Thursday, November 24, 2011

Movie Reviews: "Hugo" and "The Muppets"

This been a busy two days, what with Thanksgiving and three major releases this week that I wanted to see. I still have yet to see Arthur Christmas, I plan on seeing that sometime soon, and hopefully the sneak peek of potential Oscar contender, We Bought A Zoo. I still managed to get out and see two new release movies these past two days, one I loved, the other, not so much. Guess which one: Hugo or The Muppets? Read the reviews:



The art of adaptation is tricky. Often filmmakers manage to find nuances from the book and expand upon those nuances to make a movie that is as deep and affecting as the book, unfortunately Hugo is not one such movie.

This adaptation of Brian Selznick's enchanting novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret lacks the taut structure and emotional heft of its source material, resulting in a cinematic experience far from enchanting. Director Martin Scorsese did put together a nice ensemble of craftsmen to create some breathtaking sets, costumes, and cinematography, but the thrill of the expertly crafted crafts only lasts for maybe ten minutes, then one would think the story should draw the viewer in, but it never does.

Hugo is an orphan living in the walls of a 1930's Parisian train station, winding the clocks whilst rebuilding an automaton that his father found before he died. Here is the thing, the actors do the best with what they were given, but the script lacks any real life and feels like a workman's paycheck. Time is never given in the editing or the pacing of scenes to let the audience reflect on the emotions of the moment, so we never see the actor's reacting or showing any emotion to the events transpiring.

For example, after Hugo's notebook is taken by the owner of a toy shop booth that he has been stealing from to get parts for the automaton, he should be devastated, right? But instead we see Hugo, immediately after, winding the clocks and watching people in the train station, laughing at their humorous situations. Not to mention, these attempts at comedy always fall flat, in particular with Sacha Baron Cohen's Station Inspector, whose antics just take too long to develop and fills up far too much screen time. The script by John Logan is just poorly paced, with scenes going from high tension and a hankering for a huge pay-off, to the brakes being hit to deliver a laugh.

While Scorsese obviously shows his penchant for film history near the end with a nicely put together ten minute mini-doc in the movie that details the life of pioneer filmmaker Georges Meilies, ten minutes of enchantment do not make up for a haphazard hour and fifty minutes before all of that. As much of a fan I was of Selznick's novel, Hugo is an adaptation that perhaps should have never happened.

I give Hugo an F!

The Muppets

Did I have a grin on my face throughout the entirety of The Muppets? Yes, I did. Did I nearly cry at times? Yes, I did. Is The Muppets worth your time? Yes, it is.

The Muppets
is a classic getting the gang back together story told via the point of view of Walter - the Muppets' biggest fan - who after over-hearing an oil tycoon's plan to tear the old Muppet Studios down to drill oil, appeals to Kermit and the gang to put on one last show and prove the world hasn't forgotten them. Does the basic concept feel formulaic? Yes, but screenwriters Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller keep the flick from having a predictable ending, a true feat when dealing with such a standard Hollywood story.

Kermit and the gang have never been funnier, with great new additions like '80s Robot as Kermit's butler, and as usual, Fozzie the Bear is my personal favorite (plus, who doesn't want to travel by map now). However, it is Kermit who carries the emotional weight of the film on his back. How does one apologize to old friends for not staying in touch with them? How do they reforge a broken relationship? These are real human themes that Segel and Stoller chose to deal with here, and director James Bobin manages to somehow make it work within the world of puppetry, where their eyes never blink!

While the script juggles around a few too many characters and plot lines, where near the end certain moments lack tension because the story is constantly shifting from character to character to keep their plot lines going, The Muppets manages to keep the train on the track and arrive at the station on time. Ultimately, the emotion always comes through, with great aid from the fantastic songs, in particular "Pictures in my Head" and "Man or Muppet."

I give The Muppets a B+!

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