Wednesday, August 23, 2017

1037. Hugo

Directed by Martin Scorsese

At first I found it hard to believe that this was a Scorsese film.  This is the man that brought us Taxi Driver, and now he is making whimsical Grand Budapest Hotel-esque films.  Of course, as the film progressed, it became clear that this is the tribute to early cinema that Scorsese always wanted to make.

In 1931, eight year old Hugo lives a train station in Paris.  Everyone speaks English for some reason, but they do it in British accents, so we Americans buy it.   Anyway, Hugo spends his days fixing clocks, dodging the Station Inspector (who delights in putting kids in cages and sending them to orphanages, you know, because of the war), and attempting to repair a broken automaton that his father had owned.  Hugo meets Isabelle, the goddaughter of Georges, the bitter toymaker at the station.  Isabelle and Hugo set out to solve the mystery of the automaton.

Would I have been interested in this if I wasn't a film buff?  You have to imagine that was the intention of Scorsese: to introduce young people who know nothing about movies to the magic of early cinema.  Still, I can't help feeling like I would have found the two hour run time unbearable if I didn't have an interest in Georges Melies.

Fortunately, I do and thus wanted to see how this played out.  I am not a huge CGI fan, but I have to admit this looked pretty good and contributed to the overall feeling of whimsy.  I do wish Jude Law had been in it more.  I so admire that man's....talent.

Anyway, this was decent, but my incurable bloodlust makes me crave gangster Scorsese more.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The opening tracking shot of the city took 1000 computers to render each frame.

James Cameron called it the best use of 3D he had ever seen (including in his own movies).

Monday, August 14, 2017

1036. The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book
Directed by Jon Favreau

Lately I have been determining which List movies to watch based on what is available on Netflix Instant.  Unfortunately for me, this meant seeing The Jungle Book.  Well, I suppose it was harmless enough so I'll try to be nice.

Mowgli is a ten year old "man cub" who has been raised by wolves in the jungle.  His father was killed when he was an infant and he was rescued by Bagheera, a panther who, for some reason, didn't eat him.  Bagheera raised him to....or the wolves raised him to...oh whatever.  In any case, Mowgli has been discouraged from using tools, because doing things efficiently conflicts with Wolf Law.  One day at the watering hole, Shere Khan, a vicious disfigured tiger promises to kill Mowgli when the drought ends.  Mowgli must leave the jungle for safety, so Bagheera begins to guide him to a man village.  Mowgli meets many creatures on his journey, including Baloo, King Louie, and Kaa.

I was never a fan of The Jungle Book growing up (not enough good songs), so I wasn't exactly eager to see this film.  I guess this is the future of animation, though; kids don't want to see handdrawn movies anymore.  People want realism and they get it with CGI...well, sort of.  I don't really care too much about graphics, which I suspect is why I disliked this film.

Everything about it seemed done before.  Now, I realize that is a rather unfair complaint to have against a remake, but I found it to be a really boring experience.  Mowgli's escapes, which grew increasingly ridiculous, the ho-hum dialogue, and the cringe-worthy inclusions of songs...all of it combined to make a completely forgettable movie.  I was particularly disappointed with the scene when Baloo is stalling.  Clearly, Bill Murray was given room to improvise and that's all he could come up with?  Come on, Bill.  I expect more from you.

Anyway, I am being too harsh.  The actor that played Mowgli was actually really good; I wasn't actively rooting for him to die like I do with some child actors.  Perhaps I shouldn't admit that.  It was also interesting to see the shifting themes compared to the 1967 version.  But entirely skippable.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Over 2,000 children auditioned for the role of Mowgli.

The Genie's lamp from Aladdin can be seen in King Louie's temple.

All the locations in the film are computed generated VFX.