Film Review (plus a Twilight Primer): The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn, Part I (dir. by Bill Condon)


“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.” – Stephen King

I have a problem with the notion that says you have to have someone in your life in order for your life to be considered perfect or grand. I’m of the mind that you step into the world alone and leave it the same same way. Even if you are surrounded by your nearest and dearest friends when you pass, you’re still the only one making that trip. And while I love the notion of Romance, I don’t believe it needs to translate to “Omigod, if you’re not near me, I’m going to jump off this building, I swear it because I can’t talk about you without stammering.” or the other obsessive notions that Twilight seems to bring up. This doesn’t mean I outright hate everything that Twilight is, but I’m not totally fond of the overall message it conveys. Perhaps I’m just emotionally cold that way.

And yet, I may know more about Twilight than any other guy in the known universe. It’s an enigma, I know.

A little background on why I, a guy, am writing a review for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, which is pretty much geared for girls. Note that I’ll refer to the film just as Breaking Dawn, because I really don’t see Twilight as a Saga by any means.

In the early 90’s, I hit a “Vampire Phase”. Between playing games of Vampire: The Masquerade and reading every Vampire Chronicle novel that Anne Rice wrote up until Tale of the Body Thief, I was pretty involved. I grew up with Vampires that were monsters to be feared (and sometimes admired), and dodged the sun more or less. I even owned two vampire encyclopedias. Somewhere between Mark Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” (a book I still haven’t finished) and Andrew Davidson’s “The Gargoyle”, I picked up a hardcover copy of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” from Barnes & Noble. I didn’t think much of the books, save that they were quick reads. Meyer and her vampires were far from Rice and her universe lacked the erotic flair of Laurell K. Hamilton’s earlier books in the Anita Blake series. They were more or less books for teens, but they had vampires in them, so I pretty much inhaled all four books (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn) twice in Hardcover. I even went so far to read Meyer’s “The Host” and have seen all of the other Twilight films in the theatre. While they all seem to be really close to the source material, there’s something strange in the translation. What made sense on paper really didn’t on screen (Sparkling Vampires jump to mind), but I guess that’s for an Editorial.

So, when it came to reviewing Breaking Dawn, we at the Shattered Lens drew straws. While we hold to the tenet that any movie can be reviewed by anyone even if the movie was previously reviewed by anyone else (for alternate viewpoints), this was a film that was pretty much off our collective radars. I think we all secretly wanted Lisa or Erin to take it, but both Lisa and my cousin gave the argument that I could probably give a different perspective on the film than all of the girls who planned to see it, most of whom would sprout something like the following:

“I love Edward so much, and that he took his time with Bella was just so heartfelt that I wanted to cry. I felt so bad for Jacob that he could haven’t have her. He deserves better than that!! If anyone doesn’t like what I’m saying, then I will come to their houses and stab them with rusty blades in their beds because no one – I mean no one – gets in the way of my Twilight Love!! You haters could suck it! Team Edward/Jacob Forever!!!!”

So, here I am, writing this. Let’s see what becomes of it, shall we?

For those of you who managed to avoid the Twilight books and movies like they were Sutter Cane novels, here’s everything you’ll ever need to know.

Twilight is the story of Isabella Swan (Kristen Stewart) who moves from Arizona (where Meyer lives) to Forks, Washington to live with her Sheriff father, Charlie (Billy Burke). While in school, she meets an interesting but strange fellow in Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). After being saved from a near fatal car crash in an impossible fashion by Edward, Bella becomes intrigued with who and what he may be. A little big of Googling and book buying leads her to discover that Edward is in fact, a Vampire. He explains he’s dangerous. She doesn’t care. He states he’s a killing machine. She loves the danger. He steps into the sunlight to show he doesn’t burn, he just sparkles. She’s just mesmerized.

The original Twilight was Bella’s introduction to The Cullens (who are more or less Vegetarians in that they don’t go after humans, but animals instead):

Carlyle (Peter Facinelli) – Father figure and Doctor. He recruited the rest of the family.

Esmee (Elizabeth Reaser) – Carlyle’s Wife and Mother Figure.

Emmett (Kellan Lutz) – The Muscle of the Family and companion to Rosalie.

Rosalie (Nikki Reed) – Emmett’s Companion and is pretty much opposed to Bella up until Breaking Dawn, for reasons she explains in Eclipse.

Alice (Ashley Greene) – Companion to Jasper and has the ability to see the decisions that others make before they make them.

Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) -The newest vampire of the group and companion to Alice. Has the ability to manipulate the emotional tides of others.

In Twilight, Bella and the Family run into a trio of vampires, one of which decides he has to hunt down and kill Bella (because she’s food). The family is able to kill the vampire and get on with their undead lives, not before a final parting shot showing the vampire’s girlfriend and her desire to kill Bella in return. Bella decides it’s in her best interests to become a vampire and tries to persuade Edward to change her, but he refuses, citing she has many years ahead of her worth living.

In New Moon, Edward decides to celebrate Bella’s birthday at his place. After an accident occurs that leaves her bleeding, Jasper loses it and attacks her. The family is able to save her, but this convinces Edward that it just won’t work out and the entire family leaves town. Left on her own, Bella spends the next four months crying and screaming in her sleep over Edward until her father convinces her to hang out with her friends. She ends up spending more time with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a friend who lives on a nearby reservation that clued her into what the Cullens really were. They get closer as friends and eventually, she discovers that Jacob and his family are actually Werewolves. While cool, she also learns that the Werewolves don’t get along with Vampires and despise the Cullens. They haven’t killed the vampires because of a Treaty that was enacted long ago. Werewolves stay on their side, Cullens on the other and no humans get hurt. Victoria (the girlfriend of that dead vampire in Twilight) returns to town to kill Bella, but she’s protected by the Wolves. She ends up doing a little cliff diving, which catches Alice’s attention and she manages to reunite with the family, though learns that Edward plans to kill himself. Edward believes she died when she jumped off the cliff, volunteering himself to death by the Vampire Congress known as the Volturri.

Alice and Bella fly to Italy and intercede, rescuing Edward from his fate and meeting the Volturri. As Bella knows too much, the Volturri leader demands that within a year she has to becomes a vampire. This of course, excites Bella and annoys Edward, who throws in a “Let’s get Married First” clause into the works. The idea of this is to help give closure to all the humans in Bella’s life. She reluctantly agrees to it. Jacob catches wind of this and spends the next book & film, Eclipse, trying to convince Bella that she should live and that he’s the better choice of a love interest.

Okay, Eclipse. Victoria knows that she can’t get to Bella on her own without dealing with both the Werewolves and the Vampires. She finds a resident of Forks in Seattle named Riley Biers and changes him to a Vampire, convincing him that the Cullens are bad and killed her friend. He builds an army and they attack the Cullens en masse, but somewhere along the line, Victoria forgot to mention there may be giant dogs in the area. The Cullens and Werewolves join forces and defeat the newborns with ease. In the process, Bella learns more about the Wolves and their ability to “Imprint”, meaning they basically obsess over one person for the rest of their lives (much like whales, I suppose). Luckily, Jacob hasn’t Imprinted on Bella yet. Edward eventually dispatches Riley and Victoria, leaving the romance to continue. In Eclipse, the Cullens explain to Bella how they came to be, partially to help her what she has to look forward to, positive or negative.

And all that brings us to Breaking Dawn, Part I.

Of the Twilight movies, I still feel Eclipse was the strongest one. Breaking Dawn covers everything the 1st half of the book does and manages to do it without stepping past the PG-13 bounds it created. The film starts off with Edward and Bella’s Wedding, with different reactions from everyone. Jacob hates it, wolfs out and runs to Canada. The Cullens are ecstatic. Charlie manages to deal with it. The wedding ceremony is done well, and gives some screen time to all of the high school friends (who we won’t be seeing after the wedding). Stephenie Meyer herself even has a cameo here (and eerily looks like my mother). Even the honeymoon is done better than I thought it would. Anyone expecting Bella and Edward’s honeymoon to look like something out of a late night Cinemax series may be disappointed, but the romance is nice to see and there were some laughs in the audience. Again, it’s Twilight. I’m not expecting Jane Eyre or Sense & Sensibility romance levels. At least, that’s what the snoring mother sitting next to me who brought her kids felt, I think.

After the married couple’s wild honeymoon, Bella discovers she’s miraculously pregnant and even worse, the unborn child is sucking the very life from her. The wolves find out about this and feel that she needs to be eliminated, along with the rest of the Cullens, as it breaks the Treaty. Bella is rushed home while the Cullens try to find a way to save both the baby and the mother. Will Bella make it? Will the Wolves pounce on the vampires? Those are some of the questions brought to the table.

Jacob finds himself taking sides with the Cullens, which causes him to recall his Alpha Status in his wolf pack and stand alone (or nearly alone) against his family. In the book, this was done pretty well, but translated to the screen the scene with wolves telepathically yelling at one another seemed a little cartoonish. Just change back to people and talk it over. I guess it was done that way to show how animals have the whole Alpha / Omega relationship, and remains one embarrassing moment in a sea of scenes that were okay.

Visually, Eclipse was a serious step up from both Twilight and New Moon. Breaking Dawn seemingly returns to the look and feel of the original Twilight, right down to Carter Burwell’s score. With the exception of the Bella’s Lullaby theme (which worked incredibly well, especially at the last two minutes of the film), the music felt a little weak to me.  I actually preferred Howard Shore’s score to Eclipse. Don’t get me wrong, the movie goes where it’s supposed to, but you’d expect things to look a little better as it goes along. It would be nice if they improved on that.

One other thing I’ll give this (and that’s all of the Twilight mess) is the audience. I live for seeing audiences react to what they’re seeing on the screen, and I can’t remember a more reactive audience set since Captain America. Some of the girls who go to see this really go wild over it, and some of the guys grumble loudly. My theatre was packed, right down to the front seats where you have to crane your neck up to see everything. It’s the closest to a Midnight Movie experience you could have at a Matinee.

The big problem Breaking Dawn Part II will have will be trying to be exciting, because there isn’t a lot that occurs in the second half of the story that’s worthy of stretching it out to nearly two hours. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with that.

Overall, Breaking Dawn doesn’t really break any new ground in Vampire myths or anything like that. For anyone unfamiliar with the Twilight movies or books, it may feel slow and even a little boring at times. For it’s target audience (readers of the book), it gives them just about everything they wanted.

Beginners Review (dir. Mike Mills)


I noticed that Lisa had posted a quick review about this, but I saw it recently and have been wanting to review it because it was something I connected with and really wanted to share my opinion.

I honestly cannot think of another film I have seen this year that I found as charming and heartfelt as ‘Beginners’ which stars Ewan McGregor as Oliver, a middle aged man who has just lost his father Hal to lung cancer. Oliver reveals to us, through narration, that after the death of his mother a few years back his father came out, having been gay throughout the 40 plus years of his marriage. Oliver’s life following his father’s passing is a lonely one that often leads to him talking to Arthur, his father’s dog. One night at a party he meets a beautiful actress named Anna. The two hit it off quickly and the rest of the film follows the development of their relationship, set among flashbacks of Oliver’s parents and his father’s new life as a gay man in the years before his death. Through these memories we get a better understanding, as to why Oliver has been alone, and why his time with Anna may be short lived; he has had 4 relationships in the past, but left them all. The result is a film about being open and honest, and finding love and happiness through from it.

This idea of being honest was difficult for Oliver because of his parents. Their hollow marriage cast a shadow on his view of love. Wanting to avoid what they had created, this constant uncertainty and sadness caused him to think love was doomed and so he would break relationships off in fear of what he thought was their inevitable conclusion.

Luckily Oliver is able to find inspiration in his father who was able to be open and honest in the final months of his life. Through the memories of Hal, Oliver is able to take those steps towards true joy. One reason being that when he found out his father was gay it finally dawned on him why his parents’ marriage seemed so empty. It wasn’t genuine and so not a good example of how things really are. Which brings up another important theme, that being change and starting over.

The title ‘Beginners’ refers to both Oliver and Hal being at the beginning of their new respective lives. Anna points out towards the end of the film, after reading a funny but sweet personal ad Hal had made, that Oliver’s father “Didn’t give up”. Even facing death, in his 70’s, Hal wanted to be happy and be himself by embracing his sexuality. It is in remembering these moments, seeing how happy his father was, that Oliver is able to look forward in a positive light, with a new perspective on love and an understanding of why his mother was always so sad. Oliver too has a new beginning and like Hal can now be open and embrace his love for Anna.

What held this whole story together for me were the characters, and more importantly the chemistry between them. I felt the dynamic between Anna and Oliver, the feelings and time they shared was incredibly sweet. Upon first seeing him Anna instantly recognized Oliver’s sadness. She too felt alone, having spent most of the past few years going from one hotel room to another. It is the sort of relationship in which the one thing that makes the love between them so poignant is that they can save each other, filling the voids in each other’s hearts. This makes it harder to watch as Oliver’s misconceptions on love cause a divide between them. At the beginner Oliver worries, like he did in his previous relationships, where this one is heading. He fears Anna will become his mother, unhappy and bitter. But when Oliver does change, and get her back, the result is an incredibly sweet ending.

All of this is done with a collection of small, genuine and heartfelt moments that build upon one another to form something much greater. On top of that were three wonderful performances. Christopher Plummer was so lovable as Hal, and clearly had a lot of fun with the character. Melanie Laurent was mesmerizing and sweet, she is so beautiful and easy to fall for. Ewan McGregor was also fantastic, and the real stand out here, carrying a great deal of pain adding depth to his performance in a way I’ve rarely seen him do. The structure and visual devices also worked incredibly well, helping to give it a unique feel. I really loved the use of photographs, montages to the 50’s and how it handled the history of the gay rights movement. The music was also lovely and fit the tone perfectly. It is a score that I’ve listened to a few times since watching the film.

Honestly, it had me smiling from start to finish. It just had this emotional resonance that clicked for me in a way that can hardly be explained. I ended up watching it two nights in a row just because I loved it so much the first time and I just wanted to watch the characters again soon after. It saddens me that so few people seemed to have seen it. I can easily say that ‘Beginners’ is a charming, smart, funny, sentimental and quirky film, one of my new favorites and I loved every single moment of it.

Chuck Hogan & Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain bring gruesome Vampires back


The vampires of The Strain appear to be the next step of the Reapers, Del Toro introduced in Blade II. These creatures far removed from the handsome angst filled vampires of True Blood, Twilight, etc and more in the line with the apex predators that caused nightmares.

Below is the breakdown of the hemophagic corpses (via the wiki page)
Vampire Biology
The vector for vampirism is a capillary worm, which, once introduced into the human host’s bloodstream (either through a vampire’s feeding or direct invasion by the worm through a wound or orifice), introduces an incurable and fast-acting virus. By manipulating the host’s genes, the virus causes a human to undergo numerous radical physical changes.

Vampire Physicality
The first and most distinct vampire adaptation is the development of a long, retractile proboscis beneath the host’s tongue, which is able to extend up to six feet from the mouth. This “stinger” is both the vampire’s feeding and reproductive mechanism, shooting forth to latch onto human prey’s throat or thigh, both draining the victim’s blood for nutrition and infecting the human with capillary worms. The vampire’s jaw is set at a lower hinge than a human, the mouth gaping like a snake’s when the stinger is deployed. As the structure of the stinger is actually modified tissue from the human lungs and throat, vampires are incapable of physical speech.

A vampire’s physical appearance is governed mainly by the host body shedding those human traits that are obsolete to its new life cycle. Hair and fingernails are gradually lost, while the external nose and ears atrophy, leaving a fully matured vampire’s skin as smooth and featureless as marble. The vampire’s complexion is extremely pale between feedings, but appears a flushed red after a recent blood-meal. Eye coloration is a black pupil surrounded by a red sclera, with a white nictitating membrane sliding across for protection. The middle fingers of both hands grow and strengthen, and a thick talon develops in place of the lost fingernail. As vampire reproduction is achieved through viral infection of hosts and not through any sexual mechanism, the human genitalia also atrophy, leaving a mature vampire with no discernible gender.

The digestive and circulatory systems of a vampire are simplified and fused, the vampire’s interior organs most resembling a series of connected sacs. Nutrition from a blood feeding is transported throughout this system via a thick, viscous white fluid that forms the vampire equivalent of blood. The capillary worms are present in this fluid, swimming throughout the circulatory system and often visible beneath the vampire’s thin skin. Like rodents, a vampire is unable to vomit, its suction-based digestive process functioning only one way. All bodily waste is excreted from a single rectal orifice in the form of a pungent ammonia-based spray; a vampire will excrete for the entire duration of a feeding, purging old food as it consumes new blood.

The vampire’s body temperature runs extremely high, at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and a human is able to feel their ambient heat from several feet away.

Many of the physical changes from human to vampire occur gradually following the initial worm infection, and are accompanied by great pain. A newly “turned” human will lie in a state of suspended animation for an entire day, rising the next night as a nascent vampire. The stinger is present for the vampire’s first foray, in order to facilitate feeding, but other traits (hairlessness, talons on the mid-digit, lack of distinct internal organs) will develop within the first seven nights following infection. The vampire’s mental state will also be confused at first, and its movements will be clumsy and awkward. As it matures, however, the vampire will become supremely agile, able to leap great distances and climb sheer surfaces with the aid of its talons. Full maturity, physically and mentally, occurs within the first thirty nights.

 

In spite of the vampire’s morbid biology stripping legend of most of its romance, the most famously admired trait of the undead remains intact: immortality. Unless slain by violence or sunlight, a vampire’s parasitic body structure will neither fade nor weaken with the passage of time, giving them an effectively endless “life”-span. Even in those cases where the host body is damaged beyond repair, a vampire of sufficient power can transfer their consciousness (via a torrential capillary worm transfer) from one human form to another.

Vampire Senses
The sensory apparatus of the vampire is highly adapted for their nocturnal life cycle. Color vision is replaced with the ability to sense heat signatures, and the world is perceived in a monochrome brightened by sources of warmth (such as human prey). Hearing is greatly enhanced, in spite of the loss of external ears.

The vampires’ greatest sensory asset, however, is the “hive mind” that all new vampires share with the Ancient that propagated them. Each vampire, through some undefined telepathic link, is able to send and receive thought and sensory information to and from their Ancient progenitor. In this manner, the Ancient vampires direct the actions of their individual spawn through mental communication, regardless of distance. Perhaps akin to its radiation shielding properties, the element lead has the effect of blocking this mental connection.

In spite of their biological inability to speak, vampires can communicate with humans through telepathy, transmitting thoughts directly into a person’s internal monologue. Those vampires seeking to pose as human can train themselves to move their lips in a pantomime of speech, but the actual communication is still via thought-transference.

An Ancient vampire is also able to use this telepathic ability as a weapon; known as the “murmur”, this mental shock-wave has the ability to completely overwhelm the minds of surrounding human beings, rendering them unconscious.

Vampires also experience an overwhelming compulsion to infect family members and those they cared about as humans (their “dear ones”). They possess a unique ability to locate such targets, this sense being likened to a pigeon’s homing instinct.

Vampire Weaknesses
Many of the traditional vampire “weaknesses” of common folklore remain effective, although their potency is explained in terms of specific effects on vampire biology.

Sunlight is the vampire’s ultimate destroyer, specifically ultraviolet light in the UVC range. This is due to the germicidal properties of the wavelength, as it breaks down the virus-laden tissues of the vampire’s body. A localized source of UVC light, such as a fluorescent lamp, can be used to repel a vampire, much as a burning torch can repel an animal. Complete exposure, either to direct sunlight or a powerful UVC source, will result in complete desiccation of the vampire’s body, leaving behind nothing but ashes.

Silver, whether in the form of a metal weapon or even a fine chemical mist, can also wound or kill a vampire. Much like sunlight, this is due to the disinfecting properties of the element damaging the vampire’s viral biology. While conventional weapons (lead bullets, steel blades) can cause physical damage, they will not repel a vampire. Silver causes vampires both debilitating pain and a certain amount of fear, and binding a vampire in silver will completely incapacitate them.

Severing the spinal column through any method is another effective way to destroy a vampire. While the vampire’s simplified internal organ structure makes them difficult to harm with attacks to the body, decapitation will result in the vampire’s death.

Although there appears to be no biological imperative behind it, vampires cannot cross running water. This is alluded to as having something to do with the origin of the Ancients, but no further explanation is given. This aversion to water can be overcome, however, if the vampire is assisted (or “invited”) by a human.

Traditional religious protections against vampires, such as a crucifix or holy water, display no practical effect. The prevalence of this lore is explained as having been the product of Bram Stoker’s “fevered Irish imagination”.

Garlic, another common folk defense, has no noticeable use in repelling vampires.

Silver-backed mirrors, while they will not harm a vampire, will reveal their presence. While vampires do indeed cast a reflection, it is blurred and distorted, akin to an image vibrating at an impossible speed. Modern chrome-backed mirrors, however, will not have this effect, and the vampire will appear normally in such a looking-glass.

 

 

Images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

6 Trailers To Celebrate Our Winning Season


Welcome to the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation trailers.  This week, we have six trailers that feature everything from a killer to Santa Claus to a pithy tagline to a mean, bad killing machine to Dennis Quaid. 

1) Gorp (1980)

“Sorry, it’s too shocking!”  I could do with a little less close-ups of moving mouths but  this trailer seems oddly appropriate for a film called Gorp.  Keep an eye out for a young Dennis Quaid.

2) Our Winning Season (1978)

“And I’ll never forget that chicken race…”  This trailer has an oddly somber feel to it, considering that it appears to be advertising a silly high school movie.  Continue to keep an eye out for a young Dennis Quaid.

3) Black Shampoo (1976)

“He’s mean…he’s bad…he’s a killing machine!”  To the best of my knowledge, Dennis Quaid is not in this film.

4) Detroit 9000 (1973)

This is one of those films that I own on DVD but I have yet to actually sit down and watch.  Quentin Tarantino loves this film but I have to admit that I’m having a hard time forgiving Detroit for those obnoxious “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler commercials.  

5) I Come In Peace (1990)

“…you go in pieces!”  Jeff loves this trailer (though I suspect he mostly just loves that tagline) and I’m including it for him. 🙂

6) Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

And finally: welcome to the Christmas season, everyone!

Hugo Review


‘Hugo’ is not only an old fashion and heartfelt adventure with enough whimsy and fun for all ages; but also a love letter to cinema, by one of this generation’s masters, and a plea to support film preservation.

Most of the credit for the its success has to be given to Martin Scorsese, who in an attempt to tell the story about the value of art and the dream like and important nature of films, managed to not only capture the magic of moving pictures but in doing so make one just as magical and beautiful as those he admires. The story follows a young boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield). He lives among the gears and machinery within the walls of a grand train station in Paris where he keeps the clocks in working order. He is alone in this task and spends most of his free time trying to fix an automaton that his father found rusting away in a museum, and attempted to fix before he tragically died in a fire. With his father dead he was sent to work in the station with his uncle, a drunk who has gone missing leaving Hugo to live alone, stealing food from the shops to survive and avoid the orphanage. One morning Hugo gets in trouble with the owner, George Melies (Ben Kingsley), of a toy shop located within the station. Hugo had been stealing small trinkets for parts so he could use them in fixing the automaton, which he believes contains a message left to him by his father. The shop’s owner forces Hugo to hand over the stolen trinkets along with a notebook detailing the machine he was trying to fix. Oddly his drawings cause Melies to get emotional and he takes it. In an attempt to get it back, Hugo ends up getting help from the shop owner’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretzs), who is a lover of books and desperate for some kind of adventure. Together they try to unravel the mystery behind her godfather’s reaction to the notebook and the automaton’s message. It is a slow moving, but richly detailed journey that leads to them discovering George Melies’s sad past, which has important ties to the history of film.

Scorsese’s love for cinema is front and center here. Hugo’s loneliness mirrors his own. Scorsese suffered from asthma growing up and wasn’t allowed to play with other children. Like Hugo, Scorsese looked to machines and cameras to occupy his time, turning to art and film to express himself. Hugo’s automaton, a machine like a camera, which played a key part in Melies’s life, only works with a heart shaped key. It is no coincidence that the heart, love and a sense of wonder are the key to creating art and opening one’s imagination. Scorsese, perhaps more than most directors around today, understands the importance of film, especially for younger audiences and in a way this definitely seems like an attempt to get children to appreciate the medium as much as he did years ago.

My favorite aspect of the ‘Hugo’ would be the world created. It is fleshed out fairly well, with many supporting characters given a good deal of attention. The most important being the station inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen who when he isn’t out trying to catch potential orphans, is trying to woo a beautiful florist, played by Emily Mortimer. It reminded me of ‘Amelie’ in a way, which I guess also had a lot to do with the tone and setting.

The stuff about Melies is incredible and as informative as it is disheartening. The man was one of the early pioneers of films. One of the first to truly understand its capabilities to enchant the audience with dream like settings. Learning the history of his career, how after making over 500 films he was forced to destroy most of them and his old sets when the popularity of his work dropped after the Great War, is tragic. Luckily for us some of his films survived, like “A Trip to the Moon” which is a highly recognizable and frequently referenced short.

The direction, the long shots in particular, are breathtaking. The opening is one of the year’s best and most spectacular scenes. It is arguably Scorsese’s most beautiful film. The fantastical portrayal of Paris is enhanced by 3D that is utilized better than anything I have seen. The use of depth, especially in scenes towards the end in which some of Melies films are recreated in flashbacks is stunning. For once it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. The score is also beautiful and luckily not overwhelming. It is one that is there but not noticeable because it fits the atmosphere of the story so well. Honestly, everything about ‘Hugo’ feels like one complete and perfect work of art, created with a great deal of passion. The only complaint I’ve really heard is that it is too slow at times. Personally I highly disagree with this. Even at its slowest points it is still totally mesmerizing because this isn’t just a love letter to film, or just a historical depiction of the life of one of its most important innovators, it is also a heartfelt story. It earns its emotions and nothing fells forced, and it does this by taking its time, to flesh out its characters and plot.

Lastly, the performances all around are wonderful. Butterfield gives Hugo a great deal of emotion and depth, as well as the level of maturity needed for the character. Ben Kingsley is absolutely magnificent as George Melies. He makes him a clearly sad man, with a long history that troubles him deeply. Chloe Moretz is also great, doing a surprisingly good English accent, and makes the character easily loveable and fun. Even Sacha Baron Cohen, who toned it down, brings his character to life in an almost classically funny way.

Overall to say I loved the film would not do my feelings for it justice. It is so exceptionally crafted, so fun and smart, and most of all it captivated me like few other films have in recent years. It truly is a magical experience, a must see and one of Scorsese’s best.

10 Random Things I Am Thankful For in 2011


Hi out there!  Did everyone have a good Thanksgiving?  I know I did.  Now, I know that some people will say that this has been a disappointing year in entertainment.  Steve Carrell left the Office, Whitney Cummings got a sitcom, and — while I’ve truly loved a handful of films this year, it’s hard to ignore the fact that 2011 has yet to produce anything close to a Black Swan, A King’s Speech, or even a Social Network.  Instead, the best films of the year have been ignored by both audiences and critics while good but definitely flawed films like J. Edgar are being touted as being the best was can hope for.  Even Pixar failed to tug at our heart-strings this year.

However, I think we’re running the danger of giving too quickly into negativity when it comes to considering 2011.  No, 2011 is no 2010.  But there’s still a lot to be thankful for and below are just 10 examples of some things that, as 2011 reaches its conclusion, I’m thankful for.

10) This.

9) The time I have left with Community.

With The Office current flailing about in its attempts to establish a consistent post-Carrell identity, I have a new favorite sitcom and its name is Community.  Now in its third season, Community has truly hit its stride and Joel McHale is, of course, to die for.  So, naturally, Community has been yanked from the mid-season schedule while NBC continues to heavily promote shows like Whitney.  This is indeed the darkest timeline but I know that I will continue to tweet things like #savecommunity, #6seasonsandamovie, and #NBCSucks for as long as it takes.

8 ) A second season of Game of Thrones

With the current season of Dexter getting bogged down in its attempt to make a villain out of Colin Hanks and the Walking Dead remaining a flawed masterpiece, the 1st season of Game of Thrones is now the unquestionable highlight of an otherwise uninspired season in television drama.  I can’t wait to see what happens in season 2.

7) Higher Ground

Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut is probably one of the best films that you’ve never seen. 

6) Black Swan is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

5) For that matter, so is the original, non-American, non-Hollywood, non-David Fincher, non-Daniel Craig, non-Rooney Mara Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

4) Shame is rated NC-17.

What does this mean?  It mean the Full Fassbender.

3) Hanna

This intriguing and criminally underappreciated postmodern fairy tale remains my favorite film of 2011. 

2) Oscar Isaac

Seriously.  Love him.  I still love to imagine him shouting, “And I declare him to be an OUTLAAAAAAAAWWWWWWW!” whenever I’m annoyed at being stuck in traffic.  You know what else I love?  Listening to him as he sang over the end credits of Sucker Punch.

1) And finally…

I am thankful that I have the greatest sister ever!  You may know her as Dazzling Erin and, if you’re on twitter, you can find her under the name TakeSumE.  However, for me, she will always simply be my best friend and my older (but only by 11 months) sister.  Yesterday was not only Thanksgiving but it was also her birthday!  Now, for those of you who don’t know, Erin is not only my sister but she’s also a talented photographer, a great cook, a wonderful roommate, and the greatest guardian angel that anyone could possibly ever hope to ask for!  And on top of all that, she’s hot too.  Happy birthday, Erin Nicole! 

It's Erin Nicole!