For starters, you don’t watch a Sacha Baron Cohen movie unless you have a pretty broad sense of humour. Luckily I do and really stupid, often crude comedies tickles my funny bone almost every time. This latest effort sees him as a local Grimsby guy, who lives on a housing estate, has an army of kids, gets drunk down the pub with his mates – you get the picture. However ‘Nobby’ hasn’t seen his younger brother for over twenty years, following a stint in an orphanage as children, and is surprised to bump into him during a day trip to London. However said brother, played by Mark Strong is now a deadly spy on a top secret mission – of which Nobby interrupts and causes all manner of calamity.
It’s a brilliant premise and one that Baron Cohen takes to with vigour. He’s a seriously gifted comedy actor and this latest creation, whilst not a huge leap from his Ali G persona is brilliantly observed and the idea makes for plenty of spot on gags and very funny encounters … especially if like I said, you have a liking for utterly crude, juvenile humour. At times it all goes a bit too far (the elephant scene) and some situations are just ridiculous, but with Baron Cohen’s enthusiasm, and a great supporting casting including Penelope Cruze, Ian McShane and Ricky Tomlinson … along with some actually very well implemented action sequences (football hooligan vs martial arts expert?) – I still got a kick out of this.
As far as a spy movie plot goes, it’s nothing special, but I did like how some jokes earlier on had even funnier pay-offs later. For fan’s of Sacha Baron Cohen this is a no-brainer, and for anyone after a good laugh, as long as you aren’t easily offended, I say check this one out immediately.
Few director’s have the encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema that Martin Scorsese does. He’s a living and breathing movie historian, and the perfect choice to direct the adaptation of a children’s book that pays homage to the godfather of cinema, Georges Méliès .. a man who pioneered a wealth of camera techniques and special effects, delivering over 500 movies that pushed the definition of what was possible on film. The story here follows a young orphan boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who following the death of his father (Jude Law), is given the responsibility of looking after all the clocks in a grand Parisian train station. Yet when his father leaves him a mechanical automaton, a quest to discover the secret of the device leads to a magnificent discovery.
This is a beautifully told, gently-paced fantasy, in the grand style of Charles Dickens and Frank Capra, with a cast of quality actors and keen attention to detail from the brilliant Martin Scorsese. Here he has created a fine example of the family adventure tale, somewhat a departure for a man better known for his violent gangster movies – but nails it with the panache and expertise you would expect from one of the best in the business. Supporting cast all add a great deal to proceedings, especially the increasingly charming Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) and also a diverting, stand-out turn from Sasha Baron Cohen as a bumbling station guard. A special mention must also go to Ben Kingsley, excellently conflicted as Georges Méliès, bringing real class to the whole story. The young actor playing Hugo is good also, with his wide-eyed innocence capturing the feel of characters like Oliver Twist, which I’m guessing was the point. It is also probably one of the best looking movies I have ever seen, with the Paris-set location and a wealth of stunning effects shots all creating a magical atmosphere. My only real gripe is that the movie does drag its heals a bit in places, and it seems to conclude about three times – but these are very small things.
Overall though this is Scorsese breaking free of his more gritty, crime thriller routs and proving himself a master film maker, whatever the subject. Ironic when you consider this is about the rediscovery of a master film maker. A classic example of a director perfectly matched with material, and the kind of movie that reminds you why you love cinema. Essential.
I have always been a big fan of Tim Burton. His dark, tongue-in-cheek brand of comic, goth-horror has always struck a cord with me, and his frequent collaborations with Johnny Depp are just the icing on the cake. Now we come to his latest effort, and one I was at first appealed by as it looked just as dark and sinister as Burton’s masterpiece Sleepy Hollow. Then I discovered it was a musical.
Musicals have a hit and miss relationship with me – I am very fond of the likes of Sound Of Music, Evita, Little Shop Of Horrors (!) and even Tim Burton’s own A Nightmare Before Christmas…but I also hate some that haven’t got the right vibe – such as Moulin Rouge which seemed 90% noise and 10% entertainment. Sadly, this film falls into the latter category, with no memorable numbers, no dancing, no staged choreography…just lots and lots of sung dialogue. You know when a musical has failed when you actually wish they would just ‘talk’ for a bit instead of singing. If there was one memorable song, then at least that would be something…but there isn’t. Maybe I have come into this all wrong though – it’s an Opera, not a musical. Perhaps. Thats not what its been hyped up as though.
I will give credit where its due though; Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are very good, and make a very interesting odd-couple, and the story is intriguing with some very macabre twists and turns…oh and as expected, Burton’s sumptuous eye for period set design and camera work are a treat for the eyes throughout. Really though, why make it a musical, when you have no decent songs in it? Disappointing.
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