Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

[Oscars 2013] – Predicting The Nominations

9 Jan

An actual Oscar statuette to be presented during the 79th Annual Academy Awards sits in a display case in Hollywood

I still have a few 2013 releases to catch up with, and I though I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them, the nods are due early tomorrow morning so I’ll have to post them now.

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[Review] – Lincoln

18 Nov

Title: Lincoln
Year: 2012
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Tony Kushner, based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Haley, Lee Pace, Walton Goggins, Jared Harris, David Oyelowo, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language
Runtime: 149 min
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Metacritic: 87

No disrespect to Timur Bekmambetov and the utterly mediocre Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but we all know that the real 2012 film about honest Abe was the one directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the beloved President and featuring no vampires. This was a movie that Mr. Spielberg had been wanting to make for over a decade (at first he had Liam Neeson pegged for the role) and that he took his time assembling the team to make it happen, getting Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kusher (who had co-written Munich for him) to adapt Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s massive book about Lincoln and then assembling a truly stunning ensemble to bring the story of the final four months of such an iconic life to the screen.

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[Trailer] – Lincoln

13 Sep

Finally, here it is, feast your eyes upon it, the first full trailer for Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln has just been released, and you can watch it below.

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Oscar Nominations

24 Jan

Early this morning, the nominees for the 84th Academy Awards were announced and, as it’s usually the case with these things, there were some good things, some bad things, and some truly horrible ones too. Below I’ll post the entire slew of nominees announced this morning, a brief commentary on how that category panned out this morning and how I personally did with my nomination predictions I posted yesterday.

BEST PICTURE

  • The Artist (Thomas Langmann)
  • The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin)
  • The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan)
  • Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese)
  • Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum)
  • Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt)
  • The Tree of Life (Nominees to be determined)
  • War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy)

Most people were predicting six or seven nominees in this category. I predicted eight, though one of my eight, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was left out, which is one of the snubs that pained me the most this morning. In its place was The Tree of Life, showing how many people love Terrence Malick’s masterpiece. And grabbing that last spot is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which had been pretty much shut out this awards season but got some Oscar love, getting a ninth slot that people were predicting, if it happened, would go to Bridesmaids. I went 7 of 9 here.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  • Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
  • Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
  • Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Much like in Best Picture, here again is The Tree of Life presumably taking the slot that should have gone to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s David Fincher. 4 out of 5 predicted correctly here for me.

BEST ACTOR

  • Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
  • George Clooney (The Descendants)
  • Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Here was the thing I hated the most about the Oscar nominations. The Academy failed to nominate the best male performance of the year by leaving out Michael Fassbender for Shame, proving that they are prudes that don’t mind female nudity but cringe at the sight of male nakedness. This was the one snub that got me mad this morning. It’s cool to see Oldman get his due, and a name like Bichir’s included, but all I think is how mad I am about Fassbender’s snub. 4 out of 5 here.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
  • Viola Davis (The Help)
  • Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

In my predictions yesterday, I said that either Glenn Close or Tilda Swinton, the presumed fourth and fifth slots of this rarce would fall off thanks to an upset at the hands of Rooney Mara. I was half-right since that indeed happened but the one that fell off was Swinton and not Close, like I had predicted. Still, super happy to see Mara here. 4 out of 5 in this one, too.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  • Nick Nolte (Warrior)
  • Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

One of the biggest upsets of the morning happened here, as Albert Brooks for Drive, the presumed second-place by many, was snubbed in favor of Max von Sydow, riding the wave of support that also got Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close into the Best Pic category. Still, this category at least got the best Twitter interventions from Patton Oswalt, another snubbee. Yet another 4 for 5 for me here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
  • Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  • Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
  • Octavia Spencer (The Help)

4 out 5 correctly predicted here, as Janet McTeer gets in instead of The Descendants‘ Shailene Woodley. Still, nothing too unexpected here.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  • Bridesmaids (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig)
  • Margin Call (J.C. Chandor)
  • Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
  • A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)

I went 3 for 5 here. Artist, Midnight and Bridesmaids were locks. And the final two slots I thought were down to about six films, Margin Call and A Separation included, I just predicted the wrong ones. Still, pretty happy about J.C. Chandor’s name being called out here, he’s an incredibly promising talent.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
  • Hugo (John Logan)
  • The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon)
  • Moneyball (Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan)

3 for 5 in this category. In my predictions I said that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Ides of March could take the fifth slot which I had predicted for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was again snubbed, the fact that both got in, at the expense of The Help, doesn’t spell great things for the chances of Tate Taylor’s film at the Best Pic trophy.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Bullhead (Belgium)
  • Footnote (Israel)
  • In Darkness (Poland)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  • A Separation (Iran)

4 for 5 here. Sad about the lack of Pina here, but at least it got into the Docu race (about which I’m really mad about for another reason).

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner)
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman)
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
  • Pina (Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel)
  • Undefeated (TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas)

Just 2 out of 5 here. The fact that Project Nim wasn’t included in the shortlist is absolutely atrocious to me, one of the most horrible things the Academy announced this morning. At least Pina got in.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • A Cat in Paris (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli)
  • Chico & Rita (Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal)
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)
  • Puss in Boots (Chris Miller)
  • Rango (Gore Verbinski)

3 out of 5 here. Really shocked about not seeing The Adventures of Tintin here. Ditto for Cars 2, which I really don’t mind not being here, but thought it would sneak in just for being a Pixar film (this is the first time a Pixar film isn’t up for the award and isn’t nominated for any kind of Oscar). Hoping this means this award is Rango‘s already.

BEST EDITING

  • The Artist (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius)
  • The Descendants (Kevin Tent)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)
  • Hugo (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  • Moneyball (Christopher Tellefsen)

I was awfully close to getting my first 5-for-5 category here. But in my predictions I went with my fanboy heart and predicted Drive instead of Moneyball. Still, good to see Thelma Schoonmaker here as well as last year’s winning team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenwerth)
  • Hugo (Robert Richardson)
  • The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • War Horse (Janusz Kaminski)

Finally I predicted all five of the nominees here correctly. Probably a battle all the way between Schiffman and Lubezki.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  • The Artist (Laurence Bennet, production designer; Robert Gould, set decorator)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Stuart Craig, production designer; Stephanie McMillan, set decorator)
  • Hugo (Dante Ferretti, production designer; Francesca Lo Schiavo, set decorator)
  • Midnight in Paris (Anne Seibel, production designer; Hélène Dubreuil, set decorator)
  • War Horse (Rick Carter, production designer; Lee Sandales, set decorator)

3 for 5 here. I thought Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was an absolute lock in this category, and I also predicted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but was quite unsure about that one. War Horse I could see here, but Midnight in Paris was more of a surprise to me, though a very welcome one.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
  • The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
  • Hugo (Howard Shore)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
  • War Horse (John Williams)

Double-dip by John Williams here. Still, all I can think about here is how infuriating the lack of Reznor and Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson)
  • Hugo (Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning)
  • Real Steel (Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier)

3 for 5 here. Kind of surprised to see Real Steel pop in instead of The Tree of Life, especially considering how much love the Malick film had managed to score in more important categories.

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson)
  • Hugo (Tom Fleischman and John Midgley)
  • Moneyball (Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin)
  • War Horse (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson)

I never know what I’m doing predicting these categories, so a 2-for-5 showing isn’t that shocking. Good to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo here though.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Drive (Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Ren Klyce)
  • Hugo (Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl)
  • War Horse (Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom)

4 for 5 here, I don’t know why I was so sure Super 8 was the front-runner here. Just insanely happy about Drive.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Anonymous (Lisy Christl)
  • The Artist (Mark Bridges)
  • Hugo (Sandy Powell)
  • Jane Eyre (Michael O’Connor)
  • W.E. (Arianne Phillips)

4 for 5 again here, strange not seeing The Help here, I guess it means its support isn’t as strong as we once thought.

BEST MAKEUP

  • Albert Nobbs (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
  • The Iron Lady (Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland)

2 for 3 here, I was super sure Albert Nobbs wasn’t going to get in here, but after the love thrown at Close and McTeer I guess this was expected.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets; Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie)
  • “Real in Rio” (Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyrics by Siedah Garrett)

Don’t know why there were only 2 and not 5 nominees here, so I’m not really counting it for my predictions.

And that’s it for the Oscar nominations. I went 72 for 102 in the predictions I made, which I guess isn’t all that bad, as the date comes closer I’ll make my actual predictions for who I think will win, but for now let us just think about these nominations. Here are my picks for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

The Good:

  • Hugo leading all nominees with 11 (the film with the most nominations has won Best Picture 15 of the last 20 years).
  • Woody in for Best Director.
  • Gary Oldman finally getting his nomination.
  • Rooney Mara in for Best Actress.
  • J.C. Chandor getting a nod.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes getting a nod somewhere.

The Bad:

  • No extra Dragon Tattoo. I mean, Mara getting in there and a slew of technical nods is awesome indeed, but no Fincher for Director or the film not getting into the big race was hurtful. But those categories were crowded. The one that really stung was the omission of its score. I’m putting this under Bad and not Ugly because at least Rooney got her due.
  • Tilda Swinton out of Best Actress. True, it was to give a spot to Mara (who gave a better performance), but Swinton’s performance was better than Glenn Close’s who did get in and should have been the one scrapped in order to make room for the youngster of the bunch.
  • Pina not included in the Best Foreign Language race. Bad and not Ugly because at least it’s in the Best Docu category.
  • No The Adventures of Tintin in the Best Animated Feature race.

The Ugly:

  • No Fassbender!!!
  • No Project Nim.
  • No Drive (except for a sole technical nod).
  • No more (Muppets) Original Song nominations.

War Horse

29 Dec

Title: War Horse
Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of war violence
Runtime: 146 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Metacritic: 72

 

The Oscar nomination ballots were mailed out to members of the Academy just a couple of days ago, and in the big race people are saying that it’s going to come down to a fight between this film, The Artist, and The Descendants, with the French black-and-white film having the edge. I’d have no problem with either The Artist or The Descendants taking it, I’ve given them both perfect grades, they currently sit as my fourth and seventh favorite films of the year, respectively, they’re both pretty damn masterful. War Horse, I’m kind of disappointed to say, isn’t a perfect film. It is, however, still damn great.

The film obviously had huge expectations, it started out as the front-runner for every awards race simply based on the pedigree: It has Steven Spielberg, a director beloved by the Academy who already has three Oscars (2 for directing, for Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, and the other for producing the latter), and it has him directing a film that will make you cry no matter what, a film about war, and a film about men. By which I mean, it has every single thing a Best Picture needs to walk away with the top trophy. However, coming in with such huge expectations always means the only place to go is down. That’s not why I don’t think War Horse isn’t perfect, since it never seemed like my personal cup of tea so I wasn’t holding it to such high standards, it’s just that I loved bits of it, and others didn’t do it for me. When the film was a down-and-dirty war epic, I loved it, some of the best minutes of film of the whole year done by the guy that does them best. But the lighter side to it, the family side just didn’t do it for me, even though I cried during much of it. I cried, yes, and you will, too, the score by John Williams is too emotionally manipulative to leave a dry eye in the room.

Plus, this is Steven Spielberg, people. Nobody, and I mean nobody, does this kind of stuff better than him, Saving Private Ryan‘s opening is still the definitive scene of wartime, the close-ups he makes on people’s faces to tug at your heartstrings always work, the guy is a master filmmaker for a reason, one of the greatest there’s ever been, for some people arguably the greatest. The control he has over his craft, the incredible level of artistry present in every single frame of this film is a thing of beauty. And in War Horse you have Mr. Spielberg playing at being John Ford a little bit (another thing that will make Oscar drool for this), showing us a film that’s not as edgy a look at war as Saving Private Ryan, but one that reflects stuff we’ve seen before, and displays it with an unfaltering sense of sincerity, which brings forth a lot of hugely sentimental moments, some of them quite earned, others not so much, but it still hits home in all the ways you might imagine with such a legend behind the director’s chair.

I think every person that really loves movies will love War Horse because of that, because it’s so reminiscent of those great films of a half-century ago, with hugely enchanting colors and emotions made to swell up even more behind such a powerful score by Mr. Williams, a five-time Oscar winner and loyal collaborator of Mr. Spielberg’s. This is such a Spielberg film, you have to be happy just to have this guy back, I mean I saw The Adventures of Tintin, his foray into motion-capture technology, two days ago, and it was an incredible film (I gave it an A-) and had a lot of his Raiders of the Lost Ark days, but this is a Spielberg film where tears abound and in which, amidst all the war going around, you know the man will always give you the happiest ending possible to make you smile at the end. And then you’ll cry a little more.

Even if you’re like me and this isn’t a perfect movie to you, you can’t deny that this one works like gangbusters. It works seeing a director like Steven Spielberg kind of paying homage to many directors that came before him, giving us an epic and uplifting film that will appeal to every single demographic, a film that’s not afraid about wearing a lot of heart on its sleeve, a film that’s well acted by a really dependable ensemble, and a film that technically is a supreme achievement by everybody involved. War Horse works, people, don’t try to deny it, no one can tell you what to feel and how to feel like Steven Spielberg can.

The movie is based on both a children’s book and a stage production that’s been hugely successful and renowned for how it acts out the horses from some really well-used puppets. And as it opens we’re in a small family farm in Devon, where Jeremy Irvine’s lead character, Albert, lives with his dad, a nice type of drunk, but drunk nevertheless, and mom, who’s just lovely, played by Peter Mullan and Emily Watson, respectively. And there’s a horse auction going on, in which the father sees a really handsome horse, and manages to outbid his landowner, Lyons, played by David Thewlis, to whom he owes money for it, going back home to his wife’s shock that he has spend all of the rent money for a thoroughbred when what they needed was a cheap plow horse. Albert, however, forms an immediate bond with the horse, Joey, and trains him to put on a collar and plow the fields. Until one day, as World War I breaks out, his father, drunk again, sells the horse to the Army, Albert making a promise that he would see his equine friend again someday.

We then get to see what it was like for Joey during wartime, what it was like for him and the other horses thrown into a horrible kind of chaos, confused and scared, as Steven Spielberg gives us some scenes that do act like the savage scenes in Saving Private Ryan as far as the intensity they present on-screen, but that still feel very family-friendly. The shots Mr. Spielberg gives us as we follow Joey’s journey are truly something, showing us that when there’s a war going on these animals are seen as weapons that must be used, and showing us how the horses respond to this, not knowing what’s going on, running wild outside the trenches, going through barbed wire. Of course no real horses were actually hurt in these scenes, but when you’re seeing it take place you hurt profoundly for Joey and his friends, it’s a pretty damn agonizing view, incredibly realized by the only director that could do it like that.

Like I said, I loved these bits, the war bits, they were spectacular, amongst the best scenes Mr. Spielberg has ever given us, which is saying quite a bit, but it also means that Joey, and not Albert, is the one that’s carrying the narrative thread with him, and he’s a horse, and as many unbelievable things as Mr. Spielberg does with him here, there’s only so much a horse can do. But still, there’s no denying the emotion here, some will have a hard time giving into such huge amounts of sappiness, I can relate because I was there for a second, but then I realized that this was too much a majestic film not to give myself to it. So I could handle that emotion, I could handle the boy speaking clichés to his horse with a straight face, and you should too, because the pay-off by Mr. Spielberg is more than worth it.

War Horse isn’t my Best Picture winner, it’s only just a Top 40 film of the year for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy winner of that prize come Oscar night. Sure, I liked The Artist and The Descendants much more amongst its competition, but the stuff this film does is unbelievable, I fault this film because it wasn’t perfect, because I wanted a superior Spielberg, because I wanted just a tad less saccharine, more restraint; but mid-level Spielberg is still a beauty to behold, the war scenes are amazing, and the emotions it brings to the surface are outstanding. That really should be more than enough, it’s a film that’s just perfectly flawed.

Grade: A-

The Adventures of Tintin

27 Dec

Title: The Adventures of Tintin
Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, based on the comic books by Hergé
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Tony Curran, Toby Jones
MPAA Rating: PG, adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking
Runtime: 107 min
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Metacritic: 67

I knew I would really like The Adventures of Tintin. After all, it was Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest ever, doing his first animated film, in motion-capture, with the help of Andy Serkis, the pioneer of the technology and who already delivered one of the best performances of the year as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a mo-cap creation. The screenplay was written by three guys that make my geeky heart pump, Steven Moffat (he of Doctor Who and Sherlock), Edgar Wright (he of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Joe Cornish (he of this year’s Attack the Block, which I gave an A to). And it was based on the Hergé comics I devoured as a child and which I remember really fondly.

The result? Well, it’s a pretty damn exceptional film, with Steven Spielberg taking a lot pages from his own playbook, especially Raiders of the Lost Ark, to really deliver a hugely entertaining film, an action adventure thrill ride with some sequences that will make your jaw hit the floor for the sheer awesomeness they evoke and just how insanely well-made they are, this film becoming the second example of the year of how just how effective motion-capture can be if used by the right hands. And obviously, few hands are as trustworthy as Steven Spielberg’s, even if he’s the analog guy, he really seems to have been reinvigorated by this new technology that allowed him to create some shots physics would have maybe made too difficult to shoot regularly. This is Steven Spielberg feeling like a kid in a new playbox, the one of motion-capture, and one in which he can run free and do pretty much whatever he wants, it’s no wonder then that his creative juices were flowing at such high levels.

It’s not just the action, though, Mr. Spielberg is still super careful with the characters and pays great attention to the small details, and of course he’s joined by John Williams, his longtime composer who hadn’t produced a score since Mr. Spielberg’s fourth Indiana Jones film three years ago, and that comes back this year with this thrill ride and the much more old-school, emotional, epic War Horse that Mr. Spielberg premiered in the same week as this film (and which I’m hoping I’ll get to see really soon). And look, I won’t lie, motion-capture still is kind of creepy, it still sits in a really uneasy place between animation and live-action that it’s sort of still carving out for itself, but this isn’t The Polar Express creepy, this is much more refined animation, and in the hands of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who closely produced, supervised the post and would helm a potential sequel (with him co-directing with Mr. Spielberg a tentative third), and who of course employed mo-cap in his Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong (thus the employment of Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis here), the technology really goes to new places in which you don’t get distracted by it but instead get engulfed by the world it presents.

Because it really is incredibly hard not to be sucked in by Steven Spielberg presenting an action adventure film featuring action scenes in motorcycles, at sea, on air, on really awesome locations and featuring some badass villains. And as someone that grew up with Tintin as a kid, it was just brilliant to see his stories on the big screen as acted and voiced by Jamie Bell, even though something about the animation on the character made him seem younger than he probably should have. The animation, however, is done perfectly well on Snowy, the incredibly awesome and loyal dog that always accompanies Tintin on all his adventures, he pretty much walks away with the whole film. Also around, of course, are Captain Haddock as played by Andy Serkis, and Thomson and Thompson, the two nearly-identical detectives that usually are on the same cases as Tintin, and who are here played, thanks to a genius casting choice, by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The approach Mr. Spielberg took with the mo-cap technology in re-creating these classic characters is truly ambitious and it really paid off. I was admittedly kind of scared at first, after all these were characters that were so awesome because of how simple the drawings of Hergé seemed on the page, they were truly 2D creations. And yet, the animations are so awesomely done that, while the characters obviously look far more human than they did in the comics, they maintain every little bit of the feel the characters had when I read them, and that’s what they were ultimately all about. Further enhancing the experience is the fact that 3D on the hands of someone like Steven Spielberg is used not as a cheap gimmick, but as a true way to enhance our overall experience of the world we’re thrown into.

As we follow Tintin and Captain Haddock on the search for a sunken ship once commanded by Haddock’s ancestor, and their encounters with the film’s antagonist, Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, played by Daniel Craig (who had worked with Mr. Spielberg before on Munich), we’re taken on a rollercoaster ride full of explosions and chases and seriously fun characters played and voiced by a truly incredible cast. It’s impossible not to love The Adventures of Tintin, even if you’re not familiar with the character, even if you think you don’t like motion-capture, this film is tremendous, a seriously smart family-friendly film that will honestly be enjoyed by every member of the family. After a three year absence (or six if you, like me, would rather believe the fourth Indy film didn’t happen) Steven Spielberg is back, reinvigorated by a new technology he employs to create some mind-bending sequences reminiscent of his best work in the action adventure genre.

Grade: A-

Paul

25 Apr

Title: Paul
Year:
2011
Director:
Greg Mottola
Writers: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
Starring:
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver
MPAA Rating:
R, language including sexual references, and some drug use
Runtime:
104 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
72%

It’s hard for me to describe the sense of anticipation that I had before I saw Paul. This was easily for me one of the films from the first half of 2011 that I wanted to see the most, and I’ll take a minute here to tell you exactly why that was.

First and foremost, it’s because of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I first came upon these two on Spaced, that masterpiece of a short-lived cult British TV series that starred both of them and was written by Mr. Pegg and directed by Edgar Wright, who I’m also a huge fan of and who’s the third component of this trifecta of British awesomeness. It’s hard to really describe how amazing Spaced is, and if you haven’t yet watched it I suggest you stop reading and go do that right now, it’s only 14 episodes full of witty pop-culture references and surrealist bits and just insanely great dialogue that you can watch in one unforgettable seating.

After Spaced the awesome trio took their talents to the big screen, and started their Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy with Shaun of the Dead, a romcom film that also had zombies and that was a true success and that had you thinking these three should stick together forever. And, well, they sort of had us thinking that they just might, as 2007 saw the second installment of that trilogy come to life as Hot Fuzz arrived in theaters and showed everyone that these three weren’t one-trick ponies.

Both of those films are probably amongst my ten favorite films of their respective years, and so I was saddened to see that the guys weren’t immediately releasing the final chapter in their trilogy, which is reportedly going to be called The World’s End. Instead, they went on to do their own separate things. Mr. Frost had a role in The Boat That Rocked and a smaller one in Penelope. Mr. Pegg exploded real nicely onto the scene with significant roles in Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek among many others. And Mr. Wright went on to direct last year’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I have ranked as my 8th favorite film of all last year.

So yeah, they have been doing all right since the last time they all worked together. And even though there will be a mini-reunion of sorts to get us going until they decide to finally make The World’s End, which is happening late this year when Steven Spielberg’s motion capture 3D The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (which was co-written by Mr. Wright and stars Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost as Thomson and Thompson), this was the film that would see us see at least Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost reunited in front of the camera.

So yes, I was excited about Paul, very excited actually. Two of the funniest people that excel the most when they’re together back on-screen as the two leading men of a film that they had written together. And then there’s the fact that this was to be directed by Greg Mottola, who has a pretty stellar record himself, this is the guy that started out in the mid-nineties with the very good Daytrippers, then went on to work on three TV series that not only are unequivocally great but have garnered a considerable cult following: Arrested Development, Undeclared and The Comeback. And then the guy went back to feature films in 2007 with Superbad, following that up with 2009’s Adventureland, both films I gave an A grade to. So, again, expectations were running high on Paul.

But that’s been me going on for way too long about why I was looking forward to Paul so damn much, and not a word on exactly how I thought it finally was. Well, here’s the thing, it’s not as great as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz were, nor as great as Superbad or Adventureland, but it’s still seriously good. I mean, it’s tough to match the heights the former films of the people attached to it did, but this one honestly doesn’t fall that far from it. It has its uneven moments, but it also has quite a few of those magical moments we know these people can deliver, and with Seth Rogen voicing the titular foul-mouthed alien the two encounter, then you can count one at least being a pretty unique roadtrip movie.

I mean, this is a very warm-hearted film in the end (and the actual ending is pretty awesome), one that’s full of a lot of giggles, and that’s pure great entertainment. It’s just fun to see people having fun on-screen together, and Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost, along the many familiar and funny faces they bring along for the ride like Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Sigourney Weaver (Ripley!), definitely look as though they were having a ball just riffing off each other.

My expectations were ridiculously high and I still found myself loving every last second of Paul, loving how sweet it was behind it all, which was a refreshing change from most R-rated comedies of late who think they have to be dirty all the time.

Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost are geek heroes by now, their work alongside Edgar Wright (who’s an even bigger geek hero of mine) has cemented their statuses as such because of how lovingly they homage many genres in the movies they do together. And here, even though their usual partner-in-crime is away, they continue at it quite brilliantly, spoofing the sci-fi genre in a way that you know only true sci-fi geeks can, doing some references to films like Star Trek, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a cool and extra-geeky one to the lesser known Mac and Me.

Paul is an awesome film, it’s not Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz because it really wasn’t trying to be, it was trying to be something more silly while still retaining the heart and wit of those two, which it honestly did. This is a film with a cast full of great people, headlined by two guys that have so much love for each other it’s infectious to watch on screen, and by a third guy who does wonders voicing a stoner alien. It’s pure honest fun, and that’s all you can ask for until we get The World’s End.

Grade: A-