Thursday, March 28, 2013

Les Miserables Deluxe Edition Soundtrack Review

I LOVE the cover with Enjolras. ;P

The deluxe soundtrack CD pack for Les Miserables is - what other word can I use besides A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.? Superb, blew me away and blew my emotions to pieces from all the way to extremely amused to crying at the sad and beautiful. This soundtrack seems to fill all the gaps that were in the original soundtrack. Of course, this makes it very, very long - but that just makes it perfect for long trips or when you are doing a mundane task like cleaning house. I love soundtracks because I can hear the whole story of a movie being retold to me when I am unable to watch it at that time - and this soundtrack certainly does so.

Thoughts on a Few of the New Songs
I loved all the extra songs with the Thenardiers, who seem to be able to make me laugh no matter how many times I listen to their songs, especially when Thenardier keeps calling Cosette 'Colette'. Even better - a song with the Thenardiers AND Javert, "The Robbery".

I was delighted that "Fantine's Arrest" was included with Fantine's "do not mock me". I also love how Javert keeps interrupting Jean Valjean with his "M'sieur Mayor".

"Suddenly" never really struck me as getting across Jean's fatherly feelings for Cosette, but Cosette's "Will you be like a Papa to me?" in "The Bargain" definitely did. (Off topic - the movie better have the scene from the book with Jean giving Cosette the doll because that was just BEAUTIFUL.)

Even though "The Convent" was very short, I definitely appreciated the little part of singing of nuns in the background. It was gorgeous and a VERY good transition from "Suddenly" to "Stars". (Note: This is how far I've gotten in the book so far.)

I also like the transition from "Stars" to "Paris/Look Down"; it gives me a little shiver. :P It's also a great transition from when Jean "adopts" Cosette to several years later when Cosette is a young lady. The people of Paris cry for mercy, Gavroche sings about the plight of his people. He definitely is the cutest and BRAVEST little guy ever (and cheeky, too, if I may so :P). Near the end of the song, Enjolras and Marius enter, making a much better introduction to them than directly going to “Red and Black/ABC CafĂ©” as in the original soundtrack.

The extension of "In My Life" definitely gives me a bigger appreciation for the older Cosette than I had before, than her being just the girl who stole Marius away from Eponine (not really, but you Les Mis fans shoud know what I mean ;)). The conversation between Jean and Cosette as father and daughter is just beautiful.

The next CD begins with a rousing performance of “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, with Enjolras leading. I think this track introduces us to the atmosphere of this next disc - the fight for freedom.

The next first songs of this disc are all new ones - “Building the Barricade”, “Javert at the Barricade”, “The First Attack”, etc. All good action-y songs. ;)

“A Little Fall of Rain” is the first sign of sadness creeping into the soundtrack again, foreshadowing how things are going to fall into disaster. This song is very sad but also pretty and innocent.

“The Death of Gavroche” feels a little bit like a horror song - or maybe that’s just me. The song opens with Enjolras’ realization that the people of Paris are not coming to help them and that they are all going to die. Then Gavroche sings on the barricade and is shot dead. Enjolras’ “You have no chance at all” makes me shiver.

“A Heart Full of Love (Reprise)” is just lovely, with Jean Valjean taking Eponine’s part of the song. I think I like it better than the first version. :)

In Summary
I find it a little hard to describe exactly what I am feeling as I listen to each song. For example, when Javert sings about knowing the enemy’s ways - I feel a sort of pride, as if I were one of the barricade boys, fighting for my country’s freedom, but I also feel a little bit of disgust as I think, “Traitor. That’s a spy!” Hopefully that makes my thoughts a little clearer. :)

Appropriate Material?
"Lovely Ladies" isn't exactly the most appropriate song. I just told my sister that the "lovely ladies" do inappropriate stuff, and that was that. I have to admit that the song is very catchy. *wink*

After all my listens, I realized that Mademoissele Thenardier uses...err...language in "Master of the House" to express her disdain for her husband. Monsieur Thenardier also calls Jean Valjean a bastard in "The Robbery". "At the End of the Day" also has a word or two of language.

Alyianna's Rating: 11 out 10 (not thinking about the small tidbits of inappropriateness, as I think they are somewhat needed to show the extent of evil, if you know what I mean)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Les Miserables Movie Soundtrack Review

I'm so sorry that it's been so long since I've posted. :( I will definitely try to change my habit of not posting for long periods of time!

One of my friends from school introduced me to Les Miserables. I haven't watched the movie and I have only started reading the book, but I am already in love with this story --- and the soundtrack for the movie.

The soundtrack opens with a bang with Look Down. The emotions that the listener feels is of pity for the poor men working as galley slaves, especially for the main character, Jean Valjean, and of disgust for Javert's unforgiving nature.

Next track, The Bishop. We get to hear what a lot of people call "the voice of God" - the voice of Colm Wilkinson, the bishop.

"What I have done? Sweet Jesus, what have I done? Become a thief in the night, become a dog on the run," Jean deplores in Valjean's Soliloquy. We hear of Jean's struggles with both his conscience and the world. This track is chilling and gives hope at the same time. "He told me that I have a soul,/How does he know?" Excellent acting in this piece.

We get another bang as At the End of the Day begins, however, this track has more of a hopeful air than Look Down. The people deplore their condition, but all agree they should be grateful for what they have. The tone of the song becomes more dark as we hear of the young woman Fantine losing her job. She has a child to feed. What should she do?

The tone is again desperate, but beautiful in Anne Hathaway's representation of the famous I Dreamed a Dream. I like how Anne (aka Fantine) puts the desperation in her voice, rather than trying to make this piece sound as lofty and beautiful as others have done, such as Susan Boyle.

Then we have The Confrontation between Jean (Hugh Jackman) and Javert (Russel Crowe). May I say that I just LOVE Russel Crowe's voice? The conflict between these two men are shown through their conflicting lyrics over top of one another. Jean Valjean's lyrics have a tone of desperation - "All I did was steal some bread!" - while Javert's is accusatory and haughty - "I was born with scum like you".

The soundtrack dips to a calmer, but still sad, part of the soundtrack with Castle on a Cloud by Isabelle Allen, who plays the young Cosette. Cosette sings about her dreams of no more work in a castle where a lady in white cares for her. The song is fragile and innocent.

Comic relief comes with Master of the House, the song of the thieving Thenadiers. This song, sung mainly by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (one of my favourite actresses), is very funny and amusing, especially the parts where Sacha sings about putting "this and that in the sausages" and watering down the beer, and then, in the next breath, sings that he, as innkeeper and landlord, is "everyone's bosom friend".

The soundtrack still stays in its happier element with the next beautiful track, which was composed for the film (and, therefore, is not a song that you will hear anywhere else) - Suddenly. This song is another of Hugh Jackman's solos; this one about the fatherly love he begins to feel for Cosette.

The listener wouldn't be happy without knowing what has been happening to Javert all this time, would he/she? He is still sniffing out Jean's trail, as we can see with the next track, Stars. This song is one those that really shows the tale of the Pharisse and Republican in Les Mis with Javert as the former and Jean Valjean as the latter. "He knows his way in the dark/Mine is the way of the Lord," sings Javert. Uh huh...yeah, I totally buy into that, Javert. ;)

Next track is one the songs that's near the top of my favourites list - ABC Cafe/Red and Black. Why? Because Enjolras is the coolest guy EVER. Who doesn't like an inspiring song just before a battle? *bursts out singing "It is time to decide who we are/Do we fight for the right to a night at the opera now?"*

Then for all those hopeless romantics like me, there's In My Life/A Heart Full of Love. Hopefully you like love triangles rather than hate them because we've got two lovebirds, Marius and Cosette, with poor Eponine out in the cold. I think I would like this song a little better if Eponine wasn't singing over top of Marius and Cosette, reminding me that she's all alone. Marius really is so blind.

Next there's Eponine's (aka Samantha Barker) heartbreaking On My Own. This song is one of those ones that is better to listen on a stereo than headphones because I couldn't hear the rain in the background (losing some of that special touch to the song) on my headphones.

The next track is one of my ULTIMATE FAVOURITES. And what is it? One Day More. I love the musical element to this one, with all the different people from the cast singing at different times and sometimes overlapping each other. Jean Valjean despairs of the time when Javert might find him, Marius and Cosette long to be togther, Eponine wishes Marius would notice her, Enjolras gets ready for the revolution, Javert is a spy, ready to betray the revolutionaries, the Thenardiers have on their 'don't-care' attitude. This song is really the gem of this soundtrack.

Drink With Me is one of the mellower songs of the soundtrack. The students are waiting for the new day to break, when the revolution would begin. It's the calm before the storm.

Bring Him Home is one of the masterpiece songs of the musical Les Miserables as sung by Colm Wilkinson. Hugh Jackman's version of it isn't my favourite, but I think he carried it off moderately well, it being a hard song to sing.

The Final Battle is one of the lows of the soundtrack, in my opinion (meaning in quality). I mean, I like the music and all (very beautiful and heartbreaking), but I don't feel comfortable playing it aloud at home with my little sister. I wince at every gunshot. :P

Believe it or not, Javert's Suicide is another of my favourite songs. Why? If you don't know that I love to dig into a character's thoughts and feelings, then get it into your head right now - and you'll know the reason. Javert has finally got it into his head that Jean Valjean is a good and innocent man, which his mind cannot just take. "This man has killed me even so."

The first few listens, I didn't care for Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (sung by Marius/Eddie Redmayne), but I've grown to appreciate it. Marius mourns for the loss of his friends, that he is still alive while they are gone. He sings this in the place where they used to meet together - the cafe.

The last track of the soundtrack is Epilogue, and even though it may have a boring name, it is one of the best tracks on the soundtrack, ending it off with a bang. Even though I haven't watched the movie or the musical, I can't help crying a little when Cosette weeps over her dying foster father, Jean Valjean. Even though Fantine has died a long time ago, we get Anne Hathaway's lovely voice as she speaks from Heaven to Jean: "Come with me/I'll lead you to salvation", making the whole atmosphere even more heartbreaking with the loveliness and sadness rolled into one. But then this atmosphere fades away, replaced by a triumphant one as the people of France give a round of "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

I absolutely love this soundtrack. I love the overlaying theme of the music from I Dreamed a Dream. This soundtrack evokes so many emotions in the listener. I like the Christian themes in the lyrics. I am definitely looking forward to the deluxe soundtrack, which has around 20 more tracks. I have already ordered it. :)

My Favourite Tracks
- Valjean's Soliloquy
- The Confrontation
- Stars
- ABC Cafe/Red and Black
- On My Own
- One Day More
- Javert's Suicide
- Epilogue

Alyianna's rating: 11 out 10 (because I love it too much :D)

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Unofficial Heroes of Olympus Companion

I practically jumped on this book when I found it at the library. Why? It's more about Rick Riordan's wonderful world of demigods and heroes. ;)

I found it interesting that this book was actually written by, in addition to a grown-up and married guy, two high school students. I guess it never occurred to me that a teenager that young could actually get a published book. Perhaps it gives me hope for my own novel --- if I ever end up finishing it.

Anyway, that's off topic. Let me start the review.

This book mainly consists of information about the different Greek/Roman gods/goddesses and the different creatures of Greek and Roman mythology. All that information was interesting, but, on the other hand, I got a little bored because I had expected information about the Heroes of Olympus series (because of the subtitle). Part of this information was exactly how these gods, goddesses, and creatures were created and how their offspring were created. The main thought in my head as I read this book was, Wow...the Greeks and Romans were really messed up.'s pretty awkward and kind of gross, so consider yourself warned. Because of this stuff that makes up quite a bit of the book, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone under 14/15 (that's my bare minimum).

However, there was some speculations here and there about what creatures might appear in the next Heroes of Olympus books; much less than what I expected, so I was disappointed about that. I found some of these speculations amusing because I had already started the second Heroes of Olympus book, The Son of Neptune at the time I read this book, and, therefore, I could see which of these speculations were proved wrong by that point in the series.

How will I rate this book? The physical stuff (if you read my meaning) definitely will take some points off, in addition to my disappointment from the misleading subtitle. So, in the end, my rating is:

Alyianna's rating: 7 out 10

(You may notice that I tagged this post as both "media to stay away from" AND "okay-ish". That is because I am trying to make a point that it all depends on the reader and what they deem is appropriate.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Son of Neptune Book Review

One day, I turned on my Kobo reader and I found something very unexpected - my dad had bought me the second Heroes of Olympus book! Of course, I was very happy because this is the next book from Rick Riordan that I had wanted to read.

At first, I was slightly disappointed with this book because I had expected that I would hear more about Leo, Piper, and Jason - the characters of The Lost Hero. Instead, our main characters (whose viewpoints are distributed evenly throughout the book) are Percy Jackson and two new people we haven't read about yet - Hazel and Frank.

Compared to Jason from the first Heroes of Olympus book, I could relate to both Hazel and Frank, so I was happy about that. I also liked how Rick Riordan wrote a a small romance thread between the two of these characters, just the way I like it - small, yet sweet.

In The Lost Hero, readers follow the adventures of Jason, a Roman demigod who has lost his memory, and his two friends, Leo and Piper. The only mention of Percy Jackson is of him as the lost hero; the hero who has disappeared from the Greek demigod camp, Camp Half-Blood. Now, in The Son of Neptune, we find out that Percy has also lost his memory and has found his way to the Roman demigod camp. As I mentioned above, there are two new characters. Hazel is a daughter of Hades (or Pluto, if we're talking Roman) who has a dark secret. Frank wants to find out who his god father is, and what this destiny that his grandmother keeps insisting that he has is.

All in all, even though I was disappointed at the beginning, the story turned around and I was wowed again by the amazing Rick Riordan, who never seems to fail his fans. In addition, the cover looks great, as usual.

Alyianna's rating: 9 out 10 (hmmm...I think I should move The Lost Hero down to a 9, too...)