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>> THE POPULAR BROADWAY MUSICAL MAKES A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION TO FILM

January 3, 2013 12:10 am

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Don't worry, sweetheart. One day, you too will have a mighty shock of bird-nest hairdo. we0103django2.jpg

Oh, it's not a joke. Apparently, Jon Bon Jovi has turned to a life of crime and is actually wanted, dead or alive.

"LES MISÉRABLES (PG-13)

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HUGH JACKMAN, RUSSELL CROWE, ANNE HATHAWAY, AMANDA SEYFRIED, EDDIE REDMAYNE, HELENA BONHAM CARTER

With strong acting and singing performances from most of the talented cast, this musical makes a triumphant jump to the big screen.

Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne and especially Anne Hathaway give inspired performances that are accentuated by the fact that the singing was filmed live as the parts were acted.

That, along with director Tom Hooper's approach of filming many of the songs in tight framing gives the film a personal, emotional feel.

Jackman is the key here, playing central character Jean Valjean, a former prisoner.

He's more than up to the task, with his interesting voice and acting range making it all work.

Some not familiar with the popular musical will be surprised that Hathaway's character of Fantine only snags a relatively short amount of screen time.

But what an impact she makes as the mother who ends up paying a brutal price and losing everything in this story set in 19th-century France.

Don't be surprised to see tears shed around you, or feel a few of your own flowing, when she delivers a powerfully melancholy but beautiful tune at the depth of her sadness.

There are scenes large and epic, but strangely, much of this musical feels small, a result of the way Hooper focuses on the more personal moments.

As Javert, the policeman who makes it his mission to find and punish Valjean, Russell Crowe is passable, though both his portrayal and his singing aren't as remarkable as performances turned in by others.

Rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence, thematic elements. 158 min. [PV, RA]

"DJANGO UNCHAINED" (R)

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JAMIE FOXX, CHRISTOPH WALTZ, LEONARDO DICAPRIO, KERRY WASHINGTON, SAMUEL L. JACKSON

Only an inspired performance by Christoph Waltz and a solid first half-hour make (part of) this movie worth watching.

After that, director Quentin Tarantino gives in to his typical overindulgence in excessively bloody violence, extended repartee and scenes that go on forever.

Maybe the director should shift to shorts, because few others can so quickly snatch an audience's attention or mark an oddly funny moment the way he can.

The problem, even in other recent films like "Inglourious Basterds," is that the filmmaker gets hung up on one character or a contentious scene while the thread of the narrative completely unravels.

The story here is certainly a unique one: A German bounty hunter seeks out, buys and then partners with Django, a slave who can help him identify several men he's hunting for a bounty.

Waltz is briefly interesting as the bounty hunter, and Jamie Foxx is interesting as Django, who pretty quickly warms up to the idea of getting money for killing white men who have tortured slaves.

Things move fairly smoothly and interestingly through this part of the film.

It's only after the pair head to Mississippi to find and buy Django's wife that the film turns both brutally violent and aimlessly dull.

Some may find footage of dogs eating a slave alive entertaining, but not this reviewer.

Likewise, scenes where the two bounty hunters use a bait-and-switch tactic to buy the enslaved wife are talky and static to the point of distraction.

Leonardo DiCaprio is part of the problem, acting more silly than serious in the role of the plantation owner who also trades in slaves for brutal fights to the death.

It's all for show and goes oh-so-slow for the last 45 minutes, or at least until heads, torsos and kneecaps begin to explode in spurts and splashes of blood in the foolishness that becomes the climactic action scenes.

Also off-putting: the number of times the filmmaker uses nasty names and sentiment towards the slaves.

Yes, we get it, this is so we all pull for Django's revenge at the end.

But it's so overdone and there's such an absurd amount of blood that many will just want to head for the exits, as any semblance of a serious or even campy film are completely abandoned.

Rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity. 141 min. [RA, RF]

"PARENTAL GUIDANCE" (PG)

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BILLY CRYSTAL, BETTE MIDLER, MARISA TOMEI, TOM EVERETT SCOTT

Those who enjoy Billy Crystal humor, this reviewer included, will find chuckle-worthy moments sprinkled throughout this tale of grandparent confusion.

But this comedy about the generation gap is about as formulaic as it comes, with the clueless grandparents baffled by how to care for youngsters they seldom see.

Crystal and Bette Midler have some fun as the grandparents suddenly called into service as babysitters for an odd threesome of grandchildren.

But many will tire of the way the old-school grandparents have trouble understanding the negotiate-everything approach to child-raising.

Crystal is still as good as anyone at tossing off punch lines or the occasional impersonation.

But this is pretty slow going here, even though he eventually does find a way to connect.

A more creative script would have done wonders.

Rated PG for suggestive and sexual material, violence, thematic elements. 105 min. [PV, RA]




HOW WE RATE 'EM

H Don't waste your time.

HH Nothing special

HHH You'll be sorry if you miss it.

HHHH A must-see




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