LES MISERABLES (2012)
Tom Hooper (John Adams, The King's Speech) directs this screen adaptation of the successful stage musical based on Victor Hugo's classic novel. Set in 19th-century France, the central story revolves around the morality tale of an escaped prisoner named Jean Valjean, who undergoes a life-altering experience while the obsessive Inspector Javert hunts him down. Victor Hugo’s 1200-page novel addresses some of the most inspiring messages ever placed on paper: man can find redemption and he can replace anger and fear with compassion and faith. The most powerful component of the book/the plays/and past movie versions has always been Jean Valjean’s conversion once he experienced God’s mercy. Great news – this same spiritual truth remains intact in this new, rather extraordinary musical rendition. Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-winning performance as Fantine, a degraded woman struggling to support her child, may be the best-written, best acted female role ever! It is difficult to sit through her ordeals, as the little she has (her hair, her teeth, her virtue) are systematically taken away from her in order that she might get money to keep her child alive. Hathaway’s I Dreamed a Dream was a shared audience moment I’ll never forget. As the song ended, many in the audience were in tears while everyone burst into applause. (There were several instances when the audience applauded as if they were seeing a live play. They needed to express their emotion and appreciation. The empathy in the movie theater was palpable.) PG-13. PREVIEW REVIEW
MY FAIR LADY (1964)
Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn. Based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion about a simple flower girl transformed into an elegant lady by a male chauvinist professor, this eight-Oscar winner will enchant you with its ingratiating performances and memorable show-stoppers.
THE SAPPHIRES (2013)
It's 1968, and four Australian aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group entertains the U.S. troops in Vietnam. I suppose if we critics got really, really picky, we could find and bring up flaws in the production such as some material seeming a bit too lightweight, with each problem quickly resolved (oops, I wasn’t’ going to do that), but here’s what resonated with me throughout the screening: it made me feel and it made me feel good. I absolutely loved the performances, the dialogue, the story and most of all, the music. (PG-13) - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW
William Daniels, Howard DaSilva. Historical musical/drama. The beginning of the American Revolution set to music. Inspiring as well as entertaining. (Caution: contains a few expletives and the phrase “By God” is used several times. But it is also evident that these men respected the Creator.) - Use TVG
SINGING IN THE RAIN (1952)
Most everybody is familiar with Gene Kelly's version of Singin’ in the Rain (alone worth the rental price). But there are several great songs in this film, including perhaps the funniest musical number ever filmed–Donald O'Connor's Make Em Laugh.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
Made in 1965, the film was photographed in color, in Austria, and it has a beautiful look. Julie Andrews stars as a postulant sent to govern the seven children of a widowed retired naval officer. Music and love are soon to follow and the only thing to get in the way is the country’s takeover by those nasty Nazis. Throughout the years an unfair disdain has developed for this Rogers & Hammerstein musical, despite the fact that it won a Best Picture Oscar. Considered corny by many cynical critics, my defense rests with a fresh viewing. Once again, I found it to be a well-told story, with beautiful locations and memorable songs. And the dance scene between Maria and the Captain - now that's romance! G.
WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
Dancing gang members? Hey, it works! Based on Shakespeare’s tragic Romeo and Juliet, now set in late ‘50s New York barrios, Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and the lovely Natalie Wood have turned it into one of the finest film experiences you’ll ever have.
YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)
James Cagney as song-and-dance man George M. Cohan. Cagney rightly won Best Actor Oscar.
YOUNG AT HEART (1954)
Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Gig Young. Melodrama about a luckless composer in love with his friend's girl. Superb performances and music. (Caution: contains an attempted suicide, but it shows the folly of such an act.)