Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Boy, His Dog, A Drunk, and Some Treasure

This is not your normal comic book adaption. There are no super heroes, no amazing gadgets, and no Marvel or DC. Just a boy, his dog, and a drunken sailor. Finally it's time to see Hergé's classic comic on the big screen and with such a fine cast and crew behind it, what could go wrong. Let's talk about The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn. (Woah, mouthful!)

Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his dog Snowy innocently buy a model boat at a street stall. Suddenly, the boat receives a lot of interest from a couple of mysterious men. Intrigued, Tintin keeps a close eye on the boat... Until Snowy knocks it to the floor. Inside the mast is a secret message. A clue. Clearly this is what one of the mysterious men was after as the flat is broken into but the clue remains safe. Tintin teams up with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and foolish inspectors Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost respectively) To unveil the secret of the Unicorn before Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

There's no witty caption here. Just look at how wonderful that CG is.

Now this cast would be outstanding in any live action movie, and it’s just as spectacular in Motion Capture. It is important to remember that this is motion capture and not animation.  They’re not just voice actors, they’re actually acting. And yet, not a single character seems too much like the actor playing them. If you weren't aware which actors were in the film, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Try to tell the difference between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I dare you. Daniel Craig is also superb. At no point did I realise that it was him who played Ivanovich Sakharine. Andy Serkis is absolutely hilarious as Captain Haddock. Only once did his comedy seem to dip into ‘dumb humour’, (Burping into a plane engine in order to keep it flying.) but that's a writing issue... I literally have no complaints about the acting in this movie.

Visually, this film caused my jaw to drop like no film has since Avatar. The very first shot of a person’s face caused a communal intake of air from every person in the cinema. It was simply breathtaking. And the transitions between scenes were completely flawless. Not only that, they were stunning. I've never been so captivated by a scene change. Even the opening sequence was a treat for the eyes. A miniature Tintin adventure as the creative teams names float around the screen. On top of all these things, the movie contains action sequences that rival any big scale blockbuster and they'll also make you laugh until it hurts. The first of two notable examples is a city wide chase sequence. There are bazookas, tanks, floods and a hell of a lot of chaos, and all in a single shot! The camera never cuts away from the action. The second incredible action sequence comes in the form of a flashback to the days of pirates. The story of the unicorn. A battle involving two ships with action on a scale to match, and beat, battle scenes in any Pirates Of The Caribbean films. I was in awe of this scene. The fire jumped off the screen, perhaps due to the 3D, and every single gun shot or cannon fire made me hold the edge of my seat. The whole scene is cleverly re-enacted later using cranes. You'll understand. I don't want to put any spoilers. And all that with just over half the budget for Avatar.

Captain Haddock thought he was in his favourite movie, North by Northwest and was overjoyed
Directed by a man considered a legend in the film making world and produced by an man of equal stature. Both Oscar winners, Steven Spielberg (director) and Peter Jackson (producer) know what they're doing. Hegre was even quoted to say that he believed on Spielberg could do Tintin justice. Personally, I have very few criticisms of this movie. My only big one being that it was too short (even at 107 minutes). Fortunately, there is going to be two more movies, so that's good. I laughed my socks off and was completely hypnotized by the picture. Sometimes, jokes did fall flat and admittedly, snowy was a better detective than Tintin at points, but the movie is a major achievement. I highly suggest it. However, I can't find myself able to give it the full five stars. It misses something. I'm not sure what.

Best bit? Personally, the battle between the two boats was just so outstandingly done I have to say that. It was simply stunning as well as incredibly exciting. 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Die Hard. Again. And Again. And Again. (Part 1)

Since I've been gone for a while, and you guys definitely miss me, I thought I'd treat you. Four movie reviews, two post. Why do I suddenly seem drawn to the idea of these four movies? Well I watched them all today, in one sitting, with my totally legit sports team. What do these movies share in common? They all contain two words: Die Hard.

So I'll try to keep these reviews fairly short. Movie one: Die Hard. Officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) leaves New York to spend Christmas with his family in LA. However, soon after arriving at his wife's work, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) takes over the building with a group of terrorists and seals off all contact with the outside world. Holding the workers hostage, he plans to steal $640 million stored in the buildings vault. McClane manages to get into maintenance areas of the building and tries to alert the police about the situation. The police, apart from Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), are useless.

McClane, I bought you a woman for Christmas.
This is Bruce Willis at his very best. He is the epitome of cool. He has the pout, the never ending ammo and the ability to talk coherently with a cigarette perched between his teeth. Action-wise, this movie is outstanding. It is the perfect genre film. If you were introducing someone to action, start here. Something I'll refer to a lot in this post is Die Hard Science. It is essentially the science that exists in the world of Die Hard, but not in reality. For example, one man may be shot in the head and just crumple, another's head may explode. Rickman was also superb. He's such a perfect antagonist. He's creepy but isn't aggressive unless he really needs to be. He's menacing and powerful without being loud or violent. This is perfect for the villain of this movie.

One thing that I particularly love about this movie is the location. A single location, but a massive location. Despite the film only taking place in one building, this is a forty story building; there's more room in a forty story building than in a wood. This allows for the sense of claustrophobia, but still has the ability to create grand scale action. Bombs, tanks and abseiling with a hose pipe. This movie has it all.

A great start to a great franchise. Witty, action packed and plain cool.

Best Bit? There's something extremely touching about the bromantic hug between McClane and Al but the best bit has to go toMcClane using a hose pipe to lower himself down the building.

Movie Two! Die Hard 2, aptly tag lined 'Die Harder.' Often criticised for being a simple rehash of the first one. Well in some ways it is, but more about that in a moment. Firstly, the plot.

John McClane, once again wishing to spend Christmas with his wife, is waiting for her plane at the airport when he notices some suspicious behavior. Upon investigating, he gets shot at, destroys a mans head, and almost gets arrested. The complete lack of help from airport security leads him to turn to his old pal Al Powell (via a new creation called 'a fax machine') who informs him that one of the men that shot at him, was dead according to records. Somethings afoot. Cue evil plan to keep plane's circling until the demands of the terrorists' have been met, despite all aircraft being low on fuel. Oh, they also take over all the planes' computers and communication so that they can crash them at their will. McClane steps into save the day.

Nobody was happier in an ejector seat than John McClane
Once again, Willis proves that he is the coolest man alive. More pouting whilst shooting, more talking with a cigarette, and more throwing metal painting towers over. He even plays chicken with a plane! Once again, he's helped out by a friendly black guy, Leslie Barnes (Art Evans), who is great fun. Exactly what John McClane needs, a wise cracking, good willed, black guy that stands up to his superiors in order to help McClane. And the antagonists of this film are brilliant. I don't just mean the outstanding Col. Stuart (William Sadler), I also mean the not-quite-baddies-but-you-really-want-to-punch-them baddies. This includes Capt. Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz), in charge of airport security who tries to over power McClane at every turn and, reprising his roll as the selfish and ignorant journalist, William Atherton is brilliant as Richard Thornburg.

Like the first movie, the film takes place in primarily one location, the airport. And again, there's that feeling of claustrophobia despite being in a large area. This is a typical sequel. It's bigger and more ridiculous. That Die Hard Science we mentioned earlier plays a huge part in this film. Plane's crash, with no fuel, and yet explode into an unbelievable fireball. The brilliant aiming of the bad guys suddenly disappears when they shoot at McClane. Several planes can fit onto a very small runway despite it being covered completely in snow. This film does require complete suspension of disbelief. That being said, it's still great fun and 100% worth watching, especially with a good crowd of friends.

Extremely similar to the first movie, but not in a bad way (not like Hangover Part II). It's a bit sillier, a lot bigger, and twice as action packed, with twice as many plot twists. Not quite as good either, but still a great, fun movie

Best Bit? The cool as snow (Gettit?) ending. John McClane proves he's a BAMF all over again after fighting on the wing of a plane and then simply using a lighter as a form of attack.