Now Playing Review

Scorsese Pays Tribute with Hugo; Iron Lady Not So Much; A Better Life an Average Movie

YEP – Is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo worthy of 11 Oscar nominations? Probably not. But it’s still an above average slice of entertainment; and, for better or for worse, a film that needs to be seen on the big screen. In fact, the bigger the better.

The story is simple. An orphan boy works secretly in a train station’s clock tower and longs for a family to call his own. Ok, so maybe not so simple. You see, the boy’s father (Jude Law) was a watch repairman who dazzled his young son (Asa Butterfield) with gadgets galore, most notably an automaton that cranks out cryptic etchings. But only if you have the right key to fire the melancholy “robot” up. Hmmm. Where is that stupid key?

Oh, there it is! Around my new girlfriends neck. Whew! What relief.

Yep, the plot has a few convenient contrivances, and I’m in the minority here, but I can only handle so much Ben Kingsley.  I will admit the 3-D is pretty slick. I found myself reaching out to scratch Sacha Baron Cohen’s tootsies a couple of times. He was practically resting his sore dogs on my lap!

At its core, Hugo is Scorsese’s Cinema Paradiso. Not only is it a tribute to the cinema, but moreover it is a testament to one of the director’s passions: film restoration. A worthwhile endeavor, not a bad film, but man I am sick of wearing those stupid glasses. Enough already with the 3-D.

YEP – Stating that Meryl Streep is the greatest film actress of all time is no leap. Still, I had reservations going in to The Iron Lady. Mostly, because it was directed by the woman, Phyllida Lloyd, who brought us the silly train wreck Mama Mia! 

I was right to be concerned.

Tackling a film about Margaret Thatcher was surely a daunting task. Lloyd chose to tell the former Prime Minister’s political story through flashbacks brought on by her dementia and acute paranoia. Not all that flattering. But Streep is spectacular and a lock to win the Oscar, as are Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland for their makeup work.

Much of the present day story line is told through imaginary conversations between Thatcher and her late husband, played with his usual panache by the consistently watchable Jim Broadbent. There are a few strong scenes showcasing  Thatcher’s ability to not only hold her own amongst the old guard in parliament, but even chop them off at the knees. Ultimately, however, it is a film that leaves the audience feeling pity for this monumental world leader, rather than admiration.

YEP – I’m guessing that A Better Life was inspired by the classic Italian film Bicycle Thieves (or The Bicycle Thief). If it wasn’t, it should have been. Much to learn from that one.

The Bicycle Thief was a simple but brilliant morality tale between a father and son. A Better Life is a simple, but not so brilliant, illegal immigration tale between a father and son that comes off a bit too much like an ABC after school special. It’s not a bad picture, just a little thin. Kind of surprising considering it was directed by Chris Weitz (About a Boy).

It did snag Mexican born actor, Demian Bichir, an Oscar nomination. Pretty amazing example right there of the American Dream. Give it a rent and tell me what you think.

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