HUGO (Rated PG for some brief frightening action): It's the charmer of the year, a MUST for lovers of Scorsese's films and who feel as he does about the charm of watching moving pictures at 24-frames per second on a big screen - and in sensible use of the 3D medium. (Yes, 3D finally arrived at our multiplex, but at a price - tell you about it below.)
Trust Scorsese to transfer his love of cinema to us for 128-minutes of delightful eye candy and to create it with a mature eye so that everyone - kids to adults - can appreciate it. John Logan/Brian Selznick's plot's a bit complicated, presented much in keeping with Selznick's book and a tribute to earlier French cinematographers - Rene Clair's hectic pace, Jacques Tati's use of pantomime over dialogue, silent film lighting & pastiness of faces as well as early acting styles, bland expressions mixed in with exaggerated emotions, etc. - all beautifully edited by Thelma Schoonmaker (with the director well on hand, of course).
Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a young orphan who lives in one of the hide-away nooks & crannies that comprise the upper reaches of a Parisian train station (gare de Lyon, I believe) - a huge station bustling with rushes of people, train sounds, bursts of activity from every part of it - with the boy operating as a clock winder (and there seem to be dozens of clocks around). He lives by sheer guts, always a step away from the French officer (Sacha Baron Cohen) who's hauteur conceals a man of sentiment despite his law focus on Hugo.
There are many other characters that dominate Hugo's life in one way or another, foremost being a forlorn Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley) and his grand-daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz). Hugo's love of tinkering with mechanical objects brings them together, but not until, later, do we realize that Melies is thee silent film great, now reduced to selling trinkets in a station shop. That's when the film comes to life, as we flash back into watching of snippets of his films (including "Trip to the Moon"), along with other features by the Lumiere brothers - all a kind of thrilling lecture on how silent films graced the earliest screens.
With all of the resources of a dedicated film-maker, Scorsese gives us a carnival of delightful scenes that include his use of 3D to swing in & out & around cogs, wheels, and every sort of apparatus that might be found in so magical a location. Thanks to sumptuous photography by Scorsese's favorite cameraman Robert Richardson and a richly evocative score by Howard Shore, abetted by Sandy Powell's costumes and Dante Ferretti's sets, we're treated to one of the most scintillating films of the year. (Grade: A).