May 11 2012

Review: Shame

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 5:56 pm

Steve McQueen (not that one) and Michael Fassbender and follow up their highly-acclaimed film Hunger with this remarkable portrait of a sex addict in Shame. The Fass plays Brendan, an executive at a finance firm who seems to have it all: good looks, decent money and his pick of the ladies. But under his cool and calm exterior lies a man whose life is dominated by his crippling addiction to sex. We see him bring assorted women home from bars, soliciting prostitutes and filling his work computer with mounds and mounds of pornography. He exerts a herculean level of effort to conceal this fact from his co-workers. But when his lounge-singer sister (Carey Mulligan) rocks into town, Brendan’s precarious balancing act is completely thrown off, threatening the empty life he’s built for himself.

2011 was Fassbender’s big year and Shame may very well have been his best performance, deserving of all the plaudits he’s been getting since the film launched at the Venice Festival. He’s able to balance lust and anguish in a way that makes his condition seem real and unbearable. Carey Mulligan also shines as his vulnerable sister: one central scene finds her performing at an upmarket bar, singing a slow, aching rendition of New York, New York. As the camera hovers over her face in close up, we’re reminded again why Mulligan is  considered one of the finest young actresses of her generation. Director McQueen also confirms his position as an enormously exciting talent. His sensibility towards small-scale visual storytelling marries beautifully with the sordid material: he’s able to squeeze more meaning out of a single glance than some directors with far greater experience.

Shame is not a movie I recommend you see with a date or with the family. There’s some full frontal nudity and a few explicit sex scenes that would make that experience very awkward. But if you’re willing to spend a quiet evening in the company of a man on the edge, I think you’ll find this a beautiful, compelling experience.


May 05 2012

American Pie: Reunion

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 9:01 pm

American Pie: ReunionIt’s been thirteen years since we were introduced to Jim, Oz, Finch, Stifler and their boring friend Kevin. The original American Pie saw this tight group of friends make a pact to lose their virginity before their high school graduation. It was arguably the iconic film of its time, tapping into the concerns and obsessions of teenagers (namely sex) and exploring them from very funny, frequently gross and unexpectedly sweet angles. In the years since, its sequels have seen the gang reunite for a holiday, for a wedding, and now, we’re invited to their 13 year high school reunion.

We catch up with Jim and Michelle, (Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan) whose relationship is starting to show its cracks under the pressure of parenthood; former jock Oz (Chris Klein) is now a celebrity sportscaster with a supermodel girlfriend; Stifler (Seann William Scott) is an entry level office drone who lives under the thumb of his Napoleonic boss; super-snob Finch arrives aboard a motorbike and seems to be the most thoroughly travelled of the lost; and the boring one has gone on to become something unmemorable. Though they’ve spent years apart, the one common thing that unites them all is their disappointment at where they’ve arrived in life.

For a movie replete with sex gags and poop jokes, Reunion has a strangely poignant story that will likely resonate with fans of the series. All of them have responsibilities to jobs, spouses and/or children and they can’t have fun like they used to and allow themselves. Those who caught the original in your teens will now be approaching your early thirties and will probably share many of the characters’ regrets. Unless you’ve happened to achieve everything you’ve intended to in the last decade, in which case: I hate you.

Comedy sequels commonly fall into the same trap: every sequence that was successful in the original will be repeated, mutated or heavily referenced. The Austin Powers and Meet the Parents movies are particularly egregious offenders and to a certain extent, so are the American Pie movies. Of course there will be a sequence where Jim will be caught in the act of doing something embarrassing; there will also be a moment when Stifler releases waste in a place where he shouldn’t; John Cho will almost certainly make an appearance to reaffirm his appreciation for MILFs. But there’s something forgivable about he rehashed elements in Reunion. The movie is rooted in the idea that revisiting old ideas and places is something to be feel nostalgic and perhaps a little sad about.  On top of that, the writing is solid and the entire cast of actors are still very capable of being hilarious (minus the boring one, Kevin, who is still dull). Seann William Scott deserves an individual shout-out: revisiting this role after Role Models, Goon and his numerous supporting turns in other comedies, we can see how very specific Stifler is as ‘the annoying party guy’ character.

If you have never seen an American Pie movie in your life, this would not be a good place to start; but for those who have loved or just enjoyed the series, we can solidly recommend that you attend this particular reunion.


Apr 27 2012

Review: Avengers Assemble

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 4:57 pm

Avengers AssembleLet’s get this out of the way: Avengers Assemble* is a tremendous action picture. There are very few ways about it. Geek god Joss Whedon was given the exciting yet herculean task of making a $220m action blockbuster with the coolest bits of kit in the Marvel toy chest. Dealing with four main characters (each of whom have their own film franchises), writer/director Whedon could easily have turned this into an incoherent mess, paying lip service to minor heroes and ending up with a movie that was long and boring. Running at 142 minutes, Avengers Assemble is a long film, but the efficiency which which Whedon has structured and shot it means that the movie never flags.

Directly carrying on story strands from 2011’s Captain America and Thor, Avengers finds international security agency SHIELD trying to harness power from a glowing blue cube called the Tesseract. Loki, the baddie from Thor, breaks into a secure facility and steals the Tesseract with the intention of using it to take over the world. Such a threat means only one thing: SHIELD director Nick Fury (a cool, eye-patched Samuel L Jackson) must assemble an awesome team of heroes to fight Loki and recover the cube. On his wish-list are Captain America (Chris Evans), a scientifically enhanced war hero frozen at the height of WWII and thawed out in modern day; Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a billionaire genius who also moonlights as Iron Man; Bruce Banner (Marvel newcomer Mark Ruffalo), a gifted scientist with a tendency to turn into the Incredible Hulk every time he gets a bit cranky; and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the god-like thunder-warrior from a galaxy far, far away. Added into the mix are Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, a former Russian spy with an excellent line in kicking butt and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, an expert marksman who manages to make a bow and arrow look like an appropriate weapon to use against soldiers with machines guns.

The first act is full of exposition, but as Whedon showed in Serenity, the 2005 adaptation of his cult TV show Firefly, he is a master when it comes to re-introducing familiar characters in awesome ways. Every character has their moment to shine, with Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark hogging many of the choice quips. Scarlett Johansson is also given a decent amount to do as the sole female member of the team. Introduced in the Iron Man sequel, she was pitched as little more than eye-candy: all pistols and latex with very little by way of character, but here she becomes a cooler, more interesting character. It’s the same with all the characters: Whedon has quite a distinctively quirky style of dialogue that is funny but never feels out of characters. In fact, this could be the funniest ‘straight’ comic book movie ever made or perhaps even (whisper it) the best comic movie ever, full stop.

But as you may have heard already, the scenes with the Hulk are something special. This being the green giant’s third film appearance with as many lead actors assailing the role, the character has somewhat become Marvel’s whipping boy over the years and maybe for good reason. After all, there’s something intrinsically unsatisfying with most Hulk stories: while Banner’s primary motivation is to keep his temper in control and not become the Hulk, all the audiences want to see is the Hulk smashing things to bits. To have a main character whose desires are at cross-purposes to the story’s requirements can be quite infuriating. However, the way he is deployed in Avengers really makes the most of the character: he is a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment and that knowledge gives the middle section of movie a sense of palpable tension.

But when the cards are on the table at the end of the movie, the final act delivers like very few action blockbusters do. In a huge action set piece, the heroes finally gel and we are treated to a thrilling action-fest that sees each hero do some genuinely cool stuff. How many times have you seen an enormously expensive movie and wonder where did all the money go? In Avengers Assemble, it’s all up there on the screen.

 

*This is only the title in Britain, changed from The Avengers so as to avoid confusion when Mrs Peel and John Steed fail to turn up on screen.

 

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Apr 20 2012

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 4:19 pm

We Need to Talk About KevinWarning!  Contains Spoilers!

Not all women feel that they’re born to be mothers. They’re told that once they’ve had their first child, it will all simply fall into place; they will instinctively have a connection to this being that’s been in their womb for 9 months. They will be somehow be inseparable and they will love their child by default. But is that always the case?

Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin was written as a series of confessional letters written from the narrator (Eva, as played by a haunted Tilda Swinton) to her estranged/ex-husband (John C Reilly) as she deals with the aftermath of their son’s massacre of his high school. Long considered to be un-filmable, director Lynn Ramsay (Morvern Callar) has instead taken an abstract approach to the story, rushing between scenes of the past and present as Eva struggles with the consequences of her son’s actions. Recalling her nightmarish experience in raising him, we see that she is not a natural mother: in an early scene, incapable of comforting her wailing baby, she pushes his pram onto a noisy street to drown out his crying. Her efforts to connect with her child look increasingly futile and as Kevin matures into a teenager (played by the very creepy Ezra Miller), he is shown as a vindictive boy who lives to torture his mother. There is no doubt that this boy we see on screen is a full blown psychopath, casually turning his father against Eva. Whether this is intended to be a literal version of the story or merely Eva’s subjective recollection is never addressed. Is she trying to justify her place in the story, absorbing the guilt or absolving herself from the blame? Can she be held responsible? Are killers born or made?

We Need to Talk About Kevin is not a film that asserts its own particular thesis on motherhood or mental health: it poses a lot of questions and like most tragedies, it cannot afford itself the luxury of a cathartic ending.

Lynn Ramsay’s film is a very bold adaptation, taking what was essentially a series of narrations and making a film that’s defined by its silences and uneasy half-conversations. She establishes a number of seemingly unconnected visual motifs, often recalling them late in the film to chilling effect. Her film is a phenomenally affecting work that left us with a sense of discomfort long after it finished. We’re not trying to discourage you from watching this, but if you’re thinking of starting a family in the immediate future, you may want to give this one a pass.

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Apr 16 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 3:39 pm

Cabin in the WoodsEvery review and preview about Cabin in the Woods is likely to tell you the same thing: don’t read anything about it and JUST GO SEE IT. we happen to agree with this, so we’ll try keep spoilers to a minimum and recommend you see this movie as soon as you can.

It’s a tale as old as cinema itself: a group of kids go to a remote shack in the middle of nowhere for a boisterous weekend of drinking and relaxation only to encounter a supernatural threat that picks them off one-by-one. These students are very much the kids that pop up in every horror movie: there’s the jock, the intellectual, the good girl, the naughty girl and the stoner. They are so familiar, that they could easily have emerged from the back of the mystery machine with a bag of Scooby Snacks. But the cabin, much the movie itself, is not quite what it seems: the very first scene follows the conversation of two office drones (the excellent Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) who appear to be preparing for some unseen task somehow related to the unwitting holiday-makers.

Famously, this movie has been languishing on the shelf since it was shot in 2009. A victim of MGM’s bankruptcy, it’s been stuck in the same financial limbo that saw the delay of Hobbit and the next James Bond mega-hit. Thankfully, Cabin in the Woods has  seen the light of day in time to capitalise on the rise of star Chris Hemsworth (an unknown when they shot it) and the release of Whedon’s upcoming Avengers Assemble, which promises to be the biggest comic book movie to date.

By the way Cabin’s secret’s have been hyped, we’re led to believe there’s a single monumental twist upon which the entire story hangs, but in fact, it is something far better.  Co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have created a movie that takes great pleasure in gradually revealing how the two plots tie into each other, slowly illuminating the world in which the story takes place. Though much has been said about it being a post-modern dissection of the horror genre, the real fun of Cabin comes from blending the terror of the woods and the dry, hilarious banality of The Whitford/Jenkins Plot (which, incidentally, is a great name for a prog-rock band). Whedon’s trademarks appear in full force, with great banter-y dialogue and the involvement of a shady organisation run by flawed, likable humans (see Dollhouse, Angel).

Though its peculiar approach may disappoint horror fans in search of a purely terrifying experience, it seems unlikely that anyone would take exception to being duped into seeing a movie so original, smart and unpredictable.  It might not be the scariest movie ever made, but you’re unlikely to find many horror films as joyously entertaining as Cabin in the Woods

 


Apr 13 2012

Review: Battleship

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 4:26 pm

BattleshipFrom the toymakers that brought you Transformers comes Battleship, the newest blockbuster to be based on a game that has somehow survived despite the fact that it can be played with just paper and a pencil.

Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch as Lt Hopper, a reckless burnout who follows in his older brother’s footsteps and transforms himself into a reckless naval officer. His super-hot girlfriend (Mrs Andy Roddick, Brooklyn Decker) also happens to be daughter of an admiral (Liam Neeson), which certainly complicates matters when it comes to asking for permission to marry her. There’s a decent amount of groundwork laid in the first act, but needless to say, the character relationships take a back-seat once the action kicks off.

Now, if this film was made in the 80s, the villains of the piece would naturally have been the Soviets, or perhaps militant hippies. But this being 2012, the studios can’t afford to annoy any particular country (especially one with as many potential cinema-goers as China or Russia) so naturally, our heroes are fighting to save the planet from extra-terrestrials. This feels a bit like a cop-out from the Michael Bay school of actioneering: in Transformers, the Decepticons are evil robots from space, Armageddon dealt with a killer rock from space, while in his upcoming Ninja Turtles reboot, the heroes in a half-shell will also be from outer space (no joke), but it does give director Peter Berg the chance to bury the historical hatchet by having the US military team up with the Japanese Navy (led by arthouse hero Tadanobu Asano) in order to fend off the alien invaders. All this, by the way, also takes place in PEARL HABOR — just in case you didn’t get the significance.

Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights) has earned a reputation as a solid, workmanlike director and Battleship proves that he can be trusted with constructing a by-the-numbers modern blockbuster. The pretense for the action mostly makes sense and the aliens are interesting and don’t feel like the product of effects designers who have thrown everything at the wall to see what sticks. For a movie of this budget and pedigree, Battleship doesn’t suffer from the excesses of movies by Michael Bay or McG. In one central sequence however, Lt Hopper has to bomb his hidden enemy by calling grid co-ordinates. While this unconventional action sequence is reasonably tense and gives the second act a nice change of pace, it is obvious that this was studio-mandated decision to shoe-horn the board game into the film. The amount of screenwriting ju-jitsu required to fit this into the story is both logistically impressive and artistically bankrupt. Did they think that there was ever a chance that die-hard Battleship enthusiasts would cry foul for the lack of people shouting co-ordinates in this movie?

This movie marks Taylor Kitsch’s second starring role in the past month. The first, John Carter has been hailed as one of the biggest box office flops of all-time, losing Disney somewhere in the region of 200 million dollars. One can only imagine that he has a lot riding on this movie’s performance: if Battleship doesn’t reach number 1 in its first weekend, don’t be surprised to see a strikingly handsome man pick up a Starbucks job application on Monday morning.

There has been a lot of griping in this review, but there is much to be thankful for in Battleship. Kitsch (very good in TV’s Friday Night Lights) is a perfectly fine lead who can sell the sincere one-liners.  In her first acting role, recording superstar Rihanna appears third billed as a naval weapons chief. Admittedly, beyond barking orders and watching things explode, nothing much is asked of her but she is entirely decent in the part.

With all the military hardware on show, it becomes quickly obvious that the US Navy played key part in getting Battleship made. After all, movies like this and Top Gun have traditionally been very effective recruitment drivers and something like this could never get made without the support of Uncle Sam. While not overtly patriotic, Battleship makes a great effort to pay tribute to war veterans, casting Gregory Gadson –a double amputee war hero– in a key role. This reverence can either come across as very moving or unbearably saccharine. If you can suppress your cynical aversion to American sincerity and overlook the high-octane militarism, you’ll find a solid blockbuster that ticks all the boxes and makes very few mistakes.

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Apr 09 2012

Review: Headhunters

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 2:18 pm

Unless you’ve spent the last few years stuck in a troll cave, you will have noticed that Scandinavian crime thrillers have exploded onto the international stage. With the sudden popularity of The Killing, Wallander and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo –three thrillers that have seen adaptations in their native countries as well as remakes in the English language- we can no longer dismiss Scandinavia as merely the home of flat-pack furniture, Moomintrolls and cranky, pig-hating birds. Author Jo Nesbø is Norway’s best-selling author of snow-covered crime tales, his novels have been translated into over 40 languages and have shifted over 11 million copies.

With the release of Headhunters and rumours of Martin Scorsese producing an adaptation of his 2007 book The Snowman, it would be a gross understatement to say that Nesbø is the next big thing to come out of the great blonde North: he’s already arrived. In Headhunters, we follow the double-life of Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a recruitment executive and part-time art thief who has managed to keep his crimes under wraps despite his suspiciously fake-sounding Anglo-Saxon name. He’s a meticulous worker whose crimes are self-justified by his self doubt, small stature and urgent need to keep his supermodel-grade trophy wife in fine furs. His complicated existence takes a sudden turn for the more complicated when he is introduced to Claes Greve (Game of ThronesNikolaj Coster-Waldau), a handsome and overqualified recruitment candidate who reveals to Roger that he has a long-lost Rubens painting stashed away in his flat. Unable to turn down such a lucrative target, Brown soon realises what a terrible idea it is to steal from a wealthy ex-special forces soldier who’s kitted up with state-of-the-art tracking technology.

Once the game is afoot, the thrills come quick as Roger evades both Greve and the police. But even as the screws tighten on our tentative ‘hero’, the script remains dry and darkly funny. A tremendous amount of fun is had in creating a lead whose defining characteristic is his need to remain in control and then sending him on an adventure that goes spiraling out of control in the most undignified ways. In some way, Headhunters gets to have its cake and eat it as well: it’s tense and propulsive while remaining consistently playful.

But what is it about the Nordic countries that makes them such a compelling setting for these sorts of dark mysteries and thrillers? Is it the open expanses of land and their long forbidding winters? In Britain these days, you can’t really drive more than an hour in any direction before you bump into a high street that has its own Topshop, and even if you hike into the middle of nowhere, you’re still likely to find a decent signal for your mobile. In most other first world countries, the idea of being physically lost and alone anywhere seems truly foreign. On the strength of Headhunters alone, the idea that we’re going to see much more of the Scandi-Noir genre looks to be quite an exciting prospect.


Apr 06 2012

Review: Puss in Boots

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 3:24 am

Puss in BootsWhen Shrek was first released in 2001, nobody could have guessed that the franchise would still be going strong 10 years later in the form of a spin-off based around a character in a sequel. But, cut to 2011 and Antonio Banderas’ swashbuckling Spanish tabby, Puss in Boots, has his very own movie.

And you know what? It’s pretty good.

Set in a distinctly Hispanic region of the Shrek universe, Puss in Boots throws our hero into a new adventure. The famed outlaw, sword fighter and feline Casanova reunites with Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), an old friend from his past. Teaming up with Humpty and the seductive cat-burglar Kitty Softpaws (Banderas’ Desperado co-star Salma Hayek), Puss goes on the hunt for magic beans and the golden goose that lives atop the beanstalk. As we’ve come to expect from Dreamworks animated pictures, the action set-pieces are slick and the many throw-away gags are good fun, but it was a relief to see that makers of Puss in Boots stray away the Shrek movies’ tendency to undercut a story at every turn in favour of self-aware pop culture references. They’ve also managed to turn Puss into something more than a one-gag character, fleshing out his history and crafting a story that pays homage to the spaghetti westerns, in particular The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The uneasy tension in this band of fortune hunters feels a lot like the central relationship in Sergio Leone’s classic film, where Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach reluctantly team up to search of buried treasure. Strangely enough, 2011 proved to be the year of the animated Western, with Gore Verbinski winning an Oscar for his own Leone-influenced film Rango.

The voice performances are all perfectly well done and Banderas, in particular, sounds like he’s having the time of his life. While his recent on-screen performances would suggest that Banderas has contracted Al Pacino Syndrome (a condition where aging thesps succcumb to overacting) this plays to the benefit of a film where his deep melodious voice is effectively deployed to create a panto version of Zorro. Galifianakis is good as well, turning in a more layered character than we would expect from the man who brought us Alan, The Hangover’s resident weirdo.

With a great script, wonderful visuals and a keen sense of fun, Puss in Boots is a rare cross-generational hit that will delight the children and adults alike. But after you’ve seen it, don’t be surprised to find the kids stuffing the family cat into your favourite pair of Uggs.


Mar 30 2012

Review: Mirror Mirror

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 5:29 pm

Mirror-Mirror2012 is shaping up to be a big year for fairy tale princesses. If you haven’t heard: there are not one, but TWO Snow White movies making their way to the cinemas in the next 3 months. This week sees Mirror Mirror hitting the big screen while the Kristen Stewart vehicle Snow White and the Huntsman is slated for a June release. Is this doubling-up of Snow Whites purely a coincidence, or a part of some wicked conspiracy between studios to brainwash our children away from eating apples?

Mirror Mirror stars Lily Collins (daughter of Sussudio hitmaker Phil) opposite Julia Roberts and looks to be the more traditional of the two movies. The film has a strangely irreverent tone that sets it out as a light romp, which is not a bad thing at all. Director Tarsem Singh quickly marks this out as a children’s film, shying away from any real violence, turning his attention to the eye-popping visuals for which he’s best known. His previous films The Cell, The Fall and Immortals may not have suggesting this as the next step in his career  (you can see him occasionally  struggle with nursing the script’s breezy style) but his opulent visual sensibility lends itself perfectly to the fairy-tale genre.

The sets and costumes have been designed to within an inch of their lives and the film makes very few attempts to solidify the reality of this world. In fact, one wouldn’t be far off comparing Mirror Mirror to a big screen panto: Roberts’ evil Queen is camp and knowing, her manservant (Nathan Lane) is a Mr. Smee-like comedy sidekick while Armie Hammer’s Prince is very often forced into the role of buffoon. The humour may be a bit broad for adult audiences, but it’s tough not to admire Mirror Mirror’s ambitions and influences — the argumentative camaraderie of the dwarves is a clear reference to Time Bandits; Lily Collins looks a lot like Jennifer Connolly in Labyrinth; and the banter-laden dialogue is reminiscent of The Princess Bride. Singh’s film never quite reaches the heights of any of those classics, but you can’t fault the effort.

Mirror Mirror has few aspirations of being a Shrek-style cross-generational hit: it doesn’t make any attempt to update the story or make it hip in any way. It’s a film that’s firmly made for pre-teens that will probably keep the kids engaged for 100 minutes.

So to summarise: it’s a perfect movie for a day out with your nieces and nephews, but an awful pick for a first date.

 


Mar 30 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Tag: Uncategorizedblinkbox @ 12:29 pm

TintinAfter almost two decades of development and pre-production, Steven Spielberg has finally brought his vision of the ginger-quiffed boy reporter and his globetrotting escapades onto the big screen. But was The Adventures of Tintin worth the wait?

Combining a few of Hergé’s graphic novels, the screenplay (penned by British heavyweights Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish) finds Jamie Bell’s Tintin and his faithful terrier Snowy on the trail of a lost pirate treasure belonging to an ancestor of drunken seaman Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). Hounded by a sinister figure named Sakharine (Daniel Craig), the gang find adventure everywhere: from the city streets to the high seas and the scorching desert. Along for the ride are fan favourites, bumbling policemen Thompson and Thomson, played by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.

Utilising the same performance capture system used in Avatar, the technology has evolved to the point where it no longer suffers from the dead-eyed “uncanny valley” quality that plagued earlier photo-realistic CG projects (for the most grotesque example, check out the strutting corpses from 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within). The most exciting part of this development is that Spielberg and his co-producer Peter Jackson have created a fully animated film that looks and feels like a Steven Spielberg movie: his regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is credited as cinematographer and John Williams provides a score reminiscent of his treatment from Catch Me If You Can. There are extraordinary visual sequences including pirate battles and a car chase that could have come straight out of the Indiana Jones films, a franchise that owes a lot to the Tintin stories.

Some of the characterisations are a bit on the un-PC side, notably the Arabic millionaire Omar Ben Salaad and Serkis’ drunken Scotsman (alcohol to Captain Haddock is like spinach to Popeye). Also, in an age when most family films have been sanitised to a U certificate, there’s something both jarring and nostalgic in seeing Tintin carry a gun so casually.  It’s old-fashioned and very much part of the movie’s throwback charm.

Critical response to The Adventures of Tintin have been notably tepid so far but one can’t help suspect that if this film had been live-action, it would be lauded as a return to form for Mr Spielberg, providing all the thrills and spills of a Boys’ Own adventure with the scope of a blockbuster.