Tag Archives: Les Miserables

Failed Critics Awards 2013: The Winners

We’ve been making a list, checking it twice, trying to find out who the Failed Critics podcasters, writers, and our beloved readers/listeners think was naughty, nice and downright talented in 2013. If you want some pomp and circumstance (and can handle two hours of us drunkenly announcing the winners) then you can download the Review of 2013 Podcast otherwise, strap in tight because here we go.

Top 10 Films of 2013

BlueIsTheWarmestColour10. Blue is the Warmest Colour / Rush / The World’s End

A complicated three-way tie for tenth place in our poll, and it’s difficult to imagine three more different films to kick off with. Abdellatif Kerchiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour not only won the Palm d’Or in 2013, but for the first time in its history the prize was shared between the director and the stars of the film (Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos). A brilliant, yet simple film about first love, identity, and well, lesbian sex. Rush was Ron Howard’s return to form after the needless Angels & Demons and the inexplicable The Dilemma. Howard works best as a chronicler of recent history (see Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon) and the story and setting of James Hunt and Nikki Lauda’s tragic and inspiring rivalry was perfect fodder for the man most famous these days for his brilliant turn as the narrator of Arrested Development. Rounding off this trio is the last film in Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’. The World’s End combines Shaun of the Dead’s invasion themes and b-movie sensibility with Hot Fuzz’s exploration of small town life and authoritarian control of the populace, but at its heart is a story about friendship, growing up, and growing apart. With some brilliant fight scenes.

The Place Beyond the Pines9. The Place Beyond the Pines

Possibly the sexiest film of the year, starring Failed Critics Podcast man-crush Ryan Gosling, dreamy Bradley Cooper, and the gorgeous Eva Mendes, but this film is so much more. Director Derek Cianfrance’s ambitious modern-day Greek tragedy is not only wonderful to look at (and we’re not just talking about the acting talent now), but a brilliant exercise in tone and storytelling. While the third act may have grated with many, not many films would have been brave enough to even try it in the first place.

iron-man-downey-jr8. Iron Man 3

The highest-grossing film of the year, and while Marvel Studios must realise they’ve essentially got a licence to print money it is great to see that they are still taking risks on directors with with plenty of baggage, but utterly unique takes on cinema. After resurrecting Joss Whedon’s career, Marvel handed their biggest single-character franchise to a man who had only directed one film before. Luckily that man was also the writer of some o the best action films of the 1980s and 1990s – Shane Black. Iron Man 3 suffered from a comic fan backlash over a number of decisions, but cinema audiences lapped up the self-referential humour.

Anne Hathaway Les Miserables7. Les Miserables

Years in the making, and not to be confused with the completely non-singing version starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman, Tom Hooper’s film was always going to bring in the crowds. What surprised many people though was how technically brilliant the film was, taking the almost unheard of step of recording the cast’s vocals onset, which in turn allowed for far more naturalistic performances, especially from Oscar winner Anne Hathaway.The only drawback was that Russel Crowe’s singing was so lifeless you wish he’s given it 30 odd foot of grunts.

The Way Way Back Sam Rockwell6. The Way, Way Back

Probably the biggest surprise entry on this year’s top ten, The Way, Way Back was an American indie gem of a comedy written and direct by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Oscar-winning co-writers of Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. One of the finest ensemble casts of the year, with great performances from the likes of Steve Carrell, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, Amenda Peet, and Liam James. Most impressive of all is Sam Rockwell, as the Peter Pan-esque manager of a scruffy water park where a shy 14-year-old boy spends his summer and discovers himself. Heart-warming, and very funny stuff.

Pacific Rim5. Pacific Rim

This film didn’t have the easiest ride from the critics (including one or two members of our own podcast), but its high showing in our awards just proves that there is still a huge audience out there for decent monster movies. So the script sucked and some performances were a little wooden? When giant ass robots fighting giant as alien sea creatures looks as good as this, who cares?

Django Unchained Waltz Foxx4. Django Unchained

Another film that divided critics and audience alike, Quentin Tarantino was at his most breathtaking, hillarious, and frustrating in this epic western starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz. Featuring a trademark QT soundtrack and visual flourishes loving recycled from the Speghetti Westerns of the 1960s, Django Unchained was a brutal and guiltily enjoyable romp through the old west and the height of slavery. Nobody does it quite like Quentin.

Alpha Papa Small3. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

The highest-placed British film of 2013, and a real rarity: a movie adaptation of a sitcom that delivered on the humour, while not sacrificing the feel of the original. Steve Coogan donned the string-back driving gloves once more to play one of the greatest comic creations since Basil Fawlty, and was in imperious form. From the opening credits featuring Partridge lip-syncing to Roachford’s Cuddly Toy to the pinpoint skewering of local radio, Alpha Paper was unashamedly British, and almost embarrassingly funny.

Gravity Sandra Bullock2. Gravity

The common link between our illustrious top ten of the year, and a similar list published by those hacks at Sight & Sound, is that this film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón finished in second place on both. Everyone who saw it agreed that it is a stunning technical and visual acheivement, with many (including us) going so far as to state that it’s one of the few positive uses of 3D they’ve seen in the cinema. However, without Sandra Bullock’s central performance grounding the film in some kind of recognisable humanity the film would have been a flashy, but ultimately soulless experience.

Cloud Atlas Weaving Old George1. Cloud Atlas

Ignored by the Academy, the cinema chains, and the ‘man in the street’ (barely making back its $100m+ budget), the Wachowski siblings and Tom Twyker’s co-directed historical drama/conspiracy thriller/escape caper/sci-fi blockbuster/fucking bonkers post-apocalyptic nightmare is exactly the kind of film that film bloggers love to write about, and they voted for it in their droves. Adapted from David Mitchell’s ‘unfilmable’ novel. Cloud Atlas is an incredible experience, jumping between six very different, but intertwined stories, each featuring the same cast of actors. It swings from the sublime (Ben Whishaw as an aspiring composer, Tom Hanks as a manipulative doctor, Donna Bae as a replicant service worker) to the ridiculous (Hugh Grant as an angry Korean restaurant owner, Halle Berry as a white Jewish emigre, Hugo Weaving as The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh) at regular intervals, and is certainly not the kind of film you can watch with one eye on your Twitter timeline.

For its sheer ambition, imagination, and chutzpah, we are very proud to call this our film of the year.

The best of the rest:

13. Side Effects
14. Stoker
15. Before Midnight
15. Wreck-it Ralph
17. Spring Breakers
18. Zero Dark Thirty
19. Captain Phillips
20. Despicable Me 2

Here are the rest of our awards, and you can hear a full discussion about these awards on the Failed Critics Podcast:

Best Performance by an Actor

1. Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips

2. Sam Rockwell for The Way, Way Back

=3. Daniel Bruhl for Rush, and James McAvoy for Filth

Best Performance by an Actress

1. Adèle Exarchopoulos

2. Sandra Bullock for Gravity

3. Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables

Best Documentary

1. Blackfish

2. The Act of Killing

3. The Great Hip-Hip Hoax

Best Film not in the English Language

1. Blue is the Warmest Colour (France)

2. The Thieves (South Korea)

3. The Act of Killing (Denmark/Indonesia)

Best Soundtrack

1. Cloud Atlas

2. Gravity

3. Les Miserables

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2013 in Review: A Soundtrack

I’ve always loved film soundtracks, but ever since I’ve been film blogging they have pretty much replaced radio and MTV in being my primary channel for discovering new music and previously undiscovered classics. So, just as l did last year, here is my ‘Cinematic Soundtrack of the Year’, starring my favourite musical moments from film in the last twelve months.

Cuddly Toy by Roachford – Alpha Papa

Unfairly overshadowed by another Oscar-winning, tightly shot close-up musical performance (more on that later), the sight of Steve Coogan lip-syncing to forgotten 80s ‘classic’ Cuddly Toy while driving to work in his sponsored car let me know that everything was going to be okay with the one film I was desperate not to fail this year. It stayed true to the spirit of the TV show (in fact it’s very reminiscent of Alan’s air bass guitar to Gary Numan’s ‘Music for Chameleons’ in series 2), while laying down a marker for how this very British sitcom was going to expand onto our cinema screens by spending 3 minutes on one joke, which would have been unthinkable in a 27-minute programme.

Silver Lady by David Soul – Filth

Filth’s soundtrack is one of my favourites of the year, featuring a great Clint Mansell score as well as a number of interesting covers and rediscovered classics. However, the pinanacle of the film’s marriage of bizarre imagery and 70s soul comes in a scene where David Soul arrives in a car, picking up Shauna Macdonald (playing the wife of James McAvoy’s Bruce Robertson). The ensuing car journey has Soul singing his own ‘Silver Lady’, complete with glamorous backing singers in the back seat. Utterly bizarre and hilarious.

I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix) by Lykke Li – Blue is the Warmest Colour

This must have been a huge hit in France, not only featuring on the soundtrack to Rust and Bone (my film of 2012), but even more memorably in this year’s Palm d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour. In a picture notable for its lack of a conventional score, the party scene where Adele finds some much needed familiarity with her friends and family comes to life with this brilliant track.

Can’t Forget by Cliff Martinez (feat. Mac Quayle & Vithaya Pansringarm) – Only God Forgives

Like Nicholas Winding Refn’s last film Drive, Only God Forgives is scored superbly by Cliff Martinez. The highlight for me being the karaoke performance of a softly spoken, samurai sword-wielding police office played with an unearthly grace and calm by Vithaya Pansringarm. The scens of him singing his heart out to a room of impassive stony-faced colleagues was unnerving and almost Lynchian in its banal nightmarish qualities.

Space Oddity by David Bowie (and Kristen Wiig) – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Pipping the films use of the brilliant Arcade Fire track Wake Up is the moment where Kristen Wiig enters a bar in Greenland, dressed in winter clothing and with a guitar slung over her shoulder, and starts to sing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. A wondrous collision of incredible music and Ben Stiller finally seizing the day as my cinematic proxy made this one of my favourite moments in a cinema all year. Seriously, it was like porn to me.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite by Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak, and Emma Thompson – Saving Mr Banks

Any film featuring the near-perfect songs from Mary Poppins was always going to end up on this list, but even I was surprised by how affected I was by this film’s exploration into the themes and motivations behind the creation of Disney’s finest film. The moment that PL Travers (Emma Thompson) and the song-writing Sherman Brothers (BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman) finally reach a moment of understanding and conciliation over the climactic Mary Poppins is a joyous scene.

Let It Go by Idina Menzel – Frozen

This Disney musical is huge return to form for the animation studio that has struggled in Pixar and Dreamwork’s shadow over the last decade. But while other studios stagnated this year, Disney produced their best film since the renaissance of the early nineties. Frozen, based on a classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tale, looks absolutely fantastic and features songs comparable to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, but with a post-Wicked twist. Idina Menzel’s (who has history as a Disney princess from Enchanted) performance as Elsa at the mid-way point of the film is the perfect marriage of stunning animation and incredible vocals.

I Dreamed a Dream by Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

I simply couldn’t look beyond this as my choice for musical moment of the year. I’ve been a huge fan of the original musical ever since my wife persuaded me to grow up and forget my preconceptions about musical theatre, and it has been a long wait to see the musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel finally make it to the big screen. Luckily, the film didn’t disappoint (let’s just pretend Russell Crowe didn’t happen) and Tom Hooper’s film gained Oscar nominations and a place in my films of 2013 list.

The moment of the film that most sticks in the mind though is that incredible sequence where Anne Hathaway rescues one of theatre’s great songs from the hands of Susan Boyle. The close-up, the impassioned vocals, and the sobbing endeared Hathaway to a legion of new fans, and rightfully won her an Oscar.

These tracks, and more, are available on this collaborative Spotify playlist. We’d love you to add your favourite soundtrack music that we missed.

A guide to Les Mis on dvd

lesmisI wrote the obligatory Les Mis review back in January, after its (Leicester based) premiere on the big screen. Since then, I’ve been to see it more times than I went to the cinema in the whole of 2012. Which, admittedly, was only about four times. But still, what a loser.

Today it is released on DVD. No longer must you attempt discreet silent sobbing into a single Kleenex Balsam while sharing an arm rest with a stranger. Instead you can watch it the privacy of your own home, clutching a loo roll in the fetal position on your sofa, the way Victor Hugo would have wanted.

It’s about 3 hours long which, I agree, is quite a commitment. So here are my must see moments, in their painstaking, obsessive, chronological entirety.

1. Enter Colm Wilkinson (0:07:14)
The first few minutes of the film are a little disconcerting, even for a hysterical fan such as myself. I was still reeling from the fact that Hugh Jackman was Irish and Russell Crowe couldn’t sing, when suddenly Colm Wilkinson (who originated the role of Valjean in the West End AND Broadway, so he knows his shit, people) turned up as the kindly Bishop, brandishing those candlesticks, and reassured me that it was all going to be ok.

2. Fantine nods (0:16:03)
At this point she’s still part of the factory chorus. Though she stands out a mile off because she’s a) the only one wearing pink and b) Anne Hathaway. “Pay the landlord, pay the shop. Keep on working as long as you’re able.” she sings, with the steely determination of someone who knows she isn’t going to be in a job much longer. Not that job, anyway.

3. The sniff that won the Academy Award (0:29:40)
This performance is perfect for many reasons, not least because it represents the moment everyone stopped associating the song with a reality TV contestant. I Dreamed a Dream is filmed as one continuous tight shot of Hathaway’s Oscar winning face. But my favourite sniff in particular occurs here.

4. When Jackman gets it (0:37:37)
These songs have been performed on stage for 18 years. Those are some big boots to fill, and at the beginning Hugh’s shoe size waivers. But it’s in the gathering up his belongings (candlesticks, mainly) section of Who Am I? when he suddenly makes the role his own. Glancing up at the heavens during his surprisingly subtle utterance of the line “my soul belongs to God, I know, I made that bargain long ago”, he nails it.

5. Valjean stealth failure (1:00:32)
Jean Valjean is many things; world’s strongest man, Mayor, bread thief. But he certainly isn’t an expert when it comes to stealth. This is showcased earlier in the film, when he attempts to steal some silver platters from the Bishop by drop kicking them out of an open door (0:08:39). However he surpasses this moment when stumbling into the church yard, whispering “we need to disappear” and then immediately launching into song at the top of his lungs. Brilliant.

6. Size zero Eponine (1:07:45)
We get a few glimpses of Eponine mooching around in the background, batting her grubby eyelashes at Marius. But this is the first time we see a full length shot of her, and her eye watering corset. My official scientific calculations put her waist at half the size of a Cadbury Creme Egg. Or something. I couldn’t be bothered to get off the sofa to measure it.

7. Vacuous Cosette (1:08:10)
Cosette is a bit of a nothing character. Her main purpose is to sing the really high twiddly notes that no one else can hit during the group numbers. Aside from that she just stands around looking dead eyed to the point where you wonder if her bonnet isn’t tied a bit too tight. It’s kind of a testament to Amanda Seyfried that she pulled this off to perfection.

8. Marius & Enjolras walk into certain death in order to save face (1:34:48)
You know when you’re on a night out with your mates and an elaborate drunken plan is hatched to go to Blackpool for the weekend, and then the next morning you all play cancellation chicken, because you don’t want to be a spoilsport, but you really don’t want to drive to Blackpool? That’s essentially what Marius & Enjolras do at this moment.

9. The shit barricades (1:35:56)
Books rely entirely on your imagination to create a vivid picture. Theatre relies on basic set and a suspension of disbelief. Films are supposed to do all that for you. On stage, the barricades are an all singing, all dancing, revolving masterpiece. In the movie, which had a not insubstantial $61 million budget, the barricades are built from a couple of old chairs. 

10. Enjolras’s death back-flip (1:57:50)
There are multiple deaths in this movie, from the tragedy of Fantine saying goodbye to her daughter, to the exquisite crunch of Russell Crowe’s vocal chords snapping in the sea. But Enjolras hanging backwards out of the window, red flag in hand, is a wonderful chest punching nod to the theatre goers in the audience. 

11. The Shawshank Redemption homage (2:00:38)
After dragging his future son-in-law (rather than just a bag of shoes and some money laundering paperwork) through endless sewers, Jackman emerges covered head to toe in shit, save for his beady white eyes. Liquid cinema, in every sense.

12. Grandpa Marius crashes the party (2:09:21)
Alright, so they gave Marius a bit of a back story, made that sacrifice all the more poignant. And, fair enough, Grandpa and his bucket-loads money put on a pretty fancy wedding for the kids. But that does not give him the right to muscle his face into A Heart Full of Love reprise. Dude, wind your wrinkly neck in.

13. The Jackanory bit (2:10:21)
Marius is a sweet kid. When Valjean settles down to have what is obviously a serious important discussion with his new son in law, Marius reacts with an excitable grin, like he’s about to get a bedtime story.

14. The making of Marius (2:11:57)
Moments ago he was grinning like a loon. Then suddenly Marius understands that Valjean is doing a runner, and he’s going to have to pick up the slack. Never mind all that revolution nonsense, this is the moment Marius becomes a man. His voice suddenly and inexplicably breaks, and he practically growls the line “for the sake of Cosette, it must be so”. HOT.

15. Do you hear the people sing? (2:15:30)
Basically, the second the film cuts to the convent (beginning of chapter 19), it’s time to brace yourself for the big finale. It’s a stunning scene, but the bit where Valjean stands up out of the chair with Fantine (2:21:20) is particularly well done. Then the whispered singing, a proper set of barricades, and all the clapping and crying I can muster. Marvellous.

Shall we watch it again?

Failed Critics Podcast: Les Miserables

Do you hear the critics sing?

Podding the thoughts of angry men,

They are the musings of a people who won’t watch Rock of Ages again,

When the bleating of the fool,

Echoes the bleating of the drunk,

There is podcast about to start when tomorrow comes!

That’s right, James has finally managed to persuade the critics back into the cinema to see another musical, and hopefully this time they won’t want to kill him afterwards. Also on our big return we review new releases Gangster Squad, The Sessions, The Impossible, and Quartet.

Join us next week as we review Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. The D is silent, the podcast won’t be…

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

The obligatory Les Misérables review

les mis anne hathawayLes Misérables is my Lord of the Rings. I’ve been anticipating this film for a long time, simultaneously excited and worried they’re going to balls it up.

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room first of all. And no, I don’t mean the actual Elephant of the Bastille monument that the students lark about on in later scenes. I mean Russell Crowe‘s really shit singing. Here’s a little tip for any other theatre producers thinking of transferring their global phenomenon stage musical to the big screen: if there are rumblings about one of your leading actor’s singing not being up to scratch, don’t give him the opening line of the sodding film! My first thought was ‘oh god’. My second thought was ‘I can’t work out what he sounds like and it’s going to bug me for the next 157 minutes’. And my third thought (don’t worry, I’m not going to document every thought that entered my head throughout the film, that would be terrifying) was ‘oh yes, I’ve worked it out’.

The first few minutes are all a bit random really. Crowe’s Javert is great at riding a horse, and being downright menacing, so long as he isn’t carrying a (nasal) tune. Hugh Jackman‘s Valjean looks as rough as someone who’s spent 19 years in prison lugging boats around has every right to and, when he speaks, he sounds like he has a mouthful of spoons. That, coupled with the fact that they’re doing this weird sing/talk hybrid, and I can see why newcomers and reluctant viewers might have been a little put off. I struggled to enjoy it at first, and I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Les Mis fan. Ideally, they should have swapped it around a bit, and started the film with one of the more solid performances. But I guess they felt that telling the story out of chronological sequence, Pulp Fiction style, was unbecoming. Bloody theatre snobs.

Luckily, while I was still wondering whether this was actually going to be any good, Anne Hathaway turned up, had all her hair chopped off, sang a song, won an Oscar, and promptly died, all within the space of about 15 minutes. Nailed it, Hathaway.

By now, eight years have passed and Valjean’s had a chance to have a wash and remove all those spoons from his mouth, and scrubs up pretty nicely indeed. Hello Mr Mayor! It’s like that bit in Friends where Monica & Rachel mistake some guy for a yeti, but then he cuts his hair and he’s really hot. Or, you know, a reference to something far more highbrow. He sets off to rescue little Cosette (neatly skimming over the fact that he was kind of responsible for her mother’s untimely death) and give her a better life. Which means that she’ll get to wear pretty bonnets and no longer have to fetch water from that scary well, but she’ll never have any mates ever, and will always have to be ready to abscond at a moment’s notice, because her dad’s in some kind of unexplained, self imposed witness protection scheme.

At this point you should insert a new song, which we all know was crowbarred in to add one more Oscar nomination to the haul. The lyrics should be reminiscent of something Westlife would sing, while perched atop stools on a Top of the Pops stage.

Another nine years pass and, while the French revolution rumbles away in the background, Javert is still hunting for Valjean. Tip: he’s the one lugging the giant candlestick wherever he goes. Meanwhile Cosette falls in love, Valjean prepares to do another runner, and some students get pissed and shout ‘red’ and ‘black’ over and over again. This is all leading to the most rousing, and my absolute favourite, song of the stage show, One Day More. On screen I’m not entirely sure it meshed perfectly, but I’d have to see it again to be sure. At the theatre, this juncture would be your interval. But there’s no time for a gin & tonic at the cinema, people. The bleakness is unremitting as we immediately plough on with act two.

The thing is, I don’t actually find it all that gloomy. Within the context of 19th century France, I’d say they’re quite a cheery bunch really. Nonetheless, the Thénardiers are important for the purposes of comic relief. You would have thought that noted comic actors Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter would have pulled this off with aplomb. But I’m sad to say they did not. Master of the House felt like a dress rehearsal of something that could have, eventually, been great; while other killer lines are lost in the direction altogether. Shame, really.

While I don’t want this review to be entirely about Russell Crowe’s singing (I only want it to be 95% about that), his performance of Stars cannot go unmentioned. Stars is Javert’s big moment. His Anne Hathaway, if you will. Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that the director was more concerned with having him balance along the edge of a really tall building than hitting some/any of the big notes. But Stars has been dumbed down so much it is rendered almost meaningless. And I know these songs, let me tell you. I’ve seen Les Misérables probably five times on the West End, plus a couple of school/college performances, and have driven the length of the M5 listening to the CD on more than one occasion.

There is plenty of enjoyment to be gained for fans of the show. The always ridiculous runaway cart becomes the fallen cart, seemingly because they couldn’t even be arsed to push it down a hill this time. The obligatory Cockney kid screaming ‘Vive le Francais!’ is good for a wry smile. And Enjolras pulls off a very fine version of the barricades death back-flip. There is also the amazing moment where, after dragging his future son-in-law (rather than just a bag of shoes and some money laundering paperwork) through endless sewers, Jackman emerges covered head to toe in shit, save for his beady white eyes. It’s brilliantly horrific.

I’m a fan, I’m predisposed to like it. There is good (outstanding) and bad (embarrassingly disappointing). But, ultimately, Les Misérables is more than the sum of its parts. Even if one of those parts is a New Zealand-born Australian actor who sounds like he’s making a three pints down attempt at “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears on Sing Star.

One final note of thanks to the impeccably behaved audience of the completely sold out 8pm showing at Leicester Showcase on Friday night, who watched the film in total silence and applauded at the end. You restored my faith in cinema-going.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting to go to the Cinema in 2013: Part 1

In the first part of James Diamond’s preview of 2013 he takes us through a packed January to March…

January

DJANGO UNCHAINEDThe New Year kicks off with a number of Golden-Globe nominated films (and Oscar hopefuls) hitting UK screens. First up is Les Misérables, the screen adaptation of the stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel. Reviews suggest that fans of the musical will be very satisfied, but is there anything here for anyone new or ambivalent to the source material? Well, any chance to see Russell Crowe trying to keep up vocally with the Jackmans and the Hathaways of this world has got to be worth a punt, and the film does look suitably epic.

In a jam-packed month, the following week sees the release of Django Unchained and Gangster Squad. Tarantino’s ‘Southern’ (simply a Western taking place in the South) is apparently his best work in years, with lashings of blood, violence, and a cast including Jamie Foxx, Christophe Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel Jackson. If the trailer is anything to go by, we can at least expect a welcome return to common parlance of the word ‘rambunctious’. Which is nice.

Gangster Squad was put back by a few months after the tragedy of the cinema shooting in Colorado, and we can finally see if it is going to be this generation’s The Untouchables or Dick Tracy on 18 January. It has a great cast (Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, and Sean Penn), but can director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) successfully move on from his ‘youth comedy’ background?

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln has ‘Oscar-winner’ written through it like a stick of rock, and with a cast like Daniel-Day Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the story of America’s greatest President you would be a fool to bet against it. In a controversial move Spielberg appears to gloss over Lincoln’s vampire-hunting years though. Risky.

The final film we’re very excited about here at Failed Critics is the official return of the Governator in The Last Stand. A couple of cameos in the Expendables series aside, this is Arnie’s first leading role since returning to Hollywood. When a drug cartel leader busts out of prison and is racing to the Mexican border, a sheriff (almost certainly approaching retirement) and his inexperienced staff in a border town are the only thing in the way. If Arnie gets to show a little depth, and even vulnerability, as the lead this could be great. If the film tries to pretend he’s the same Arnie we knew and loved in the 80s and 90s however…

February

Wreck-It RalphThis month sees the release of a couple of films playing on our nostalgia in very different way. First up is Disney’s paean to computer games of our youth, Wreck-It Ralph. The film features the voice talents of John C. Reilly as the eponymous game ‘baddie’, and his journey through all the games in an arcade to become a hero. The key to the film’s success will be in whether it has the cross-over appeal between children and adults that is omnipresent in almost everything their Pixar subsidiary produces.

The second film of the month playing to our nostalgia gland comes with the tagline “Yipee-ki-yay Mother Russia”. That’s right, this year’s Valentine’s Day is A Good Day To Die Hard. Bruce Willis is back as John McClane, and this time he’s in Russia.

With his son.

For some reason.

Who cares when we’ve got Euro-trash bad guys, people jumping off of buildings, and a rumour of the awesome Patrick Stewart playing the main villain?

Also out this month is the adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, directed by Tom Twyker (of the brilliant Run Lola Run), and Andy and Lana Wachowski (of The Matrix. Just The Matrix. There were no other Matrix films. Leave it). Anyone who has seen the five-minute trailer will know, well, about the same as anyone who hasn’t seen the utterly bonkers and nonsense trailer. It looks fantastic though.

Anyone who has been to the cinema recently will have noticed an advert asking customers to turn their phones off apparently voiced by Alfred Hitchcock. Guess what – it’s not really archive footage of an incredibly prescient Hitch, but Anthony Hopkins in a sneak preview of his work in Hitchcock; the story of the master of suspense and how he made Psycho. Expect an pretty rosy portrayal of the type of behaviour that would have resulted in lawsuits and possibly criminal charges these days – Hollywood doesn’t tend to perform hatchet-jobs on its own people.

March

oz_the_great_and_powerful_wicked_witchStoker, the English-language début of director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) is out on 1 March, and it certainly sounds interesting. Written by Wentworth Miller (yep, that Wentworth Miller who starred in Prison Break) and starring Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker, a young woman who becomes infatuated with the mysterious and charming Uncle Stoker (Matthew Goode) who comes to stay with the family after his brother (and India’s father) dies in an accident. Not likely to be too high on laughs.

At the complete opposite end of the cinematic scale we have the long-delayed GI Joe: Retaliation. Originally scheduled for release last summer, the latest GI Joe film was delayed for rewrites and the addition of 3D. Oh joy. Still, it’s got the Rock and Bruce Willis as the original Joe, so there’s a slight chance it might be better than anything Michael Bay has released in the last 12 years.

The final film we’re looking forward to in the first quarter of 2013 is yet another attempt to play with the mythology of the Oz universe. Not the HBO series about a prison, but the universe created by L. Frank Baum and brought lovingly to the screen in the classic Judy Garland film The Wizard of Oz. Ever since then creative people have been drawn to this world and tried to create their own take on it, the the stage musical Wicked being the most successful of recent years. Oz: The Great and Powerful is Sam Raimi’s take on the Oz myth, and stars James Franco as a stage magician thrown into the world and using his wits and skills to survive the plans of three witches hunting him. I cannot help but feel this will either be brilliant, or contender for worst film of the year. Fingers crossed.

In Part 2 we will look at the releases scheduled for April to June, including Carrie, Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Man of Steel.