On the surface Hugo looks like your run-of-the-mill Harry Potter knock-off full of whimsy spectacle life lessons and faux-imagination. But the young adult fiction adaptation is anything but factory-processed. Filled with more passion emotion and drama than most "Oscar contenders" of 2011 Hugo transcends its fantastical predecessors. Some call Hugo director Martin Scorsese's foray into kids movies but the film speaks to "kids" young and old. Every scene every moment every frame gushes with creativity and artistry and it's one of the best movies of the year.
Hugo doesn't sugarcoat the plights faced by the film's titular hero. When we pick up with Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) the savvy lad is living in the walls of a 1930's Parisian train station taking over the clock winding duties of his missing uncle (a drunk who took him in after his clockmaker father's unfortunate demise). Aside from his day to day duties Hugo faces greater challenges: evading capture from the station's resident orphan wrangler (Sacha Baron Cohen) and swiping parts from a toy store owner (Ben Kingsley) to rebuild his father's automaton a early 20th century robot designed for entertainment. Hugo's thievery is eventually discovered by the weary toyman who takes the child under his wing to make use of his tinkering skills. The professional relationship introduces Hugo to the toyman's goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Moretz) who helps Hugo unravel the greater mystery behind his father's robot and "Papa Georges " as well as better understand himself.
As Hugo and Isabelle dig deeper into Papa Georges' history they unearth a history that's simultaneously magical and true—they aren't going to a far away land through an otherworldly portal but instead examining an aspect of history cinematic history in fact that feels foreign to them (and the audience). With a their innocent perspective the young duo marvel at stories of the early days of film and glimpses of long lost silents. This is Scorsese's playground. His love for the early days of film is infused into the design and story of Hugo giving the movie a timeless feel that sweeps the viewer up.
But Hugo isn't just a souped-up Film 101 course. The historical revelations are only part of Hugo's emotional journey which is equally enhanced by stunning 3D detailed production design and a supporting cast woven into the film's fabric to further expand the world. Cohen's Station Inspector is like a Buster Keaton character complete with pratfalls and heart. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man Boardwalk Empire appears as Scorsese's proxy relishing the world of film while caring for Hugo and Isabelle. Even Christopher Lee's (Lord of the Rings) brief turn as a book store owner succeeds in evoking a smile. All the parts come together under the intricate train station set a beautifully realized period piece brought to life by Scorsese's dimensional 3D. Never before has a stereoscopic film worked so hard to bring you into the picture or enhance the storytelling (on sequence shows a cowering crowd experiencing film for the first time a train hurtling towards camera—an effect paralleled in today's 3D effects!). If the story doesn't suck you in the artistry on display in Hugo surely will.
We praised the film in an unfinished form when we caught it at New York Film Festival and the finalized version packs an even greater punch. Hugo is the perfect film to hypnotize young people with the magic of film or to revisit the heart-pounding experience of a person's first time at a movie theater. This isn't nostalgic baiting but rather expert filmmaking.
Top Story: Ryder Praised by Judge
Judge Eldon Fox had nothing but praise for Winona Ryder regarding her
adherence to the requirements of her probation after her shoplifting
conviction last year, AFP reports. At the progress hearing, Judge Fox,
complimented Ryder on her completion of the required counseling sessions as
well as the 480 hours of community service Fox ordered at
her sentencing hearing in November of last year. "Probation has indicated
that you are involved in all the requirements as imposed by the court, and
it appears that your participation in counseling issues and others have
served to make this a very positive report on your behalf," Fox said.
Ryder's lawyers requested that her original felony shoplifting conviction for stealing $5,000 of merchandise from a Beverly Hills' Saks Fifth Ave. be reduced to a misdemeanor. This will likely be discussed at a
Ozzy on Six-Month Road to Recovery
Ozzy Osbourne will need six months to recover from the ATV crash he had Dec. 8, his wife Sharon said in an interview on GMTV news in England, although Osbourne is off the
ventilator and on the mend: "He's awake and he's causing havoc. He's busy
telling jokes all the time, he's already asked two nurses to marry him,"
Sharon said on the news and chat show. The former Black Sabbath frontman and
reality show star was seriously injured when the ATV he was
riding hit something in the road and flipped over on him breaking several
ribs, his collarbone, and cracking a neck vertebra. In happier news, the
55-year-old rocker's duet, "Changes," with daughter Kelly, entered the
English charts at #1 this weekend, a first in his over 30-year career.
Lions Gate Buys Artisan
Independent studio Lions Gate has finalized the purchase of fellow indie
Artisan-- a month and a half after the deal was announced, according to
The Hollywood Reporter. The deal will cost Lions Gate over $200 million with
$150 million to be paid outright and $50-$60 million in debt to be acquired
by Lions Gate. In an expected move, Artisan CEO Amir Malin said he would be
leaving now that the merger is complete. He did not specify his future
plans. The combined company will go by the name Lions Gate Entertainment,
though the Artisan name may be used in the future for certain projects.
Theater Screens One of Ritter's Last Roles
One of John Ritter's last roles, shot two years before his untimely death at 54
from an undetected heart ailment in September, is screening in Los Angeles
and may soon screen elsewhere, filmmakers Straw Weisman and Andy Goldberg
told the Associated Press. Man of the Year, a drama-comedy shot in one
night on a budget of $25,000 with 20 digital cameras and as many actors,
centered around Ritter's character, a wealthy man whose dinner party thrown
for friends leads to the unraveling of his life. Though directors Weisman
and Goldberg had an outline of the story, all the actors improvised their
roles. Says Weisman, ""Every actor was told, `You're the star of your story
line and if you do a great job, then you're all over the movie. And if you
don't do a great job, you're not in the movie." Ritter became involved when
Goldberg approached him with the idea for the film. He was intrigued and
signed on for $100.
Native Americans Praise Dialect in The Missing
Apaches are praising the accurate dialog and portrayal of their culture in
the Ron Howard Western The Missing, AP reports. Though Apache
characters have long appeared in Hollywood films, clear and accurate use of
the Chiricahua dialect of the Apache native tongue is nearly nonexistent. New Mexico's Mescalero Reservation councilman Berle Kanseah and Chiricahua linguist Elbys Hugar acted as technical advisers on the film, the first they could recall in which Apache dialog was spoken well enough to be understood. Apache leaders are celebrating the film and a number of screenings have been held at reservations, prompting many Apache adults and children to become interested in the ancient tongue. Fewer than 300 people today speak Chiricahua.
Von Bondies Duke It Out With White Stripes
Jason Stollsteimer, lead singer for the rock group Von Bondies, was left with a bloody nose and a black eye after a scuffle with White Stripes' frontman Jack White Saturday
night at a Detroit music venue, AP reports. Stollsteimer, 25, told police that White punched him seven times in the face while White, 28, claimed self-defense. Stollsteimer's manager, Rick Canny, said regarding the night's conflict: "This was not a
fight, this was an attack." Alison Zero, spokesperson for the White Stripes
singer, songwriter, and guitarist, declined to comment. A
police investigation will determine if charges will be filed, say
Vandross Wants To Go to the Grammys
Multi-nominated artist Luther Vandross wants to go to the Grammy Awards
despite ill health due to a severe stroke earlier this year, Associated
Press reports. The 52-year-old singer is in good spirits after receiving a
platinum plaque for over a million sales of his album, Dance With My
Father, for which he is also nominated for five Grammy Awards. In November,
his mother accepted two statuettes on his behalf at the American Music Awards. Clive Davis, Vandross' record company
boss, is guarded about whether or not the singer will be able to attend the
ceremonies Feb. 8th. "He would be eager to go if the doctors clear it.
There is a possibility. I would not hold out hope one way or the other." If
Vandross does attend the Grammy Awards it will mark his first public
appearance since his stroke in April.
Role Call: Foxx on Stealth Mission
Jamie Foxx, currently in production on the Tom Cruise starrer Collateral,
has signed on to star with Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel in Stealth, Variety reports. The film, which is due to begin shooting sometime early next year,
centers on the three leads and their quest to down a robot-piloted stealth
aircraft. Foxx says he was drawn to the role in Stealth based on
director Rob Cohen's work on the Vin Diesel action flick, xXx.