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Have you ever wondered if orphans have dreams and aspirations of their own? In “Hugo,” a Martin Scorsese 3D film opening TODAY, based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), the 12-year-old son of a deceased clockmaker, lives in a bustling Parisian train station secretly winding the clocks, filching pastries from cafes, and stealing parts from a toy shop to repair a broken mysterious mechanical man called the automaton that his father found in the attic of a museum. But, one day he gets caught by the toy store’s bitter old owner, Georges (Ben Kingsley), who takes his most valuable possession, a notebook with the schematics and instructions to repair the automaton. Hugo’s secret life of hiding in the walls and clocks, stealing to survive, and his most cherished possession, the automaton, are in imminent danger of being revealed. As Hugo struggles to fix the mysterious machine, the secret of the automaton and its origins deepens as he makes a new friend, Isabelle, the bookish, clever goddaughter of Georges, evades an inspector intent on sending him to an orphanage, and eventually finds his own place in the world.
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I immensely enjoyed Hugo, which is now one of my favorite films of the year. The dramatic visuals showing Hugo’s narrow escapes and life in isolation really made me feel empathy for him. The light-hearted and joyful scenes such as when Hugo takes Isabel to the movies brings me joy for Hugo; whereas in poignant scenes such as when Hugo recalls his beloved father’s death made me sad. The story of Hugo is fantastic and well developed. The storyline incorporates messages about friendship, understanding, compassion, dedication, and the love of the cinema. I also like how the story shows the innocence of children. Hugo’s vivid 3D effects are incredible, where the images pop right out of the screen! I thought that the 3D really enhances this film in a way I did not see in other movies such as Happy Feet 2.
Hugo is a magical film, but I found some ways it could improve. First of all, Isabelle’s smile seemed a bit artificial, like when you smile for a camera. I also thought that in the scene where Georges thanked Hugo for helping him reawaken his filmmaking dream, I was expecting something more poetic and metaphorical, but George basically described exactly what happened. This is a scene my mom and I both thought weakened the ending.
Hugo is such an amazing film, it is hard to pick out my favorite scenes! My top two are when Hugo takes Isabel to the movies, and when the automaton suddenly springs to life as it begins to draw a mysterious picture. I especially liked the second scene, it is breathtaking to watch all the gears and wires begin to move in complex motions inside the machine. I felt transfixed by the automaton and its expressive face that seemed so alive. The author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, is actually a San Diego Resident! I would love to interview him some time.
My fellow film critic and good friend Scott Marks who writes for San Diego Reader is probably the number one Martin Scorsese fan. He once told me I will have to wait years before he could show me real, classic R-rated Scorsese films such as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. I am glad that I don’t have to wait to see this first Scorsese masterpiece which I think deserves an Oscar nomination.
I give this film 4.5 starfish! I recommend this film to all ages. Hugo is a spectacular visual masterpiece and a delightful film for the whole family to watch over and over. With a suspenseful, fascinating story and wonderful 3D effects, I hope everyone adds this “Perrific!” film to their “must watch” movie lists for the holidays!
Moral: Everyone has a special purpose in life, but it may take years of persistence and determination to realize it.
Perry Chen and Zhu Shen are Carmel Valley San Diego community residents and are a unique son-mother team of talent and aspirations. Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom