Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Great Couple of Flicks: Hugo, My Week With Marilyn, The Muppets, The Descendants

REVIEWED THIS POST (It was a good week!):
The Muppets: 4 Horns
The Descendants: 4 Horns
Hugo: 5 Horns
My Week With Marilyn: 4.5 Horns

My posts have been few and far between, but hey, a big man's gotta eat some turkey!

I have a big weekend lined up and unfortunately, but most of it is happening outside of a theater.

Fortunately, there are essentially no new mainstream releases this week, and the only movie that really has my interest peaked is Steve McQueen's Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. However, it is not hitting the screens in KC anytime soon.  A fact I find surprising, given a recent Cliff Clavin like piece of info I picked up...KC has more cinema screens than any other US city.

No wonder I find it so easy to feed my addiction...

THE MUPPETS: 4 of 5 Horns
Not a perfect movie, but a damn fine piece of entertainment.  It perfectly struck the nostalgia chord while being sufficiently modern to stand up on its own merit.  Jason Segal is a muppet-fanatic, and it shows.  He co-wrote the flick with Nicholas Stoller, a talented comedic writer and director in his own right. 

I am especially fond of Jim Henson, being a fellow Maryland Terrapin.  If you ever chance by the Maryland campus, stop by Kent Hall, where Kermit was first created...the stuff of legends.  On the steps of Kent Hall, engraved in the stone stairway, is "Kermit."  Simply, elegant, fitting.

Amy Adams is perhaps the best young actress of our generation...she is adorable, she can act any genre, and she was a perfect fit for this movie, having great chemistry with Co-Star Jason Segal. 

Chris Cooper, Kansas City native, is glorious as the mean-spirited villain.
The main attraction, the Muppets themselves, were great as this isn't a carbon copy of the shows we remember, but it certainly carries on the great tradition of great family fun.  I read there was some dissension by the original cast, as to the worthiness of this entry into the Muppets cannon.

I disagree and I hope was ever bad feelings there were, it wasn't sour grapes...I can't think of any other reason, because this film was loads of fun.

The Descendants: 4 of 5 Horns
They say this one will be up for a load of awards...George Clooney as the patriarch of a family in turmoil.  On one hand, Clooney's Matt King is the chair of a land trust, overseeing the care of the largest remaining privately owned piece of Hawaii.  On the other hand, Clooney is struggling to connect with his daughters, while their mother is on life support, after suffering a head injury in a boating accident.

The movie is the product of Alexander Wright, a very talented writer/director, who's previous films include Sideways and Election, two very dark comedies.

Dark comedy sits in the heart of Wright's wheel-house, and he comes through strong here.  You see with the complexities of a wife on life-support and the handling of the sale of a billion dollar piece of property, the last thing you would want to learn is that your wife has been unfaithful...ugh.

Clooney does shine in his performance of the conflicted husband, but I think that Shailene Woodley, as Alexandra King, Matt's daughter, does a phenomenal job as a young and cute girl on the fringes between frustration and disrespect. 

Also adding flavor to this flick is a cameo by Robert Forester, one of my favorites, who for my money, stole the show in Quentin Tarantino's 1997, Jackie Brown.  An odd choice for a serious role was Matthew Lillard, but surprising, he knocks it out of the park...

Check this out, but don't expect an uplifting is very entertaining and memorable film, but is maybe one of the few decent movies playing right now in wide-release.

Hugo: 5 of 5 Horns
This was a great film.  It was a movie lovers film.  Not just because Scorsese was helming, but because when it gets moving, it actually becomes centered around a true classic period in cinema and the earliest of days in film as a form of entertainment.

This all is built around this young boy, Hugo Cabret...a watchmaker's son, orphaned and sent to live with his Uncle, a drunk who seems to have found a purpose keeping the clocks at the train station running on time.  But in the opening moments of the film, you learn that the Uncle has absconded and it is in fact Hugo, the orphan, running things at the station.

He steals a roll and a milk each morning and challenges the threshold of the Station Inspector, a role masterfully portrayed Sasha Baron Cohen, a man who for his silliness, can shine when given a role like this.

Young Hugo has refined the art of the steal, lifting occassional toys from the station toymaker, Ben Kingsley, playing Papa Georges, grandfather in name to a young lady, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), who befriends Hugo and wants to share an adventure with him.

From IMDB: Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.

This automaton becomes the focus of Hugo's attention, and he steals toys from the toymaker to try and find parts to make it work, thinking it holds a secret message from his father, who was snatched from his life in an accident at the museum where he worked.  This is why he steals from the get parts to try and get the automaton to work.

The adventure that unfolds is epic and the direction the story takes is wonderful.  I doubted Martin Scorsese could deliver from the trailers I saw for this.  I assumed it was some dream vanity project and it would amount to nothing short of an epic failure.  I was dead wrong.

This is rated PG and unfortunately, opening in week 2 of Twilight and against The Muppets and Arthur Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, it barely held its own, coming in fifth to the three mentioned as well as Happy Feet Two

Yes, those other films have an immediate appeal, but Hugo struck me as something like a Forrest Gump or a more refined Goonies...films that have stayed with you for years.  The PG is a stamp of family friendliness and it holds true here.  Check this out as soon as you get the chance.

My Week With Marilyn: 4.5 of 5 Horns
This is film is excellent.the acting, direction, writing the overall look..everything.

Michelle Williams was haunting in her portrayal as the Blond Bombshell  In her first moment on screen, I saw Michelle Williams in a Marilyn Monroe costume  By the end, all I saw was Marilyn Monroe.

The beautiful thing about this film is that it is a true story, written by Colin Clark, an ambitious young man with dreams of a career in film.  His family was privileged and he had been promised a job on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier's (Kenneth Branaugh) next picture. When he showed up for a job, it was his persistence that finally paid off.

Third assistant director (uncredited) on The Prince and the Showgirl was the job he was given...basically a gopher.  Young Colin, played masterfully by a nearly 30 year old Eddie Redmayne...a dark in the eyes, brooding but funny, a newbie to the entertainment business who picks up savvy in a flash, mostly thanks to the ease with with Olivier takes him into his inner circle.

But whose side is he on? 

Enter Marilyn Monroe.  Beautiful.  Period.

By some stroke of luck, Monroe becomes affectioned to Colin, pulling him into her realm, vexing him with her sweet eyes and charm.  This is all exceptionally complex as Monroe is freshly married to playwright Arthur Miller, but by some accounts, running off the marriage reservation more than once in her past.

This is a sweet movie, and for some of the more insidious behaviors and undertones, it plays as more of a playful drama than anything darker.  We all know how it ends for Monroe, so it is hard not to feel extreme sympathy when you see her train running off the tracks.

And lest I forget to mention a great turn by Dame Judi Dench, playing Dame Sybil Thorndike.  Other great roles and performances here by Toby Jones, the seemingly ever-present Dominic Cooper (that guys been everywhere this year!), and in her first post-Potter performance, Ms. Hermione Granger herself, Emma Watson, as the costume girl Lucy, who for her limited screen time, has quite an impact.

Go see this movie, if you can find it.  It opened on a mere 244 screens to a paltry 1.75 million.  I guess that's one may to make an Oscar run, as scarcity seems to always make folks want even more.  I am willing to bet that this will see a King's Speech type wider release come late December or January.  We shall see, but for whatever the plan, this is a film that will have the Academy's attention!

For a wholly enjoyable adult-oriented go see this film.  For a wholly enjoyable family-oriented film, for see Hugo.

It's nice to have options.

For now, here's waiting to go see Arthur Christmas...that's all that's left.  Usually, a busy weekend devoid of movies is a Debbie-Downer, but for a no new release weekend, I guess I'll survive.  Here's hoping On-Demand is carrying something decent....

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

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