DVD Review: The Adventures of Tintin

I haven’t seen a movie I both really liked and really disliked in ages. Because there are several of each and I don’t want to confuse you here’s my list of pros and cons for The Adventures of Tintin.

adventures-of-tintin-movie-image1. I loved the visual style – and I hated previous incarnations of this kind of motion capture animation (The Polar Express is just creepy). Perhaps it was just the first DVD I watched on my Blu-ray player, but I have trouble believing it would improve a lowly DVD that much. The style of animation has improved enormously. I really enjoyed the animation and I can see how it would have been very striking in 3D.

2. I loved the self-referential humor. Tintin was almost aware he is an iconic character. That tongue in cheek nod to his original graphic novel status was played well throughout.

Tintin 23. His relationship with his dog, Snowy, was also well played for both laughs and character development. As good an actor as the dog from The Artist, even if he was animated.

4. The voice work was particularly well done. Other than Jaime Bell as Tintin, I could actively identify anyone, but really enjoyed them all. Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost all have voices I would have found familiar, but they did a good job diving into their characters and leaving their acting on the table.

Tintin1. I find a children’s book character (it was rated PG) that is having long conversations about how hard it would be to be sober and what it will take to have him overcome his dependence on alcohol particularly offputting in this context. Captain Haddock, who Tintin was trying to save/help on the adventure was an alcoholic. He was complaining when they walked through the desert that he’d run out of booze. Is that really what needed to happen in a children’s story? Other kids movies are available in a nice DVD series. You can find them at childnews.org.

2. This story, for all it’s twists and turns, historical and political fighting, and over the top oddities was really dull. They kept losing my attention.

3. Mostly those two.

Review: Quartet

There is always a danger with the title of your film – another movie might use some part of it and you’ll get them confused if they come out at the same time (A Late Quartet and Quartet). It’s almost as bad as two movies with the same story coming out at the same time (Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman). It’s nearly inevitable that one will fail in comparison. I feel I can safely say it is NOT going to be Quartet that fails, and you should get your butt to the theater immediately and see and this.


Quartet is directed by Dustin Hoffman, and there are moments of his whimsical sense of humor throughout, though subtle. The movie follows former opera singers and musicians at their retirement home, specifically Wilf (Billy Connelly), Cissy (Pauline Collins), and Reggie (Tom Courtney). They once performed together in Rigoletto. Now they relive their dreams and try to stay coherent as they decline in health, but often get to practice and live their diva-natures to the fullest. They’re getting ready for a benefit to save their home directed by super diva Cedric (pronounced “see-dric”, Michael Gambon in a house dress). A new resident arrives and throws everything off, an uber famous soprano Jean (Maggie Smith), but eventually she agrees to help – she was the fourth in the Rigoletto quartet with our three heroes and now their reunited.

This movie has a simple premise – once a diva, always a diva. And put all of them into a house together living out their golden years and a lot humor and heart will result. It’s true – I loved this movie. There is a lot of great music, lots of snide British comments, a love story, past wrongs righted, and so much heart yours will nearly burst. I won’t give you more examples, and just urge you, and everyone you know to see this as soon as possible.

Top 5: What Keeps Me Coming Back

What is it about certain movies that you feel the need to watch them repeatedly? Either because they really stuck with you and you can’t explain why and other people don’t get it, or there’s something about the film that has a special resonance with you and you just have to keep getting some. Here are my Top 5 films that I can’t honestly explain well enough to convince anyone else to like them as much as I do. Now, many of them aren’t bad films (some might be) but they’re definitely not widely revered, mostly just by me.

stuck_on_you5. Stuck on You – This is easily the worst movie on this list, but it didn’t stop me from purchasing it because it hadn’t been on TV recently enough so I could watch it again. Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon are conjoined twins. They’re adults and live and work on the East Coast, running a diner, and acting in local theater – or at least Kinnear is an actor. Damon gets dressed in black and stashed behind scenery when possible. They go to LA to try to make Kinnear’s big break, which he gets on a TV show with Cher. Damon’s pen pal also lives in LA and she finally meets them. I think the thing I like about this film is their complete acceptance that it’s possible to be literally attached to someone and yet have a separate life. They sustain the concept the entire time – it’s completely improbable. I love it.

Date Night4. Date Night – This movie mostly comes down to the comedic gags – jumping in the boat on Central Park and having it go 2mph, wearing their clothes backwards to look cooler, the two cars getting stuck together, Mark Walhberg not wearing a shirt, Tina Fey counting to 3. There is just enough context to all of these events that bring the film together, but it’s still not an amazing movie, but I watch it over and over again.

Yes man3. Yes Man – Jim Carrey probably does his best transformation in this movie than in almost any – since it’s super contrived, I’m not surprised. Carrey makes a pledge at a self-help seminar to say Yes to everything that’s offered. Sometimes this is taken as needing to tell the truth all the time (even when people didn’t ask you anything – The Invention of Lying), but thankfully, Carrey mostly just chooses to use it to say yes to lots of opportunities and they end up changing his life (and the people he gives small loans to). It really shouldn’t work as a movie, but I still love it. Bradley Cooper and Zooey Deschanel make the funny things he does sweeter.

Larry Crowne2. Larry Crowne – I sense the reason I like this one is because I wanted to see myself as Julia Roberts because I too had just started teaching at a community college just after seeing this movie. Tom Hanks is Larry Crowne, a veteran who is fired from his job as a working at a big box store and has to go back to school to get a degree. He joins a scooter gang, takes Roberts’ class on communication, and is crazy cute figuring out how to be a totally different version of himself than he expected. When Roberts finally can’t stand her husband and gets out of the car and watches him get arrested for drunk driving while Hanks gives her a ride home on his scooter, I giggle with her.

Knight and Day1. Knight and Day – This one I probably have the most trouble either justifying or defending. I neither love Tom Cruise nor Cameron Diaz, nor do I hate them. But I must say I love the odd screw-ball comedy they pull on in this one. It’s their banter through the silly, over-the-top action sequences that makes me smile like an idiot at the screen. Diaz is accidentally on a plane that was meant to be an attempt to kill CIA rogue agent Cruise. He kills everyone on the plane, lands it safely, and makes out with Diaz (see, over the top). After that, he knows that Diaz will be in danger so he goes back to find her and keep her out of trouble. They end up kidnapped, on the run, etc. It’s ridiculous, but I really, really want to go watch it again right now.

A sad little fact is that combined I’ve watched these movies a total of more than 50 times. What do you watch that you can’t explain or defend, but can’t stop watching ?

New Releases: 3/22/13

Olympus has Fallen posterOlympus Has Fallen – Morgan Freeman apparently do not play the President in this movie. Aaron Eckhart does. So immediately, this has fallen in my opinion. However, it does look like fun – harmless but fun. Someone traps the President in the White House and Gerard Butler has to save him. See, harmless. Could be good, but need to see reviews.



The Croods posterThe Croods – I haven’t been impressed by the trailers for this – the animation is just strange enough that I’m having trouble getting on board. But the colors, and the fact that the lead is a girl makes me kinda want to check it out. On the fence.




Admission posterAdmission – I will be seeing this at my earliest possible convenience. Let’s ignore the fact that she works at my alma mater, and just skip right to Tina Fey playing a really smart woman, whom I can assume falls in love with quirky Paul Rudd. Oh, and Lily Tomlin is her mom. Can’t wait to see this soon!

DVD Review: The Imposter

The Imposter

It’s one of those stories that almost too insane to be true, and yet it is. The Imposter is a documentary about a young Frenchman (Fredric Bourdin), who in 1997, at the age of 23, posed as the missing teenage son of a family in Texas…and they believed it.

Using modern day interviews with the family, Bourdin and government officials involved, plus reenactments of the events (very little archive footage was available), The Imposter spins a masterful web of mystery of how someone could achieve such deception, why they would do it, and the devastating aftermath once everything unravels. Though the audience knows the eventual outcome of the events, it’s the journey of how it all came together and fell apart that keeps one watching.

Even for documentary non-lovers, like myself, The Imposter works not only for the story, but it manages to have a balanced perspective of the sad situation, never becomes judgmental or preachy, and even leaves a little intrigue on which to think, as the whereabouts of the still-missing son are called into question. If only all based-on-true-events stories were told this well, fiction or not.

Review: Zero Dark Thirty

There are many examples of filmmakers immortalizing our history, good and bad – several even nominated for Oscars this year (Lincoln, Argo). Yes, filmmakers are putting their own stamp on history by choosing what facts to present and how, but that doesn’t limit other filmmakers from telling the same story with a different focus or definition. Whether or not they intend to, filmmakers provide a point of view for the audience to experience our own history. Zero Dark Thirty tries to provide a point of view through which to reflect on the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden (OBL). The movie has been the subject of controversy – that torture is shown and that Americans are portrayed as torturers. Both are true, but that way oversimplifies what the movie is attempting to do – yes, torture is shown, but more the consequences of different kinds of torture (no ones fingernails are pulled out, no one is screaming, just whimpering after psychological torture). And yes, Americans are doing it – but unlike other movies that portray torture of prisoners, no one is enjoying it. It’s not hard to watch, but it’s easy to dislike. So not particularly controversial, effective, but hardly groundbreaking.
The overall story is told by watching the CIA agents in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Maya (Chastain), Dan (Jason Clarke), Jessica (Jennifer Ehle) and station chief Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler), as they amass information, some from torturing the detainees, and some from mining all of the global intelligence. We see the periphery of some of their failures – they knew an attack on London was coming, but didn’t know what or when. They were able to thwart a few small things, but mostly weren’t able to make huge strides in either predicting new attacks or stopping Al Quaeda from planning new ones. Ultimately, Maya is able to follow a very old, under appreciated lead to the likely home of OBL. Then we get to watch the Seal team invade the compound and take out OBL.


I did not like this movie. It was incredibly dull until the final 30 minutes (it’s a 157 minute movie though). I have lived through the past decade in a state of consciousness (I wasn’t a child, I wasn’t in a coma, and I don’t have children) so I felt well prepared. The movie would put a date on the screen, going chronologically. When a date appeared, I knew what event was about to be explained. Then it happened. Then another date would appear, and more events would be uncovered. Sometimes, instead of a date, a “section heading” would appear (like a card in a silent movie) and we’d learn more about a few of the characters under that theme. This meant that the terrific acting Jessica Chastain turned in took place in a vacuum – there was no support for her outrage, pleading, fighting, etc. There was no tension build up, which is key when we know what’s coming. At the end a tear runs down Chastain’s face, which did get to me – we were seeing that she had devoted her life to something that had ended.

New Releases: 6/22/12

First, I have to start this off with a big WHAT THE HELL? Just look at the three posters below and tell me they don’t all mirror each other, especially those first two. Bluish-gray color scheme with a splash of bright red or yellow. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional for the three major releases of the weekend to all pass around the same poster template (and the first two have other designs, I know), but this is a bit sad. Anyway, end rant. On with the show:

If you don’t read the Movies with Mia posts, then you have no idea we’ve been having “practice runs” at the theater to prep her for Brave. I had intended for Brave to be her first theater experience, but realized practicing on movies I didn’t have an interest in might be smarter. So yes, I’ve been anticipating Brave since its half-minute teaser debuted almost a year ago. Sure the story may look a bit recycled (*cough*How to Train Your Dragon*cough*), but it’s not a sequel and it revolves around Pixar’s first female heroine. I’m totally in. Now to get Mia excited for it…

Abraham_Lincoln-Vampire_Hunter_PosterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Yes, I’m buying into the insane concept that one our most revered presidents also saved our great nation from a vampire uprising. So what? Of course I love me a good vampire tale, at least one with a twist, and this one certainly sounds twisted. Unfortunately, it does have some warning signs (super low RT score, produced by Tim Burton), but I’ll ignore them and make up my own mind. I do, however, get the feeling this will ultimately be this year’s Cowboys and Aliens: a clever title sporting a wacky concept that sadly takes itself too seriously, teetering on mediocrity, but ultimately forgettable. Let’s hope not.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
I have no idea why I’m drawn to this film, but I am. Not sure if it’s the oddball pairing of Carell and Knightley or just that I’m fascinated by genuine end-of-the-world plots, and this one puts more of a comedic spin on the idea. What puzzles me though is that I’ve only seen the trailer online, never in the theater (yet if I see one more trailer for Frankenweenie or Paranorman, I will kill a unicorn). It worries me when the studio doesn’t seem to have much faith in its product to advertise it more. Thank goodness for the internet.

Seriously? Three major releases in one weekend that on some level I want to see? That’s insane!

DVD Review: Chronicle


Ever wonder what Peter Parker would’ve been like had he not become a crime fighting superhero with his new found powers? On a small scale, Chronicle shows us.

The film centers around a trio of teens: bullied and abused Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his cooler cousin, Matt (Alex Russell) and the big man on campus, Steve (Michael B. Jordan). The guys happen upon an assumed alien presence (a glowing crystal) one night, contact with which gives the boys extreme telekinetic powers. However, these three do not go out and fight crime. Instead they goof off practicing their new abilities in the back yard until they become very powerful. So powerful that Andrew decides he’s not going to be stepped on anymore.

Chronicle is a short film (83 minutes) with a long slow burn. First we’re introduced to Andrew and his troubles at home and school as he documents everything with his new video camera. We’re set up to feel sorry for the guy, so when he becomes an all out villain in the final act, we should understand his motives better as his cousin Matt steps up as the actual hero. It possibly could have worked if the film wasn’t so set on the atrocious “found footage” angle. Had it been a simple narrative story, I could see myself getting behind these characters, but once the climatic battle is in full swing and we’re still watching this story cheaply play out through news feed and random video phones, quickly losing my interest.

The style actually works logically for the first part of the film, as the boys are having a good, relatively harmless time exploring their new powers. I must say these three young actors had fantastic chemistry together which is why it’s a delight to watch them horsing around. But once Andrew’s mind starts going down the darker path, I have to wonder why anyone would still have the camera rolling. Even worse is the film’s commitment to this style through Matt’s girlfriend, Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), who insists on documenting every detail of her life simply to “post on a blog.”

Through Chronicle’s relentless use of found footage, the camera becomes more of character than the actual people with lines, and by the end it all feels so forced that any good momentum from the first two-thirds is wasted in a lacking climax that left me wanting good ol’ Peter Parker fighting crime once again.