Ah, Hugo! What’s it about, you ask? Well, let me tell you. It’s about a guy, right, who makes movies around the turn of the century. Well, no, not exactly. You see, it’s actually about this little girl – well, no, I think it’s a boy, but not completely sure. He winds clocks and makes this robot, see? …well not exactly a robot, it’s called an automaton…ok, ok. That’s not exactly what it’s about, so much as a key part of the story line. It’s really about a friendship between a little boy and a shop owner. Well, not exactly a friendship so much as a rivalry. No, actually, let’s see here – it’s about a homeless kid and his alcoholic, abusive uncle…

Look, I’ll stop there. The point I suppose I’m making here is the movie covers a lot of ground in terms of story elements. A seemingly randomized hodge-podge of story elements. Mr. Scorsese did achieve originality here, and managed to cobble together a film that tells a compelling story – but unfortunately not one I will be able to relate here. Suffice it to say, it’s sort of an adventure-drama-family flick-period piece-live action-CGI-holiday-secular-fictional-quasi nonfiction-tragedy-romance-Indiana Jones meets Little Orphan Annie. Yeah, it’s also trying to cover alot of ground in terms of categories.

So, rather than try to categorize or describe the film, let’s switch gears here and discuss the merits of the film. Ben Kingsley delivers another strong performance, although you will find the pancake makeup he wears to look young in the ‘flashback’ scenes a little creepy. It harkens back to the Crypt Keeper, if the cracks in his rotting flesh were covered with a thick plasticy-looking substance. The kid, who is apparently the main character, just barely meets minimum skill requirements for hollywood acting, though. We have a severe shortage of child actors who actually know how to shed a tear when ‘crying’ in a scene. Aren’t kids supposed to be experts at fake crying? Then why can’t they do it when they are on camera? Sorry, delivering your lines with a straight face ain’t enough, kid. The robot is kind of cool too, although I was really hoping for it to take more of a role in the story line. You know, maybe start to get up and help he kid out with some chores or something. All it did was sit there and draw some stupid picture.

And that leads us to the sub-plot, which somewhere around mid-film turns into the main plot: Mr. Shopkeeper and his hidden past as a pioneering filmmaker. Again, well constructed story telling here, but I’m starting to think really good editors can turn a meandering, senile director’s work into a cohesive story in post-production. It seems like this story came out of nowhere to be the whole point of the film in the end. Upon reflection, I find myself wondering how many additional shots had to be taken following principal photography because they desperately had to make a single story out of this patchwork narrative. Kudos to Scorsese for some interesting plot elements and crafting a handful of compelling short films here, and kudos to the editor for making that into one film whose seams, while fully visibile, were stitched together enough so as to avoid the whole quilt falling apart.

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Posted: March 2, 2012 in Reviews: Movies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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I’ve been waiting my whole life for this film to be made. It was a topic that had to be dealt with at some point, yet filmmakers were avoiding the 900 pound gorilla in the room. Yes, folks, they finally heard our clamoring and produced the film we have all been waiting for – a film that depicts, in painstakingly realistic fashion, the joining of three human beings from ass to mouth into a single, centipede-like organism! Woot!

I had reservations about watching this film, and my friends thought that was just ridiculous. After all, why wouldn’t I want to see a film about three people who are sewn together and forced to ingest each other’s, well, poop? Somewhat reluctantly, I watched the film.

The main character, a crazy, murderous German dude (aren’t they all?), does a decent job playing the “nutty professor” role, sans comedic flare of Eddie Murphy. Funny, though, how Germans take to these types of roles perfectly – it’s almost as if it’s in their cultural traditions to be grotesquely murderous… Hmmm… Second, the two people who get the “shit end of the stick”, so to speak (in other words, mouths sewn to anuses), are a couple of very amateurish actresses who would have otherwise been relegated to b-rated flicks with bad writing and silly topics that would never get mainstream attention….oh wait…. That brings me to my third point. While this was a b-rated, b-budgeted, generally b-talent-level film with adolescent-level writing quality at times, the director and cinematographer (if they had budget for one) appeared to do a respectable job of planning out shots and building suspense – almost to the point where you felt you were watching an authentic Hollywood film! Until the introduction of the centipede…then you are reminded that you were watching a b-rated flick with bad writing and silly topics that would never get mainstream attention….

Now for my formal “literary”-type analysis. The centipede becomes a separate character unto itself. Albeit with a midsection that appears to display human emotions of crying and screaming (muffled, but you can still hear it), the centipede takes center stage and develops a persona all its own (mostly a frustrated, angry one, but a persona nonetheless). The “head” of the centipede is played by a Japanese dude who is babbling that Japanese gibberish the whole time – and it’s probably good he doesn’t speak a “normal” language like English. This allows the centipede to stay emotionally disconnected from the (most likely) English-speaking audience. This is good, because, after all, centipedes can’t speak English! The centipede doesn’t appear to take kindly to dog-style obedience training either, and doesn’t like to be caged. So, if you were thinking of adopting a centipede, be mindful of these facts, and this: the third “part” tends to develop infections around its “connection” area and requires periodic replacement altogether. A messy proposition indeed!

I hear part two is in the making, or has already been produced. This time, the centipede grows to a “proper” 12 part organism. The powers that be anticipated our wishes this time, and we didn’t even need to clamor for it! Count me in!!

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Things were very talk-intensive in the first 45 minutes or so, which equates to a little more than half of the entire film, unfortunately. This was largely due to this film being one of the many wildly successful (sarcasm) translations of a stage play to a film. You know the drill – whole movie takes place in one of two settings, storyline is thusly adapted and simplified to adhere to the constraints of said settings, etc. Humphrey Bogart, also known by some as “Da Hump”, is displayed here in full sour-puss, one-note glory – his break out role, in fact. Also, most likely the role where he was established as the go-to actor when you need a grumpy middle-aged guy who doesn’t need much acting range and has a flashy screen-name. In some scenes his arms appear to be stuck in a bent position which we later realized must have been a bizarre attempt on Da Hump’s part to toughen his persona. However, most will just have the same reaction I did, asking themselves “Why are his arms bent like that? Does his character wear a prosthesis on both sides of his torso? How sad! Oh wait! I think I saw one move a little!!”

Bette Davis is her usual “pretty good for a 1930’s actress” self here, nothing too memorable aside from her usual bug-eyes popping out of her skull. Oh and she falls for the usual love interest in the late 1930’s: that skinny, whimpy, feminine and sexually ambiguous british dude (arent’t they all?) that played Scarlett Ohara’s main squeeze in Gone with the Wind. (Sorry, couldnt remember his name because he doesnt have a famous one…) All in all, worth seeing so you too can wonder how this firmly mediocre film became the breakout vehicle for a mostly unknown-at-the-time Humphrey Bogart to go headlong into a career portraying emotionless, robotic, stone faced, blank stare, and “self-consciously-acting-while-delivering-his-lines” leading man roles.

The new season of damages is showing symptoms of having been taken over by a content provider who has never done content production before. Season four is marked by a lack of “edginess”, less complexity in character development, and a recycling of certain storytelling mechanisms used in prior seasons : evil corporate executive is the target of Ellen’s next big case, complete with out of control lackey who takes matters into his own hands and delights in bossing around the boss. Sound familiar? It should – we saw this before when it was called “Damages: Season 1”. The editing is even bad – certain shots are clumsily pasted together and clearly show the actors were not engaged in a live exchange during filming (wasn’t he mid-laugh and wearing glasses a split second ago??). Not to mention dragging out has-beens like Goodman, who hasn’t worked since being the dad on Roseanne. Among other things, this series is quickly becoming the place where washed up actors go to die. The series really has lost something this season. I had to stop watching during the second episode, it was so ill-conceived and poorly stitched together. I highly suggest these actors, a few of them talented, immediately seek work elsewhere and jump from this quickly sinking ship.