All almost aboard the ‘Rise of the Guardians’

Once you pick up your suspension of disbelief along with your 3D glasses as you walk into the theater, “Rise of the Guardians” becomes quite an enjoyable film.

Based on William Joyce’s “Childhood of Guardians” series, the film centers around Jack Frost (Chris Pine), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman — five guardians appointed by the Man in the Moon to protect children’s belief in magic against the forces of the Bogeyman, Pitch Black (Jude Law).

With an estimated $145 million budget, Dreamworks Animation’s “Rise of the Guardians” looks beautiful. Jack Frost, with his youthful face, big blue eyes and playful and carefree grin, is eye candy — cute as the Zac Efrons, Justin Beibers or Josh Hutchersons of the world — as he lures kids into snowball fights and guarantees snow days. (After all, who doesn’t love a guy who’s good with kids?) Meanwhile, the film’s animation is delightful, featuring a potpourri of colors and wonders. Easter eggs walk into rivers of pink dye while dreams float out of your head and prance around. Yetis assemble and paint Christmas toys in the North Pole while tiny tooth fairies, which resemble hummingbirds, flutter under pillows to collect teeth.

Although Pine may be as good looking as his animated counterpart, Jack, the 32-year-old actor’s voice is too deep to match the face of his character — who looks half his age. Pine’s voice, who commands the Starship Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot, is too suave, smooth and confident for a character who’s young and lost — trying to discover who he is and why he died. Closer to teenaged heartthrobs, like Efron or Hutcherson, would have been better suited for the role.

Meanwhile, Pine’s co-stars shine with their mastery at accents. Although we know Jackman can sing and voice a pretty good American accent, it’s refreshing to hear Jackman’s native Australian accent as he voices a large bunny that resembles a kangaroo. Meanwhile, Baldwin’s Russian accent completes the unconventional Santa Claus character, which also has “naughty” and “nice” tatooed on his arms. And Law, with his English accent, always sounds sexy — even when he’s voicing a misguided, black-haired villain that resembles Loki from “The Avengers.”

“Rise of the Guardians” takes us on a journey on the Polar Express — proving that you’re never too old to believe in magic. All you have to do is open your heart and believe.

“Rise of the Guardians” was directed by Peter Ramsey. The screenplay was written by David Lindsay-Abaire.


Charming film works like clockwork

Director Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “Hugo,” is like something from a dream. It’s pretty to look at yet it provides new depth into the world and magic of the motion picture.

Following the story of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a 12-year-old orphan living within the walls of a clock tower in a train station during post-World War I Paris, Scorsese weaves a magical tale about finding purpose in the world. After the death of Hugo’s father (Jude Law) from a museum fire, Hugo has adopted his father’s pet project, repairing a broken robot that could handle paper and pen. The robot becomes a way for Hugo to connect with his father — naively believing if he could he could fix the machine, perhaps he would find what he had lost.

By accompanying Hugo on his journey, the audience gains insight on art and the film medium. From the first scene, “Hugo” captivates viewers with the sound of ticking clocks over a beautiful aerial view of snowy Paris. Robert Richardson’s cinematography is stunning as the camera zeros in on the minor cadences of the train station. This includes the romance and courtship of Madame Emilie (Frances de la Tour) and Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths) at a coffee shop, the bumbling awkwardness and patrols of the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) who harbors a crush on a florist (Emily Mortimer) as well as the friendly camaraderie between Hugo and with Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), the goddaughter of a toy repair shop owner who craves adventure. Although each cut may seem insignificant by itself, the layers seem to comment on the nature of human connection. Like art, it’s beautiful and like parts in a machine, the characters are all linked.

The backbone of the movie’s breathtaking images, metaphors and messages is the original score by composer Howard Shore. At times, the orchestra is whimsical and at others it’s gorgeous or dramatic, but Shore’s composition creates the mood for romance and adventure. The music becomes the driving pulse of the movie — narrating the joys and tragedies — that when the soundtrack stops for short scenes of dialogue, one notices the absence. Shore is known for orchestrating the music in the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy and “Silence of the Lamb” as well as working with Scorsese on previous projects such as “The Departed” and “The Aviator.” In “Hugo,” Shore’s music effectively transports the viewer into the world of 1930s Paris.

Of course, the movie wouldn’t have been such as success if not for the superb acting of the cast. Fourteen-year-old actor Asa Butterfield, known for his break out role as Mordred in the BBC’s television show “Merlin” as well as his role as Bruno in the film “The Boy in Striped Pajamas,” is able to express emotions and evokes compassion from the viewer when tears well up in his eyes when he remembers his father’s death or when he’s shivering in shorts while marching in the snow after George Melies (Ben Kingsley), a world-weary toy repairman and one of the founding fathers of the motion picture.

The magic of “Hugo” is the blending of cinematic picture and sound with life lessons and worldly insights. The message, “Time is everything,” is echoed throughout the walls of the ticking movie’s setting. There is also an element about discovering one’s role in the larger machine and believing in dreams, magic and imagination — which what one might argue, are what seeing movies are all about.

“Hugo” was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by John Logan. It is based off the book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick. 

To view this in The Ithacan, click here. 

Elementary, My Dear, Sherlock Holmes Is The Biggest Moocher

Who me? Robert Downey Jr. plays an inglorious bastard.

If there ever was an inglorious bastard, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) fits the description. Using Dr. John Watson’s (Jude Law) dog as a test subject for his experiments, dragging his best friend into battle as he runs from the large boulder-like henchmen he just pissed off and shamelessly ruining his friend’s courtship with a lady, Holmes is that friend you all know and love: the moocher.

“Holmes, does your depravity know no bounds?” his friend Dr. Watson even asks him.

It's nice to have famous friends, but too bad Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is a moocher.

Yet you can’t hate Sherlock Holmes, even as he is rummaging through your clothes because he had run out of clean closes to wear. You can’t hate Sherlock Holmes, even as he lands you in a night in jail, as your girlfriend bails you out the next morning. You can’t hate Sherlock Holmes as he purposefully leaves his gun in your hand, knowing that you will reluctantly follow him into danger.

Yes, you might get frustrated, angry and even despise the bastard who got you into trouble, but you can’t totally hate Holmes because you admire him. You respect the intellectual prowler and his impeccable power of observation. You value his logic and reasoning, despite his ability to uncannily rope you into his latest scheme, abusing your good intentions.

Hey, House and Wilson, no homo or anything...

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law become the Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) and Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) from the television drama House M.D. of the big screen in Director Guy Ritchie’s latest released film Sherlock Holmes.

In additional to Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s budding bromance (as Holmes succeeds in making Watson his bitch), the fast-paced, action-packed thriller is filled with a bunch of other goodies.

The first few minutes of the film might as well have been a scene from Blizzard Entertainment’s hellish role-playing game Diablo as two guys two guys run through a mausoleum-type building, men in long hooded cloaks following their wake as a woman strapped to the alter awaits sacrifice.

The first rule of fight club is, you don't talk about fight club.

Downey’s Jr. narration of how to properly dispose a guy is reminiscent to the narration of David Fincher’s film Fight Club—dark and biting. The sequence of the fight scenes are quickly spiced with half second clips, and the original music from Hans Zimmer is superb.

Meanwhile, the beautifully filmed filth of London will have you hum Sweeny Todd’s “No Place Like London”: “There’s a whole in the world like a great black pit, and the vermin of the world inhabit it, and its morals aren’t worth what a pin can spit, and it goes by the name of London.”

Like anyone else fond of the television shows such as House, Bones, CSI, Numb3rs, and Criminal Minds, I love a good mystery. In this case, I loved how all the pieces fell in place —much like how all the scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards came together— as Holmes began to question his firm belief in logic with the case of Lord Blackwood’s (Mark Strong) resurrection from the grave.

Meanwhile, Holmes’ peculiar relationship with the Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a petty criminal who loved to steal expensive jewelry, will have you questioning Holmes already promiscuous morals.

“In another life, Mr. Holmes, you would have made a excellent criminal,” Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) tells him.

A threesome, anyone?

Yet despite how close Holmes is to picking the lock for the sole purpose of stealing, he does not pick the locks out of moral ambivalence but intellectual curiosity. Holmes is attracted to Irene Adler, not only because she’s a pretty face who would most likely screw him over like one of John Keat’s “La Belle Sans Merci”s, but because she is a complex character.

As the film ends with hints of a sequel, the ingenious detective of Scotland Yard will guarantee a fun ride.

With Willie and Gatsby and Jesus and all the King’s Men, why can’t we put ‘Humpty Dumpty’ back together again?

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…

They say that even with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, they couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together ever again. Who knew that lessons from Mother Goose would last lifetimes?

My English professor once told me there are five great stories in the world. Sitting there, watching Steven Zaillian’s film All the King’s Men based on Robert Penn Warren’s novel of the same title, I am starting to believe that is true.

For Willie Stark (Sean Penn), he may have been Humpty Dumpty, sitting on a wall to be adored as governor of the good people of 1950s Louisiana. Or perhaps newly elected Governor Willie Stark was Jay Gatsby, someone who was “great” in a corrupt world because he was the only one who held true to pure goals. Stark wanted to build roads and bridges and schools and hospitals for the “hicks” like himself. Like Gatsby, Stark came from a humble background, but whereas Gatsby made a point of blending in with the genteel wealthy society in the West Egg of New York, like another man from over 2,000-plus-years-old, Stark made a point of sticking out. And like that man of Nazareth, born in a little town of Bethlehem, Willie Stark was crucified for it.

It’s funny, because Stark said that he would nail up anyone who stood in his way in one of his many Scarlett O’Hara inspired never-go-hungry-again speeches: “Nail up Joe Harrison! Nail up McMurphy! Nail up any bastard who gets between you and the roads and bridges and the schools you need!  If they don’t deliver, give me the hammer and I’ll do it.”

Willie Stark promised that he would break anyone who got between his promises to the people, the other poor “hicks” of Louisiana: “Your will is my strength, and your need is my justice, and I shall live in your right and your will. And if any man tries to stop me from fulfilling that right and that will, I’ll break him.”

No one would get between a man and his promises.

Oh, but Governor Stark, they did. They did get between you and your promises. Who are “they”? Why, Governor Stark, they are the wealthy, the upper class that did not vote you into office. They are the big corporations who wonder where you will get the money to build your roads and bridges and schools. They are the judges and the conservatives who are crying for your impeachment. And who are you, Mr. Stark, but a man with a promise? Who are you to say that state money should go to the schools and hospitals and not the big oil companies?

Who are you, Mr. Stark, but a man?

If Mr. Stark was a man as great as Gatsby himself, Jack Burden (Jude Law) is the quiet and reflective Nick Carraway of All the King’s Men, an accomplished journalist narrating the story of an unconventional governor. Like Nick Carraway, Burden comes from money, with the powerful Judge Irwin (Anthony Hopkins) who is the deciding judge to Stark’s impeachment as Burden’s surrogate father and the preceding governor’s children Anne (Kate Winslet) and Adam (Mark Ruffalo) Stanton as his childhood friends. Burden was a newspaper columnist for The Chronicle, writing about Willie Stark, the guy next door.

“As I watched him shake his big fist and listened to his words boom out across that field, I had the feeling that here was a man with a will of iron,” said Burden. “I had the feeling that Willie Stark would neither be steered away nor scared away from his purpose. I had the feeling that in Willie Stark, Kanoma County had found that rare thing: an honest man with courage.”

Burden claims that he doesn’t know how he got mixed into Stark’s life, a renowned journalist becoming Stark’s personal assistant. Sure, Stark doesn’t call everyone “old sport” or drive a yellow car, but while working for Stark, Burden finds himself opening the skeleton key into his past.

Behind the door and down the rabbit hole, Burden found his father who did more than teach him how to hold a gun and launch catapults. He found that the one and only girl he loved wasn’t as perfect as he always thought she was. He found that his best friend who couldn’t look at anything broke without fixing it was capable of breaking a lot more than imaginable.

In the end, we learn that there is no green light over the horizon and everything is as fragile as an egg sitting precariously on a pedestal. Any goals or plans or dreams can fall to pieces with a gunshot. And even with all the king’s horses and all the kings men, that hope, that dream, can never but put together again. It makes us wonder if there really is such a thing as “good.”

“Do you know what good comes out of?” asked Stark. “… Out of bad. That’s what good comes out of. Because you can’t make it out of anything else. You didn’t know that, did you?”