This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including Hugo, Happy Feet 2, The Big Year and more…

HUGO (USA/UK/PG/125mins)
Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer.
THE PLOT: A Paris train station in the early 1930s, and little orphan boy Hugo (Butterfield) is secretly living behind the walls, maintaining the clocks, and avoiding the station inspector (Cohen, channeling The Child Catcher and Inspector Closeau).
Hugo is also desperate to finish repairing the automaton his father (Jude Law, in a mercifully short flashback) rescued just before his death. Hugo believes this writing robot will have a message for him from his late father, and to find out what it is, he’s willing to steal the parts he needs. Mainly from the station’s toy store, run by a sad and angry old man (Kingsley) and his wide-eyed young daughter, Isabelle (Moretz).
THE VERDICT: An adaptation of Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel The Invention Of Hugo Cabret (cleverly optioned by Graham King and Johnny Depp months before its publication in January 2007), Scorsese’s first foray into 3D is ostensibly a family film, but Hugo is just as much an exploration of the power of cinema and the lost legacy of seminal French filmmaker Georges Méliès, a pioneer of early cinema. The film may start off as though Jean-Pierre Jeunet was rewriting Harry Potter, but Méliès’ story is the true beating heart of Scorsese’s film. That’s when proceedings take a distinctly Cinema Paradiso turn, and, if you’re a true lover of film – or just someone with a soul – the finale should bring a tear to your eye. RATING: 4/5

HAPPY FEET TWO (USA/Australia/G/103mins)
Directed by George Miller. Starring the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara, Pink, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon.
THE PLOT: Mumbles (Wood) is all grown up, and now has offspring of his own to worry and fret about. And worry and fret about him he does. Until he discovers that his entire colony of penguins – included his missus (now voiced by Pink, given that Brittany Murphy is no longer with us) – have, after a glacial shift or two, ended up trapped in what can only be described as a valley of death. Surely Mumbles will be able to save them? But what’s this, there’s a flock of seagulls intent on eating the penguins’ young ‘uns! And the concerted rescue attempt by a passing trawler crew has to be abandoned because of heavy snows! And Mumbles has probably got cancer, and doesn’t know it yet!
THE VERDICT: A sequel that, just like its 2006 predecessor, is a kiddie cartoon that’s far more Stanley Kubrick than it is Walt Disney, Happy Feet Two is another dose of existential angst wrapped up in a winter wonderland of furry critters and ethnic stereotypes. This is Frozen Planet as directed by Roland Emmerich and produced by Simon Cowell, as each new threat of death and distinction is met with yet another gospel-fueled cover of an r’n’b power ballad. Only this particular Glee club has very little to be gleeful about. Justin Bieber Gay
The darkness is all down to writer/director George Miller, an Australian doctor-turned-filmmaker whose obsession with death and destruction gave us the Mad Max trilogy. And that sick and twisted Babe sequel, Pig In The City. As with Rango, this is another middle-aged, cynical, stoner filmmaker messing with the mainstream, throwing up another poison slushie for the idiot masses. Still, it sure looks pretty. RATING: 1/5

 

THE BIG YEAR (USA/PG/99mins)
Directed by David Frankel. Starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve Martin, John Cleese, Rashida Jones, Anjelica Huston, Rosamund Pike, Kevin Pollack, JoBeth Williams, Zahf Paroo.
THE PLOT: Former kings of comedy Martin, Wilson and Black play three very dedicated followers of our feathered friends, birdwatchers who aren’t averse to stepping over a corpse to get an up-close glimpse of a rare Tit. And they’re also happy to traverse across the globe – or the United States, to be exact – to end up with the best scorecard. From this mildly ridiculous premise, we get a multitude of slapstick moments. And little else.
THE VERDICT: Causing barely a ripple in the US, featuring as it does three top comedic actors who all have seen better days, The Big Year limps rather than flies into Irish cinemas. Given that Wilson had just scored as Woody Allen’s Super-Me in Midnight In Paris, and both Black and Martin must have fans still out there somewhere, the complete and utter failure of The Big Year to find an audience is somewhat surprising though. Not that this Bucket List for an ageing MTV generation was designed for the masses, being a real curate’s egg of a mainstream movie. From the director of Marley & Me. So, you know, he deserves to be taken down a peg or two. RATING: 2/5

THE THING (USA/16/102mins)
Directed by Matthijs van Jeijningen Jr. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Kim Bubbs.
THE PLOT: 1982, and paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead, getting the Ripley-esque role) teams up with science geeks Dr. Sander Halvorson (Thomsen) and his assistant Adam Finch (Olsen) to help a Norwegian scientific team to investigate a crashed spaceship beneath the ice in the Antarctica. When they discover a frozen corpse of a creature inside, brought back to base in a block of ice – and soon, of course, causing all sorts of havoc and destruction… Video Chat Gay
THE VERDICT: The original source material, John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella Who Goes There?, has been tackled by Hollywood every few decades since Howard Hawks’ 1951 adaptation, the most loved, for many people, being John Carpenter’s 1982 outing with Kurt Russell. Here, rather than foolishly attempting to remake a much-loved film, the producers opted for a prequel – or, as writer Ronald D. Moore likes to put it, “a companion piece”. Not that Carpenter and Hawks are going to want this particular type of company, Moore and Dutch director van Jeijningen somehow managing to deliver a film about a morphing alien creature rampaging in a winter wonderland that’s both crushingly unoriginal and stubbornly unexciting. RATING: 2/5

Reviews by Paul Byrne