Tag Archives: Chloe Moretz

Review: Hugo

 This is why we love cinema

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Jude Law

Director: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay: John Logan (from the book by Brian Selznick)

‘I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.’ 

Orphan boy Hugo Cabret lives behind the walls of Paris railway station, keeping the station clocks going while attempting to fix a clockwork man found by his father. When he becomes involved with the old man who runs a toy booth, Hugo stumbles upon an old secret, and an opportunity to fix something long broken.

Martin Scorsese is full of surprises. The last thing you would expect from the man who brought us Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Taxi Driver is a whimsical children’s tale. And yet, Hugo turns out to be a movie that perhaps only Scorsese, the movie historian’s director, could have made. Indeed, it is glib to describe this a simply a children’s movie, since at its heart Hugo is nothing less than a love letter to cinema itself.

Adapted from the huge, heavily illustrated, book by Brian Selznick, Scorsese and his production crew work hard to faithfully bring Selznick’s words and pictures to life. Set in a fairy-tale Paris, and bathed in rich primary hues, Hugo is wrapped in a little bit of magic from the outset. Like the films of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, or indeed Georges Méliès, whose presence is central to the film, Hugo exists in a sort of hyper-reality. Scorsese has always been a master with the camera, but almost every shot in Hugo looks like it was cut from an Impressionist’s canvas. It is a beautiful piece of film-making.

At the movie’s core is Asa Butterfield, affecting if not always convincing as the titular orphan, scurrying around the station and watching its array of oddball characters going about their day-to-day routines. Surrounding him is an impressive gallery of predominantly British character actors, including Christopher Lee as the enigmatic bookshop keeper and Sacha Baron Cohen, restraining himself as the station’s oafish Inspector. Chloë Grace Moretz affects an impressive English accent as the Granddaughter of Ben Kingsley’s surly, embittered Georges Méliès and it is the relationship between Méliès and Hugo, both lost and waiting to be fixed, that forms the warm heart and soul of the movie. Scorsese is adept enough to never allow the film to fall into easy patterns of schmaltz or cloying sentiment, nor does he bring on darkness for its own sake, rather striking enough of a balance to make the moments of joy real, welcome and uplifting.

It was all going so well until Little Jimmy said, ‘I loved you in Star Trek’.

Where Hugo truly succeeds is in the way it skillfully weaves a fantasy tale around the reality of Georges Méliès, one of cinema’s earliest pioneers, and his elderly years. Those who know nothing of Méliès are nevertheless presented with a wonderful fairy-tale, brimming with the kind of childlike innocence rarely found in modern cinema, and those who are aware of his work will find a loving, poignant tribute to cinema’s adolescent years. Never is this more entertainingly realised than during those scenes where Scorsese recreates the shooting of some of Méliès’s best known films, such as A Trip to the Moon. It is impossible not to be carried along with Kingsley’s childlike enthusiasm for his dancing skeletons, insect-people and the very earliest of special effects. “Everybody keep still!”

Ultimately, Hugo is a tale of innocence lost; the innocence of a boy who has lost his parents, the innocence of a nation returned from the Great War, the innocence of a man who believes his greatest triumphs are behind him. But also the innocence of cinema, a medium which once embraced, cherished and inspired only wonder and awe.

In the words of Georges Méliès himself, “If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around. This is where they’re made.”

At last night’s Oscars most of the big awards went to The Artist, another movie which casts a fond eye over the beginnings of celluloid. A little bit of a travesty, really, because for me it is Hugo that is by far the superior movie.

5 Stars


The 2010 Celluloid Zombie Awards

And you thought the award season was over. Not so. On the last day of 2010, I’ve decided to hand out a small series of prestige awards to some of the most notable people, events and movies of the industry year. Trust me, the Oscars will be cleared from the shelves to make room for these babies. Probably.

Welcome to the Celluloid Zombie Awards 2010!

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The Tina Turner Award for Sticking It To Your Ex

Kathryn Bigelow

After years of being ignored by Oscar, watching ex-husband James Cameron win enough of them to form a small army with Titanic, Kathryn Bigelow finally enjoyed some sweet times when The Hurt Locker beat Cameron’s Avatar to both the Best Picture and Best Director awards, at the Oscars and the BAFTAS. Both Academies enjoyed a rare moment of sense and sagacity in choosing  Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the Best Director action figure in the Oscar’s history. Well done, Kathryn. Have another golden paper-weight for the shelf.

No doubt the Oscars will resume normal service in 2011 and hand Best Picture to Transformers 3. Meanwhile, James Cameron is lobbying the Academy for the introduction of a Best Expensive Cartoon With Blue People In It category, in the hopes of a sure-fire win with Avatar 2.

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The Keanu Reeves Award for Disastrous Casting

The Beaver

Poor Jodie Foster. For her third movie as director, Foster turned to wacky Mel Gibson to play the depressed Toy Company CEO who begins communicating through a hand-puppet. With shooting completed and a 2010 release date set, Gibson promptly, and very publicly, imploded. He decided to start communicating through an answer machine and single-handedly made himself the most unpopular actor since Fatty Arbuckle. Since this could spell death for the project, Summit Entertainment promptly pulled The Beaver’s release date, putting the movie ‘in a holding pattern’ in the hopes that the smell around Mel would waft away. At the time of writing, Summit Entertainment have tentatively announced a release date of Spring 2011 for The Beaver, no doubt hoping that Gibson can keep his mouth shut for the next three or four months. Foster must be wishing she’d dialled Harrison Ford.

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The Stephen Sommers Award for Screwing Up a Good Idea

The Expendables

Bring together all the biggest names of action cinema from the last thirty years for a single movie and you have a sure thing, right? Wrong. Stallone’s attempt to create the ultimate action movie merely proved to be a successful exercise in exhuming the decomposing careers of several stars only to shoot them in the head and re-bury them. Just making sure they were really dead, I guess. Unintentionally the worst zombie movie ever made. I’m tempted to change this site’s name to Celluloid Expendable.

The script was apparently written by a child and several action stars all wanting to get their fair bite of the cherry. The dialogue is head-in-hands dreadful, with such cracking lines as, “We are the shadow, the smoke in your eyes, the ghosts that hide in the night”. Stallone says this just before running around shouting and blowing shit up. Because that’s what shadows do.

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The J.J. Abrams Award for Making Television Watchable

The Walking Dead

Zombie movies have long been a genre all their own, with the undead lurching around the cinemas of the world for decades (and in my town that’s just the audience). This year, however, the disease spread beyond the multiplexes and those wacky walking corpses finally got their own TV show, care of Frank Darabont and TV channel AMC.

Based on a comic book (let’s face it, what isn’t based on a comic book these days), The Walking Dead’s tale of survivors in a post-zombified America aired to record numbers despite being the shortest season for a TV show since Joss Whedon last announced a project. However, the success of The Walking Dead guaranteed a second season, scheduled to air October 2011, which is an eternity for those of us ravenous for more than the taster offered by a paltry six episodes.

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The Darth Vader Award for Making a Memorable Entrance

Chloe Moretz

Forget the Chinese Tiger, 2010 was The Year of the Chloe Moretz. The young actress has been around for a little while, but this was the year when Moretz truly entered the radars of movie-goers everywhere. With engaging turns in no less than three acclaimed movies in 2010 (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kick-Ass and Let Me In) I was almost considering her for The Award for Attempting to Appear in Every Movie Made.

However, it’s for Moretz’s first appearance in costume as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass that Chloe wins her Celluloid Zombie Award. Let’s face it, a 10-year-old girl with purple hair acrobatically carving up a roomful of drug-dealers makes for a memorable enough scene. But give her the line, “Okay, you c**ts, let’s see what you can do now”, and you have a jaw-dropping moment of gleefully irresponsible cinema fun.

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The Dante Alighieri Award for Burning in Development Hell

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson’s prequel to Lord of the Rings started 2010 with Jackson as Producer and Guillermo Del Toro as Director. Ian McKellen (Gandalf) had indicated that shooting would start in July, which was put on hold when MGM’s financial troubles hit the project. Del Toro then quit and rumours began circulating about who would replace him. Jackson began casting in July but this hit a snag when several actors unions urged clients to boycott the film due to contract issues. The movie was officially green-lit in October, the union troubles were resolved but ill-feeling from negotiations with the New Zealand Government left The Hobbit looking to relocate. This was solved, leaving the project back where it started, except with Jackson now down to direct. Casting has continued through the rest of the year and it’s starting to look like The Hobbit might have survived its year in Hell. There and back again, indeed.

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Honourary Award for Being My Son’s Favourite Movie of 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Edgar Wright’s third feature under-performed at the box office, but was still one of the most energetic and imaginative movies of the year. It’s here, however, because it’s at the top of my son’s list. And in the slim hope that he’ll let me off for putting it 6th in my own list.

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Celluloid Zombie’s Ten Best Movies of 2010

I’m making a list and checking it twice. Yep, it’s that time again, when you can look back on another year of celluloid output and try and decide which movies were your favourites. Pointless, perhaps, because to truly compile an accurate Top Ten you’d have to have seen every movie made this year. Which I obviously didn’t. I need to sleep and leave the flat from time to time, after all.

So, to give this post an accurate title, here are my Top Ten Movies of 2010 that I’ve Actually Seen. All films are considered according to UK release dates. Enjoy!

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10. The Town

Ben Affleck continues to impress from behind the camera with this, his second movie. A tale of a group of bank robbers in Boston’s Charlestown, The Town is grounded with great performances, particularly from Jeremy Renner. And while it lacks the emotional punch of Affleck’s debut, Gone Baby Gone, he still produces a gripping tale of friendship, betrayal and the desire to leave it all behind.

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9. The Last Exorcism

Slated by many on release, The Last Exorcism proved to be one of the year’s most divisive movies. Those expecting a hand-held, mockumentary version of The Exorcist were disappointed when it turned out to be something a little more complex. What really makes the movie stand out, however, are the two exceptional central performances from relative unknowns Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell.

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8. Winter’s Bone

Hardly the most cheerful viewing, but Debra Granik’s second movie has a warm heart at the core of its bleak atmosphere. Jennifer Lawrence, onscreen for every minute of the movie, is remarkable as the 17-year-old Ree, holding her family together while searching for her drug-dealing father amid the broken lives of a small community in the Ozarks, Missouri.

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7. Four Lions

Television satirist Chris Morris turns to the big screen for his tale of a group of incredibly inept British Jihadists, planning a suicide attack on the London Marathon and bickering incessantly amongst themselves. Morris spent three years researching the project and produces a funny and cutting comedy which proves that sometimes mockery is the best response.

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6. Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright took on his first Hollywood gig with this adaptation of the comic books. Michael Cera is the titular ‘hero’, battling the seven Evil Exes of his new girlfriend. Wright injects the movie with the same hip energy he brought to TV show Spaced. Decide for yourself how much of the action takes place in reality or just in the fevered imagination of Pilgrim.

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5. Toy Story 3

Pixar does it again, rounding off their Toy Story saga after 15 years with this funny, bittersweet third instalment. Choosing the perfect story to end on, we see what happens to toys when their owners grow up and they are forced to retire. Features one of the year’s best villains in Lotso Huggin’ Bear and a great turn from Timothy Dalton as Mr Pricklepants. Inspired, whether you saw it in 3D or not.

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4. The Social Network

Who would have thought that a movie about the creation of Facebook could be so entertaining? I’ll never doubt David Fincher’s choices again. The director paces the story expertly, cutting between the origins of the site and the resulting legal challenges for credit, and the young cast are superb. You may want to give Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker a slap after seeing this.

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3. Kick-Ass

Another comic book adaptation from another British director. Matthew Vaughn brings an anarchic energy to the story of naive teenager Dave Lizewski’s adventures as a costumed vigilante. Aaron Johnson is engaging as Lizewski/Kick-Ass, but it is the father and daughter combo of Nicholas Cage’s Big Daddy and Chloë Moretz’s Hit Girl that really make this memorable. Pure genius.

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2. Inception

The Dark Knight was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Christopher Nolan couldn’t have done a better job than this imaginative, layered and visually stunning piece of cinema. Dreams within dreams, folding environments, trains rushing down main streets and another impressive performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. So, was he dreaming at the end or not?

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1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Niels Arden Oplev’s adaptation of the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy is quite simply one of the best thrillers to have come along in years. Made in Sweden under the title of the book, Men Who Hate Women, the movie was renamed for international release. Noomi Rapace gives the performance of the year as the haunted, complex anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander.

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And the worst…

The Expendables

Promised much but delivered nothing. The Expendables brought together all the big names of action movies from the last 30 years and embarrassed them. And us. Two hours spent watching them play bingo in a retirement home would have been more entertaining. One of the worst screenplays in living memory, with awful dialogue, crappy action scenes and Jason bloody Statham. Unbelievably shite.

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