Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Hugo – 126min – PG

I have not been a fan of 3D movies. They use the 3D technology as a gimmick and not as a part of the composition of the scenes. Hugo is a movie that does the opposite and makes it a component of each scene. This is a great example of how to use 3D as a device to transport the viewer to another place and time. This movie has a mystical setting that lends itself to the magic of filmmaking.

It really took me to places I was not expecting. This story is a homage to the visions of Georges Méliès who was the father of the art of storytelling in film. The Parisian train station setting and the era it took place gives it a feel more like big Broadway stage production. This is a green light film. It is purely and simply magical.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a street orphan who was living with his uncle at a train station in Paris. His Uncle (Ray Winstone) is a drunkard who taught Hugo to do all the work so he could go out and drink. The community of shop keepers at the station all relay on the huge number of clocks around the station.

Hugo has a way with gadgets and is drawn to a toy shop that sells little wind clockwork toys. The shop owner (Ben Kingsley) catches him stealing some parts and threatens to turn Hugo into the authorities unless he works off his debt.

The parts he stole were going to a project of rebuilding a mechanical boy that his father (Jude Law) was working on. The shop keeper has a daughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who befriends Hugo and together they go on an adventure that is going to affect everyone at the train station.

This is a phrase I never thought I would be saying to my young son, “Hey son, let’s go see a Scorsese film.” When you think kid movie Martin Scorsese is not the name that jumps to the top of the list. But as a master filmmaker there seems to be no genre that he does not excel at.

When I think Scorsese, I think of people getting shot in the face, gangsters, psycos and eccentric airplane designers. With this film I am now completely convinced that this filmmaker can tell any story on film and is not limited to specific themes.

I really liked the parallels with the subject of the movie and how the movie was shot. It focuses on Georges Méliès who said hey this movie thing is great, it would be better if you cut it this way... and proceed to make narrative stories through film. Mr. Scorsese said hey this 3D stuff kind of cool, it would be better if you did it this way…. Both of these visionaries make movies something into something new. There are some really great shots in the film where the scenes envelop you in the setting.

Warning, Spoilers!!! Magicians only click here to see them!!!

The snow and the other scenes that make the environment 3D were the best, I also liked the opening where you are flying through Paris are simply magical. Looking through the android and watching it move and work all at once is so hypnotizing that I could watch those over and over again.

Sacha Baron Cohen the station inspector was not terrible; he was not his usual unsavory character. If he keeps doing roles like this he might one day be considered an actor. To say I have not liked his previous performances is an understatement. But he gives me reason to think that he might actually have some talent. We will have to see what he does next. I am not holding my breath.

Chloë Grace Moretz plays a girl who has only lived through books. She is getting a wide variety of roles under her belt. She has played a pint sized assassin, a vampire an now this. She has so much potential that I see great things from her. I hope she does not fall into that child star syndrome. She could be one of the greats.

What flimmaker has surprised you in either a good or bad way? Who was it and what film made you think wow?!? I did not thing they could do one like that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

J Edgar

J Edgar – 137 min - R

J. Edgar Hoover is a unique historical character that can be easily overlooked. He was credited with developing the FBI and organizing criminal investigations to include forensic investigation. With all of the good things he did for us, he was also a focus of scandal and a prime example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. He was rumored to have surveillance on many political figures and would use them as blackmail material.

Does the movie, J. Edgar, mirror the facts of his life? I can’t say I don’t know more than what I have read on Wikipedia. Is this an intresting movie? Yes, but from a purely academic standpoint. Clint Eastwood has an eye for making movies with a clear and balanced point of view. This movie is one to see from a historical standpoint. Interesting but not entertaining, this move is a yellow light and I will present my evidence in the following review.

J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) grew up with his mother, Anna Marie Hoover (Dame Judi Dench). As an eager new employee at the Department of Justice, he was given the chance to develop the new FBI after his participation in a successful raid on some Communist dissidents. Using this opportuniy he grew his department and his influence. He used his resources to gather information on political figures to use in his “Confidential, Private” files with friend and partner, Associate Director Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). There are rumors that they were more than just friends, as the heir of Hoover’s estate some believe that Tolson was his domestic partner.

The story takes us from the past and the future and someplace in the middle while J. Edgar is dictating his story to a number of writers he uses to document the history of the FBI. He tells the revolving scribes about his many high adventures in the FBI, in cluding details of his acts of heroism and the hard work of starting the system we now know today as the FBI.

Most of it was fabricated to make him and his bureau more entertaining to sell some of the comic books he was advisor on. He felt that American youth was in love with the gangsters in the movies and he decided to wage a war of image and made the G-man the new focus in film and media. Unfortunately, it was at the cost of the reality of many of the things he claimed to have done.

Clint Eastwood does make a great picture. He has a great eye for capturing the figures form history that can be easily overlooked. He reminds me of the correspondents on This American Life. They all take ordinary things and make them into an interesting story. This movie looks great but it has a History Channel documentary feel.

The subject of this film has some interesting points but they seem to be overshadowed by the overall creepiness of the man behind the power and his unchecked and corrupt rule of the FBI. Eastwood’s choice of blending the past and the future did not seem to work as well in this film. It was hard to follow where we were at in the story. Is this the past? The present? Is this him reminiscing? Or are we seeing the events unfold?

Spolier Warrning!!! Click here to submit to an FBI Review!!!

DiCaprio does a great job of wearing this persona like a costume. I forgot that it was him at a few points in the film. The age make up did a great job of transforming him through the story. He seems to be very vulnerable when his mother dies. Instead of being free from her tyranny he seems to be completely lost.

Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) is fiercely loyal secretary and loves him in a familial way. Even up to the end she keeps J. Edgar’s secrets and shreds his personal and confidential files. I wonder it was out of loyalty or out of knowing how dangerous a weapon those files were, or both.

Those files were the only thing that saved him from the winds of political change. I can see where he needed to have them to keep control of his bureau. it also seemed like they became something more than just an insurance policy. They seemed to be a drug he couldn’t give up.

What historical figure should Clint Eastwood focus his next movie on? Who do you find interesting and under publicized?