Monday, December 30, 2013

“Saving Mr. Banks” is A Story Within A Story

Three and A Half Stars

I think "Saving Mr. Banks" is a really touching story about my favorite kind of people, storytellers. “Saving Mr. Banks” is the story of P.L. Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins books. She sells the book to Disney, because she mainly needs the money. Yet, she also, through the process of selling and visiting Disney, has it bring up many things that she remembers from a painful childhood. Often an author sees what they had written differently than those who adapt it. The film isn’t really too much about Disney and the creative process as much as it’s about the childhood of the creator of the works Disney is adapting. I was a bit surprised at how much the film was about P.L. Traver’s childhood. The scenes with the ever stubborn author driving the screenwriter and the Sherman Brothers ,the movie’s song writers, crazy are delightful at times, and at other times, a bit sad because she is seeing this adaptation differently then they are. Emma Thompson is great as the stoic Travers, who is unmoved by the wonder and magic of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and his crew. She is simply in this for the money, but also she is concerned about them making a cartoon of her story. Her story is really more about her personal history then her fictional one. Much like J.K. Rowling will tell you Harry Potter is about her depression then simply wands and magic, P.L. Travers sees Mary Poppins as about her awful childhood.

Walt Disney doesn’t quite understand what is wrong with Travers, the charming fellow he is. He has charmed the whole world with his stories and characters, so why not her? In fact, her real name isn’t P.L. Travers and she really isn’t British. She hides behind this all, because of her less than staller childhood with an alcoholic father. Her father is played by Colin Ferrell and is his best role in years. He doesn’t seem like a bad man, as he loves his daughters. However, he can’t seem to get out of his own way, as he is constantly drinking. The script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith goes back and fourth between P.L. Travers as an adult and herself as a child, spending much time in her childhood. The film’s shoots of her childhood are beautifully done. The little girl who plays Travers as a child does a great job, too. That should be noted.

One of my favorite aspects of his film is it’s understanding that the people who create magical tales are often the least magical people themselves. It takes a lot for someone to create fantasy, as it really is an alternative to his or her real life. Fantasy is an important escape, and this film seems to make the case for the importance of escapism. The escapism of writing Mary Poppins is so important to Travers that she cuts off the very real people who care about her. However, Walt Disney himself embraces the escapism of his own world, and doesn’t see why Travers doesn’t either.

I don’t know if this film is entirely what happened as it is produced by Disney Pictures, but I do give them credit for going a bit edgier in this picture. Travers and Disney seem to have a lot in common, however, when we come in the end, we realize that the difference is Walt chose to move on and Travers didn’t. My favorite scene in the film is that conversation between Walt and Travers. Also, I love the scene where the Disney driver, played by Paul Giamatti, says his disabled daughter gave him the Mary Poppins book before he left and he couldn’t stop reading. It made me think of J.K. Rowling, and it made me think that these types of storytellers haven’t really changed much in many years.

It is a serious, somber movie for the Disney Studios, and that’s what surprised me the most. This movie is a somber tale for anyone who’s ever tried to tell a story and the reasons why they tried to tell it in the first place. Sometimes we tell ourselves stories to cope, but at the end of the day, the most important story is our own.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, A Darker Chapter In Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” Saga

Three Stars

Peter Jackson shoots at 48 frames per second, which is double the industry standard of 24 frames per second. He has stood by his style shooting films among criticism and praise in the movie industry. Peter Jackson not only shoots at more frames per second, but also probably stretched out the Hobbit to 2 movies longer than it probably needed to be. However, I have to say that Bilbo Biggins is a great character and J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world is a delight. Dark, funny, epic, thrilling are words I used to describe Peter Jackson’s vision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world, and how he keeps it alive as the classic it is. The books would survive by themselves, but these movies also help keep them alive. Obviously, this is the middle of the three films as we pick up where we left off. I don’t suggest you see this movie if you didn’t see part one.

We open on a rain soaked day in a village where wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) visits the exiled dwarf king Thorin (Richard Armitage). He had news to share with him that will affect the journey of Bilbo Baggins and the dwarfs who accompany him. They are on a quest to battle and kill the dragon. It’s a greedy dragon who attacked and who stole all the gold from the good people from Lake Town. Things are getting messy, as Bilbo Baggins and his merry man are going along their quest. Heck, as many devotees of Lord of The Rings saga know, no one makes walking more iconic and thrilling than the Lord of the Rings saga. Things get more at stake as they get closer and closer to the dragon in his large cave.

There are many things that happen in the Hobbit, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s complications make J.K. Rowling’s complications adorable by comparison. Going back to the review, I really do love Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo Baggins. He is one of the greatest characters of all time, in my opinion. I also love the performances of his co-conspires. They encounter kingdoms, dark forces, good forces, towns, different creatures and many things along the way. This installment is darker than the first one, but anyone who has read the book will expect it to be. As usual, Jackson’s visuals are beautiful to look at, and the way he shoots things can be drawn back to his 48 frames a second technique. Don’t quote me on that, because I am no expert but I have a feeling that there is a very good reason he increased the frames per second in his films.

I will say this again. Don’t see this movie if you didn’t see the first one, because you probably won’t know what’s going on. It will be really hard to follow, as the Hobbit feels like one movie cut into three. However, I enjoyed part 2 of the Hobbit. I suggest it for any fantasy fan, LOR fans or people who want to introduce their Harry Potter fan kids to the original epic that started it all. However, I still suggest renting out movie one if you haven’t shown them that. As for the film, I enjoyed it. Its always fun to watch Peter Jackson do what he does best, which is his epic style.

Fantasy has been a hot genre in Hollywood for a while now, ever since J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series has taken off. However, not too many of these franchise starters have really taken off the way Hollywood has hoped. I believe though that Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” sagas are clear winners at the box office because they have a few things different than most fantasy sagas hitting the scene today. One of those is it’s already an established classic. Another is these films are about adults on a quest, and not teenagers with magical powers. Let the nerds complain about how Peter Jackson is milking The Lord of the Rings, and yes I get that, but I also give him credit for keeping the all-encompassing vision of J.R.R. Tolkien alive. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

“Despicable Me 2” is Cute

Three Stars

It’s no surprise that “Despicable Me” is beating everything at the box office. People go to the movies to feel good, be entertained and keep their kids occupied for a couple hours? They don't want to watch the end of the world and people suffer? What a concept, Hollywood. A movie like “Despicable Me 2”, the squeal to the hit “Despicable Me”, works because of it’s characters. They are really lovable and hard to hate, despite the title. Maybe that’s the joke at the center of the “Despicable Me” films, that a villain’s heart is melted by three little orphan girls who appoint him their dad. It’s a pretty basic set up for a kid’s film. I would say “Despicable Me 2” is basically cute. Though, the returning screenwriters from the first film add a lot of heart to this film’s script by laying out the whole idea that Gru (Steve Carrell) is basically a lonely guy. For an animated character in a kid’s film, they spend a lot of time making him relatable as he used to want to take over the world, and basically be the bad guy. In a way, the film is also about getting older. Now, he’s a single dad with three adopted daughters and the soccer moms around him try to set him up. His daughters wonder why he can’t seem to get out there, as we see a flashback of him trying to give a flower to a girl in elementary school but instead her yelling at him after he mistakenly touches her arm.

The film has all the things from the last film. His mad scientist friend, his minions, yellow creatures that talk in gibberish and the big creepy house they live in surrounded by a suburb. The filmmakers have a lot of fun with these minions, silly little yellow creatures that follow their leader around, with a ton of jokes of them being basically silly. Them falling down, them dressing up, them on bikes and running for ice cream. At times, it can be a bit much with the minions, but it’s okay because that’s the kind of film this is. So, Gru is recruited by an anti villain league who want him to go undercover as a shop owner in the local mall to get an evil formula that has been stolen. There he gets paired with the ultra cute (is okay to describe a cartoon character as really cute?) Lucy (Kristen Wiig). It’s a little predictable that she will get together with Gru. While at the mall, Gru meets Edurado, a Mexican guy who runs a restaurant.  Gru suspects him as the villain, because he looks like a villain El Macho, a Mexican wrestler and villain who faked his own death.

The movie spends a surprising amount of time with Gru resisting dating, until he falls in love with Lucy. So, the film goes back and fourth between Gru tracking down this villain and his relationship with Lucy. Meanwhile, the oldest of his daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) falls for the teenage son of the villain. Gru seems more horrified by this than he is by the evildoer’s plan, and it’s relatable for any guy with a daughter.

The voice acting in this film is pretty top notch. Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig sound like a believable couple, and Gru’s kids sound believable too. I believed in the way these characters were speaking, and I like Gru’s accent.

The animation is well done, and the jokes are hit or miss, but the characters are lovable and it’s a well-done kids film with some nice jokes for the parents in the audience. It’s a cute film, and not a bad squeal. Steve Carrell’s Gru made me think a bit about another character he played in other movies and TV shows. Steve Carrell is good at playing the lovable loser, weather he is live action or animated. Michael Scott and Gru have more in common than one thinks.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Misfits in Space

Three stars

One of the great things about the current reboot of "Star Trek" is you don't have to be a trekie to enjoy it. I went to see this film with my brother Greg and he is new to the wonderful universe of "Star Trek" and he really enjoyed it. Also, I loved seeing it in I-Max. and 3-d. It is really cool but it always highlights something wonderful about "Star Trek" as well. There's a lot of talk, and not everything is sock-them, in your face space mayhem. "Star Trek" is never entirely a thrill ride. It has intelligent talk about space, life and emotions between the original odd couple of pop culture, Spock and Kirk.  Of course, it's always fun to see the Starship Enterprise coming right at ya. 

There's a reason we love "Star Trek" so much. It's basically misfits in space, and that's been the reoccurring theme throughout the entire series. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirt (Chris Pine) are the original odd couple. Kirt saves Spock's life, but breaks a bunch of rules of the federation. Spock rats him out in the report about their mission to Starfleet Academy , because its protocol. Kirt is pissed, but it ends up Spock and Kirt have a lot to teach each other, and that's what we see in this version of the new film in the "Star Trek" franchise "Star Trek: Into Darkness". Spock teaches Kirt to do the right thing, by the rules, while Kirt teaches Spock to sometimes bend the rules to get the job done.

Meanwhile, Spock in this version is still in a relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). They been fighting recently,  and even Kirt askes her whats that even like? It's like fighting with Sheldon Cooper. J.J. Abrams does a very good job in this film of doing a balancing act. He is balancing the original Star Trek feel, of a lot of talk but also infusing it with some more fight scenes and action. To keep this franchise alive, I think that's exactly what it needs. It can be odd at times to watch this younger cast play the original Star Trek characters, because one of the charms of "Star Trek" throughout the years is that they never went for young and sexy. It was always people you would trust to guide the ship like Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard in "The Next Generation".

However, I really am unashamed to admit I really like this new version of "Star Trek". I think the scripts strike the right balance between the old and the new. The franchise wasn't going to live on if it didn't have some updates done. In this one, though, the Enterprise crew is facing a old enemy in Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch, sounding a bit like Snape from the "Harry Potter" films.) He talks slow, and the screenplay at times, can feel a little patched together. One moment the USS Enterprise is working together with Khan, the next minute they are against him. There's a lot of characters who come through the film that we aren't sure are good or bad. However, it all pulls together at the end. That's one of the reasons we love "Star Trek". When the crew is going to be killed, no one leaves. They are a family, and they know that.

There's the other cast too. Simon Pegg provides some comic relief as Scotty and John Cho is good as Sulu. The cast has very good chemistry. I don't think this was as good as the first "Star Trek" but it is a very good summer flick that I think both Trekies and their kids can both get something out of. It feels like both a pop corn thriller and a Star Trek film. The special effects are good, and the Enterprise ship looks great.

Finally, this brings up a interesting point. Later that night, I watched the finale to "The Office" and season finale to "The Big Bang Theory". The secret to things like this (and lets throw in "Harry Potter" too) is that we love the characters. People love to follow misfit people in extraordinary situations. People come for the stories and space, but stay for the characters they love. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making Sense of A Tragic Narrative

"Thats the thing about pain it demands to be felt."-John Green

John Green, the popular young adult novelist, wrote this quote in his novel "The Fault in Our Stars",  which deals with young adults with cancer, and he is right. Sometimes nothing makes sense. Sometimes all we have is an emotional response, and emotions do not make logical sense. They demand to be felt, and who can blame us? When something tragic happens, we feel it. Feeling is all we have sometimes, and when the story is tragic, our feelings can be the first thing we feel.

If you read my stuff, you know I mostly write about film and fictional books. My job isn't to make sense of the real world. It's to make sense of the reflection of it. Fiction is a reflection of the real world, but it isn't the real world. When a tragic event happens, one that affects us but not directly, we need to make sense of it through a narrative. Of course, we can't know everything, even with the news covering it through hours and hours. So, in a way, a big event, tragic or just well, big, has to be processed like a story. Of course, the Boston Marathon Bombing is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that makes us use words I won't publish here. Our response to this event shouldn't be elegant. However, it's the job of the newspaper man or the creative type to try to give us a narrative response. Stories are our way of trying to digest something that really doesn't make sense to any sane human. We all know how the story is going to end, but it doesn't make it any better. It's going to be some extremist nut, ranting about one of two things: some kind of vendetta against America or nonsense about how he did this for some spiritual reason or both. However, the problem is, despite the end of the story being there, we can never make sense of this event. We will get a narrative one day, with details that will never be revealed, nor should they. That being said, how do we make sense of the senseless?

Well, the simple answer is, we can't. This isn't a movie or book. This is the real world. Only the insane person who did this, does this make sense to. His narrative for why this happened will be twisted, for sure, and make no sense to those of us trying to make sense of why. We might never know why. The only narratives that will make sense to us is the stories of those who ran towards the explosions, and the narratives of those who surrounded it. We know their stories are narratives that make sense, because like any good story, the core of those stories are raw emotion. That makes sense.

I don't claim to try to make sense of any of this. More than 100 people were injured and 3 died, including an 8 year old boy. It's horrible even to type these words. Sometimes the only story that makes sense is our emotions, not the actual story that happened. Not every narrative makes sense, and believe me, this one won't. After all these years, the narrative of 9/11 doesn't make complete sense. However, we can pick and choose the narrative we want from this event. Let the narrative be that good people can exist. There are no suspects yet, but I do hope this was one twisted dude and not some terrorist group. This will never be a good story, however, we can make it an emotional one. When I talk about stories, movies and books I like, I often say  that stories about people are the most important. Even if the story is a fantasy, the core still needs to be human. The only way we make sense of a tragic narrative, is to focus on the stories of people, and not the bad people. Our emotional response is the story we need. At the end of the day, lets let the proper people put together the emotionless story of information on how this happened. Yes, that story of information is important. However, our emotional story is the one that will stick with us.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Remembering Roger Ebert

 "The wonder of life and the resources of the imagination supply all the adventure you need."-Roger Ebert's review of "My Neighbor Totoro".

I think that quote describes Roger Ebert so well. He didn't only give me a review of a film, but often I would walk away from his reviews with new  ways to look at both film and life.  I'm a fan of a lot of things. Film directors, writers, and other creative types, but I think it was much more with Roger Ebert. I truly admired him. In fact, I once left a comment on Roger Ebert's blog and he responded to me. What a thrill! As I read tributes to him this morning, I see that it was not unusual for him to respond to his fans.

This makes the headline in the New York Times all the more true, "A Critic for the Common Man". That is true, in a lot of ways, because Roger Ebert wrote about the art form of the common man. Movies have meant a lot to me, and so have Roger Ebert. I have had a special relationship with both film criticism and film in general. I like a lot of film critics but there was something special about Roger Ebert's brand of film criticism. The way he wrote, I felt like I was talking with a friend, and not some cultural elite who was lecturing to me. I like the way that he loved movies the way they should be loved. He was emotional about them, he wasn't afraid to explain an independent film in simple terms to someone new to that wonderful world of art cinema, or explain to a snob why a dumb movie is worth their time, and sometimes entertainment is simply entertaining, and why that isn't a bad thing. He loved all sorts of films, and in that way, he was a friend to all sorts of people, and I felt like he was a friend of mine.  

I have to be honest. I have never had a relationship with a writer the way I have had with Roger Ebert. Sure, I've been a fan of many writers I've admired. However, there's something different about Roger Ebert. Maybe it was the way he wrote, but I also think through his writing, his reviews, his columns, books and TV shows, we got to know the man himself and quite honestly, he was a good one. Ebert was the kinda critic I want to be. A man who doesn't just show a love and knowledge of films in his work, but a love of knowledge of life and a love of knowledge. I admire him both as person, writer, journalist and critic. 

It wasn't just a film critic I read in the newspaper. It was the TV show I remember, watching "Siskel and Ebert" every weekend, growing up. When I became older, I started to read his reviews carefully, aspiring to write mine like his.  As "Game Of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin said this morning, Roger Ebert was a "a terrific writer" and I agree. He wasn't just a critic talking about movies, he was a writer, a real person, talking about film criticism. 

However, I also want to not just talk about Ebert the film critic. One of the great delights of Roger, was we got a sense through his writing, he was much more than his job. One of my favorite Ebert essays is in his "Great Movies" collection, on E.T., because it gave us a look at not just Ebert the film critic. It gave us a look at Ebert the man. Roger Ebert wrote this essay on E.T. as a letter to his grandchildren. He says thanks to his wife, he has step grand children, and went on to talk about how they reacted to watching E.T. for the first time. He also talked about his affection for them, and taking them to ride horses. Okay, maybe it sounds a bit sappy but that's one of the things I really loved about Ebert. We got a sense he was a friend, and he wrote to us like he was our friend, not just the snobby film critic sitting on a high perch, criticizing other people's work. He was a fan, he was passionate, he loved this art form, and he explained in simple terms, how art affects us. That's why Roger Ebert was so important. At the end of every episode of "Siekel and Ebert", they would say the balcony is closed. Well, I'm going to say, thanks to Roger Ebert, the balcony in our hearts and minds, will always be open. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

“The Hobbit” is Fun


Three and a half stars

Some people are accusing director Peter Jackson of cashing in on “Lord of the Rings”, and yes, I understand, you might roll your eyes at I-HOP’s Hobbit breakfast menu, or the fact that he took a 300 page children’s novel and turned it into three films. Even as I watched, a part of me kept saying, couldn’t he have done this all in one film? It does run for two hours and forty six minutes. So, yes, he is milking Lord of the Rings a bit. However, I really enjoyed Peter Jackson’s film, and it didn’t feel like three hours. It moves along really nicely. As you know, (if you are a J.R.R. Tolkien fan) it’s the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a hobbit who lives in Middle Earth. One day, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) drops by and tells him that he needs him for an adventure. At first, Bilbo doesn’t want to go. He’s a quiet hobbit, living a hobbit life in middle earth.  However, he comes to his senses after Gandalf’s merry band of men invade his house, eat his food and ask him to sign a contract to join them as their burglar (funeral costs covered!) Hobbits are short, and he would be sure to be able to get past their enemies. So, Bilbo runs out of his house, yelling “I’m going to go on a adventure!” and joins the band of dwarves, who need him so they defeat the dragon which keeps the valley in fear, as he sleeps in the mountain, surrounded by gold.
Okay, so this isn’t really a film you go into, with your critic’s gloves on. Even describing the plot sounds like a total fantasy fiacre, and you know what? It is. There are a lot of chase scenes and mystical creatures and wizards and evil doers and dwarves. In one scene, they are captured by trolls that Bilbo outsmarts because they could eat the band of men. There’s capturing by evil creatures, chase scenes, battle scenes, and whatnot. There’s the first appearance of the Ring and Gollum (Andy Serkis). After all, this is the prequel to Lord of the Rings, so if you are a new comer to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, you are in luck. This is what happens before The Lord of the Rings. The visuals, no surprise, are really good, and it’s always beautiful watching them walk New Zealand, and it's really stunning seeing New Zeland in 3-D.

There are some great warm moments, like when one of the dwarves says to Bilbo that he was sure he shouldn’t have come, and that he knew it was a bad idea but then hugs him and says he was wrong. So, “The Hobbit” is a lot of fun, and Peter Jackson is really good at directing a fantasy epic. So, while splitting up “The Hobbit” only seems to make economic sense, as this stuff has a built in audience, on the other hand, I had a lot more fun seeing this than I did seeing “Les Miserables”. The story is great, and the acting is good. Its fun watching all these Shakespearian British actors recites lines about wizards and dwarves and defeating dragons and trolls.

So, in conclusion, go see “The Hobbit”. It’s a really fun way to spend your afternoon, and sometimes that’s what the movies are good for. I would say, even ignore my earlier criticisms about how he could of done this all in one movie. Just see it, because you know you want to, it’s visually nice, and it’s simply a good story with a lot of fantasy and adventure. So, don’t be a hobbit yourself, and set out to the theater. As Bilbo says, “I’m going on an adventure”. Good advice. I like this better than the messy “Les Miserables”, which was this year’s other big epic. I mean, you can’t really compare them but “Les Miserables” can be really upsetting in places, and this one you can bring your kids to. Your kids probably will sit spellbound through all three hours. Oh, and my spell check has all of the proper names for J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. How cool is that.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Les Miserables" Mess or Masterpiece?

Two and a half stars

After watching “Les Miserables”, I had a simple thought. I can’t decide if what I just watched was great or a total mess. I hate to knock this film, because it’s “Les Miserables”, and obviously a lot of effort was poured into this. So, I hate to report that as much as I wanted to love this film, for the most part, it was kind of a mess. It just seemed to be all over the place, and condensed a lot of themes and songs into two and a half hours without leaving any breathing room. The problem with a film like this is there are a lot of money and music and graphics and people singing to the camera. Yes, the music and story are beautiful but does it really work as a film? There’s hardly any dialogue in this movie. It rushes from one song to another. It’s very sad in places, and all the themes are there, but I did find myself looking at my watch, more than once.
One of the problems is the director, Tom Hopper, who keeps zooming in on people’s faces. They seem to be singing directly at the camera instead of to each other. Some of the songs, like a long one about a crazy hotel people stay at, where Cosette (Isabella Allen) works, as an orphan who sweeps the floors, goes on way too long. A lot of the songs seem to go on way too long. The film could have benefitted from some editing. I know, a lot of fans of the play are going to tell me I’m wrong. How can you edit out songs and cut down on scenes in “Les Miserables”? The problem is a play and films are different mediums. So, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m not sure that “Les Miserables” really works in the way that they put it together. This is not to say they are bad singers, or bad actors. Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjean, can really sing. Russell Crowe, as Javert, I’m not really sure can.

The best scene in the movie is when Fantine (Anne Hataway) signs simply her song about dreaming a dream. If any scene in this film will become iconic, it’s that one. I’m all for musicals, but the problem with movie musicals today and ones of the past is really a matter of budget. All movie musicals today are high budget. It’s not simply producing a good musical, but being over the top with everything. Now, maybe this isn’t the best movie for me to review because I’m not a expert on “Les Miserables”, and maybe it needed a high budget to succeed.

However, I do love costume dramas. I do love sweeping epics. So, in theory, I should have loved “Les Miserables”, but I couldn’t help feeling like this film is kind of a mess. As I said, it doesn’t leave any breathing room. Instead, it stuffs the film with way too many themes, songs, emotions, sweeping camera shots, close ups, and whatnot. I hate to knock a film that everyone involved obviously strongly believed in. When one goes to see a movie like “Les Miserables”, they have a choice to make. Are they going to determine if this works as a movie or not, or be swept away by the story, music, emotions and tearful moments that populate the film? It just goes from one huge theme to another huge theme, one big song number to another big song number, and doesn’t let the viewer really feel the emotions of the piece. That’s really important to a film, because you are watching it on a screen. When you are watching something on a stage, it’s more likely to give off that emotion.

However, I should also point out I’m a bit spoiled, as I do live in New York and I could see a stage play of this. Films like this are valuable to people in other parts of the country, where people may not live near stage productions of this stuff. If a kid is inspired to discover the theater because of a film like this, that is a service. While I do not really think this succeed as a film, I do think it’s a good thing that people in other parts of the country get to see a musical, brought to them by the movies. So, an audience member can either be swept away, and that’s not a bad thing, by a film like this or can determine if it works as a film. Either way, the choice is up to the audience member. If you are swept away by this, that’s fine. If you think it doesn’t really work as a film, which it doesn’t really, that’s okay, too.  Whatever your emotional reaction is, it’s fine. If you are a teenager in Kansas, who does school productions or simply a person who loves musicals, but doesn’t live near a big city, than this is a treat for you, and I totally understand that. "Les Miserables" can be a mess, or a masterpiece, it all depends on the viewer.