Category Archives: Chloe Grace Moretz

Movie Review: Hugo

Even this late in his career, Martin Scorsese can still reinvent himself, even if it means not changing at all.

“Hugo,” based on the award-winning children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, is the rare PG-rated Scorsese film. However, that does not make it a children’s movie as many have labeled it. “Hugo” is for everyone.
“Hugo” is mechanical, yet magical. In the early 1930s, Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lives inside the walls of a Parisian train station, operating all of the station’s clocks. He has been doing this ever since his father (Jude Law) died and left him as an orphan. His life inside the walls gives him an innate ability to sneak around totally undetected. He steals in order to get by, which puts him at constant odds with the scheming and ill-tempered station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). As the inspector, Cohen looks like a more over-the-top version of Charles De Gaulle.
All that Hugo has left of his father is a broken automaton which he spends his spare time trying to fix. He steals parts from, and eventually gets caught by, George Melies (Ben Kingsley). That name doesn’t mean a lot to young Hugo at first, but he later discovers that he is none other than the legendary pioneer of filmmaking himself. Melies was one of the first filmmakers to figure out that moving pictures could tell stories.
“Hugo” is based on a book and its about the power of imagination, but it is also about Scorsese’s love of movies. At one point, Hugo takes of Melies’s daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) to see a movie in order to cheer her up. He believes that the movie theater is the only place where he can escape from reality. Viewers will also be treated to a history of film as well as footage from several key movies of the silent era. “Hugo” is a film buff’s dream come true.
From looking at the early movies shown in “Hugo,” there really was magic in them. The less realistic the special effects were, the more creative and deceptive filmmakers could be. Melies was equal parts filmmaker and magician.
Early silent films involved many tricks to feign depth and perspective. “Hugo” itself attempts this, and it contains some of the best 3D there has ever been. The third dimension is usually wasted by those who don’t understand the potential of it. In “Hugo,” 3D is not a gimmick but rather a way to add a layer of physical depth, and make this complex world of mazes and winding staircases even more immersive. I am not a cheerleader for the cause of 3D. However, if more directors used 3D the way Scorsese does here, then perhaps this new trend won’t necessarily spell the demise of movies as we know them.
As with any great movie, none of the special effects would mean anything if they did not support a great story. “Hugo” is an uplifting fantasy that is also very real. It balances out its darkest moments with comedy. Best of all, “Hugo” is not just about Hugo. The longer the audience spends in the train station, the more it gets to know the characters that occupy it. The subplots involving the inspector’s attempt to woo the flower shop owner (Emily Mortimer) and another including an old man at odds with a small dog are entertaining and actually tie in with the story as a whole. These segments of “Hugo” reminded me of the subplots seen in the windows of the apartment complex in “Rear Window.” Neither of these movies would be able to function without their settings, or the variety of people who occupy them.
The latter part of Scorsese’s career has been a mixed bag. While he won his first Oscar in 2006 for “The Departed,” few of his latest efforts have matched the brilliance of his earlier efforts. “Hugo” is his finest achievement in years, but there is just no way to compare it to his earlier works. There is nothing wrong with creating something that defies comparison.
Even if no one is shot in the head or shoved into the trunk of a car, “Hugo” could only have been made by Scorsese. His version of Paris transforms the City of Lights into something much grittier. The Paris of “Hugo” looks more like New York via “Gangs of New York”: snowbound, destitute, and industrial. Then there is Hugo’s world, which is one marked only by turning gears, with the great city surrounding him being just outside his reach. The only light of hope that ever shines is from a film projector.
In a way, Hugo is Scorsese in his youth. During his childhood on the mean streets of Little Italy, the movies were his only means of escape. Even as time passes, movies will always remain. The fact that “Hugo” is about a young boy saving the lost films of a once great artist is the kind of warm, moving act that doesn’t usually occur in a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. Even though “Hugo” claims that humans are just parts of the larger machine of the world, that can’t explain the feeling of being moved to tears by the movie’s end.
There is a scene in “Hugo” where Hugo and Isabelle watch “A Trip to the Moon” for the first time, and learn that each frame was colorized individually by hand. In the present, a camera can do that, and a computer can create any special effect imaginable. Therefore, it is hard for any movie made today to ever feel hand-crafted. When as much care, love, and devotion goes into making something like “Hugo,” it is then that the director’s, and not a computer’s, fingerprints are all over it. This is one of the best movies of the year.
As a side note, has anyone noticed that whenever a major movie is released that takes places in a foreign country but is spoken in English, all of the characters have British accents? When will Hollywood get that people can tell the difference between a French accent and a British accent?
Here are links to some of the silent movies featured in “Hugo”:
The Great Train Robbery (There is an allusion to the final shot at the end of “Goodfellas”)

Movie Review: Kick-Ass

Remember those people that always said that you should never be the hero? They never told you why: because you might get knifed repeatedly before being mixed up with a bazooka and some samurai swords. Thank you for that valuable lesson, “Kick-Ass.”

All joking aside, “Kick-Ass” is a grand new addition to a genre of meta satire where the story becomes both satire and the subject in which it is actually satirizing (on purpose, of course).
The subject being satirized in “Kick-Ass” is a hybrid of the worlds of both comic books and movies. In order to dive into this world, “Kick-Ass” uses Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson). Dave is the archetypal comic book hero pre-transformation: he’s a nerdy teenage outcast with girl troubles. Dave escapes his miserable, almost meaningless existence through an extreme comic book obsession.
Dave’s obsession goes a little too far when he believes being a hero is as easy as putting on a costume, so he sets out to rid the streets of crime. Despite becoming a pop culture phenomenon, his super hero name is Kick-Ass not because he wins every fight but rather because he always seems to get beaten to a pulp.
“Kick-Ass” has what is almost two interwoven plots. The two plots serve as the two separate films “Kick-Ass” strives to be: a comic book movie, and a comic book satire. Dave’s transformation into Kick-Ass serves most of the film’s satirical moments. These moments serve to tell us that the great heroes such as Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman were kept flat on the page for a reason. These heroes served as fantasies for a reason. That reason is that they’re not supposed to exist in reality.
There is another part of “Kick-Ass” that always remains funny, yet also tries to be like a true comic book. The film gives us the dynamic duo of the young, foul-mouthed, and very skilled Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) and her weapon-loving father Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage). Wherever they fight crime, they leave an extremely gory trail behind.
“Kick-Ass” has generated a lot of controversy for its sometimes less-than-serious look at ultra violence. To simply dismiss it as a product of violence-loving culture would be to totally miss the point. “Kick-Ass” comments on a society enamored by superheroes and explosions by in a way, becoming a very product of it as well. For example, Hit-Girl’s shocking fighting techniques might produce laughter. This isn’t because the act of murder is supposed to be funny but rather because these moves are all carried out by such a young child. One of the most important rules of comedy is breaking away from the expected. Then again, the often humorous view shows how little the characters understand reality.
Not all of the violence in “Kick-Ass” is pure humor. Director Matthew Vaughn has a Tarantinoesque ability to balance out over-the-top violence with much more realistic (and even dramatic) violence. Nobody gets injured and then heals instantaneously. Vaughn never neglects to remind the audience that in the end, these are just a bunch of inexperienced kids fighting people with guns.
“Kick-Ass” is supported by a flawless cast. Johnson creates a neurotic persona so awkward that it manages to rival the reputation for awkwardness created by co-star Christopher Mintz-Plasse. It was nice to see Nic Cage actually acting for once, or better yet actually playing a character fine-tuned to his own personality. He’s had too long of a streak playing characters abusing women while wearing a bear costume.
Of all the cast, the biggest standout was the most inexperienced actress. Moretz handled such a gutsy role with such gusto. She gave off the sort of ease and believability that only a pro could ever pull off. Despite having such a small role, Moretz turns Hit-Girl into the funniest and most memorable character of the film. She’s even worthy enough of her own spinoff.
The reason that “Kick-Ass” is my favorite film so far this year is because of how courageous it truly is. In this day, it’s hard to make a movie that truly feels daring, that feels as if societal norms were broken in order to make it. “Kick-Ass” is that rare film that seems like a shock that anyone ever produced it. It contains violence that is at times uncomfortably gruesome and at other times uncomfortably funny. It even uses a four-letter word that is still taboo to say.
Yet, the film is never shocking for the sake of shock value. It is shocking because it earns the right to be shocking. It’s shocking because parts of it feel like the kind of story you’d hear on the local news at 11, and then later watch it become a YouTube phenomenon. It’s daring in both its hardcore violence and its storytelling. Vaughn carefully balances both realism and jet pack absurdity into one film. It’s stylish and ridiculous at the same time.
In a world where people can watch movies on laptops and phones, “Kick-Ass” feels like the kind of film that was made to be see in a theater. Its unique story is worthy of a variety of responses. One scene can make some happy, and others angry. It’s also shot well, and contains some humor that works best in collectivized laughter. “Kick-Ass” has something to say and something to give. It’s both a disturbing look at the world, and a hilarious comic book fantasy. Genius couldn’t have come in a more stylish, more fascinating package.