steven spielberg

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Musical Score–Original (John Williams).
Watched January 15, 2013.


You know when you can’t get a movie out of your head for days after you watched it?  Whether or not it was the most amazing movie ever created, or the most riveting and believable plot line, it was the kind of thing that entertained you enough that you wanted to share it with others.  When this happens to me I know that it will probably end up in my DVD/Blu-ray collection one day.  Although The Adventures of Tintin was no mind bending film, I really enjoyed it and will one day force it on my kids.


Tintin is an age old comic character.  He is a reporter with a propensity for getting himself into trouble, but also for solving giant mysteries.  He’s kind of like the comic strip/boy version of Nancy Drew, or a kid’s version of Indiana Jones.  It has taken a long time for him to come to the big screen, but who better to take him there than Steven Spielberg?


In this tale, Tintin and his faithful canine Snowy find a beautiful model ship at a flea market, but immediately after purchasing it they are doused in the mystery and adventure of the craft.  It seems several people are after this very ship, and they might even kill to keep its secret safe.  Not able to let it rest, Tintin and Snowy are off immediately!  Through high seas and deserts, accompanied by a drunk Captain Haddock, they pursue the clues and culprits through many dangers, but always pervail with Tintin’s uncanny ability to do anything he sets his mind to.


There have been a lot of negative reviews about the animation (motion capture) of this film, some even going to far as to say it should have just been live action if they weren’t going to stick with the same style as the comic.  I quite disagree.  I really thought that the animation was absolutely brilliant.  It brought a realness to it that I quite liked, and the comic qualities were definitely still present in the two comic reliefs, Thomson and Thompson.


The John Williams score was unforunately a bit forgetable, which is interesting as it was the film’s only nomination.  The plot line is rather simplistic, and at times Tintin’s motivation to continue the investigation seems a bit… unmotivated, for lack of a better word.  For the most part, I could see it being a great movie for boys.  In terms of editing there are some really top notch animated transitions.  My favourite was when Captain Haddock’s mirage came to life before our eyes–endless rolling sand dunes morph into a rough sea carrying a gorgeous tall ship.


With voices from Jamie BellAndy Serkis, Daniel Craig, and Simon Pegg–among others–you can be sure you are in for a classic Spielberg, feel good adventure story.  The only difference is that it is animated!


I would definitely recommend this one, especially if you have kids.


Sources: All Things FoeHD WallpapersIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesJohn Likes Movies

War Horse (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

War Horse (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 6 awards.
Nominated for Best Picture (Steven SpielbergKathleen Kennedy), Cinematography (Janusz Kiminski), Art Direction (Rick Carter, Lee Sandales), Music – Original (John Williams), Sound Editing (Richard Hymns, Gary Rudstrom), and Sound Mixing (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson).
Watched December 29, 2012.


What can I say about you, War Horse?  It is a technical genius and a simplistic, clichéd display of love and devotion that leaves half of the critics baffled and the other half in adoration.


Steven Spielberg will forever be a cinematic genius whose technicality in the art is boundless.  However, I have grown so accustomed to his polished cinematography and overall composition that I was less impressed with the technical aspect and therefore more distracted by the unlikely plot line.  It is simple in almost a bad way.  There was very little character depth and the actions of all but the horse (Joey) were extremely predictable.


Despite its shortcomings in story, I still enjoyed it, partially because I am a huge horse lover.  It is a war movie without the gore of today’s films.  Spielberg did not feel the need to show every battle field in detail and to draw out the exchange.  Instead, he took a much more simple, abstract approach that lets the audience know what has occurred but does not necessarily show the act itself.  This was one of my more favourite aspects of the film, which leads me to my viewing advice.


If you have the ability to suspend reality (something that most movie-goers should be well versed in) and accept the fact that War Horse is going to test you, then you should certainly see it.  It is a walking cliché–a tale of innocents on all sides, despite the gruesome war surrounding it, and the joy that is found despite the death, destruction, and separation.


Joey begins his life as a playful, half-thoroughbred who is bought at auction at a young age by a farmer who needs a plow horse.  Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) was tempted by the astounding beauty of the horse, his landlord’s clear desire for the animal, and his drink.  His wife Rose (Emily Watson) is furious when he brings the young, small, untrained horse home, but his son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is ecstatic.  He takes the horse on himself, names him, and trains him, and in one of the more unlikely bits of the film, plows an entire field with him in order to save his family’s farm.


Despite their efforts, the farm is still in jeopardy.  When World War I finally breaks upon them, Mr. Narracott sells the horse to a Captain James Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston).  Heartbroken, Albert vows to Joey that he will find him again one day.


It is soon after this that the most brilliant scene of the film occurs.  The Captain and his company are led to believe that a German camp lays close by, unsuspecting, and thus their calvary rides into it. They ride through the camp at full gallop but once they reach the woods at the other side, they are cut down thoroughly by machine guns.  Instead of watching the horses and their riders fall at extreme length, we instead see one shot of the riders charging at full gallop and in the next the horses are leaping over the guns–riderless.


Joey finds himself in German hands, and along with his gorgeous black stallion friend, jumps from master to master and from England to Germany to France and back again, much in the same way that Black Beauty would share his tale of owners.  He spends time on a French farm, pulling guns in the war, and even brings the entrenched British and German soldiers to a temporary truce as they try to free him from barbed wire.


It is not the most brilliant nominated film this year, but it is certainly deserving.  Although the end shots are certainly a sort of sentimental pride with Spielberg, as is evidenced by their drawn out screen time, the majority of his execution is so flawless that I longed for a dirtier edit and a more experimental cinematographer.  If you have missed War Horse somehow, I would certainly suggest watching it, especially if you are in a good mood and are willing to set aside your firm grasp on reality for some more innocent fun.



Sources: Fan PopAwards DailyDreamWorks StudiosIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesThe GuardianJohn Likes MoviesThe Best Picture Project

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Melinda Dillon), Art Direction (Joe Alves, Dan LominoPhil Abramson), Directing (Steven Spielberg), Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Music-Original (John Williams), Sound (Robert Knudson, Robert J. Glass, Don MacDougallGene S. Cantamessa), Visual Effects (Roy Arbogast, Douglas Trumbull, Matthew Yuricich, Gregory Jein, Richard Yuricich).
Won Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).
Watched October 22, 2012.



[This review contains spoilers.]


Close Encounters of the Third Kind, like Star Wars, is another sci-fi film released in 1977 that was nominated and won awards for its achievements.  It was also the second-highest grossing film of the year and held records for a good while.  This is, of course, thanks to Steven Spielberg, his incredible understanding of the craft, and his abilities as a story teller.  I, for one, will forever be a fan of Spielberg, not necessarily for his out-of-this-world artistic abilities, but for his all encompassing domination of filmmaking as a whole.  Although certain aspects of Close Encounters are dated, the majority of it withstands the test of time far more than its counterpart, Star Wars.


If you have guessed correctly, like I did, Close Encounters is a film about aliens.  Similarly to other such films where extra terrestrial life visits Earth, you don’t actually see the aliens themselves until the end of the film, although you see a good amount of their ships.  Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is your average blue collar worker with a wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) and three children.  When there is a huge power outage one night, he is called into the field, but once he has a unique encounter with one of the ships, he turns off his radio and decides to chase down the aliens.  He is completely obsessed, even once they have gone, preoccupied with a pyramid shape that he can’t place.  A woman he met the same night, Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) is just as preoccupied, but when her son Barry (Cary Guffey) is taken, her terror leads her to chase down her visions of the mountain.  Roy’s obsession eventually makes him so crazy that his wife leaves with the children.


Meanwhile, a group of scientists have been tracking and communicating with the aliens and have discovered that the lifeforms have been sending them direct coordinates to Devils Tower in Wyoming.  They immediately evacuate the area, and it is the television coverage of the panic that clues Roy and Jillian in on what their visions have been of.  They both rush to the area, of course meeting up and driving recklessly into the military protected national park.


Unlike many alien movies of our day, Steven Spielberg’s aliens are friendly and curious.  Although they have taken many people over the years, as well as accepted voluntary travelers, they seem like they too are merely scientists wishing to understand, explore, and experience.  This also differs from the films in the 70s and before.  The typical storyline is, of course, that their world is dying, they are feeding, or they simply want to terrorize the planet.  Spielberg’s creation, although also suspenseful, is much different with much better special effects, which are perhaps two of its best traits.


As far as performances and characters, I thought everyone was phenomenal.  Dreyfuss is very convincing–his crazy is very realistic and because we know his experience was legitimate it is probably less weird to the audience than his wife, although at the climax of his meltdown it is easy to understand and sympathize with Ronnie.  She begins as very loving and supportive, although clearly worried.  At first I was surprised that she might actually be so loving that she completely upholds her “in sickness and in health” vows without question, but she eventually cracks and opts to protect her children by removing them from the situation.


I would definitely recommend this film.  It is more lighthearted than recently viewed films, but certainly has more depth than Star Wars.  Even if you have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind before, it would definitely be a good choice for this Halloween evening!

Sources: Classic MoviesZap 2 ItIMDBRotten TomatoesHorror NewsNY Times