Les Miserables: The Song Remains the Same

by Ethan Alter December 21, 2012 6:02 am
<i>Les Miserables:</i> The Song Remains the Same

For Drama Club nerds of a certain age, Les Misérables -- which premiered in London in 1985 and Broadway the year after that -- was likely a formative theatergoing experience, a mega-musical that married soaring anthems with elaborate stagecraft, giving it a grand sense of scale that blew the roof off the theater. You didn't just watch Les Miz... you became part of its world. In retrospect, it's easy to slam the musical for helping to launch the still-ongoing era of Blockbuster Theater, where budget-swollen shows frequently put more effort into the spectacle than the songs and story (looking at you, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark). But almost three decades on, Les Misérables, adapted from Victor Hugo's sprawling 19th-century tome, remains a case where all of the elements are in harmony with each other. On their own, songs like "Who Am I?", "Stars" and "One Day More" are stirring; when paired with the revolving turntable set, the intricate lighting design and the building of the barricade, they become transcendent.

Trailers Without Pity: The Dark Knight Rises

by Ethan Alter July 9, 2012 10:45 am
Trailers Without Pity: <i>The Dark Knight Rises</i>

The 2012 summer movie season has had its fair share of hits so far (The Avengers, Ted, The Amazing Spider-Man) but one film has loomed large over the multiplex landscape ever since the spring breeze gave way to summer heat: The Dark Knight Rises. The premiere of the third and final chapter in Christopher Nolan's genre redefining Batman series is now just two weeks away and Hollywood is clearing the way for his arrival: between now and the film's July 20th release date, the only major movie opening in wide release is the fourth Ice Age adventure. Yup, even the other studios are dying to see what Nolan has come up with.

The Dark Knight Rises: Come On Up For the Rising

by Ethan Alter July 20, 2012 12:01 am
<i>The Dark Knight Rises</i>: Come On Up For the Rising

At the end of Christopher Nolan's first Batman adventure, Batman Begins, Gotham cop (and future commissioner) James Gordon warned his new masked vigilante pal about the potential for "escalation" amongst the city's criminal element in the wake of the costumed crime-fighter's arrival. In the moment, that scene existed to set the stage for the arrival of more challenging villains like the Joker, whose flair for anarchy would baffle and befuddle Batman through the course of The Dark Knight. But in hindsight, that scene was really Nolan's warning to us the audience that he was planning on escalating the franchise, not to mention the entire comic book movie genre, far beyond its expected conventions.

The Dark Knight was the initial shot across the bow and now here comes Nolan's third and supposed final chapter, The Dark Knight Rises, which pushes the director's specific vision to its breaking point. With its super-sized three-hour runtime, expansive storytelling and enormous action set-pieces (many of which were filmed in the IMAX format, which is the ideal way to see the movie), Rises is the fulfillment of that seven-year old pledge from Nolan to moviegoers. When the title card finally appears onscreen at the end of the movie, it's his equivalent of dropping the mic and walking offstage. (WARNING: Spoilers Will Rise Beyond This Point)

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