Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Is Les Miserables (2012 Film) Worth My Time?

Les Misérables (2012) Poster

Acting: 4.5
Acting for this particular move also involves singing, as this was a musical.  All around, from everyone, the acting was superb.  If this were purely acting it would have received a 5.  I only have a few complaints about the singing, and the biggest one is a stylistic thing.  I do not particularly care for the way the sound was from some of the signers, some of the time.  I felt that occasionally it was too much of a swallowed sound for me.  I am sure the music director had their reasons, but I would have preferred a brighter sound in some places.  The next thing, which is pretty minor, is that I felt the Main stars, generally, did not sing as well as the "extras."  Now mind you, the "extras" are Broadway Actors/Actresses who perform this musical for a living, so one might expect that they would do a fantastic job.  And lastly I was disappointed by Russel Crow's singing.  He sang well, but I think a better singer could have been found.  A few times I felt he lacked the same amount of emotion that others had in the film.  This could have just been his interpretation of his character.  So overall these are very small things, and hardly hurt the overall score.

Cinematography: 4.75
I have decided to include makeup/costumes in this section as well.  There are some really fantastic cinematic shots that really catch the scope of what is happening.  To name one, the way the film starts, extraordinary.  The .25 loss of score comes from a two things.  1. Some of the special effects needed some polishing.  Obviously, not a huge deal, but still keeps it from being a 5.  2.  Helena Carter's costuming.  I do not know how much say she had in her costuming, but I think she had a fair amount of say, and this is where a majority of the 1/4 of a point comes from.  I do not know how many movies you have seen her in, but she seems to always have a style about her, a kind of pre-modern style.  In films such as Sweeney Todd, it fits, it adds to the story, gives some flair to a character.  Well it was present in this film as well, and I thought it seemed to take away from the historical credibility of the film.  

Plot: 4
The story is amazing.  Fantastically put together and I think highly enjoyable.  There are a few lulls in the plot, and I think it can be attributed to the fact that 90% of the movie was in song, and songs are really good about expressing how someone feels, and too much of that can put the breaks to the plot, even though it really helps with character development.  Again, because so much of the movie is in song we run into the problem of unclear events, especially in the beginning.  If the viewer is unfamiliar with the story it is very likely that they will become lost in the first half an hour or so, but after that the issue stops, the story slows down a bit and does not depend to highly on a full understanding of the beginning.  That being said, if you know the story, at least a bit, you should have no problems following it.  

My Score: 5
I have been so nit picky in the last sections I wanted to express here how much I enjoyed this movie.  I love music.  I love movies.  But generally I hate musicals in movie form.  I find them to be cheesy, unrealistic, and poor musically.  However, I have really been getting into the dark musicals, like this one and Sweeney Todd.  The music in this film was better than anything I had hoped for.  

I remember when I first watched Sweeney Todd.  I had no idea it was a musical, I just knew that it had Johnny Depp in it and I had heard how good it was.  So I sat down by myself to watch it and was presently 
surprised to find out it was a musical.  Even better yet was that the film did three straight songs with minimal talking between them.  I had hoped that the whole move would be that way, and was slightly disappointed when more dialog found its way into the movie.  Since that day I have been dreaming of a serious musical that had none to little talking.  I looked and looked but could not find one.  I had resigned to the idea that there was not one to be had, nor could it ever happen.  

Now, I knew that Les Miserables was a musical, but when I heard that it had accomplished this, I immediately thought my source was just exaggerating, after all it was ABC News Good Morning America.  I cannot express to you how pleased I was that it went the entire movie and used less than a page of spoken dialog. (That is not a fact, it is just an approximation  it may have been more than that, but I promise, it is not much more than that.)  Not only did it involve tons of music, but it was so successful in telling the story.  It could have very well failed at telling a cohesive story with all that music.  If this is the future of musicals, we have many exciting movies coming our way. 

Overall Average: 4.6
The movie runs about 2.5 hours.  I think it draws to a close after a correct amount of time.  It is rated PG-13, and I think that may be a little young.  Some of the ideas and events depicted may be suited better for a slightly older audience,  just use good judgement.  You know your children better than I do.  If you do not like musicals, just stay away from this movie, read the book, or watch one of the older versions, the one that is not a musical, 1950 something I think.  Otherwise have some tissues handy, and be prepared to be in awe the entire time. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is 1984 Worth My Time?

1984 By George Orwell

1984I am an Education major at school.  We have a professor who has a subscription to scholastic.  Every now and then she picks a helper to do the work for this subscription.  She picks a new helper when her current helper goes into student teaching.  The helper basically puts the order forms out, collects them, orders the books, and then passes the books out.  The helper then gets points to spend on scholastic, based on how much money you raise scholastic, and then the helper orders books, for free.  I am the helper and I have been building my collection of young adult / high school literature.  This is the first book I finished from that collection.

In high school we were expected to read 1984.  I did not.  I was not much into reading at that time, well I was, but for some reason assigned reading just seemed like work, and that was not what I wanted to read, instead I read mostly Harry Potter throughout high school. I wish I would have read this book then, like I was supposed to.

It is a fairly dense book.  Not much dialog, and lots of introspective thoughts.  Orwell created a very believable environment.  So believable, in fact, that  it could happen.  I think that is why it is such a successful book.  It is so easy to draw parallels with the book and the real world.  Even more scary than that, is the fact that it was written in 1949.  Orwell seemed to know what the future held for us if things do not change.  Yes the year 1984 came and went, but the year is ambiguous, it could be 2084 or 2149, it does not matter.  What does matter is the intuitiveness he showed in writing what the world could look like.  I enjoyed it very much and I think some of you will as well.

Is "Blank" of Dune Worth My Time

Paul of Dune
Winds of Dune

By Brian Herbert 
and Kevin J. Anderson

In short, no.  I know, my first real poor review of books from the Dune Universe.

If you really like the universe, and you really want to learn more about it, you should read them.  I have a few reasons for not liking them.

I knew what was going to happen, basically   Because of where the books are in the series I just knew what needed to happen to fit the story, but how we got there was sometimes unexpected.  Both books are similar in structure, they involve two stories in one book.  Think of it as a flashback, every few chapters we go back in time to learn about the past.  Honestly, I found the flashbacks of the books to be more enjoyable than the main story.  There was very little character development, mainly because it is mostly done in other books, that were written awhile ago.   

These books provide good facts about events that happened, but do little in expanding those event to anything special.  To be fair, to make them to special would surly steal some thunder from previous books, which would not be good either.  These books just give the feeling of filler, something that was unneeded,  doesn't really add anything special, and just fills some small gaps.  I do not regret reading them, but have no real desire to read it again.

If you want to know where they fit chronologically, here you go.  Red titles are by Frank Herbert, the rest by Kevin and Brian.

Dune The Butlerian Jihad
Dune The Machine Crusade
Dune The Battle of Corrin

Dune House Atreides
Dune House Harkonnen
Dune House Corrino

Paul of Dune
Dune Messiah
Winds of Dune
Children of Dune
God Emperor of Dune
Heretics of Dune
Chapterhouse Dune

Hunters of Dune
Sandworms of Dune

These authors have released a new book, Sisterhood of Dune.  From what I understand it is the first book in a new trilogy.  I will not be reading it until the other books are released as well, as I do not want to read it, then have a year or so to forget what is in it and then read the next one.