess story again, it seems that the majority of the films nowadays aren’t showing us anything new or creative. Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems in this (including Toy Story 3 which I prefer over the second and almost over the first or unique films like Moonrise Kingdom) but studios want to make films that will earn the big bucks, and I will pay to see those big blockbusters like everyone else.

But when it comes remaking films there seems to be complete lack of creativity in this idea. Why would you re-do something that was perfect to begin with? Or at least perfect for the original idea. It confuses me when people think these remakes will be as successful as the original, or even come close to being as satisfying. So when I hit a low point last night and watched Footloose (the remake) for the first time after delaying it for as long as I could resist, I went in with the assumption that it was never going to be as great as Kevin Bacon dancing his arse off in the factory or Lori Singer dare-deviling between the two cars with the truck approaching. You can’t beat that classic 80s recklessness. We may be stupid and reckless nowadays but the 80s kids were competing with their hippy-turned-conservative parents, we were never going to be able to beat that.

The remake wasn’t awful, it had the moments of cheesy triumph over The Man and the brilliance of gentlemanly behaviour trumping the bad boy act. But the entire time I was thinking about the original and how awesome it was. The only improvement I could see (mainly because I didn’t really remember it from the original) was the aunt and uncle’s support of Ren.

With the lack of success that Total Recall has received, along with the remake of a bunch of other films coming to cinemas soon – including Red Dawn, Point Break, Annie, and A Star Is Born – it just makes me wonder, what is the point? I know there are so many brilliantly creative people out there with fantastic ideas for films, if we invested some more money into developing them we could create a new era of fantastic films rather than rehashing films that were fine to begin with.

What do you think? Are remakes worth it? Or should we rebel against the big studios and only support original screenplays and indie films?

Films I’ve Seen A Million Times – Oh The Cheese! – Get Over It

Get Over It - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Get Over It – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Get Over It (2001)

Director: Tommy O’Haver
Writer: R. Lee Fleming Jr.
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster and Melissa Sagemiller

There is something wonderful about overly cheesy films that can make fun of themselves. I have a particular love for them even though I know most people would probably not. It is a way of letting go of reality and living in a world where the ridiculous is accepted. It’s one of the reasons I love old school musicals like Singin’ In The Rain, Easter Parade, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It is the way it allows you to accept the fantasy and giggle and cringe your way along through it. And especially in the case of a lot of musicals, it is the fantasy of falling in love with a man that will sing and dance around you that I love to live in. I’ve always said I wanted a guy who can dance, sing, and make me swoon, pretty much just because I want to live in a musical for a day. If you combine this with Shakespeare you have an absolute winner for me.

Get Over It is just this. It’s a quarter musical, a quarter Shakespeare, a quarter comedy, and a quarter romance film. And it’s awesome. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Colin Hanks, and Mila Kunis, among others, there is a wonderful cheesiness about this film that makes me laugh every time. It is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and includes high school musical, slapstick comedy, and really random moments of unexpected hilarity along the way. The main character, Berke Landers (Ben Foster) is a guy with your usual high school problems, just been dumped by his long term girlfriend and soul mate Alison McAllister (Melissa Sagemiller), he signs up to the school musical, an adaptation of A Midsummer Nights Dream, to win her back from the sleaze of a boy band member she’s started dating (Shane West). Oh and his parents are sex therapists with their own TV advice/chat show. I mean it’s just comic brilliance. And with friends like Colin Hanks and his on-screen-sister Kirsten Dunst, who could imagine anything better? Parties, getting arrested by police at a strip club for being under age, public humiliation at the basketball match, a girl with an epic bad luck curse on her, getting shot by your best friend’s sister with an arrow. This movie has everything you could possibly ever want (and probably not want).

What makes it brilliant is the way it makes fun of itself which is balanced with Shakespeare’s brilliant love triangle. The comedy and music play against one another and the messy relationships that sprawl across the screen make this film so enjoyable for me. It’s also one of those moments when I relate to one of the characters incredibly closely to the point where it scares me a little, except they get the ultimate happy ending because that’s what the movies are all about. It really appeals to the things I treasure deeply, that are my insecurities, that I hold as honourable, that I hope for. I know that it plays on my imagination and makes me dream a little dream and that it isn’t the greatest film ever made by it is well made and just plain funny.

It’s my guilty little pleasure for when I’m feeling down which I know will always cheer me up and escape my negativity.

Do you have a guilty pleasure film that you watch but know isn’t that great?

The Woman I Wish I Was – Beauty & The Beast

Beauty and the Beast - 3D Poster - from IMDB.com

Beauty and the Beast – 3D Poster – from IMDB.com

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Stars: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson and Richard White

There is something truly magical about Disney. It is the fantasy it creates of a world where issues can be overcome, where evil falls and good triumphs, where all things end in the most spectacular of ways. But the endings have never been my favourite part. I also like to see where the characters begin. And this is why Beauty and the Beast is still my favourite Disney film. Not just Disney “princess” film, but Disney film overall. And it is all because of who Belle is at the beginning of the film.

The first time you meet Belle she is walking into the village and the whole town erupts in song around her. The way she treats people through this sequence is what I love and the fact that she is strong, intelligent, polite, respectful, humble, and the same to all people. Her sense of equality breaks through the walls of the judgment she faces from the town, and even when it comes to the ghastly Gaston, she is polite and dismisses him respectfully, if only a little tersely. She is accepting of everyone and the one person she tells her true judgments to is her father, and even then she gives reasonable accounts of why she dislikes someone like Gaston.

Her whimsy, strength, sacrifice, boldness, and adventurous nature continue to be what shapes her throughout the film. When she comes up against the Beast her response is one of fearlessness and willingness to take him on and see past the harsh exterior of his beastly appearance. This is what I love about Belle. I love her character for every single moment of this film, there is never a point when I don’t like her or disagree with what she does. She is honest and kind and thinks of others as well as herself. She is encouraging and joyous of everyone and seeks to treat them as she would like to be treated. The only moment when I think she does the wrong thing is when she goes into the west wing where the Beast has forbidden her to go, but even then I would’ve done the same, just not on the first night I was there… And even then you expect it because, let’s be honest, the Beast is asking for it as soon as he says it’s “forbidden”.

Belle was my role model as I was growing up. She was my heroine of all literature. It was her intelligence and strength that captivated me and made me want to be her. I didn’t necessarily want to fall in love with a prince and live in a big castle but I did want to be strong and wise and kind.

Who has your role model been from a film, book, tv series, or other form of literature?

Gotta have soul – The Sapphires

The Sapphires - Official Poster - from IMPawards.com

The Sapphires – Official Poster – from IMPawards.com

The Sapphires (2012)

Director: Wayne Blair
Writers: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy

There is always a little part of me that tends to cringe at Aussie humour. It’s something about it being a little bit corny and overdone that I find groan-worthy. It is something that I’ve been discovering has been shaken out of Australian films little bit by little bit over the years and it has now hit the right tone in most Australian films that I’ve seen over the last couple of years. I think it’s also a better quality of all aspects of film making as well which has begun to give Aussie films a real chance of succeeding in other countries as well as at home. The Sapphires is a perfect example of the quality films that Australia is producing.

Based on a true story, The Sapphires follows the story of a group of Australian indigenous women with talented voices and a passion to use them. It is set during the Vietnam war, which is not a time period I know much about, apart from the funky music and cute fashion, oh and Forrest Gump. The story between the women is heartbreaking and endearing all at the same time. It shows the intricate difficulties of racism in Australia in the 50s and 60s and how it affected all people involved, not just Aboriginals nor just white people. I found that this point was handled incredibly well. It balanced the sensitivity with the truth and harshness of racism and made the world of Australia in the 1960s really come alive with a unique view from the point of view of indigenous Australians.

The highlight of the film for me had to be the relationship between Deborah Mailman’s character of Gale and Chris O’Dowd’s beautiful and hilarious portrayal of Dave. The arc of their story has a unique and wonderful twist to it and to watch it unravel on screen is simply delightful. You really feel for all the women in this film, from the women in the Sapphires to their mum, aunt, cousin, etc, there is a grace and sharpness to the shape of the relationships between the women. It is this that gripped me through the film, I was pulled in through the comedy and emotional take on the women and the battles they faced in their lives. The strength of these women is showcased in a variety of ways and it was fantastic to see strength in women displayed in these ways as it really illuminated the different ways femininity can be expressed.

Chris O’Dowd provided a wonderful lightness and humour to the film and really bound the film to an international grounding, as well as the link with the Americans in Vietnam. I really do hope this film is accepted by an international audience.

The only complaint I have about this film is the one or two times when that old Aussie cringe-worthy humour and corniness came through the cracks, but I was able to overlook this because of the strength of the rest of the film. Go and see it if you get the chance. It’s made me fall in love with Soul music all over again.