Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin

In our younger days, my brother and I went through a period of time being semi-obsessed with both Tintin and Asterix and Obelix. There was something appealing about the utter Euroness of them both. The exotic settings and adventures certainly played to my youthful sensibilities. And probably the budding hipster in me loved that nobody else had them and we could keep their mythologies to ourselves. I still consider the Tintin cartoon to be one of my all time favorites and was pretty disappointed to learn of its adaption into a big screen feature.
The fact that both Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson were teaming up together on this one only intensified my apprehension. I have real problems with both directors. Why Spielbergian hasn't become an adjective for overwrought schmaltz is beyond me. And though they may have been fun at the time the Lord of the Rings trilogy is now laughable to watch. In fact, Peter Jackson directed one good movie, Heavenly Creatures, a long time ago. But Jackson didn't direct Tintin, Spielberg did and it's his fault that it wasn't very good.
The Adventures of Tintin begins with Tintin buying the model of an old ship at a flea market. Obviously this model ship will be the crux of the mystery and it is soon revealed to be so as an American detective offers him more than double what he paid for it. Sensing its worth, Tintin refuses and the game is afoot. If the movie had spent more time following Tintin as he uncovered the mystery of the ship then I might not have had so many problems with the movie. After a short period of time we learn that there are three models of the ship each containing clues to the location of the actual ship that sank to the bottom of the ocean full of treasure. What ensues is basically a jumble of implausible action sequences that finish out the film. By the end of the movie I basically felt bombarded by flat blocks of bland color palatte struggling to form 3D images. The end of the movie completely flops.
But Tintin wasn't totally without charms. I'm a big fan of Jamie Bell and he did a good job capturing the essence of Tintin and Andy Serkis was great as Captain Haddock but the real star of the movie to me was Snowy. I'm guessing they didn't dress a real dog up in one of those idiotic looking suits so I'm going to have to give the animators credit for that one. For a fan of the series there are many subtle references to other story lines and the spirit of the world created by Herge was definitely in tact throughout the film. The inclusion of Thompson and Thomson was fun and their interplay provided some of the funniest parts of the film though their role in the story was minimal.
I have to say that the animation didn't look as bad as I thought it would. In part because I thought it was going to be virtually unwatchable. I don't really understand why animators are trying to make things look more and more lifelike. I've always thought the wonder of cartoons was that they weren't lifelike at all. Things can happen in cartoons that don't in real life. Physics can be suspended. But if animators want to continually make things look more and more real then I'm going to suspend my belief less and less.
So, though I think it doesn't quite work overall, fans of Tintin or younger movie goers should find enough to  enjoy but I wouldn't pay full price for it and I don't think the 3D added much to the viewing experience. I'd wait for DVD.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 15 Movies of 2011

I saw a lot of movies in 2011, but even I missed a few. Ones I didn't get a chance to see but might have included on this list: Melancholia, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Shame, The Artist, The Skin I Live In, The Interrupters, Pariah, A Dangerous Method, and Week End.

In general I like Muppets. Puppets, ehh, but Muppets, great. One of my earliest memories is watching The Muppet Show at my great-grandmother's house while eating those little candies with the strawberry printed wrappers. I wasn't sure how this addition to the oeuvre would fair but was pleasantly surprised by it. Sure the voices are a little off and there was scarcely any Rowlf but I still had fun and that's what this movie was all about. I could, however, have done without the Chris Cooper rap number. 

How many movies have you seen about a teenager desperate to lose his virginity? Plenty. That's how many. But Submarine offers an actual refreshing take on the tired old coming of age trope. Directed by Richard Ayoade, Submarine is charming and warm. It's sort of a grittier, more realistic, British version of Rushmore. If that makes any sense. Every performance is great but I especially liked Noah Taylor as the father of the love starved protagonist. Submarine also reinforces my theory that you should see every movie with Paddy Considine in it.

Brendan Gleeson is one of my all time favorite actors. He's weird looking and fat which are big selling points for me. It doesn't hurt that he's an amazing comedic actor that steals every scene he's in. He doesn't disappoint in the Guard. He sort of comes off as a cross between Georges Simenon's Maigret and Abel Ferrera's Bad Lieutenant. He's amazing. Oh, and Don Cheadle is in it too but I'm not going to subject you to any of my depraved "Cheadle-ing."

I'd call it a fitting end. Which is more than you can ever really hope for with something of this magnitude and scope. I didn't really grow up with any of the books or anything like that but I did love them in my own way. I was really glad they got the movies on track after the first two disasters and I'm totally pleased with how it all played out.

Attack the Block felt like SF Goonies or maybe a clever update of Monster Squad. It's just a fun movie. They way they handled the special effects, minimal, frightening, combined with the like-able young cast will make this movie a cult classic.

Win Win features Paul Giamatti at his schlubby best as a down on his luck lawyer that moonlights as the high school wrestling coach. It's ultimately a feel good sports movie, but the performances by Giamatti, Amy Ryan and especially Bobby Cannavale make Win Win one of my favorites of the year. Tom McCarthy, who also directed The Station Agent, has a way of capturing the tension of real life loneliness and isolation that few directors can touch. 

If Tilda Swinton doesn't win an Oscar for this movie then the Oscars can go fuck themselves...again. I didn't see a more riveting performance by an actor all year. I read this book a long time ago after my mom checked it out from the Bookmobile and it was pretty good but I didn't see this movie in it at all. Lynne Ramsey is a real cinematic genius. If you aren't familiar with her work, become familiar with it ASAP.

I'm not going to say this is the best samurai movie of all time or anything but it certainly is the best of the more modern smattering of them. 13 Assassins is the best film in its genre of the last ten years. I will go on record with that. Takashi Miike should be doing this instead of doing anything else at all. I know we all loved those creepy incest scenes in Visitor Q and the weird birth scene in Gozu but come on, if he can do this he should cool it with the other. 

Elizabeth Olson was so good in this movie. Seriously, she almost single-handedly makes up for me ever having laid eyes on her older, uglier, twin sisters. This movie is creepy and disturbing in a way that just sort of seeped into my skin without even realizing it. The director, Sean Durkin, did such an amazing job withholding images and ideas while still managing to place them in my consciousness. And another commanding performance by John Hawkes who's really starting to get the attention he's deserved since Deadwood. 

Michael Shannon is probably my favorite actor working today. I've never seen a less than exceptional performance from him. Take Shelter is his second collaboration with director Jeff Nichols. They previously teamed up on the little seen but amazing Shotgun Stories. Take Shelter might have missed the psychiatric mark a couple of times but the mounting dread and intense visuals more than made up for it. Jessica Chastain was also quite good and, I must say, my new film crush. 

Hugo earns a place on my list by virtue of making me believe that 3D movies can work. I was deeply impressed by the way Hugo was filmed. Martin Scorsese proves once again that his perhaps the greatest director of all time.  

Look deep into those eyes, feel your heart beat faster and faster, that's right, you're in love with Ryan Gosling. Don't worry, we all are. Except Lauren. Who just claimed he was distinctly not awesome as a person. But Drive has more than the pitter patter of Gosling infatuation. Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks are all masterful. The only thing about Drive that doesn't work is Ron Perlman. He's just over matched and working too hard. 

Since the early 90's it has been a crap shoot which Woody Allen you were going to get every time a new movie came out. Is it going to be Mighty Aphrodite or Small Time Crooks? Luckily the last couple of years have seen a few more hits than misses. Vicky, Christina, Barcelona was fantastic and now Midnight in Paris tops even that film. It's so nice to see him at the top of his game. Him and Owen Wilson.

2. The Trip

To bed, for tomorrow we rise at 9:00 for 9:30! I've watched this movie four times already. Can't get enough of it. Can't get enough of the, Coogs.

Any time Kelley Reichardt comes out with a movie you can pretty much place it at or near the top of my list. I literally cannot wait to see what she does next. I idly think about it sometimes. Every performance is fine tuned and riveting. The danger these travelers in is pervasive and growing as the movie churns along at an admitted snail like place. Despite being shot in the wide open expanse of Eastern Oregon, Meek's Cutoff is so closed and intimate. Easily my favorite film of the year.