Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hugo (2011)

Year:  2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Jude Law
Before I begin my review….
                Hugo to me was like having that “Hallelujah” moment where you finally see the light.
                I smiled, I cried and I was devastated when it was over! This was very much a “me” movie in that it contained so many things which I love such as the city of Paris, history, film, books, originality and a director by the name of Martin Scorsese.
                I have to admit, until Hugo I didn’t know much about George Melies, besides that he was the creator of the early film, A Trip To The Moon. When Hugo first speaks of his father telling him about the film he saw where the rocket hit the moon right in the eye, I immediately saw that infamous image from the film in my mind.
                However, of course I had to wonder how much of Hugo is actually based on fact. Not that it really mattered because it made a great story anyway, but it was still intriguing. So I did my research and came up with the answer that everything we see in Hugo about Melies’ professional life is true, but his personal life not so much. I can’t really say too much on this topic without giving away too much about the film.
                I am really looking forward to reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Oh, there is another thing which makes this film complete for me, a Selznick involved! Brian Selznick’s grandfather was the first cousin of none other than David O. Selznick, the producer of many a film in the golden years of Hollywood and was most well known for producing the epic Gone With The Wind.
                It is not often a film like Hugo is brought to our cinema screens.
                Martin Scorsese has taken a chance with this film which is completely different to any other film he has ever made, and has proved that he really can do anything. Hugo is a beautiful film with a fantasy feel to it, yet the characters are so real and real human emotions are dealt with.
                Hugo tells the story of recently orphaned Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who lives a quiet life in a train station in Paris in the 1930’s and looks after the clocks there. He feels like the only link he still has to his father (Jude Law) is the automaton which Hugo is trying to fix. His world starts to shift and he is taken on a great adventure when he starts to work for the train station’s unhappy toy maker, George Melies (Ben Kingsley) and meets his god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). He and Isabelle set out to solve a mystery that will change all their lives forever.
                Hugo is beautiful from the very beginning. It is visually stunning from the opening scene, where the inside of a clock turns into a shot of 1930’s Paris. The visuals make you feel as though you are watching a pretty, fantasy film, but there is nothing to support the notion of this being a fantasy film. Every scene is beautiful in its own way and the recreation of Paris in the early 1900’s is spellbinding.
                The film is for people of all ages. On the surface, Hugo comes across as a children’s film with the protagonist being a child. Yet, there is so much in the film that will keep people of all ages entertained right up until the end.
                It is incredibly hard to fault this film. Scorsese has taken such a risk with bringing the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick to the screen considering his past resume of films. Hugo is unlike anything he has ever done before and it is truly a triumph for him. The film is so tight and perfectly directed. Everything is done to perfection and every little piece of the film is a masterpiece.
                Asa Butterfield is absolutely superb as Hugo. He is heart-breaking as the orphan who clearly just wants to know where he is going and just misses his father. There is very little in the film of Jude Law, who plays Hugo’s father, and with such a small role, it is unusual to feel the connection between two characters when they appear on screen for so little time together. However, you actually feel more chemistry between Hugo and his father after his father dies. This is a credit to the young Butterfield. He is wonderful.
                Ben Kingsley is also perfect in the role of George Melies. He is the absolute perfect choice for the role, and not just because the resemblance is startling between the two. You really feel Melies’ pain of the past and he is, like Butterfield, heart-breaking. Helen McCrory is also wonderful as Melies’ wife, as she gives an emotionally charged performance and is so likable, even when she isn’t supposed to be.
                Sacha Baron Cohen is also very good in Hugo as the station’s inspector. He is very funny, but in a different way than we are used to. He is charmingly funny and at times you can really see the dramatic actor behind all the comedy. Chloe Grace Moretz is also very good, but her role isn’t as emotionally charged as her co-stars.
                Hugo is the type of film that does not come around very often and is a complete joy to behold. An absolute masterpiece.

Welcome to The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Year: 2011
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry
Before I begin my review….
                Personally, I have so much respect for Robert Downey Jr.
My husband will tell you it is because of his looks that I say this. Don’t get me wrong, he is a very good looking man, but this isn’t the main reason I am such a fan. I think he is an amazing actor who brings his quirky streak to his performances and when you go to see a Downey Jr. movie, you know you are never in for a dull and lifeless performance.
                I also have tremendous respect for his marriage to Susan Downey. I love these two as a couple. Any footage of these two tells you that these two are the perfect type of couple, they are best friends who are clearly in love and infatuated with each other. Robert is always complimenting Susan and Susan is continuously glowing every time she looks at her husband.
                As we know, Downey Jr. has not always been the golden boy of Hollywood with several visits to jail and drug addiction in the late 1990’s. Yet, life just seemed to get better and better for him once he met producer, Susan Levin on the set of Gothika in 2003. The couple married in 2005 and Downey Jr.’s career started to take and upward turn not long after. I am not saying that Susan is the sole reason why his career has been so successful in the past few years, but it does no harm being in a happy and supportive relationship, especially when she is also the producer in the majority of his films.
                The happy couple are expecting their first child together this February and we wish them all the best!
Anyway, onto my review of Downey Jr.’s latest film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,
                A sequel is a sequel, you can’t expect too much more than what you know a typical sequel is.
                This doesn’t mean that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a bad movie, it just puts the words into your mouth that you often hear after most sequels, “It wasn’t as good as the first”. Yet, do we expect it to be? If you normally think like this with a sequel, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. If you go in not expecting it to be as good as the first film and just appreciate it for what it is, you avoid disappointment and just enjoy what has been given to you.
                However, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is better than your typical sequel. Director, Guy Ritchie has bought across to the new film what made the first film work such as amazing cinematography and a killer score by Hans Zimmer, but has enhanced the comedic value of the film.
                In the second of the latest Sherlock Holmes films, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his ever trusted companion, John Watson (Jude Law) are in pursuit of Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who Holmes believes is behind a series of disasters across Europe. Moriarty makes Watson and his new wife, Mary (Kelly Reilly) his target in response thus forcing Holmes to retaliate and set out to overthrow his plans to unleash havoc on all of Europe.
                There is no doubt that Ritchie knows how to direct a film. He proved the perfect choice for the first Sherlock Holmes and he has carried on into the second instalment what works. The film is very entertaining and is visually fantastic to watch. There are several “wow” scenes such as the chase through the woods. The editing and cinematography in such scenes as this are breathtaking.
                However, the story and script are nowhere near as strong as they were in the first film. This Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have the same air of mystery that a Sherlock Holmes story traditionally has, it is more an action film than a mystery. The story isn’t very strong and feels a bit jumpy at times.
                It also feels as though the script by Michele and Kieran Mulroney is trying to be a little too funny. What made the first Sherlock Holmes work was the subtle humour involved and the witty script. A Game of Shadows tries a little too hard and works too much on the comedy side rather than on a tight script and story. Granted, it is funny so it does work in that way and it does make it entertaining, but it would have been nice to have seen the focus shifted to a cleverly written script.
                However, the film’s story does strengthen towards the end and it is actually an ending most people will not see coming.
                Robert Downey Jr. is still perfect as the lead role in this film. He has the right amount of quirkiness, strength and belief in his character to bring Holmes to life and make him likable. Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s best friend/ partner in crime relationship peaks at the right time in the story and in the right ways. They feel distanced and without chemistry at the beginning when Watson is preparing for mystery retirement and marriage, but they work as one again by the end of the film.
                Noomi Rapace still looks a tad lost in the film and there really is no strength in her performance, even in moments where there should be.
                A great holiday movie and an above average sequel.

The Internet Movie Database

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Iron Lady (2011)

The Iron Lady
Year: 2011
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Richard E. Grant
Before I begin my review….
                For the awards season, I am Team Meryl all the way.
Surely this is her year. Let’s face it, it’s about time. Streep received her first Academy Award nomination in 1979, won her first Academy Award in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer, was nominated again in 1982, won her second Academy Award in 1983 for Sophie’s Choice and since then has had another 12 nominations with no cigar. At 15, that’s more Academy Award nominations than anyone else in history. Katharine Hepburn comes second with nominations with a total of 12 nominations, yet Hepburn also has the record for most Academy Awards won with her 4.
                One thing you have to love about Streep is that she is completely consistent with her performances. She’s so versatile with her roles and even though she can do any role anybody will throw at her, she gives it 100% and never lets anyone down with her performance. Honestly, I can’t think of a movie she has even given a mediocre performance in let alone a bad performance. This is the actress every young hopeful should aspire to be like…but she is one of a kind, so don’t be too harsh on yourself if you’re not.
                Team Meryl all the way.
                It is not often a magnificent performance such as that of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady is witnessed, so it is such a shame that it is in a film as mediocre as this.
                Streep is amazing as once British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, but the same cannot be said about the production of the film. Director, Phyllida Lloyd has just tried to do too much with the film and tried too hard to make it a masterpiece. All Lloyd had to do really was just to go for a simple flow, with the same cinematography and Streep would have carried the rest herself.
                The Iron Lady documents ex British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher’s (Meryl Streep) rise to the top, her struggles whilst in power and the consequences of her dry ambition on her private life. We see the Thatcher of today who is still admired by so many people in Britain, yet continuously struggles with the loss of her husband, Dennis (Jim Broadbent) and with the feeling of detachment from her grown twins.
                The Iron Lady has the potential to be a great film. The life of Thatcher is very interesting, but the way which Lloyd has made the film jump around from past to present and in between just makes it messy and there is no smooth continuation.  The film loses momentum as a result and can be slightly dull and even annoying.
                One would also expect there to be times throughout the film where the audience would feel triumph for Thatcher, especially when she is elected prime minister even though she did not even believe there would be a female British prime minister in her lifetime. It is just rush, rush, rush so we can fit in the love and love loss story or her and Dennis into the same film. I’m sure especially the British would have preferred to have some overwhelming sense of national pride throughout the film.
                There are some great moments of cinematography throughout the film, but it is at such quick pace that it is sometimes hard to notice it. The silhouette shots of Thatchers profile are quite effective.
                However, the saving grace of the film is obviously Meryl Streep, who absolutely carries the film. This is one of her career best roles as she has everything about Thatcher perfected and her great case study into the role is extremely evident. She is particularly brilliant as the present day, older Thatcher and is heartbreaking when she is faced with the truth of the loss of her husband.
                Jim Broadbent, who is also another actor who is consistently at the top of his game, is also very good as Dennis Thatcher. He is a fitting partner to Streep on the big screen.
                Alexandra Roach plays the younger Margaret Thatcher and does a very good job at performing the transformation of the timid girl growing up to the confident new and sole female minister. It is a hard job to play a young Meryl Streep and you can tell the difference in ability when the film switches into Streep mode, but she does a good job nevertheless.
                One can only hope that the film doesn’t have too much of an effect on Streep’s award chances, because she surely does deserve with this role.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin
Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Before I begin my review…
                Happy New Year to all Movie Critical readers and followers! Thank you for all your support in the past year. You all mean so much to us here. Here’s to another year of great movie viewing and a very exciting awards season in the next two months!
                I admit it, I really should have gone and read some Tintin comics before going to see The Adventures of Tintin.  I am actually surprised that I hadn’t, all my friends and my husband have. It was right in my generation’s youth.
                I have a sneaking suspicion I would have enjoyed The Adventures of Tintin more if I had read the comics.  I would have understood more of what Tintin is all about. He is all about the solving the mystery while having an adventure in the meantime. However, the mysteries and adventures aren’t meant to be complex. Tintin is really about the nice guy being the hero and appealing to the younger generation. What more should you expect than what Steven Spielberg gives us?
                The Adventures of Tintin is a beautiful piece of animation, but will only completely satisfy those true Tintin fans and kids on their holidays.
                Steven Spielberg has really done a great job visually of bringing Tintin and his adventures alive in the present. However, those who are not fans of Tintin or above the age of 12 will find not quite get the way the film pans out and will find the film slightly tedious.
                Tintin (Jamie Bell) starts the film buying a model of the ship, The Unicorn and is immediately thrown into a world of mystery. Mr Sakharine (Daniel Craig) robs Tintin of his new model ship and when Tintin starts snooping further into why his new ship is of such great importance, he kidnaps him and boards him on the ship to Morocco. Tintin teams up with the drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), the original captain of the ship who’s crew Sakharine has made turn against. Together, Tintin and Haddock, along with Tintin’s trusty dog, Snowy, find out the importance of The Unicorn and work against the evil Sakharine.
                The Adventures of Tintin is absolute heaven for those who are familiar with the comic. It has exactly what the comics have. There is action and adventure and Tintin is the good guy everyone remembers him as being. The important thing to remember is that Tintin was created for children, and this movie is very much for children. It is simple and the humour is clean and slapstick.
                However, if you are not familiar with the comic, you may find this movie a little too simple and almost tedious. There are periods where not much happens besides adventurous action and the scenes just seem useless in the grand scheme of the film. It is during these scenes that you wish Tintin would just hurry up and get to where he should be and figure it all out.
                One thing that people of all ages can agree on is that the animation is just brilliant. Tintin has come a long way from being a pencil sketch. The attention to detail is just incredible. The visuals are something to be marvelled at all throughout the film. The Adventures of Tintin is one of those animated films you are watching and then halfway through you forget you actually are watching an animated film and not a live action film.
                All the voice actors do a good job. Jamie Bell isn’t bad, but he is overshadowed by the ever versatile Andy Serkis. Serkis changes his persona once again and his voice is unrecognisable throughout the film. Daniel Craig is quite similar in that it is hard to pick his voice at times and he does the villainous voice well. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are perfectly fun as Thomson and Thompson.
                The Adventures of Tintin is one not to be missed by Tintin fans and a great film to take children to over the break, but people outside those two groups will probably think of better films to see at this point in time.