‘Hugo’ shows us the softer side of Scorsese
Chloe Grace Moretz stars in “Hugo.”
★★★★ (out of four)
2011, Dir. Martin Scorsese, U.S., PG
“Hugo” is rated PG for intense situations.
- New films
Director: Roman Polanski.
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet.
The plot: Two sets of parents decide to have a cordial meeting
after their sons are involved in schoolyard brawl.
Genre: Comedy, drama.
‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked’
Director: Mike Mitchell.
Starring: Justin Long, Matthew Gary Gubler.
The plot: Playing around while aboard a cruise ship, the
Chipmunks go overboard and end up marooned in a tropical
Genre: Comedy, family.
- Film roundup
★★★ 1⁄2 (out of four)
“The Muppets” marks the troupe’s first big-screen outing in 12
years (following the ill-conceived “Muppets from Space”), and takes
a refreshingly postmodern look at the franchise, tackling head-on
the perceived irrelevance of the Muppets in contemporary society.
As the movie opens we are introduced to Walter, a puppet “born” to
human parents in the late ’70s, when Muppet fever was sweeping the
nation. Water and his human brother, Gary (Jason Segel, who also
co-wrote the screenplay), are somewhat isolated in their
’50-inspired Smalltown, USA existence, and remain diehard Muppet
fans through the decades even as the rest of the country forgets
“THE TWILIGHT SAGA — BREAKING DAWN: PART 1”
Let me start off with the positive: “Breaking Dawn: Part 1” is
not as terrible as I assumed it would be. I’ve never seen a
“Twilight” movie before (just as I’ve never punched myself in the
throat, or intentionally smashed by hand with a hammer, mainly
because I’ve an instinct for self-preservation), but the 15-minute
snippets I’ve seen here and there on television have led me to the
unmistakable conclusion that these films are, hyperbole aside, some
of the worst movies ever made. Completely devoid of anything even
remotely resembling competent acting, effective screenwriting or
impressive production values, they are, in a word, worthless.
Actually, “worthless” is too kind a word — “harmful” seems more
I’ve always subscribed to Roger Ebert’s philosophy that it isn’t
what a film is about that’s important, but how it is about it. To
demonstrate: “Piranha 3D” could easily have been a complete failure
— indistinguishable from the string of lifeless, torturously
boring, bargain-basement, direct-to-DVD titles that line the walls
at Blockbuster. Yet by embracing its genre history, by totally
abandoning any pretense of seriousness, and by delivering exactly
what viewers expect (and in great quantities), the film rises above
its station as a cheap exploitation picture. Instead of coming
across as sloppy or derivative, it instead functions wonderfully as
both a straight-up genre piece and a clever, self-aware satire of
the same genre constructs in which it indulges. This is pretty
heady stuff for a movie about a swarm of man-eating fish.
This is what I’m talking about when I say that modern action
movies should offer more creativity and flair — nobody expects
great dialogue or fantastic acting in a “braindead action movie,”
but for God’s sake, don’t you want engaging set-pieces and likable
characters and awesome kills and coherent action sequences and
everything else that makes an action movie enjoyable? As an
old-school throwback to ’80s action sensibilities, “The
Expendables” delivers all this in spades, and in the process
underlines everything that is wrong with Hollywood’s traditional
approach to the genre.
Posted: Friday, December 9, 2011 7:41 am
Just one review this week, as I didn’t make it to “My Week with
Marilyn,” playing in limited release. A look at that will come next
week, along with reviews of the wide releases “Tinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Spy” and, time permitting, “The Sitter.” The studios’
insistence on conducting a take-no-prisoners December blitz with
their prestige pictures has left things a tad crowded for the next
few weeks, but I’ll do what I can…
For the past 40 years, Martin Scorsese has been one of the
world’s most remarkably consistent film artists. Whereas most of
Scorsese’s contemporaries — names like William Friedkin, Francis
Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Milos Forman — have become
irrelevant in the constantly evolving world of modern Hollywood,
Scorsese stands alone as the one New Hollywood pioneer who today
remains every bit as vital as he was back in the day. (An exception
might be Steven Spielberg, but that’s a discussion for another
time.) A master of form and tone, Scorsese, at this point, must be
considered the greatest filmmaker to ever live. The inherent
absurdity of picking one director as “the greatest” is not lost on
me, but surely no other filmmaker has contributed so much to so
many genres over so many years, without a single failure. His role
as the world’s leading advocate of film preservation, too, helps
cement his status as the grand sage of world cinema.
Friday, December 9, 2011 7:41 am.