Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Les Miserables
While Les Miserables makes for a wondering viewing experience as live theatre, as a movie – or maybe just as THIS movie – it doesn’t work. The artifice of live theatre accomodates opera well, using singing as a form of shorthand to convey characters’ emotions and thoughts since the audience can’t get right up close to the actors. On celluloid, however, it gets seriously clunky, as characters spend far too long singing every thought that comes into their heads. It wouldn’t be so bad if the movie wasn’t also obviously trying to go for a kind of gritty realism, and the dissonance between the opera and the movie’s reality is pretty glaring. I think it’s admirable that director Tom Hooper wanted to record all of the singing live on the set, but it was a completely unnecessary detail that only resulted in a somewhat lackluster soundtrack, especially when compared to other productions of Les Mis. Russell Crowe is godawful as Javert, and not since Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! has an actor strained so hard and so obviously to belt out his songs. Hugh Jackman is certainly giving it his all as ValJean, and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are fun as the innkeepers, even if they look like they just stepped in from the set of Sweeney Todd. The only real standout for me, though, was Anne Hathaway, whom I’ve never been completely sold on as an actress, but who really nails her one big song. Overall, the movie is a bit of a mess and tends to drag. But the costumes are decent and so is some of the singing. It just could have been a lot better.
3 out of 5

In my opinion, the only real reason to watch Lincoln is for the acting. Daniel Day-Lewis is superb as Abraham Lincoln, and conveys why Lincoln is such a compelling historical figure. The supporting cast is a who’s-who of great actors as well, with Tommy Lee Jones as his most curmudgeonly, but also featuring the likes of David Straithairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Lee Pace, Jared Harris and more. If you’re not interested in legislature, this movie will likely be quite a dry watch for you, but the production design is top notch, it’s well shot, and it’s destined to be the kind of movie that they watch in American History classes in high schools for decades to come. I wish I could say that it was more my flavour, but it’s worth sitting through the more slowly paced parts to get to the powerhouse performance by the lead actor. If I have one complaint, it’s that the movie never went big enough for my tastes, but I think that was a deliberate choice on Spielberg’s part.
3 out of 5

This tight little Hitchcock thriller once again proves that Hitch deserved his title as the master of suspense. Using only the most minimal elements – nine people on a lifeboat – this is the best kind of thriller story: the kind where you find yourself wondering what you would do in the same situation. Clocking in at a trim 90 minute running time, Lifeboat never wastes a second, and everything that is set up early on pays off beautifully later. Lifeboat proves that you don’t need a huge budget, a star-studded cast, or even more than one set to create a fantastic movie. All you need is some ingenuity and dark sensibilities – both of which Alfred Hitchcock possessed in spades.
4.5 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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