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529 of 581 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars _This_ is why we go to the movies
Different people go to the movies for different reasons. Some of us want to be entertained. Some of us want to be dazzled. Some of us want to be engaged by a story, or by characters that stick in the mind after the film is done. Some of us want to be transported to a different time or place. And some of us want to see talented actors create a bit of magic in the hands of...
Published on December 8, 2011 by Whitt Patrick Pond

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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous movie, but...
One of the most beautiful movies you'll ever see (especially in blu-ray), and I love the concept, but for some reason this movie just never fully engaged me. There are so many things that are right, in concept, about this story, yet it needs a little extra sprinkle of magic. Definitely download or rent, but buy? Eh. 3.5 stars.
Published on March 5, 2012 by Wendy & Jeff S


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529 of 581 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars _This_ is why we go to the movies, December 8, 2011
By 
This review is from: Hugo (DVD)
Different people go to the movies for different reasons. Some of us want to be entertained. Some of us want to be dazzled. Some of us want to be engaged by a story, or by characters that stick in the mind after the film is done. Some of us want to be transported to a different time or place. And some of us want to see talented actors create a bit of magic in the hands of a masterful director. Martin Scorsese's Hugo does all of these things. It is, more than any other film I've seen this year, _why_ we go to the movies.

The film is based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. If you've read the book, then you know the story already, but for everyone else I am going to be careful here and not reveal anything that might spoil the film. I will say that Hugo is about many things, but at its heart, it is about obsession, discovery and how one person's story can lead to - and become entwined with - another's.

The film is set in Paris in the 1930's, in a railway station where an orphan boy named Hugo (engagingly played by Asa Butterfield) lives in the workspaces in the station walls and in the station's central clocktower. He spends most of his time keeping the station's clocks running (so that no one will come into the walls or the tower and discover his hiding places) and pursuing his obsession - fixing a man-shaped automaton designed to write with a pen which his father (Jude Law) had found in a museum and was trying to repair when he was killed in a fire. To feed himself, Hugo scrounges and pilfers food from the various food shops in the station, which draws the attention of the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). To feed his efforts to repair the automaton, Hugo steals parts from a toy shop in the station, run by the elderly Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), who finally catches him in the act. He is befriended though by Papa Georges' god-daughter, a girl his age named Isabelle (ChloŽ Grace Moretz), who ends up helping Hugo pursue his obsession of fixing the automaton. Which, Hugo is convinced, has some secret message for him left by his late father. Where this ultimately leads... you'll have to see the film. Telling you here would only ruin the film's joy of discovery.

There are so many good things about Hugo as a film that it's hard to know where to begin. I can at least start by saying that the look of the film itself is dazzling. Scorsese creates worlds within worlds, taking you first back to Paris in the 1930's and from there into Hugo's hidden world within the walls and clock tower of the train station. And from there, other places that are equally wondrous. The 3D is not wasted here and truly adds to the feel of Hugo's world of narrow passages and massive time-keeping mechanisms with their enormous but intricate gears, springs and pendulums all in motion. And Howard Shore's beautifully crafted musical score evokes the period throughout the film, adding to the feeling of being transported to a different time and place.

Another thing that makes Hugo so worth seeing is that Scorsese is one of those directors who can bring out the best performance an actor has in them, which he does a magnificent job of here, from veteran actors like Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lee to comparative newcomers like Asa Butterfield and ChloŽ Grace Moretz.

And just as the look of the sets shows his attention to detail, the populating of the world with characters shows it as well as he makes the train station come alive with its regular denizens, from Sacha Boren Cohen's officious station inspector with his leg brace and the pretty young flower seller Lisette (Emily Mortimer) he secretly yearns for, to the comic attempts at romance between Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths), an elderly newspaper seller who keeps attempting to woo Madame Emile (Frances de la Tour), a cafe owner who dotes on her dog who unfortunately attacks Monsieur Frick every time he comes near. Scorsese also works in some famous historical Parisian residents of the period into the background, like jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (Emil Lager), artist Salvador Dali (Ben Addis) and writer James Joyce (Robert Gill).

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who enjoys movies, and an absolute must-see for anyone who loves movies and what they mean to us.
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331 of 375 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No-Spoilers review of the 3D movie and the coming 2D DVD, December 19, 2011
By 
Ehkzu (Palo Alto, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hugo (DVD)
Few read reviews to find out whether the reviewer liked the film. They want to know whether THEY will like the film--to decide whether to see the movie or not, and whether to see it in the theater or wait and see the DVD (or the download). That's the task I'll take on here.

As the Rottentomato website has already shown (it assembles and correlates scads of reviews from the press and the web, along with reader responses), the critics adore this film, the audience somewhat less so.

Part of this has to do with managing expectations. The marketing presents Hugo as an Avatar-ish 3D fantasy with a C3P0 (StarWars)-type flying robot. this is actively misleading, though that's not the director's fault.

What Hugo is, is a fable--not a fantasy--that's part tween adventure and part infomercial for the preservation and viewing of old silent movies. Most importantly--and this is a point that hasn't been made by most reviewers here and elsewhere--it's a film about ex-magician/early filmmaker Georges Meliés that Scorsese made, to a degree, IN THE STYLE of a Georges Meliés movie. That's part of the homage.

Thus "Hugo" contains a lot of adventurous running-around, a brilliant exploitation of the best 3D filmmaking technology extant, and a leavening of slapstick elements--particularly from the surprisingly restrained Sascha Baron Cohen.

It's a fable based on real events in the early history of movies. "Sleepless in Seattle" was a fable with no fantasy elements other than its happy-ending-inevitability, which you feel from beginning to end. That's the essence of a fable, not whether it has fantasy elements or not. A fable is a kind of ritual that reaffirms the tribe's values and faith in its vision of life.

Hugo reaffirms faith in goodness--that even in many apparently hard-hearted people there's an ember that can be fanned into life by the right person. The movie's vibe from its first seconds tells you that you are riding towards a happy ending.

Two Russian intellectuals that I saw the movie with hated that fact. They think a movie is unrealistic unless everyone's doomed, and if you'd grown up in the Soviet Union that was probably realistic. Especially since Soviet-era fable-movies did guarantee a happy ending--"happy" as defined by Soviet ideology at least. So for my friends. fables aren't just false, but evil State Propaganda. And a lot of Americans who fancy themselves intellectual have a similarly jaundiced perspective about Hollywood's addiction to guaranteed by hook or by crook happy endings.

I think this issue stems from not understanding the ritual validity of fable. I love realistic movies without this guarantee of happy outcomes, but I also love a good fable. I'm certain of my spouse's love for me and of my love for her. I'm certain of our relationship with our closest friends, as they are of us reciprocally. I'm certain of the law-abidingness of my society (especially compared to the third-world countries we've traveled in). Predictable good outcomes are, within reasonable constraints, reasonable to believe in, in many ways.

So "Hugo"'s ultimate predictability is a valid artistic choice. It's not a spoiler to say this because you know it from the start and you should know so you don't confuse this with a Sundance-type art film where everyone is confused and faces an uncertain future, usually alone. I apologize for "Hugo" not being a slit-your-wristsathon. I also like such films, and they usually set your expectations from the start as well, for that matter.

So who will enjoy "Hugo" ?
1. Bright tweens. It stars a pair of bright tweens, so this is a natural. Many younger kids will like it as well--it's visually a treat, and it is based on a kids' story. But duller/much younger/Disneyfied kids who want nonstop action and/or the relentless cheerful action of a Disney film will probably find their attention wandering in places.

2. Everyone who's interested in the history of filmmaking--particularly right at the beginning.

3. Everyone who's interested in modern filmmaking. This does represent the absolute state of the art in 3D cinematography--where its 3Dness is integral and almost taken for granted, not tacked on, not poke-you-in-the-eye, not several layers of 2D images.

4. Everyone who's interested in good fable direction/screenwriting/acting. This is not to say anyone involved in this project can't do naturalistic films or fantasy films, or, in the case of Chloe Grace Moretz, naturalistic fantasy films ("Let me in"). So no negatives are proven here. That said, I believe the casting was spot on for the major and minor roles. This is one area where Scorsese didn't copy the stagy mugging of Meliés' films (except during re recreations of those films). The large, intent close-ups of the major characters really exposed their acting chops, and all came through. The boy, who I'd never seen before, kept it subtle, as well as the other juvenile character, Isabelle (played by Moretz). The young actors in many youth-oriented films tend to mug--again, Disney movie style--and kids who expect that need to be prepped by their parents to look for more lifelike acting here.

Who won't love it?

1. It's not a Selena Gomez/Demi Lovato/Disney vehicle. It's nothing like Lindsay Lohan's wonderful "Parent Trap," one of the best of the normal good-quality kids' film. It too is a fable, but it isn't overlaid with all the stuff about film history and suchlike. "Hugo"'s ideal kid audience is going to be like Isabelle in the move--sweet, bookish, curious, and not locked into peer culture as the source of everything that could possibly be of interest to one.

2. People who don't like the fable genre. The film embeds pretty naturalistic performances and note-perfect sets showing a Paris train station circa 1931, where most of the action takes place within a non-naturalistic film fable. There are lots of non-fable films. See one of those unless you really do want to see state of the art 3D cinematography and want to ratchet up your suspension of disbelief in order to watch this.

3. People with zero interest in film history. This is where a lot of movie critics err. Of course nearly all of them are fascinated by early film history. But this film verges on being a high quality 2 hour infomercial for film preservation, and you know, reading this, whether such prolonged self-regard on the part of the filmmaker towards his medium will fascinate or annoy you.

4. Adults who don't like films starring children. I detect this bias in people who criticize the performances of "Hugo"'s two junior leads, who are both exemplary. Also, I hadn't seen the boy before, but I have seen Moretz costarring in the grim, critically acclaimed "Let Me In," in which she portrays--with almost no dialogue and almost no special effects--a bloodthirsty (literally) yet profoundly conflicted child vampire, and in which those averse to sunny endings will get their wishes more than satisfied. And in which her appearance and performance have been compared favorably to a very young Ingrid Bergman. That is, she has gravitas. Of people in her age bracket, the only other actor I can think of who has that is Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit).

My point here is that Moretz's acting chops are now an established fact. She has a far less complex character to portray in "Hugo," yet even in Isabelle's wide-eyed pre-ingenue role she infuses her character with a kind of luminosity that holds its own even when she's sharing the screen with great adult actors like Ben Kingsley.

5. Adults who only want to see heavily plot-driven films. It's not like "Hugo" is one of those kaleidoscopic non-narrative films. It tells a story, to be sure. But besides the child-centered narrative there's a biopic about Georges Meliés (and his wife) here, told in flashback, along with excursions into film history. Some people will find that as rich as a multicourse meal; others will be annoyed by "Hugo" not being propelled by a singular narrative drive. Such people will sit there saying "All right, Scorsese--get to the point!"

6. Those who are really reluctant to pay to see the film in a theater, even if they're eager to see it on DVD. I agree with this feeling nearly all of the time. However, some films are so visually huge--and, especially, if they're 3D and do that well--you need to bite the bullet and see it in a theater, if only to compare what it's like in a theater in 3D with what it's like on your flat screen TV at home in 2D. Hey, you can always see it in a bargain matinee, as we did. But we'll probably get the DVD when it comes out as well, because it both makes and recalls film history.
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84 of 96 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early review on blu-ray 3D, February 21, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was able to legitimately get an early review copy of the 3D version of the Hugo 3D blu-ray. I am not reviewing the film. I am not reviewing the acting. I am reviewing the 3D. It is incredible. Every bit as engrossing as it was in the theater. If you own a 3DTV, you owe it to yourself to buy this movie. Sure, the film itself is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you're just looking for reference quality, mind-blowing 3D? This movie will suck you in from start to finish. You are a part of the world of Hugo, from beginning to end. And, honestly, no 3D has been this engrossing since Avatar. If you love silent film, film preservation, or cinema in general, along with your three dimensions, this will be the absolute must own disc of the year! Even if they don't like the movie itself, your friends will be impressed with the 3D FX. This is one of the few films released where you can genuinely and proudly claim, "This is why I bought a 3D television!" Enjoy.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Soulful, Magical Masterpiece, December 30, 2011
Hugo, the latest film from cinematic maestro Martin Scorsese, is both his first film geared for families and his first film shot in 3D. While many noteworthy directors have been weary of the new format, some greats have embraced it and been eager to try it. James Cameron, not the inventor of 3D but certainly a recent innovator, upon seeing Hugo, called it the best use of 3D he'd seen. No matter what your thoughts on 3D may be, this is no small feat coming from this man. The film, based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and with a screenplay by John Logan, who also penned Scorsese's The Aviator, Hugo is largely billed as a family film but it's worth noting that the film's biggest fans will probably be adults, although there's enough whimsical fantasy to tug at the heartstrings of even the most jaded child.

Hugo largely takes place in the early 1930s at a Paris railway station. Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a young boy whose father (Jude Law), a clockmaker, dies suddenly in a fire. His alcoholic Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) is responsible for maintaining the clocks at the railway station and teaches Hugo how to do so before taking an indefinite leave of absence. Hugo, left all alone, lives within the walls of the train station, maintaining the clocks, acquiring food by stealing, and spending his free time trying to fix the automaton his father left behind. The automaton is a mechanical man that, once wound up, is supposed to write; his father found it difficult to fix and it's Hugo's mission to see that it finally works. To successfully accomplish this goal, Hugo steals mechanical parts from a toyshop owner named Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), a callused, angry old man who eventually catches Hugo and steals his blueprints that guide him in fixing the automaton. Hopeless, Hugo befriends Isabelle (ChloŽ Grace Moretz), Georges goddaughter, and begins to uncover the mystery of Papa Georges cinematic past. The film co-stars Sacha Baron Cohen as the feared Station inspector, who will happily whisk Hugo away to the orphanage if he catches him and Christopher Lee as a generous librarian who specializes in finding a good home for books.

Hugo is without a doubt the most visual film that Scorsese has ever directed. Armed with a large budget, the film is heavy on CGI yet moves with the grace of a silent film. The production design by Dante Ferretti and the art direction, credited to ten people, is luxurious and Oscar-worthy, although I confess that it's hard to differentiate between reality and CGI at times. The look, among other things, is completely different from anything Scorsese has made before. The man that directed such gritty films as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver has had a much smoother style in recent years with films like The Departed and Shutter Island, but until now Scorsese has never made a movie that could truly be described as a visual feast for the eyes. As for the story, it's easy to see what made Scorsese respond so strongly to it but taken at face-value it's a rich, lovely fairy tale with shades of Charles Dickens. Of course, in true Scorsese fashion, it's also a history of and love letter to cinema with the importance of film preservation being a theme at the forefront of it all.

The performances are great all around, striking and heartbreaking. Butterfield carries the emotional weight of the character well, while Moretz continues to establish herself as one of the best child actors working today. Kingsley delivers a performance that is, at first, cold but gradually turns to sympathetic. Cohen is quietly hilarious but brings genuine pathos to his role. It's a memorable performance that proves what a gifted actor he is and it's worthy of an Oscar-nomination, although if anyone is nominated it will likely be Kingsley and deservedly so.

As Hugo is very much a cinematic love letter to early cinema, young children may be bored by it. It has enough magical imagery, but I'm not sure how successfully it could capture some people's ADD-riddled attention spans. It's one of the most classic-feeling modern films I've seen, which could be good or bad depending on your perspective. However, it's a joyous film that both children and adults should give a fair shake.

In my humble opinion, Hugo is one of the best films of the year. Who else but Scorsese, well-known as such an incredibly passionate lover of film, could make such a wondrous film about the wonder of film? It's a celebration of all that cinema can be, as well as where cinema came from. It illustrates the progression between cinema being made of dreams to becoming the thing dreams are made of. It's amazing that a major studio would release this film at a time when major studios are largely considered creatively bankrupt. In making a film that celebrates early, silent cinema Scorsese seems to be winking at the audience by creating a film that could not exist without modern technology. Hugo is a perpetually heartwarming and smile-inducing film. Beautiful, not just aesthetically, it's a triumph of spirit; a soulful, magical masterpiece that actually brought tears to my eyes.

GRADE: A

As for the 3D; I've always preferred to see 3D used as the gimmick that it is rather than seeing an attempt to be artistic with it. I was not impressed by James Cameron's Avatar and have only seen it used with true purpose in Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Truth be told, I have not been particularly impressed with any use of it I've seen thus far. That changed with Hugo. Scorsese does not use it as a gimmick, but as a way to provide the film with an additional dimension and deepen one's immersion into the overall experience. Would this film still function as magically without it? Yes, it would. Does this use of 3D actually add something to the experience? Undoubtedly. While 3D is still not a fad that I'm particularly hip to, it's good to see a director trying to use it with purpose and actually succeeding.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, January 28, 2012
This review is from: Hugo (DVD)
**Originally posted on "#1 Hits From Another Planet" - 11/30/11**

I'm an enormous fan of well-made "kid movies," or as I like to think of them, movies for the uncynical and young at heart. I think one of the biggest reasons they appeal to me so much is that they cut to the core of things. Oftentimes, a coming-of-age or childlike film gets right down to who a filmmaker is at their essence. This happens more often when great writers and directors are at the helm of these movies. They feel very personal. That's one of the reasons why I consider this and JJ Abram's Super 8 to be my favorite movies of the year.

Based on a children's book by Brian Selznick (which, it kills me to say, I actually haven't read), Hugo is a completely unique, almost dream-like fable. I went in with little knowledge of the story and no expectations, which I think is the best possible frame of mind to be in before you watch this movie. After about the first fifteen minutes (more of an introduction to the title character's world... which ends with a stunning reveal of 1930s Paris) I found myself utterly engrossed. Riveted, even. This feeling lasted through the entire movie and the weird thing is, it's not a wham bang action thriller with huge plot twists and explosions. It's not the kind of thing I'd expect to be riveted by... yet there I was.

Now that I've given it some thought, I can put it down to several factors. First, the world of Hugo is utterly immersive. The color palette, the cinematography (the angles used to shoot inside the station are just thrilling to watch) and the side stories of the different goings on inside the station all add up to create a sense of place that's absolutely transportive. It's like a classic painting come to life. Story and character aside, it's beautiful to look at. But that's selling the story short. After awhile, you do know where it's going, but the journey to get there had me guessing. What's up with this strange boy's salvaged automaton? Or the mysterious toy seller, or the secrets his dead father seemed to know? I love a good mystery, especially when it pays off as well as this one did. I didn't expect the rich taste of history and filmmaking we get in the film's latter half. This is that deep, personal connection I was talking about earlier. It definitely feels like this is Scorsese's core. You almost expect the movie to head in a fantasy direction. What you get is quite different, and far more affecting.

Finally, I'd be leaving a gaping hole if I didn't at least mention the acting. It's uniformly excellent... "kid movie" or not. I've loved everything that ChloŽ Grace Moretz's done, so it's no surprise that she's amazing here (and it's nice to see her playing against the Let Me In/Kick-Ass type). Sacha Baron Cohen hams it up a little much here and there, but turns in a performance that ends up to be much more layered than it first seems. Ben Kingsley has one of the tougher performances and plays a critical role in the central mystery. He carries it off brilliantly, of course. And Asa Butterfield, the youngest of the bunch, carries the movie on his shoulders with a pair of ultra-expressive blue eyes that often speak louder than any line he's been given. He's the heart of Hugo, and wouldn't be a total shocker come Oscar nomination time.

The vague marketing isn't doing Hugo any favors, but if you like intelligent, engrossing, character driven movies (that just happen to star a child), you've got to check this out. Hell, if you're a fan of movies and moviemaking in general, I don't see how you could miss it!
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65 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves a big life on Blu-Ray, January 10, 2012
Hopefully "Hugo" finds the new life on Blu-Ray (and 3D Blu-Ray) that it deserves. For some reason, the masses haven't flocked to this film in theaters, but don't let that fool you into thinking it is second tier in any way. "Hugo" is actually one of the best films of 2011 and one of the best family films ever (that adults will enjoy even more). Most importantly, this is one of the best LOOKING films I've ever seen. James Cameron himself called the film a masterpiece and praised it's use of 3D. As of my writing this I can say that "Hugo" and "Avatar" are easily the two best uses of 3D yet seen.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Finest Family-Oriented Pictures in Recent Memory from a most unlikely source, November 30, 2011
This review is from: Hugo (DVD)
Martin Scorsese offers audiences a film absolutely like none of his others, a truly heart-felt valentine to the early history of cinema and of a young boy's indefatigable search for a hidden message from his deceased father in 1920s Paris; "Hugo", based on Brian Selznick's bestselling children's tale "The Invention of Hugo Cabret". It is Scorsese's most personal, and most poignant, film, and is certainly among those destined to be remembered as his finest in long, quite distinguished, star-studded cinematic career. Working with a talented team of actors led by Sir Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lee, and a technical crew led by visual effects guru Rob Legato ("Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Avatar") and film composer Howard Shore ("The Lord of The Rings"), Scorsese has rendered a cinematic vision of Paris as vividly magical as the futuristic worlds of "Star Trek" or the fantasy realm of "Middle Earth"; a vision that is still most apt even in the two-dimensional version that I saw recently.

The young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) runs afoul of toy store owner Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) in the main Parisian railroad station, as he tries repairing an automaton found by his late father (played with utmost warmth and sincerity by Jude Law), believing it may disclose his father's hidden message. Winning the sympathy and friendship of Méliès' goddaughter Isabelle (ChloŽ Grace Moretz), and Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee), the train station's book seller, young Hugo soon makes an electrifying discovery of Méliès' almost forgotten past as one of the world's greatest film directors in the early infancy of cinema. Moretz's warm, radiant, performance nearly steals every scene she is in, though there are great performances too from Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Michael Stuhlbarg (as the fictional film historian Rene Tabard), Helen McCrory (as Méliès' wife Mama Jeanne), Emily Mortimer (Lisette, the train station's flower shop owner) and Sacha Baron Cohen (as the World War I-injured Station Inspector, with whom Hugo has problems with too). This is an emotionally riveting tearjerker of a film that will leave audiences spellbound, especially pre-adolescent children and adults; whose visual and musical styles are more similar to Hollywood classics from the 1930s and early 1940s than any contemporary family-oriented film in recent memory.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Pure Movie Magic, January 4, 2012
Over the last few years I have been increasingly jaded by special effects. The last time I recall being really blown away by special effects was the 1977 STAR WARS. It seems that more often than not today, the effects either dominate or get in the way of the story. Scorsese has managed the difficult feat of hitting just the right balance. AVATAR was supposed to be the film experience that took movies to the next level, but frankly, it didn't do that much for me. But I viewed HUGO yesterday on the big screen and it was an absolutely stunning and magical movie experience! I saw it in 3D and was mesmerized from start to finish. Asa Butterfield is pitch perfect in the role of Hugo and everyone of the supporting cast all ring true. I'm not a big fan of Sasha Cohen, but he is riveting as the train station policeman. Christopher Lee and Ben Kingsley shine as well. As another reviewer stated...it's not for everybody. But as a person with an interest in the beginnings of films this movie resonated deeply with me. This is more than an homage to silent films...it is a sincere love story about them, lovingly crafted by Martin Scorsese. I often felt like I was living in a dream as I watched the story develop. In particular, I savored the scenes in the old book shop. This film was a revelation and a perfect fit for 3D (and Blu-Ray) presentation. Sure it can be predictable at times, but that is also part of the allure. Sit back and appreciate a movie master doing his best to take you on a two hour magic carpet ride. The set design, the music, the acting and the atmosphere...bravo Martin Scorsese! You've made a masterpiece.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a beautiful piece of cinema., February 28, 2012
Martin Scorsese is primarily known for two things: making gritty, true-to-life movies (usually set in New York City) that chronicle violence and human chaos in all its nasty forms; and loving, utterly treasuring, the art of cinema. HUGO belongs firmly in the latter category. It's a movie about movies; moreover, it's a movie about cherishing movies, a summation of an entire art form from one of its most devoted admirers.

There is a plot here, of course: young Orphan Hugo hides in the walls of a train station, working the clocks and carrying for a robotic figure his father found in a museum. He steals parts from a local toymaker to keep up the machine; when the toymaker catches Hugo in the act, he steals the boy's pocketbook, and Hugo sets out to get it back, with the aid of the old man's goddaughter, Isabelle.

If you simply want a family movie, then HUGO will work sufficiently. It has a plot; it moves along at a decent pace. But to truly appreciate how magnificent this film is, you have to approach it from an entirely different point of view: that of a film lover. This is, in effect, a very serious, very moving, very effective film. The acting from the two child leads, Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz, is nothing short of wonderful; child actors are usually a sticking point for me, but Scorsese knows how to ring a fine performance from all of his actors (it doesn't hurt that both have already proven themselves to be talented up-and-comers). Ben Kingsley delivers one of his best performances in years (perhaps of his entire career). Other supporting players get to shine in their brief roles: Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Frances de la Tour, and Richard Griffiths (it's a whole HARRY POTTER reunion) all make significant, even if minor, contributions. Sacha Baron Cohen, as the single-minded (and strongly anti-orphan) Station Inspector, provides some of the film's weaker moments; not Cohen himself, as his performance is dependably strong, but more the character, whose slapstick shenanigans try to remind us that this is a family film. (Cohen is clearly aware of this, and provides decent bursts of humor elsewhere, and yes, some of it tends to lean towards the "young adult" spectrum of things; younger children, fortunately, probably won't catch on, and adults will get a good belly-laugh.)

But the true heart of HUGO lies beyond the casting. It's Oscar-winning effects are utterly dazzling (and I only saw it in 2D; when I finally see it in 3D, as it's intended, I think my heart will stop with pure joy). The cinematography is also just spellbinding, and also Oscar-winning (the film took home five statues, all for more technical aspects, which is appropriate because this is one of those films where even more casual movie-goers will notice things like lighting and score). Everything comes back to Scorsese's lovelorn directing; he's a man with a crush, and he's writing a brilliant love note that goes far beyond "check yes or no." HUGO may not be Scorsese's best film, but it is certainly his most special. Anyone with a pulse can feel the love here--and it is real, genuine, and reciprocated in full.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese waves his magic wand., February 23, 2012
This review is from: Hugo (DVD)
Most of the reviewers here have been very careful to preserve the plot surprises in Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," and I will be too, although by now many writers have spilled the beans. So all I will say is that "Hugo" is one of those very rare movies that lives up to the phrase, "movie magic." Scorsese has us in the palm of his hand from the first shot, a magnificent panoramic sweep of a Paris train station circa 1930, and keeps us there all the way to the expected happy ending. The basic story--Hugo (Asa Butterfield), a misprized Parisian orphan who keeps the station clocks running, even as he tries to evade capture by the officious station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen)--is one just about any child can relate and thrill to. But the story really opens up once it gets to Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), curmudgeonly proprietor of the station's toy shop, and his beloved goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz).

"Hugo" can best be described as a voyage of discovery, using extraordinarily sophisticated cinematic techniques to create a marvelously sustained mood of childlike wonder. As Hugo and Isabelle, piece by piece, uncover the life story of Papa Georges, Scorsese pays glorious tribute to the early days of the cinema, and to the pioneers who created it. This is the first film I have ever seen in which the director uses 3D to advance the story, not just to provide chills and thrills to the audience. The effect is that of Scorsese, like Papa Georges within the movie, waving his magic wand to cast a spell of enchantment over the audience.

Scorsese's usual crew is here--photographer Robert Richardson, designer Dante Ferretti and editor Thelma Schoonmaker--and their work is flawless. Also flawless is the cast; "Hugo" features a veritable honor roll of some of the best actors working today, including the aforementioned players as well as Helen McCrory, Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, and--in a brief, poignant cameo--Jude Law.

If I were as curmudgeonly as Papa Georges, I could complain that the story of "Hugo" stretches a little thin toward the end. But considering the glittering cinematic art that surrounds it, that complaint is extremely minor. It's a cliche to say a movie will delight children of all ages, but in the case of "Hugo," it happens to be true.
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Hugo
Hugo by Martin Scorsese
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