Geoff Cox’s DVD reviews: Les Miserables

Even if it doesn’t convert those who loathe musicals, well-mounted film ‘poperetta’ LES MISERABLES (12: Universal) will please fans of the long-running stage sensation.

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables
Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

Tom Hooper, who directed The King’s Speech, is at the helm and takes a rabble-rousing approach to Victor Hugo’s 1,400-page saga.

On his side is a dream cast of Hollywood’s finest performing live on camera, with the action revolving around Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a Frenchman released from a chain gang in 1815 after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.

A bitter and broken man, his life is changed by an act of kindness. But the thief-turned-good Samaritan is doggedly pursued through 19th Century France by obsessive Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).

Despite a running time of two-and-a-half-hours, the story is abridged, yet it’s still inspirational thanks to evergreen anthems like Bring Him Home and Anne Hathaway singing her heart out in a powerfully moving rendition of I Dreamed A Dream.

She’s at the centre of the film, even though she’s on screen for just 15 minutes as Fantine, the factory girl forced by poverty into prostitution.

Hooper gets a bit carried away with swoopy shots, the close-ups are unrelenting and every scene is enacted in song, so it can be rather heavy going.

But there’s still plenty to keep us entertained, with Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter very funny as the foul-mouthed Thenardiers.

> THE MAGNIFICENT ELEVEN (12: Eureka) is based on The Magnificent Seven and stars the last surviving member of the seven, legendary screen and TV actor Robert Vaughn. Sadly, there’s little else to compare this lame comedy thriller with the superb 1960 Western.

The action is transferred to a depressed English town in a mixed genre movie incorporating elements of Bollywood, British gangster films and sport.

It’s the cowboys – a declining works football team of builders – who come to the aid of Indian restaurateurs against American Bob (Vaughn) and his cronies, who are in the extortion business.

> Routine action movie A DARK TRUTH (15: Sony) stars Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria and Forest Whitaker in the tale of a group of activists trying to expose the crimes of a large corporation in South America.

As a former CIA operative turned radio presenter on a political talk show, Jack Begosian (Garcia) is intrigued by rumours that a water company may have colluded in the massacre of Ecuadorian villagers in an attempt to cover up a poisoning outbreak.

As survivors from the village, Francisco and Mia Francis (Whitaker and Longoria) are key to Begosian’s case, but the corporation is anxious to silence them.

> Made-for-TV horror flick RISE OF THE ZOMBIES (15: Anchor Bay) is set in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak in San Francisco.

Survivors grouped together on Alcatraz include a number of scientists intent on developing a cure for the virus.

When the prison is invaded by the undead some stark choices await those within its walls.