Movie Review #355: The Adventures of Tintin

A 2-hour motion capture episode for the fans

Right out of the bat Tintin amazes with a lovable 4-minute opening sequence, giving people a quick introduction of who he is and what he does. For those familiar with the character, it’s a wonderful introduction to an adventure that’s bound to be good. But it’s clear that Steven Spielberg had fans in mind while making this as those who knew nothing about Tintin prior to seeing the movie will scratch their heads and wonder what they went into.

For one thing, the film spends no time introducing the characters and assumes that viewers already know them. You’re rushed into volume 2 and it’s as if you have no other choice but to care about them. And that’s the thing, you’re willingness to enjoy Tintin depends on how much you can connect with the animated characters. But with the 100-minute spectacle entirely in motion capture, it’s a bit hard to overlook the fact that the filming technique tends to make human emotions more artificial, despite how realistic it looks. So if you watch this and don’t give a damn about the cast, don’t worry, I don’t think it will be taken against you.

            Regardless, the animation is stunning and is probably one of the best that’s ever been done. Spielberg can still definitely execute huge and intense action scenes, animated or not. The screenplay is fantastic and the voice cast needs recognition as well. But ultimately, it all boils down to familiarity of the character. I’ve read books about Tintin when I was in grade school, but that doesn’t mean I was swooning when I finally got to see his adventure in the big screen. It’s entertaining, yeah, but it felt more like a special 2011 TV episode than a standalone film.

GRADE: B-

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Movie Review #354: Cowboys & Aliens

Lifeless Entertainment.

Big in concept but small in impact, Jon Favreau’s visualization of the sci-fi western showed sparks of something great, but ultimately it turned out to be a robotic and mediocre tale that couldn’t stand on its own. There’s a lack of character development in which even Daniel Craig has failed to save. There little room for back stories, which caused disconnect with me and the movie. I also didn’t like some of the elements in the story, especially Olivia Wilde’s role in it. Plus its inconsistent tone was confusing at times. It’s a bit disappointing because I really liked the setting and it felt like a missed opportunity.  And by the end it just felt empty and incomplete and I can’t really recommend it to anyone other than those who just want an average time waster.

GRADE: C

Movie Review #353: Ted

It’s no joke, the talking bear is actually funny.

   Ted is Seth MacFarlane’s childhood dream coming to life. With his direction, screenplay and voice he puts together a completely hilarious film that although didn’t sustain the comedy up to the end, offered likeable characters, a twist to a rather formulaic plot and a talking teddy bear that you’d actually be willing to believe is real for a hundred minutes.

            Based on what I saw, MacFarlane needs some polishing with his live-action works, but for a big-screen debut I don’t think he’d be ashamed of what he has accomplished. He’s a triple threat (actor, writer, director), with the ability to entertain a broad audience as his expertise. He also gets away with a lot of racist and discriminatory jokes, which although offensive are still quite funny to some extent. One of his weaknesses though is in making a compelling story outside of a simple plot. I found it a bit lacking here, but it was well compensated by the memorable acts of Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and of course, Ted.

GRADE: B

 

Movie Review #352: Zero Dark Thirty

Mildly intense, but still engrossing

Something about Kathryn Bigelow’s past two films just doesn’t connect with me. Whether it’s the praise it’s been getting that distorted my expectations or the actual movie itself, Zero Dark Thirty just isn’t a great movie, but still a decent one. It’s a well-directed film with a good leading actress and a tough story, but beyond that there isn’t much to praise about it.  Granted, Bigelow has always been able to gather an unknown cast and as an ensemble they’re quite talented. But try to individualize them and I don’t see anyone else other than Jessica Chastain who was considerably noteworthy.

The action, despite the sheer lack of it keeps you engrossed when it’s there, but it really isn’t the point of the movie. It’s the process of finding Bin Laden that’s the gist of it all. It’s particularly scary to think that the movie portrays actual events (however accurate they are), and it’s these critical moments that most people could relate to. People may be disturbed watching terrorist bombings or remembering the horrible events of the last decade, so I understand if some become more affected by the film than I do. But for me, it’s just a good movie: nothing more or less.

GRADE: B-

Movie Review #350 & #351: Abduction / Love, So Divine

Watchable, but implausible

With serious continuity issues and poor dialogue, it’s not hard to point out the other bad things about this movie. I had trouble believing the story, and it even seemed like a watered-down Bourne movie. The clear difference is that you cared about Bourne and what he’s going through. I didn’t give a damn about Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins’ characters (Nathan and Karen). While both of them are undoubtedly pleasing to watch, having them act decently in a subpar project didn’t help all that much.  Also, when they decided to portray an arrogant adolescent as the protagonist, the filmmakers should’ve made sure that he’ll be liked by viewers. I like Taylor, but I guess Nathan’s attitude was one of the reasons why I couldn’t connect with him and the rest of the characters as much as I wanted to. Still, the action was pretty decent and most people would watch it for Lautner and the lovely Collins anyway. So if you’re not a big fan of both, I suggest you stay away from this film.

GRADE: C

The Bottom Line: Love So Divine

Additionally, I watched Love So Divine. It’s a cute Korean film that doesn’t offer much other than its religious themes and a man’s undying love for God. Its as PG as it can be, but if the church made this film I’d say it’s the most suggestive film they could ever do.

GRADE: C+

 

Movie Review #348: Oblivion

A good sci-fi with right mix of questions and answers

Definitely inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, Oblivion is not as thought-provoking and may even be considered as lacking in originality, but it’s still an entertaining and visually-superb film. It packs the same amount of action and ideas, and the futuristic setting is a feast to the eyes. Ever since Tron Legacy, Joseph Kosinski has proven to everyone that he has skill when it comes to creating massive worlds with unique themes. He has never disappointed with his visual effects, though he still needs to work on storytelling. I’d like to see him do more of this, but hopefully with much more talented writers behind him. He could go a long way as long as he learns from his past works. But for now, I’m satisfied with what he was able to accomplish with this movie. And with Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko’s performances, there became a sense of humanity in this film. The ending will polarize many, as it depends on audiences’ taste and preference when it comes to sci-fi offerings. But for me, it simply had a good combination of questions and answers, and it left me satisfied by the end.

GRADE: B

Movie Review #347: G.I. Joe – Retaliation

Better than the first, by a small margin

After a lackluster first outing, where action was over-emphasized and script forgotten, it would seem that the sequel couldn’t be any worse than its predecessor. As it turns out, it is a better film, with the help of a more palatable plot and an influx of new characters. Dwayne Johnson has been picked up to turn franchises around recently, and I think he was good in this film, though not great. Adriane Palicki has replaced Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols, but seems to fill in that spot nicely. New additions like Bruce Willis and Lee Byung Hyun add some fun to the film, but no matter how many people they bring in G.I. Joe will still be ridiculous and implausible. It’s a little less corny, but the bad qualities of Rise of Cobra still carried over, and it ultimately marred the film from becoming more entertaining and enjoyable. It’s perfectly watchable, but can be easily forgotten.

GRADE: C+