independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

'Les Mis' lives up to the hype

Wednesday: AS MOST filmmakers will agree, Peter Bradshaw, the English Guardian's hard-nosed cinema critic is a difficult man to impress, causing my eye to zoom in when I saw a rating of four stars (out of five) perched atop his review of Les Miserables.

Instinctively, I thought one of two things either a) director Tom Hooper must have pictures of him in an uncompromising position or b) the film is actually better than I would have expected.

It has been twenty years since I saw the West End stage version and having sat through the muchhyped big-screen adaptation of the musical of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel this evening, I am pleased to report that in my humble opinion, it is masterful.

As with all high-profile works cast before a discerning public's eye, it is impossible to tick all boxes for all people. There is probably a Bastille-full of 'niggly details' in this 158-minute long musical that you could bang at with a baguette, including the performance of Russell Crowe, who appears unusually sedated throughout.

The Gladiator star has responded to critics (via Twitter, how else?) by saying he performed the way the director instructed – raw and real. Though he sufficed as villain Javert, his on-screen nemesis, Hugh Jackman, was the man to make the most of this massive undertaking. The story may have evolved around the consequences of Jean Valjean stealing a piece of bread, but few can argue that Jackman stole the show to go with it.

Those that are fans of musicals, though not musically snobbish, should enjoy. From the spectacular opening scene, practically the entire script oozes melodically through the screen. If your other half winces at the thoughts of wide-mouthed songbirds flexing vocal chord after vocal chord for close to three hours, then usher him in the direction of the widely lauded Django Unchained, which is rolling on screen number two.

This January sees cinema-goers spoilt for choice (Lincoln, Life of Pi, Flight and the aforementioned Tarantino new release all playing) and Les Miserables is a highly recommended way to pass an evening. Those with a patriotic pulse can expect the socio-economic themes to stir the blood; the tale is not lacking relevance with the world of today. And there's a strong chance you'll be left humming sections of the score for a week or two afterwards. Or until the realisation dawns that you would probably be best off going to see it again. Encore! Saturday: Cork athlete Derval O'Rourke didn't hold back when she tweeted her thoughts on the Lance Armstrong cheating scandal. '75milliondollarsgone lance??? Oh boo hoo that's awful how about try being clean and earning minimum wage to be an honest athlete' she wrote.

O'Rourke, and more athletes like her, are most affected by the actions of cheating competitors and I sympathise with those that put in a genuine shift to compete at the world of sport's top table, only to trail home behind those that have broken the rules. How many more big names have done it/are doing it and have never/will never be found out? Who does the public now trust? Thanks to Armstrong, the achievements of many champions will never be looked upon in the same light again. Sunday: Sky's Super Sunday heavyweight clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United ended in a draw which was probably the fairest result. As we packed up our things to leave the watering hole after another thrilling White Hart Lane encounter, a gentleman approached us and sent us on our way with the following nugget.

He said that, allegedly, after a recent match in the US, a reporter asked David Beckham if he considered himself a volatile player. Beckham thought for a moment before answering, 'Well, I have played on the left-side of midfield, right-side of midfield and in the middle, so yeah, I suppose I am.'

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