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Tuesday: The Adventures of Tintin

It's a definitely a solid rental for those interested.

The Adventures of Tintin
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With Steven Spielberg's name on a film, it's guaranteed to do well. After all, some people call him a master of filmmaking. With him releasing both The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse in the same year, I wasn't too excited to see either. The Adventures of Tintin got a little bit more of my interest than War Horse did. I found that film's trailer alone to be an extremely dull affair. However, The Adventures of Tintin's trailer came off as being recycled, but to contain light family fun with some outstanding animation. This is exactly what I went into the film with in mind. Digital filmmaking has certainly taken off with audiences, so the main studios seem to embrace them without a stutter. Some of these family animated films come off as preachy and tacky while others turn out to be beautifully told stories that are more suitably displayed through animation. Which is The Adventures of Tintin?

Tintin has his first encounter with Captain Haddock and discovers a clue to the treasure and sunken ship commanded by the captain's ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. However, someone else is also looking for the ship as the pair seeks protection from a former thief as they set out to find the lost treasure. To put it simply, the entire feel of the film is strikingly similar to that of Raiders of the Lost Ark. While the styles seem to be similar, it's actually an adaptation of George Remi's classic comic strip. I have never seen the comic strips, although the story is very straight-forward and easy to follow. Even though it's so simple, I still find myself being interested in the plot as it never lost my attention as it's full of life. Our main character, Tintin, is likable and definitely somebody that audiences are able to root for throughout all of the action unfolding on screen. Captain Haddock is supposed to hold quite a bit of the comic relief, I found him to be an irritating character that even slowed the film's pacing down at times. However, he becomes just as likable as Tintin by the time everything has been said and done. The dialogue is solid, although I didn't find myself appreciating as much humor as it attempts to convey. As a family feature, I can see each person enjoying the story and the characters overall. The ending sets up for an obvious sequel, which could actually be rather interesting if it's taken in the right direction.

Behind our animated characters are some actors I enjoyed hearing. Jamie Bell performs as Tintin. He fits the character well. Despite the fact that I'm very familiar with his work, his voiceover here made me completely forget that I was hearing somebody simply speaking over an animated film. The rest of the cast contains Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock, Daniel Craig as Sakharine, Nick Frost as Thomson, and Simon Pegg as Thompson. Without even glancing at the rest of the cast, this is an impressive group of actors that deliver solid voiceover work.

Calling The Adventures of Tintin a marvelous looking animated feature is an understatement. From the first frame that appeared on screen, my jaw dropped. The amount of detail that's present here is absolutely stunning. There were many times that I was watching this and completely forgot I was even watching an animated movie. It feels as if I was watching a live action feature. It's incredible how much filmmakers are able to do with this technology. The people look realistic and even the backdrops have so much put into them that an entirely new world has been created here. The audio is just as impressive as the visual aspect of the film. The dialogue is firmly centered in the front stage and never difficult to hear. The surrounds are constantly active. Sometimes they're aggressive and other times they're able to immerse the audiences by providing subtle atmospheric effects, such as waves and wind. The bass is powerful, but not overly loud. This is a beautifully rendered film that deserves the attention i has received in this department.

If your'e looking for something new and original. you aren't going to find it here when it comes to the plot and the characters, as to be expected. However, this is solid family entertainment. Despite its predictability, this is a light action motion picture that most certainly has its moments. Look out for a chase sequence for the scrolls as you're sure to be engrossed. The kids are sure to love every minute of this, although more mature viewers might not be praising this quite as much. I enjoyed The Adventures of Tintin, but it isn't the Oscar-worthy film that many viewers made it out to be. However, it's a definitely a solid rental for those interested.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

Next movie: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Thursday: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene stands confidently in the dark and haunting themes it conveys.

<I>Martha Marcy May Marlene</I>
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There seem to be different ways that mainstream and independent filmmakers provoke fear and tension. In the case of the bigger budgeted films, they create loud 'stingers' and have something jump into the frame in order to make the audience jump out of his or her seat. However, the independent moviemakers take a much more subtle approach. They draw the viewers in slowly, create an eerie story with well-developed characters, and haunt us psychologically. These don't apply to everybody in each category, although it appears to be one of the large differences between the two. I will always opt for the route that many independent filmmakers have taken. Martha Marcy May Marlene follows in the same footsteps. It utilizes themes such as paranoia, confusion, and guilt. In this film's case, it isn't trying to create fear in the audience, but attempting to create a spooky atmosphere that haunts the viewer little by little as the running time continues in order to create tension. Martha Marcy May Marlene stars newcomer Elizabeth Olsen, who is the younger sibling of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Is this a career-making role or was it a mistake to have her cast in the role?

After escaping from a violent cult in rural New York, Martha tries to reconnect with her estranged sister, Lucy, and Lucy's husband, Ted. The brainwashing she endured continues to prevent her from forming an identity of her own. Overwhelmed with paranoia, guilt, and shame, Martha isolates herself until Lucy begins to suspect her sister's emotional trauma has deeper underlying causes. The film doesn't all take place with Lucy and Ted. The timeline is jumbled as viewers are understanding what happened to her while she was in the cult and where she currently is with her sister. Therefore, we're left wondering what has happened to her while she was in the cult and what she has done. She clearly doesn't display normal behavior in the present time as she constantly believes that everybody is part of the cult and trying to get her. The pacing may be slow, but I found the screenplay to be a solid display of psychological and behavioral issues that have ensued while in the cult. A few scenes slowed the movie down at times. Perhaps shortening a few of these sequences could have done the pacing a huge favor. The parallelism of what is considered normal behavior is rather intriguing as we see how each group of people Martha is with is like an entirely different society. While we don't get as much insight on the supporting characters, there are quite a few that are placed on the screen and the screenwriter has done a nice job in giving each character a solid amount of depth for us to have emotions towards each and every person. From the moment it starts until the credits are rolling, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a haunting experience that is able to truly get under the skin of its audience. The ending really leaves it up for interpretation to what the viewer has collected from the experience. I personally am satisfied with the ending as it fits the haunting feeling of the film and it hands us the uncertainty that Martha has been facing the entire film. Other will feel it's an aggravating ending that leaves us with too big of questions. Everybody will have his or her own opinion on the final moments of the film.

Surprisingly, most of the buzz that surrounded Martha Marcy May Marlene after it was shown at film festivals wasn't even about the movie itself. Most of it swarmed around Elizabeth Olsen, performing as Martha. To put it simply, this is a rare type of performance that defines an actress. With this amount of talent, I expect to see her starring in a lot of movies to come. Hopefully she's able to keep up dishing out such performances. Olsen is utterly convincing as the title character and turned a haunting atmosphere into one that will keep you at the edge of your seat. This most certainly is a career-making role as she delivers on every level. Sarah Paulson is also impressive as Lucy. Her chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen is incredible on screen. She's believable from start to finish and truly brings her character to life. John Hawkes is Patrick, the head of the cult that Martha escaped. Even after his show-stopping performance in Winter's Bone as Teardrop, he still manages to place a completely loathsome character on screen and make it all too real. To put it simply, Martha Marcy May Marlene has a cast that's unbeatable.

This is a strong debut for writer/director Sean Durkin. It's a dark drama that holds some eerie themes and managed to deliver us something without the need to spoon-feed us as many other filmmakers do. There are a lot of mysterious factors here that the audience is left to infer about. The timeline is organized well and the dialogue is solid. However, the pacing in a handful of the scenes could have been aided by cutting them down a little bit. The performances are great all across the board. Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes are both so convincing that, by the end of the film, it doesn't feel as if we were watching actors. Martha Marcy May Marlene stands confidently in the dark and haunting themes it conveys. I recommend moviegoers to see this when possible.

My Rating = Four Stars

Next movie: American Reunion

Saturday: American Reunion

American Reunion comes recommended to true fans of the original trilogy, everybody else should approach this one with caution.

American Reunion
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In 1999, the film American Pie was surprisingly a big hit. Its vulgarity was very popular with moviegoers, so there were two more motion pictures that followed it, containing the original cast. Afterwards, four dreadful direct-to-video sequels were released without the original cast. There was nothing anybody could say to excuse them. However, a fourth film was scheduled to be released in 2012. At first I thought this was nothing but a rumor, but it ended up being true. What surprised me even more was that the entire original cast was back! I instantly became hyped up to see what the old gang can bring back to the big screen. Fortunately, the film serves as the true fourth entry to the series and takes place years later. With the changes in comedy lately, focusing more on social commentary than before, is American Reunion successful in bringing everybody back or does it get confused with what it really wants to be?

The four lustful buddies of American Pie return to East Great Falls for their 10-year high school reunion and a flood of memories. The guys look back at their quest to lose their virginity in the first film and reconnect to catch up on what they have been doing over the years. My expectations were set on seeing the old group get back together and chaos to unfold through the sexual humor. Instead, we're left with a film that's mainly looking back at what has occurred in the first film. They refer back to the 'old times' a bit too much for my tastes. I would have preferred for these characters to be living in the present so that fans could experience a whole new adventure explored by the original cast. Getting past that, the screenplay is hit and miss. American Reunion has its moments where it's laugh out loud funny. During these sequences, the film truly returns to the firm roots that the original planted back in 1999. There are other portions of the movie where it simply isn't as funny as I was hoping. Once we finally reach the final act of the picture, it becomes cheesy and predictable, just as we'd expect any romantic comedy. So far, it might seem as if I dislike American Reunion. I actually still found myself entertained by the group. I found myself most enjoying the scenes with Jim's Dad. He provides most of the laugh-out-loud-worthy moments throughout. However, Stifler still is able to create some laughs. Unfortunately, my biggest issue with American Reunion's screenplay is that it has too many reheated stale jokes that feel as if they were torn from the past sequels. It still has its moments, but I would have preferred if the movie stayed more in the present so we could see some more of the crazy adventures instead of flashing back so often.

One of the biggest bright sides here is seeing everybody from the original return. This includes Jason Biggs as Jim, Alyson Hannigan as Michelle, Chris Klein as Oz, Thomas Nicholas as Kevin, Tara Reid as Vicky, Seann William Scott as Steve Stifler, Mena Suvari as Heather, and a few others. Even though they're now all grown up, they still seem to have the same shenanigan chemistry that they once had in the original. As mentioned before, some of the better moments are with Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad. Levy has been the only member of the original cast to somehow continue to return through the crappy direct-to-video sequels, but he's able to own the screen when given the correct material. I would say that in American Reunion he's a success. Seann William Scott is great as Stifler, but that's nothing new. I would have liked if the filmmakers utilized the rest of the cast as much as they did Jim's Dad. If they did, this could have been one hell of a funny flick. Instead, I left feeling like multiple characters weren't used to his or her full potential, ultimately being a missed opportunity.

True fans of the 1999 American Pie will be happy to know that American Reunion returns to the roots of the original. The rest of moviegoers will wonder why they keep talking about what happened 13 years ago so often and why it's so relevant. I think that the concept is good and it was a great idea to bring everybody back, but not all of the jokes hit like they should have. Some of them are new and pretty damn funny while others sound all too familiar. Perhaps my expectations were set a bit too high for this one, but it wasn't quite as good as I was expecting for it to be. It ended up being just alright. American Reunion comes recommended to true fans of the original trilogy, everybody else should approach this one with caution.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: Carnage

Sunday: Carnage

Carnage isn't bad, but it isn't very good either. It's somewhere in between.

Carnage
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Books are often adapted or sometimes simply inspire filmmakers to create a movie. In Carnage's case, it's based off of a play called God of Carnage. It received a lot of praise from critics. I never saw the play, but I heard plenty about it. Once I saw the trailer, I still wasn't inspired much to see this on stage, I just wanted to see the film. This is primarily due to the cast and crew involved in the production. It isn't everyday that Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly, and Roman Polanski are all working on a film together. The cast is a recipe to be loved by critics from the start. However, I was taken by surprise to see quite a few negative reviews. I think a lot of this is because a lot of people were thinking that this would be more involved and be on a bigger scale. From the trailer alone, one can see that Carnage stays true to its roots and acts very much like a play. The entire motion picture takes place in the home of Penelope Longstreet and Michael Longstreet. I knew exactly what I was getting into when renting this, but is it worthy of all the talent that's present?

Two pairs of parents hold a cordial meeting after their sons are involved in a fight, though as their time together progresses, increasingly childish behavior throws the evening into chaos. While Nancy Cowan and Alan Cowan are at the Longstreet residence, a lot more occurs than discussing the fight that took place between their children, Zachary Cowan and Ethan Longstreet. In fact, these two kids are never seen in the same scene as any of the parents. The discussions taking place are simply between the two pairs of parents. While Carnage starts out awkward as each person is clearly sucking up to the others in order to appear professional, things quickly take a turn for the worst. It's rather ironic because they're there to discuss the childish and immature nature of their kids', but the parents are acting even more ridiculous and foolish than their children. The first half and the final half of Carnage have completely different tones to them. The first half is absolutely aggravating and irritating. The audience can see straight through the fake positive attitudes being displayed. The most annoying character on screen is Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz). He constantly is interrupting the serious discussions taking place in order to talk on his cell phone doing things for work. After around the first thirty minutes, audiences will start to become impatient. Fortunately, this is an extraordinarily short film. Just as it starts wearing out its welcome, the final act comes along. This is what we've endured the frustrating situations for! The two women, Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster) and Nancy Cowan (Kate Winslet), start to completely unravel as all of their emotions flow out. The two men, Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) and Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly), are rather ambivalent towards their wives' emotions. Unfortunately, just as all of the entertaining chaos is really getting interesting, the movie's over. It feels as if the movie ends rather abruptly. The dialogue is decent, especially towards the ending. The majority of the screenplay is aggravating and the payoff doesn't feel worth it. While it's quite hilarious, especially Nancy Cowan's portions (Kate Winslet). I would have preferred if the unravelling was a bigger portion of Carnage and the fake attitudes were much less.

One of the biggest selling points of Carnage is the cast. The small, yet talented cast is Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly. These four actors are placed in a room and all hell breaks loose. This most certainly allowed the cast to unleash his or her skill as they have nothing to react to except each other. To put it simply, each performance is wonderful. However, Kate Winslet steals the show as Nancy Cowan. Jodie Foster comes in a close second as the stuck-up Penelope Longstreet. The fights that are created between the two of them are represented very well. Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly are both convincing in the roles. These four actors mastered both ends of the spectrum. In the beginning, they're calm and collected. By the end of the motion picture, they're drunk and allowing all of the character to ramble on about his or her personal problems. This is definitely the strongest aspect of Carnage. Unfortunately, great performances don't make a movie. When there are serious troubles shown through the script like they are here, the acting isn't able to make up for it. These issues are still able to shine right through. However, the performances are all top notch.

The plot works perfectly for a play, but clearly not as well for a feature film. Despite the fact that the performances are spectacular, the first half of the movie is so irritating that it'll be testing the patience of many viewers. I guarantee that a lot of audiences will already be getting aggravated within the first thirty minutes or so. Once the craziness is finally unfolding, the film comes to an abrupt ending. I would have much preferred to see more of that and less of the character pretending to be nice to act other and then trash talk about each other behind his or her back. The running time is so short that it could have easily been extended a little bit in order to provide some more of the chaos to add an even balance. Putting aside the irritating build-up, the final bit of the film is hilarious. I would almost recommend viewers to just watch the last portion of the motion picture just for the laughs. With such incredible actors involved, I would have thought that the screenplay would have been stronger. Carnage isn't bad, but it isn't very good either. It's somewhere in between.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: Real Steel