Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Beginners

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Apparently Tintin is famous everywhere else except for America.

Starring Jamie Bell as Tintin, the intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure teamed with his little dog Snowy, and Daniel Craig as the nefarious Red Rackham.

I have never read any of the graphic novels that this film is based off of and going into this, I wasn’t expecting much considering motion-capture is just simply freaky and having Peter Jackson and Steve Spielberg giving it a go, doesn’t really make me feel safe about it either. However, I just looked at it like a young Indiana Jones with dead eyes.

Where this film really benefits from is the screenplay written by Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. With the script, you get a lot of mystery to keep your attention on the little details, the humor that will actually having you chuckling more than expected, and plenty of interesting motivations that really keeps the viewers interested in the plot even when it seems to dive into some real familiar territory that we have kind of all seen before, especially from Spielberg.

This film also benefits from the fact that Spielberg starts this films pace at a high of 11 and never lets loose once. The whole film you have hotels moving, guns shooting, fist-fights, pirate ships running into each other, Snowy moving from one vehicle to another, and just so many other exciting and fun things going on here that it’s actually a lot of fun. We get a lot of really fun action sequences that keep the plot moving and never stop as the camera constantly moves around each setting. This reminds me of what the 4th Indiana Jones film should have been like, if it weren’t for those damn aliens that George Lucas put in. That asshole.

The problem with this frenetic feel that Spielberg gives this flick is the fact that it is almost way too highly-energized and it feels as if Spielberg was just doing this to get away from the fact that the story itself is a little uneven. We never actually get a chance to rest and understand what is exactly going on with this plot, because every time they show us one clue, one crazy action sequence will just come by and follow it. Hey, I’m not against a film that just wants to be fun but what I do get annoyed by is when we never get a chance to just relax while watching it.

One of the other main problems that the flick runs into though is the fact that motion-capture still does not work for me. It isn’t quite on-par with certain films like ‘Avatar’ or ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and the film tries so hard to be just those epics, but instead comes off as a long video-game sequence that I would find in ‘Drake’s Fortune’ or even ‘GTA’ games for that matter. I also never understood why there were some characters in this flick that tried to look like real people, while there were others who looked exactly like a cartoon. I mean it is based on a graphic novel, so I can definitely see why they would have cartoonish-looking characters here but what I never could fully grasp was why they didn’t do that for every character in this flick.

This is what leads onto my next biggest problem and that was Tintin himself. I have never really read any of the graphic novels in the first place so I was kind of depending on Spielberg to give me a really cool look at this character, but I could never really stand behind this kid considering there was nothing ever spectacular about him when it came to how he looked and how he acted. Tintin’s face looks very flat, with his cheeks looking like he’s a big baby and he doesn’t really have the round noses that all of the cartoonish characters have either. The film really tries hard to make Tintin look like a real person which makes him stand-out as terribly creepy and just plain dull looking. Jamie Bell is also very good in the things that I have seen him in but he just doesn’t have the physical presence to get us by this problem or even really get us to stand behind Tintin. Thankfully though, Tintin had his dog Snowy to steal just about every scene. With this film and ‘Beginners’, it’s been a pretty good year for movie dogs.

The one character in this flick that I could get behind was Captain Haddock, played by the always great Andy Serkis. When we meet Haddock he’s a lot of fun, cracking one-liners left-and-right, and Serkis just always seems to be having a ball with this role considering he pretty much owns motion-capture performances. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost aren’t in this film as much playing Interpol agents Thompson and Thompson, but they are still a lot of fun every time and Daniel Craig is a pretty mean son-of-a-bitch as our main baddy, Ivanovich Sakharine.

Consensus: The Adventures of Tintin still seems weird with the motion-capture animation and constantly moving plot, but where this film makes up for that is in its script that is full of mystery and humor, and a Spielberg direction that calls back his old Indiana Jones days that still works all of these years later.



Beginners (2011)

I definitely have a lot of questions to ask my daddy now.

‘Beginners’ tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a graphic artist coming to grips with the imminent death of his father (Christopher Plummer), who, at 75, has one last secret: He’s gay. Both inspired and confused by his father’s determination to find true love at last, Oliver tentatively pursues a romance with commitment-shy French actress Anna (Mélanie Laurent).

It sounds like a weird premise that a 75-year old man would come out of the closet, after being married to a woman and having a child for 45 years, until you find out that this was actually from director/writer Mike Mills’ own life. Talk about a “birds and the birds” talk with your dad.

The film is a lot difficult at first since it has all of these different story-lines and the way its told is through a non-linear story structure, but somehow Mills makes it all work and by the 20 minute mark, I  didn’t get confused one bit as to when and where this story was at. Mills creates a very self-aware film where it breaks down the fourth-wall many times, shows years through pictures, has Oliver narrate the film a little bit himself, and even allow the dog to talk with subtitles appearing on the screen. All of this sounds a little crazy to have in just one flick, but it somehow works so incredibly well and Mills does not once lose himself with all of these little quirks that he can so easily pull off here.

Another aspect to this film is how Mills is able to make us smile and laugh, but even when it gets onto its real emotional stuff, it works even more. I laughed a lot during this flick mainly because there was just a happy little sweet spirit to everything behind this story. The story is essentially about a dude reflecting on his dad’s death through his own life and love, but there is just so many sweet and charming moments that this film lets loose of that it’s almost too hard to pay attention to that part of the story.

However, when it does get to the emotional stuff, the story does leave a lasting impact. Mills goes into the fractured and sad soul of Oliver and we get to see how he feels about the world and why. There is a lot of emotional truth to a lot of these scenes that they have here in this flick and it will actually touch you and make sense mainly because Mills is so able to just let out all of the feelings hurt people have inside. The film tackles a lot of aspects to Oliver’s life but almost each subject ends with a poignant but truthful moment and even though it never had me crying, I still felt connected to a lot of what was going on. Even though my dad isn’t gay, or not that I know of…

My main problem with this flick is that it doesn’t really have any surprises to offer when the story first gets started. It starts with us knowing that Oliver’s dad is dead and for me, I think that was a little bit of a bummer considering I think the film would have really worked if it started from us having his father tell him that he was gay, and somehow be able to work in the love-relationship he has with Anna as well. However, the structure they had done for this film already isn’t so bad in the first place so for me to really complain about it, is kind of bogus.

Another problem I had with this flick is that I feel like a lot of what Mills does here, as a very stylish director, is somewhat pretentious. Yes, a lot of what he brings to this film and this story is very original, but at times I feel like he was just adding some of his own little artsy moments in there to put his own stamp on things. I thought having Oliver’s work-life sort of go down the tubes because of how sad he is getting, was sort of like Mills trying to put his life more and more into this story, considering that he is a graphic artist himself which is what kind of bothered me to begin with.

Ewan McGregor is an actor who almost seems terribly bored with every role he has been taking in as of late, but he somehow here makes this performance perfect as Oliver. I don’t know what there is about him but he’s just so subtle, so relaxed, and so real that he just fits this character so well and it’s really great to see him work on his comedic chops but also his dramatic chops considering that it’s been a long while since he’s gotten the chance to do so. Everybody who loved ‘Inglorious Basterds’ will notice Mélanie Laurent playing Oliver’s “girlfriend”, Anna. She is your usual quirky, eccentric, and pretty zany love interest that almost any rom-com has but she has an under-lining darkness to her that separates her and keeps her away from being a “type”. These two are great together and you can really feel their chemistry every time they hit the screen. Let’s not also forget the scene-stealing dog, played by Cosmo who creates this buddy-buddy relationship with McGregor that is unlike anything else.

It’s practically a given that Christopher Plummer gives a good performance here but he really does shine here as Hal, and it may just be the role that could nab him that Oscar after all of these years. Plummer doesn’t play this role with a lot of camp or any hoakiness that usually comes with a dude playing a homosexual man. Instead, he takes this role with a large amount of embrace that he is finally able to live the life he has wanted to for so long, and the way Plummer plays it all is not just a joy to watch, but also inspirational. There has been some talk for Plummer getting an Oscar for this and that is not something I would be against since he is so incredible here and you really just feel like this is a real person rather than the usual flamboyant caricature we usually get of a homosexual man.

Consensus: With a real heart at the center of its funky story, Beginners is a well-acted, gentle, funny, and moving portrait about it never being too late to have love in your life, no matter how old or young.