Hugo

The Movie Snob sees his last movie of 2011.

Hugo (B).  The critical acclaim made me a little afraid that my expectations for this movie had gotten too high.  Then I talked to a friend of mine who saw it, and her review of it was very “meh.”  So that lowered my expectations nicely, and when I finally got around to seeing it, I enjoyed it rather nicely.  Hugo (Asa Butterfield, TV’s Merlin) stars as Hugo Cabret, a young orphan who lives in the walls and among the clockworks of a Paris railroad station between the wars.  He lives hand-to-mouth by stealing from various vendors in the station, while avoiding the gimlet eyes of the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby).  He’s also trying to fix an automaton that’s pretty much all he has left to remember his dad (Jude Law, Alfie) by.  His thievery brings him to the attention of Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley, BloodRayne), the elderly gentleman who runs a wind-up-toy shop in the station, and his spunky goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz, (500) Days of Summer).  Melies is connected to the automaton somehow, but he refuses to explain, so the kids do some sleuthing and have some adventures, and in a way the whole thing is director Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the movies.  I enjoyed it.

Shutter Island

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Shutter Island (B-). I’m generally not one much for twisty psychological thrillers, but what the heck — it’s Easter! Martin Scorsese again directs Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator), who plays federal marshal Teddy Daniels. When the film opens (in 1954), Teddy and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count on Me) are on their way out to Shutter Island, a creepy asylum for the criminally insane run by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, Species). It seems a female prisoner (Emily Mortimer, Match Point) has disappeared into thin air, and everyone on the island seems to be covering up some big secret. Teddy has a lot of baggage himself (the murder of his wife and his participation in the liberation of Dachau have taken their toll), and the place starts to get under his skin in a big way. The movie is more suspenseful but less scary than I had expected from the previews, which was a relief. Worth a look.

The Departed

DVD review from Nick at Nite

The Departed

Stunning. A masterpiece. This is the type of storytelling that justifies going to the movies. Warning. It has some violence. Some would say it is quite graphic. It is not too over the top, especially in comparison to other films from the genre and Mr. Scorsese, e.g., no baseball bat beatings and no dumping of bodies in random cornfields. Nicholson (Anger Management) is fantastic as an Irish mob boss, Damon (Interstellar) is superb as the Irish mob boss’ conflicted crooked cop, and DiCaprio makes me forgive him for Titanic in his portrayal of the undercover cop. The movie is stolen by Alec Baldwin (The Cooler), who as a the head of the state task force on organized crime is playing a part that he was born to play. Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) has a small, but integral part. It is no surprise he was nominated for an Oscar. I am not going to discuss the plot. Don’t want to give away any of the movie. I will say that the movie doesn’t seem to me to romanticize the real life Irish mob boss that Nicholson’s character is based on. I heard someone say during a radio critique of the movie that the movie somehow made us empathize with this crook. It doesn’t. Incidentally, in real life the Irish mob boss in on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. I give it an “A.” Check it out.

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan

DVD review from That Guy Named David:

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (A)

Everyone should have a period in their lives when they really get into the music of Bob Dylan. I think my love of Dylan’s music began when I was 21-23 years old and a hell of a lot more idealistic than I am today. Today, when I listen to “Freewheelin” and other early albums, I still get goosebumps and revert to the thoughts that I had when I was much younger and used to debate with friends the issues prevalent in his music and still relevant today (being a young associate in a law firm tends to numb my senses when it comes to issues that actually matter in this world). Anyway, No Direction Home is a documentary about Dylan’s life, directed by Martin Scorsese, that touches every aspect of his career and gives never before seen insight into the history and power of Dylan’s music. The documentary traces a young Robert Zimmerman growing up in rural Minnesota and does an incredible job of detailing his inspirations and eventual transformation into the voice of the anti-war movement in the 60’s. While the interviews with Joan Baez, Allen Ginsburg, and other figures of that generation are captivating, the weaving of Dylan’s performances and the reaction of the populace to them is what drives this documentary. For example, Scorsese does not sugarcoat the reaction Dylan received from his early base after he went electric at Newport (in fact, a performance of Dylan getting heckled for being a “sell-out” is sprinkled through the documentary). I also was struck by the interviews with Dylan wherein he continually points out that he was not really a political being but more of a writer just jotting down what he thought and observed during that time and putting simple melodies with the lyrics. Whatever was the origin or motivation for his music simply worked, and Scorsese does a heck of a job putting it all together in a striking documentary of one of the most influential writers/artists in American music history.

The Aviator

A movie review from Nick at Nite.

The Aviator

They said it couldn’t be done. They said no one had the courage to do it. Well, they were wrong. Martin Scorsese did it – he made a movie about a man who stopped trimming his nails, peed into old milk containers and stored them in his room, and lived in the nude for years. No, it is not a movie about Charles Manson or George Bush, it is a movie about Howard Hughes. I had heard of the “Spruce Goose,” the airplane built and flown by Hughes, but I was not familiar with his life story. The film taught me one critical thing – if you have a ton of money, very good looking Hollywood actresses will throw themselves at your feet no matter how crazy you are. This movie features several plane crashes, a weird oedipal flashback, and lots of Leonardo DiCaprio’s butt. I could have done without the butt. I give this movie a “C.”

The Aviator

A new review from That Guy Named David:

The Aviator (B+)

I cannot stand Leonardo DiCaprio. He was good in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He was decent in The Basketball Diaries. And he has proceeded to overact in every movie since then. The only actor in Hollywood who has made more by consistently overacting is Tom Hanks, which makes Catch Me If You Can one of the worst films ever made (small exaggeration, but still a bad movie). As to The Aviator, I thought that it was a very good movie, despite the lackluster performance by its star. Cate Blanchett was dead-on as Katherine Hepburn, and I appreciated the development of that relationship during the hour or so in which it was the focus. I also thought that Alan Alda was tremendous in his portrayal of the over-zealous, bought-off Senator who made the mistake of targeting Howard Hughes. I’m not familiar enough with the story of Hughes to know what was real and what was “Hollywood”; however, from things that I have read, most of the script was accurate to a degree. If they could have only cast a better leading man, I would have enjoyed the movie more. I am sure that Keanu Reeves was available.

Oscar picks by A View From Mars

Oscar picks by A View From Mars:

It’s a rare occasion where I actually get to see all the movies that are up for best picture given that most of the time, my taste in films is the exact opposite of what the Academy chooses. So with this being said, here’s how I see ’em:

(5) The Aviator — Scorsese lost points with me based on his last feature Gangs of New York, and he didn’t do much to recapture them with this movie. I’m just not sure how interested I was in Howard Hughes and DiCaprio’s portrayal, although a bit young for the sell to completely be there, was Oscar worthy. The same can be said about Cate Blanchett’s role as Katharine Hepburn, but other than this, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this movie nor of it being nominated as one of the 5 best pictures. Clearly, I saw about half a dozen others that could have taken its place.

(4) Ray — Jamie Foxx was tremendous and he will no doubt walk away with the Oscar gold and the movie was good, possibly really good, just not great. I think I was overwhelmed with Foxx’s performance as Ray Charles that it took me out of the movie just a bit. Is it possible that an excellent performance by an actor can actually have a hand in detracting from the greatness of a movie?

(3) Finding Neverland — Loved both Depp and Winslet and the concept to make a movie about Peter Pan without focusing on Peter Pan but rather the creator of Peter Pan (phewww). This is my sentimental favorite and although it may not win best picture, I’m hopeful that it will take something home.

(2) Sideways — I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the buddy road trip movie, but this was about as perfect as it could get for my enjoyment in this genre. Clever writing and good performances all around although it was a shame that Giamatti was snubbed. Maybe I’m so fond of this movie because Giamatti nailed the role of That Guy Named David so well. When David and I were in college, I could have sworn I heard quite a bit of profanities aimed at the Merlot coming from his room.

(1) Million Dollar Baby — I could just go on and on about how darn tooting great this movie was, but it wouldn’t do it any justice. Clint Eastwood really hit this one out of the park (I’m tired of the knocked out, boxing euphemisms). I was also mightily impressed with Hillary Swank and couldn’t help but think that this picture might just stand the test of time . . . and this was just 30 minutes into it. It had the true feel of one of the classics. This is my Best Picture winner by unanimous decision (couldn’t help it).