25 May, 2012

What I Watched Last Month…

What I watched in… 
January 2012

Mission Impossible III. (via digital rental) 
I'm not sure what it was about this instalment of the M:I franchise but I didn't quite like it as much as I thought I would. I don't think it was quite as slick and finished as it wanted to be, or that I wanted it to be. Probably though it was just because it was a JJ Abrams written/directed piece and I was really hyped. 
Philip Seymour Hoffman and his character were nicely underplayed, both in acting and in the amount of screen time given. I think I'm suffering from Tom Cruise burn out though after sitting through three of these Mission: Impossible films, and he's starting to get on my nerves a little. (Normally I can take him fine.)
I was again annoyed that the gist of the plot is inextricably linked to Hunt's romantic relationship. I want an adventure and plot-impetus for its own sake! Yes I want to be invested in the characters' dilemma, but I want a more interesting reason than "they kidnapped my wife". Stupid idea to have him marry in the first place. I was kind of hoping for a James Bond-style death of the wife in the end to lend it some real credibility and gravity. 
In the end though, it was a good fun adventure action spy flick. Thankfully they put in a few M:I gimmicks & gadgets as well as some crazy situational capers. These turned up the tension regularly in the fun, spy-antics, Impossible Mission Force, style that they should. 
Unfortunately I could see through the plot's smokescreen and twist too early, and I also found the obvious McGuffin-ness of the mission's overt objective too overplayed for my liking. 
For the M:I franchise this was a strong, enjoyable return to updating the already great concept. 

Mission: Impossible 4 — Ghost Protocol. (at the movies) 
This was everything I so dearly hoped it would be as Brad Bird's first time as a live action director. Having already directed two of my favourite movies ever (which just happen to be animated), I so wanted Bird to succeed here just as well, and he has. For me, this is the best of the franchise, with fabulous, 'impossible' capers being pulled off with spy-gadget trickery, sheer wit, muscle, skill and/or determination. We're thrown from one high-tension, ticking-clock scenario to another with just enough time to catch our breath and get to know the protagonists a little better in between. Each of the heroes has enough depth and personality to make them enjoyable, believable and likeable. There's plenty of globe-trotting, chases, fights and daring-do, usually presented for good reason, clearly, and in fine, exciting style. 
This is a great action spy movie that is over the top in all the right places. 

The Adventures of Tintin. (at the movies)
My main gripe with this animated movie is the animation, which makes it a pretty big gripe. I think it all comes down to this: due to the push for realism – that is realistic models, movement, facial expressions, gestures, textures, etc. – I came away with the sense that it's 'overacted', and yet, because of it's supposed 'cartoon' nature, being an animated film, there is a definite lack of caricatured movement and caricatured acting. The realism and animation are fiercely at odds with each other, fighting for attention, neither getting the upper hand. As a result the film ends up sitting uncomfortably in its own skin. Of course there's the usual issues with uncanny valley, and I found a number of facial close-ups to appear a little too waxy in their appearance. In other aspects though, visually I found the movie quite lovely, if unremarkable. Again, because of the push towards realism, regardless of how well designed and created the backgrounds, props and costumes are they are mostly forgettable because they're so real. 
My other problem with this film is entirely personal and very annoying. Having only just recently read the books for the first time that the movie is based on I found myself constantly distracted by comparisons, wondering about decisions made to add, remove or mix plot threads, and second-guessing how the next point would play out. All my fault I'm afraid. I'll need another viewing to fully relax into the flow of the story. I think I'll have to wait for that second viewing before I'm entirely sure about story itself too, for much the same reasons. I will say though, by way of comparison with the books, the Thompson twins were sadly under-utilised for comedy relief, which they're very good at in print. I found it interesting, and a little revealing, at the successful attempts made at giving Tintin's personality a tad more depth than the books. From the little I've read, Tintin has terribly little depth, while in this movie the numerous references to his being a famous journalist, the showing off of newspaper clippings of past exploits, and his collection of typewriters, point to his having something more like a driving desire to seek out and run down a story or mystery. 
I could go on about the differences in approach of storytelling between this movie and the books it's based on, but that could be a very long essay in itself. 
There's some spectacular scenes, some amazing cinematography that really could only be achieved through this sort of computer generation, but in the end, this film adaption was technically well made, but lacked a real grip to engage me fully. 

Alien. (on DVD)
This is one of my favourite movies. I love the suspense and tension which is maddeningly high from the very first frame. I love the look, design, cinematography, acting, all of it. I love the time taken to get you in the mood when necessary. I love how loud it is. And I don't think there's really anything much that I don't like about it. 
This is probably the third, maybe the fourth time I've seen it. I was lucky enough to watch an original print in a cinema about two years ago, and the experience was a lot different to this time where I watched it on DVD with my family. For some reason it felt like a lot of the tension was lost through this delivery medium. I explained the genre to my daughter as more horror than sci-fi. She was adamant it wasn't scary enough to be a horror movie. 

I also saw two live performances of storytelling last month… 

Annie (on stage, at The Lyric Theatre, The Star, Sydney), which was a nice enough production, though in the end quite unremarkable and not at all different enough to the last Sydney production in 2000 to warrant seeing it again (to the point that the programme used a lot of photos from that production and not this one!).
Circus Oz (in a tent, Tumberlong Park, Darling Harbour, Sydney), which was an amazing night of old fashioned circus dressed up in new-fangled steampunk. Brilliant design, look and feel, great skill and showmanship, fabulous music (I'm buying the soundtrack), and an enormously entertaining and fun night. Circus Oz is always worth experiencing. 

1 comment:

  1. More musings from your friendly neighbourhood Tintinologist. I once read that Spielberg considered the car chase at the start of Hayao Miyazaki's 'Lupin III' to be 'the best movie car chase ever'. (Though his own one from Raiders of the Lost Ark was pretty top-notch!) The big chase at the end of the Tintin movie reminded me of that chase from Lupin III, and I had to wonder if the Spiel referenced it, or even did it as a homage. It didn't seem like something from the books, and it even felt a bit out of place to me.