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Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.
For more about Hugo and the Hugo Blu-ray release, see Hugo Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law
Director: Martin Scorsese
» See full cast & crew
Hugo Blu-ray Review
Cinema as it was meant to be.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 20, 2012
Come and dream with me.
Hugo is a film about secrets and discoveries, forgotten pasts and hopeful futures. Those qualities reflect both the characters and the world of filmmaking itself. Director Martin Scorsese's Hugo lovingly embraces the medium of film in a way that's largely been lost through the years. His film plays as if a tribute to the history of and the possibilities inherent to the medium, the former, it sometimes seems, largely forgotten and the latter often sacrificed in the name of a quick buck in the world of today's cinema-as-big-business. Hugo celebrates the artistic visions of cinema's greatest craftsmen and the wide-eyed wonder at the spectacle not just of the science behind moving images, but the sense of awe they engender when a film is crafted with a passion for storytelling, a love for the medium, and an appreciation for the audience. Hugo serves to remind viewers what a beautiful medium film can be, of the power it holds, of the magic it wields. Scorsese's film, based on Brian Selznick's acclaimed book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," is a rare gem capable of restoring one's lost love for film, a beacon of hope in a darkening cinematic landscape where vision and passion often seem, at best, lost under dictated formula; budgets; time constraints; and a cold, heartless detachment -- by both the filmmakers and the audience -- from the true power of film. Hugo represents the embodiment of what cinema can, was, and should be. The picture is magnificently honest, faultlessly assembled, incessantly fun, unendingly touching, and purely magical. It's a film for the ages, for all ages, an altogether brilliant and spellbinding attraction made with the same sort of love and care it depicts through its captivating tale of discovery and wonder.
Young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives a life of solitude and hunger in a Paris train station as he thanklessly and anonymously maintains its many clocks while living in secret in the walls, above the platforms, and behind the large circular faces where an unimaginable symphony of mechanical movement is required to keep passengers aware of the time and certain of which train to board. Hugo's been living there for some time, without a family, in the months following his father's untimely death. He'd been taken in by his uncle, a drunkard who was once the station's timekeeper but who has since vanished. Hugo survives largely on thievery from the depot's bakery and collects spare parts when he can snatch them from a nearby toy shop. He's nemesis to both the depot's guardian (Sacha Baron Cohen), a no-nonsense sort of beat cop with a large Doberman and a bad war wound, and the toy shop owner, the mysterious Georges (Ben Kingsley). One day, Georges catches Hugo thieving parts red-handed. He not only confiscates his gears and gizmos, but a prized notebook containing drawings of an automaton -- a mechanical humanoid created to write independently and with only a turn of a key -- that Hugo hopes to restore in hopes of finding a hidden message from his late father. Hugo's devastated at the loss of the book; he follows Georges home, pleading to have his life returned to him, but to no avail. He does meet Georges' goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who befriends Hugo against Georges' wishes. The two embark on an unexpected adventure, their friendship key to unlocking old secrets, restoring greatness, revealing long-buried identities, shaping the future, and finding a place for Hugo to call "home."
Hugo is awash in classic styling, the film as much a product of its carefully-constructed shots, seamless effects, and editing as it is its core story and verbalizations. Better said, every element works in glorious harmony to an unusually faultless extent. Scorsese manages to seamlessly blend together the complex world of the Parisian train station -- both its seen and "unseen" areas -- with the far deeper and critical emotional characterizations and plot developments with an expert hand, creating a marvelously grand picture that exemplifies the medium and the human imagination without the movie ever feeling as large as it truly is. Scorsese keeps the film largely personal, even through its many visual complexities, whether in terms of special effects; the intricate inner-workings of clocks and the automaton; or the world of classic, involved, and personal filmmaking that comes to define the whole. Scorsese leaves nothing to the imagination even as the film is all about the imagination; the movie's flow and structure are such that the audience may become absorbed in the world and quickly become a part of its landscape, the film a very personal and inviting one even as it represents times, places, and even ideas that might seem almost foreign to modern audiences that expect "more," even if that "more" is truly providing them with "less." Hugo embraces simple ideas but presents them as cornerstones and not only forgotten truths. Themes of purpose, perseverance, design, and doing as one was made to do -- all wrapped in a magical package called "fate" -- are championed in every scene and through the whole, the movie a reminder that understanding, compassion, finding one's purpose, remembering the past, and looking towards the future are not only ideas for the movies, but necessary ingredients for living a good and full life.
Certainly , Hugo represents a celebration of cinema and life, yet at first glance the film dazzles on a far more superficial level. Martin Scorsese's picture intermixes digital backdrops and live action with a seamlessness never quite before captured to this extent, with this much care, this precise sense of style and tribute to a bygone era. Certainly there are no monsters or other "unnatural" elements of which to speak, but the authenticity of the decades-lost Paris, the train station, the clockworks, and many other smaller special effects blend in so well with the live action that audiences would almost be right to assume that Hugo is some long-lost treasure of cinema past or perhaps the beneficiary of a time travel device. Indeed, it's difficult to discern with certainty what's practical and what's digital. That's a nod to the quality of effects work but also to Scorsese's quality of storytelling; he absorbs his audience not just into the movie, but into an entirely different world where authenticity and a bit of extraordinary magic come together to form one of the most faultlessly-created pictures of all time, the entire two-plus hours of Hugo a testament to precision, care, and everything working in harmony, much like the clockworks and the automaton can only work with an unflappable degree of accuracy and only as a great film can only dazzle with as much heart, hard work, foresight, and care as the filmmaker puts into it. Martin Scorsese's Hugo, then, is an absolute labor of love as much for a story as it is for the art of film.
To be sure, there could not have been another director more suited to capturing the essence of Hugo as expertly as Martin Scorsese. The film's story and themes that embrace an art form and speak on the importance of care, craftsmanship, appreciation, perseverance, and preservation represent the very core of the filmmaker who has dedicated much of his career to exactly the same. The movie plays with an uncanny smoothness, sincerity, and authenticity that it could only come not from a mere master craftsman, but a master craftsman with an understanding of the true meaning of film behind dollar signs, commercials, credits, tie-ins, and anything else meant to sell the audience on the movie, not on the experience. Cinema has largely lost that sense of adventure, mysticism, and magic in favor of commercialism and formula. Movies nowadays are watched rather than witnessed, sometimes even endured rather than experienced. Hugo reaffirms the goodness inherent to the medium by both promoting it as such and practicing as it preaches. The movie is personal and involved but also simple and heartwarming. It exudes a sense of magic and wonder, championing the power of the imagination and the role of film as something special to be cherished, experienced, and loved, not merely watered down to where it's become largely unrecognizable as it was and as Hugo proves it may again be.
Hugo Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hugo's 1080p Blu-ray is sure to dazzle and delight as much as the movie. This is nothing short of an astonishing transfer, one that will mesmerize even the most seasoned Blu-ray watcher. The digital photography never appears flat, glossy, or lifeless; on the contrary, it's as beautifully detailed as film, one of the true revelations of the power of precision digital filmmaking. Clarity is astonishing; there's not a soft shot or even soft object in the movie. Details far and wide -- whether in the train station or as seen in the overhead shots of Paris -- are spectacularly sharp and crisp. Close-up detailing is even more amazing. Not only are facial texture marvelous and clothing textures faultless, but the transfer's ability to capture and display the finest little nuances of worn gears, rusted metal, scuffed floors, and rough bricks is marvelous. The entire movie benefits greatly from the transfer's ability to capture the smallest little details in absolute clarity; it only benefits the amazing world Scorsese has created and the movie just wouldn't be the same presented with reduced visual clarity through a lower resolution. Likewise, colors are marvelous. While the palette isn't sparkly or bright, it captures a throwback authenticity beautifully. Though the gears and gadgets and the general layout of the train station favor something of a copper- and gray-heavy palette, the transfer has no problems with Lisette's colorful flowers or the inspector's bright blue uniform. Just as important, flesh tones are marvelously balanced and black levels are rock-solid. There's not a pixel out of place with this one; this is pure visual delight and Blu-ray perfection. Hugo deserves nothing less.
Hugo Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hugo's DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack is up to the challenge of matching the video quality throughout. Indeed, Paramount's soundtrack makes full use of the entire stage -- the extra two surround channels included -- to create a seamless sound field that creates with great clarity and attention to detail the Paris train station, the mechanical objects, and other niceties scattered throughout the picture. Listeners will receive a quick sample of the track's prowess in the opening moments; a train maneuvers its way into the soundstage, followed by the precise clicking and grinding of working gears that float about the entire area. The track excels with similar ambient effects; its ability to paint such a remarkably vivid sonic picture of the station knows no limits. Each scene is an experience of precise sound engineering where footfalls, chatter, and the general din of the busy area are such that the listener is transported into the middle of the movie. Few tracks feature as many precisely-placed effects as Hugo; most may not be of the loud or excessive variety, but the track is always scene-specific and recreates with the utmost care and attention to detail every last little element. Heavier effects -- a large crash sequence in chapter thirteen -- are equally precise even with the added energy and chaos. Music delivery is perfectly spaced and immersive, playing with superb clarity as each note floats effortlessly into the listening area. Dialogue is steady and accurate as it plays from the center channel, with a few playful moments of expert reverberation capturing the size and scope of the station. This is a wonderful track that's every bit as good as the accompanying video.
Hugo Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hugo contains several good featurettes, though most viewers will be left wanting much more.
Hugo Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hugo is a special movie that's a tribute to the medium and perhaps the greatest accomplishment of one of the most accomplished filmmakers to ever step behind a camera. Martin Scorsese's Hugo mesmerizes from beginning to end with its scope, authenticity, completeness, warmth, sincerity, and attention to detail. The movie has been faultlessly crafted, seamlessly realized, and amazingly acted. The story never disappoints, the themes are true, and the picture's heart is constant. It's the embodiment of pure, wondrous cinema, cinema as it was and should be, a true labor of love that's not to be missed and made to be experienced. Here's hoping Hugo is awarded the Best Picture Oscar; after all, how could a movie about the beauty of movies, a picture that so lovingly celebrates the medium, be denied? Paramount's Blu-ray release of Hugo doesn't contain as many extras as some might wish to see, but the quality of the film and the dazzling technical presentations make this one of the finest Blu-ray releases out there. Hugo earns my highest recommendation.
Hugo: Other Editions
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Hugo Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, Feb. 27-Mar. 04: Hugo and Puss Jockey for the Top - March 7, 2012
For the week ending 03/04/2012, Dreamworks' animated comedy Puss in Boots still carried enough momentum to ensure the top spot on the overall package media sales chart, narrowly edging out Hugo's home media premiere. However, while Hugo sold 78% as many total ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Hugo - February 23, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Paramount Home Entertainment are offering three Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a copy of director Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated Hugo. The Best Picture hopeful arrives on Blu-ray on February 28th.
• Hugo Blu-ray - January 31, 2012
In February, Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Hugo to Blu-ray. Director Martin Scorsese's screen adaptation of the Brian Selznick novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret stars Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) as the title character, ...
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