Geoff Cox’s guide to new DVD releases: Hugo, The Thing, Happy Feet 2

HERE’S a first – a family film from Martin Scorsese in which the family members aren’t in the Mafia.

And HUGO (U: Entertainment In Video), which picked up several Oscars last month, is also the director’s first use of 3D.

Asa Butterfield plays 12-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret in this adaptation of Brian Selznick’s children’s book. Hugo lives within the walls of the Paris railway station in 1931 and he befriends a girl, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), in his efforts to find bits and bobs for a mechanical man his late father has left him.

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Ben Kingsley, as Isabelle’s grandfather Georges Melies, takes centre stage as the movie mutates, strangely but endearingly, into a tribute to a pioneer of early cinema. Although this is a subject close to cinephile Scorsese’s heart, it doesn’t always go like, er, clockwork.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s silly-voiced station inspector is jarring and it feels a little indulgent at times. While the film is generally stimulating, very young kids may find it heavy-going.

> Pitched as a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror classic, THE THING (15: Universal) ends where that film begins. Yet it’s really more of a remake, down to the many grotesque, surreal shock moments.

A palaeontologist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) joins an international expedition in Antarctica, which has uncovered an alien spaceship frozen in the ice. They also unearth the craft’s occupant, a deadly shape-changing creature that, once defrosted, murders and imitates members of the team to hunt the others. It causes paranoia on a grand scale, even before the gory mayhem begins.

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An edgy atmosphere is created and the incredibly gruesome scenes are enhanced rather than overwhelmed by the slick CGI work. The horrific sights that greeted Kurt Russell’s crew at the base are cleverly explained in one of the few recent movie revamps that was worthwhile.

> One that’s not is HAPPY FEET 2 (U: Warner), set in an animated Antarctica.

The dance routines and deft songs that made the Oscar-winning original so novel are unmemorable in this sequel.

Tap-dancing emperor penguin Mumble (again voiced by Elijah Wood), son Erik and friends must rescue the rest of their clan when an ice shelf collapses, trapping them in a gorge. Mumble hones his parenting skills and Erik, who is ashamed because he doesn’t have his dad’s nifty moves, learns some important lessons about his place in the world.

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Meanwhile, Bill and Will the krill (Matt Damon and Brad Pitt) make wisecracks as they struggle to assert their individuality.

The visuals are spectacular and the environmental concerns are admirable, but this simply doesn’t have the charm of the original.

> By his overwrought standards, Nicolas Cage is relatively restrained in tense thriller JUSTICE (15: Momentum). His mild-mannered New Orleans schoolteacher gets involved with a shadowy group of vigilantes after his wife (January Jones) is brutally attacked and hospitalised.

The fraught situation is exacerbated when the vigilantes’ leader (Guy Pearce) “requests” that the estranged husband carry out a murder in return for retribution being dealt out to his wife’s attacker.

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But when Cage gets cold feet, the group turn the screws and force him to go on the run, not knowing who to trust among the local police or even his old friends.

Cage is excellent as the terror-stricken everyman of the piece, with the stern-faced, shaven-headed Pearce providing the menace.

> The singing rodents cause mayhem while performing on a tropical cruise in ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (U: Twentieth Century Fox). They’re stranded on an island and to make matters worse they are separated from dad Dave (Jason Lee).

Cue the usual messages about family ties and responsibilities, although it all seems rather jaded this time around. The pop songs are usually a saving grace in these movies, but even they feel tired.

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There are some entertaining exchanges between Lee and David Cross, returning as the music producer whose prospects they ruined last time, but Jenny Slate fails to raise a smile as the eccentric castaway who befriendst hem. Thank goodness for cute little chipmunk Theodore.

> A diagnosis of cancer, usually the subject of serious tear-jerkers, provides an unlikely launching pad for comedy in beautifully played 50/50 (15: Lionsgate).

A struggling, 20-something radio journalist (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) discovers he has a malignant tumour. His girlfriend is unable to deal with his illness, but he finds unlikely support through his treatment from his best pal (Seth Rogen), who has never taken anything seriously before, and his mother (Anjelica Huston), who he has always pushed away.

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