DVD reviews: Scorsese's 'Hugo' a magical film
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese is best known for gritty dramas and an occasional biopic, but he went off path with "Hugo," a film that is based on Brian Selznick's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." Things seemed to have worked out, as "Hugo" came away with five Academy Awards on Sunday night. Working with a screenplay from John Logan, Scorsese knocks it out of the park here, serving up a beautiful flick that serves as his ode to motion pictures. The film has a couple of missteps in its storyline, but it's a magical feature that possesses great characters in a story full of wonder. Cinematography is also a strength for "Hugo." The film revolves around a young man named Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who is made to maintain the clocks in a Paris railway station. Hugo lives up inside the station's largest clock, and he spends his free time trying to figure out an automaton that his late, beloved father left him. The automaton is holding a message for Hugo, and his attempt to get it leads him to toymaker Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley). Melies is initially suspicious of Hugo, but eventually realizes the two do share a certain similarity, and it more evidence might lie in the automaton. Blu-ray's the way to go for consumers, as standard DVDs are lacking in any special features. Blu-ray sets hold a handful of key featurettes that explore production and some of the key elements that are found in Scorsese's picture, including the mechanical man and more. PG, 2011, Paramount Pictures. 3.5 Stars.
'Johnny English Reborn'
British actor Rowan Atkinson is largely known for playing the comedic role of Mr. Bean, a character that bumbles through life's adventures. In 2003, though, he stepped away for the part of Johnny English, a sort-of spy parody that targets the James Bond franchise. In 2011, he rekindled his role as a special agent in "Johnny English Reborn." Much like the original, this one comes down to viewers' feelings on Atkinson. The new adventure puts English back with his old agency after a huge gaffe in his past. English is tasked with shutting down a group of assassins aiming at creating world chaos by killing world leaders. Stopping this terroristic group will not only save the world, but also help redeem English's career as a special agent. The film does not offer much in ways of redefining the parody genre, and most of these jokes have been heard and seen before. It's the star's appeal as a master of facial expressions and body language that offer any hope for this one. Blu-ray has more to offer in the way of special features, but shares a gag reel, commentary, extended and deleted scenes and a featurette on one of the film's key sequences. PG, 2011, Universal Pictures. 2 Stars.
'Puss in Boots'
Once a sidekick to a green ogre named Shrek, Puss in Boots, the sword-wielding cat with a hunger for action, now has his own movie. Considering the success of "Puss in Boots," this won't be the last either. Director Chris Miller's film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Film and garnered more honors during award season. The film took a popular character from the Shrek franchise, and gave viewers an enjoyable picture suitable for the whole family. Much like those ogre films, "Puss in Boots" has its share of laughs and action sequences, while offering up a nice lesson for the kids. The animation is very good, as well. The film offers up the background for Puss as a cat who grew up in an orphanage in some South American-like town. Caught up in a misunderstanding with his friend Humpty Dumpty, Puss is painted as an outlaw, and that's how his rep kicks off. On the run, he's talked into stealing some magic beans with his old friend Humpty and a cute sidekick named Kitty. However, things aren't always as they seem, and Puss is entering a situation that might compound his problems with the law. There are a few good extras on standard DVDs, but Blu-ray packages stack up on the special features. PG, 2011, Dreamworks Entertainment. 3 Stars.
OTHER MOVIE RELEASES:
• "Beneath the Darkness" (Dennis Quaid and Aimee Teegarden, 2011, R, Image Entertainment): In a departure from prior roles, Quaid takes on a dark character in this picture from Martin Guigui. Quaid stars as a well-respected mortician with him some dark and deadly secrets that would shatter the community. Extras.
• "The Myth of the American Sleepover" (Claire Sloma and Marlon Morton, 2010, NR, IFC Films): David Robert Mitchell, the writer and director, has garnered plenty of praise for this film about a group of teens exploring the suburbs of Detroit. The film's been compared to "American Graffiti" and "Dazed & Confused." Extras.
• "The Catechism Cataclysm" (Steve Little and Robert Longstreet, 2011, NR, IFC Films): Written and directed by Todd Rohal, "The Catechism Cataclysm" is a religious comedy about a young priest, on sabbatical from the church, who uses his time away to go on a wild canoe trip with an old acquaintance from high school. Extras.
• "Answers to Nothing" (Julie Benz and Dane Cook, 2011, R, Lionsgate Pictures): Benz, a Pittsburgh native, has a key role in this picture about several people who have some sort of stake in the investigation of the missing child. Extras.
• "Insight" (Sean Patrick Flannery and Thomas Ian Nicholas, 2011, R, Phase 4 Films): A talented cast stars in this mesmerizing thriller about a nurse experiencing the memories of her now-dead patient after an accident in the hospital. She must find her patient's killer before he strikes again. Extras.
• "Bounty Hunters" (Trish Stratus and Andrea James Lui, 2011, R, MPI Media Group): Stratus, a seven-time WWE champion, takes the lead in this action picture originally known as "Bail Enforcers." The story kicks off when a group of down-on-their-luck bounty hunters pick up a once-in-a-lifetime catch. Extras.
• "Felipe Esparza: They're Not Gonna Laugh at You" (Stand-up comedy, 2011, NR, extras, Entertainment One)