Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Greggles 20 Top Films of 2013

20 BEST FILMS OF 2013 

# All the films listed and mentioned are films I have watched. I have no interest in listing films unseen even if they are universally recognized as the best thing since sliced bread. #

Another great year for film, with a whole host of brilliant offerings, amongst which were some corkers including almost on this list titles such as FRANCIS HA, THE BLING RING, THE EAST, WRECK IT RALPH, and CLOUD ATLAS, as well as other brilliant efforts like THE WAY WAY BACK, GANGSTER SQUAD, THOR 2,  STOKER, THE BUTLER, and PRISONERS.

This years' less than festive 'turkeys' include A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, AFTER EARTH, ESCAPE PLAN, GROWN UPS 2, MOVIE 43.

But here are the elite 20 of 2013, in my humble opinion.









Divided critics and audiences like no other film this year, but Winding Refn follows the smash hit 'Drive' with a very different affair. If Drive enthralled to the point where you couldn't take your eyes off it, this film drifts surreally along in a visually neon-dulled dream-like state. Some found it a bit labouring, but I say go with it completely and don't expect your standard safe pace and structure, and you may just love it.


James Franco as a gold toothed, white rasta wannabe crime lord who plays a grand piano by a pool while sexy bikini and ski mask wearing babes with sawn off shotguns dance subtly along. What's not to like?

2   RUSH

An American director? Doing a Formula 1 movie?!? Get outa town...

EXCEPT of course, when it's Ron Howard. Here, he delivers a thriller of a movie about Formula 1 in its romantic, dangerous, explosive heyday. The true story of British racing legend James Hunt (an excellent Chris Hemsworth), and his relationships on and off the track-most notably focussing on rival driver Niki Lauda. A great piece about rivalry and friendship, it works so well because it actually spends almost as much time on Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) as it does on Hunt, allowing us to build our own, more informed opinions on each, so we are almost not sure who we are rooting for as things come right down to the wire. Enough twists, turns, and drama to rival...well, Formula 1 in its heyday.


An unexpected gem in most peoples eyes, this one. I was hopeful beforehand, being a dyed in the wool fan of Richard Curtis, and was blown away by this latest- and possibly final- effort.

You know with Curtis that you are gonna get the usual quirky British supporting characters engaging in awkward exchanges,quite possibly an Englishman falling for a beautiful American girl, a slathering of sentimentality, and a soundtrack that makes you instantly leap to your laptop to download it. Legally, of course.

All of these elements were intact here, and are as welcome and warming as ever. Time travelling Domhnall Gleeson shacks up with the ever adorable Rachel McAdams, and much sweet hilarity ensues. Hilarity may be the wrong word here, though, as this is a sweeter, more reflective affair- softer even than the Curtis penned Notting Hill. It is funny though, and sequences like the opening night of flatmate Harrys' new play will  surely convert even the coldest Curtis cusser. Bill Nighy once again steels the film as our heros' Dad. And it is the scenes between the two that stand out here, they being touching, funny, deftly written by a man on top of his game. The real love story, you could say, is the relationship between father and son.

Any film that leaves you with the feeling-and it is undoubtedly the direct message intended by Richard Curtis- that you should live each moment of the day, including the rubbish bits, with your eyes open enough to still stop and see the beauty of it? Good enough for me. Life is short. Worth a go.


Monday, 30 December 2013

Tom B's Top 10 Directors of all time!

I set my co-reviewer the daunting yet enjoyable task of naming his favorite film directors. Ten only. Tough. But credit to him, It's a BLOODY good list. In no particular order. Enjoy.


Making a film a year since 1977 (and a few before that) in a variety of styles, Woody Allen has made a career out of effortlessly mixing comedy and drama. Moved from slapstick comedy to witty comedy, to drama with funny bits to straight out drama and back to comedy again.

Check out: The beautiful black and white of Manhattan or Annie Hall, the best relationship film ever?


Flamboyant Spanish director who graduated from the screwball sex comedies of his youth into gripping Hitchcockian dramas, known for his glossy visuals, high-concept storylines and for not being above the odd fart joke.

Check out: The superb melodrama of All About My Mother or the melancholic ode to communication Talk To Her.


With a mere six films under his belt P.T. Anderson has already established himself as one of the best filmmakers working today. He’s a terrific storyteller who makes films that are both technically brilliant and emotionally charged, whilst always drawing brilliant performances from his actors. Somewhat depressingly he made both Boogie Nights and Magnolia before he was 30.

Check out: Magnolia, still by far the best of those multi-character films and the sheer intensity and power of There Will Be Blood.


  The ‘Master of Suspense’ indeed. Maker of some of the most nail-biting thrillers ever, Hitchcock’s motto was “Make the audience suffer as much as possible.”, and few directors have his mastery of tension, although he doesn’t get enough credit for the dark wit in his films. Watch Rear Window again, it’s practically a comedy.

Check out: So many to choose from, but Psycho and Vertigo show the master at his most manipulative.


A masterful visual and audio stylist with a dark streak of humour, Kubrick’s films are always technically stunning slow moving masterpieces that demand full attention. Few directors use music better (with the possible exception of the man directly below.)

Check out: The sheer atmosphere of 2001 or the brilliantly staged and unsettling The Shining.


Italian genius who literally started from the bottom up (he was an assistant director on Ben-Hur) before reinventing the Western in style. Best known for using beautifully composed extreme widescreen shots and for often incorporating natural sound on the soundtrack.

Check out: His two epic state-of-America tone poems, Once Upon A Time In The West and Once Upon A Time In America.


Master of surrealism whose unique visions of twisted Americana have inspired endless “what does it all mean?” debates, often leaving the audience to work out the details. Has made some of the scariest sequences in non horror films, and also some of the most strangely beautiful.

Check out: Mulholland Drive, Lynch’s surrealism at its best or for something completely different try the poetic The Straight Story


Where to start? Hugely influential filmmaker with a wide variety of brilliant output. Whether he’s making one of his cherished gangster epics, or a musical, or a sports movie, or a period drama, or a kids film, you can count on a combination of cool visuals, strong performances and a terrific soundtrack. And half a century after he started he’s still going strong.

Check out: Taxi Driver and GoodFellas between them contain a number of cinema’s most iconic moments.


Because his films literally defined the childhood of a generation. Made several of the best blockbusters in film history – recognising that you need a heart to go with the thrills – and then moved into more serious stuff. Can be guilty of the odd lapse into over-sentimentality but there has never been such a skilled executer of set pieces.

Check out: Personal faves are E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark but let’s be honest you’ve probably already seen the lot.


Asian cinema’s Mr. Cool. Wong’s films are undoubtedly made from the same ingredients – loneliness and romance against a neon background with retro pop on the soundtrack with the odd natural background thrown in – but every time he comes up with a beautifully atmospheric film that seems to be both melancholic and uplifting at the same time.

Check out: Chungking Express – a film so cool Quentin Tarantino paid for it to be released in the West – and Happy Together, the best end-of-a-relationship film ever made.

Thursday, 12 September 2013



Ah, science fiction. One of the oldest film genres there is, the very mention of its name conjures up images of aliens, robots and lasers. But director Shane Carruth has very different ideas. His cult hit 2004 debut Primer is a down to earth take on time travel as two ordinary working stiffs discover it by accident, and now nine years later he’s back with another wonderful take on the genre. Upstream Colour takes complex ideas and dresses them up as a modern day romance, albeit one with mind controlling insects and psychic pigs. The phrase “true original” is rarely more apt.

Film begins as office drone Kris (the brilliant Amy Seimetz) is kidnapped by an unnamed man who force-feeds her a parasite which makes her extremely docile and obedient. Whilst in this state he instructs her to give him her life savings and then abruptly leaves. Another man picks her up and surgically removes the grub, transferring it into the body of a pig. Kris wakes up with no memory of what has occurred and is left trying to piece her life back together with the help of Jeff (played by the director), an awkward man who may or may not have been through the same experience. Together they try and make sense of the mystery. Of course such a basic synopsis only scratches the surface of this film, which is brimming with ideas and subplots only hinted at. Be warned – Carruth requires his audience to do a lot of the work. The film is at times baffling but never incomprehensible, and by the climax those paying attention will be justly rewarded.

The heart of the film though comes from the burgeoning romance between Kris and Jeff. Whereas Donnie Darko dressed up its complex sci-fi ideas as an eighties teen movie, Upstream Colour can essentially be read as a romance between two severely damaged people, mercifully free of the forced quirkiness that infected the likes of Silver Linings Playbook. You root for these characters and badly want it to all turn out well at the end, although in this sort of film that is far from a certainty. The theme of connections runs through the film – Kris has a psychic link to the pig which has inherited her parasite, and even the parasite itself has its own journey to go on. To go further into the many themes and ideas would be to become spoiler-happy, although if all this makes the film sound coldly intellectual it really isn’t. There are some surprising flashes of dark humour, a worm crawls under skin in the manner of an eighties body-horror and the relationship between Kris and Jeff is well acted and genuinely touching. I’d be very surprised if Amy Seimetz isn’t a bigger name in a few years.

For all the strengths though of the writing and acting what has lingered for me long after the viewing is the combination of cinematography and sound. It’s no coincidence that a key character is a sound engineer, seen at various points throughout the film experimenting with recordings. The sound is incredible, mixing Carruth’s atmospheric score with crisp natural sound. Rain has never sounded so menacing. The cinematography is great too, the whole film shot in a harsh bleached-out light and making a fantastic use of space. We would probably be talking Oscar nominations if members of the Academy would ever see such an independent film

Undoubtedly a labour of love for Carruth, who not only directs but wrote, acted, produced, did the cinematography, wrote and performed the haunting electronic score, edited, did the production design and the sound design. Phew. He also stuck to his guns, insisting his financial backers not interfere remotely with any aspect of production; a luxury only afforded the likes of Spielberg or Tarantino. No wonder it took him nine years. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long for his third.

To sum up – stick with it and it will reward you. In a week where the big cinema releases include the latest Michael Bay explosionfest and a documentary about One Direction this provides something genuinely original, challenging and ultimately moving. Brilliant.


T. Baynton

Monday, 5 August 2013

Only God Forgives REVIEW


First things first - this is not Drive 2. Yes, it comes from the same director and lead actor, boasts an electronic eighties-style electro score from former Red Hot Chili Pepper Cliff Martinez and is set largely at night but there the similarities end. With its long takes, slow pacing and general feeling of dread it more closely resembles Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut with violence instead of sex. Whereas Drive always had an element of hope provided by Carey Mulligan's character, Only God Forgives follows a group of people for whom any hope of redemption evaporated a long time ago.

Film centres around Julian (Ryan Gosling), an American living in Bangkok who runs a kickboxing club and deals drugs on the side with his detestable brother Billy (Tom Burke). When Billy murders a 14 year old prostitute the police turn him over to the girl's father with predictable results. Enter Crystal (Kristin Scott-Thomas), the Mob boss-like mother of the two boys who demands Julian exact revenge. As Julian begins to pursue those responsible for his brother's death he finds his path crossing with the mysterious Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), a policeman with almost supernatural abilities.

The characters are fascinating. Julian is beset by hallucinations of his arms being cut off and is clearly haunted by a past not fully revealed until the end of the film. Chang on the other hand is a different beast altogether, gliding around the film like a ghost, dispensing his own version of justice and then chilling afterwards in a karaoke bar. There are continual hints that he may have special powers - on more than one occasion he pulls a samurai sword from nowhere and in one scene is actually slightly see-through. He's a brilliant creation and deserves his own film. Both performances and technicality are strong - Gosling adds another near-silent troubled brooder to his repertoire but there are few who do so much with just a look. His scenes with Scott-Thomas are incredibly tense as she alternatively seduces and humiliates him. After decades of playing posh Englishwomen (or Frenchwomen these days) KST relishes doing a Lady Macbeth type figure. I won't spoil it here but her reaction upon finding out why her son was killed is priceless and brought gasps from the audience.

The true revelation though is Pansringarm, who had small parts in The Hangover 2 and, er, The Prince and Me 4 (no idea.). He makes effortless work of Chang's odd mixture of spirituality and brutality, and will undoubtedly skyrocket after this. Director Refn and cinematographer Larry Smith make fantastic use of both space and colour, evoking Kubrick not only in the aforementioned Eyes Wide Shut (which Smith also worked on) but with its bright red corridors, tracking shots and ambient music calls to mind The Shining on more than one occasion. Every shot is fantastically composed - special mention to the karaoke scenes where an impassive Chang sings to his police colleagues - sat bolt upright as if they were at debriefing. Refn never allows his audience to truly settle. It's certainly not for everyone though.

The first screening at Cannes was notoriously divisive - half the audience on their feet applauding, half heading for the exits booing. This kind of slow, serious filmmaking requires total immersion from the audience which can backfire. The serious tone (if anyone cracked a smile in the entire film I missed it), lack of dialogue and multiple shots of Gosling staring occasionally run the risk of having the reverse effect - there were some stifled giggles at times in the screening I attended. Also the much talked about violence which had people heading for the exit at Cannes is pretty brutal, although more infrequent than you may have heard. If you're squeamish, close your eyes when the chopsticks come out. However if you do allow yourself to relax into the films world it's a rewarding experience - a simultaneously beautiful and terrifying neon dream-world about guilt and the notion of justice.

It may be too slow for some and too intense for others but give it some patience and enjoy a true original from one of the most interesting directors working today. One thing's for sure - love it or hate it, you will want to talk about it afterwards.     4/5

T Baynton

Tuesday, 23 July 2013



 This should have been so good. The writing team behind the critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy and the director who managed to make the "unfilmable" graphic novel Watchmen into a pretty good film team up to reboot the Superman franchise - all but killed off by Bryan Singer's 2006 megaflop Superman Returns. Movie fans everywhere have been salivating since this was announced. Sadly who turned up was the writing team behind Blade: Trinity and the director of Sucker Punch.

 It starts well, pretty much jumping straight in with the death of the planet Krypton and a failed rebellion by General Zod (Michael Shannon) which sees him imprisoned for his inevitable return later, although sadly for fans of the seventies films not in a giant piece of glass. The planet duly collapses and Superbaby is sent to Earth - where we cut straight to him as a young adult drifting around, taking part-time jobs in restaurants and on oil rigs whilst trying to keep his powers under wraps. The childhood years are glimpsed in brief flashbacks - which is a shame as these are some of the best sequences in the film as we see the young Kal-El confused and upset by his emerging superpowers.

Sadly the film - having built this emotional momentum - all but loses it completely from the moment that Zod returns, threatening to destroy the planet unless Kal-El is handed over. This leads to a series of all-Kryptonian punch ups as the superpowered tourists smack each other about for what seems like an eternity. Whilst full credit has to be given to the effects team, for these scenes are technically very impressive, after a while the fights get repetitive. The first time we see Superman throw a punch, smashing his opponent through layers of buildings before they crater on the ground, it's exciting. When it happens for the 100th time in the same fight, it's become a bit dull. When we eventually arrive at the Supes-Zod climax, it's just more of the same and as the buildings collapse to Hans Zimmer's pounding percussion (no John Williams thematic development here) it starts to resemble to soulless destruction of a Transformers sequel.

However the most crippling flaw in Man of Steel is that it lacks a basic second act.
Something is needed to establish exactly why Superman would go to such great lengths to defend a race whose reaction to his appearance is throw him in chains and interrogate him in an army base. A few sub-inspirational flashback moments with Kevin Costner's adoptive dad don't quite do it I missed the scenes of him doing simple rescues/ bank robbery foiling and seeing the look of wonderment on the faces of the ordinary folk. It just feels like the necessary transition between the guy struggling to come to terms with his identity and the guy saving the planet is missing. The lack of humour here is also a major problem. One guesses that the Nolan-Goyer writing team decided that the nerdy japes of Clark Kent wouldn't fit with their darker Batman-esque take on the character. But even the Batman films provided some humour, either from Alfred or Bruce Wayne's obnoxious millionaire playboy routine.

Here Superman has no-one to play off. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is introduced early as if she could be such a foil but then turns out to be as soul-searchingly serious as the rest of them whilst the script struggles to give her something to do. Ultimately the one attempt at a funny line is given to a minor character near the end and it bombs. It's a shame as there is some good stuff here, namely the aforementioned effects and the key performance is good too. Henry Cavill is a strong Superman - there's a terrific scene where he debates putting the jerk who just threw beer in his face in the hospital - combining the human and alien sides of the character well. Michael Shannon take on Zod as less of an authorative god-figure and more as a soldier doing what's in his nature is intriguing but he's hampered by his dialogue (mostly consisting of variations on "I'm going to destroy Earth/Kal-El/everything). Adams, Costner, Laurence Fishburne etc. are fine in underwritten roles.

 Given that this is the first film in history to turn a profit before it opened (due to product placement and marketing tie-ins) then a sequel is inevitable. Let's hope that they can come up with something on both character and emotional levels to match the special effects. Oh, and some chemistry between Clark and Lois wouldn't go amiss. Well he needs something to stick around for.  2/5

T. Baynton

Monday, 22 July 2013

Gatsby Review


Ah 3D. Geniune cinematic tool or pointless excuse for cinemas and studios to charge extra for tickets and glasses-hire? The debate will go on. But, if like me, you find yourself leaning towards the latter, you opinions may well be changed by the opening shot of Baz Luhrmann's latest. A flat 2D title card suddenly morphs into 3D and gives way to a shot of a green light blinking through mist across a body of water. Sounds simple enough? Words cannot describe how realistic this one shot looks - it feels like you could dive in and swim across. Arguably the opening shot of the year so far.

But then what else would you have expected from Baz Luhrmann? This is the man who had Romeo meet Juliet in an Ecstasy - induced haze and turn-of-the-century Paris bourgeoisie belting out Nirvana. Subtlety was never going to be on the cards. Which makes him at first glance an odd choice to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's complex class satire (personally I always thought Woody Allen to be a good choice, Fitzgerald references are rife in his films and he even appears as a character in both Zelig and Midnight in Paris). Or does it? Doomed romance and extravagant parties have been hallmarks of Luhrmann's output to date so it's safe to assume that it was these that appealed to him.

We meet our protagonist, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) in a sanatorium being treated for alcoholism as Fitzgerald himself was to be, flashing back to the time he met Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and became involved in his attempts to woo the love of his life (Carey Mulligan) now unhappily married to the rich, racist, affair-having Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Aside from the flashy visuals (more on them later) the film's main strength is DiCaprio's performance as Gatsby, perfectly nailing a difficult character. You can practically see the flood of emotions continually threatening to tear away the flashy outward façade. The fantastic moment leading up to Gatsby and Daisy's reunion when Gatsby's excitement and nervousness overwhelm him should have landed him some sort of nomination alone.

The rest of the performances are less complex but still good, Mulligan managing to make Daisy sweet and vacuous at the same time, Edgerton a brilliant bastard as Tom and there's a superb cameo from Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan as Gatsby's shady associate Meyer Wolfsheim. Only Tobey Maguire's bland Nick doesn't make an impact, but given that he's called upon to do little but look wondrously around him that may not entirely be his fault. However for all the performances the real stars of any Baz Luhrmann film are always going to be the visuals and soundtrack and Gatsby doesn't disappoint. Cinematographer Simon Duggan and production designer Catherine Martin (Baz's wife!) both deserve credit for their outstanding work here. The film simply looks amazing, from the wild party leading up to Gatsby's entrance to the industrial smoketown outside of the city. Also the controversial soundtrack - mixing jazz standards with Jay-Z - does actually work, bringing the film vividly to life. A gorgeous original score from Luhrmann regular Craig Armstrong is worth a mention too, really lending the romantic scenes impact.

Put simply, if you're a Baz fan you'll probably love it. If however you're a Fitzgerald fan you may be left wanting. The film adapts the most basic version of the story, relegating most subplots to a passing mention or dropping them altogether. I particularly missed the scene from the end of the book where Nick meets Gatsby's father. Also some key characters (Wolfsheim, Jordan Baker and Gatsby's butler) are more or less completely sidelined. Whilst some sacrifice was necessary to get the film down to a manageable running time, when the central plot does emerge from under the fireworks and dancing it does seem a little thin on the ground. And yet for all this I still consider the film a success. It's an adaptation that Gatsby himself would have approved of. It's loud, flashy, romantic and emotional, pure cinema as spectacle. And all the better for it. Old sport.   4/5

Review by T. Baynton.

The new guy in town...

GregglesOnFilm has been busy the last few months with other ventures, but as ever is still committed to bringing you the best in all things film.

With that in mind, we welcome the font of film knowledge that is Tom Baynton to the Reviews team here at GOF, and the first of his reviews 'The Great Gatsby' will be posted shortly, with another following later on tonight.

Here's to more reviews, more often from us here at GOF, and you can expect some fantastic guest posts and reviews very soon, so do keep checking back in the next few weeks.

So, get down to your local cinema, and catch a movie.

Much love, GregglesOnFilm.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Les Miserables- REVIEW

Les Misérables (2012)

 157 min      Director- Tom Hooper

If you are even a smidgen theatrically bent(oo-er), it is hard not to have at least a basic knowledge of Les Miserables. 
RSC musical...yeah yeah yeah....critically mauled when it opened...yada yada yada...gone on to be the most successful musical in history etc etc etc... 
I had heard extremely mixed opinions on Les Miz, THE MOVIE-CAL(I'm copyrighting that), ranging from the 'life-changing' to the 'woeful misjudgement'. I was nervous before it started, as I out and out admit it- I LOVE Les Miserables the stage musical. I am a fan. I know every word of it. It is almost perfect. Seriously, almost PERFECT. It stirs up the kind of irrational, overwhelming emotions in me like few other stage productions have managed to do.

'Look down, look down, don't look 'em in the eye...', sings Hugh Jackmans' Jean Valjean at the top of the movie. 
Would these be the very words going through my head when I bumped into friends of mine who'd appeared in the film? 
I hoped not...
From the moment the film started, with a fantastically impressive CG assisted sweeping opening shot taking us into a living hell of a prison work camp in torrential rain, set to the (still thrilling after 27 years) opening bars of the 'prologue', my hopes were high. Jackman is reassuringly rough and ready, a man beaten down by his 19 years hard labour for the tragi-comically sentenced crime of stealing a loaf of bread. Right off the bat the relationship between Valjean and Javert (Russel Crowe) is clearly established, and, importantly, is strongly maintained throughout.

A trained singer and seasoned musical theatre star, Jackman excels in the part. This won't be the role that defines his career- a certain metal clawed mutant has claimed that accolade- but it is his best screen performance yet. Expect awards season to be a 2 horse race between him and Daniel Day-Lewis. His 'Soliloquay', a mere 10 minutes in, is a highlight, devastatingly acted, at times it is to hell with singing, and quite rightly, that's not what it's all about, it is pure emotion. A cathartic release, ending with another truly epic shot sweeping us off a cliff, across the ocean, and forward in time to a grimy street full of desperate, dirty unfortunates. 
Anne Hathaway as Fantine

It is here we meet Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway, giving the film its standout performance. Forced into a life on the streets, having sold her hair, her teeth, and her body, she is a broken woman as she all but whispers the words 'I dreamed a dream in time gone by...'. What follows these words is overwhelming. A virtuosic piece of acting through song, elevating the potential of the movie musical to heights it has seldom achieved in many many a year. Director Tom Hooper knows how to capture a good thing too. He doesn't cut away even once, even- bravely- sticking on Hathaway in brutal close-up for the whole song. A young woman, head shaven, screaming her woes through tears in extreme close-up, it was hard not to see the comparison with Renee Jeanne Falconetti in the 1927 film 'The Passion of Joan of Ark', and I wonder very much whether this was the directors' inspiration for the handling of this key scene. Sob inducing stuff. 

Renée Jeanne Falconetti in The Passion Of Joan Of Ark

So good is Hathaway that her brief screen time is enough to leave its mark for the rest of the film, and as the story moves on, we see her daughter rescued from the hands of the vile Thenardiers, played almost entirely for laughs, (but maybe a tad safe?) by triple barrelled duo Sasha Baron-Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. 'Master of the House' is a joy, and pleasingly for fans of the show, the raucous, heightened theatricality is maintained from stage to the big screen, and it really works. Tick. 

At this point the new song 'Suddenly' arrives. It is decent, and I can see its benefits-not least making the writers eligible for a 'Best original song' Oscar- it does strengthen the 'adoptive Father-Daughter' relationship nicely, but it does feel shoehorned slightly. The daughter of which I speak is Amanda Seyfrieds' Cosette. If this were not a musical, you'd have to say that she was the perfect choice for the role. But it is, and therefore, casting someone with a voice that sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks' dog whistle is not the best idea. I know it is harsh, but this was one of the only things that actually grated on me, so whilst her performance was great, sadly her voice was, for me, jarring.

Her love interest is played with shaky-headed-when-he-sings earnestness by Eddie Redmayne. And he is a fine choice for the role. A grown up, but not quite a man, his Marius is a vulnerable, passionate ball of emotion, and whether it is wooing Cosette through the garden gates or torch song-ing it up with audition pianists favourite 'Empty Chairs At Empty Tables', he hits all the right notes vocally and tonally, and we really care about his journey, which can't always be said in relation to the character in the stage show.
Gazing longingly at him is Eponine. Samantha Barks is well versed by now in the role of cute girl in beret, but the big screen is a whole different ball game. In another single shot, 'no cutaway' number, the camera leads her through the rain drenched streets of Paris as the agony of unrequited love seeps, then positively bursts out of her, as she delivers another standout moment full of beautiful heartache, gut-wrenching honesty, and kick-ass vocals. Indeed, her final screen moment, the duet, 'A Little Fall of Rain', brought a tear to my eye. A star is born.
There is fine support from the rest of the revolting french students (no offence), with Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche turning in particularly strong efforts. The latter in particular, proving just what 'Little People' can do, especially when putting a certain Inspector Javert in his place. Ah yes, Russell Crowe....

Whilst Crowe seems to be perfect for the role, with a rare physical power and intimidating intensity befitting the to the letter of the law Inspector, and has even had some musical theatre experience in his younger years, you can't escape the fact that he, on many occasions, looks uncomfortable whilst singing. No doubting he is good here at times-and while not the best singer, he could be worse- he is without question miscast. Missed opportunities are rife, and key moments such as the beautifully constructed 'Stars', played out on a moonlit rooftop somehow fail to come alive. Clearly not through any compositional fault; the direction, shot selection, lighting, design, cinematography are all beautiful. It is the performance which falls flat, and given what the number clearly could have been with a different actor, you'd have to think that someone better suited to the full demands of the role could have- and should have- been found.
The film, like the stage show, does suffer a little from final act drag. From Javert ending up in the water, through to the final moments of Valjeans life, there is not a great deal of plot, but still a fair bit tying up to do, it all feels a bit sullen, so it is a shame the Thenardiers' final moments are edited a touch heavily, as they have a brilliant knack on stage of appearing at just the right time when a big laugh is needed, and are robbed of the chance to fully entertain here. Such sacrifices I'm sure had to be made purely for running time sake if nothing else, with the final cut clocking in at a whopping 157 minutes.
ALMOST perfect, as I said.

Minor grumbles though, and I personally approve of the running time. You couldn't cut down this story much more without losing something essential. What makes Les Miserables great are the many stories which make up the eventual sum of its parts. Good on them for not bowing down to potential studio snippings. 
I must round off this review by giving credit to the stars of the show. The music, lyrics, and orchestrations. It is the combination of these 3 elements which produce in me the most irrational, overwhelming emotions and feelings of awe. To me, they are one of the finest examples in history of how it is done. No matter how many times I hear this score, I still seem to be moved by it. And not just the sections which are intentionally emotive. To me, it is the quality of the work that grabs me so hard. Add to that the characters, the story, the performances and direction, and you have something very special.
The leap from stage to screen is often difficult to get right, but this is an example of how it can work beautifully. With the raw edge achieved by the cast singing live on set, this avoids the polished, safe feel of the film it could have easily been. The rousing final chorus of 'Do You Hear The People Sing' will ensure there's not a dry eye in the house.
It isn't perfect, but it very nearly is.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Greggles Top Films Of 2012

GregglesOnFilm - The 20 +12 Best Films of 2012

First of all, let me say that due to rubbish scheduling, we in the UK don't get some sure fire 'crackers of 2012' until 2013, (Zero-Dark-Thirty, Lincoln, Les Miserables, This Is 40) so they cannot be-and some almost certainly would have appeared- on the following list. 

There were some which came along and sadly didn't quite meet my expectations, but are still well worth a mention, such as Looper, Prometheus, Magic Mike, Take This Waltz, Dark Shadows, Brave, Safe House, Rock of Ages, Lawless- to name just a few.

There was also the odd stinker- Wrath of the Titans, The Raven, Total Recall, Mirror Mirror, The Watch.

Some nice surprises which didn't quite make the list, but were extremely good include Killing Them Softly, Rise of the Guardians, Chronicle, Silent House, The Hunger Games, The Best Exotic Marigold HotelGrass Roots. 

I have enjoyed many others this year too, and of course, there are some I cannot include because I simply haven't had a chance to see them yet, but I'm told Holy Motors, Liberal Arts, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, To Rome With Love and The Kid With A Bike are all fantastic.

So, here is my 2012 Top 20(+12).

32- Cabin In The Woods
31- Titanic 3D
30- Young Adult
29- Starbuck
28- 21 Jump Street
27- Margin Call
26- Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
25- Marley (FULL REVIEW)
24- Dredd 
23- Killer Joe
22- Your Sisters' Sister
21- Argo
20- Searching For Sugar Man (FULL REVIEW)
19- The Dark Knight Rises
18- Ruby Sparks
17- The Imposter
16- The Hunter
15- Frankenweenie
14- Headhunters 
13- Django Unchained 
12- Moonrise Kingdom
11- Beasts Of The Southern Wild
10- Skyfall
9- The Hobbit
8- The Raid
7- Rust And Bone
6- Amour
5- Avengers Assemble (FULL REVIEW)
4- Silver Linings Playbook
3- The Master
2- The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (FULL REVIEW)
1- Life Of Pi