February ended on an up note with a quartet of good to excellent releases that offered something for most tastes.
“Hugo” — Martin Scorcese’s first family film is a visual feast that should please fans of the director, as well as cinema buffs in general. The story centers on an orphaned boy who helps his uncle tend to the clocks in a Paris train station. When his uncle disappears, the child uncovers a mystery in the form of an automaton left behind by his father. With the aid of an eccentric inventor and a kind librarian, the boy sets forth on a quest to restore the figure while dodging a railyard detective. This one has it all with excellent visuals, great photography and a diverse cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee and Sacha Baron Cohen.
“Justice League: Doom” — DC Comics continues to offer superior animated stories with this adaptation of a Justice League plot. The story involves super-villains popping up and taking on members of the league with new weapons geared towards the specific weakness of each good guy. Batman comes under suspicion when the group realizes that the methods being employed were collected by the Dark Knight and stored in his files. The voice actors are spot on with Michael Rosenbaum (“Smallville”) once again voicing The Flash, as he did for the League television series.
“Popcorn” — Horror fans will get a special kick out of this 1989 flick that salutes the gimmick flicks of the 1950s and 1960s, while also managing a few laughs and thrills. The story finds a group of college film students holding an all-night horror show to raise money for their struggling program. Trouble looms in the form of a crazed filmmaker who killed his family on stage at the venue 15 years earlier. Will the showing of his last film bring him back for more carnage? Sure thing, but it is the clever use of film promotion gags as murder weapons that keeps this one’s tongue firmly in cheek.
“Johnny English: Reborn” — Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) returns as the clueless super agent in this spoof of action flicks that also happens to feature some amazing action sequences. The agent is recruited from a self-imposed leave in Tibet (where he has been studying with kung-fu monks). The world needs him to stop a plot to assassinate world leaders, and so he jumps aboard face first. The humor is two parts verbal and one part getting kicked in the testicles, but it all works thanks to the rubber-faced Atkisnon, whose comic timing is impeccable. Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) also scores as Johnny’s new boss, a hatchet faced, by-the-book matriarch.
Next week brings 12 hours of sword, sorcery and skullduggery with the release of “Game of Thrones.”