George Clooney in The Descendants, Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, The Muppets
There’s nothing much to surprise, although his invective-filled tirade over his wife’s comatose body is a bit startling. Most of the film is easy going, shifting moods smoothly between comic and dramatic, changes that Clooney, in his acting, makes easily, not much stretching required. It’s an interesting enough film. I just thought there’d be a little more substance and bite in a story like this. Even in Hawaii. (5th Avenue, International Village and four suburban theatres) 3 1/2 out of 5
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN: This is one for both movie fans and students of the cult of celebrity to enjoy. And anyone who wants a light, funny entertainment. Michelle Williams positively channels Marilyn Monroe, if not always exactly in appearance, definitely in spirit. Vulnerable, unsure of herself and desperate to advance from blonde bombshell to serious actress, Marilyn was brought to England in 1956 to star opposite Laurence Olivier in The Princess and the Showgirl.
Outside, it was a newspaper sensation. Inside, it was a clash of personalities and styles. Indulged by her handlers, including her acting teacher Paula Strasberg and her then-husband, playwright Arthur Miller, she exasperated Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) by frequently coming on set late and playing loose with her lines. Olivier insisted she say them exactly as written. Dame Sybil Thorndyke (Judi Dench) saw the insecurities hobbling her and a young assistant director, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) became smitten with her. As he wrote in two books, he spent a week with her in the English countryside, saw her whimpering in tears and went skinny dipping with her.
He was the son of Sir Kenneth Clark, so it’s probably all true, although it’s not clear to what extent she was only using him. This is a very amusing peek inside one movie set and the psyche of people in there. FYI: Clark’s real romantic target is played by Emma Watson, in her first post-Harry Potter role. (The Park, Scotiabank and three suburban theatres) 4 out of
HUGO: It may look like a children’s film, but that’s only because it has children in it and is based on a kid-lit favorite by Brian Selznick. Actually this is a salute to the magic and the history of the movies by one of their greatest enthusiasts, Martin Scorsese.
Asa Butterfield and Chloë Moretz play a couple of youngsters who find their love of the movies after they meet in a Paris train station. He’s an orphan who tends the clocks there and must keep out of the way of a security guard (Sacha Baron Cohen) who is ever chasing him. She’s related to a grumpy old man (Ben Kingsley) who sells toys in the station and for some reason won’t let her go to the cinema. The explanation for that brings out a wondrous trip back into the early days of film, with clips of George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, the Lumière brothers’ Train Pulling into a Station, the bandit firing his gun right at the audience in The Great Train Robbery and others. Kids won’t see it as a fitting wrap up to all the chasing, hiding and other shenanigans they’ve been happily watching in the train station but it’s great for movie fans. It amounts to a passionate directive to “come and dream with me.” And this time, the 3-D is marvelous. (The Park, Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5
THE MUPPETS: A children’s film that works delightfully for both kids and their parents. The Disney studio is even targeting college students with its sprightly mix of nostalgia and cheeky humor. And the many cameos including Feist, Dave Grohl, Sarah Silverman, Selena Gomez, Mickey Rooney and James Carville. Jason Segel, the love-struck nudist in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is the driving force here, both as writer and star. He, his girlfriend (Amy Adams) and his puppet brother Walter, are keen to tour the old Muppets theatre on their holiday in Los Angeles. They’re heartbroken to find it rundown and targeted for demolition by an oil man (Chris Cooper). The solution is to re-unite the Muppets and hold a telethon. It’s asked specifically in the film whether kids today know them at all.