<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By Michael Calleri

The holiday movie season kicks off with a nice surprise, a trio of good films, all of which are worth seeing.

After the messy "Shutter Island," the overrated "The Departed," and a series of documentaries, director Martin Scorsese seemed, of late, to be treading water. Although I did like "Shine A Light," featuring The Rolling Stones, I've been watching the director's recent output with concern. Had he hit the proverbial creative wall? And then word came that he was ready to release his adaptation of a children's book. Scorsese and children? Really?

The good news is that a revitalized Scorsese directs "Hugo" as if he's just discovered the power of film. It's a 3D ode to mechanical toys, books, movies, and an automaton that looks remarkably like the robot from "Metropolis."

Scorsese's multi-layered 3D is the best use of three-dimensional photography since "Avatar." Robert Richardson's cinematography is outstanding. "Hugo" was shot in true 3D using the heavy, oversize cameras that are essential to the format. When it snows at the start of the film, it feels as if it's snowing in the theater.

The beautiful and inventive movie is written by John Logan and is based on Brian Selznick's children's book "The Invention Of Hugo Cabret." Yes, he's from the famed Selznick motion picture family.

In the 1930s, through circumstances beyond his control, a young boy, Hugo, lives alone in a Paris train station and keeps the clocks running. The setting is the old and now-demolished Montparnasse station. Hugo is a lively kid who has to outwit the stationmaster, a curmudgeon who's ready to send wayward children to an orphanage.

Hugo also enjoys stealing toys from a shop in the station. As the genuinely magical film progresses, he becomes friends with a young girl who has links to a unique librarian and also to the beginning of cinema. Scorsese, a film preservationist of the first rank, has crafted a delightful tribute to France's importance regarding the beginning of the art of special effects (director Georges Melies) and the birth of movie theaters (the Lumiere brothers). The George Eastman House's historic movie collection in Rochester is the director's personal playground. Throughout the colorful picture, Scorsese and Logan deliver surprise after surprise after surprise.

Maybe the film is a little longer than it needs to be, and I wish some of the actors had spoken their dialogue with a French, instead of a British accent, but overall "Hugo" is a fascinating, fantastical work.

The very good cast includes Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Asa Butterfield, Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Richard Griffiths, Francis de la Tour and Ray Winstone.

I would think that it's perfect for older preteens, but not for younger kids. "Hugo" is a must-see.

The delightfully whimsical "The Muppets" is a musical comedy romp that looks at the whereabouts of the Muppet characters, who as former movie stars, once ruled Hollywood.

Jason Segel, who co-wrote the very funny screenplay with Nicholas Stoller, stars as a fellow who loves the Muppets and lives with the newest Muppet, the friendly and happy Walter, who thinks he's Jason's younger brother.

Jason, his girlfriend, Amy Adams, and Walter go to Hollywood to tour the old Muppet stomping grounds, only to discover that the Muppet Theater is in disrepair and an evil oil baron (a deliciously mean Chris Cooper) wants to tear it down.

The trio goes on a search for other famous Muppets to help put on a show to save the decrepit theater and keep oil wells off of its grounds. Kermit The Frog lives in a Beverly Hills mansion, and Miss Piggy is the editor of French Vogue in Paris. Her secretary is Emily Blunt, who was Meryl Streep's secretary in "The Devil Wears Prada."

"The Muppets" is nicely directed by James Bobin and features a number of cameo appearances, including Mickey Rooney, Jim Parsons, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, James Carville, Alan Arkin, Selena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Judd Hirsch and John Krasinski.

Do you have to ask why Rooney is in it? Trust me, if Judy Garland were alive today, I think she'd be in the film.

The movie is nutty, joyous, and completely entertaining. Walter is the best new Muppet character in years.

The charming and emotional "My Week With Marilyn" is loosely based on two autobiographical books by Colin Clark -- who, when he was in his 20s and looking for work, landed a job as a third assistant director (a glorified gofer) on the British motion picture set of what would become "The Prince And The Showgirl" starring Marilyn Monroe, and directed by, and also starring Laurence Olivier.

Marilyn is shown to be an insecure, always late, overmedicated woman. But she warms to the aristocratic Clark, who becomes her friend for the brief period she is in England.

The acting by all is very good, especially by Michelle Williams as Marilyn, Eddie Redmayne as Clarke, Kenneth Branagh as Olivier, and Judi Dench as actress Sybil Thorndike.

The period look (the late 1950s) is wonderful. An attentive Simon Curtis directed from Adrian Hodges' screenplay, based on the Clark books, which have been embellished. Monroe and Clark never skinny-dipped.

The poignant film delivers a strong theme about loneliness and friendship.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Nov. 29, 2011