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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

J.J. Abrams Turned Down Star Wars

Lifelong Star Wars fan J.J. Abrams will remain just that.

Colin Trevorrow Tiptoes Around 'Star Wars' Speculation, Looks to the Future The writer-director-producer, who has pumped blood into the second iteration of the Mission: Impossible series and fully revived Star Trek for the big screen, told Empire magazine that while he met with new series producer Kathleen Kennedy about involvement in Star Wars: Episode VII, he decided against hopping aboard.

"There were the very early conversations, and I quickly said that, because of my loyalty to Star Trek and also just being a fan, I wouldn't even want to be involved in the next version of those things," he told the magazine. "I declined any involvement very early on. I'd rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them."

Abrams has said that while he grew up as a major Star Wars fan, he was not particularly in love with Star Trek, which made it easier to reboot the saga -- which now stars Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock -- for the 21st century.

His next Trek movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, is set to hit theaters in June. The first film, released in 2009, took in $385 million worldwide.

As for Star Wars, it has been announced that Toy Story 3 scribe Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, will write Episode VII, while Lawrence Kasdan -- who wrote The Empire Strikes Back -- and Simon Kinberg will write new installments, as well.

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CIRQUE DU SOLEIL Review. Circus On Crack


Rama comes in with another review.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY 3D is like Circus on crack. What a spellbinding visual splendor of a joyride! You won’t believe your eyes! You’re going to be bombarded with so many colors, stunning stage spectacles, creative transitions and clever choreographies, that you may get brain freeze by the time this film or should I say attraction, ends…

A young woman is entranced by an Aerialist. When they fall into the dreamlike world of Cirque du Soleil and are separated, they travel through the different tent worlds trying to find each other.

When I first saw footage and clips of this film, months ago, I thought it was just another effort by 3D preacher James Cameron to try and jam 3D down our throats again, but I was willing to give it a shot, because I’ve always been a big fan of Cirque Du Soleil, although the only show of theirs I’ve ever watched was Zumanity in Las Vegas. But these guys are extraordinary athletic, I think each of them could get a gold medal if they ever complete in the Olympics for the gymnastic rounds. What makes CIRQUE DU SOLEIL world renown is that they always bring something new to the table, there’s always an acrobat or a movement that’s just groundbreaking and never been seen before and only they can pull it off. In many ways, it’s like watching an elaborate magic trick from a grand illusionist, and that’s exactly what this film accomplishes.

The story by writer/director Andrew Adamson, may be thin but I think even he understands that audiences aren’t too concerned about the plot or whether or not the cute girl would be reunited with her Aeralist crush, just as long as they and the rest of the crew put on a good show. For the sake of the story, there’s even protagonist and antagonist but in between you get lots of interesting colorful characters that may or may not have any connection to the story but the acts that they can do will blow your mind. There’s one segment involving a lady inside a giant bowl of water, and that’s the only vicinity that she worked in, the way the camera capture her every movement just took my breath away. How the film combines natural elements with practical effects is a treat, the 3D effects puts your senses to a whole other test. The film even pays tribute to the old classic circus tent and carnival that some of us grew up with. Though at times it does move and feel like some kind of national geographic documentary.

But CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY 3D is for those of us who can’t afford the expensive tickets to see them perform live in Vegas. You can now enjoy the incredible wonder at the comfort of your local 3D theaters.

GRADE: 4 out of 5

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Trailer For Eli Roth's Aftershock

Here is the first trailer for Aftershock, which boasts Roth starring, co-writing and producing (but leaving the director’s chair to co-writer Nicolas Lopez) finds the Hostel man as a bloke looking for some fun in Chile.

The traveler is introduced to a cool underground nightclub where the booze flows, the music plays and the ceiling suddenly collapses. That last part isn’t actually one of the club’s selling points, as a deadly earthquake has hit the place.

And that’s the least of the problems – when our hero and his surviving friends make it out of the subterranean death trap, they discover that the local prison was damaged by the trembler and the prisoners have taken their chance to go full Andy Dufresne. Except instead of making for a beach on the coast of Zihuatanejo, the cons are roving the streets killing people.

Who will survive? And what will be left of them? Only the film can answer that. Roth’s co-stars include Selena Gomez, Ariel Levy, Andrea Osvart and Lorenza Izzo.

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Source-Empire

Sharlto Copley As Kruger From Elysium

First look at  Sharlto Copley in Neill ‘District 9’ Blomkamp's upcoming dystopian epic ElysiumCopley will be playing the film’s villain Kruger.

Elysium is set in the year 2159, and pits the oppressed people of the ruined planet Earth against the privileged elite aboard the Elysium space station. Matt Damon is ex-convict man-on-a-mission Max, fighting with the Terrans for equality, and Jodie Foster is the dastardly government official intent on enforcing anti-immigration laws and keeping Elysium for the Elysians; Kruger is her relentless attack dog.

Reports over the summer seemed to suggest that Copley, who of course starred for Blomkamp in District 9, had one eye on Heath Ledger's Joker for the role of the black-ops military nutbag, but Copley tells Empire this was a misunderstanding. "The Joker was a mistaken reference," he says. "I was really just saying that that was the last time I saw a villain that inspired me: somebody that set the bar. There’s no connection or likeness to The Joker in terms of the character. What I did with him — which I try to do with all my original characters — was draw from real life. I combined references from a very infamous South African military battalion called 32 Battalion, that fought in the Border Wars in South Africa, and a stereotype of character that you get in the south of Johannesburg, where the guys are a little bit more comfortable with violence!"

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Parental Guidance Review. The Film Is A Victim Of The Times

Parental Guidance Review
By: MattInRC

The inoffensive but bland Parental Guidance is a nice throwback for families. And that's the problem.

There was a time when nice live-action family comedies ruled the movie theaters. Forget about well-made, Oscar nominated-fare - we're talking about films you could sit your kids in front of for a good laugh while still appealing to mom and dad with hidden sexual innuendos. Parenthood, Father of the Bride, Christmas Vacation, and Home Alone became instant classics that extended the careers of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and other mid-aged actors desperately looking for paychecks. Today, many of these films feel antiquated and down-right tedious with their gags falling flat and the cuteness factor reminding us of cheesy schmaltz. I'm not sure what has caused us to look so negatively at these used-to-be classics, but they've certainly not held up. Parental Guidance finds itself a potential victim of the times in which we live, an inoffensive but mostly bland production that would have been very funny back in 1992.

After Artie (Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally) loses his job announcing a minor league baseball team, he and wife Diane (Bette Midler, For the Boys) get a phone call from their daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler) who needs the grandparents to watch their kids while she and husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott, That Thing You Do) accept an award in Atlanta. Artie and Diane are as old-school as they get, out of touch with modern society on every level and earning the moniker 'the other grandparents' from Diane. On the other extreme are Phil and Alice, whose 'helicopter' parental style has them absolutely involved in every aspect of their children's upbringing. This effort yields a stuttering Turner (Joshua Rush), a rambunctious Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), and the overachiever Turner (Bailee Madison). They're not allowed to eat sugar, and must say 3 nice things when in an argument. Thus, our generational dysfunction is set in motion, as Artie and Alice struggle to adapt with not only the kids but with Phli and Diane's ultra-modern house. As several manufactured deadlines present themselves, the multi-generational cast must work together to solve them without killing each other or getting arrested by the police.

Director Andy Fickman (Race to Witch Mountain) crafts a fairly uninspired concoction, with a tolerable outer skin that's mostly thin of imagination at its dull center. The script by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse (Surf's Up) feels dead on arrival, complete with a series of gags that would have been funny 20 years ago. Stipper poles for old people? Seen that before. Vomit and pee? That's so New Girl. Midler and Crystal are funny enough, and our young actors do a fair job squinting, shrugging, and smirking for the camera - but like every movie involving kids, their antics soon get old, leaving us to wish the grandparents would have employed the highly effective wooden spoon as a behavioral adjustment tool. Still, the film has its moments, such as Artie's efforts to get Barker to go #2 in a disgusting bathroom. There's also the surprising decision to deny Artie his dream job of announcing for the Giants, forced instead to tutor Turner with his aspirations of becoming an announcer himself. This would have been unthinkable in previous family movies, but it's good someone had the strength to insert it. But by the time we get there, we're no longer emotionally involved, content to let our three generations of family members enjoy the rest of their white-picket fence lives that seem so detached from our own.

Considering the vast amounts of schmaltz thrown into Guidance, one cannot help but draw comparisons to those 1990's Steve Martin comedies. And that's the problem, because we've become so desensitized in our comedic limits that Guidance just feels out of place. Hollywood has stooped so low that clean family films no longer seem to have a place. Had it come out 20 years ago, it might have been hailed as one of the great family films of that time. In ours however, it's slow, overly sentimental, and even tedious at points.11

Parental Guidance reminds us of what funny family films used to look like, but its execution fails on too many levels to recommend it. As the credits begin to roll, showing old photos of our actors and their families, we're reminded just how nice this film wants to be, but how utterly out of time it feels. If this film is meant to inspire better relationships with our grandparents, it could have done it so much better and still retain its PG rating. Given these shortcomings, I can't recommend it beyond a rainy-day video on the couch. Parental Guidance is rated PG for language and adult situations, and has a runtime of 104 minutes.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR Coming To Sacramento January 3rd to 6th


Visit www.dreamworksdragonslive.com to purchase tickets.

Following critically acclaimed engagements in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States,  DREAMWORKS’ HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR continues to wow audiences across the US, setting a new standard for live entertainment. Here’s what critic Michael Grossberg of the Columbus Dispatch wrote about the show, which just played the Schottenstein Center this past weekend:

“Leavened with comedy and consistent thrills, the two-act production expertly adapts the popular 2010 3D DreamWorks Animation film based on the 2003 book. In some ways, the more dramatic fight, flight and chase sequences seem even more effective onstage because of the nearly seamless way the creative team blends the live action with giant cinematic projections on a large rear screen and larger football-field floor.” “Impressive effects and epic staging ensure that family audiences get their money’s worth”

“Kids of all ages were enraptured by dragons that fly, belch smoke, spout flames and purr with contentment when petted.” “The epic fantasia, in which the dragons just keep getting bigger until a true monster appears near the end, blends technology, cinema, theater, dance, music, pyrotechnics and much more . . . no one has attempted such a complex fusion of elements before in a show, especially on tour.” DREAMWORKS’ HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR will celebrate the 150th performance of its world tour on Saturday, October 27th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Bradley Center.

Upcoming dates: 2012 
December 26-30 San Jose, CA HP Pavilion at San Jose 2013 
January 3-6 Sacramento, CA Powerbalance Pavilion 
January 10-13 Salt Lake City, UT EnergySolutions Arena 
January 17-20 Anaheim, CA Honda Center
Visit www.dreamworksdragonslive.com for on-sale dates and other ticket information.

Created by the studio that brought us blockbuster hits such as Shrek and Madagascar, The HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR was produced by the storytellers at DreamWorks Animation, and Global Creatures, the masterminds behind the international phenomenon Walking with Dinosaurs, the #1 grossing world tour of 2010. The tour is exclusively promoted by S2BN Entertainment.

Inspired by the hit movie How To Train Your Dragon, this live event is a never-before-seen production that audiences of all ages will never forget. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR features more than a dozen dragons, some with wingspans of up to 46 feet, Viking warriors and world-class circus artists and acrobats combined with a heartwarming story that truly delivers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the entire family.

Fire-breathing action, epic adventure and heartfelt laughter come together in a captivating story set in the mythical world of Vikings and wild dragons. Based on the book by Cressida Cowell, it centers on Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

Sponsored by HP, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR is brought to life through state-of-the-art technology unlike anything ever seen before in a live event experience. Through DreamWorks Animation’s ongoing strategic relationship with HP, HP technology is part of the digital backbone for the production, providing family audiences across the globe with the most captivating live entertainment possible.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR breaks every rule of theatrical entertainment to fully immerse audiences into the show in ways that have not been attempted before. Barely contained within the arena, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR utilizes the full venue,maximizing every dimension of the performance space to transport audiences into a mythical world of fire-breathing dragons who soar overhead at great speeds. The state-of-the-art animatronic technology and large-scale cinematic projections interact seamlessly with the live actors, who bring DreamWorks Animation’s heart-warming story to life through theatrical storytelling, martial arts and acrobatics.

Young Hollywood actor Riley Miner, an accomplished dancer and musical theater performer, will play the lead role of Hiccup. Joining Miner to share the role of Hiccup is Rarmian Newton, who won a Helpmann Award for his performance in the Australian production of Billy Elliot The Musical (2008). American stunt performer Gemma Nguyen, a third degree Black Belt and six-time world champion in Tae Kwon Do, plays Astrid. Sharing the role of Astrid is Queenslander Sarah McCreanor who has starred in her own comedic productions and performed in a range of musicals and comedy shows. Stalwart Australian actor Robert Morgan plays Stoick, Hiccup’s father and the rough and ready old-school chieftain of the brawny Viking tribe. American Will Watkins will star as Gobber; French Kung Fu champion and stuntman Godefroy Ryckewaert plays Snotlout and Texan hip-hop dancer and rapper Dexter Mayfield will play Fishlegs. Australian hip-hop and break-dancer Virackhaly Ngeth has been cast as Ruffnut and Sydney break-dancer Frace Luke Mercado, a founding member of SKB (Street Kulture Breakers), as Tuffnut.

The cast of performers is assisted by an international technical team who has collectively created many of the world’s most memorable spectacles. The team is led by award-winning director Nigel Jamieson, who won the 2011 Helpmann Award as Best Director for his production of Opera Australia’s La Fanciulla del West, as well as production designer Peter England and costume / projection designer Dan Potra. The dragons themselves are created by Sonny Tilders and his team at The Creature Technology Company, whose work includes Walking With Dinosaurs – the Arena Spectacular. The cast of dragons pays homage to all of the favorites from the DreamWorks Animation film, including the single largest animatronic creature ever made by The Creature Technology Company. The stunning score features compositions from Icelandic singer-songwriter Jonsi from Sigur Ros and Oscar-nominated British film composer John Powell, who created the original score for the feature film.


DreamWorks Animation creates high-quality entertainment, including CG animated feature films, television specials and series, live entertainment properties and online virtual worlds, meant for audiences around the world. DreamWorks Animation is the largest animation studio in the world and has released 23 animated feature films, which have enjoyed both critical and commercial successes. These include the franchise properties of Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. DreamWorks Animation became the first studio to produce all of its feature films in 3D and in 2010 became the first Company to release three CG feature films in 3D in a single year. The Company has been named one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” by FORTUNE® Magazine for four consecutive years. In 2012, DreamWorks Animation ranks #14 on the list. DreamWorks Theatricals was established by DreamWorks Animation in 2007 to develop and produce live stage and arena show productions inspired by the Company’s franchise properties. DreamWorks Theatricals productions are guided by much of the creative leadership team that develops the studio’s award-winning feature films.


Global Creatures is an international entertainment group that develops new and exciting theatrical productions to take to audiences around the world. The animatronics arm, The Creature Technology Company, invents and deploys the latest in animatronic design. Their hugely successful production Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular, based on the award winning BBC TV series, represents a new entertainment genre all on its own. The production is a spectacle of unprecedented size and quality, which captivates young and old alike. The Walking with Dinosaurs tour was the number one tour worldwide in 2010. Global Creatures has announced King Kong – Live on Stage, which will be produced in co-operation with the estate of “Kong” creator Merian C. Cooper. Global Creatures and Bazmark (the multi-media company founded and owned by Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin) have announced a partnership to produce a stage musical adaptation of the first movie of Baz Luhrmann’s ground-breaking Red Curtain Trilogy, Strictly Ballroom.


S2BN is an entertainment company specializing in the production of family oriented shows for theatres and arenas. Currently, S2BN has three successful shows in operation, the record breaking smash hit Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway, Rock of Ages now in its 4th year on Broadway, recently opened in London, touring throughout North America and on June 1st, 2012 a major Warner Brother Picture Release, and thirdly, Fuerza Bruta, also in11 its 5th year in New York and touring throughout the world. For 30+ years S2BN’s leadership have been dominant and innovative forces in the international concert touring industry, working in exclusive partnerships with renowned, global artist such as The Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, U2 and Pink Floyd amongst many others. In that time they have also created and/or promoted a wide range of unique family entertainment attractions in tennis, figure skating, motorsports, boxing and wrestling as well as theatre, opera and symphony.


The RZO Companies group was formed on July 1, 1988 through the merger of Sound Advice, Inc. and Joseph Rascoff & Company, Inc. by their principals William Zysblat and Joseph Rascoff, respectively. For over twenty-five years, RZO and its predecessor organizations have been actively involved in the music business as tour producers and full-service business managers. RZO has represented such illustrious music artists as Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Sting, U2, The Police, Luis Miguel, Patti LaBelle, David Byrne and many others. The Company also represents personalities such as Carson Daly and Iman, along with the Estates of John Lennon and Ira and George Gershwin.

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Win Tickets to An Advance Screening For ZERO DARK THIRTY In Sacramento

Win your tickets to see an advance screening for ZERO DARK THIRTY! The screening is on January 9, 2013 - 7:00 PM at Regal Natomas Stadium 16 in Sacramento.

Oscar-winner and action goddess Kathryn Bigelow is back on our screens very soon with ZERO DARK THIRTY, a story about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, and a new poster and new images for the film are live.  

Jessica Chastain stars as a member of the small CIA team dedicated to tracking down the terrorist leader in a hunt that spanned a decade, with support from Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Frank Grillo, Chris Pratt, Harold Perrineau, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, Scott Adkins, James Gandolfini, Jennifer Ehle and Jason Clarke. Yes: turns out you can attract quite the cast when your previous film won all the Oscars.


Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and why not come and follow me on Twitter also. 

Official Website-

See how to win tickets after the Jump...

Please go to Gofobo.com

Enter Code: SANDJTFR 

DISCLAIMER: ARRIVE EARLY! SEATING IS FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED, EXCEPT FOR MEMBERS OF THE REVIEWING PRESS. THEATER IS OVERBOOKED TO ENSURE A FULL HOUSE. THEATRE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR OVERBOOKING. THIS PASS DOES NOT GUARANTEE ADMISSION AND MUST BE SURRENDERED UPON DEMAND. NO ONE WILL BE ADMITTED WITHOUT A TICKET AND ONLY REVIEWING PRESS WILL BE ADMITTED AFTER THE SCREENING BEGINS. Duplicate passes will not be accepted. Screening passes are non transferable. This ticket is NOT for resale. Reselling of tickets is strictly prohibited and punishable by law. All those found in violation will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. MPAA - No Recording This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device*, you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device.

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Jack Reacher Review. Action-Packed Movie

Jack Reacher Review
By: MattInRC

Jack Reacher is a fun, action-packed movie that's a little too smart for its own good. But we're OK with that.

Considering the violent and mind-numbing December we've been forced to endure, it seemed like Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher could have become a victim of circumstance. The events of Sandy Hook have shocked us all, and the studios, ever worried about public opinion, actually considered postponing the film due to its violent opening. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, resulting in a well-acted and solidly shot effort, even if some of the comedy is definitely out of place.

Based on the series of books by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is a detective thriller. Don't let some of the trailers suggest it's a yuck-fest: it's a little smart, a lot violent, and very disturbing in other places. Cruise plays the titular Reacher, an ex-military MP and sniper turned drifter who's entirely off the digital grid. He travels on Greyhounds, pays cash for everything, and doesn't even own a cell phone. When another sniper James Barr kills five on a sunny day outside Pittsburgh Pirates stadium, Reacher's name is uttered by the suspect as a sort of cry for help to prove his innocence. Already aware of the incident, Reacher arrives to prove his guilt - he and Barr go back, and that's not a good thing. Enter Barr's attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike, Die Another Day) who's determined to prove his innocence. As Reacher peels back the banana (or in this case the onion), he and Helen realize that dangerous forces are in play, led by the Serbian ex-con The Zec (Werner Herzog, Bad Lieutenant: PONO). But Jack is unfazed, even if he doesn't have the support of police detective Emerson (David Oyelowo, Lincoln) or the DA (Richard Jenkins, A Cabin in the Woods). As Zec's criminal underworld tracks Reacher and the police issue an arrest warrant resulting in a terrific car chase scene, Jack and Helen enlist the help of gun range owner Cash (Robert Duval, Apocalypse Now) to help root out the shooter's true identity.

Some fans of the books have decried the casting of Cruise, whose 5'2" stature seems ill-equipped to handle the 6'4" physique of the man in Child's novels. Get over it: Cruise handles physicality with ease, and his intensity comes across in every scene, thus making every brutal fight he's in that much more enjoyable. He's also an excellent dramatic actor, adept at turning that intensity into charm and intelligence one minute, and single-minded detective the next. Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) enlists the skills of Cinematographer Caleb Dechanel (The Patriot) to craft a finely-tuned machine of a film, whether it's a no-holds barred fight in the rain near film's end, or in creating fierce tension that makes you want to love him. McQuarrie gets the most grim attitude possible from Cruise who in turn makes everyone around him better. Pike, one of the least utilized female talents in Hollywood, benefits greatly from Cruise's appearance, which I hope is not lost on directors looking for an visually appealing and solid female lead for their future projects. Herzog is just plain creepy as the Serbian with literally nothing to lose, making his appearance all that more believable. Sadly, he and Cruise share only one scene, making us hope we see the two paired again in a future production. Cruise and Duval haven't appeared together since Days of Thunder, a fact which I hope both will endeavor to change. They have a special chemistry, almost as if the time between DOT and Reacher were months, not years. That pays off in several very good scenes that form essential building blocks in the second and third acts.

There's some things about Reacher that fall short, among them a baseball bat scene which seems neither relative to the story nor well-executed. I never read One Shot, but if this silly act was in the story, then it should have been left on the editing room floor. Comedy in the wake of action makes the comedy even better, as audiences can breathe a bit before the next tense scene. There's also a general sense that Cruise will get his man - as he always does - which is OK so long as the action and dialogue which gets us to that point is effective. Much of Reacher works in this regard, but it also felt like Cruise and McQuarrie left something on the table, like their effort was missing something. I didn't feel that way about Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which hit every mark and only let you go when it was done with you. Maybe McQuarrie's MO was to leave open the possibility of a sequel, which I hope happens. But when you walk out of a conservation with a missed thought on the tip of your tongue, it nags at you until that itch is scratched. Jack Reacher nagged me in this way ever so slightly.

Some will claim that its beginning is too intense considering the events of this month. I flatly disagree - it's so key to the story that any alteration would have changed the tone, something it thrives upon to sell the sizzle. I heap large portions of credit upon Cruise and McQuarrie for not rushing post-haste to the editing room - not because of some ill-conceived notion of a cash-grab to lure in audiences - but because it was the right thing not to do. Reacher will far outlive Sandy Hook, which means its integrity as a motion picture must remain intact. Whether audiences react by staying away is for them to decide; but don't blame the director and actors for making something that just happened to mirror the dangerous times in which we live. And while cracks in the story are there, our film rises above things to entertain. Enjoy it as a matinee and you might even return to pay full price. Jack Reacher is rated R for violence and language and has a runtime of 130 minutes.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Les Miserables Review. The Film Is A Grand Achievement

Les Miserables Review
By: MattInRC

Les Miserables is a solid, thought-provoking, and powerful musical that deserves some Oscar street cred.

Growing up in a home where musicals mixed with opera, classical music, and even Scott Joplin to create the soundtrack of my early youth, it's no wonder why I'm such a film and music diva. When you're surrounded by Pavarotti and Arthur Fiedler, and your Spring Saturdays are spent enjoying live productions of Madame Butterfly, your expectations will undoubtedly morph into a discerning eye that can smell a ratty director or musician of the modern era a mile away. Les Miserables is definitely not one of those kinds of films; it's defiant, utterly shameless in its bombasity, and filled to the gills with some of the best singing performances by Hollywood actors in a long while.

Based on the 1862 book by Victor Hugo, our central hero Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman, X-Men series) is at first an emaciated figure fresh out of prison for stealing bread. Worn, ragged, and desperate for direction, he breaks parole and is hunted by the ruthless Inspector Javert (Russel Crowe, Master & Commander), who commanded the shipyard prisoners where he first meets Valjean. The two will cross paths frequently over the next two decades, as Javert's single-minded pursuit leads both down the path to a final battle near film's end. Taken in by a kind priest, Valjean reforms into a model citizen, a wealthy mayor, and owner of a factory. It's here where Fantine (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises) struggles to make ends meet so that her daughter Cosette (later played by Amanda Seyfried, In Time) can grow up to live a normal life. But when Fantine is fired, turns to prostitution, and later dies, Valjean takes Cosette in, rescuing her from the clutches of the evil boarding house operators Thenardier (Sasha Baron-Cohen, Madagascar series) and his Madame (Helena Bonham-Carter, Harry Potter series). As the film shifts to the violent student revolt after the death of the French king, Valjean and Javert square off one last time, with one ready to forgive and the other unwilling to forget.

For anyone wanting to take their children to Les Mis, note that Director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) has crafted a decidedly dark and violent tale. From the tragic raping and death of Fantine, to the disturbing putdown of the student revolt, some might consider it too much especially for young viewers. But if they and you can get over the violence, you're in for a treat. From the moment this 157-minute masterpiece opens on the rainy, wind-swept ship dock, you know what sort of scale Hooper's intending to employ. Tight camera angles of our actors persist, but it only helps to lend a heightened sense of realism to things, as if Valjean's plight mirrors that of the French people who will soon break out into anarchy.

Some have claimed that Hooper's tight angles are distracting, but I disagree, nor did I worry about our actors lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks. This is standard issue for a musical, and Hooper encourages his actors to let it all hang out, utilizing every inch of their facial features, as if they will serve the story as much as their singing. As a result, so many scenes take on a life of their own, such as Valjean's angry retort to God in the church and Fantine's decision to enter prostitution. Hathaway's deep set eyes share both the innocence lost and the innocence still burning bright without ever going over the top. Seyfried moves with a grace and precision befitting a rising Hollywood star, employing her elegant voice in a way that seems to make everyone's surprisingly better. And while Crowe's strained vocals might put off some, it's this sort of honesty by Hooper that pervades the entire film. In his bold decision to cast Crowe, Hooper expresses his desire to let great actors sing, giving the film exactly what it needed. Crowe's deep intensity brings a dark cloud to every scene in which he appears, making the climatic faceoff near film's end even that more convincing. He is one of the greatest actors of our generation, and Les Mis suits him very well. But it's the performances of Jackman, Seyfried, and Hathaway which will probably garner Oscar nominations, for each steps into their roles with a power that's fitting for a production of this grandeur.

Considering the rough road the film took to completion, it's amazing that it ever got off the ground. Good for us, because fans will absolutely love it. How duds like That's My Boy or The Campaign get could produced while Les Mis might be allowed to rot is beyond me.

Les Miserables is a grand achievement which ups the ante for musicals. It's not for everyone, which is one reason why it might not completely dominate the Oscars. That doesn't mean you shouldn't see it - Les Mis is gritty, emotionally-charged, and closes the argument forever that a great cast of actors who can sing will yield a better product than employing great but unknown Broadway singers. Catch Les Mis on the big screen, as its majesty is best witnessed there. It's got Oscar written all over it. Les Miserables is rated a surprising PG-13 and comes highly recommended.

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