Two Oscar nominees for this year’s Best Picture hit stores this week.
• “Les Miserables,” Grade B-plus: This big-screen version of the musical based on Victor Hugo’s book stars Hugh Jackman.
To transform the much-beloved musical from stage to screen, director Tom Hooper had to find a way to maintain – and amplify – the emotional power of the original words and music with the trappings of a big-screen production. His efforts have created a beautiful and moving version of the stage production that’s loyal enough to its origins to appease Broadway musical fans, yet is theatrical enough to stand as a feature film release.
Jackman’s expressive face and competent singing voice bring a depth to the role that serves as a centerpiece for telling this dramatic tale.
Anne Hathaway is tres magnifique. Hooper was smart enough to know that while the actress might not have the singing skills of those who have played the role on stage, Hathaway’s acting abilities more than make up for any musical deficiencies. Hooper leaves the camera on her face as she sings the show-stopping “I Dreamed a Dream” with such haunting refrain that it makes you think that this must be what it’s like when angels cry.
• “Lincoln,” Grade B-minus: Steven Spielberg directs Daniel Day-Lewis in this drama about the 16th president’s battle to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.
It’s a little-told story in the Abraham Lincoln oeuvre despite how much this effort defined his legacy. The task of portraying the ordinary man with a strong moral core goes to British actor Daniel Day-Lewis, whose makeup makes him look like he posed for the $5 bill. Day-Lewis plays Lincoln as a man of vision, often given to making his points through rambling stories.
• “Parental Guidance,” Grade B: Billy Crystal plays Artie Decker, the veteran voice of the Fresno Grizzlies.
After a life-changing moment, Decker and his wife, Diane (Bette Midler), head to Atlanta to babysit their three grandchildren – Harper (Bailee Madison), Turner (Joshua Rush) and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) – while their parents (Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott) are away at an awards ceremony for a week.
Crystal and Midler have such a nice chemistry that it’s easy to believe their characters have been together for decades. Both have good solo moments, but they really are at their best when they are on screen together. This is the first time they’ve worked together, but it should definitely not be the last.
Also new on DVD:
“The Borgias: The Second Season”: Jeremy Irons stars in the cable series.
“Continuum: Season One”: Time traveling cable series with Rachel Nichols.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXVI”: Includes “The Magic Sword” and “The Mole People.”
“Star Trek: Enterprise – the Complete First Season”: The first year of the TV series about the early days of the Enterprise is available on Blu-ray.
“House Arrest”: A woman (Stacey Dash) must adjust to a new life after being arrested.
“Bangkok Revenge”: Man without emotions trains to be a killing machine.
“Men at Work: The Complete First Season”: Four buddies count on each other to get through life.
“Veep: The Complete First Season”: Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars in the political comedy.
“Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot: The Complete Series”: Includes 26 episodes of the series that original aired in 1967.
“This is 40”: A couple take a look at their marriage. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann star.
“MADtv: The Complete Second Season”: Includes 22 episodes of the comedy series.
“Futureworld”: The 1976 sequel to “Westworld” is on Blu-ray.
“The Collection”: A madman collects humans in a booby-trapped house.
“Day of the Falcon”: Action film about star-crossed lovers.
“Party of Five: The Complete Fourth Season”: Matthew Fox headlines the family TV drama.
“Stand Off”: A man’s misguided attempt to protect his family backfires.
“The Carol Burnett Show: This Time Together”: A collection of comedy bits from Burnett’s variety series.
“Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”: Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) is a sly sleuth and thoroughly modern woman of the late 1920s.
“Midsomer Murders: Tom Barnaby’s Last Cases”: Features 15 stand-alone mysteries in the series.
“Shakespeare Uncovered”: Tells the stories behind William Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
“Population2”: A woman wanders a planet devoid of humanity.