Saturday, March 31, 2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

Co-directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube.

A brief prologue of this film shows Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) in their awkward high school years: Schmidt was the dork who couldn't get the girl, and Jenko was the ever-popular jock. Fast forward to the present time and Schmidt and Jenko find themselves in the Metro City Police Department Academy. The pair quickly become best friends, and help each other graduate the academy. After a brief (and unsuccessful) stint working bicycle patrol, the two cops get assigned to a re-vamped undercover unit from the 1980s, "Jump Street." Schmidt and Jenko pose as teenagers to infiltrate a drug ring at a local high school. The stereo-typical captain in charge of the unit, Dickson (Ice Cube) is more than a little skeptical as to whether or not his new officers can actually get the job done. Schmidt and Jenko find that high-school life has changed dramatically in the seven years since they were there. What was cool then is not cool now, and vise/versa.  The once nerdy Schmidt is now seen as cool, and the athletic jock types like Jenko are ostracized by their peers as uncool. The narrative of the film has lots of laughs and action tied into a plot line of self discovery on the parts of both Schmidt and Jenko.

Based on the 1980s television show, 21 Jump Street could have been just another attempt by Hollywood to re-cycle an old idea and trying to make it new. Fortunately, the producers of the film were well aware of that trend, making note of it early in the dialogue of the film. Other than the name itself, and a few cameos by cast members of the original series, this film does an excellent job of not looking like the original series.   Both Hill and Tatum have an "Odd Couple" like chemistry in this film. Both actors look way too old to be playing high school kids, and instead of ignoring this fact, the film uses it to its advantage creating some hilarious lines of dialogue.

Being a product of the 80s, anytime I hear that Hollywood is going to re-make an 80s television show into a movie, my interest is always piqued. Nine times out of ten, the end result of the film is a let down; however, this is not the case in 21 Jump Street. The reason why this film succeeds is because it is not a "re-make." This film takes the title of an 80s show and puts a new spin on it.  Screen writers Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill gear the narrative of the film to today's audience, but also make sure not to alienate fans of the original series, which makes the film easy for all audiences to relate to it. It should also be noted that in case you have lived in a cave for the last few decades, or were born after the show aired, then you are probably well aware of the fact that the original series launched the careers of many stars, namely Johnny Depp. I'm not going to give anything away, but Johnny is given his proper and much due respect in this film.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012)

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Ewam McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas

An extraordinarily rich sheik (Amr Waked) has a vision of bringing his love of salmon fishing to his home country in order to enrich the lives of his local people.  Sparing no expense, the sheik contacts his representative to the British Government, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) and tells her to use whatever means necessary to get the project up and running. Harriet enlists the help of the British government's leading fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor.)  The plot gets another twist when The British Prime Minister's assistant (Kristin Scott Thomas) sees an opportunity to smooth relations between the Yemen and British people by turning the salmon project into a  "goodwill" story.  What is obvious is that Harriet and Alfred are going to fall in love, even though they are (momentarily) involved with other people. What is not obvious is how the fish will actually get to the Yemen.

While the performances of all characters in the film were good, I was confused as to what genre this film should actually be in. The picture gets lost somewhere between a heart-warming drama and a romantic comedy. There are just too many different plots in this film; a love story between Alfred and Harriet, a "greater good" story with the salmon, and a political story about two countries and their different ways of life.  The fly-fishing scenes (combined with a beautiful score) in the film captured the essence of man in touch with nature. As an avid fisherman myself, I found these scenes to be quite enjoyable.  Adapted from the novel of the same name, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has all the ingredients to be a great film, but director Lassee Hallstrom comes up short in making the narrative mesh with the different plots in the story.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Sitter (2011)

Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jonah Hill, Sam Rockwell, Landry Bender, Max Records, Kevin Hernandez

Slacker Noah Griffith (a pre-weight loss Hill) is a twenty-something year old loser who lives with his mom. He is coerced into babysitting three bratty kids so his mom can go out for the evening. There is eitght year old Blithe, (Landry Bender) who thinks she is a Diva, Slater, (Max Records) who is an overly dramatic thirteen year old boy version of Greta Garbo, and Rodrigo, (Kevin Hernandez) the family's adopted Hispanic teen who has a fascination with fireworks.  Misadventures begin almost immediately when Noah gets a call from his girlfriend who promises him sex in return for scoring her drugs. Noah loads the youths into the family mini-van and they set out for New York City in search of drugs for his girlfriend. The babysitter and kids find themselves in trouble with a drug dealer, meet up with some black gangsters who end up becoming their ally, and then the kids and sitter form a bond by the rolling of end credits.

The Sitter is a much like Adventures in Babysitting(1987), only much more raunchy. With lots of sex, drugs, bratty little kids, and a babysitter who is lost in life, this film fails epically on every level imaginable. The most despicable part of the movie is the exploitation of Landry Bender in making her character out to be a grown woman trapped in an eight year old's body.  Director David Gordon Green, who once showed promise to be a fine director with his 2003 hit All the Real Girls, has instead chosen to do gross-out and drug-referenced comedies like Pineapple Express (2008) and Your Highness (2011.) I am so very sick and tired of these types of films; they serve no purpose whatsoever.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jack and Jill (2011)

Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino

Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler) is a successful ad executive living in Los Angles with his with wife, Erin (Katie Holmes) and two kids. Jack's twin sister, Jill (also Sandler) comes to visit for Thanksgiving and turns Jack's life upside down. Cue Al Pacino into the plot: Jack must try and get Pacino to do a Dunkin Donuts commercial, or he will be out of business. The plot thickens when Pacino develops feelings for Jill after they meet at a L.A. Lakers game.

Ninety one minutes- that's how much of my life was wasted on watching this train-wreck of a film. I have long been a fan of Adam Sandler, but his "Happy-Madison" production of comedy has been played out since Bobby Boucher quit being The Waterboy. The most painful thing to watch in this film is Sandler dressed in drag and trying to play the part of Jill. His nasally, high-pitched voice that he uses for the character of Jill is the same voice that he used for the "come to mama" routine during his stand-up and Saturday Night Live days, and it gets really annoying from the get-go. With enough ad placement to choke a horse, it's obvious that Sandler got paid well for this film that had an 80 million dollar price tag on it. I guess the almighty dollar has a way of overriding any sense of artistic or comedic value.

This film also begs the question on weather or not Al Pacino has officially lost his mind. A serious, award winning actor to his caliber has no business in a film like this. Pacino's accomplishments in film far outweigh this one bad decision, so he can easily recover from this disaster. Sandler, who will never have to worry about money in his life, should start to worry if people will ever take him seriously as an actor. Sandler does in fact have the talent to be a dramatic actor...he has proven it with such films like Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and Reign Over Me (2007.) Why he has decided to stick with the style of humor in this film is beyond me.  After starring in Funny People (2009) (which was very much a tribute to the middle-aged comic) I had hoped that Sandler would be done with doing the gross-out comedy of his yesteryears.

Adam Sandler has made millions of dollars on his brand of comedy, and he has brought a lot of laughter along the way. There was a time when his films made people laugh; however, the time has now come for Sandler to ditch the "Happy-Madison" routine because audiences just aren't buying it anymore.

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Directed by: Simon Curtis
Starring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Dougray Scott

My Week With Marilyn is based on the true story written by Colin Clark in 1956. Twenty four years old athe time, Clark was working as "gopher" and director's assistant for Sir Laurence Olivier.  He kept journal on the accounts of his time spent working with Marilyn Monroe on the set of the film, The Prince and the Showgirl (1957.)

The narrative of the film, as told by Clark (Eddie Redmayne), shows how everyone working (most of all, Olivier) on the film is excited to have an international star coming to England to work with them. What ensues, however, is a battle of wills between Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Olivier (Kenneth Branagh.)  Laurence Olivier, who was considered British Royalty, and one of the finest actors in the world, despises the fact that Monroe can not act; but cannot help that he is also enamored by her beauty and Charisma.  What must be noted is that Monroe, who studied method acting under Lee and Paula Strasberg, was not much of an actress...she was a "film star."  After Monroe's husband, playwright Aurthur Miller (Dougray Scott) leaves the set of the production to return home, she seeks the companionship of the naive Colin Clark. Clark is infatuated with Monroe, and obviously in love with her; however, the insecure Monroe views Clark more as a much needed ally, than a lover.  After artistic differences between Monroe and the staff of the film come to a boiling point, the production of the The Prince and the Showgirl is brought to a halt. Monroe and Clark spend a week together in seclusion during the time off from the film. While it is led to believe that Monroe and Clark had a love affair, it is not really shown in the plot, nor is it really a necessary part of the narrative. What is shown and more important to the storyline is the close companionship that is developed between Clark and Monroe.

The casting ensemble brings many well known British and American actors together in this film.  Kenneth Branagh's role of Laurence Olivier is a relatively small part of the film, but he covers the part well; Ironically, he has often been referred to as "the Laurence Olivier of his time." The relatively unknown Eddie Redmayne does a good job of portraying the shy, innocent nature of Colin Clark. Although Colin Clark is the protagonist of the story, the character is strongly overshadowed by eccentricities of Monroe's character. It can be said that Michelle Williams really does not have "the look" of Marilyn Monroe. While Williams doesn't match Monroe's voluptuous figure, she makes up for it in every other way. From her pouty lips, soft voice, and "wiggle walk," Williams does an excellent job of portraying the seductive demeanor of Marilyn Monroe that makes you look past any flaws in the actual "looks" of her character.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Albert Nobbs (2011)

Directed by: Rodrigo Garcia
Starring: Glen Close, Janet McTeer, Mia Wasikowska

The setting is 19th Century Dublin, Ireland. A middle-aged man by the name of Albert Nobbs (Glen Close) works as a butler in a small hotel. Albert works hard for the measly pay that he receives, but saves his money with hopes of one day opening his own business (a tobacco shop.) His existence is a lonely one; Albert is living a lie that will ruin him if anyone ever found out.  In case you haven't heard by now, Albert Nobbs is not really a man. Albert is actually a woman dressed like a man in order to find a good enough job to survive in a harsh world.  One night, a painter named Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) comes to stay at the hotel. Albert is horrified to find out that he will have to share a room for the night with Mr. Page.  It doesn't take long for Mr. Page to discover the fact that Nobbs is really a woman. The next morning, and to Albert's surprise, Hubert reveals her (very large) breasts to Albert, letting him know that he is actually a woman too.  Hubert is also married to a woman; but, she is forced to live a lie as well. Hubert lives as a man to avoid prosecution and public ridicule from being in a homosexual relationship with another woman.

The narrative of the story then shifts into the friendship between Albert and Hubert, and how they help bring out the best in each other. They both dream of better lives and living in a world where they can be their true selves.  Albert, who most likely has no interest in a sexual relationship, begins to court a young woman named Helen (Mia Wasikowska.) Albert sees Helen as more of a companion than a lover. Helen herself has ulterior motives; she is prodded by her boyfriend to pursue Albert in order to get to his money. Reality soon sets into the plot, and Albert's world takes a turn for the worst. The ending of the movie leads one to believe that Hubert will pick up the broken pieces of Albert's life and carry on his dreams.

The idea of a woman posing as a man in order to get a good job is not a far stretch given the time in history that the story takes place. In 19th century Europe, women had very little rights; a good paying job certainly wasn't one of them. It's also not a far cry for gay lovers in the 19th century to hide their relationship from the public. Glen Close, in her Oscar nominated role does a good job of portraying her part. It should be noted that Close spent nearly twenty years trying to make the film come to fruition, after first performing the same role on the stage back in 1982. The narrative runs at a rather slow pace; however, it keeps you ingrained   because if anything, you find yourself feeling sorry for Albert. I found myself wishing for Albert to be able to come out of his shell and live life to the fullest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Interrupters (2011)

Directed by: Steven James
Staring: Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams

This powerful and thought-provoking documentary follows the lives of the "violence interrupters" during a one year span in the inner-city ghettos of Chicago. The violence interrupters work for the community outreach group, "Cease Fire." This non-profit group has a theory that the plague of violence is similar to that of a communicable disease, therefore the treatment should be the same by going after the most "infected." Treating violence the same way you would treat a public health issue takes the criminal element out of the equation, and instead focuses on trying to stop the violence before it erupts.

A key player for "Cease Fire" is Violence Interrupter Ameena Mathews. A former drug runner, and daughter of an infamous Chicago Gang Leader, Matthews has overcome many adversities in her personal life; yet she forges on, trying to make a difference in someone's life. Matthews is shown giving "tough love" to an eighteen year old woman who has been in and out of correctional facilities. A powerful speech given by Matthews at the funeral of a youth killed in a drive-by shooting shows she is tired of seeing life wasted by senseless violence.  What is learned about "Cease Fire" is that the group gets results in stopping the spread of violence, and turning lives in the right direction. Interrupter Cobe Williams gets personally involved in the life of a seventeen year old boy with a violent past. After the boy has just been released from a youth correctional facility, Williams takes the boy to meet the victims of the crime that put him in jail. By the end of the film, we learn that the boy has made a complete turn for the better; he is even thinking about becoming an interrupter himself.

 What really get's the attention of the viewer is the segment of the film which shows the (now well publicized) video taped beating of sixteen year old honor student, Derrion Albert. The video of this brutal beating gained national media attention as it went viral almost immediately last year. It took a brutal killing to bring to light that the violence in urban communities like Chicago has turned these areas literally into war zones. Director Steven James (Hoop Dreams 1994) doesn't use a bunch of "pomp and circumstance" to get his message across in this film, relying instead on the cold-hard facts that are presented in the narrative.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Last Rites of Joe May (2011)

Directed by: Joe Maggio
Starring: Dennis Farina, Gary Cole, Jamie Anne Allman, Merideth Droeger

Joe May (Farina) is a sixty-something short money hustler. The opening scene of the film finds Joe checking out of the hospital after a lengthy battle with tuberculosis. Upon his return to his Chicago neighborhood, he finds that life has moved on without him. His car is towed and then auctioned off, he has very little money in the bank, but most of all, his apartment has been rented out to a single mother, Jenny (Allman) and her young daughter, Angelina (Droger.) Showing signs of terminal illness, Joe is washed up; however, he is too restless to retire from the business. When he has no place else to go, Joe is taken in by Jenny and her daughter. He soon becomes the unofficial man of the house, and he quickly bonds with his new roommates, especially the young Angelina. As the narrative unfolds, it is learned that Joe has led a shallow, pathetic life. He is estranged from everyone who ever loved him, and he is not welcomed back into the life he once led by the local crime boss, Lenny (Cole.) Despite all the bad things Joe may or may not have done in his life, he has some redeeming qualities about him. Joe struggles to come to terms with the fact that he wants to better himself.  What is also discovered in the story is that Angelina has an abusive boyfriend who happens to be a Chicago Police Detective. Joe's new life with Jenny and Angelina brings him to a crossroads where he decides to help someone in a last-ditch effort at redeeming a worthless life; but his sacrifice will cost him.

Much like Grand Torino (2008), this film is about a man who has pretty much lost everything and everyone who was once close to him, but finds himself in a new life with new friends. Just like Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) knew in Grand Torino that his former life was meaningless, and his future was hopeless, Joe May decides to sacrifice himself to save someone else from a hopeless situation. In Grand Torino, the hopeless situation was the gangsters that were threatening the lives of Walt's friends. In Joe May, the hopeless situation is the abusive boyfriend that is threatening the lives of Joe's new friends, Jenny and Angelina.

As a Chicago native, and 18 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, this film is a perfect fit for Dennis Farrina. In fact, any film that takes place in Chicago is a perfect fit for Mr. Farrina, for he epitomizes everything that is related to Chicago. He doesn't need to change his accent or learn the lingo to make himself "fit" into character, because he has already lived the live of a Chicagoan.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Carnage (2011)

Directed by: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz

Based on Yasmina Reza’s stage play, God of Carnage, director Roman Polanksi delivers his version to the big screen in his latest film, Carnage. Actually, Polanski does not deviate from the original script, with the exception of the opening and ending scenes of the film.

Set in a upscale Manhattan apartment, the narrative of the story is about two 11 year old boys who get into a fight at a neighborhood park; one of the boys is on the losing end of the fight, and one is the victor. The boy's parents are brought together by the incident to discuss how to best deal with the situation. The entire film takes place in the apartment of the Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Foster and Reilly.) Their son Ethan had his front teeth knocked out in a fight with the son of Nancy and Alan Cowan (Winslet and Waltz.) The meeting, which is intended on being civil, turns from how amends can be made into whose child is to blame for the incident. Moreover, the topic of conversation rapidly escalates into who are the better parents, and who is the better person for that matter. The actual "carnage" in this film isn't from the fight beteewn the boys, but the argument between the parents.

What starts out as a late morning meeting at the apartment, soon progresses well into the late afternoon. Polanski does a good job of complimenting this part of the film by changing the lighting of the set, showing the time progression of the story.  The hilarity of the plot line ensues almost immediately after the opening shot of the fight between the two boys. The four characters in the film do an excellent job in their respective roles of upper-class, well-to-do Manhattans. Christoph Waltz nails his character of Alan Cowan; who as a high-powered attorney is uninvolved with his personal life, but overly involved with work.  His constant cell-phone interruptions during the meeting are annoying to the point of being funny, and add greatly to the narrative of the plot. However, the character who basically steals the entire script of the film is that of Penelope Longstreet. Jodie Foster does an excellent job of playing a neurotic, uptight, overbearing mother and wife.

I'm going to date myself here, but when I was a child, if two kids from my neighborhood got into a fight, it was usually settled with that. By the next day you were playing with that same kid that you just "duked it out" with the day before. Most parents I knew as a child stayed out of the "street politics" of the kids in the neighborhood. There were no threat of lawsuits, and parents didn't bicker back and forth as to who had the most well behaved child.  Boys will be boys, and although they may be unpleasant, altercations between two boys in a neighborhood are nothing out of the norm.  Roman Polanski gives a true example in this film of what our society seems to have boiled down to when it comes to raising children.  The parents in this film prove that they are making a big deal out of nothing, but is it just because they are "Uppity New Yorkers?" Or is this a showcase of the norm in today's society?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Grey (2012)

Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts

John Ottway (Liam Neeson) works for an oil company. His job is to hunt and kill wolves on the property which he works in Northern Alaska. The opening narrative by Ottway describes the type of person he and the people whom he works with as "men unfit for mankind." They are rough and tumble men either cast away from society, or seeking refuge from a world for which they do not fit into. Ottaway and some of the oil workers are brought together as they fly out on a plane that crashes in the Alaskan Wilderness. Seven of the men survive the crash, but the crash itself is not the worst of their fate; it's the wolves who hunt them. The men rapidly realize there are more wolves than them. The weather is punishing, but the wolves are unaffected by a blizzard. Ottway becomes the unofficial leader of the group as they try to make their way out of the forest for help. One by one, things start to go very badly for the men in the group.  I don't like to give spoilers, but I will say that there is a current trend in Hollywood to not have a happy ending. Keep watching after the credits...

Writer/director Joe Carnahan does an excellent job of not giving away too much all at once. I was begging for not necessarily a happy ending, but some sort of resolve in the end of this movie. Another good aspect of the film is having a protagonist (Ottway) with a deep seated issue, separate from the plot that he needs to come to terms with. The use of flashback sequences of Ottway and his wife help to explain the type of person he is.  I could tell that there was something that the writer is not telling us with that aspect of the narrative, and it is brilliantly brought out in the ending scene.

Pushing 60 years old, Liam Neeson is today's Lee Marvin...or Robert Mitchum. His sheer size alone would make any man not want to face him in a bar fight. As a matter of fact, he was an amateur boxing champion in Belfast during his younger days.  He also has the appeal of a blue-collar worker; he could easily be a roughneck or a truck driver, yet he has the grace of a royal thespian. As he reaches his golden years, the work he puts forth today is the best he's ever done.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Turin Horse (2011)

It is believed that on January 3rd, 1889, German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche witnessed a cabman brutally whipping his stubborn horse in the streets of Turin, Italy. Horrified, Nietzsche runs to the aid of the horse, tossing his arms around the animal, in an attempt to protect it. He collapses to the ground during the incident, sobbing uncontrollably. Nietzsche's landlord carries him home where it is further believed that he suffers a mental breakdown. He spends the remainder of his life in a catatonic state, cared for by his mother and sisters. Whatever happened to the horse remains unknown to this day. 

Writer/Director Bela Tarr uses the incident with Nietzsche and the horse as a "jumping off" point for his fictional story, The Turin Horse.  Though it is never seen in the film, the viewer is led to believe that the man who whipped his horse is a rural farmer by the name of Ohlsdorfer (Janos Derzsi.) He makes his living by taking carting jobs into the city with his (very old) horse and cart.  The opening scene following the prologue shows Ohlsdorfer driving his worn down horse through an eerily apocalyptic-type storm, and back home to his farm where he lives with his daughter (Erika Bok.) The man and his daughter are beyond poor. Living in a single room brick house, their only daily source of nourishment is a boiled potato, and a shot of pálinka (whiskey.) Their daily routine is the same; waking up, fetch water, heat the stove for boiling the water, and tending to the horse. Ohlsdorfer's daughter must carry the burden of doing most of the daily chores, as Ohlsdorfer himself only has the use of one arm. It is easily surmised that the old man has led a hard life; he looks just as broken down as his horse does.

The narrative of the story takes place in a period of six days. Each day the storm gets progressively worse, as does the health of the horse. The horse refuses to eat, and will no longer pull the cart. As the days progress and the horse's health deteriorates, so does the hope that the old man and his daughter will escape their situation. It becomes more evident that the end of days are nearing for Ohlsdorfer and his daughter, but the question left to the audience would be... is it also the end of days for the rest of mankind? A neighbor who comes to visit the farm gives a speech about the end of days coming, to which Ohlsdorfer replies "that's rubbish."

What this Hungarian foreign film film lacks in dialogue (which in fact their is hardly any at all, save for the scene when the neighbor comes to visit), it makes up for by getting the viewer involved with the character's in the story. It truly goes to show that you don't need words to describe what is happening. The biblical references to revelations makes one think about that possibility; but what I truly enjoyed in this film is the simple acting, and a musical score that really makes one feel that the end of the world is coming for the old man and his daughter.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hugo (2011)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Chole Grace Moretz, Sasha Baron Cohen, Jude Law.

If you have never heard of George Melies, allow me to enlighten you. He was a French illusionist and pioneer filmmaker at the turn of the 20th century. He was an innovator of special effects, accidentally discovering the special effect, "stop trick" (filming something, turning the camera off, removing the object being filmed, then turning the camera back on, giving the viewer the illusion that the object disappeared.) By 1896, he was one of the very first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand painting the color into his films. Melies directed, starred in and produced over 500 films, ranging from one to forty minutes from 1896 to 1913.  In 1908, Thomas Edison created the Motion Picture Patents Company, which put a monopoly on the film industry in Europe and America. Melies joined the new conglomerate of film makers that Edison had created, but was unhappy with being part of a corporation. He set out as independent, but was broke and out of the business by 1913.  Méliès personally burned all of the negatives of his films that he had stored at his studio, as well as most of the sets and costumes. As a result many of his films do not exist today.  After being driven out of business, Méliès disappeared from public life. By the mid-1920s he was making a meager living as a candy and toy salesman at the Montparnasse Train Station in Paris....which brings us to Martin Scorsese's film, Hugo.

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan living in a 1930s Paris Train Station. Hugo was taken in by his uncle after his father (Jude Law) dies, and is taught how to operate all the mechanical clocks in the train station. Hugo's uncle is a drunkard, and soon passes away himself, leaving Hugo to survive by blending in with the crowd of the train station, and stealing a croissant here and there as his only means of food. Hugo continues to operate and maintain all the clocks in the station, without anyone knowing that his uncle is gone.   Before Hugo's father had passed, he had been restoring an automaton (antique robot in layman's terms) but dies before it can be finished. The main thing that is missing is the key to wind the automaton up.

Hugo then crosses paths with a toy shop owner in the train station named George Melies (Ben Kingsley.) Unbeknownst to Hugo, this grumpy old man is the original owner of his automaton, and also an early French film pioneer. The first two thirds of the film is dedicated to the relationship between Hugo and Meiles god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz.) Isabelle helps to coax Hugo out of his shell and into a world that he has only viewed as an outsider. Isabelle also holds the main ingredient to the automaton-the key.  Hugo in turn introduces Isabelle to his world (or underworld) of the innards of the train station's clock system. Hugo also introduces Isabelle to his only means of escape from his world, which is going to the cinema. Together the two children get the automaton to work again, all the while they are pursued by the mean spirited (but fun-loving) Train Inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen.) The narrative of the film switches in the third act of the film to the life and works of George Melies. The automaton is used as a means of bringing Hugo and Melies together, but moreover it is used as a means to help Melies to come to grips with his past as a brilliant filmmaker, breaking him away from years of sadness after being washed out of the business. The real George Melies died in 1938, sort of ironic that this film takes place in what would be towards the end of his life.

 It is no surprise to me now as to the reason why this film killed the competition at the Oscar awards for cinematography, sound editing, visual effects and art direction. This film is the first film that I have seen in a very long time where CGI and 3D actually worked to make the film what it was. The use of Melies actual film  A Trip to the Moon (1902) in this film really showcases how the real George Melies was way ahead of his time in the world of film making.  This film is in part a tribute to Scorsese himself as a child. Hugo was lost and forgotten about in the train station, and watching the world from inside his lonely world "behind the clocks."  His only means of joy was going to the movie theater, I am sure that this is most likely a reference to Scorsese growing up as a child in Queens, New York and watching the world go by from an apartment window. Scorsese has admitted in several interviews that going to the movies was a way of "escaping" a lonely childhood. I would also say that this film is a tribute to not just George Melies, but to the creation of film making itself. I believe that this is Martin Scorsese's way to say "Thank You" to something that he has lived and loved for a greater portion of his life. On the contrary I would say Thank you to you, Marty...truly one of the greatest film makers of my generation.