Flight (3 1/2 Stars)

Denzel Gives an Oscar-Worthy Performance

Of course, I cheated a bit since this review is written after the 2013 Academy Awards.  However, he absolutely deserved to be nominated with his role here as Captain Whip Whitaker.

The movie trailer is a bit deceiving because we expect Denzel to be, well, Denzel.  Calm.  Cool.  The Man.  However, he plays an atypical character from what we normally expect.  Whitaker is a self-destructing drunkard who can save a plane full of people but cannot save himself.

In fact, we are first introduced to him in a hotel room snorting a line of cocaine right before piloting a plane.  The plane experiences mechanical failure and Whitaker miraculously steers it to a “safe” crash landing.  Unfortunately for him, the government investigates the crash and can possibly learn he illegally had alcohol in his system during flight.

The crash landing sequence is an exciting rush to watch.  It’s not as exciting given we know everyone mostly survives.  Yet it is still suspenseful.  Through it all, we get to see Whitaker as the hero (or as typical Denzel) calmly do his best to land the plane.  One of the best moments was when he nonchalantly tells a stewardess to tell her son she loves him through the black box in case they do not survive.

The majority of the film deals with the aftermath of the crash.  Denzel’s Whitaker is a conflicted character, hating himself and his life. At times, we find him amusing to watch as he blunders around the screen.  And we pity him because that one heroic moment showed how great of a man he could be.

Like Liam Neeson, Denzel sometimes finds himself in movies that are not deserving of his talents.  I suppose it’s because he just the variety of roles and wants to have fun.  But every now and again, we get a movie like this that truly allows him to shine.

Les Miserables (2 1/2 Stars)

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway shine in an otherwise middling adaptation of the beloved musical Les Miserables.

Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, an ex-convict attempting to start a new life after prison.  However, his name and checkered past hinder any hope he has of making a living.  As a result, he breaks his parole and assumes a new identity.  His stern and  former jailer Javert continues to hound him, never believing a man can change.

Who knew Wolverine was a great singer?  Sure, I knew Hugh Jackman won a Tony award, yet I never heard him sing.  I liked Jackman well enough as an actor.  However, seeing him in this musical, I have a whole new appreciation for his talent.  Jackman imbues Valjean with a melancholy, noble spirit.

Anne Hathaway though is the outstanding performance despite only being on screen for less than a quarter of the film.  Her soul crushing “I Dreamed a Dream” clinches her the supporting actress Oscar.  The extreme close-up during her song is very effective to convey her vast pain and sadness.

On the other hand, Russell Crowe is the weakest of the troupe.  It feels as if the producers needed another big name to fill-out the cast, and they just chose Crowe rather than the best musical actor.  He’s actually a decent singer.  And he’s a more than capable actor.  Acting while singing is something he’s yet to master though.

Another weakness of this film adaptation is that it does not feel much like a film adaptation.  Certainly, it was an excellent choice to have the singing recorded live, allowing the actors to truly act at the same time.  Additionally, the extreme close-ups to see the raw emotion on the actors’ faces works at times.  Unfortunately, the big numbers in this musical do not seem any larger than what they would have been on stage.  Why bother with making a film if there is not much going to be different with it?

Although filled with great performances, Les Miserable ultimately fails to take advantage of its larger canvas.  But for a few scenes, the staging and choreography are not anything special compared to what could have been seen in the theater.

Les Miserables Spoilercast and Review (2 1/2 Stars)

We were too lazy to write-up our reviews.  Instead we chose to do a failed Google Hangout, switch to Skype, and then stitch together our podcast for you.  Yeah, that was much easier…

Download our Les Miserables Spoilercast or Stream it:

Les Miserables Trailer:

Up next time: Django Unchained

Les Miserables Spoilercast and Review (2 1/2 Stars)

We were too lazy to write-up our reviews.  Instead we chose to do a failed Google Hangout, switch to Skype, and then stitch together our podcast for you.  Yeah, that was much easier…

Download our Les Miserables Spoilercast or Stream it:

Les Miserables Trailer:

Up next time: Django Unchained