Everywhere an Epic

By Post-Gazette ; Rick Bentley | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

Everywhere an Epic


Post-Gazette ; Rick Bentley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


'LES MISERABLES'

* Critic's Call: ***1/2

Anne Hathaway was a friend to Oscar pool participants everywhere as the frontrunner and eventual winner of the best supporting actress award for her portrayal of the doomed Fantine.

She famously dreamed a dream in the musical inspired by Victor Hugo's novel, a story with timeless themes of crime (or acts of decency) and punishment, sacrifice, shattered dreams, avarice, the ravages of poverty, forgiveness, love requited and unrequited, rebellion and redemption, in this world or the next.

In addition to Ms. Hathaway, the cast includes Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Colm Wilkinson, Samantha Barks, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit.

Despite its epic scope, it loses little on the small screen, thanks to the many close-ups and in some of the extras, you can see just how near Mr. Jackman's face was to the camera. Director Tom Hooper said "Les Miz" had two requirements: "If Hugh Jackman didn't exist, I wouldn't have made this film." The other: Requiring the performers to sing live.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray and DVD: A look at the performers; how production designer Eve Stewart and others created the perfect Paris; a condensed examination of Hugo's masterwork; and feature commentary by Mr. Hooper.

Blu-ray also has cast exploring the challenge of singing live rather than lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks; a featurette about the building of the barricade; exploration of the West End connection; and visit to some of the real locations used for the project.

Due out on Friday.

-- Post-Gazette

'ZERO DARK THIRTY'

* Critic's Call: *** 1/2

Knowing how the hunt for Osama bin Laden ends doesn't diminish the tension or fascination here as Navy SEALs lift off for their mission.

"Zero Dark Thirty," which takes its title from the 12:30 a.m. arrival at the Pakistan compound, reunites director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, who each won Academy Awards for "The Hurt Locker."

Filmed in Jordan and India, it demands patience and attention in the early going of its 157 minutes.

The movie says it is "based on firsthand accounts of actual events" and that includes missteps -- some fatal -- by overzealous, naive Americans, meetings with top CIA brass and watching how detective work, information once overlooked or misinterpreted, and civilian and military fortitude led to bin Laden.

The controversial film not only dramatizes inhumane treatment by Americans, including waterboarding, it also places the opening action at CIA "black sites" at undisclosed overseas locations.

It stars Jessica Chastain as a CIA operative targeting terrorists. Once the movie gets rolling and Maya is emboldened and infuriated by delays in attacking the compound where she is certain - - in her gut -- that bin Laden is hiding, it really picks up steam.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is salted with fascinating detail, dialogue or phrases that sound lifted from onetime journalist Boal's notebook. In addition to Ms. Chastain, the cast includes Jason Clarke and Jennifer Ehle as Maya's colleagues; Kyle Chandler as the CIA station chief in Islamabad; Mark Strong as the head of the Afghanistan and Pakistan divisions of the Counter Terrorism Center at the CIA; and James Gandolfini as the CIA director.

The Blu-ray combo pack and DVD document the filmmaking process with four featurettes: "No Small Feat," "The Compound," "Targeting Jessica Chastain," and "Geared Up."

-- Post-Gazette

'THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY'

* Critic's Call: ***

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," adapted by J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 Middle-earth adventure, pushes the boundaries of filmmaking, with intricate details rendered in a sometimes jarring format and a story enacted by an exceptional cast.

The first movie of Peter Jackson's trilogy reintroduces Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit who emerges from his serene hole in the ground to help 13 Dwarves reclaim their long-lost realm. …

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