Tag Archive: Les Miserables


Review by C.J. Bunce

Much like Hergé and his Tintin and Christin and Mézières’ Valerian and Laureline, another story read by millions of Europeans in the 20th century but overlooked by the masses in America is finally making its way overseas.  This time its the villain Fantômas who is coming to America, the star of a series of some 43 novels and 15 films, a popular crime novel readers in Europe have flocked to read about beginning in 1911 with Marcel Allain and Pierre Souverstre‘s team-written novel Fantômas, followed by a succession of comics and other adaptations.  Writer Olivier Bocquet and artist Julie Rocheleau pulled ideas from the original novel series for their award-winning 2013 work, The Wrath of Fantômas, which is being released in an English translation for the first time tomorrow.

First previewed by Titan Comics at the Diamond Retailer Lunch at San Diego Comic-Con last year, The Wrath of Fantômas is steeped in literary history.  The masked, black-gloved Fantômas has been said to have inspired the 1930s comic strip character The Phantom (1936), who in turn inspired Batman (1939), but Fantômas isn’t the first superhero character.  That designation traditionally goes to the title hero of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, created a few years earlier in 1905, who inspired, in turn, Zorro in 1919.  But it won’t take long for readers to pick up the same disdain for corrupted governments and leaders throughout the 19th and 20th centuries from the vantages of Fantômas, Sir Percy Blakeney, and others, that continued to spread across the world, reflected well into the 20th century with anti-heroes like the Guy Fawkes-masked V in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.

Fantômas is pursued by the fiercely zealous and savvy Inspector Juve, a character that critic and author Kim Newman has cited as the inspiration for Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series.  Juve is as determined as Javert, and Victor Hugo’s chief antagonist from 1862’s Les Misérables was no doubt an inspiration for Juve–he’s Javert seen as noble and loyal, but also just, heroic, and good.  His nemesis Fantômas is merciless toward his targets and in his methods, killing for vengeance, and seemingly for no reason, and no woman or child or man is out-of-bounds for his fury.

Here is a preview:

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Lea Seydoux as Belle Beauty and the Beast

French director Christophe Gans is bringing his award-winning adaptation of Beauty and the Beast to the United States next month well in advance of the latest Disney adaptation starring Emma Watson that is slated for a March 2017 release.  Both are live action versions, following the Academy Award-winning animated version that was nominated for Best Film of 1991.  Originally released in France in 2014, Gans’ version swept the art design awards at that year’s Cesar awards, France’s equivalent to the Oscars, for Best Production Design, Cinematography, and Costume Design.

The French adaptation is simply stunning, evoking epic visual spectacles with lavish sets and costumes like the 2012 film Les Miserables and the 2004 film Phantom of the Opera, and fantasies like Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and even the original Labyrinth.  It is also a follow-up star vehicle for SPECTRE lead Bond Girl Léa Seydoux, who portrays Belle.  Seydoux also starred in Inglourious Basterds, the 2010 Robin Hood, Midnight in Paris, Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

France Beauty and the Beast 2014

Vincent Cassell (Elizabeth, Shrek, Ocean’s Twelve, Black Swan) portrays the Prince.

Have a look at this stunning trailer for Beauty and the Beast:

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Snowpiercer clip B

Review by C.J. Bunce

After a long and clunky path to theaters that we first discussed in our review of the graphic novel source material here at borg.com, Snowpiercer, the highly, almost ludicrously improbable story of a train carrying the last humans on Earth akin to Noah’s Ark is finally in wide release.  With below freezing temperatures and the wind howling across the country this week, it’s a good time to hunker down and take a look at this new home release.

The film sees a lower class of humans living at the back of a giant train that is strangely bigger on the inside as they send a small band to try to get to the front of the train controlled by the wealthy.  Numerous reviews call Snowpiercer an allegory, and that’s completely wrong.  Snowpiercer is literal.  It’s a post-apocalyptic science fiction survival story, not the deep symbolic stuff of Plato or even Orwell.  Snowpiercer–the film–is pretty much devoid of any subtle hidden meanings. It’s overt B-movie sci-fi.  In fact it’s closer to Escape from New York or Logan’s Run than a high-brow philosophical look at life, as it was categorized by many critics on its theatrical release.

Snowpiercer strange cargo

Likewise, don’t try to compare it to the much heralded source material, the black and white graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette reviewed here.  Other than the story being about someone trying to get from the back of a train to the front, it’s pretty much unrecognizable.

Yet if you can watch Snowpiercer for what it is, an action vehicle (no pun intended) for star Chris Evans between big picture roles, then you might agree it’s a winner.

Bouncing back and forth between taunts of a gotcha a la Soylent Green, The Road, or War Games, the movie answers every (simple) question it poses, which is surprisingly satisfying.  Korean director Bong Joon-ho peppers each new train car he breaks through in Panama Joe Atari video game style with enough new questions that you’ll find yourself paying attention for the entire ride, just to get to what ultimate wisdom may be found at story’s end.

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The first movie trailer for the screen adaptation of Les Miserables the musical (not to be confused with countless prior adaptations of the original Victor Hugo novel) is here.  The trailer features Anne Hathaway as she’s never been seen before as the desperate and sickly French worker Fantine, singing “I Dreamed a Dream.”

Check it out:

It all looks very epic and bleak–hence, the misery of the title.  I know audiences love the Fantine song but I’m thinking I would have marketed this more as a rousing war movie, as the best part of Les Mis the musical in my view were the big chorus numbers with the soldiers or the “Master of the House” bit.

Hathaway in Les Mis.

Epic historical costume dramas focusing on music have to work to find their audience, and once in a while, as with Amadeus, you score a hit that brings everyone to the theater.  Is Les Mis capable of that success?

Crowe and Jackman in Les Mis.

With as much as the adaptation of the musical of The Phantom of the Opera had going for it, with superb performances by Emmy Rossum (The Day After Tomorrow, Poseidon) as Christine, Gerard Butler (Timeline, 300, Tomorrow Never Dies) as the Phantom, Minnie Driver (The Riches, Ella Enchanted, X-Files, GoldenEye) as Carlotta, Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, A Gifted Man) as Raoul, Ciaran Hinds (The Woman in Black, Munich, Harry Potter VII, Pt 2, Ghost Rider II, Lara Croft II, Road to Perdition, The Sum of All Fears, Mary Reilly, Excalibur) as Firmin, and Simon Callow (Doctor Who, Amadeus, Shakespeare in Love, Howard’s End) as Andre, it did not receive the critical acclaim it deserved.  It will take an incredibly well done Les Mis film to out-do The Phantom, so this new film has a lot to overcome.  And even then it may take a lot to get folks to see it again but this time on-screen or less likely, see it on-screen without first seeing the musical.

Patrick Wilson and Emmy Rossum in the brilliant adaptation of the musical of The Phantom of the Opera.

Hopefully more interesting, and not yet revealed, will be performances by Sacha Baron Cohen (Talladega Nights, The Dictator) and Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, Harry Potter series) as the horrible inn keepers.  But Hugh Jackman looks appropriately haggard as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe looks uncharacteristically vile as the relentless Javert.  Amanda Seyfried looks just plain miscast as Cosette.  Can Hathaway pull off a singing and gritty role like Fantine?  She’s done serious work before and was great in the musical Ella Enchanted, although that was a comedy and didn’t require that she take herself seriously.  If she can pull this role off–a role that might as well be up there with the best known Shakepearean characters–it could catapult her into a different league of actresses and away from the typical modern 20-something roles.

Les Miserables hits theaters December 14, 2012.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

As everyone knows, it’s all too likely for a film adaptation of a beloved novel to, well, ruin it. (Witness the travesty of The Seeker, an utterly butchered translation of Susan Cooper’s breathtakingly beautiful fantasy series, The Dark is Rising.) And yet, some of our most brilliant and wonderful movies had their start as novels–Jaws, Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, Babe.  When they get it right, they get it really right, so it’s worth suggesting (albeit a bit tentatively) a few literary gems that deserve their day on the screen.

1.  Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

I almost don’t have to say anything about Orson Scott Card’s brilliant science fiction classic–fans have been clamoring for an Ender’s Game movie since its release in 1984, and the property has come close several times.  One of the early stumbling blocks (filming those dynamic zero-gravity training sequences) will no longer pose a problem, thanks to advances in special effects.  But drafting a script with all the excitement and nuance of Card’s novel intact remains a challenge, as does casting the novel’s impressive ensemble of very young characters.  Hopefully someone will eventually be up for those challenges, and, like Peter Jackson with The Lord of the Rings, be able to do this literary masterpiece justice.

2.  Lincoln’s Dreams, by Connie Willis

Seldom do I read a book and think immediately, “This should be a movie.”  But that is exactly what I thought upon first reading Connie Willis’s stunning debut novel, and what I think every read thereafter.  It’s short, which means it can be adpated wholesale without losing anything in the compression of film.  It’s highly visual, with evocative scene-setting around Washington, DC and various Civil War battlefield sites, as well as graphic Civil War dream sequences.  And the touching mystery and love story of the young historical researcher and the girl haunted by dreams of the past would be a perfect vehicle for young actors.  When I first read this, I thought Tom Everett Scott would be ideal in the lead, but the intervening decades have made that less likely.  Perhaps Jake M. Johnson from New Girl?  Or the always-earnest Jake Gyllenhaall?

3.  Les Miserables (the musical)

Victor Hugo’s classic tale of doomed revolutionaries, redemption, and obsession has been riveting readers since 1862, and has been adapted for the screen and stage countless times.  But it’s safe to say that Claude-Michel Schonberg’s 1980 musical adaptation has been one of the most enduring, spawning legions of devoted fans all over the world.  Alas, it missed the heyday of stage-to-screen adaptations of a generation before–but with the success of movies like Phantom of the Opera and Rent, not to mention current TV fads like Glee and Smash, perhaps it’s time to revisit this one.  NEWSFLASH!!!  According to Wikipedia, this one is on its way at last!  Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway, no less!  We’ll bring you news as we learn more.

4.  Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle

Tamsin is my favorite novel in the world, which means that it’s perfect just the way it is, and the risk for mucking it up is great–but the potential for an absolutely brilliant screen adaptation here is huge, too.  Beagle himself is an experienced screenwriter, and this novel deserves a bigger following.  It’s the story of an American teen who moves to the Dorset countryside and runs headlong into the neighborhood’s older, Otherworldly residents–from the local pooka, to the Wild Hunt, to a company of ghosts at once more lovable and more chilling than she (or the reader) is prepared for.  borg.com has actually heard a rumor that a British TV network is considering adapting the world of Tamsin into a long-running series, so we’ll be watching to see if–and how–that plays out.

5.  Muppet _________

A Muppet Christmas Carol being one of the best book-to-screen adaptations ever made, and Muppet Treasure Island being great fun, too, it’s time the wacky gang gets back into serious literature–particularly now that the Muppets are a hot box office property again.  Screenwriters can take inspiration from a fun series of comics from Boom! Studios, including titles such as Muppet Sherlock Holmes (with Gonzo in the title role), Muppet Peter Pan, and Muppet Robin Hood (Kermit); but allow me to suggest a few other works that may have good Muppet mileage.  How about Muppet Jane Eyre?  (Admittedly, their lack of a true ingenue might be a handicap here.)  Of Muppets and Men?  The Maltese Muppet?  Wait–I’ve got it:  Muppet Three Musketeers.