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Martin Scorsese's Love Letter to Cinema
brando64730 May 2012
Martin Scorsese's HUGO is a family movie that will probably only cater to a niche crowd: people who appreciate movies as art (e.g. cinema snobs, though I use the term endearingly). I'm not saying it won't appeal to the general masses. It's still an interesting story, wonderfully acted, and packed with talent both in front of and behind the camera. But let's face it: this isn't your average movie, it's a love letter. Scorsese has been a vocal supporter of restoring old movies in hopes they'll be saved from oblivion (rightfully so) and this movie, based on a children's book by Brian Selznick, is his method of beautifully pleading his case before millions of people who've probably refuse to watch black and white movies on the basis that they're, you know, black and white (yes, I know those sorts of people). HUGO is a film meant to bring out attention to the movies long-forgotten and remind us of the magic behind them, told through the adventure of a young boy named Hugo Cabret. Hugo is an orphan whose father died in a museum fire, and he lives behind the walls of a Parisian train station. When he's not busy with his job of keeping the station clocks ticking, Hugo spends his time repairing an old automaton his father rescued from museum storage. An encounter with a curmudgeonly toy store owner and his granddaughter Isabelle will send Hugo on a journey to repair the automaton and discover its long-hidden secrets.

As I mentioned, this movie will only really appeal to certain people. Scorsese fans might be put off by the fact that this film is a family-friendly adventure; it doesn't exactly fall in line with Scorsese's usual subject matter. The family crowds will probably enjoy it, but younger children will likely be put off by it's slow pacing and lack of excitement. It's not so much an adventure as a journey of discovery, and little kids might not find themselves too involved in the story. My own daughter (4, going on 5) gave it an honest try when we sat down to watch it and made it 40 minutes or so before she fell asleep. Unfortunately, HUGO will probably be one of those films that fades into the background (if it hasn't already) and find most of it's loving coming from the film school crowds. The movie incorporates a loose interpretation of the life of Georges Méliès, a stage magician and an early innovator in world of cinema who realized the potential for the new medium of storytelling. At a time when most "movies" were just real-world situations recorded to celluloid (such as the famous train pulling into the station), Méliès created fantastic stories and mythical tales to entertain, filling his films with special effects and dramatic costuming. The movie focuses on the fact that so many of Méliès' films were lost over time and the tragedy of these classics from one of the earliest, most important filmmakers, ceasing to exist.

Scorsese makes his message perfectly clear in the final half of the movie, which happened to be my favorite part of the film. Ben Kingsley is Papa Georges (Méliès) and, in the film, he is a defeated man who mourns the death of his legacy following World War I. Kingsley is perfect here and the highlight of the movie. The children in the film, Asa Butterfield and Chloë Moretz, do a serviceable job but, as is usually the case with younger actors, their performances come off as forced and wooden most times. Even Moretz, who's performances I freakin' loved in KICK-ASS, doesn't feel real here. Maybe it's just that Scorsese isn't accustomed to working with younger talent and wasn't able to bring out the best in them, but it's a shame because the two of them are the key players in the movie. There's a handful of other minor roles filling out the film with talent: Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Jude Law, etc. My favorite would probably be Sascha Baron Cohen (yes, Borat) as the station inspector. With his Doberman patrolling by his side and the frame providing support for his bum leg, he was almost cartoonish. I loved him, and he was more than capable of toning down his usual eccentricity. HUGO is a movie with a lot to love, even more if you're a cinema snob. I really enjoyed it, but a slow first act and weak performances from the kids mean it's far from perfect. HUGO has my full recommendation for anyone who might want a glimpse into world of a true film-lover.
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A simply glorious ode to early cinema
Will_Malone23 July 2012
It has taken me a long time to get round to watching Hugo, but I am so glad that I did. This is a wonderful and simply glorious ode to early cinema told through the eyes of Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan who after the death of his clockmaker father (Jude Law) ends up living in the walls of a Parisian train station charged with winding the station's numerous clocks.

Hugo's only link back to his late father is through a majestic mechanical automaton, a sort of tin man which his father had been restoring in his spare time. As appears to be the way with all tin men this one is also missing a heart, but this time it is a heart shaped key which Hugo is convinced if he can find will unlock the secrets inside. This leads young Hugo on a dangerous but adventurous search which often lands him in the clutches of either the local shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) or the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Help is at hand though from the shopkeeper's god daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and as the two join forces they soon discover they have more in common than they thought.

In Hugo, Scorsese has produced a truly magical tale which sucks the viewer into the screen via the innovative use of 3D so immersing us within the dynamics of Parisian life and the wonders that take place within the walls of the station. Butterfield is perfectly cast as young Hugo, a curious young boy determined to survive in a hard and cold world which constantly seems to deal him a bad hand; you simply can't help but love him. Moretz after a slightly shaky start soon finds her feet (and her accent), Kingsley is excellent, especially as the story develops and there is strength in depth from a top notch supporting cast including Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee to name but a few.

Hugo's strength however is in its story, which effortlessly unfolds in front of you with real grace and elegance. Scorsese's love for the history of his craft and his desire to share this tale of early cinema is evident in every frame. Whilst it may not be the most historically accurate portrayal of cinematic history it has a true and good heart which beautifully captures the essence of what is cinema.

Some people have criticised Scorsese for creating a children's movie that is inaccessible for most children. I strongly disagree on this point. To me Hugo is a classic children's movie which works across all age spectrums, much in a similar vain to Spielberg's ET. In a world of Woody, Buzz, Jessie and meatballs that fall from the sky (which don't get me wrong are all fabulous in their own right), it is refreshing to see a children's movie of old. It feels like a magical Christmas movie to me, perfectly accessible and enjoyed by all.

Hugo is fully deserving of the many accolades that it picked up during the awards season. It is a wonderful and engaging film which I will show my children when they are a little older and I am certain they will fall in love with cinema in the same way their father need did so many years ago.

Review by Will Malone
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A Wonder for Any Cinema Lover
claudio_carvalho2 March 2012
In the late 20's, in Paris, the orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a lonely boy that lives hidden from the cruel Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) behind the walls of the train station, keeping the clocks working. He survives stealing breads, milk and other nourishment from the station stores. Hugo's father (Jude Law) was a watchmaker that had taught Hugo how to fix clocks and gadgets and died in a fire in his workshop. Then his alcoholic Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), who is the responsible for keeping the station clocks working but vanished months ago, brings Hugo to work with him.

Hugo is trying to fix an automaton, the only memorabilia he has from his father, stealing parts from the bitter and cranky owner of a toy store, Papa George (Ben Kingsley). However it is missing a heart-shaped key to make it work. Hugo believes that the robot possesses a last message from his father. When George holds Hugo, he takes a notebook from the boy with the notes that he is using to repair the automaton.

Hugo follows George and meets his granddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is raised by her grandparents after the death of her parents. Isabelle befriends Hugo seeking to live the adventure of her life. When Hugo sees that the girl has the key that he needs, he brings her to his hideout and the automaton works and draws a poster from 1902 George Méliès' film "Le voyage dans la lune". Hugo and Isabelle continue to research about the filmmaker and they find a hidden secret about George Méliès.

"Hugo" is a wonder for any cinema lover, with a great tribute to George Méliès. Martin Scorcese delivers his best film after many years, with a wonderful story of a boy that fixes machinery and ends fixing the heart of an old man.

It is unbelievable that users without any cinema culture give low rating to a film that is a great homage to the silent movies, with many references along the story. The boy Asa Butterfield, from "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas", gives another excellent performance and the girl Chloë Grace Moretz, who has a lovely smile, shows a fantastic chemistry with Asa Butterfield.

It is intriguing that at least three movies nominated to the Oscar 2012 have points in common: "The Artist" is a film about the transition from the silent movie to the spoken films; "Hugo" is set in Paris in the late 20's and has references to actors, actresses and directors of the silent movies; and "Midnight in Paris" is also set in Paris in the 20's. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "A Invenção de Hugo Cabret" ("The Invention of Hugo Cabret")
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An ode to Cinema
mike-wright-128 December 2012
Since its release, I've been confused why Martin Scorsese made this film. I knew very little about it of course, only that it was an adventure movie about an orphan boy living in the walls of a Paris train station. It certainly doesn't sound very Scorsese-like.

However that is merely the framing for what is an ode to the earliest days of cinema, and in particular one of its true pioneers, Georges Melies. With references to "Arrival of a Train" – one of the world's first films by the Lumiere brothers, Melies's "A Trip to the Moon" and many others, this really is a treat for movie fans. Yes on a very basic level it is a children's movie, but really there's far more here for adults. Scorsese wonderfully juxtaposes his most technologically advanced film yet to demonstrate the genius and inventiveness of cinema in its earliest days.

There are fine performances from the two children, as well as Ben Kingsley as Melies and Sasha Baron Cohen as a determined and love struck station inspector. I actually thought that Helen McCrory stole the show as Melies' wife Mama Jeanne.

I never got to see Hugo in 3D, but the blu ray version looks truly sumptuous, with some breath taking imagery of early 20th century Paris. The film does tailor off significantly towards the end, with Scorsese seemingly unsure of what to do with the final act once the children had solved their mystery. What comes before is truly magical though and this film gets a big thumbs up from me.
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Visually Stunning. The best 3D to date
Balzer136 November 2011
Saw it today in a sneak preview today at the Director's Guild in LA. James Cameron who was there professed it's a masterpiece and the best 3D to date. And he's right on both fronts. The film is exquisitely crafted. The cinematography and set design is likely going to take home a couple gold guys. It's a film lover's dream movie. As with many of Scorsese's films, it's an inspired film history lesson along side of being a dreamlike children's fable. A really unique combination that will work for the film enthusiasts and discerning family's with kids. Maybe a bit long for broad audiences with very little kids, but the images are so enchanting, it should win over most everybody. Sasha Baron Cohen is a brilliant and hilarious standout as the twitchy constable. It should be very well received just on the 3D alone.
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A Visual Masterpiece, but Lacking in Everything Else
achsaphillippi829 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Martin Scorsese's first kid's movie falls short of its expectations. After seeing the trailers, my family and I had very high expectations for this movie, and we eagerly went out and saw it in the theaters. We walked out extremely disappointed.

First of all, the trailers were completely misleading. My first impression was that the movie was about a boy trying to uncover a great mystery left behind in the wake of his father's death. I thought the movie was going to open up into an enchanting adventure, complete with suspense, action, and magic. I didn't get any of those things. This movie starts out will a long build-up, with the audience waiting for this magical adventure to get underway, only to keep them waiting for another hour or so, where nothing interesting or magical happens.

The pacing in the movie is terrible. The movie opens with some stunning visuals, the camera panning over the Paris cityscape and eventually showing us around the train station where the protagonist, Hugo, lives. We get the story of his father's death, and are left with a sense of wonder. We want to know what the automaton is for, why Ben Kingsely's character is so bitter, and what this adventure Hugo promises his little gal-friend is and when it's going to happen. The movie starts and stops, then drags for a bit, then starts, and drags for a long time before grinding to an unsatisfying halt. The adventure doesn't happen. All that waiting around... for nothing.

I don't really know what to say about the acting in this movie. Most of the actors had good moments and bad moments. The dialog was lacking. The characters spent more time staring at each other than actually talking. Some of the facial expressions and emotional reactions were a little on the melodramatic side. (POSSIBLE SPOILERS)Ben Kingsley gets pissy because the two kids find out that he used to make movies? Hugo throws a fit because the automaton didn't work as he expected to? I don't think these were appropriate responses to their situations.

The one good thing I have to say about this movie is that the visuals were absolutely gorgeous. From the cold blue lighting in the snowy outdoor scenes, to the orange-y warmth of the train station, to the powerful metallic essence of the gears and clockwork in the tower, this movie has some of the best 3D effects that I've seen since that awful, shallow Avatar. The problem is, the magical visuals cannot make up for the drab and very UN-magical story.

Overall, the magical, engaging adventure the trailers promised does not exist. The movie's pace is very slow. Some of the acting is questionable. The visuals were good, but they didn't save the movie. Do not go to this movie expecting something with substance. And definitely do not bring your kids to this movie; they will be bored to tears.
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A Cinematic Wonder
Loving_Silence29 December 2011
Martin Scorcese's new film, Hugo is one of the best cinematic experience, I've had in years. The 3D is just simply astounding and the best I have ever seen in a movie. The visual effects, cinematography, art direction, just technically superb. Finally a smart, awe-aspiring family film, which are really rare nowadays. A definite surprise coming from legendary director, Martin Scorcese, who's known for movies with a lot of swears, violence, drugs and other adult-themed subjects.

The acting was really good and completely convincing. Asa Butterfield delivers a very committed performance as Hugo Cabret, and he shows a lot of promise in his future career. Chloë Grace Moretz, also gives a fine and respectable performance. Sacha Baron Cohen is surprisingly very effective as Station Inspector. Ben Kingsley gives the best performance in the whole movie, he is just superb and deserves some recognition. Overall, the whole cast was top notch.

Eyes may be the window to the soul, but movies are the projection of our dreams, according to "Hugo" that is. Martin Scorsese's first attempt at a children's film might be over most of their adolescent heads, but this founding member of the "Movie Brats" might've just concocted a delectable cinematic treat that speaks to most film lovers' surrealist commitment to the big screen. In retrospect, it works, and this enchanting flick is one of the best of the year.
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HUGO was like watching a dream.
Blizzara24 November 2011
"If you've ever wondered where your dreams come from, just look around. This is where they're made."

Hugo Cabret's story was told so well that it felt like you were right there with him on his stunning adventure.

For those unfamiliar, this is the story about a young boy named Hugo. He lives inside the walls of a train station in Paris in the 1930's. His father dies, leaving behind a mysterious automaton that, when fixed, can write. Hugo makes it his mission to fix it, believing that it will reveal a message from his father. With the help of an eccentric girl named Isabelle, he tries to uncover a magical mystery about the old man at the toy booth (Isabelle's godfather) and enchanting early films.

I had been looking forward to this film for a very long time, and I was not disappointed at all. I was a bit unsure about the 3D at first, but it turned out to be superb. Every single object became part of the story, and the audience became immersed in this beautiful world created by Martin Scorsese and Brian Selznick. While every member of the cast was brilliant, there are two in particular I'd like to point out.

First, Asa Butterfield as Hugo. He carried the film with perfection and gave a truly incredible performance. His acting was very natural--you could hardly tell he was acting! He did an amazing job of bringing life to a complex, lost, sad character. Asa is one of the most talented young actors I've ever seen; a very likely Oscar nomination in his future.

Last (but certainly not least) is Chloe Grace Moretz. She is another young performer that never fails to amaze me. Chloe nailed the British accent and brilliantly portrayed a bright, energetic Isabelle.

This movie has it all: beautiful visuals, super-talented cast, magic, love, heart, feeling, emotion. Best Picture Nomination for sure, and quite possibly others. Overall, this movie is a must-see. It was the most enjoyable theater experience that I've ever had. The entire theater broke into applause once it ended. This film has something for all ages, and it's really something special.

Especially if you love adventure, mystery, wonder, and have a bright imagination, you will fall in love with this film just like I did.

"Come and dream with me."
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Enjoyable and visually beautiful
eline-hoskens2 August 2013
I watched this movie without any expectations and with an open mind. I thought it started off kind of slow but once you realise what the story is about, you really enjoy it. Having been a film student, I particularly liked where the story was going. I watched a great number of Georges Méliès movies during my studies.

Hugo has great cinematography and I loved the themes of insecurity and doubt and the idea that creative people sometimes need a push in the back from someone else in order to realise what they're worth. Hugo is a very original story, although it does not always feel very coherent. I remember being left with a feeling that some questions were left unanswered and some details didn't quite add up if you really thought about them.

Hugo had a Frenglish steam-punk feel to it that generally doesn't really appeal to me but that often surprises me in a good way (a bit like the professor Layton games). I would certainly recommend this movie.
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A Treat For Movie Buffs
ccthemovieman-120 March 2012
Like many, I suspect, I went into this film ready to be dazzled by the cinematography and a rare, nice clean story by Director Martin Scorcese. I wasn't disappointed although I found the story lagging in a few brief spots. Cutting the film another 10 minutes might have solved that. Having said that, though, a month later I'm all ready to view it again!

To me, the most interesting and amazing scenes were not involving the two young main characters and the railroad station, but the ones in the last 30-or-so minutes which dealt with very early films and how they made them. It was incredibly colorful and an education to film buffs everywhere. Anyone who loves movies and appreciates the history of the art should love the last part of this story.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the story still offers many great sights and sounds and I have no quibbles with any of the actors. Youngsters Asa Butterfield ("Hugo") and Cholë Grace Moretz ("Isabelle") were both about 13 when they made this and seem to have good careers ahead of them. I didn't recognize Sacha Baron Cohen as the station inspector. He was great in that role. As for Ben Kingsley, when is he ever bland?

This is one of those "family films" that can be enjoyed just as much - and probably more - by adults. I wish Scorcese would make more of this kind of material.
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Beautiful film for cinema fans
SheerLight25 November 2011
Someone compared this movie to a Hans Christian Andersen tale and I think this is about as good a comparison as it gets. Some people find it boring and painful, others are mesmerized and inspired by the story it tells and the way it does so. In short, if you prefer Disney's version of the little mermaid story, you will likely be disappointed by Hugo.

On the other hand, if you like the attention to detail and the not entirely happy endings of Andersen's classic short stories, you will probably find that Hugo is a captivating film that is hard to describe in a few words. It really lives in a lot more than three dimensions.

If you also happen to be a cinema fan, you will love it even more. What is a cinema fan? It's person that appreciates films for more than just their entertainment value. The way movies are made, the different layers of audio, visuals, emotions, symbols, the photography, the standout supporting casts, the way you can predict the cliché moves sometimes, but love it anyway. We love the good movies, like the bad ones, and films like Hugo make our hearts sing.

One last note on the use of 3D. I usually avoid 3D versions of movies because that feature has not yet proved itself to be more than just a gimmick. In Hugo's case, it is still partially true. I watched it in 3D and the opening sequence in the train station as well as a couple other select shots were exceptionally staged for 3D. Aside from that though, you get used to the effect and thankfully, it's the story that stays in the center of attention, followed by beautiful cinematography, characters, and 3D is trailing humbly behind. If you have the opportunity, watch the 3D version, but you will not really love it in 2D any less.
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PhillipMichaelH23 November 2011
I just returned home after seeing Hugo on opening day and if I can describe this film in one word, it would be beautiful. This film has inspired me in ways that I can't even begin to explain. It's been a while since I've seen a film that spoke to me as personally as this film did. I'm a fan of Martin Scorsese and he's crafted a beautiful ode to not only cinema but also imagination and in a way, it celebrates all the things that help us escape. The world is a scary place and everyone goes through pain and suffering but if you just try and learn to dream, find your voice and not be afraid then you would be surprised what could happen.

I love how this film tells the amazing story of pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies who many of today's directors such as Steven Spielberg and James Cameron owe everything to. I love his films and I own a box set of his work, it's wonderful to see more people be introduced to him and the magic he created that continues to capture the imagination of many.

So if you love the cinema and magic then I highly recommend this masterpiece. Hugo is really something special I think.
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Long Live Scorsese
littlemartinarocena16 December 2011
A film adventure in every sense of the word. I was propelled into Martin Scorsese's cinematic mind in a film he made for his 12 year old daughter. Everything about it speaks of love of cinema. I wept, I must confess it right here and now. I really wept. Not just for the humanity of the story but by the heart and mind of the man behind the camera. This is the same man who gave us "Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull", "Goodfellas" Every detail enriches our experience. Dante Ferreti's production design is, monumental, costumes, photography and Howard Shore's score are, quite simply, breath taking. I'm running out of superlatives and I haven't yet mentioned Sacha Baron Cohen, priceless. There is moment in which our young protagonists sneak into a movie theater and sit in amazement watching Harold Lloyd hanging from the clock. For me, to see Lloyd in the big screen as part of Martin Scorsese's latest dream, is the highest and most moving point of my movie going year.
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A Valentine To All Movie Lovers
flixspix23 November 2011
Without spoiling, consider a motion picture whose last 30 minutes are equal to the last 4 minutes of Cinema Paradiso. To be in a theater with people tearing up over images of vintage and historic cinema, so beautifully integrated into a dazzling and heartfelt story is something special indeed. Absolutely knock-out use of 3D, fantastic performances by everyone involved, glorious set design, music, costumes and state -of-the-art CGI that propel a story rather than being superficial, stand alone tricks makes HUGO a film for moviegoers world wide. Absolutely do not miss this film in a theater. The images are transporting and need to be experienced on the big screen.

Thanks Marty, for bringing to us all such a gift. This is truly one for the ages
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Beautiful, accomplished and fun
tomgillespie200226 February 2012
There must be something unifying in our globes collective consciousness, as 2011 saw two films that looked back at the cinematic past. Strangely, it took a French film maker, Michel Hazanavicius, to release a movie that pays homage to early, silent American cinema (The Artist). Conversely, Martin Scorsese, a well-known cinephile, delights with his love of early European silent cinema, in his often beautiful 'children's' film, Hugo.

Set in 1930's Paris, the main focus of this cinematic love is the work of the first movie magician, Georges Melies. We are introduced to Hugo (Asa Butterfield), a young man whose father left him a automaton after his death. It was a project that they worked on together, but never finished it. Hugo's main mission is to get the object working. As an orphan, Hugo hides in the rafters of a train station, maintaining the clocks that his drunken uncle used to do. After befriending a young girl, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), he finally gets the automaton working, and it opens up a mystery that leads to the forgotten cinema of Melies (Ben Kingsley), now working on a store in the station.

The film shows love for silent cinema, and particularly the magic of Melies. Sacha Baron Cohen's station inspector is occasionally funny, and his character seems to be filtered through both Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, and Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot, but he just doesn't seem to really progress at all, and feels almost like a filler character. Scorsese, like Robert Zemekis and Bob Gale before, reference that iconic Harold Lloyd moment in Safety Last! (1923), as Hugo hangs from a clock face.

Like so many others who speculate about the choices of Oscar nominations, Hugo, I feel, is not a contender for the best picture Oscar. There were some far better films produced in 2011. That said, the film is beautiful, accomplished , and often fun. Also, the resurgence of interest in a forgotten father of cinema, is completely touching, and leaves a warm feeling in the heart. Unfortunately, I did not see this in 3D; as far as I am aware, Scorsese uses it to brilliant degrees, so perhaps this would have made the experience perfect (despite the fact that I care not for the dimensions of 3.
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An Empty Candy Wrapper..
dekadent28 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Hugo is a beautifully made movie with great 3D effects. Yet with the misleading advertising, the story that goes nowhere, and with over 2 hour runtime it is one hell of a boring movie.

Please do not believe 8.3 IMDb and 94% RT ratings, this movie one of the most overrated movies in the history of the film, the word 'history' is the key one here. When everything is said and done Hugo reveals itself as nothing but a cleverly disguised homage to one of the French pioneering movie directors, a subject interesting primarily for the movie history buffs.

As I said Hugo is hugely misrepresented in advertising. Every poster tells you that some Narnia type adventure is awaiting you. All the trailers were masterfully crafted to leave you with expectation of magical miracle. The words like 'quest' and 'mystery' are a part of Hugo's brief description on each and every site, just read what it says on IMDb. Furthermore the word "adventure" is lavishly sprinkled throughout the Hugo's first part. And yes, great Martin Scorsese is behind all of it, so what should you expect but a magical adventure on a grandeur scale ?

Sorry, you will get none of that. Yes, Hugo is like a charming 3D French postcard, but its not worth looking at for over 2 hours. 3D effects are well done, yet absolutely not required for this story that never leaves the setting of Paris train station.

While plot has some holes, the elephant in the room is that pretty much nothing happens in the movie with all these mechanical dolls, golden keys, and the visually rich Dickensian atmosphere. And be sure, there is absolutely no magic, or any type of adventure hidden here.

I am giving Hugo just one star to counter misleading ads and all those hypists that ether work for the studio, or easily hypnotized by big director's name. Please have few good games on your smartphone and bring a thermos with coffee if you decide to go see this snoozefest, you will need it.
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Quite beautiful, a film where "images are everything"; could have used a sharper edit, however
inkblot1116 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan in Paris around 1930. His father (Jude Law) died in a tragic accident and several weeks ago, the lad's rather good-for-nothing uncle passed, too. Wanting to keep the news of his "home alone" status a secret, especially from a train station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), Hugo continues winding the large station clock, something his uncle was hired to do. Naturally, the young boy has resorted to being a pickpocket and a fruit snatcher to survive. Gifted mechanically, Hugo steals tools from a toy shop owner, Georges (Ben Kingsley) and, one day, is caught with a five finger discount. Very upset, the grouchy toyman takes away Hugo's prized notebook, a gift from his late dad. Terribly distraught, Hugo makes several attempts to reason with the old man. Fortunately, M. Georges has a ward, a girl named Isabelle, who is about Hugo's age. She wants to help Hugo in his endeavors. Well and good, thinks Hugo. But, M. Georges has many secrets, and the closer the young pair get to them, the angrier the toyshop owner becomes. He is even somehow connected to an automaton which Hugo's father was trying to restore. Also, although the Inspector has caught the admiration of a pretty flower seller (Emily Mortimer), he continues to haul young orphans off to institutions. What are the secrets of M. Georges? Will Hugo uncover them before he is caught in the inspector's net? First, this quite a beautiful film and such a change from Scorsese's last brilliant effort, Shutter Island. Although I was not fortunate enough to view the movie in 3-D, the scenery is breathtaking and the camera shots are equally so. Also, the cast is remarkable, with Kingsley, Butterfield, Mortimer, and particularly Cohen, enlivening the happenings. The story is also strong, especially its eventual glimpse into the world of silent cinema. Therefore, the film's weaknesses are its slow pace and far-from-sharp editing. Yes, Scorsese probably found it difficult to "slice away" beautiful images, but the flick would have benefited if he had. But, by no means should you skip Hugo. Its riches can be enjoyed by the entire family and everyone will bask in the bountiful imagery that is indeed, head turning.
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Gorgeous Sets, Amazing Technology, and The Magic...
aharmas22 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
There's no denying that 3D has almost never looked this sharp, but there are plenty of films out there where it doesn't call this much attention to itself; it enhances the cosmetic aspect of the film; it hardly does much for the weak adaptation of the novel. In "Hugo", as it is the case in many of the of Scorcese's films, technological improvements throw his film out of balance, and this is the beginning of the many flaws in this project.

The art direction and costumes are breathtaking, immersing the audience in the right period, though it has barely any of the charm and magic that made another film set Paris this year so successful. In that other film, all the scenes in the various periods are evocative and involving. Here the experience is as cold as a disorganized display in the best museum. It doesn't have much impact on its audience. Some of the scenery could be an exact imitation of the original inspiration. There were a couple of times when the visuals blend perfectly with a few of the clips that are integrated in the film.

The problem is the almost absolute lack of warmth in the various relationships between many of the main characters and the way they are directed in this movie. The young man at the heart of the film feels at time as another piece of furniture in the set. When I walked into the theater, many of the people weren't sure if we were watching an animated film or a live action production because they said the actors looked funny. The feel feels so cold in its adaptation of a very interesting literary piece, a book so charming with its integration of words and its simple black and white adaptation. To be fair it is hard to look away because it is so gorgeous, but at the same time, the disappointment hits hard because this is a film that should relies heavily in the sense of wonder usually associated with children's films and/or young performers. Earlier this year "Super 8" and "Real Steel" benefited immensely from the outstanding work and charisma of their young performers. The Elle Fanning scene in "Super 8" puts everything in this film to shame. Where both of those films project warmth, innocence,and a great variety of emotions, "Hugo" never becomes multidimensional, a big irony, considering its best quality is the nearly perfect 3-D visuals. To make things worse, two other projects involving literacy and story telling, made by Cuaron ("A Little Princess") and Petersen ("The Never Ending Story") have shown that its is possible to blend reality and magic, with the help of the right approach and the appropriate performances.

In addition to the lack of emotional magic on the screen, the pacing in "Hugo" is so slow it borders on catatonic, dragging for most of its two hours. We finally arrive to the last third of the film, a place where the film finally comes alive; suddenly, Scorcese pours his heart in the film, using original film clips and beautiful recreations of the original sources from various classic films of early French cinema. These are breathtaking, as they play, one after another, showing us the sense of wonder original audiences must have experienced. Finally, one is almost overpowered as Toto was in several scenes of "Cinema Paradiso" as the director viewed the treasured collage in the final scene of that movie, or as the young protagonist of "A Little Princess" told her magic stories set in exotic India, infused with her own imagination and simple stop motion work. Petersen went even further with the seamless blend of the young man, as he becomes a part of the literary experience, and one realized how powerful the magic in the written word can be. Very little of that exists in "Hugo", a shiny package, with a rock for a heart.

Scorcese has done much for the preservation of cinema, and the original source of this film lent itself to a cinematic production to support his cause, but just like Spielberg chooses other people to direct some of his projects, much more could have been achieved by handing this property to a more suited director, a person who understands innocence, wonder, how important it is to get inside the hearts of people, opposed to working with projects where the main characters are notorious for not having one. Rarely Scorcese has shown in his movies any sort of affection for or between his characters, "Alice doesn't live here anymore" is a rare exception, and children in it are a bit on the precocious side. Come to think about it, Law showed much more emotion in "A.I." as he interacted with the marvelous Osment, and both of them were playing automatons.

A big disappointment.
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A HUGO Disappointment - Melies made better movies than this
shoolaroon4 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was frankly stunned at how BAD this movie is. The 3D is very well done, but like all the clockwork and machines the movie revels in, "Hugo" is technically brilliant, moves like an elegant automaton, and has NO heart or soul. It is dead and hollow within.

The "plot" is confusing, the script seems to be more dictated over a cell phone than written, the lead character looks like an animated corpse, and it is DULL, DULL, DULL, DULL, DULL. My boyfriend actually fell asleep. It is terrible that a technique such as 3D seems to have totally eliminated the need for a decent plot, script, characters, motivation and some essence of believability. Scorsese also has to re-learn the use of editing as the movie is too long by at least a half hour, and the pace limps slower than the villainous station cop's leg.

The acting was competent except for Sacha Baron Cohen who is nearly unwatchable as the aforementioned gendarme - if he would only get a wooden leg it would match the rest of his performance.

The "plot" manipulates emotions rather than inspires them, and is unbelievably pedantic. It's like watching Scorsese lecture a Film 101 class. ***SPOILER?*** I could not believe the scene in the library where the children actually PULL OUT A BOOK and start lecturing the audience about the history of movies up to that point. Stunningly awful.

The great irony is that George Melies made FAR FAR FAR greater movies, even with his limited technology than this putrid piece of dreck. "Hugo" is a shameful waste of $170 million dollars. The Melies clips are the ONLY part of this debacle that have life, art, wit, color, and are actually entertaining.

PULEEEZZZZZ....Marty....put down the camera for GOOD, and stay in the lecture hall. You have lost the ability to make captivating, interesting movies that speak to normal, living people. If you want to make a movie about Melies, or educate the audience....make a documentary.
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who's reviewing this??
dslowen8 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A movie about the silent film industry with an automaton set in a train station? Sounds good doesn't it. This was a movie with potential, but it fell short so much so that I'm not going to waste my time giving it a detailed, complete critique. So here's the bullet points: The transitions were horrendous. The scenes jumped so much that half the time i didn't know where the characters were or where they were going. The boy who played Hugo was terrible. He was hired for his blue-sad eye stare. That was it, no range of emotion past the stare. The Station Inspector was a strange character. When you make an injured war veteran the comic relief (not in a heartwarming way, but a feels awkward to laugh at his injury sort of way) there's something wrong. Pitiable and sad to hear others in the theater laugh at him. The dialog was vapid and moronic. "Everything has a purpose in life... even machines". Well ya, machines have a purpose otherwise we wouldn't bother having them!! I could bury myself with all the plot holes in this movie. Nuf said. Overall no heart to the story. I can't waste anymore time reviewing this disappointing movie. Bottom line: Don't bother.
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simply-232-5617586 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to see who this film is aimed at. It isn't a children's film as they would be bored rigid within 20 minutes let alone over 2 hours.

It hardly appeals to adults as the storyline is childish. The humour is predictable and poorly delivered.

The action is slow and dreary for most of the film and the acting by most of the cast is amateur. Sasha Baron Cohen in particular lends nothing to his character and is poorly cast in the role.

There are serious gaffs in the film, particularly the one where Hugo is on the railway line and the speeding train is headed towards him. The question is why would a speeding train be on the line as the railway line is a dead end anyway and there are buffers there On the plus side the cinematography is excellent but this is the films only plus point and can't save it from being very disappointing.
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Brilliance, wonder, magic, heart, a bit of everything.
judyandjoanie5523 November 2011
So I saw this film today, and I was blown away. I'll admit that the trailer didn't impress me much, and if you do come out of it thinking that Hugo is just for kids, it's not. It's so much more than that. I had heard of Martin Scorsese directing a 3-D picture, but I didn't realize it was this very adaptation. The book was a wonderful experience (go read it - the pictures within are like a film by itself!), and I can't believe I didn't think the 3-D medium would work for it.

Absolutely brilliant. From the very first scene, you get a sense of how Scorsese is able to tap into the charm of 3-D - the essence of it - which is so easily lost amidst the abundance of films that get slapped with the 3-D label, but in a less cash-greedy industry need not warrant the extra surcharge. Scorsese takes his time to immerse the audience in Paris, in the train station, in Hugo's everyday surroundings that may seem almost ordinary to him by this point but for us, it's a whole different world. At times I forgot I was watching a live-action film because some of it was just so vibrant (yes, even with the automatic dimming of your 3-D glasses).

The cast was wonderful - Asa Butterfield as the main lead, has got such expressive eyes that you feel the hurt when he thinks of his father (played by Jude Law), which is very often. Chloe Moretz partners him very well as a fellow adventurer, and of course, you've also got: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, etc. to round out the characters.

It's such a fantastical but genuine story that you can't help but fall in love with it, I think. Scorsese has brought a boy's dream to life but also written a love letter to film-making. I won't spoil anything outside of the trailer for fear of diminishing the magic, but I needed to write a somewhat coherent review to get my thoughts down, and hopefully persuade more people to watch the film! There's heart, there's magic, there's wonder, there's enjoyment, there's a little bit of everything for everyone to love in this. Some parts had me misty-eyed with the wonderful score and the ode to the joy of film.

And I know the mandatory 3-D will deter people but this film is one of those rare ones (and at the moment the only film so far this year that I can think of…) that extols the virtue of 3-D. I WEAR GLASSES SO I HAVE TO PUT 3-D GLASSES OVER MY OWN PAIR AND I WASN'T ANNOYED AT ALL - IT WAS WELL WORTH IT. So I'm speaking for that crowd right now. I know there are plenty of us out there! The genius of Scorsese strikes here, so pop in and have an adventure. :)
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The D in 3D stands for dimensions
E Canuck22 November 2011
What Martin Scorcese has managed to do is add story dimensionality to a family film that has 3D technology. Some of the dimensions he's included which don't always make into Hollywood blockbusters are an imaginative and original concept, thematic unity and resonance and deft homage to film itself, in the story of Georges Méliès, French film pioneer.

Saw the film in an advance screening and we were among the many there who were obviously not standard family film consumers. This being a Scorcese film is likely to bring lots of adults to Hugo and I would think many of them, like me, will feel the film stands up as entertainment for all age groups.

I especially enjoyed the resonance and intricacy of the theme of clocks, clockworks, animatronics and "the ghost in the machine"--our fear, in the post industrial age that perhaps we are just a rather complex machine, rather than a divine creation. This is all beautifully rendered cinematically. I doubt the little ones will be bewildered while older viewers can pick out levels and layers in the film.

Good fun and visually interesting throughout. The 3D is used in service of the story. I hope Hollywood is watching and notices that special effects are only special when they get the heart of the machine working, like Hugo's little man.
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Scorsese's first movie for kids is a Masterpiece
doubleosix9 November 2011
I attended the DGA screening over the weekend, followed by a Q&A moderated by James Cameron. Cameron's first words (after correctly referring to Scorsese as "maestro"), were "I thought we'd just geek out over 3D for a half hour, but having seen the movie... it's a masterpiece." I brought my ten year old daughter, who sat -- if anything -- even more transfixed than I did. Every single image is arresting, the use of 3D is perfection itself, the story is engaging and thrilling and heartbreaking and uplifting and I never wanted it to end. If only it'd be three hours! All the performances are excellent, including the kids. Great British actors appear in roles with only a line or two, but it helps lift the movie into the realm of Instant Classic, and Sacha Baron Cohen brings nuance and heart to his humorous role as the Station Inspector. On the way to the car my daughter asked if we could get the blu-ray when it's available, and I had the same feeling as well.
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A well-scripted, masteredly directed and a spectacular 3D extravaganza that deserved to win Best Picture!
TomTomH10 June 2012
Last December I saw 'Hugo' with my friend and it's one of the best films I've ever seen. The set design is fantastic, the special effects are unbelievable, the relationships between the characters are lovable. But most of all that's special about this masterpiece is the brand new pure 3D. This film is the next step up to 3D. Cinematographer Robert Richardson did some perfectly good shots where the 3D would stand out. It really feels like your actually inside Hugo's adventure. Loads of stuff come towards you. It's actually the best 3D film I've ever seen. I thought the effect was better than Cameron's 'Avatar' and should've been shot also with Imax 3D cameras as well. Scorsese has the soul of master storytelling. An artist that's switched from violence to magic. A love poem for the magic of cinema. It brings back long-time true stories and old film clips that could've been lost. A Parisian orphan boy, a mechanical man and a bookworm girl who've been wrapped up into a mystery from his late father. The main people that worked so hard on this film are mostly Martin Scorsese, Graham King, John Logan, Robert Richardson, Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo and mostly the author that wrote and all of this into one book, Brian Selznick who's got an enchanted mind of clocks, mechanical men, 1930's, mystery and magical twists. By the time you've finished watching you'll be able to have the true feeling of cinema.
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