Les Misérables ★★½

The very thing most people will praise about the movie -- Hooper recorded the singing live on the set, instead of using the prerecorded tracks -- is one of the biggest problems. These songs are beautiful, and very hard to sing. Which means you've got some talented people straining their asses off to hit these notes while the camera is just inches from their faces. The live-on-set aesthetic also creates a sort of sameness over more than two and a half hours of performance: because cutting would complicate the sound recording and matching, many performances have few to no edits. Sometimes the results are electric -- as in Anne Hathaway's astonishing performance of "I Dreamed a Dream." Sometimes, and more increasingly as the film goes on, it does not.