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Frame by Frame: A Family-Friendly Movie Blog

    Frame by Frame: A Family-Friendly Movie Blog

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    Movie Review: Hugo

    Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:24 PM PDT



    PG for mild thematic material, some action and peril and smoking.
    Genre: Drama, adaptation, family.
    Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes

    A young orphan living in a Paris train station uncovers a mystery that jeopardizes his secretive way of life. Hugo learned to fix clocks and other gadgets from his father and uncle which he now puts to use keeping the train station clocks running. The only thing he has left connecting him to his dead father is an automaton – mechanical man – that doesn’t work without a special key which Hugo needs to find to unlock the secret he believes it contains.

    Winner of Five Academy Awards

    Hugo is an amazing movie knitting together both fact and fiction in a very imaginative way. This Academy Award winning movie is now on DVD and it is gaining steam in the viewership world. For its debut weekend Hugo was only on slightly more than 1,200 screens. But, for a November release and even though it was a limited release, it still grabbed the number five spot on the box office list pulling in slightly more than $11 million dollars. To date this Martin Scorsese movie has made close to $74 million dollars.

    Georges Méliès (1861-1938), French filmmaker a...

    Georges Méliès (1861-1938), French filmmaker and cinematographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The movie Hugo is based on the fiction book entitled The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The primary inspiration for the book – and of course now the movie – is the true story of turn-of-the-century French pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies, his surviving films and his collection of mechanical wind-up figures called automata. By the end of his life Melies was broke even as his films were screening widely in the United States. In the movie Hugo - just as in real life – Melies finished out his life working in a toy booth in a Paris subway station.

    This was another one of those movies that pretty much flew under the radar when it was first released. Of course adding to the lack-luster start of Hugo - even though it did grab the number five spot on the box office for its opening weekend – is the fact that it opened in limited release. While it did open to much fanfare from the Hollywood elite, all too often such fanfare is ignored due to the simple fact they always seem to have some kind of a left-leaning agenda.

    In other words, many limited release movies with a big Hollywood push are best worth ignoring.

    Adding to an initial distaste to seeing this movie also revolved around the fact that it was a November release. That screamed of nothing more than another Hollywood elite move to get Hugo into the mix for the annual award show bonanza in the new year. Of course the movie did not disappoint when it comes to the area of awards – and – now that I’ve seen the movie for myself it does not disappoint in the viewing category either.

    Not Meant To Be An “Edge-Of-Your-Seater”

    Clocking in at better than two hours Hugo does get off to a slow start. The opening scenes make for a long set up even before the opening credits roll. But, even though it seems like extra baggage for the movie, it is needed in order to set up the rest of the flick. However, I must admit when the opening credits did begin rolling I wondered aloud – “How will I make it through two hours of this?” Even as the movie winds it’s way through the many sub-plots, keep in mind Hugo is not meant to be an edge-of-your-seat experience. Instead, the attention to detail and the vividness of the cinematography is the most eye-catching portion of this movie.

    From an acting standpoint – once again it’s worth pointing out – Hugo is by no means a movie where the performances will jump off the screen. Instead the entire movie has a laid back feeling to it. Even the scenes where the young child actors go on various adventures, there’s still a lack-luster type feel to the movie. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Instead, just keep in mind if you’re looking for abounding action, you will not find it. Asa Butterfield who plays the main character of Hugo does a good job, but at times it’s like watching another version of Oliver Twist. Instead of being on the streets of London, this Oliver Twist takes place in a Paris train station.

    The stand out actor in this movie is none other than Ben Kingsley. His portrayal of the French pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies is outstanding. Of course Kingsley has a long line of incredible performances behind him. His ability to transform himself into the various characters he plays is amazing and he does not disappoint in Hugo.

    The surprising aspect of Hugo actually revolves around the attention to detail about the life of Melies and the under current message of “purpose and destiny”. The combination of the two makes Hugo a winner of a movie. With a PG rating we are calling Hugo family friendly. But keep in mind this might be better watched first as parents and then watch it again with your kids. That way you can help guide them through some of the slower parts and encourage them to watch for the historical aspects of the movie as well as the wonderful message.

    Enjoy the show!

    Dr. Rus

    Movie Review: Mirror Mirror

    Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:23 PM PDT

    Mirror Mirror


    PG for some fantasy action and mild rude humor.
    Genre: Romance, fantasy, adaptation, action, adventure, comedy.
    Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

    One of the most beloved stories of all time comes back to life in Mirror Mirror. This is a fresh re-telling of the Snow White legend and features Lily Collins as Snow White, a princess in exile. Of course Snow White is once again battling an evil Queen who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom with magic filling the residents with fear. But, seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical comedy filled with jealousy, romance and batrayal.

    Who’s The Fairest Of Them All

    While Mirror Mirror is based on the classic tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - we must give kudos for the fact that they stay away from the notable line – “Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all”. While there are a couple variations of the line and it is hinted at, those involved with this re-telling made sure Mirror Mirror would be different from the movie it’s based on.

    From an acting standpoint – Julia Roberts and Nathan Lane are of course once again stand outs putting in wonderful performances as the Queen and Brighton. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Julia Roberts in a role where she actually looks like she’s having fun. But that is indeed the case when it comes to her performance in the role of the Queen in Mirror Mirror. This Oscar-winning actress brings a lovable – while at the same time devious aspect – to the wicked Queen of Snow White’s kingdom that’s quite humorous.

    For the young stars, Lily Collins first came onto the big screen movie scene in the Sandra Bullock blockbuster The Blind Side. As Snow White she’s much more seasoned, but at the same time sweet enough to pull off the character of Snow White. It’s always refreshing to see new talent able to hold their own on the big screen. She does not get lost in the background and even in scenes with many other characters, Collins knows how to be a team player and there seems to be a wonderful chemistry among all the actors she’s working with. Aside from Collins, Armie Hammer deserves a round of applause for his portrayal of Prince Alcott. Once again we have a somewhat newcomer to the big screen performing next to some rather large stars. While his performance is somewhat shakey in the beginning, he seems to adapt to the role and settles into a nice performance of his own.

    The genius behind this movie  revolves around the delicate balance between keeping to the original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs story while at the same time having enough differences to make you sit up and take notice. Make no mistake, Mirror Mirror is a retelling of the classic tale. However, there’s enough of the original here that keeps you wondering what might take place around the next corner. Be watching for the subtle differences as they are truly what makes Mirror Mirror a standout comedy.

    As for the rating, with a PG rating this is a family-friendly movie. While the forest monster might be a little scary for real young crowd, just keep in mind this movie is PG not G.

    Enjoy the show!

    Dr. Rus

    Movie Review: The Hunger Games

    Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:22 PM PDT

    The Hunger Games


    PG-13 for intense thematic violent material and disturbing
    images – all involving teens.
    Genre: Action, adventure, adaptation, sci-fi, fantasy.
    Running Time: 2 hours 22 minutes

    Inspired by the best-selling young-adult novel by author Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games tells the tale of a 16 year old girl named Katniss Everdeen who’s selected to compete in a vicious televised tournament. The games feature 24 teenagers from a post-apocalyptic society fighting to the death for the entertainment of the masses.

    Was The Hype Worth It?

    The Hunger Games opened to much fanfare and even before it hit the big screen was breaking records all over the place. But – is this dark tale worth the hype? This movie broke all kinds of records for its debut weekend. Pulling in an estimated $155 million dollars from Friday to Sunday, The Hunger Games becomes the most successful debut ever for a non-sequel. It also set a first-day record for a non-sequel with more than $68 million dollars in ticket sales for a Friday while it pulled in close to $20 million from midnight screenings! This of course sets the stage for sequels and more as I’m sure this is not the last time we will hear from The Hunger Games franchise. Actually, from those who’ve read the books, they say this first installment in The Hunger Games franchise sets things up quite nicely for future movies.

    Survivor On Steroids

    The movie’s plot line revolves around a 16 year old named Katniss Everdeen who volunteers in her younger sister’s place to enter the games. She is then forced to rely on her instincts for survival and the mentor ship of a drunken former victor of the games.

    The best way to describe The Hunger Games is to consider it a season of Survivor on steroids.

    We have 24 teens from 12 different districts competing to survive these grueling games in the wilderness. Not only must they survive in the wilderness as the other contestants try to kill them, the games are also televised in a sick reality TV show kind of way where people cheer on their favorite competitor. Sponsors are obtained so care-packages can be sent in. Of course in what is supposed to be real and un-touched adventure, the games are manipulated by the organizers. Computer generated storms, genetically altered killer bees and even wild animals are tossed into the mix in all an effort to determine the outcome and the victor in the games.

    While the ending is somewhat predictable, the build-up is full of suspense, action and at times some rather dry humor tossed in just for good measure. Of course the humor sprinkled throughout the movie helps to give some breathing points from time to time in this close to two and a half hour flick. If you’re a regular reader of the reviews here you know my dislike for movies clocking in more than 2 hours. So – to say the least – I was somewhat skeptical about walking into this movie. I knew The Hunger Games was based on a book and I knew it was supposed to be some kind of big best-seller too. But I also knew most book-turned-movies are long and nothing more than bloated attempts trying to cram the written word into a movie extravaganza.

    I am happy to report The Hunger Games does not drag on like many two plus hour movies. As a matter of fact, the overall flow keeps the plot line moving forward and the time goes by rather quickly. I looked at my watch just once and that was not because I was bored. I looked to see where we were in the time frame of the movie because for the most part, this movie kept my attention.

    A Good Mix of Young and Old Performers

    When it comes to acting talent The Hunger Games has quite the list of both established stars and up-and-coming stars and they all do a wonderful job. The established stars like Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson help bring balance to a somewhat hectic movie. As for the younger crowd involved in the movie – Jennifer Lawrence who’s best known for her portrayal of Raven-Mystique in X-Men: First Class puts in a great performance as the lead character Katniss Everdeen wh0 fights for her life in the games.

    However, the surprise performance in this movie comes from Josh Hutcherson. After pretty much panning the young star for his lack-luster performance in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, there might be hope for this 20 year old after all. It could be this young man may have suffered from type-casting-blues after his stint in movies like The Mysterious Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Firehouse Dog and Zathura just to mention a few. The immature boy-next-door-look has been dropped as Hutcherson tackles the role of Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games. Here’s hoping we see more similar performances from this young – and what could be talented actor – in the future.

    When it comes to rating – parents keep in mind – The Hunger Games is based on a self-described young-adult novel. That means this is by no means family-friendly for a PG-13 audience. Teens are not young-adults, therefore it should be evident that this movie is not for young and middle teens. As a result we have to call this moving cautionary family-friendly. It’s really best to stick with the target audience of young-adult which means – at best – the 16 and above crowd.

    Cautiously enjoy the show!

    Dr. Rus