Film Thought: Why I Balk at the Megaticket Experiment

Not too sound too much like a get-off-my-lawn-type but I did have a few thoughts on the recent Megaticket trial for World War Z.

Now, as much as possible, I will separate these thoughts from my thoughts on the film itself.

As many have pointed out, it’s fairly ironic that this trial occurred about a month after Steven Spielberg and George Lucas spent quite a bit of time speculating on the future of films, and Spielberg made the observation that moviegoing in a theatrical setting was heading the way of the Broadway musical becoming cost-prohibitive for the average consumer. This ticket hit half the $100 bogey he set.

And this is what the $50 got you:

included a ticket to a 3D screening of the movie on June 19, two days before the film’s release; one HD digital copy of the movie when it becomes available; one pair of “World War Z” custom RealD 3D glasses; a full-size limited-edition movie poster and a small popcorn

World War Z (2013, Paramount)

My first issue is that if you look at the cost per item, you’re about breaking even but reserving the right to own everything right away (They claim $75 in value. If that’s true they’re overvaluing the glasses and digital copy to me). However, you get no soda and you get no physical version of the film.

I’m not going to say I’d never parttake in a megaticket experience (the early screening is likely the most enticing in this now/future film culture that exists). However, if I were to do it I would more likely shell out the money for a DVD/Blu-ray combo and a title that was pre-sold to me.

I honestly still have issues believing World War Z was pre-sold to anyone. Yes, the novel had quite a following, but it was widely reported that this was an adaptation in name only. So for something say like Star Wars: Episode VII, I might consider it. Otherwise it’s going to take me a while to get on board.

The inclination is already for the studios to forgo risk-taking, if we, the movie-crazed minority, will jump at the opportunity to give up even more cash per head than we already do we’re further ensuring the studios’ business plan and endangering theatrical attendance.

Not too be overly-alarmist but it’s not hard to foresee the slippery slope this could lead us down. Make sure we don’t redefine what an event film is. Some releases may be worth this treatment but not most, and certainly not all.

Advertisements

Why The Purge Matters

Finances

Box office actuals won’t likely be out until tomorrow, but the estimates are that The Purge not only won the box office for the weekend clearly, but it also sets a record for an opening by an R-rated horror film in the US. On top of that, it’s take in excess of $36 million dollars more than makes back its reported 3 million production budget.

I’ve frequently commented on budgets inasmuch as I don’t care what they are so long as the film is good. As a viewer that’s true. If a film cost a couple of thousand dollars and works (like Absentia) good for it. If a movie costs a lot of money and works for me bully for it as well (See Artificial Intelligence). Budget really only comes into play on a film, for a viewer, when a film is trying to tell a story beyond its means and fails. If a film understands its constraints and tells its story well within them you can’t knock if for being made on the cheap.

As a filmmaker, budgets do matter. When a film made with a very small investment compared to many, especially so-called tentpoles, can be a hit regardless of what its magic number is and return on that investment that’s a great thing. Most people with sense recognize that fiscal responsibility is needed. Steven Spielberg has directed a number of blockbusters but even he knows that more isn’t always more. So there’s a sense that profit, more than throwing money at a supposed sure thing; or rather something that can’t miss because too much has been invested already, doesn’t always make sense.

The Purge (2013, Universal)

Story

But the success of The Purge is exciting because its strength is its idea. Now, I am one of those who enjoyed the film a great deal. There was a certain more that I wanted, and not in the best way, but the film does work and sets the stage. The concept is about a night of legalized crime. The introduction to the concept is through a microcosmic approach where one family who usually does not get involved, just hides out, becomes ground zero for the neighborhood’s hunt. It essentially plays a home invasion plot.

However, with a jumping-off point of legalized crime and the potential franchise (I am sure it will be one now) drawing its strength from a concept rather than a star or an iconic character there are any number of areas or stories in the genre it can explore. It can either start the next installment with this family or go off on a tangent, it can show the chaos that lead to this all or any number of permutations on Purge Night. Like many of the most successful franchises it tethers itself to a once-a-year happening, but in this case they created a holiday.

I think a common talking point was we wanted more about what precipitated the institution of the purge. That is introduced just enough such that the story can work and the details are left as potential fodder for later. In this film its a given and that’s fine. It still works very well and more importantly people talked about it. Whether you went in cynical or willingly suspended disbelief it got people talking, just on the concept.

On my Twitter feed I saw a hashtag develop of #LegitPurgeQuestions. Yes, many of them were funny but it’s still people talking, engaging, being interested in the idea, and when all is said and done, wanting more.

When I recently rescreened Sinister I noted how many bullets I jotted down for a post I’m planning later in the year. There are many talking points in it. Blumhouse is not only making successful horror films but ones that get people talking and whether you enjoy them or not, I for the most part have liked them a lot, they’re keeping a genre that’s always in peril of stagnation, to one extent or another, fresh.

I say that can be nothing but a good thing.

Shyamalan Week: The Spiritual Trilogy

Introduction

With After Earth being released this week it struck me that the timing was good to revisit not only some of M. Night Shyamalan‘s films but also some old pieces I wrote about him or his works that have not yet made their way over to this site.

This particular piece is brand new, however, and the thought occurred to me after having revisited Wide Awake/em>.

Wide Awake and The Spiritual Trilogy

Wide Awake (1998, Miramax)

Wide Awake was released in in 1998, and was a film I was looking forward to seeing at the time. This was based on both the trailer and the fact that I was a fan of Rosie O’Donnell’s at the time (Granted her involvement was slightly oversold, but that’s marketing). Indie films, even ones distributed by Miramax, were not as easy for me to get a hold of so it had to wait until its home video release, but I recall being very taken with the film then. I had not revisited it many times since but still had fond memories of it.

Wide Awake garnered 7 BAM Award nominations, which are my personal year-end picks. Mind you that M. Night Shyamalan would not be a director I knew anything about, or someone most people knew, until The Sixth Sense took off; it was just a reaction to what I saw, no hype, nothing.

Wide Awake is about a grade school boy (Joseph Cross) not only coping with the loss of his grandfather but dealing with very big questions because of it. He is concerned for the fate of this grandfather’s immortal soul, questions his own religion, the existence of God and more things that are not usually the purview of one so young.

The Sixth Sense (1999, Touchstone Pictures)

With The Sixth Sense Shyamalan takes a turn towards the supernatural but many of the same answers are being searched for by the young protagonist. Cole Sear, played by Haley Joel Osment, the protagonist of The Sixth Sense has this unique ability to see the dead, he doesn’t know what they want, why they come to him, why they won’t leave him be and what it all means. All he knows for sure is that he’s terrified and trying to understand what the meaning of death is and by inference the meaning of life.

Moving Forward

Praying with Anger (1992, Cinevista)

For many who seek to trace the career of Shyamalan they erroneously trace it back just to The Sixth Sense. However, even my analysis will only go so far. I can assert through an educated guess that The Sixth Sense closes out a thematic trilogy, a period of work Shyamalan had not unlike a painter. His first feature Praying with Anger was filmed in India while he was still an undergraduate.

According to the synopsis it tells the tale of an “Alienated, Americanized teenager of East Indian heritage sent back to India where he discovers not only his roots but a lot about himself.” Praying with Anger has never been readily available on video in the US, or at least it hasn’t been for some time, though it does seem it had one week in one theater in 1992. Myself and many others have been unable to see it, and that is probably by design, it seems rather clear that there was a spiritual, soul-searching phase that kicked off Shyamalan’s career.

The next phase wherein he discussed wanting to make what amounted to feature-length Twilight Zone episodes, would spin-off from The Sixth Sense, but the that film stands a bit apart from the others. Interestingly, while it caps the first theme it also acts as a transitional film to the titles that come. If one is to look at the next three films (Unbreakable, Signs and The Village) there are certainly more commonalities in those three films when removing The Sixth Sense from that grouping.

The Sixth Sense (1999, Touchstone Pictures)

This phase notion is one I never really considered, but what I do know is that it can get you pegged. It turns out that the similarities that The Sixth Sense did bear with the next three set some people up. However, I recently mentioned that one of the pitfalls of auteur criticism is just that. You expect things too readily and I never even thought of grouping his first three films. Steven Spielberg tried to dodge pidgeonholes people tried to keep him in for as long as he could. He attempted to avoid films too similar to one another back-to-back until later on in his career with two straight dramas (The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun) or his dark futures (A.I. and Minority Report). Yet, even he had associations dog him. Aliens, for example.

I’m not comparing the two filmmakers, but rather finding one point of comparison: both broke through with a massive hit at a young age that put them under the microscope. Both Shyamalan and Spielberg have had their missteps and their big early hits, and both have had to contend with people attempting to define them. One of the things that Spielberg benefitted from is that he was at the vanguard of director-as-star. With Shyamalan it was an accepted notion that he was lumped into due to his being the creative force behind a worldwide box office smash.

Conclusion

Wide Awake (1998, Miramax)

Essentially, what I am seeking in this series of writings is to merely examine the works more closely. I am not writing a persuasive essay. His films don’t work for some and that’s fine, but I am also not coming from an over-rationalizing fanboy’s perspective either. I later on connected Wide Awake and The Sixth Sense. All I knew about The Sixth Sense as it was looming was that it looked good and I wanted to see it. After I had I recognized that name in the credits, and checked the IMDb. So in some ways I was a lot like other people discovering who he was and what his voice at the time was. I just already had a track record with his work is all.

Essentially, if you’re going to look at the trajectory of his career his first three films, the actual first three films and I believe have to be looked at as one unit. Call it a cinematic coming-of-age if you will. In the next three he’s exploring a particular milieu and genre. From that point on he’s been branching out and we will get to those in due course.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Genremeld (Part 10 of 17)

This is a recapitulation of a paper I did in college. This is part eight in the series to read other parts go here.

Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Creepshow, Weird Science, Time Bandits, Splash, Big, Back to the Future, The Witches of Eastwick and My Stepmother is an Alien all of these films crossed genres to try and make something new and unique, and this was a staple of 80s filmmaking.


It has been said that nothing really original has been said after 1800. In film much the same conundrum exists in that there really are no new stories, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t crave films. More so than any other decade prior the 80s were expert at recombining genres and on occasion creating something new or at least different enough that everyone flocked towards it.

One of the great hits of the genremeld was Gremlins. Never before or since has there been such a perfect balance of the horrific and comedic. There’s no tongue-in-cheek here it wants you to laugh and gasp in the same breath.


Gremlins (1984, Warner Bros.)

In the film Gremlins we have two important things occurring: first, this is one of the first films of the Spielberg School. It was written by Chris Columbus while he was attending NYU he later went on to work with Spielberg on The Goonies. It was directed by Joe Dante a former Corman protégé who later in the decade directed Innerspace and Matinee. Plot-wise this film is very important in that it’s a great example of the ’80s habit of fusing genres. Many ’80s many horror films were unintentionally funny this one is attempting to be purposely funny and succeeding. It was also quite frightening mostly to young kids because the cute, little furry things mutate into nasty, putrid beasts.


Structurally, this film is very tight. In the opening scene where the father (Hoyt Axton) buys a mogwai we are given rules, a trait common to many fantasy films, they are ‘don’t get them wet, don’t feed them after midnight and they hate bright light.’ The breaking of these rules end up being our act breaks and/or plot points. The first act ends in one of the most clear-cut fashions I’ve ever seen. Gizmo, the mogwai, gets water spilled on him in the 25th minute of the film and we see his progeny pop right out of him.


What a lot of people fail to notice is that there was actually a new creature invented for this film under the guise of an old myth. Gremlins were supposedly little monsters placed in machinery during World War II by the Germans. This creature comes from China according to this tale. It also allows for slight social commentary when Mr. Futterman complains about foreign cars and also while drunk he professes to believe in Gremlins in the classic sense. In the 1980s foreign cars truly bothered people enough such that the phrase ‘Buy American,’ was coined. 


Gremlins (1984, Warner Bros.)

The Spielberg School was always very big on ‘in-jokes,’ which can be readily apparent to the audience but are often missed (i.e. Rockin’ Ricky Rialto has the same billboard lettering as, and similar artwork to, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gizmo hiding behind an E.T. doll). There is also a cameo by animation director Chuck Jones. 


The characters in this film are quickly established. We see Rand Peltzer, the father, haplessly trying to pedal his invention, Billy (Zach Galligan) signing a petition, Kate (Phoebe Cates) works at a bar for free and Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) refuses to give a family more time to pay their loan. This film is funny and fun-filled and allusions to classic cinema are also play an important part in this story there is a clip from It’s a Wonderful Life and the Gremlins watch Snow White and in a hysterical turn they love it. There’s also mimicry of a popular film at the time Flashdance, and it’s great. The whole second half of this film is a wonderful mix of the hysterical and the creepy and sometimes both. Mrs. Deagle is thrown from her Stairmaster out the window to die in the snow. This shouldn’t be funny but it is. Then on the gross-out side we see a Gremlin melting in the sunlight. We also have the music of Jerry Goldsmith in this film who is wonderful composer who will turn out tunes just as hummable as Williams’s, but he specializes more in these fun types of films.

Gremlins was a big hit grossing $148 million on an $11 million dollar budget, and it’s easy to see why. It turns from a horror/comedy and there’s a lot of action thrown in. We laugh at what we shouldn’t. This is also one of the more tastefully done ‘horrors-on-Christmas’ films with a Gremlin getting chopped to bits while Burl Ives’s ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ is playing. I used to be deathly afraid of this film and it took me many years to gather up the courage to see it again. I’m very glad I did see it again though because, as strange as it sounds, this film is even whimsical in the way it handles its subject matter. As an adult, I don’t know who would be truly afraid of it but it does offer its fair share of the horror currency known as the “gross-out.” It’s so well handled in that regard I think we may be in suspense for a bit waiting for something else like it.

Hero Whipped: Richie Rich

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Hero Whipped piece and I was considering this idea and several others to liven things up. If you’ve not read one of these posts before. Since the introduction the focus has been on one character, one who appears in comics but usually in many kinds of media, including films, of course.

With regards to Richie Rich there are really quite a few avenues of my return to comics, not to mention that but also the relationship between comics and film, which I can touch upon here. Before getting to a specific case study, which is where this post will differentiate itself. I’ll go through a bit of character history, as well as personal history with the character.

Histories

Richie Rich (Classic Media)

Richie Rich is one of the characters I grew up with when I was first reading comics before I abandoned them. The fate of his character and Harvey Comics was one of the hard truths I had to come to terms with upon returning to enjoying the medium after about a decade and a half hiatus.

Now, he and other Harvey creations aren’t exactly dead in the water. Harvey Comics met its demise not too long after the release of the Richie Rich film. It was second major film project based on their characters and ironically, the single-issue adaptation of the film’s story was actually released by Marvel, and that’s where the case study will come in.

Since Harvey went under the characters of their universe have undergone quite a journey. They were reprinted in a series of collections, most of which are now hard-to-find, by Dark Horse Comics.

Richie Rich: Rich Rescue (Ape Entertainment)

However, that didn’t last long, but Richie Rich has been revitalized through Ape Entertainment’s Kidzoic label. What Ape, with aid of the old hands that are still with us, have managed to do is that they’ve modernized the character in appearance, behavior and plot, but kept Richie’s essence the same. Through Rich Rescue he still gets into capers but the tales are more formalized and less random. He rings a bit more true but is still essentially a good kid, and not the spoiled silver spoon baby one would expect. Reggie, his antagonistic cousin, is a bit more rounded. The art is also more malleable inasmuch as there are reprints/recolorings of old tales as well as new stories with classical design of the characters.

Richie Rich (Classic Media)

Then last year, Classic Media, which is the company that took control of the intellectual property of Harvey and a couple of other companies was purchased by DreamWorks. This development is great for the future of these characters. Firstly, it doesn’t seem like right now it’ll endanger rekindled comic adaptations (while Star Wars comics will migrate to Marvel, comics based on Disney’s characters remain entrenched at Boom Studios, and Disney has never really had a proprietary brand) I don’t foresee DreamWorks or Classic Media entering the fray either, but do believe Spielberg/DreamWorks will try and build upon his investment, and considering he was executive producer on the first Casper cinematic incarnation, other films may be in the offing.

The Harvey Universe would be a prime candidate (and this could be a list at some point) for a motion capture treatment in the future.

Which brings me to the specific.

Case Study

Richie Rich (Warner Bros./Marvel)

Before I revisited, and read Richie Rich more voraciously than I ever had before my departure from comics, I hovered around what was in part wrong with the film version. I think if I saw the film again, I’d still like it but there’d be similar issues for me.

Culkin (and here may be another list ranking his films) was not necessarily the wrong choice for the part, but the part was written more to suit him than the character, there’s the occasional precociousness and snark that’s really not Richie. There’s that origin of meeting his friends where the trite envy is built in where the greedy adult world is really what’s supposed to be the enemy. Richie, his father and mother are fictitious, altruistic billionaires that are all childlike counter-capitalists in their desire to always do right over what’s profitable, yet, due to their virtue always come out swimming in money. This nuanced tonality, even with some similar dialogue and plot points comes through a lot better in a comic version of the film tale because the performances are my interpretations through reading rather than being presented a concrete interpretation onscreen.

Richie Rich (1994, Warner Bros.)

Granted some of this commentary runs counter to some of my fanboy advice, but it’s a lot easier to avoid these pitfalls when there are multiple cinematic versions to fall back on. With Richie Rich there’s just this one major film and the TV show. It’s still a better more complete film than the latter TV project Richie Rich’s Christmas with David Gallagher, but a more creative dynamic with thew friends and perhaps someone like Elijah Wood in the lead would’ve worked better.

With recent sociopolitical developments the atmosphere’s right for a new, more mature, dare I even say deep, handling of this character. The time has definitely come I think for a screen return of some kind and a continued proliferation in comics for Richie Rich.

Best of Spielberg

Here’s a second installment of a list idea I’m borrowing from Brian Saur. Here I will discuss the films of Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is probably my favorite director of all time. I did an Ingmar Bergman list first, in part to track what I still needed to see. With Spielberg my impetus was to finally be up to date on his narrative features, which sadly I wasn’t.

As with any list, rankings may make thing seem worse than they are. There are 30 films on this list. Make no mistake I like 28 of them and am a snarky fanboy on one, and three have at one point been my all-time favorite, including my current number one (if pressed to answer). Here goes…

30. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World (1997, Universal)

This is the sequel Spielberg supposedly gave Universal so they’d leave E.T. alone. That’s almost enough to bump it past last place but I can’t. Even though I loved the score and effects it was still one of the worst, most confounding thing I saw that year. The third film and news of a fourth have softened that hurt, but seeing newly-introduced annoying character and the follow-up to my then favorite film of all-time relegated to a Godzilla/King Kong knock-off hurt.

29. 1941 (1979)

1941 (1979, Universal/Columbia)

I did try to like this. My professor tried to get me to like it. I just don’t. Spielberg doesn’t care much for it either and has moved on to bigger and better things.

28. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008, Paramount)

Nuking the fridge only happened in one scene people, Shia LaBeouf had many more scenes than that and Cate Blanchett seemed uncomfortable. Spielberg has since honestly confessed what his reservations were about this film. Hopefully that molds a better fifth film should it occur, though he certainly doesn’t need there to be one.

27. Amistad (1997)

Amistad (1997, Universal)

As oddly engaging as Spielberg’s restraint in Lincoln is, if memory serves, there was an attempt at such here too that doesn’t work quite as well. I remember Honsou and Hopkins impressed but not much else.

26. The Terminal (2004)

The Terminal (2004, DreamWorks)

Unlike Catch Me If You Can, which appears shortly, I wasn’t even compelled to go out and see this one theatrically. It’s an interesting and well-handled idea that I can indentify with on a few levels but it’s just not one of his best.

25. Twilight Zone: The Movie (segment 2) (1983)

The Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, Paramount)

I saw this recently also and Spielberg’s segment fits him to a tee (residents of a retirement home become young again) and is the second best in the anthology in my estimation behind Joe Dante’s zany one.

24. Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist (1982, Paramount)

One can debate the nuances and politics of whether Spielberg really directed this. To be brief: I have it on good authority that he directed most of it and just didn’t take the credit because he couldn’t per DGA rules at the time. This is a title where I could rant and rave childishly about how “My opinion is different than yours!” but I won’t. Poltergeist is fine, it just never had a tremendous amount of impact on me.

23. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, Paramount)

To address the white elephant in the room: I do not have any issue with the character of Shortround whatsoever. Temple of Doom lands here more for being the third best in the series and Kate Capshaw than anything else.

22. Catch Me if You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can (2002, DreamWorks)

This is one of those that falls into the category of “There’s nothing really wrong with it, I just can’t get into it.”

21. The Sugarland Express (1974)

The Sugarland Express (1974, Universe)

This is an unusual but involving one with a great turn by a young Goldie Hawn.

20. Always (1989)

Always (1989, Universal)

This one film I finally saw last year so as I could finally create this list. I had avoided it because in clips and trailers you could not get a sense of the totality of the film. It is Spielberg’s first remake, but it’s a fairly well modernized one that features Audrey Hepburn‘s final performance.

19. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Columbia)

Spielberg has said that the end of this film dates him as a filmmaker. I understand his point entirely but he does set it up very well. Also, in a bit of fanboy wish-fulfillment, I’d suggest the end of this film and the end of E.T. swap, but it is a very visual and evocative film with the added bonus of an acting-only participation by François Truffaut.

18. Hook (1991)

Hook (1991, Columbia)

The mark of a great director is making something that seems illogical, that shouldn’t be able to work, work. This is his best example ih that regard.

17. Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report (2002, DreamWorks)

If Robopocalypse, or something like it, ever comes to fruition it would complete a Dark Future Trilogy for Spielberg, which may seem antithetical to his ethos but something he said he’s not averse to when discussing A.I.

16. Munich (2005)

Munich (2005, DreamWorks)

I welcome departures from directors. Spielberg is perhaps more underrated in terms of his diversity than any other director. His hits and classics have commonalities to them such that it makes people think he repeats himself constantly. These two selections shake that notion massively. Munich is a dark film, where there can be no happy endings. It’s a chillingly rendered tale of an ugly incident in history that cannot be buried.

15. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln (2012, DreamWorks)

Lincoln almost isn’t a Spielberg film, it plays with such classical restraint and removal that it’s almost anti-auteurish, but it’s still very engaging and convincing.

14. War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds (2005, Paramount)

I think this film might get overlooked in part because it stuck close to the source material, but also because it’s the kind of film Spielberg “should” take on. However, when you consider how often he’s made aliens benevolent a surviving an alien apocalypse tale is a little different for him. That and it’s another rather imperfect family.

13. Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975, Universal)

Here’s where rankings can get you in trouble. Jaws is great. I have nothing I can say against it, except the intangible “I like other works in Spielberg’s canon a lot better.” I have and can see Jaws many times over. It’s just a matter of preference when you start slotting them.

12. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Paramount)

Yes, the Indiana Jones and the was later tacked on. Spielberg and Lucas have combined perfectly three times in this series. They take a serialized approach to a feature and update classic tropes very well and memorably.

11. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

The Adventures of Tintin (2011, Columbia/Paramount)

When Spielberg is at his best he combines technological innovation with great stories. Although I fell under the spell of seeing motion capture for the first time in The Polar Express, it was imperfectly ahead of his time and didn’t make a jump toward verisimilitude until this film. It’s a very viable tool other animation properties should and could use. Not only that it’s a great take and a global re-introduction of a beloved character. Not many directors go from live action to animation or vice versa, this is a seamless jump.

10. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, Paramount)

I am a fan of the Indiana Jones series, albeit a Johnny Comelately to it, and this is my favorite one. More explanation can be found in the link above.

9. Duel (1971)

Duel (1971, Universal TV)

If there was ever a made-for-TV movie that prove that it’s a meaningless distinction, it’s this one. I have to remind myself it is one. Only once in a hundred times when I think about this movie do I recall that. It’s taut, brilliantly suspenseful and relatably frightening.

8. War Horse (2011)

War Horse (2011, DreamWorks)

War Horse is one I need to revisit, but this one vaults up the list due to improbability. Spielberg is one of the directors I go out and see regardless, however, I didn’t expect much here. I was anxious for Tintin, but this one shook up my whole best of the year list. Very surprisingly emotional and engaging.

7. The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple (1985, Warner Bros.)

One of the most embarrassing moments in Oscar history is perhaps the fact that this film is the biggest oh-fer, garnering eleven nominations and no wins. Spielberg created some controversy by even taking this film on. I think the end result proved he could do it and paved the way for his more mature dramatic works later on.

6. Empire of the Sun (1987)

Empire of the Sun (Warner Bros.)

I saw this in 2002 just after having taken my Spielberg course. I hadn’t really heard of it ’til then. It was referenced as Spielberg’s “most European film” by my professor and one that I began anticipating in A.I.-like fashion, which should’ve set me up for disappointment, but didn’t. It’s dense and takes some wading but when you get there it’s special. Not to mention there’s a brilliant performance by a young Christian Bale.

5. Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler's List (1993, Universal)

The next two films are ones that I really admire, have great affection for, but am leery to revisit because they are taxing experiences. However, they’re important and I hope their legacy continues through oncoming generations. A while ago, I recall I saw a kid picking up Schindler’s List at a video store and it was heartwarming, as I saw a burgeoning cineaste.

4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan (1998, DreamWorks)

It took me a while to see this one. The tale of saving the last surviving brother is the MacGuffin, a very Spielbergian one. However, the reaction I had to this film, though very different than many of his works, was one of the strongest I had. It was a new aesthetic for him and in many ways a revolutionary work.

3. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Nearly any child of the 80s grew up on Spielberg films. I will be doing a focus on Disney, which I surmise that unless you saw re-releases and VHS tapes you weren’t getting the golden age of that studio. However, if you grew up in the 80s, regardless of who you were, odds are every few years Spielberg changed your life. E.T. is an imaginary friend come true, it’s not necessarily always an alien, but many of us were Elliot, which is what makes it resonate.

2. Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

Suffice it to say that upon its release, when I was still quite young, this was probably the most amazing theatrical experience I’d ever encountered. I’ve found myriad great films since then but this one has not lost its luster in the slightest. When I first saw it, this was the greatest film of my lifetime. It was the dream of every dinorsaur-loving child brought to life for better and for worse.

1. Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001)

Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001, DreamWorks)

I’ve already written a tome about this film, which I have posted on this site in installments. Making a new or different case for it would be nearly pointless.

Favorite Older Films First Seen in 2012, Part 4

This is an idea I first saw on @bobfreelander‘s blog. The idea is to list your favorite films from the past year that you saw for the first time, but exclude new releases. This allows much more variety and creates a lot of great suggestions if you read many of them.

Since I tracked these films much more closely this year my list grew long. I will occasionally combine selections by theme, but there is enough for five posts. These choices are in no particular order.

Enjoy!

Tales from the Hood (1995)

Tales From the Hood (1995, Universal)

There was a span of time when I was watching as many horror anthology films as I could stream. Most, as one would expect were inconsistent, on occasion one had one very memorable story. However, most surprising to me was that the most consistently excellent was the one I held out little hope for and watched on a whim; great unique takes, balanced with humor and social relevance.

Summer Interlude (1951)

Summer Interlude (1951)

If I got every Criterion release that intrigued me I’d watch nothing else. There are those that scream: “YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO BUY ME, RIGHT?” And and edition of a Bergman film I had yet to see is, indeed, one of those screamers. A really intrguing take that acts as a bridge from his early sensibility to the form we’re more used to seeing.

Brats (1930)

Brats (1930, MGM)

I didn’t catch too many Laurel & Hardy films in 2012, truth is when I was younger I saw most of them. This one where they play bratty little kids in forced perspective and composites struck me as new and humorous.

Always (1989)

Always (1989, Universal)

One heretofore unseen gem from a legendary filmmaker deserves another. I saw this at an awesome outdoor summer screening series and I figured it was the best way to finally see Always in preparing my oft-delayed Spielberg ranking.

Jet Boy (2001)

Jet Boy (2001, Smash It Up/Interstate 80 Entertainment)

This film is part road movie, homecoming, a tale of maturation and also of putting the past behind you. In a tale where a man and a runaway orphan cross paths by chance these bifurcated issues and wants can seem to be at odds, but they are combined in a very uniform way to good effect.

Student Bodies (1981)

Student Bodies (1981, Paramount)

If you miss old-school comedy parodies and have a sense of humor the horror genre this is for you. Works on both levels.

The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903)

The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903, Star)

It’s hard to keep your silent filmographies current especially when dealing with shorts but this Méliès seemed new to me, and is inventive even for him, especially being of such early vintage.

Planet of the Vampires

Planet of the Vampires (1965, MGM)

This sat around on my Netflix queue for quite a while. I’ve seen a lot of Mario Bava’s films and this one always struck me as an outlier, and not in a good way. I was delighted to be proven wrong. It’s an excellent, and as I later found out, influential work.

O Pagador de Promessas (The Promise Keeper) (1963)

O Pagador de Promessas (1963, Lionex Filmes)

This was one of the few films I was missing seeing to be more decisive about picking my most representative Brazilian film. It is also the only Latin American film to win the Palme d’Or and thankfully none of the fame or hype soured it for me at it. It is a brilliantly made film and a masterpiece of the Cinema Novo.



The Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)

The Omen II: The Final Conflict (1981, 20th Century Fox)

Though I have my issues with the first installment, in the real of horror trilogies The Omen is one that gets overlooked far too often. Granted you’ll either buy how far this one takes it or not, think it’s appropriate or not, but at least it goes for it (no guts, no glory) and tries to bring the Damien chapter to a close. I think it does so very successfully.

Spielberg Sunday- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Amblin)


Owing to the fact that I have decided to honor Steven Spielberg this year with my version of a Lifetime Achievement Award I figured it was an appropriate time to dust off some old reviews I wrote when I took a course on his work. The remarks still hold true, he is an amazing filmmaker.

When a movie is a hit it’s sometimes called “home run.” But Steven Spielberg doesn’t hit home runs he hits Grand Slams. If there is any film that absolutely defines Spielberg in my mind it’s this one. This film is a complete and total success both as entertainment and within the framework of the director’s objectives.

It’s very odd to look at these films in retrospect after most of them have already gone on to become world-wide phenomena and see that many studios rejected not only this film but many other successful Spielberg ventures. Oddly enough Hollywood insiders have always viewed him as a risk-taker. This film’s success, however, shouldn’t have surprised anyone at all. In E.T. we have a wonderfully structured story that seamlessly crosses over from fairy tale to comedy to drama without ever missing a beat. It always keeps you emotionally involved both through the story and with the assistance of the score.

One of the most impressive things about this film is the dialogue. It is often humorous and insightful. The thing that makes it stand out is how succinct it is and how perfectly adept to the situation. A prime example of this is during the emotional good-bye between E.T. and Elliot. They meet each one points to their heart and says “Ouch” then they exchange pleas “Come” and “Stay.” Four lines of dialogue, four words exchanged between the two of them yet that says it all; can it get any tighter than that? The best part is that it works so brilliantly. The comedic dialogue is just as effective Elliot is asked, “Did you explain school to him?” and in response Elliot says “How do you explain school to higher intelligence?” There have been entire films on the subject of how futile public education is and in that one line everything has been said.

Another great detail in E.T. is the use of inside jokes. First, we see Elliot introducing E.T. to the characters from Star Wars and later in the Halloween sequence we see an homage to that film as well as to Night of the Living Dead and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. One thing that makes E.T. special is that it uses situations that all of us can relate to from our own childhood even if it’s only there for a second. There’s bickering amongst siblings, the use of comics, adults that just won’t listen to what you have to say, Halloween, being caught daydreaming by a teacher and many others. Spielberg implemented enough shared experience that even if we didn’t feel that Elliot was a snapshot of our past we could identify enough to get lost in the story. What also aids the story a great deal is the almost supernatural connection that E.T. and Elliot form. It’s akin to what identical twins are supposed to have according to parapsychologists. The connection of their emotional and physical states leads first to some very comedic moments with Elliot sharing E.T.’s drunkenness and also the magical mimicry of the John Wayne film. Later on it leads to some of the most emotionally wrenching scenes where E.T. and Elliot are sharing an illness. Everything is so beautifully set up in this film that you might even stop and consider, “Hey, didn’t that come out of nowhere?” but upon examining the film you’ll find there really are no holes in the narrative. An example of this being the bike flying one of the most brilliant moments ever recorded on film. It still catches me off guard but it was set up when E.T. levitated the balls in the kid’s room to demonstrate where he came from.

To measure a film’s impact it is probably best to look at landscape of the entertainment industry a few years later as opposed to just looking at initial box office returns. In both regards E.T.’s impact was enormous. There was a cheap copy-cat film a couple of years later called Mac and Me along with a very successful television series that took a different angle called ALF. Even scenes in E.T. had an impact, for example, the anti-dissection episode is now another staple in the sitcom book of ideas. The reason that this film epitomized Spielberg so well is not the emotional intensity although that has a lot to do with it and it’s most definitely not the fact that there are aliens involved. What makes it such a trademark in my mind is that it is such a resounding success.

This film is also timeless, it will never, ever, ever seem dated no matter how much magic computers can conjure up you’ll never be able to put aside a story as involving and touching as this one, it’s a classic and it’s quite hard to imagine someone making a film this beautiful, one of the best films ever made.

10/10

2011 BAM Award Winners- Crew Categories

First, while I think that this “trifurcated” method of presenting winners is the way to go the nomenclature is something that may change. I considered “Above the Line” and “Below the Line” but that’s far too industry a term and furthermore it skews the breakdown of awards presented per post. Having said all that not all the categories in this post are crew per se, maybe behind the scenes is better but I’ll think over in the year to come. In any case here are the awards for non-actors.

Best Director

Martin Scorsese in Hugo (Paramount)

J.J. Abrams Super 8
S.J. Clarkson Toast
Martin Koolhoven Winter in Wartime
Paolo Virzì The First Beautiful Thing
Martin Scorsese Hugo

I will grant you that I read more about Scorsese’s process for Hugo than the other directors thanks to the film companion book written by the author of the novel. However, I also knew the book and got a sense when reading it that it might be a stronger piece cinematically than it was in text. After all it is an illustrated novel. It’s a novel wherein Selznick omitted words when he felt illustrating portions would be better. It’s also a case of knowing and understanding a vision and seeing a vision are two different things. This film was on the radar earlier for me than for most. All I learned about it heightened my anticipation, yet I never expected box-office results (which it sadly hasn’t really seen) or critical acclaim (which its gotten in spades) and the last thing I expected was for my lofty expectations to be far exceeded. I could ramble about why I love Scorsese’s process for making this film but anyone who knows anything about him knows his passion and knowledge and how he tries, when applicable, to imbue that to those he works with. All these directors had a great vision for their films, all succeeded to ridiculous heights. Scorsese just does so in a whole other stratosphere and on many, many levels and in different ways than in films past.

Best Cinematography

Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in Hugo (Paramount)

Larry Fong Super 8
Eduardo Serra Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Stephanie Anne Weber-Biron Heartbeats

Robert Richardson Hugo
Janusz Kaminski War Horse

This category is usually, and especially this year, just flat-out unfair. Minus the being undead part I feel like little Gage Creed in Pet Sematary shouting my protestations, “No fair! No fair!” Each one of these films is beautiful to look at and exemplifies flawless technique but also motifs that I am enamored of. Larry Fong takes Abrams’ penchant for lens flare and places it in as naturalistic a context as possible, Serra who works best when moving the camera frequently scarcely stops in this last chapter of an epic series, Weber-Biron’s work in Heartbeats is a staggering display of composition and luscious saturation, Kaminski, ever the chameleon like his frequent director Spielberg, brings landscapes not only to life but emblazons them with surreal beauty; and those are the runners up. Like Gage said “No fair!”

Here’s the best case for why 3D can work and why Hugo is enhanced by it. Aside from the technical aspect where every single shot of the film was shot in 3D, whereas even “real” 3D films have some post-conversion element. Shots were composed, framed, lit and even cut together with that effect in mind. And it’s not a shock and awe effect they seek but an invitation, an envelopment.

I frequently mention (whenever it’s the case) how I didn’t want a movie to end. I have never in my adult life felt like I was in the film. I had that feeling at times watching Hugo. It’s a 3D about creating a space and the feeling of room and a real view on an imagined world rather than explosions and chases. It’s about inviting the viewer closer to an intimate tale, involving the audience more than before and the main component to that is the photography.

Best Makeup

Tyler Labine & Alan Tudyk in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Magnet Releasing)


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Super 8

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Rammbock
Winter in Wartime

This one is always tough. Substandard makeup work is always easier to spot. Natural makeup work is easy to take for granted and effects makeup is easy to over-value. More axioms are possible but that’s the bottom line so typically what I seek is something unique in the mix with standard work, which is the case for most of these nominees. The most versatile though is the cross-section in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil you have college kids (standard) the backwoods characters unfairly looked-down-upon (a bit more unkempt) then your effects (blood & gore) all done brilliantly.

Best Original Screenplay

JJ Abrams on the set of Super 8 (LA Times)

J.J. Abrams Super 8


Michel Hazanvicius The Artist
Benjamin Hessler Rammbock
Stevan Mena Bereavement
Paolo Virzì and Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo The First Beautiful Thing

“Bad things happen, but you can still live.”

That’s the line that sends Super 8 above and beyond the other worthy candidates. One sentence comprised of eight words gives two characters (one not of this world, one a boy forced to grow up too fast) the strength to move on. There are other examples in this film where sparse, terse statements say so much: “I am in him as he is in me…” and so on.

Not to go overlooked without additional praise are the other writers here: Michel Hanzavicius not only wrote a great script for a mostly silent film but also used sound and dialogue on a few occasions in such a brilliant way emphasizing how important they are by not wasting them on trivialities. Benjamin Hessler in an hour of screen time accomplishes so much it’s awe-inspiring. Watch Rammbock. The First Beautiful Thing builds character and manipulates time magnificently. Bereavement is the best horror film I’ve seen in a decade concept and script are the cornerstone to that.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Martin Scorsese shows and illustration from the book to Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz (Paramount)

Marti Noxon and Tom Holland Fright Night
Steve Kloves and JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

John Logan and Brian Selznick Hugo
Lee Hall and Nigel Slater 
Toast

Mieke de Jong, Martin Koolhoven, Paul Jan Nelissen and Jan Terlouw Winter in Wartime

Similar to the other screenwriting category a lot of praise to go around here: Fright Night had some of the smartest, funniest dialogue of the year. Lee Hall’s sensitivty and talents know no bounds. Winter in Wartime is a grossly overlooked and underrated film that will please fans of many genres. Lastly, I don’t think I’ve ever not nominated Steven Kloves for a Harry Potter film but that does not diminish his contribution to the series or these nominations. Changing directors was something the series could survive but not screenwriter. Had he not been a mainstay it would’ve been very different.

As for the winner as many have noted, and I picked up on a few of these as well, there are marked differences between Hugo as a book and a movie that go well beyond just the title. All of these changes enhance the film. They make the story work better on film. They were made with the medium in which they were telling the story in mind and they worked brilliantly.

Best Editing

The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight)

Job ter Berg Winter in Wartime
Mary Ann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey Super 8

Mark Day Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Thelma Schoonmaker Hugo

Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber and Mark Yoshikawa The Tree of Life


It is often said that all films are made three times. The first is the script, the second is principal photography and the third is in the editing room. Never has a film being made in the edit been more clear than in The Tree of Life. I’d love to see the original script and the supposed 4-hour cut but everything you think of this film whether you love it as I do or you hate it comes down to the editing. Even the cinematography which would be brilliant regardless is better because of the way the images splice together. Perfect frame to perfect frame, disconnected thought to disconnected thought. It like every film is a puzzle. In this one you can place the pieces together how you please and tell people what you see. Not the other way around.

Best Score



Stevan Mena Bereavement
Alexandre Desplat Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Howard Shore Hugo
Michael Giacchino Super 8

Jónsi We Bought a Zoo

With these categories not much needs saying. These scores are all great. This clip and the way it plays with the ending are what clinches it for Super 8.

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Hugo
Super 8


Real Steel


X-Men: First Class

I rarely get actively excited about sound design though it does interest me. I took a sound class and did a lot of very hard work in it and learned a hell of a lot but the bottom line as this sequence and the film progresses the fades, levels, cuts and creation of these sounds, whether it be a compartment door slamming into the ground, an explosion or Cooper’s (the alien) roar it all fascinated and inspired me and made me pay attention, immediately on first viewing.

Best Visual Effects

The Adventures of Tintin
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Hugo

Super 8


Real Steel

The real litmus test for special effects is not thinking “Oh, those effects are really good” but rather not thinking about them at all then realize what they were, now that’s impressive. Even more impressive when you learn about what was done to create them. The video above is a quick illustration of what went into Real Steel. The only film wherein I didn’t think about effects until after I’d seen it.

Best Art Direction

Asa Butterfield and Ben Kingsley in Hugo (Paramount)

Anonymous

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Hugo

Winter in Wartime

X-Men: First Class

Art Direction frequently goes hand in hand with cinematography in Hugo more so than most. In a situation where you’re bringing an audience into a world attention to detail is of paramount importance the sets and their dressings become like a character.

Best Costumes

Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)


Drive

Hugo

Super 8
Terri

Toast

I don’t care for the period bias that exists in costuming therefore I make sure to pay extra attention in modern/present day films to see if something catches my eye and a few nominees reflect that. What works best in Hugo has nothing to do with the fact that there’s an attempt to capture a time or a place but rather to create looks emblematic of character as frequently the actor has but one look through a majority of the movie. For the Station Master there was created a uniform as idiosyncratic as he is, for Hugo an outfit that at one time might’ve been his best but is now tattered and ratty and his only one similarly for Isabelle she is better dressed but always recognizable and so on. Adding to the 3D element all the decisions made here and in Art Direction also take texture into consideration: tweeds, wool and other fabrics with character are chosen.

Best Song

Justin Bieber in Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount)

“Chatte Batte” Chillar Party
“Exploded Diaper” Löded Diper Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
“I Want Candy” Cody Simpson Hop
Born to be Somebody” Justin Bieber Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
“Pictures in My Head” The Muppets

“Let Me Take You to Rio (Blu’s Arrival)” Ester Dean & Carlinhos Brown Rio

If you look at past winners in this category you’ll see diversity. Here there is too: Chatte Batte is a sung in voice-over theme song from a Bollywood kids’ comedy. I have a weakness for Bollywood due to a college course so I really should see more. One of the BAM Awards past quirks was that a Bollywood film Lagaan was up for Best Picture and nothing else.

Second, is essentially a rock song but it’s also a jokey kind of song which is one of the highlights of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Jokey and Rock combos also have precedent amongst past winners.

Hop isn’t all that great but it features a pretty good cover of “I Want Candy” and that song lifts the film some when used. Covers also have precedent hence I usually remove the Original from the category name.

The Muppets could’ve easily had a few nominees and I didn’t expect that when the process started and now is as good a time as any to say “Yes, I do surprise myself sometimes and I’m not 100% sure of every single nominee before I start.” With The Muppets it was a case of the first impression not being as strong but the songs stuck after a while.

So why Justin Bieber‘s song? As a recent Twitter conversation made me realize songs in films in general are less thought about and less integral than they ever have been. Another issue is how does one judge the pedigree of the “Original” song or song in this case. Now whether or not the song was really written for the film is a dicey and difficult thing to prove, which is why I ceased to care about that so much. Therefore it’s really about a song debuting in the film or a well done cover.

If one looks at past Original Song Oscar winners you can see they used to be far more iconic and in the middle of the picture than recently; a past example being “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon in Working Girl. Aside from seeing more movies, which after a record-setting year would be hard to do, there’s little I can do to affect the field. Songs don’t play as much of a role so how good a song is a huge criteria. I like all these songs. That’s simple.

The bigger criteria is the influence they have on the overall film. That is clear to see in Muppets where it sets the nostalgic, quasi-melancholy tone before the reunion and in Rio where it’s a joyous celebration of locale. That puts those above songs from Hop and Diary of a Wimpy Kid because those songs merely accompany incidents and don’t shed light on any of the story.

However, as I wrote in my initial review of Never Say Never the story of the documentary is not only Bieber’s but also that of his fanbase who more so than with any other artist propelled him from anonymity to viral sensation to global superstar faster than had ever before been seen. The lyrics of the song by Diane Warren are ostensibly about him but could apply to anyone. Also, while this song plays over the credits it’s accompanied by footage which brings the story full circle and thus music matches the imagery and enhances the end of the film, which depending on execution can be its most important moment. So whether it was “slapped on” in actuality or not it doesn’t feel like it is and is a coda to the film that matches the emotion of the piece so well. You can dismiss it as excuse to get another single for him on iTunes and to tie into the movie but it works aesthetically in my estimation so that’s what matters since marketing is a fact of life. Aesthetics and marketing are more closely tied in film than in any other artform.

Also, the fact that “Never Say Never” spawned a movie and in that movie would be another worthy original song is pretty surreal if you think about it. In a way that fact reflects the film and the story in general.

Tintin Finds Its Own Path

The Adventures of Tintin (Columbia/Paramount)

As the art of cinema develops alongside technology, so does the business of it. Methods of distribution and viewership are now more varied than ever, however, what some may not fully consider is that aside from method of viewing (streaming, MOD, DVD, etc.) theatrical releases also have found new paths. Now more than ever theatrical releases have tinkered with the formula. It used to be an unwritten rule that the rest of the world would have to wait for Hollywood films until America had seen it first. Now, for many reasons whether it be location or just the international viability of a given project, films are not only premiering overseas with increasing frequency but opening there well ahead of the US also.

Perhaps the best example of this is Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. I for one had always had a vague awareness of Hergé’s well-known creation but didn’t know much about him or the stories in which he lived. However, similar to my affinity to The Little Prince, which crosses not only various media but also three languages, I knew that it was a property more renowned abroad than in the US. Therefore, it’s perfectly logical that not only did Tintin debut overseas first but also opened there well in advance.

Tintin is, in fact, a cinematic rarity in as much as of this writing it already ranks #360 all-time in worldwide box-office with $239.1 Million and opens in the US tomorrow. Considering the fact that it opened in late October overseas and the ubiquity of social media below you will find some of the reactions I’ve gotten from overseas as I anxiously await the US release. The conversation started rather spontaneously when discussing some of my favorites of 2011 after that Twitter discussion I asked around and got more feedback:

Alex Terentjev, Russia

“What bout Tintin? I think this is the best film to share the evening with family…btw (By the way) I didn’t know anything bout Tintin before I’ve watched a movie, but u know this film is amazing…comedy elements mixed with criminal and interesting adventures and motion capture, as well, makes this movie really awesome…I even started to read Tintin comic books cuz of this movie.”

Patrick Gibson, England

Tintin, one of the best animated films I’ve seen in a long time! Such well thought out characters and beautiful animation!

@lucylucesim, Ireland

Tintin was brilliant![…]The 3D was great but could’ve been better utilized.

@everyfilmin2011, England

So, after months of looking forward to a new Spielberg movie, one of my Twitter followers threw cold water on my mood by telling me it was boring. I must admit, I’m glad they did – because watching a movie with low expectation is always best. First off, I can happily report that there was far too much going on for it ever to be condemned as boring but it’s certainly not the standard of an animated Raiders Of The Lost Ark, which I’d originally hoped…

The action, of course, comes thick and fast and computer animation really lets Spielberg’s imagination out of any normal constraints. Jamie Bell is the perfect voice for Tintin but the real revelation is Daniel Craig as the baddie. He hams it up like never before – talk about shaken and stirred! Of course, it goes without saying that Britain’s greatest chameleon actor, Andy Serkis, is unrecognisable and in top form as the captain…

My biggest bugbear is the 3D. It really doesn’t bring anything to the party and, once again, is just a giant rip-off. The sooner this gimmick dies off, the better. So, a Spielberg classic it isn’t but is Tintin worth a family outing. Yes, I should say so. Rating? 7/10

Here’s an excerpt from Screenings a great resource for those of you in the US who want a chance to see movies early and free:

It mainly mixed three of the original comic books: The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), Red Rackham’s Treasure (1944), and of course, The Secret of the Unicorn (1943). While the precise motion-capture couldn’t compare to Hergé’s original execution of his characters, it delivered a new fascination for the current generation to enjoy. So don’t expect as much nostalgia but do expect a great viewing experience…

The script does a wonderful job introducing the audience to Tintin and the whole premise quickly. Even if you have no idea what the source material is about, you will get it within the first 10 minutes where you see the new animated Tintin get a caricature of himself which shows the original inked boy journalist […] By mixing many different plots in one, the filmmakers were able to explore more of the Tintin universe and splice together various story lines to keep the momentum and the pace quick. However, you never forgot the main story at hand…

The cast was as impressive as the men behind the scenes. The motion capture and voices were provided by the likes of Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and motion capture legend/guru Andy Serkis. With every mocap film, Weta Digital somehow tops itself and delivers a more seamless experience letting you forget your even watching an animated feature. It was a weird mix…even though it looked extremely lifelike, The Adventures of Tintin still had it’s [sic] cartoony feel…

The 3D was used well but again, not drastically enough. The best implementations were the particle effects that were unlike any other movie. They added a strong feeling of depth in their scenes that can’t be duplicated using 2D cameras. Even with the fast moving action scenes, the 3D didn’t get too crazy or give headaches so in the end it just made the visuals pop that much more. I would actually recommend watching this one in 3D because animated films do gain the most from the 3D technology…

The biggest win for this production, however, was a chaotic sequence which never seemed to end. It was very reminiscent of the Indiana Jones days where everything fell into place and the characters had to pull off stunts just at the nick of time. Of course, this is a lot easier to accomplish when every movement is animated by a computer rather than a stunt double. In the end though, the action scene came out so well that it makes you want to watch the entire film again just to watch that portion. If it was on DVD or DVR, you would instantly rewind it back to see again. The whole movie is ok up until that point but then Tintin blasts into full force and dazzles you with the unbelievable. It was really fun and that alone made the movie enjoyable for me. If you’re ready for a big dose of action adventure, The Adventures of Tintin is an amusement ride in the form of a movie and you should probably watch it because the sequel is already in the works.

Two other pre-certifications are first that it currently scores a 7.8 on 21,946 votes on the IMDb, it is “Certified Fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes with 82% based on 67 Reviews and is at 67% on 11 reviews at Metacritic.

However, my open inquiries for a reaction from abroad to Tintin also garnered this surprise response from Simon Doyle who runs titinologist.org:

In 1983, when I was much younger, I watched an “interview”, broadcast on Janet Street-Porter’s “yoof TV” show Network7. Boy-reporter Tintin (we, the viewing public, were assured) was orbiting the Earth in Professor Calculus’s rocket, to bring amazing news to the world. Duly excited, I watched a 2D, somehow-electronically-but-rather-simply-animated Tintin inform the interviewer (and us) that none other than Steven Spielberg was in the process of bringing his globetrotting adventures to the screen!

Wow! If he could do for Tintin what he’d done with Indiana Jones–! I sat back, and waited…

…and waited…

…will it ever happen?…

…and waited…

…Great snakes! – A chap could start to lose hope…!

…and then…!

It’s 28-years later, and I am sitting in the viewing-theatre at BAFTA (BAFTA! The glittering heart of British cinema!), courtesy of the good folks at MediCinema, watching Thompson and Thomson introduce Steven Spielberg’s glorious new movie –

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn!

– and it proved well worth the wait!

If you want the devil’s advocate take there is a discussion link at the bottom of the review, however, if someone who has been as devoted fan for ages and has waited that long for a film version can come away that impressed it is most definitely worth my time. Moreover, the distribution path decision while might’ve seemed obvious to some has reaped rewards for the film as it opens with a bit more buzz stateside than it might otherwise.