Hugo

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Written by Stephanie | Rated: 5 Stars - No Beef, Comedy, Drama | Posted on 03-12-2011

I’m a sentimentalist. I cry at adverts, reality TV shows (a rising string gets me every time) and the worst kinds of romantic comedy. I even cried while waiting in an airport arrivals longue recently, watching some random small children reunited with their grandparents. More often than not, I cry in spite of myself. My cynical side well aware that I am being manipulated and I kind of hate myself for being such a sucker. Around Christmas, this amplifies. Something about the fairy lights and mulled wine I think. I cried through the entirety of a animated version of The Gruffalo one Christmas Day. For the uninitiated, The Gruffalo is NOT The Snowman, nothing sad happens, nothing at all. I couldn’t tell you what the hell I was crying about. I was just overridden by cuteness and booze.  This sort of hollow sentimentality has to hit me in the right mood to get the tears flowing though. A friend and I went to see Love, Actually a few days before Christmas once and spent a large portion of the film wondering what would happen if we started throwing things at the screen (embarrassingly, even that abysmal piece of film-making sucked a couple of tears out of me before I realised what a piece of shit it was).

Occasionally though, a film comes along that works on a whole separate plain. A film that reminds me what it was to be a child and to feel joy and wonder and sadness, all at the same time, of how beautiful the world can be. Hugo is one of those films.

Set in 1930’s Paris, Hugo tells the tale of a young orphan boy who lives inside, and maintains, the mechanical clocks of a train station. The station is a busy and vibrant setting, though as the film opens Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is as alone as anyone has ever been. He doesn’t have any friends or family, and rests his hopes of company on an automaton that his father found at a musuem and that they had been repairing together before the accident that left Hugo alone.

Even though Hugo is alone, he uses his clocks to hide in and observe the other people whose lives revolve around the station and, as the film progresses, their lives begin to interweave. There is Georges (Ben Kingsley), a gruff old man who runs a station toyshop and Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young girl who accompanies him. The unnamed Station Inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen) is Hugo’s nemesis, desperate to catch young orphans, and hopefully the eye of Lisette (Emily Mortimer), a florist. Isabelle is a voracious reader and, through her, we meet Monsieur Labisse (Christoper Lee). Monsieur Labisse runs a book shop and, curiously, for a film set in Paris, is the only character with even a hint of a French accent.

I went into Hugo knowing very little of what the story entailed and, one of the things I loved about it was watching the way the story unfolds. With that in mind, I won’t go into any specifics about where Hugo leads. However, portions of the film (including the opening segment) have a very old school silent film mentality to them. Large swathes of the film contain no dialogue whatsoever, and the physical comedy is as good as any seen in the silent films of the early 20th Century. Sasha Baron Cohen borders on parody with his strange voice, war injury and inability to smile naturally, but he fits like a glove into this landscape. His role could easlily have been a horrible mis-step, but, to my mind, he pitches it perfectly. There is also a ongoing romantic subplot between Madame Emile (Francis de la Tour) and Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths), which involves very little dialouge, and would have played out in a very similar way had this film been made 100 years ago.

Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s first “children’s” movie, though I think calling it that does it a great disservice. This is a film for anyone with a heart beating in their chest, a film to savour and adore, whatever age you are. The direction is, as one would expect, fantastic… and the 3D is the best I have seen. My favourite 3D sequence has long been Lionsgate’s mechanical cog introduction (Lionsgate make a lot of horror films, and I love horror films in 3D, so I’ve seen it often). There is something about the cogs in motion that just works wonders in 3D, and Hugo is basically mechanical porn. Mechanics are front and centre here, whether in Hugo’s clocks, Georges’ toys or the automoton that Hugo so desperately wants to work again…. And Scorsese knows how to make them sing, they jump right out the screen at times.

As I say, this isn’t really a children’s film. It’s a film for anyone who knows about loss, and the wonder of experiencing the new. It’s about the pain of war, finding magic in the world around us, and connecting with others, fixing them, so they can help fix us too. I cried and cried and cried, but these weren’t the sort of tears that make me frustrated with how pathetic I am. These were tears of joy, of remembering how a film can remind you of all the wonder and beauty in life.

I went to see Hugo with my Mum, who has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to films. It’s rare that she manages to stay awake through even the shortest and fastest moving of stories. Hugo is over two hours long and takes its sweet time with its story at every single turn, yet she stayed awake through the whole thing, and professed to loving it when it finished. Though her first reaction, open the rolling of the credits was to look at me with a rather surprised expression and say ‘Steph! Nobody even walked out!’…. Frankly, if THAT isn’t a recommendation, then I don’t know what is.

Our Idiot Brother

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Written by Stephanie | Rated: 3 Stars - Some Beef, Comedy, Drama | Posted on 28-11-2011

My name is Stephanie and I am a Ruddaholic. Sure, Paul Rudd has been in some horrible films (I’m looking at you, How Do You Know) but I’ve never seen him be anything less than wonderful. He even helped Friends limp through its final two seasons, while the rest of the cast sleepwalked through their, by that point, rather hackneyed roles. He just makes me happy, with his baby blue eyes and his head that is slightly too big for his body. I tend to seek out his films, and, if they showcase the Rudd as he deserves, I’ll watch them again and again. I’ve seen Role Models at least five times. Paul Rudd + Jane Lynch = 1000x amazing (I’m well good at maths).

In Our Idiot Brother, my blue eyed hero plays Ned. Ned is a hippy, and I guess what some would call a loser (or an idiot, obv). Though at the start of the film he appears to be living the dream to this fellow loser. He works at a farmers market, has the best dog ever, looks happy and content, and sells a bit of the good stuff on the side. Sadly, a stupid mistake means that Ned is wrenched from this life rather abruptly and forced to rely on the kindness of his family to help him back on his feet.

This is where the film really comes into its own. Everyone here is amazing, it’s like the casting director put together a list of people I love and put them all in a big lovely film, just for me. Almost without exception, like Rudd, they are playing to their own stereotype, which is fine by me. Regardez –

Elizabeth Banks – Shrill, selfish, workaholic
Zooey Deschanel – Freespirited, sexually ambiguous, kooky
Emily Mortimer – English, uptight, repressed (she isn’t actually playing English, but she might as well be)
Steve Coogan – Pretentious prick
Adam Scott – Lovely, lovely but slightly lacking in masculinity
Rashida Jones – Massive lesbian who wears terrible shorts and glasses throughout the film, just in case we forget at any point that she likes the poontang
Hugh Dancy – Pretentious prick #2

Actually, i’ve never seen Rashida Jones play a tough lesbian, or Hugh Dancy play anything but lovely. I just wanted to mention that they’re involved, as they are both super cool (Also, I actually kinda like the terrible glasses/shorts combo… and Dancy makes a surprisingly good pretentious prick).

The film follows the route of a thousand gentle comedies before it. It doesn’t shock and it doesn’t surprise. It did, however, manage to make my boyfriend (who had been threatening to go for a nap) stay with me for the entire duration. We both laughed a lot, though most of the jokes didn’t stick with me past the closing credits.

In the end, Our Idiot Brother is rather like a lovely big bag of Haribo. It’s sweet, goes down easily, tastes delicious and might even make you giddy for a while… but it contains no substance whatsoever, and might make you a little sick if you lack the tooth for this kind of thing.

Our Idiot Brother was released in the USA in August. It’s still awaiting release dates elsewhere. When it does finally get a release, I recommend watching on a rainy Sunday afternoon with an enormous bag of sweets, and letting the sugar wash all over you.

Sidenote – I’ve included the picture at the top because me and my friend Gemma sat in those EXACT seats at Cafe Gitane in New York. Yes, I have shared bum space with the Rudd. I am awesome.

Horrible Bosses

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Written by Stephanie | Rated: 2 Stars - Tons O'Beef, Comedy | Posted on 17-10-2011

I love Charlie Kelly (as played by Charlie Day) from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I was introduced to it quite recently, and my boyfriend and I immediately set about watching all six series (a seventh just started). It’s unusual for me to like a show in which the central characters are so selfish and unpleasant, and I think Charlie Kelly is the character that helps to offset the meanness and trancends it to greatness. It’s not that he is much much nicer than any of the others, it’s more like he’s an innocent child…. Albiet one who screams, kills rats, salts people and stalks women, and may actually be a psychopath. I just can’t help but love him, I want to take him home, feed him soup and give him a wash.

I liked Charlie Day in Going the Distance too, he did the same manic schtick that he does so well, and I think it worked a treat. However, when I heard he was going to be sharing top billing in a film, I was concerned. I just don’t see him as a top billing kind of guy, and was worried that the things I love about him would be surpressed. No one does unhinged like Charlie Day, I don’t want to see him sane and speaking at a normal volume.  As it turns out, he’s actually ok… He’s still likeable (although whether this is my residual affection, I don’t know) but, for me, it was a massive shame for him to be playing the straightman to another (more on Miss. Aniston later).

I also love Jason Batemen. I loved him in Arrested Development (though not as much as Will Arnett, who does the same manic/psycho thing that seems to be my passion), and have found him likeable in the countless ok-ish films he’s done since. A friend of mine who worked with him also told me he’s the nicest guy he’s ever filmed with… So, you know, I have a lot of time for him.

I do not love Jason Sudeikis. I think he’s kind of smug looking and he just rubs something in me up the wrong way. I’m sure he’ll be devastated if he ever finds out about this.

Anyway, so let’s talk about Horrible Bosses, which stars the three aforementioned fellas, who all have a ‘horrible’ boss. Kevin Spacey steps up for Jason Bateman, basically playing the same role he did in 1994’s Swimming with Sharks. It’s no surprise that he is great at it. If Charlie Day and Will Arnett play the likeable, funny, unthreatening madmen, Kevin Spacey plays the one who will kill you, cook you up in a stew, and then feed you to your family with a pleasant smile. Of the three, this is the relationship I found the most convincing, and Batemen’s the situation which seemed most inescapable, and therefore the one that actually made some sense of the decision that serves as the driving force of the plot.

Jason Sudeikis initially has a perfect boss, but the wonderful Donald Sutherland (who looks so old and cuddly and grandfathery here that I found it hard to reconcile him as the same man who did rude things and killed midgets in Don’t Look Now) is soon replaced by a hilarious wig and belly sporting Colin Farrell, who is clearly having a great time here. Now, my issue here may be due to my lack of understanding over the ways companies are run… but wouldn’t someone as wonderful as Donald Sutherland’s character is supposed to be have some sort of Board of Directors, or a back up plan in case of his absence? I know that I get too caught up in semantics sometimes, but if a film is enjoyable and funny enough, these thoughts don’t even occur to me. The fact is, I found Horrible Bosses plain boring at times, so my little brain went into overdrive asking these sort of questions. I don’t need a film to be believable, in fact, I often don’t want them to be (Dude, Where’s My Car? is still in my top ten all time favourite films). All I ask is that they make sense within their own universe, and Horrible Bosses just doesn’t to me, I don’t understand why the characters do what they do… and to add insult to injury, it’s just not very funny a lot of the time.

All this brings me to my biggest issue with the film. I can handle mildly entertaining, forgettable comedies, but I found Jennifer Aniston’s inclusion ridiculous. I don’t doubt that there is an enormous market who want to see Rachel playing dirty, saying filthy things, and being sexually aggressive… but it just meant that the storyline was never anything more than cheap titillation, with not a hint of true darkness. As the other characters tell Charlie Day (I can’t remember the characters name, and don’t care enough to look it up), he is in a position most men would kill for. Had the filmmakers had real guts, they would have cast a woman who isn’t in most mens top 50 sexiest in the world list. THAT would have been truly subversive, to allow a woman who doesn’t fit into the standard male fantasy to speak lines like “I fingered myself so hard to that Penn Badgley guy, I broke a nail”. As it is, I not only didn’t care about the plight of this poor Dental Assistant, the whole thing just made me cross.

That kind of goes for the whole film really. I loves me a dark comedy, the blacker the better…. But Horrible Bosses is just shades of washed out grey. Only Kevin Spacey’s character ever plumbs the depths I was expecting but it wasn’t nearly enough. The ending is piss weak, I never suspended my disbelief and I was bored for at least 40% of the running time. So, yeah, not recommended by me, but give it a watch if you want to see Aniston being a filth monger. That’s clearly what the filmakers are banking on.