LesMis starring Wolverine, Gladiator, Cat Woman, Mean Girl, Marilyn’s escort, and Éponine

Friday, 28 December, 2012

Think about it for a moment, the stars of the amazing LesMis 2012 (see review) actually have played Wolverine, Gladiator, Cat Woman, Mean Girl, Marilyn’s escort, and Éponine! In this article, let me put videos of their LesMis roles side by side with these other roles. Have a watch. I hope they put a smile on your face.

Hugh Jackman & Russell Crowe sings “Javert Releases Prisoner 24601 On Parole

Hugh in X-Men Origins: Wolverine Trailer

Russell in Maximus Gladiator Speech with Fight with Russell Crowe

Anne Hathaway sings I Dreamed A Dream in Les Mis Trailer

Anne as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises – Batman and Catwoman Roof Fight

Amanda Seyfried (as Cosette) & Eddie Redmayne (as Marius Pontmercy) sings “A Heart Full Of Love

Amanda in Mean Girls

Eddie (as Marilyn Monroe‘s escort) in My Week With Marilyn. Also read him talk about his “Hellishly Scary” Les Mis Role and Binging When It Was All Over (via Vanity Fair).

And saving the best, to me, for last!

Samantha Barks sings “On My Own” in Les Mis 2012

Samantha starred as Éponine sings “On My Own” at the 25th anniversary performance of Les Miserables.

And as a bonus, the awesome Sacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier on the World Premiere red carpet chatting in a funny voice!

Sacha as Borat (in character) in this awesome Borat Interview on (American) CNN

Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier on the World Premiere red carpet chatting!

Helena as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Half-Blood Prince

This article is cross-posted by me to examiner.


Les Misérables Review: 8 observations from a man who watched #LesMis twice on Xmas Opening

Wednesday, 26 December, 2012

2012 #LesMis Christmas Eve composite

Continuing my musical preview (clips) tradition, I’ve been playing some LesMis songs especially Samantha Barks’ “On My Own” while I write these 8 observations:

  1. Yes, I watched #LesMis TWICE, back-to-back on Christmas Opening! Why not when it was C$7.99 per ticket thanks to cheap Tuesday pricing!
  2. The little boy and young Cosette absolutely stole my heart! Awesome job by Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Isabelle Allen as young Cosette. I totally expected the scenes with Isabelle’s Cosette to be great (a great young Cosette is key to LesMis), but Daniel’s Gavroche was a total breath of unexpected fresh air. What a lively performance. I do feel the scene of Gavroche‘s death could have been tweaked a little differently to make it even better.
  3. Anne Hathaway gave a wonderful performance as Fantine! I initially wrote (film unseen) and believed Anne would “create a transcending experience that we have NEVER experience in a LIVE singing musical film EVER.” After watching the film twice, I concluded that what made the film magical is the combined power of songs and images! Once I logically think that, I kinda forced myself to conclude all the songs (i.e. audio alone) in the LesMis 2012 can/will not replace the versions of the same stage versions I learned to love and treasure over the years. For me, I appreciate the wide vocal range and full volume of stage recorded musical versions which bring things up a notch, instead of to the near death tragic level matching the image we see on screen. Have a listen to “Lea Salonga – I Dreamed A Dream at the 25th Anniversary Concert” which I can listen to over and over again. I know Anne‘s rendition of I Dreamed A Dream made many people cry but I had expected so much much more from it and at the end it truly made me sad that I can’t honest say I love/like it. I wonder was it the camera movement, or the editing, or the really weak dying singing voice (in accordance to the style of the film)? I don’t know.
  4. Hugh Jackman gave an awesome performance.  I now confirm my belief that without Hugh, there is no LIVE singing LesMis! No disrespect to Hugh, I truly doubt the film’s renditions will have much lasting impact in replacing any other classics stage versions. By the way, you should know that “Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean in the Broadway and West End musical productions, makes a cameo appearance as the Bishop of Digne“! My ears were in heaven when I realized who Colm was and he was singing with Hugh!
  5. questioned openly if Russell Crowe can sing? Yes, Russell tried his best and he was great in ensemble scenes. And when the camera is closeup on Russell, his acting helped out his singing by quite a bit. Unfortunately, there were solo scenes that did not sound good enough, including the disappointing concluding classic number Javert’s Suicide. Given Russell is not a professional singer, I think he did the best he could.
  6. If you are curious, Roberta Duchak (Facebook) is the voice coach for Russell and Hugh.
  7. Samantha Barks rocks! You probably know Samantha actually “starred as Éponine in the London production of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre” for a year from 2010-2011. So no wonder her “On My Own” is so well sung.Have a watch of her spectacular “On My Own” at the 25th anniversary performance of Les Miserables. I hope she will get nominated for an Oscar best supporting actress so we can see more of her.
  8. The pairing of Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy rocks too. The scene where Cosette first met Marius was magical and remained magical for me the second time I watched it. Amanda has beautiful voice and she was perfectly casted as the innocent Cosette. I have seen Eddie acted before and now confirmed 100% that his voice is just divine. Yes, he also has won his Tony before.
  9. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the comic relief work done by Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier and Sacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier. Their roles added some needed fun and humour into a very serious film/musical. For those who can only see  Sacha as the crazy & rude Borat, I hope you now have been convinced. As Johnny Depp (his co-star in Sweeney Toddsaid of Sacha, “He’s kind of today’s equivalent of Peter Sellers.” Right on! And Helena is purely Helena! She can play this type of roles with both eyes closed and both hands tied in the back! Just awesome!
  10. I’ve seen two screenings, people clapped at the end of both screenings. A friend told me clapping also happened at her screening in Vancouver.
  11. Finally, LesMis 2012 changed the game of musical on film, I am not sure I can or will accept going by to watch lip-synced musical film. At the same time, live stage musical sang in a stage manner (over-exaggerated a bit, a la “Lea Salonga – I Dreamed A Dream“) will still be appreciated by musical lovers.
  12. Have a listen to “On My Own” “I Dreamed A Dream“.

This article is cross posted by me to examiner.

Bonus update Dec 27th: Adding the following after interesting discussions with commenters over here.

From Deborah: “I kind of feel that the expectations you mentioned having about Anne’s singing may have set up the disappointment. I, went in with little to no expectation of her singing, and felt it wrenched much more from me than Lea’s rendition. […] I am curious about how you would like to have tweaked Gavroche’s death. I felt something missing but as the film is still so fresh in my head, I do not know how I would like to fill that which is missing…”

My reply to Deborah: “Yes, you are right on. I, unfortunately, failed to keep my expectation in check and let it run wild. But then I truly believe what I wrote was possible. The problem is I was critical of Lea’s rendition before I watch Les Mis 2012 too! I even argue with my professionally trained singer/advisor (she sang soprano) saying Lea’s 25th anniversary rendition had some of the words sang way too clearly and enunciated way too prominently. Thus expecting Anne’s (actually, in general, a LIVE singing acting way) will be “better” and involve me emotionally even more! Well, I doubt my expectations could have been reachable by anyone. But if I were Tom Hopper, I would push and push more to try.
re Gavroche’s death: I think it is the script I have problem with. The death scene made me felt like Gavroche was taunting the soliders. It dragged on a few more movement than I want? May be kill him in with the second shot? I don’t know. I have to watch it again to say for sure. And the steadicam final look into his face seem odd. May be that is the position of his body or the look on his face?”

Deborah: “Oh – and I fell in love with the voices and the actresses portrayals of Cosette…”

My reply: “Which Cosette? :)
Isabelle Allen as young Cosette had to rock and she definitely did when she started singing in her scene!
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette is flawless too! She has to have the look of innocent and the voice of an angel to match. And she did. I like her when I first noticed Amanda Seyfried in Mean Girls. In fact, everyone did a good job in Mean Girls especially Lindsay Lohan. Lindsay is such a talented actress and I hope she can get back on track in her career. I felt she is one of the child actress that we (the viewing public) help wreck her life, of course, her own actions are to blame too, but then without the success provided by us public, she may live a different life.”


Les Misérables Christmas Eve Musical Preview – One Day More!

Monday, 24 December, 2012

2012 #LesMis Christmas Eve composite

Dear Lovers of Les Misérables music,

One Day More! The wait for our dear LesMis (2012) is almost over! To help me relax and get this article started, I looped songs from the original French concept album and listening to classics like À la volonté du peuple (aka Do You Hear the People Sing?) and J’aivais Rêvé d’Une Autre Vie (aka I Dreamed a Dream)) [HT Aulina for introducing me to the French originals.]

Feel free to listen to À la volonté du peuple or J’aivais Rêvé d’Une Autre Vie as you read along this! Now lets focus on a few things musical.

1) Yes, LIVE Singing!

What does LIVE Singing really mean? The actors & actresses you see on screen, their images and singing would have been recorded LIVE together. So no faking or lip syncing at all! The Live Singing is going to be awesome!

If you haven’t seen the Les Misérables Singing Live Featurette yet, it is totally worth a watch!

Now, the Les Mis promotional machine would want you to believe the film’s LIVE Singing is “ground breaking” and “never been done before” without qualification. The fact is filmmakers in the past have done it. Here is Candice Bergen singing in a comedic scene with Burt Reynolds in Starting Over. Don’t tell me Candice actually recorded this in studio first and then managed to lip sync to the bad comedic singing! :)

I guess I will be happier if the promotional hype is toned down a little.

2) Russell Crowe can seriously act! But seriously, can Russell sing?!

OK, Russell is in a rock band but this is Les Mis! And we are talking about the critical role of Javert! So I had to look for some positive reassurance. And I found Russell and Hugh Jackman singing in this Les Misérables clip. Unfortunately, the clip wasn’t quite the “high notes” I had hoped for. But as luck would have it, I ended up discovering & watching the YouTube clip of Russell and Hugh singing “The Confrontation” at a private Indoor Garden Party at Joe’s Pub NYC.

Sure, the sound quality in the clip and setup was no where near great but it strangely eased my worry a bit more. Not completely, but a little more. I see/hear something in the pub performance, and I trust Russell to be a perfectionist that he would have practiced a ton and done takes and takes and takes … until he and director Tom Hooper think he got things right. Following the “trust, but verify” advice: I trust Russell can deliver but I am eagerly waiting to watch the film to tell decide for myself!

3) Hugh Jackman can sing!!!

If there is an absolute “sure win” performance in Les Mis, it the  awesome Tony-award-winning Broadway star Hugh (also known for being Wolverine) ! His singing of “Who Am I” is wonderful and interesting. I will have a “risky” technical discussion later.

Now, is there anything the awesome Tony-award-winning Broadway star Hugh (also known for being Wolverine) can’t do?! Well, apparently he can make pancake too! Correction: not just pancake but Crêpe according to Anne on Letterman promoting the film!

Hugh Jackman’s opening number at the 2009 Oscars (with Anne)

4) I LOVE Anne Hathaway as Fantine!

If you haven’t done it already, please hear Anne sings and watch she performs I Dreamed a Dream in this trailer.

Anne‘s increasingly skillful acting, her 25 lb weight loss (absolutely crazy in creating the desired look), and her singing combine together will, I believe, create a transcending experience that we have NEVER experience in a LIVE singing musical film EVER.

I have to admit I used to quite like Les Misérables (1998 film) starring Liam NeesonGeoffrey RushUma Thurman, and Claire Danes. But when I recently borrowed the 1998 film from the library to watch again for my LesMis series research, I was only able to watch a few segments. I could not bare to watch it from beginning to end. As a drama with no singing, I found the film dry and a bit too much “Reason Before Passion“. LesMis needs the LIVE singing like we need oxygen, a LIVE singing film version of LesMis can, I hope, achieve “Reason alongside Passion“!

5) Samantha Barks can sing!!!

In case you don’t know already, Samantha actually “starred as Éponine in the London production of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre” for a year from 2010-2011. Have a watch of her spectacular “On My Own” at the 25th anniversary performance of Les Miserables. Based on the trailers and the behind the scenes clips, I totally think Samantha will shine like a bright star in LesMis (2012)!

HuffPost, “‘Les Miserables’ Trailer: Samantha Barks Steals The Show In New Preview

6) Amanda Seyfried as CosetteEddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy

Amanda and Eddie are nice actor & actress and I’ve seen some of their work and love them. And I found this clip “God Is With Us (Eddie Redmayne singing)“. Eddie has a beautiful voice!

By the way, Eddie seemed like a nice guy when he won his Tony.

7) Helena Bonham Carter as Madame ThénardierSacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier

It should be a ton of fun to watch Helena and Sacha (you may know him as the awesome Borat). Because of the types of songs the two roles will perform, I suspect the two talents can easily handle the singing. I was able to find Sacha singing in Sweeney Todd. Have a watch.

By the way, for those who can only think of Sacha as the crazy & rude Borat, here is what Johnny Depp (co-star in Sweeney Toddsaid of Sacha,

“He’s not what I expected. I didn’t look at those characters and think, This will be the sweetest guy in the world. He’s incredibly nice. A real gentleman, kind of elegant. I was impressed with him. He’s kind of today’s equivalent of Peter Sellers.”

8)  A risky technical discussion re singing

I am not a musician nor trained in music in anyway. So to do the research for this article, I asked my music advisor (a trained soprano) for help. She made the point that words have to be articulated and sung loud and clear. Now, I love Samantha‘s “On My Own” at the 25th anniversary performance, but that is not good enough for my “ideal” LesMis (2012) performance. Why? Here comes my risky take. I think Samantha sang “On My Own” in a much too articulated and loud/clear manner! My preferred performance is one that somewhat goes against the years of training professional singers have learned by heart. With sensitive mic near by shooting the scene and the singing, the performer can be free to let the sung words play a subservient role to the core emotion need to be expressed at that moment. Think about what I just wrote and watch “On My Own” again. Am I way off base?

Under the above stated thinking, I personally think Hugh‘s “Who Am I” rocks! I think it may have a chance to become a more enduring performance than the many other “Who Am I” that we’ve heard before.

9) Concluding Thoughts

I think LesMis (2012) should do very well with lovers of LesMis the musical and lovers of musicals in general. But for the film to be a success in the box office for the studios to try something like this again with other musicals (which I hope they do), LesMis will have to be successful with the general audiences.

If I have time and there are enough interest, I may write an article about the business of LesMis (2012). Until then, it is One Day More! Tomorrow is LesMis on Christmas!

Cool references:

1) Songs from Les Misérables

2) Here are À la volonté du peuple and J’aivais Rêvé d’Une Autre Vie for your listening pleasure! :)

3) TIME Magazine, “They Dreamed a Dream: Les Misérables Is a Whole New Kind of Movie Musical

Note: This article will be cross-posted by me at examiner.


2011 Oscar telecast – Ebert: “Dead. In. The. Water.” The Hollywood Reporter: one of the worst in history

Monday, 28 February, 2011

I had so much hope and good wishes for Oscar hosts James Franco (see this) and Anne Hathaway to do a good/reasonably good job. Instead, I was, like many others, terribly disappointed of the show itself from beginning to end. Don’t get me wrong, the award winners are well deserved of their Academy Awards, my disappointment is with the show itself. Boring and witless. There were only very few moments that I enjoy the show itself (e.g. Kirk Douglas was still very funny at 94 and great to watch).

When a show failed this spectacularly, there are enough blames to spread around, including the producers/directors (the most to blame?), the writers of the show/jokes, and others. What were these people thinking? Were their senses so out of tune with what constitute a good and fun to watch TV show?

The Hollywood Reporter, “83rd Annual Academy Awards: Television Review – Was it a bad idea to have actors host? No, it was spectacularly bad.” (emphasis added),

“In what could go down as one of the worst Oscar telecasts in history, a bad and risky idea — letting two actors host — proved out in spectacularly unwatchable fashion on the biggest of all nights for the film world.

Despite an overall rewarding of brilliant performances and no truly shocking didn’t-see-that-coming upsets, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards will likely be remembered as the night James Franco couldn’t act like a host.

It was not a great night to be on the Internet if you were one of Franco’s trusted advisers, as the likable, quirky actor was torched on Twitter and pimp-slapped across the web for his lifeless performance. He had no business agreeing to host the Oscars, and his resulting pratfall in front of — what, a billion people? — must have made David Letterman gleeful, as his stint will no longer be pointed out as some kind of nadir. Anne Hathaway at least tried to sing and dance and preen along to the goings on, but Franco seemed distant, uninterested and content to keep his Cheshire-cat-meets-smug smile on display throughout.

[…] Few awards shows ever learn that lesson or get the mix right. And to be fair, this Oscar telecast lacked spark from start to finish despite an impressive number of fine films and acting performances — and the hosts can only be blamed for so much. These Oscars were a bore-fest that seemed to drag on relentlessly but listlessly. Perhaps next time more thought will be put into actually making this a good television event. You can trot out all the big-name actors or directors you’d like, but nobody at home paid $11 to watch. The Academy Awards may be about movies, but it’s a TV show. Nobody feels any regret walking out or snapping off the set if you don’t entertain them. A good host is invaluable.

This year, the Oscars hit a new low. Like it fell into a hole.

Roger Ebert, “Oscars: “King” wins, show loses” (emphasis added),

Despite the many worthy nominated films, the Oscarcast was painfully dull, slow, witless, and hosted by the ill-matched James Franco and Anne Hathaway. She might have made a delightful foil for another partner, but Franco had a deer-in-the-headlights manner and read his lines robotically.

Incredibly, when former host Billy Crystal came onstage about two hours into the show, he got the first laughs all evening. This was the worst Oscarcast I’ve ever endured. It’s time for the Board of Governors to have a long, sad talk with itself.

At one point I tweeted: “If Bruce Vilanch is within 50 miles of the Kodak Pavilion, they should helicopter his ass backstage and put him to work.” I was quickly put straight. Vilanch, the comedy writer responsible for countless great lines in Oscarcasts past, was a writer on this year’s show. Since Franco and Hathaway lacked a single clever line, there must be an untold story.

[…] Again, I have to say this was the worst Oscarcast I’ve seen, and I go back a while. Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water.

ABC News via AP, “Oscarcast: Young Co-Hosts, but the Same Old Show“.

The Telegraph, “Oscars 2011: as it happened

NY Daily News, “Oscars 2011 winners: Kirk Douglas, at age 94, upstages hosts during best supporting actress award

***

Feb 28, 9:42 update: I think New Yorker is being too easy on James. I expect a lot more from James even he is a Yale Ph.D. student. If his heart isn’t into doing a great job, he should take the job. I admire people going out of their comfort zone to try new things, but James didn’t seem to give his all. Here is an excerpt from New Yorker,

QUESTION FROM EN: What did you think about the hosts?

DAVID DENBY: Ann was sweet, enthusiastic, changed dresses every few minutes; James was odd, as he often is in his performance (though it worked perfectly in 127 Hours)—sly grins, squints, looks off to the side, casual, throwaway delivery. I’m not sure he’s really cut out to be a movie star, or if he even wants it. He’s a Ph.D. student at Yale in the English Department at the moment.”

****

March 6 update:

Hollywood Reporter, “Live Blog of Oscars 2011 Telecast” (very readable)

Winnipeg Free Press, “That’s enough, kids; it’s the adults’ turn again

HuffPost, “James Franco: Oscar Host Says Ricky Gervais ‘Bombed’ At Golden Globes”


Funny Oscars Hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway

Friday, 25 February, 2011

Looks like Oscars Hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway are all set to be funny hosts. They even did a promo to spoof the Oscars. May be after watching Ricky Gervais in Golden Globe, they are trying to be funny in their own ways.

Boot camp.

Outakes.

Anne sings “Evita

Can you believe?

***

Ricky was trying to have some fun in his blog and wrote “a little opening” for James and Anne.

Oh, and good luck to James Franco and Anne Hathaway at The Oscars on Sunday. I know how nervous they must be right now.

They will do an absolutely fantastic job and don’t need my help, but I’ve written a little opening in case they have a few minutes to fill.

(Drum roll)

V.O.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please welcome your hosts for this evening…
James Franco and Anne Hathaway

(Music and applause)
(James and Anne walk out looking absolutely perfect)

JF
Hello and welcome to The 83rd Academy Awards,
Live from Los Angeles.

AH
That’s foreign for City of Angels.
And this room is certainly filled will those angels.

(Applause)

JF
Thank you. I’m James Franco.

AH
…and I’m Anne Hathaway.

JF
You probably know me from 127 Hours where I play a man trapped in an enclosed space who decides he would rather cut his own arm off than stay where he was. Now that sounds “way out” but wait till half way through this fucking ceremony and you’ll start to identify with him.

AH
And I’m the new Catwoman. The first white woman to play that role since Michelle Pfeiffer. I want it to be an inspiration to all white people everywhere. Your dreams can come true in Hollywood too.

JF
It’s a daunting task hosting The Oscars but we’re not alone. Presenting awards tonight will be a string of Hollywood legends and some other actors who have a film out in March or April. Read the rest of this entry »


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