Strong performance-capture work gives this technical marvel a human edge
- Critic's Rating A
- Readers' Rating A-
"The Adventures Of Tintin" is a preposterously fun movie, first and foremost, regardless of what technology was used to make it. It is very old-fashioned in storytelling terms, but cutting-edge in the way it's told. It tells a rough-and-tumble adventure story that is more real-world than much of what Hollywood makes these days, but it's animated in a way that removes it from reality completely. It is a film that seems to hinge on a number of contradictions, and that friction is just one of the reasons I really loved the experience.
Much has been written about how long Steven Spielberg's been interested in making a film version of Herge's long-running comic series, and one of the biggest questions that I've heard repeatedly is "Why would he do it as a performance capture animated film?" I think the first answer to that question is obvious after you see the movie and you see Snowy, Tintin's canine sidekick, in action. Snowy is a major character in the film, and has an outsized personality. Trying to get the same performance out of a real dog in the middle of a film also involving stunts and special effects and international travel would be a nightmare, and as it is, Snowy is one of the main highlights of the movie now. Also, there is a sense of scale and abandon to the way the action is staged in the film that would be a nightmare to orchestrate in live-action, and I think working in animation has set Spielberg free in a way I'm not sure we've ever seen from him before.
Ultimately, though, the tools used wouldn't matter if the film was no fun.
And this film is nothing but fun.
From Mary Jane to the end of the world, Dunst has finally grown up
In yet another milestone on the very strange road to adulthood my two sons are walking, they were witness to an exceptionally chipper Kirsten Dunst talking about her "boobies" as we settled in for a quick conversation last weekend about her new film "Melancholia."
This was a very busy morning for us. I was also doing interviews for "The Muppets" at the same hotel, so I had both of my sons with me. Toshi actually did one of those interviews, and you'll see that here next week sometime. They've both come to junkets with me before, and they know that they have to sit quietly when I'm doing the actual interview. As fans of Spider-Man, they are aware of Dunst from the covers of the movies they're not old enough to watch yet, and they knew that she used to be Spider-Man's girlfriend.
When we were just sitting down, I complimented Dunst on her work in "Melancholia," and she thanked me, then asked what the boys were doing with me. I explained about "The Muppets," and she got interested immediately, asking them how they liked the film and asking me if they got the movie right. She then asked the boys if they had seen "Melancholia" with me, and laughed when they both said no.
"Well, that's good. They haven't seen my boobies, then."
Oh, okay, we digress a little, so it's 'Star Wars' and 'Bellflower'
It's a weird one this week.
One of the first things that brought Scott Swan and I together as friends was our shared affection for all things "Star Wars." When we first met, "Return Of The Jedi" was only two and a half years old, and both of us were still operating under the impression that there would be more sequels, and that they would come fairly quickly.
Now here we are in the year 2011, a full six years after the release of the final prequel, and I've just finished sharing the films with my kids for the first time. It seems hard to believe, since in some ways, it feels like it's just been a blink of the eye since the first time Scott and I sat there, arguing over the merits or the demerits of the films, and it sort of feels like our entire friendship has been one long conversation about the films and their creator, George Lucas.
We were asked by many of you to do an all-"Star Wars" podcast, and the result is perhaps the loosest and most inside conversation we've ever published as a podcast. This is Scott and I late on Sunday night, just shooting the breeze, the conversation wandering from point to point, all of it somehow loosely related to "Star Wars." If you're looking for something professional and well-organized, this ain't it. But if you want to hear two old friends picking up the same topic for the 10,000th time, this is it, and it's a real glimpse at the nerd DNA we have in common.
Both Jack and Jill are impossible to like, making the movie a tough sit
- Critic's Rating D-
- Readers' Rating C+
At this point, I think Adam Sandler has a pretty good idea of what he's going to be doing for the rest of his life, and he's made peace with it. He makes a certain kind of film, running a few variations to keep it slightly different each time out, and they make a certain kind of money. His friends all stay employed, nobody challenges him, and he's happy.
Good for him.
The people around Adam Sandler all seem to love him. I can't recall ever hearing a bad word from anyone in Los Angeles who works for or with him. Todd Garner, who produces many of the films that Sandler's part of these days including this one, loves him, and I know Todd well enough to know that he does not pretend about who he does or doesn't like. Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel, two very funny men I have boundless respect for, think of Sandler as a dear friend and a comedic peer. Sandler creates constant work for a core group of people, and they owe their livelihoods to him, something which must be a strange relationship to have with your friends, but which he seems to wear well. They all seem to share his sensibilities enough that the films represent a pretty consistent example of comic voice bent to different scenarios and characters, but always within a certain range.
Emily Blunt is also awesome in heartbroken brain-bending time travel story
This is not a review.
After all, for this to be a review, I would have had to have seen "Looper," which isn't set for release until about a year from now, and how would I have done that?
Let's say I was a time traveler, though, and let's say I did use my awesome power to simply see a film a little bit early. That sounds like a totally rational use of the technology, right? After all, this is the new movie by the writer/director of "Brick" and "The Brothers Bloom," and it stars "Inception" and "Dark Knight Rises" star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Motherfudging Willis, and Emily Blunt, and it's been described as a science-fiction film. What part of that doesn't sound like something I'd want to see?
At this point, of course, "Looper" is still fairly unfinished, so trying to review it as a finished film right now would be an exercise in futility. Let me offer up thoughts on a test screening of the movie that took place in Burbank Tuesday night, while trying to be delicate about spoilers while still somewhat specific in my reaction.
This particular match of Clint Eastwood and movie star never really connects
- Critic's Rating C
- Readers' Rating C+
I think it's safe to say that Clint Eastwood has secured his legacy as a filmmaker.
Even if he'd quit directing after he totally crushed it with "Unforgiven," he would have made the case for himself as a world-class director. But at this point, the only filmmaker who works faster or more frequently appears to be Woody Allen, and like Allen, he works often enough that for every great movie he makes, at least two or three of his movies are nearly impossible to sit through. I'm amazed at how bulletproof he is these days, critically speaking, but I think the real respect you can pay an artist is to react honestly to their work and not just give them a pass based on who they are.
I can't in good conscience recommend that you see "J. Edgar," which of course isn't going to stop anyone from actually seeing it. After all, it is Eastwood directing with a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of "Milk," and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, and a typically dense Eastwood cast. Sounds great, right?
Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and the new Muppet Walter have everything that they need
The music of "The Muppets" is a major part of the film's appeal, and so far, it's the soundtrack that has spent the most time in the various CD players around the house. The boys and I listen to it each day on the way to and from school, and they've already started to learn all the words to the songs.
Yesterday, Katie Hasty ran the song that opens the film, and today, we've got the actual video from that number. This is basically the opening of the film, and it introduces Gary (Jason Segel), Mary (Amy Adams), and the brand-new Muppet, Walter as they prepare for their big trip to Hollywood.
Music and dance have always been important parts of the world of the Muppets, and I'm really impressed by the way the songs in this film fit into the Muppet pantheon so effortlessly. "I've Got Everything That I Need," the song featured here, is one of the songs written by Bret McKenzie, who you may know as one of the members of Flight Of The Conchords. McKenzie's voice is crystal clear in the film, and if you like the music he performs as part of FOTC, then you'll probably have a great time with these songs.
As Fox Searchlight prepares to test the NC-17 waters again, we look back
During my vacation, I was poking around Twitter late one night and talking to Sasha Stone, owner and operator of Awards Daily. We were talking about Fox Searchlight's upcoming release of "Shame" and the NC-17 that the film was awarded.
She mentioned the full-frontal nudity by Carey Mulligan in an early scene in the film and how she was convinced that was one of the reasons for the most restrictive rating, and I told her I was fairly sure that was not the case. Our conversation was blunt, with frank terminology used as a sort of shorthand, and one of my Twitter followers told me that a woman next to him on the train was actively offended by the terminology we were using. That made me laugh because (A) the woman was reading his Twitter feed and (B) adults who get worked up over words they don't like are funny.
While it's easy to let a conversation about the functional insanity that defines what is or isn't appropriate for a sixteen-year-old versus a seventeen-year-old lapse into open silliness, it's a real conversation that is worth having. During my vacation, the ratings system that is regulated by the MPAA had its 43rd anniversary, and it seems to me this is a good moment to reflect on whether or not it's doing the job it was created to do, what alternatives exist, and what the Internet means to ratings in general.
Do games offer a new form of moral-question-as-entertainment?
I have a feeling the video game industry is about to post some of their biggest success stories yet, with "Modern Warfare" and "Skyrim" launching this week and with a new "Assassin's Creed" just around the corner, hot on the heels of the launch of "Arkham City." The money being made by some of these A-list titles is incredible, and in some cases, Hollywood's got to feel a little jealous of the action.
As these experiences get slicker, it's apparent that they're not competing directly with Hollywood as narratives, but instead are offering something much more visceral in the idea of the interactive experience. When I think back on my favorite gaming memories from the last decade or so, it's no longer like the game memories I have from when I was a kid. Today, there's an eerie virtual reality quality to high end videogames that I think starts to get a little scary in terms of the kinds of release people are being offered. I remember great gaming moments as actual experiences, with a tactile quality that is very different than the passive act of watching a movie.
On Friday, Ubisoft made an unusual move this week out of fear of piracy. They were told that they could expect a leak of a certain sizzle reel, and they decided to take the initiative to release the footage instead, as well as a major press release announcing "Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6: Patriots," in which your military team is pitted against American fundamentalist terrorists.
Ewoks, explosions, the Emperor, and many many shared tears close out the series
There was no event that took place during my vacation that equaled the impact of the screening I held for my sons Toshi and Allen of the final film in the "Star Wars" series, "Return of the Jedi."
And really, how could there be?
When we started this, I admit that I wasn't really thinking about it as a pivotal moment in their filmgoing lives. I had no idea what sort of impact the films would have on them, even though I knew what kind of impact the films had on me. One of the things I've tried to do as I've been sharing movies with my boys is be careful not to try to force them into liking the things I like. I've been very careful about the way the iconography of "Star Wars" was introduced into their lives, never placing it on a pedestal above everything else. There are certain little things around the house that have been there as long as they've been alive. A Yoda figure in one room. A Battle Droid on another shelf. An old toy lightsaber in their toy box. Toshi started asking me about seeing the "Star Wars" films about a year ago, and when the Blu-ray box set showed up, I finally decided to give it a try. Part of me thought I was doing it too soon, but I couldn't deny the interest was there, and that's been the big guiding light so far with this series. I make things available on an age-appropriate basis, and then they tell me what interests them.