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Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Disc review by Barrie Maxwell of The Digital Bits

Hugo (2D Blu-ray Disc)

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Hugo (2D version)
2011 (2012) - Paramount Pictures/GK Films (Paramount)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on February 28th, 2012
Also available on DVD and Blu-ray 3D


Film Rating: A+
Video (1-20): 20
Audio (1-20): 20
Extras: B+

A film like Hugo is ample recompense indeed for the many disappointing films that a reviewer must sometimes sit through. It is easily my choice for the best film released in 2011 that I've had the pleasure to view.

Based on the book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick and Martin Scorsese's choice for the children's film that he has long wanted to make, Hugo is a cinematic delight that pleases on every level that one could desire. The story about a young boy named Hugo who lives behind the scenes in a Paris railway station where he tends the station's clocks and also tries to solve the puzzle of a clockwork automaton that his father and he had been attempting to fix will appeal to children for its spirit of adventure, but equally so to adults as it also but not alone contains a well-realized connection to the earliest days of film in the personage of French filmmaker Georges Méliès. Under Martin Scorsese's direction, Hugo has a freshness, a degree of mystery, and an exuberance that is very seldom managed in today's film offerings. Scorsese (working with cinematographer Robert Richardson [Oscar winner]) marshals an incredible blend of superb production design/set decoration by Dante Ferretti/Francesca Lo Schiavo (Oscar winner), judiciously utilized visual effects supervised by Rob Legato (Oscar winner), and an entrancing music score by Howard Shore (Oscar nomination). He also draws uniformly fine work from all the members of a cast that includes Asa Butterfield as Hugo, Sacha Baron Cohen doing his best work on film to date, Ben Kingsley as a mysterious clockwork artifact seller, Emily Mortimer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, and Jude Law. For Scorsese, the result is a tour de force on a par artistically with any of the great gangster films for which he is so well-known and revered.

Hugo received 11 Academy Award nominations and won in five categories at the recent 2012 Oscar ceremony. In addition to the wins noted above, it was also successful in the area of sound recording and sound mixing.

Paramount presents Hugo on Blu-ray in a superb 1.78:1 transfer. There is a continuously impressive almost 3D-like presence to the image that heightens the film's air of mystery and one can only imagine how much more effective is the actual 3D Blu-ray home video release. The image is very crisp throughout whether one is experiencing close-ups or long shots of the full train station. Detail is equally entrancing with even the most minute object looking completely well-defined. Colours are bright and eye-catching whether dealing with some of the drab settings in the station bowels or the bright clothing of some of the station denizens. Blacks look very deep and whites are clean. There is absolutely no evidence of any untoward digital manipulation.

On the audio side, Paramount offers up a 7.1 DTS HD Master audio track that vies with the video excellence throughout, and generally accomplishes what a good Blu-ray lossless mix should - reproduce faithfully the excellence of the original sound work. The evocation of the station environment by the precise sound mix is enchanting and the occasional marshalling of LFE for the likes of a train crash is impressive. Dialogue is well balanced with sound whether ambient or more direct, while Howard Shore's soundtrack is allowed to create an atmospheric but unintrusive yet pleasantly enveloping mood of nostalgia throughout. French, Spanish, and Portuguese 5.1 DD tracks are also included as are English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.

The supplement package may well leave you wanting more given how delightful is the film, but it does include a reasonably good 20-minute making-of documentary and four shorter featurettes on the real-life George Melies, the automaton featured in the film, Sacha Baron Cohen's role, and one of the film's key special effects sequences. Separate DVD and digital copies of the film are also provided.

Very highly recommended indeed.

Barrie Maxwell
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