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Rating History

Les Misérables
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Call me a square, but I shed tears no less than three times during âLes Miserables,â? Tom Hooperâ(TM)s gritty, not-so-subtle movie-musical adaptation of the Broadway hit written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.

Originally performed in Paris and London and based on the novel by Victor Hugo, âLes Misâ? tells the story of unfairly persecuted peasant Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict who steals a loaf of bread and serves 19 cruel years on a chain gang under the rule of a crueler police inspector named Javert (Russell Crowe).

Once Valjean violates his parole and seeks a new life as a factory director and mayor, Javertâ(TM)s obsession grows and Valjean is forced into a life of fear, which is not a free life after all.

Much of Hugoâ(TM)s tale is about Valjeanâ(TM)s quest for redemption and freedom from the law. He adopts the young daughter of one of his former factory workers, a broken, dying woman named Fantine (Anne Hathaway), he faces confrontations with Javert throughout his life and must try to escape his fate while also protecting his adopted child, Cosette (Isabelle Allen).

After nine years pass, Cosette (played as an adult by Amanda Seyfried) and Valjean have moved and live near the site of a group revolutionaries, one of whom is named Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Cosette and Marius fall in love, Valjean faces the impending doom of Javertâ(TM)s ever-looming presence, and all of this takes place in the middle of a revolution.

Hooperâ(TM)s movie makes for loud, relentless melodrama, and all of the elements that have allowed audiences to connect with the stage musical for decades come together more or less intact in adaptation on screen. âLes Misâ? certainly has hit a cord or two with me since I first became aware of it as a kid, and to see it come together on screen so well is a joy.

The music is uncanny in its ability to pierce the soul. Boublil and Schönberg had angels on their shoulders when they originally wrote the musical, and in their composition of a new song in Hooper's adaptation, the same angels have returned.

Hooper and his crew even returned to Hugo's novel to draw out some of the details previously left out in order to enrich and tie the story together a bit better for the screen. Some added bits with Fantine's suffering and the adjusted string arrangements of "Lovely Ladies" brought to mind Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream." Indeed, some of this material has never seemed darker than it does now in the film, as the filmmakers drill down and find frightening places in which to place the beautiful, passionate songs.

What must be discussed first is Hooperâ(TM)s brilliant choice to have the actors sing live on set rather than record a soundtrack months ahead of time, the technique nearly every movie musical every made has used. The tremendous, raw live performances in the movie are crucial to the integrity of the music.

Jackman, Hathaway and Redmayne are the highlights in terms of both singing and acting, and Crowe plays Javert in a refreshingly different way, more quiet and tortured by his obsession. Despite his weaker singing chops, he delivers an intense, brooding performance that does justice to the character.

"Les Mis" should be the standard for all future movie musicals until something more effective is realized because it charges forward through its own world without flinching and unapologetically tells its story to the audience with a special passion not found often enough. Hooper directs with confidence, even when he gets ahead of himself from time to time. His is a faithful adaptation that should satisfy existing devotees of the show, including myself, and garner some new ones.

Through dark, dirty and gritty streets, Hugo's characters continue to plead, sing and suffer, and we continue to listen.

This Is the End
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

What do you end up with when you put Seth Rogan, James Franco, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson under one roof while the Rapture is going on outside, turning the Hollywood Hills and (presumably) the rest of the world into ashes and hellfire? Fortunately, you get what is undoubtedly one of the funniest movies of the year, nay, of the past decade.
"This is the End" features a truly ingenious cast in an equally ingenious premise: All of the above mentioned celebrities play obnoxious, cantankerous, whiney versions of themselves trapped inside James Franco's luxurious Hollywood home - definitely not the worst place you could hold up during the apocalypse.
All of them are there to begin with because they are partying with all of their famous friends, including, but not limited to: a perverted, coked-up Michael Cera who is hitting on Rihanna, Jason Segel, who laments the predictability of working on a network show like "How I Met Your Mother," Emma "Hermoine Granger" Watson, who scores some of the biggest laughs in the film, and Paul Rudd, who accidentally steps on and crushes a girl's skull once the chaos begins.
And once it begins, things get very bad and uproariously funny very quickly, with a bunch of hilarious actors lampooning their own careers, and their ineptitude and spoiled lifestyles in the face of such apocalyptic challenges as food and water shortages, lack of masturbation privacy, demonic possession, and loss of humanity.
That last one is important in this film, because the very reason why none of these guys has been Raptured, or saved, is because they are not worthy. So of course, throughout the movie they figure out they need to correct that and do good things in order to be allowed into the light. Doing good things, selfless things: that ends up being the most daunting task, especially for McBride, who revels in the darkness of his devilish end-of-the-world persona.
"This is the End" is the directorial debut of writing partners Rogan and Evan Goldberg ("Superbad," "Pineapple Express"), and they nail it. From scene to scene, the film never slows an inch and is incredibly consistent in its timing and laughs. I laughed so hard so many times that I'm sure I missed a number of jokes slipped in there in the dynamite script, which must have left a lot of room, too, for improv - I dare anyone not to lose it when Franco and McBride argue passionately about the overabundance of a particular bodily fluid that Franco has noticed around the house.
In a way, "This is the End" represents everything that last year's "The Watch," also co-written by Rogan and Goldberg, should and could have been. Fortunately, now we have a thoroughly funny and successfully mediation on similar ideas, featuring one of the best comedy ensembles I've seen and a surprisingly effective and emotional penultimate sequence featuring a certain famous Whitney Houston song I won't mention by name, but I'm sure you know what it is already.