THIS JUST IN: ‘Les Miserables’ First Trailer

Les Misérables is one of those Broadway plays I still haven’t got around to seeing. The acclaimed musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 French novel will probably gets a surge with the release of this latest film adaptation.

This movie adaptation does seem to have a lot going for it. I mean the male cast alone will get me to the theater pronto, I do enjoy musicals and also have a thing for tragic love stories. Behold its first trailer:

Prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Set in early 19th-century France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion, or the Paris Uprising of 1832.

You all know I adore The King’s Speech, which nabs director Tom Hooper his first Oscar. Will he nab another nom with a musical? Well, if we’re to judge from this trailer, it certainly looks VERY promising indeed.

I’m not a huge fan of Anne Hathaway, but I’ve got to give it to her, that girl CAN sing! Her stirring rendition of I Dreamed A Dream rivals that of … Susan Boyle? Just kidding, Anne’s self-sacrificing Fantine sounds quite heart-wrenching. They’re definitely going with the emotional appeal here with just her singing and no dialog. I’m already tearing up watching this so I better stack up on tissues when I go see it. Apparently Hooper had the actors sing the songs live on set [as you can see in this video], which explains that high level of authenticity in the way the actors perform the song.

Props for these good looking actors on going the *ugly* route for the roles they play. I mean it’s like a bad hair day all around on the set, especially Anne and the hunky Aussie Hugh Jackman. As you’ve probably seen at the Oscars a few years back, these two can belt out a tune, all right. I’m so looking forward to seeing Jackman and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe facing off here. Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne are also part of the cast.

This movie opens the same day as The Hobbit here on December 14th. Now, of course I’ll be first in line for the LOTR prequel but I’ll definitely be checking this out on the big screen. So it’s Catwoman, Wolverine and Maximus singing together, brilliant! 😀


What say you, folks? Is this on your must-see list?

Weekend Roundup: THOR rewatch and IN TIME review

Happy Presidents Day, folks!

I’ve got a day off today which is always nice. Well, I skipped the cinema again today as there just isn’t anything worth spending $10 bucks for. So on Friday night my hubby and I opted to finally open our THOR Blu-ray disc and re-watch it. As I’m anticipating The Avengers this coming May, we might re-watch the individual Marvel superhero movies before that, and THOR has not one but two of The Avengers‘ major players… the god of thunder himself AND the group’s nemesis, Loki.

This is the third time we watched THOR as we saw this twice on the big screen and I still love it. I must say I REALLY enjoy watching Tom Hiddleston more and more as Loki and am thankful to Kenneth Branagh for choosing him as the villain. I could see how at the end of this film Loki has become so disillusioned with who he is and his place alongside his brother… he already had such a major identity crisis in the beginning and by the end of it, Thor’s return to Asgaard will finally push him into a full-blown sinister villain hellbent on revenge and destruction. So yeah, Thor definitely earns its place amongst my Top Ten Favorite of 2011, check out my full review.

IN TIME (2011)

Most of the time, I watched movies because of the cast but this one is one I actually watch despite of it. What appeals to me most about this movie is the sci-fi concept of time as means of life force AND currency. Set in an unspecified period of the future, people stop aging at the age of 25 but are engineered to live only one more year, that is unless they have the means to buy their way out of that situation to have a shot at immortal youth.

The protagonist is Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) who lives in a ghetto-like society where people are constantly dying as they literally run out of time. Everyone has a ‘digital body clock’ in their arm that tells them exactly how much time they have left down to the last second. Coffee costs four minutes of their life and a bus ride is about 1 hour or two. It’s a fascinating concept to see people pay and getting paid in their jobs by scanning their arm into a certain device that would deduct or put the number of hours. Unlike blood transfusion that would mostly have to be done at a medical location, people can transfer their life force in a matter of seconds in this futuristic world as all they have to do is put their arms together and the hours/minutes is transfered immediately.

Tragedy hits Will at the beginning of the film when his 50-something mother (Olivia Wilde) ran out of time on the way of meeting him. Wilde is actually younger than the 31-year-old Timberlake by 3 years in real life but that is ok as she looked about 25 in this film. It’s even more devastating as Wil just inherited over a hundred years from a stranger he saved from a bar, a 105-year-old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) who’s burned out of living forever. It’s not exactly clear how Henry obtained that enormous amount of life force however, but he ended up transferring most of his life force to Will with only minutes left for him to commit suicide by the bridge.

Will then moves to a different ‘time zone’ New Greenwich, a city where the upper class live and the millionaires here have hundreds and even millions of years to their time to live as they please. It’s eerie to see that everyone is so young, Phillipe Weis, a time-loaning business tycoon introduce his mother in-law, his wife and daughter to Will and they all look merely a couple of years apart. The 90-year old Phillipe himself looks barely old enough to be a college freshman.

Will ends up being on the run as the Timekeepers (led by Cillian Murphy) think Will killed Henry and stole his time. But just before he is arrested, he managed to kidnap the Phillipe’s beautiful daughter Sylvia and the two runs off together in Will’s newly-acquired fast luxury car. Will is hellbent on fighting against the injustice of the system and against the ‘for one to live forever, few must die’ philosophy of the rich, fostered by billionaires like Weis. The rebellious Sylvia is more than happy to trail along with Will as the two become lovers on the run.

Whilst the whole thing is quite a novelty idea, there are tons of issues that keep this from being a great film. For one, the storyline is quite predictable. In many occasions I could predict what’s about to happen next. The high-paced action and car chases are fun to watch but there’s no sense of real danger to the protagonists and apart from the scene between Will and his mother, the elements of surprise is almost non-existent throughout. The set pieces are quite nice however, I especially like how the vintage-futuristic cars, if there is such a thing… they have futuristic elements but the design is made to look like 60s/70s automobiles.

Now, let’s talk about the casting. I’ve always thought that Timberlake has talents but not exactly a capable leading man material. He was good in The Social Network but it was more of a supporting role and he simply had to rely on his charm and confidence to make it work. In this one, he’s serviceable and even sympathetic at times, but lacks a certain depth that would make his character someone we could truly connect with. I think Seyfried is a promising young actress, she’s definitely got on-screen charisma, but she’s not given much to do but look alluring in a short dress and sky-high heels. Props also for her ability to outrun the police in those stilettos, not to mention keeping her perfect bob always looking so smooth and bouncy. They make a nice looking couple but neither have the edge to make me think they’ve got it in them to be society’s ‘savior’ who steal from the rich on behalf of the poor. In fact, they seems to be a clumsy amalgam of Robin Hood + Romeo & Juliet + Bonnie & Clyde.

Director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, S1m0ne) seem to have a penchant for ridiculously beautiful people. This film is chock full of them! In fact, Timberlake seems to be the only the more ‘normal’ looking one amongst supermodel-types like Seyfried, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer and Olivia Wilde. Now, I’m probably the only one who’d notice this, but even Sylvia’s bodyguard is played by a the gorgeous Ethan Peck, the grandson of my beloved Gregory who obviously has the tall, dark with a deep voice genes on his side. Perhaps the director is trying to emphasize the ‘fountain of youth’ aspect of the story but I feel like the gorgeous cast actually becomes a distraction instead of serving the story.

The massively-talented Cillian Murphy with killer blue eyes is always watchable as the chief of the Timekeepers, but I don’t think his talent was fully utilized here. When I first saw the trailer, I actually thought what this movie would look like with Cillian as the lead and how a capable director Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott could take this fascinating time-based currency concept to new heights.

Final thoughts:

As I’ve said above, this movie is worth a watch largely because of the fascinating concept. I probably wouldn’t even rent it if I weren’t a big fan of this kind of sci-fi films. Thankfully, despite the flaws, it’s not a complete waste of time either, which would be ironic indeed 🙂

3 out of 5 reels

So what did you watch this weekend, folks? If you’ve seen this movie, I’d love to hear what you think.

DVD Picks: Letters to Juliet & Spirited Away

Well, I didn’t get a chance to see The Social Network this weekend, though they hardly need my patronage to take the top spot for the second weekend, dropping only 30% to take in $15.5 mil (per Box Office Mojo). Initially I wanted to see the dark comedy/drama The Joneses with David Duchovny and Demi Moore (see trailer here), but it wasn’t available at the DVD vending machine at my office, so I got this rom-com instead.

Letters to Juliet

I gotta admit I’m not a huge fan of rom-coms in general, but I actually like the trailer when I first saw it. Perhaps it’s the Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero casting that grabbed me, I mean romance knows no age after all, so it’s nice to see the 70-something real-life couple getting all lovey-dovey on screen. Of course there’s the gorgeous setting in Verona, Italy where most of this movie was shot, it’s one of those flicks that made you wish you could be transported right into the screen!

The movie opens with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), an American girl on vacation with her fiance in Verona who finds an unanswered ‘letter to Juliet’—one of thousands of notes/messages left at the fictional lover’s Verona courtyard. Apparently, at the end of the day these letters are collected by one of the ‘secretaries of Juliet’ and of course it’s no surprise that Sophie inadvertently became one of those secretaries. The story pretty much picks up when the woman who wrote the letter 50 years ago, Claire, receives it and goes to Verona along with her handsome grandson to meet whomever writes her back. You know what happens next, as the trailer pretty much tells us so, that Sophie ends up going on a quest to find Claire’s long-lost love.

Love knows no age… Franco & Vanessa

As predictable as this movie is—you pretty much know what’s going to happen next scene after scene—I actually don’t mind it so much. The 25-year-old Seyfried is such an affable and sympathetic leading lady, she makes you want to experience the journey with her. She has such earnest quality about her that is a rarity amongst beautiful young starlets. Aussie actor Christopher Egan (who looks like a younger version of Matt Damon) makes for a pretty charming love interest, and the two have a considerable chemistry. But the highlight of the movie for me came when Franco Nero finally showed up, the way every prince charming did in those Disney fairy tale flicks… on a horse looking all macho and heroic! It’s schmaltzy no doubt, but I totally bought it and I couldn’t help get all teary-eyed in the scene when the two are reunited.

As I said in my trailer post though, the only head-scratching casting here is Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Babel) as the obligatory oblivious fiance. In the Special Features, it sounds like Bernal wanted to try a ‘lighter’ role, but the professional chef Victor is such a one-dimensional character that the talented Mexican actor is kind of wasted in this role.

In any case, I thought this was a nice little movie to spend on a Friday night. Definitely a good one to watch with the one you love.

***

Spirited Away (2001)

I’ve never been a fan of anime, even though growing up I did read a lot of Candy Candy manga novels. I had a high expectation going into this as the credentials are beyond impressive, according to IMDb Trivia: In 2006, this film was still the highest-grossing non-US-produced film in the world and still holds that record to this date. Spirited Away is also the first film to earn US$200 million before opening in the U.S. and the first anime film to be nominated for (and win) an Academy Award! Walt Disney Pictures dubbed this English adaptation, under the supervision of Pixar’s John Lasseter. Lasseter is a personal friend of the Spirited Away’s Hayao Miyazaki, considered one of the best Japanese animation directors.

The movie starts off when 10-year-old Chihiro, the protagonist, and her parents are on their way to their new home in the suburbs. Her dad inadvertently takes a wrong turn into a mysterious wooded path and ends up in front of a peculiar looking tunnel. Despite Chihiro’s persistent protests, her adventurous parents decide to enter the tunnel and find what looks like an abandoned theme park on the other side. As they wander around, they find a deserted restaurant and Chihiro’s parents decide to help themselves to some food while their daughter refuses to take part.

Chihiro finds a friend in Haku

The story pretty much picks up a few minutes later when Chihiro finds her parents have been transformed into food-gobbling farm animals and soon she too is whisked away into a magical and creepy world ruled by an old witch, with only a boy named Haku to help her to survive and hopefully be able to return to her own world once again.

This is definitely not a movie for young kids, there are imagery that would frighten them, and I even find myself spooked–not to mention grossed out–on a few occasions. The story actually speak to adults with themes of loyalty, courage, dedication, diligence, perseverance and ultimately love, that permeate Chihiro’s journey. I really sympathize with the previously-spoiled-brat young girl right from the get go and watching what she has to endure is heart-wrenching as well as uplifting. By the end, you really see her grow as a person and the message is that life lessons sometimes involve hard work and facing challenges head on without losing your identity.

Chihiro picks up interesting friends throughout her journey

I don’t know if it’s what the director intended, but I see the scene of cleansing of the stink spirit the same way that can happen on our human souls when we let it get bogged down with ‘junk’ and evil stuff. If we let all the bad stuff of this world ‘consume’ us and take over our lives, it can have awful consequences to ourselves as well as those around us, and sometimes it could take drastic measures to get rid of those so we could be ‘free’ once again.

Glad I finally got a chance to see this. Spirited Away totally lived up to the hype, it boasts a well-written, touching story and stunning visuals that definitely make a lasting impression on me. I don’t even mind the fact that this was dubbed to English, I normally would prefer that movies are left in its native language with subtitles.

I’m curious to check out Miyazaki’s other works now, such as Princess Monokone and Castle in the Sky.

***

If you’ve seen either of these titles and would like to add your thoughts about ’em, you’re more than welcome to do so!

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Letters to Juliet

TGIF, everybody! Wow, what a drastic weather change we have in the last week, going from a relatively balmy November (to us in the upper Midwest at least) to an arctic December with wind chills well below zero. But it sure feels like Christmas with all the snow-covered trees and that to me, is always a good thing.

Anyhoo, I don’t know if the Christmas season is making me a tad sentimental, but when I caught this trailer last night and I actually teared up a little. But then again, stories of long-lost love always gets me.

When a young American named Sophia (Amanda Seyfried) travels to the city of Verona, home of the star-crossed lover Juliet Capulet of Romeo and Juliet fame, she joins a group of volunteers who respond to letters to Juliet seeking advice about love. After answering one letter dated from 1957, she inspires its author (Vanessa Redgrave) to travel to Italy in search of her long-lost love, which sets off a chain of events that will bring a love into both their lives unlike anything they have ever imagined.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s sappy, yes, even predictable (the trailer kind of gives away the entire movie, what’s up with that?!), but for whatever reason, I really dig it. I have the exact opposite reaction when I saw Amy Adams’ pathetic Leap Year trailer, which also gives away the entire plot. I don’t even mind the Taylor Swift song, which given its name — Romeo & Juliet in case some of you don’t know — is quite fitting here.

I find it a bit of an amusing coincidence that just a few days ago I wrote a post about Timothy Dalton, who was Vanessa Redgrave’s lover for fourteen years before she married Franco Nero (who plays Lorenzo in the movie). It’s an inspired casting indeed  to reunite the two since Camelot (as Lancelot and Guinevere) back in 1967. Nero’s also still dashing at 68 — boy, Redgrave has great taste in men, doesn’t she? 🙂

Is Amanda Seyfried the new queen of young love? She also has another romantic drama coming up called Dear John with Channing Tatum. Her star is definitely on the rise. She seems to be a pretty versatile actress and pretty but in non-threatening kind of way (unlike Megan Fox, her co-star in Jennifer’s Body). She looks decent here, she makes me like her character and care about her journey. Aussie actor Christopher Egan also makes for a sympathetic potential ‘Romeo’ to Seyfried’s ‘Juliet.’ I first noticed Egan in NBC’s Kings (wonder what happens with that show, it was quite good) alongside Ian McShane and was impressed by his performance. The only peculiar casting here is Gael Garcial Bernal — who usually prefers indie fares — as the obligatory oblivious boyfriend. He is a great actor that’s under-utilized for this type of role. Hugh Dancy, who passed on the role, would’ve been a much better fit.

In any case, the scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous. I’d watch this flick just to indulge in all that lush views of Italian countryside. I wish I could transport myself there and get me out of this chilly rut we’d be stuck with for the next five months!