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Les Miserables – the movie that tried to be a musical February 6, 2013

Posted by clintcarter in Movies, Music.
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You might think from the title that I’m hating on the movie, but you would only be partly right.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  I’m glad I saw it.  I recommend it highly.  However it wasn’t what it could have been.

There are 2 schools of thought regarding musical productions with most people leaning toward one or the other.  One school says that the music is paramount.  You only give a role to a person who has the musical chops to pull it off.  If they can act, it’s a plus – but they’ve got to have the voice.

The other school believes that the drama is what carries the production.  The characters must be believable, therefore you need someone who can transform into that character and take the audience on the journey with them.  If they can sing on pitch and have a decent range, they’ll work out great.

Both schools agree that the best solution is to find an individual who can nail both aspects.  But such individuals are few and far between so we end up settling for something on either side of optimal.

If I was a proponent of the drama school, Les Mis the movie would have achieved greatness in my eyes.  The characters in the main roles are all phenomenal actors in their own right and were even transcendent at moments (I’m looking at you Anne).

However, I don’t belong to the drama club.  I’m a card carrying member of Musicians Will Rule the World.  And so I was inevitably disappointed by the overall quality of the voices.  Going back and listening to the soundtrack without the aid of visual distraction only amplifies my opinion.

Overall Hugh did an acceptable job in his singing.  Although I wanted to stand up and curse when he started singing “Bring Him Home.”  That’s my favorite song in the whole production.  Couldn’t some vocal coach have taught Hugh how to use his falsetto?  He completely butchered the piece.  It was painful to be a part of that.

Russell Crowe. Do I really even need to go here?  Let’s suffice it to say that you are an actor extraordinaire Mr. Crowe, but I would not have allowed you to sing at my wedding.  Javert is one of my favorite characters from the musical.  When we saw Les Mis in October at the Civic Center with Andrew Varela playing the character, I was blown away by his voice.  When he sang “Stars”, his voice filled the whole hall and there was a moment of silent awe before the audience burst into applause.  Russell’s musical performance was so bad that I almost forgot that magical moment.  They should have used a voice-over for his songs.

Marius and Cosette’s voices were nice when they sang in ensembles, but by themselves their vibrato was too distracting.  Amanda Seyfried’s vibrato was out of control – sounding like a bleating goat.  Eddie Redmayne has a decent voice but the way he moved his jaw to create vibrato made me want to reach up onto the screen and hold his head still.  I had to stare at the background during “Empty Chairs” to enjoy the song.

Samantha Barks, Anne Hathaway, and Aaron Tveit all turned in excellent musical performances.  I was especially pleased with the song “Red and Black”.

Musically I was underwhelmed.  Visually I thought the work was excellent.  The scenes they added enhanced the story and I wasn’t bothered by the parts they left out.  If you’re looking for a good movie and you don’t mind singing, you’ve found one.  If you’re looking for musical excellence, I’d recommend watching one of the anniversary concerts of Les Miserables on Netflix.

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The Deathly Hallows part 1 November 22, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Movies.
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Carey and I saw the new Harry Potter film yesterday afternoon.  Now understand that this is coming from someone who is invested in this series.  I’ve read all of the books at least twice and I absolutely loved the last book “The Deathly Hallows”.

This movie was awful.  Barely anything happened to move the plot forward.  The entire movie could have fit into a 30 minute segment – yet they stretched it out for 150 minutes.

When I first heard that they were dividing the last book into 2 movies, it didn’t bother me.  It’s a big book and I figured there was at least that much material there.  Either I was way off, or they should have hired someone else to write the screenplay.  The movie pretty much boils down to 4 intense scenes (which are way too short) interspersed with 2 hours of boredom.

So disappointing.  In fact, once you look at the picture below, you’ve essentially seen three-quarters of the movie.

The acting was fine – standard fare for the series.  Don’t waste your money at the theater.  In fact don’t waste your time unless you are a hard core Potter fan.  Read the book instead.  You’ll be much happier.

Avatar January 31, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Movies.
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So yes, I realize that half of the world has already seen this movie.  But tonight I saw it for the first time.

The more I think about it, the more I like it.  I really enjoyed the experience.  It’s not a new storyline.  Imperial nation driving out indigenous people and one person finds themselves caught in the middle.  But the best stories can be told over and over.  I really felt like James Cameron did a fantastic job with getting you to the heart of that story.

The movie had a great pace and I never felt like it was dragging.  It is a long movie, but I don’t remember any of it that felt extraneous.  The technology and presentation was fantastic.  I’ve never really cared for 3D movies – they always seemed like a cheap trick to engage the audience when the story wasn’t sufficient.  This experience was different.  The 3D wasn’t used to surprise you, just to immerse you in the world – very effective and much appreciated.

One thing I found humorous – the final battle is a knife fight.  With all the variety available, it seems like action movies always come down to a final sword/knife combat.  Oh well, I guess it sells tickets.

Extraordinary Measures January 29, 2010

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Carey and I saw this movie last weekend.  It was a hard movie to watch as a parent – especially being away from the kids for a couple of days.  It’s a compelling story about a family that goes to extraordinary measures to seek a cure for the terminal disease that two of their kids have.  I strongly recommend seeing it.

One response that it brought out in us was gratitude for God’s undeserved grace in the life of our family.  He has blessed us with healthy children.  When you get a glimpse into the lives of families that struggle with ongoing health issues, it is hard to take your situation for granted any longer.

My Favorite Musicals January 15, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Movies, Music.
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Watching “Singing in the Rain” with the kids tonight.  It’s one of our favorite movies to watch as a family.  It got me to wondering about my top 10 musicals (both stage and movie) of all time.

10. Across the Universe – some fantastic remakes of Beatle’s songs

9. Jungle Book – no choice but to sing along

8. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – the barn raising is one of my favorite musical dancing scenes

7. The Little Mermaid – superb songwriting

6. Mary Poppins – Julie Andrews, the best musical actress of all time (and I’ll fight you for it)

5. Sound of Music – more Julie, I could listen to her sing all day

4. The Phantom of the Opera – haunting refrains and soaring melodies with captivating orchestration

3. Les Miserables – hands down my favorite stage production.  I love how the various characters deal with redemption

2. Moulin Rouge! – the music is phenomenal and it’s Obi Wan Kenobi singing. What’s not to like?

1. Singing in the Rain – charm, wit, great singing, great dancing, actors that look like they’re having a good time – you can’t beat it

Sherlock Holmes January 7, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Books, Movies.
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Carey and I were without kids last week so we went out for a late movie.  We caught Sherlock Holmes.  I was also in the middle of reading “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – so it made the movie that much more interesting.

I found the movie very entertaining and the characters very much in the spirit of the book.  The chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law was excellent and they did a fabulous job of recreating the brotherhood of Holmes and Watson – although neither has a particularly clear British accent so some of their banter gets lost.  I did feel that the film exaggerated Holmes as a fighter.  The book represents him as being able to hold his own, the movie portrays him as a honed and dangerous UFC fighter.

Outside of the fighting, I felt that the movie was fairly accurate for the historical period it portrayed.  A couple of the explosions might have been a little overdone, but not by much.  The movie did a great job of capturing Sherlock’s eccentricities, his genius and the world in which he existed.

All in all I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others.

Mamma Mia! October 1, 2009

Posted by clintcarter in Movies, Music.
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We watched “Mamma Mia!” last night for the first and only time. It was the film version of the musical that debuted in 1999 based on the music of ABBA.

I was sheltered as a child and therefore not at all familiar with ABBA – judge for yourself whether that is a blessing or a curse:)  As far as musicals go it was good.  They did a good job re-mixing the music and making it modern.  Not quite on par with the remakes of the Beatle’s songs in the movie “Across the Universe”, but decent.

The reason I will never be watching this movie again can be summed up in two words “Pierce Brosnan”.  The man is a good actor – no argument there.  However he should never be allowed to sing solos in public.  It was horrible and terrifying each time he opened his mouth to sing.  They should have dubbed over his singing parts with a better voice.

I figured since I’d never listened to the real ABBA that I should check them out on Youtube.

Star Trek June 12, 2009

Posted by clintcarter in Movies.
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Carey and I went to see Star Trek this week.  I’m not a Trekkie by any stretch, though I have seen all of the movies.  So I write from a position of familiarity rather than authority.

I loved the movie and felt like it was the best I’ve seen this year.  I thought the acting was superb (not always the case with Star Trek) and the chemistry between the main characters was excellent.  The storyline was interesting and I think it was ingenious to send these very familiar characters into a different future.  That way you don’t know what’s coming and there is a very real sense of danger that you don’t normally get from prequels.

I loved the ways in which they payed homage to the original actors.  Incredible job by the casting director.  It was a joy to revisit the characters when they were young and full of energy rather than when they are old and overweight.

For me, this was everything I hoped the Star Wars prequels would have been.  This movie breathed life back into the franchise and made me look forward to more.  Even for someone who wasn’t familiar with the franchise, like my wife, this was an enjoyable story.

Looking forward to seeing it again sometime.

The worst movie ever November 2, 2008

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Last Thursday night I went to Redbox to get a movie for Carey and I to watch.  The only thing I saw that looked halfway interesting was “Allan Quartermain and the Temple of Skulls”.  Here’s the Redbox description of the movie “Sean Cameron Michael stars as explorer Allan Quatermain in this adventure yarn, released just in time to whet the appetites of fans awaiting the fourth Indiana Jones film.”

I like Indiana Jones, so I thought, “why not”.  I approached it with very low expectations, but was open to being surprised.  I was definitely surprised.  There’s so much to tell you about it – I don’t even know where to begin.  The cover clearly shows airplanes, a lion, and Quartermain brandishing a whip -none of those elements were in the movie.  The movie title is “Temple of Skulls” I don’t recall that ever coming up during the course of the film.

I don’t know what I enjoyed more, the incredibly awkard dialogue, the plot and execution that didn’t even come close to working, the acting – there are no words.  If you gave me 2 weeks and $500 I could write, direct, and produce a movie much more watchable than this one.  My favorite moment (it’s hard to choose because there were so many) was the car chasing the train scene.  They are obviously going 5 mph but acting like it’s 60 mph.

I strongly recommend renting this movie from Redbox and watching it with friends.  The lack of everything needed to make a viewable movie is so appalling that it’s worth seeing.  My words to those involved in making this movie “Bravo for getting out there and giving it a shot.  Early returns say that you probably need to consider a different career path.”

Ghost Town October 10, 2008

Posted by clintcarter in Movies.
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Ghost Town is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen this year.  After seeing the preview I was cautiously optimistic that it would be worth viewing.  What I wasn’t prepared for were the moments of uncontrollable laughter.  And it wasn’t just me – the theater had 20-30 people in it and there were moments when collectively we could not stop laughing.

The chemistry between Kinnear and Gervais was brilliant.  The dialogue entertaining.  The humor was of “The Office” variety – awkward conversations, uncomfortable pauses – well done.  Gervais’s character was believable and hilarious.

It is a feel good movie – so if you’re looking for something unresolved and unsettling this isn’t your film – but really who wants a steady diet of that anyway.  Life is unresolved and unsettling enough – it’s nice to see things get wrapped up neatly on occasion.  The rating is PG-13 so don’t take your kids to see it.  This movie is definitely worth the price of admission.