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"Hugo"- {Blu-ray} - (Wayne)
Wayne Klein
Studio: Universal
Release Date:
Special Features:



Hugo" based on the popular kid's novel is an odd film; its not a project I would expect Martin Scorsese to helm but I have to give him credit for trying such an unusual project given his past films (Taxi Driver [Blu-ray], GoodFellas [Blu-ray]) and stretching himself as an artist with a genre he's never tackled before--a fantasy children's film. ***

SPOILERS: Hugo (Asa Butterfield) the orphaned son of a clockmaker (Jude Law) lives above the train station in Paris tending to the large clock. Hugo tries to unravel the mystery of an automaton that his father was working on just before his death and spars with the bitter owner of a small gift shop named Melies (Ben Kingsley)while on the run run from the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen). Hugo finds an unlikely ally in Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz from Let Me In [Blu-ray])as they search for the key that will wind up the automaton so they can discover what, exactly, it was designed for. END OF SPOILERS: ***

A movie that is as much about film and our dreams, the redemption of Melies and who, exactly, build the automaton, Scorsese creates a lush, lovely looking film filled with some truly stunning set pieces (particularly a computer generated train crash that looks amazing)but is undone by the languid pacing of the film which fails to generate much suspense. While I didn't expect the attention deficit cutting style of, say, Michael Bay, I did expect a more involving experience. ***

The screenplay by John Logan (based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick)fails to generate characters with much depth (beyond Melies and even then he comes across as just a grumpy "get off of my lawn" old man who wants nothing more than to nail Hugo). Certainly Hugo is portrayed sympathetically he is, after all, an orphan and, at times, a bit of a scamp always trying to find food and stay off the radar of the station inspector who is always looking to catch a stray kid. ***

The truth is that I found little in "Hugo" to identify with and my kids just couldn't appreciate the fantasy elements of the film. Visually rich, "Hugo" only has the wisp of a plot to hang the rest of the film on. While the performances are solid throughout by the actors, Logan's script uses cliched characters that just don't draw us in. ---

Image & Sound: "Hugo" looks positively stunning on Blu-ray (and especially in 3D) with considerable depth, a marvelously rich, colorful presentation with nice fine detail. ***

The audio is equally stunning with a lossless presentation that is state-of-the-art.

Special Features:

I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get a commentary track from director Scorsese. His insights on what appealed to him about the project, shooting it and the challenges of taking a popular children's book and adapting it to the big screen would have been interesting. ***

We get four featurettes on the production of the film and a fifth one that's a bit of a joke about actor/comedian Sasha Baron Cohen. The making of featurette provides little insight into the making of the film. "The Cinemagician, Georges Méliès" is the best of the featurettes giving us a bit of insight into the cinematic world of the talented, groundbreaking visionary and brilliant filmmaker who almost ended up forgotten by many due to the fact that his films weren't in circulation for a long period of time. ***

The featurette on the visual effects is pretty fascinating glimpse into the creation of the train crash scene. Finally the featurette on the automaton and their popularity during the late part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century is a pretty interesting glimpse into these robotic devices. ***

Given all the praise the movie received, I'm surprised that there aren't more special features as part of this set (given that most are produced prior to the release of a film).

Final Words:

Rather than do a blind buy, I'd recommend renting "Hugo" first to see if it's a film that appeals to your sensibility. I would approach the film without expectations (given Scorsese's name that may not be possible but try) and, perhaps, you'll enjoy it a bit more than I and my kids did. With all the praise the film received (which honestly was difficult to ignore), perhaps I was blinded to the appeal of "Hugo". I suspect I'll have to try it again after a little while to see if my take on the material divorced of expectations were inaccurate and colored my view on the film. ***

I'd recommend going with the Blu-ray if you decide to pick this up because although the DVD looks nice it just doesn't do justice to the rich, lush look of the film.


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