The Morning After: Jun. 3, 2013

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Les Miserables (1935)

Victor Hugo’s classic French novel about the unfairness of the French justice system has long intrigued and delighted readers. The first big screen Hollywood talkie adaptation featured Fredric March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as Inspector Javert. Following the life of a man sentenced to ten years in the galleys for stealing a loaf of bread, a kindly priest takes pity on the parolee and sets him on a journey of redemption and benevolence that frequently puts him at odds with the by-the-book Javert.

March and Laughton deliver masterful performances while plaudits can also be spared for Cedric Hardwicke as the bishop who gives him his new lease on life. Marilyn Knowlden as young Cosette is darling in her brief scenes while Rochelle Hudson as adult Cosette, Florence Eldridge as Fantine, John Beal as Marius and Frances Drake as Eponine all provide able support.

Employing journeyman techniques to deliver a compassionate, moving tale, director Richard Boleslawski could have been one of the best filmmakers working in that period were it not for his untimely death at 47. Boleslawski isn’t particularly inventive or outlandish, but the film plays out magnificently, condenses a rather massive tome into a digestible adventure and plays the audience’s sympathies well.

Now You See Me

Director Louis Leterrier is one of those directors who make entertaining films, but never bring a splash of creativity to them. As enjoyable as Now You See Me is, Leterrier’s directorial style too frequently gets in the way.

The story of four independent street magicians brought together to carry out a series of prominent heists, is a quick-moving, twisting narrative that lives up to its magical tagline: “Come in close, because the more you think you see, the easier it’ll be to fool you.” Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco as the four magicians collectively known as “The Four Horsemen,” the audience is distracted and tricked by the well written narrative mechanics of a single, well orchestrated magic trick. Mark Ruffalo plays the frustrated FBI agent assigned to the case saddled with the deceptively clever French interpol agent played by Mélanie Laurent. Throw in Morgan Freeman as an internet-based trick exposer and Michael Caine as the wealthy financier taken in by and ultimately hoodwinked by the team and you have an impressive cast who are decidedly having fun with the material.

Leterrier’s reliance on the shaky cam for all of the chase sequences jars the audience out of their euphoria unnecessarily. The classy, beautifully photographed magic sequences are delightful, making this a dual-aesthetic film. It would have been more pleasing focusing on the still camera and catching the action as a bystander rather than as a participant. Regardless, the clever script is thankfully light on the dangling plot threads and with a cast as interesting as this, it’s hard not to be swept away by the production.

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