REVIEW: Hugo

Hugo
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: John Logan (screenplay), Brian Selznick (book)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen

Hugo would be a good place to start in a film history class.  Not only does it glide through the early history of silent movies, but it also utilizes the latest digital filmmaking technology in doing so.  Martin Scorsese has created a film worthy of the 3D technology that is infecting every big Hollywood blockbuster, and he has done it by using not as a showy gimmick, but as a storytelling tool.

Here, that third dimension immerses us in the movie’s world, drawing us into an opening sequence that transforms from turning clock gears to an overview of Paris, into a train station and finally back into the walls full of clock gears as the young boy Hugo (Asa Butterfield) zooms through these tunnels with make-shift abandon.  In one of the most finely filmed sequences of the year, Scorsese keeps track of him with a clever tracking shot that simply pans as he turns corners.  If this had been converted to 3D instead of filmed that way, you’d already have whiplash.

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REVIEW: Let Me In

Let Me In
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Matt Reeves (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist (book)
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas

Cinema purists (this one included) were dreading the inevitable day they would have to sit through an American remake to the beloved Swedish film Let the Right One In. It was the vampire movie that didn’t suck, and we’d be damned if Hollywood was going to take that away from us with a big budget redo with A-list stars. Some watchers would never let this one in; never consider the possibility that it could be good.  They’d be missing out.

As it turns out, Let Me In is a surprisingly competent remake of the excellent Swedish version.  Like so many other films, this one originated in literature, though the films are more widely known.  Matt Reeves, known mostly for Cloverfield, takes the story from Sweden to Reagan-era New Mexico.  A seemingly odd choice, but setting it in a desert during winter effectively recreates the barren Swedish landscape so vital to the mood of the original.

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REVIEW: Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Mark Millar & John Romita Jr. (comic book)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aaron Johnson, and Chloe Moretz

The way Kick-Ass was marketed, you’d never know what it was about.  It could be the next raunchy teen comedy, a Scary Movie iteration with super heroes, or a campy exploitation flick.  After seeing this movie, I now know why they could not market it efficiently.  Kick-Ass is all of the aforementioned things, struggling much like a super-hero to find an identity.  At it’s best, it is a rocking reinvention and exploitation of the super hero mythos.  At it’s worst, it is a formulaic teen comedy with shock value language dueling with shock value violence.

The premise of the film is interesting enough.  With caped crusaders invading our pulp culture like cockroaches, why has no one in the real world donned a mask and set out to fight crime?  Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) plays the nerdy philosopher who comes up with this idea, and decides to take action.  He becomes Kick-Ass, a scuba-suit wearing crime fighter who is stabbed and beaten to a pulp his first night on the job.  The answer to his earlier question is answered early on.

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