My Week in Movies: November 26, '11

Martin Scorsese, 2011
In what is nearly the fashion of a grander "Be Kind, Rewind" set amongst the classic cinematic devices of trains and clocks, this holiday season treat begins with Scorsese practically emulating Jean-Pierre Jeunet (and handily trumping with tried tricks that contemporary French filmmaker's deliberate quirk, should that require stating) before becoming a truly magical ode to the, well, true magic of the movies - namely seminal titles such as "Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat", "The Great Train Robbery", "Intolerance", "The Thief of Baghdad", "Metropolis", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", "The General", "The Kid" and, particularly, the dreamlike work of Georges Méliès. Seeing clips of these works on the big screen is a wonderful gift from a modern master who hopes we will revere them as he does, and I can but hope this instant classic - sure to be beloved by children of all ages, from nine to ninety, for many a decade to come - will spark an interest in film akin to the spark felt by Méliès himself upon experiencing his first Lumière Brothers picture. "Hugo" takes these now-dusty legends and makes them blockbusters once more. Though the 3D does not seem essential, it does provide the distinctly special air of seeing something new the way so many unversed audiences did when motion pictures began showing publicly over a century ago. If anything, it is clear - even if this winds up being his sole foray in to the extra-dimensional medium - Scorsese has taken naturally to the aesthetic benefits new 3D can supply. Listen to further thoughts on Reel Time #030.

The Muppets
James Bobin, 2011
It's funny to look up the film formerly known as "The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made" to find its official synopsis reading, "The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon." As with so many examples, while the events summarized by the synopsis serve as a necessary narrative catalyst, they marginalize what the picture is truly about. A fitting companion release to the similarly reverent "Hugo", which was coincidentally also once known by a longer title, "The Muppets" is exactly what I could have hoped it would be and more coming from the adoring minds of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Greatest Muppet movie ever made? Maybe one of the greatest fan movies ever made! Utterly delightful from its beginning to an end that couldn't have been prolonged enough, it lives in the realm of the Muppets' signature witticism - dry puns mixed with heartfelt musical numbers, a barely existant fourth wall and a parodical sensibility that relishes both the overt and the subtle, up to the inclusion of a scene in Paris that could be from an alternate dimension "Muppets" as directed by Woody Allen - and reinvigorates the fuzzy crew for fans new and, especially, pre-established. And I, uh... didn't know Mickey Rooney was still alive. That was a nice surprise. Which I suppose I've just spoiled. Uh... look over there! A dragon, a dragon! I swear I saw a dragon! Listen to further thoughts on Reel Time #030.

Further first-time viewings:

The Descendants - Alexander Payne, 2011
Outside a superb opening shot that encompasses sheer bliss and isolated finality - along with several more throughout that might feel at home in another of Clooney's latest, "The American" - "Up in the Air 2"... er, I mean, "The Descendants"... is Alexander Payne going through the motions. It's all in place - the beleaguered white male protagonist, the unlikely cast of supporters, the successfully uncomfortable - and, in this case, funereal - wit, yet while at times I'd like to say there's a good film somewhere in the thorough footage, the script, complete with trite narration, stiltedly thrives on issues unrealistically left hovering in midair while catering all too much to its fogey demographic along its path to find the good in everyone. Like in an episode of "Seinfeld", there's an A plot and a B plot that wind up coinciding. Unlike in an episode of "Seinfeld", however, here it's entirely too predictable where it'll all go, and the journey proves hardly worth taking, especially if your alternative is rewatching the framework-providing "About Schmidt".

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