Friday, December 30, 2011

The Case for Belgian Reporters

The Adventures of Tintin in 3D is sold as a visual experience from those masters of movies, Spielberg and Jackson.  And to cut to the quick, it pretty much is.

The animation is absolutely incredible. The people (besides their faces) all look and move with a realism that indicates that there is new technology besides motion capture at work.  Oddly enough, the brief appearance of the singing Comtessa was the animated highlight, her clothing and gestures so incredibly realised that it almost appeared that a real woman had been filmed and only her head digitally replaced.

And for a change the 3D is really worth it.  I noticed it many times through the swirling camera angles and frenetic action, and was amazed an impressed each time.  

The only down side were bits of the story.  Tintin is a tale from another time, and the bumbling antics of Thomson and Thompson and some of the plot developments creak under the age of the source material.  Captain Haddock's battle with alcoholism is meant to be a source of mirth but, viewed with a packet of ghost chips, doesn't seem as amusing as I am sure it is meant to be.

But overall, the film is a fantastic ride.  The incredible freedom that comes with a completely generated world is put to amazing use, and in the end, I was looking forward to Tintin's next adventure.

Verdict: The Adventures of Tintin was definitely a movie to see in 3D, and most definitely was a film worth seeing. 8 Unicorns out of 10.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Case for Walking Boots

I think I set my expectations too high going into Puss In Boots, starring one of the coolest characters from the Shrek scene.  Shrek itself had become a bit stale, but I suppose I expected a return to mental form and an animation delight.

I also think that the bar set by Arthur Christmas the week before had really raised the standard I was expecting.  That was such a good film, I suppose I was anticipating even more from Dreamworks.  But that was not to be.

That's not to say that Puss in Boots is not a good film.  It really is.  Quite funny, lots of skewed fairytale references, Antonio Banderas.  It's just that it's a little slow.  A little too serious.  A little dancy.

It also stars the voice talent of Zach Galifianakis, from the Hangover, as Puss in Boots wayward "brother" Humpty Dumpty.  I didn't realize he provided that voice until after the film, but it possibly explained why I didn't really like the character that much, which may have been my whole problem with the film itself.

The basic plot is that Puss In Boots, Kitty (Selma Hayek) and Humpty try and track down the magic beans so that they can get the goose that lays the golden eggs and become rich and redeem themselves in the eyes of their hometown.  Their banter is occasionally amusing, but these characters are all meant to be fairly competent and so don't generate a lot of laughs - part of the fun of the Shrek series came from the fact donkey was completely bonkers, and a lot of the laughs came at his expense or naivety.  At any rate, the adventurers encounter perils and magic and lots of cat jokes on their quest, and experience quite a bit of pace-sapping soul searching as well.  There was so much that I almost fell asleep at certain points, even though it was a pretty early screening.

But there were laughs as well.  Plastic bottles full of water defied the technological era in which the film was set; Jack and Jill never looked so sinister; and the golden gosling was very cute.

However, as the end credits rolled, I realised I was pretty glad it was over.  Perhaps the 3D version would have been more invigorating, but I doubt it.  It was a good film, above average on a whole lot of levels, but for me at least just missing that spark which made it good.

Verdict: Puss In Boots strikes out on his own and makes a decent film, but not one that will live on in legend.  Well, not the legend I would write anyway.  6.5 golden eggs out of 10.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Case for Aardman Christmas

Christmas movies normally are by their nature a turn off for me.  They tend to be saccharine, sentimental things, dripping with songs and a happy ever after message that leaves me a bit nauseous.  Luckily, there are some antidotes to this: Bad Santa; the classic one with Bill Murray (Scrooged, I believe); a few others.  I can't claim that Arthur Christmas is one of those "antiXmas" movies, as it is not, but I had heard that the humour was pretty amusing and as it is also an Aardman production, it definitely seemed worth a look.

Even if that look had to be in 3D - Reading Cinemas, in their infinite wisdom, did not have a 2D session screening after 4.00pm.  And so, I was forced into a pair of the unflattering 3D goggles, but then I have to admit that the 3D was actually pretty good.

As was the whole movie, actually.  It helps having an amazing cast, with Jim Broadbent playing dim-witted Santa (which he does pretty well, as he has had lots of practice playing bumbling), Bill Nighy stealing the show as the crotchety GrandSanta, and Hugh Laurie beating his chest as the modernising Santa-in-waiting, Steve (loved his goatee too).  The female voice actors, including Imelda Staunton and that lass from Extras, are also magnificent, even though they are not given a whole lot to do.  The main character, Arthur, is voiced by James McAvoy and he is as good as you would expect, though I could quite easily hear Ewan McGregor putting on a similar starstruck English accent to pretty much the same effect.

The story is pretty barmy, and ends up as a flying race around the world (hence the benefit of watching it in good 3D), but where it really shines is in some of the throw away lines and props: a tube of Grandsanta's Chimney Lube sits unremarked (but greatly appreciated) in one scene; one child writes to Santa asking, "If you live in the North Pole, how come I can't find you on Google Earth?"; and as the crisis in the story reaches its peak, the Elves begin to doubt everything, one amongst the near hysterical throng crying, "Children are antimatter!", much to my mirth. 

Sure, there are songs and familiar (yet ultimately meaningless) Christmas carols though this is mercifully not a musical.  The movie teems with Northern Hemisphere Christmas imperialism (where if it's not snowing, it's not Christmas; everyone seems to write to Santa in English) but then, while the animation and references are pretty sophisticated, the basic premise of the story is not.

Overall though, it is hard to find too many faults with the film.  Arthur Christmas is just so nice, so brimming with bonkers ideas, and Grandsanta is just so hilarious that it is very easy to like and, dare I say it, almost love this film. 

Verdict: 'Tis the season to be jolly, and films like Arthur Christmas make it very easy to be so.  It's a shame that Wallace and Gromit don't make a guest appearance, but Aardman productions make another brilliant movie, and the premium British voice cast is just the icing on the cake.  8.5 chestnuts roasting over an open fire out of 10.