Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Jude Law
Paramount//Rated PG//Fantasy//127 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
The undeniably handsome "Hugo," draws visual poetry from both its storyline and its setting in a Parisian train station. Adapted from Brian Selznick's book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," the film's first half depicts the travails of orphaned 12-year-old Hugo (Asa Butterfield). As the industrial age draws to a close, Hugo eagerly tries to reconnect with his deceased father (Jude Law). Hugo lives in an ad hoc apartment hidden between the Paris train station's walls. He is comforted by his father's notebook and a broken automaton he is attempting to repair. From the station's interior clock tower, the lad surveys the action below. When the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) is out of sight, Hugo slips through a grate to gather supplies. The station toy shop is run by Pappa Georges (Ben Kingsley), who catches Hugo stealing and confiscates the boy's beloved notebook. While trying to retrieve it, Hugo befriends Pappa Georges's god daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). Her friendship changes Hugo's life as he joins her in adventures, and in solving a mystery that reveals Pappa Georges is none other than early cinema pioneer Georges Melies. The film loses its footing when it repeatedly retreats, in flashback, to romanticized scenes of Melies at work on his film and to his depression, which devolved into bitterness, when his work fell from favor. Cohen's station inspector is a keystone cop. He too is outfitted with a sad past, though his mean-spirited character fails to evoke sympathy. Meant to function as comic relief, Cohen's scenes undermine the story's philosophical underpinnings. The visuals are astounding, especially those showing a train station during the 1930s. Despite its numerous flaws, the tale benefits from neat twists and Kingley's nuanced, intelligent performance. The major letdown occurs during the second half, when the story wades through puddles of sentimentality after adroitly sidestepping them during its first half. DVD features: Making of featurette. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, The Cinemagician, Georges Melies, The Mechanical Man, Big Effects, Small Scale, Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime.
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench
Warner//Rated R//Drama//137 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
Following in the footsteps of Oliver Stone, director Clint Eastwood puts his own spin on the life on J. Edgar Hoover, a controversial, enigmatic figure during much of the 20th century. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, Hoover was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he served as director until his death in 1972. During his years in office, Hoover's growing paranoia prompted him to see that unethical orders were carried out. Eastwood follows rumors casting Hoover as a closeted homosexual engaged in a longtime affair with his FBI associate director Clyde Tolson (Hammer) -- rumors disputed by Hoover's biographer, Richard Hack. Watts appears as Hoover's personal assistant, Helen Gandy, aging along with her boss, and Dench plays Hoover's mother. Though entertaining, Eastwood's film veers into tabloid journalism, and the film suffers for it. DVD or Blu-ray features: Featurette on Hoover and Digital copy.
* * (C)