REVIEW: HUGO

CAST

Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Ben Kinglsey (Iron Man 3)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Ray Winstone (Elfie Hopkins)
Emily Mortimer (Lars and The Real Girl)
Helen McCrory (The Woman In Black 2)
Jude Law (Spy)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Men In Black 3)
Christopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Frances de la Tour (The Lady In The Van)
Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter)
Michael Pitt (Murder By Numbers)

In 1931, 12-year-old Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in Paris with his father (Jude Law), a widowed, but kind clockmaker who also works at a museum. One day his father finds a broken automaton, a mechanical man designed to write with a pen, at the museum, and he and Hugo try to repair it, his father documenting the automaton in a notebook. When his father is killed by a fire at the museum, Hugo is forced to live with his resentful, alcoholic uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), and made to learn how to maintain the clocks at the railway station of Gare Montparnasse. When Claude goes missing for several days, Hugo continues to maintain the clocks, fearing that he would be sent away as an orphan by the vindictive Station Inspector Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen) if Claude’s absence is discovered. Hugo attempts to repair the automaton with stolen parts, believing it contains a message from his father, but the machine still requires a heart-shaped key that his father could not find.Hugo is caught when stealing from the toy store owner Georges (Ben Kingsley), who looks through his father’s notebook and threatens to destroy it. Hugo encounters Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who offers to help get the notebook back. Hugo learns Georges has forbidden Isabelle from going to the cinema, and introduces the medium to her as his father had done for him. As their friendship grows, he shows her the automaton, and is surprised when Isabelle inadvertently reveals she wears the key as a necklace given to her by Georges. When started, the machine draws out a scene that Hugo recognizes from his father’s description of the film A Trip to the Moon. Isabelle identifies the signature, that of a “Georges Méliès”, as her godfather. She sneaks Hugo into her home, where they find a hidden cache of more imaginative drawings of Méliès, but are caught by Georges, who banishes Hugo from his home.Hugo and Isabelle go to the Film Academy Library and find a book about the history of cinema that praises Méliès’ contributions. They meet the book’s author, René Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg), a film expert who is surprised to hear that Méliès may still be alive, as he had disappeared after World War I along with nearly all copies of his films. Excited at the chance to meet him, René agrees to meet Isabelle and Hugo at Georges’ home to show his copy of A Trip to the Moon, hoping it will invigorate Georges. On the scheduled night, Georges’ wife Jeanne (Helen McCrory) tries to turn them away, but René compliments Jeanne as Jeanne d’Alcy, an actress in many of Méliès’ films, and she allows them to continue. As the film plays, Georges wakes up at the sight, and Jeanne finally convinces him to cherish his accomplishments rather than regret his lost dream. Georges recounts that as a stage magician, he had been fascinated by motion pictures and used the medium to create imaginative works through his Star Film Company, but was forced into bankruptcy following the War, closing his studio and selling his films to be turned into raw materials. He laments that even an automaton he made that he donated to a museum was lost. Hugo recognizes this is the same automaton he has, and races to the station to retrieve it. He is caught by Gustave, who has learned that Claude’s body was found some time ago, and threatens to take Hugo to the orphanage. Georges arrives and tells Gustave that he will now see to Hugo, adopting him as his son.Some time later, Georges is named a professor at the Film Academy, and is paid tribute through a showcase of his films recovered by René. Hugo joins in with his new family as they celebrate, while Isabelle starts to write down Hugo’s story.Martin Scorcese’s Hugo is one of the best cinematic experience, I’ve had in years.  The visual effects, cinematography, art direction, just technically superb. Finally a smart, awe-aspiring family film, which are really rare nowadays. A definite surprise coming from legendary director, Martin Scorcese, who’s known for movies with a lot of swears, violence, drugs and other adult-themed subjects.

REVIEW: BODY OF LIES

Starring

Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception)
Russell Crowe (The Mummy)
Mark Strong (Shazam)
Golshifteh Farahani (The Upside)
Oscar Isaac (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Ali Suliman (The Kingdom)
Alon Abutbul (Rambi III)
Vince Colosimo (The Great Gatsby)
Simon McBurney (The Conjuring 2)
Michael Gaston (W)
Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy)
Michael Stuhlbarg (The Post)

Russell Crowe in Body of Lies (2008)Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA case officer in Iraq, tracking a terrorist called Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul). He meets Nizar, a member of the terrorist organization who is prepared to offer information in return for asylum in North America. Despite the objections of his boss, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), Ferris agrees to shelter Nizar. Nizar is used as a pawn to draw out the rest of his cell; when Nizar is captured, Ferris is forced to shoot him to prevent his exposing the identities of Ferris and his associate, Bassam (Oscar Isaac). However, furious at Hoffman’s refusal to act on the information Nizar provided, Ferris and Bassam go to search the safe house in Balad, Iraq, Nizar had told them about. Ferris observes men burning records and attempts to bluff his way in but is exposed. In the ensuing shootout and chase, Ferris and Bassam’s vehicle is hit by an RPG. Ferris and some salvaged discs are rescued by helicopter, but Bassam is killed in the explosion.Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies (2008)Meanwhile, unknown terrorists in the UK plan to follow up on bus bombings in Sheffield with more attacks in Manchester, but they blow themselves up when the police arrive at their house. Having recovered from his injuries, Ferris is assigned to Jordan to continue searching for Al-Saleem. There, Ferris meets with and negotiates a collaboration with Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate. From the intelligence Ferris harvested from the Balad safe house, Hoffman locates an Al-Saleem safe house in Jordan and orders Ferris to watch it. Simultaneously, Hoffman organizes (unbeknownst to Ferris) a “side operation” via a local agency. Ferris’ CIA subordinate, Skip (Vince Colosimo), identifies the local agency asset as Ziyad Abishi.Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Strong in Body of Lies (2008)Abishi blows his cover with a terrorist from the safe house. The terrorist flees to inform his colleagues of their exposure, and Ferris chases and kills him in such a place and manner that implies the death is a random robbery. Salaam (via “back channels”) corroborates this interpretation of killing with those who remain at the safe house. Ferris lambastes Hoffman for running “side operations” which he feels are interfering with and undermining the operational integrity of the primary operation and tells Hoffman to stop. While going to the hospital to receive rabies shots for dog bites he suffered while eliminating the terrorist, Ferris meets a nurse named Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani) and begins developing romantic feelings for her. In Europe the bombers strike again at an Amsterdam flower market, killing 75 people and wounding hundreds more.Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies (2008)Having recognized one of the men living in the safe house as former small-time criminal Mustaffa Karami (Kais Nashef), Salaam takes Karami into the desert and coerces him into working for Jordanian intelligence, threatening to set him up as a collaborator if he does not co-operate. Hoffman asks Salaam to use Karami, but he refuses, believing a greater return will come later. Unbeknownst to Ferris and Salaam, Hoffman tells Skip to follow Karami and kidnap him. Karami escapes and notifies the terrorists in the safe house that it is being watched, and they abandon it. Ferris’ partner is caught. Salaam accuses Ferris of having had knowledge of the move on Karami, blames Ferris’ duplicity with him for the destruction of the safe house, and exiles Ferris from Jordan.Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Strong in Body of Lies (2008)Ferris returns to Hoffman in Washington, and they devise a new plan to find Al-Saleem. Suspecting he is motivated more by pride than ideology, they stage a fake terrorist attack and set up Omar Sadiki (Ali Suliman), an innocent Jordanian architect, as its instigator, hoping Al-Saleem will come out of hiding and attempt to contact him. Al-Saleem sees TV news coverage of the attack and takes the bait. Salaam invites Ferris back to Jordan and shares his suspicions that Omar Sadiki is a terrorist, although Ferris feigns ignorance. Ferris later tries to save Sadiki from being kidnapped by Al-Saleem’s henchmen but fails and sees his partner nearly killed in the subsequent car crash. Under interrogation, Sadiki denies any knowledge of the attack, although he is later found beaten and killed.Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies (2008)Ferris goes back to his apartment and discovers that Aisha has been kidnapped. He desperately asks Salaam for help, admitting he fabricated Omar Sadiki’s terrorist cell and the attack. Salaam refuses to help because of Ferris’ having lied to him earlier. Ferris offers himself in exchange to Aisha’s kidnappers and is brought to the middle of the desert, with Hoffman watching everything via a surveillance drone. Ferris is surrounded by a group of SUVs, which circle him to create an obscuring dust cloud before picking him up. The dust cloud blocks Hoffman’s view, so that he cannot determine which of the SUVs, now headed in different directions, is carrying Ferris. Ferris is taken across the border to Syria, where he is to be interrogated by Al-Saleem. When Ferris asks Al-Saleem about Aisha, he is told that someone has lied to him and that he has been double-crossed. Ferris tells Al-Saleem that there is an infiltrator (Karami) in his organization who works for Ferris, and that, by association, Al-Saleem works for Ferris. Al-Saleem does not believe Ferris, beats him, turns on a video camera, and orders his execution. Salaam and his agents arrive at the last moment, saving Ferris’ life. Al-Saleem is shown arrested in his own SUV by Marwan Se-Kia, Salaam’s security officer.Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies (2008)Salaam visits Ferris in the hospital, and reveals he had faked Aisha’s abduction and orchestrated Ferris’ capture by Al-Saleem using Karami as a go-between. Having lost the will to fight in this particular “war”, Ferris goes off the grid and goes to see Aisha again.Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies (2008)All in a it’s certainly worth the time to see, but ultimately a good popcorn flick rather than a more substantive film.

REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

 

CAST

Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity)
Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes)
Benedict Wong (The Martian)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Men In Black 3)
Benjamin Bratt (Traffic)
Scott Adkins (Zero Dark Thirty)
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
Tilda Swinton (Burn After Reading)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Stan Lee (Chuck)
Amy Landecker (Dan In Real Life)

In Kathmandu, Nepal, the sorcerer Kaecilius and his zealots enter the secret compound Kamar-Taj and behead its librarian. From the ancient and mystical texts, they steal a ritual from a book belonging to the Ancient One, a sorcerer who has lived for an unknown time and taught all at Kamar-Taj, including Kaecilius, in the ways of the mystic arts. The Ancient One pursues the traitors, but Kaecilius escapes with the pages and some of his followers.In New York City, Stephen Strange, an acclaimed but arrogant neurosurgeon, loses the use of his hands in a car accident. Fellow surgeon and former lover Christine Palmer tries to help him move on, but Strange, firmly believing he can regain use of his hands, instead uses all his resources pursuing experimental surgeries in vain. After learning of Jonathan Pangborn, a paraplegic who mysteriously was able to walk again, Strange seeks him out, and is directed to Kamar-Taj. There, Strange is taken in by another sorcerer under the Ancient One, Mordo. The Ancient One shows Strange her power, revealing the astral plane and other dimensions such as the Mirror Dimension. Amazed, Strange begs her to teach him, and she eventually agrees despite his arrogance, which reminds her of Kaecilius.Strange begins his tutelage under the Ancient One and Mordo, and learns from the ancient books in the library, now presided over by the master Wong. Strange learns that Earth is protected from other dimensions by a spell formed from three buildings called Sanctums, found in New York City, London, and Hong Kong. The task of the sorcerers is to protect the Sanctums, though Pangborn chose to forgo this responsibility in favor of channelling mystical energy into walking again. Strange advances quickly over several months, even secretly reading from the text Kaecilius stole from and learning to bend time with the mystical Eye of Agamotto. Mordo and Wong warn Strange against breaking the laws of nature, comparing his arrogant yearning for power to that of Kaecilius, who believes, after the deaths of his loved ones, that everyone should have eternal life.Kaecilius and his followers use the stolen pages to begin summoning the powerful Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, where time does not exist and all can live forever. This destroys the London Sanctum, and sends Strange from Kamar-Taj to the New York Sanctum. The zealots then attack there, where Strange holds them off with the mystical Cloak of Levitation until Mordo and the Ancient One arrive. Strange and Mordo become disillusioned with the Ancient One after Kaecilius reveals that her long life has come from her own use of Dormammu’s power. Kaecilius mortally wounds the Ancient One, and escapes to Hong Kong. The Ancient One tells Strange that he, too, will have to break the rules, to balance Mordo’s steadfast nature. She then dies, despite the best efforts of Strange and a bewildered Palmer. Strange and Mordo arrive in Hong Kong to find Wong dead and the Sanctum destroyed, with the Dark Dimension already engulfing Earth. Strange uses the Eye to turn back time and save Wong, before creating an infinite time loop inside the Dark Dimension that traps himself and Dormammu in the same moment forever. After killing Strange many times to no avail, Dormammu reluctantly agrees to leave Earth if Strange undoes the time loop, taking Kaecilius and the zealots with him.Disgusted by Strange and the Ancient One’s disregard for the consequences of defying nature, Mordo departs. Strange returns the Eye, which Wong calls an Infinity Stone, to Kamar-Taj, and then takes up residence in the New York Sanctum to continue his studies. In a mid-credits scene, Strange decides to help Thor, who has brought his brother Loki to Earth to search for their father Odin. In a post-credits scene, Mordo confronts Pangborn and takes the energy he uses to walk, stating that Earth has “too many sorcerers”.The Marvel Cinematic Universe shines again with manipulative sorcery and cognitive storytelling as this may be the strangest addition but still delivers some kick-ass entertainment.