Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Christmas’

Tops ‘n Tails of 2011

January 31, 2012

OK, so I haven’t been living up to the ACTIVE in my blog’s name, and I apologise profusely. It was a very busy silly season… Here then, without any further ado (because goodness knows there’s been a lot of ado already…), my critical glance over the past year’s 3-D releases:

The worst 3-D release of 2011:

Jock of the Bushveld – without a doubt.  Some folk in the local film industry complained that the film struggled against low budgets, and had overworked staff doubling up their duties, etc, etc. The bottom line is: if you can’t compete with the Dreamworks of this world, then don’t put yourself in the same arena. Make an interesting short film, or another style of film that isn’t as labour-intensive. Yes, we know that the big American animated features utilise cheap labour in the East. Well, do the same, then, but don’t turn out something of such low quality and punt it as a “South African first”, because it isn’t a “South African first” of which to be terribly proud…

Fourth, Third and Second Best Movies of 2011:

In Fourth Place comes the Sony Pictures/Aardman co-production, Arthur Christmas. A neat, funny, adventurous and sometimes quite moving tale of family politics, it finally clarifies just how Santa manages to deliver quite so many prezzies in one night!

In Third Place, the Shrek spin-off, Puss in Boots. I really hadn’t been looking forward to this, but its satirical take on the western genre and Hispanic melodrama was consistently laugh-out-loud hilarious.

It was a close call between this one and the movie with which I eventually crowned the list. That said, Second Place goes to Rio. A domesticated male parrot meets – and falls beak-over-tail for – a female parrot from the wilds of Brazil. They’re both targeted by cruel animal-smugglers, but after much colour, adventure and mayhem, all ends happily.

And the 3-D Movie of The Year for 2011…

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

We waited a long time for this Spielberg motion-capture epic, and hardcore Tintin fans were worried that the essence of our Belgian boy-hero would be lost in a big Hollywood budget. I’m happy to say that the director and his creative team have shown nothing but the highest respect for the source material (that is so inextricably woven into the fabric of so many of our childhoods).

I had worried about the use of motion-capture, as, in films such as Zemeckis’s A Christmas Carol, this nascent technology made most of the protagonists look cross-eyed. This time around, however, the eyes work just fine, and make for meaningful interaction between the characters. Going by the closing credits, it looks as if teams of people were kept busy with that task alone; keeping the characters’ eyes realistic.

That concern having been tucked away, I could concentrate on enjoying the film, which lovingly and faithfully resurrects all those colourful folks one remembers from the Tintin comics. The extrapolation from creator Hergé’s two-dimensional cartoons to three-dimensional computer images is largely successful, although, curiously, Tintin himself is the one who takes the most getting-used-to, as his computer-animated manifestation is the furthest from the books, I thought. But it’s no biggie, and I soon settled in to it… Climb in and enjoy the short-tempered, booze-addled Captain Haddock, the twittish Thompson twins, Haddock’s butler, and assorted villains – and let’s not forget the formidable opera diva,  Bianca Castafiore! They’re all there, as we’ve treasured them in the vaults of childhood memory, and their exploits are packed with action and derring-do (to the degree that I’d suggest the film might be too frightening for those under schoolgoing age – who shouldn’t be seeing 3-D movies anyway, for the sake of their ocular health). The gun-play is quite realistic, which startled me at first, but let’s not quibble:

Spielberg’s Tintin was everything I’d hoped it might be, right from the opening title sequence which pays a three-dimensional homage to the story’s two-dimensional comic-book origins by expanding the 2-D planes (as had been done in Captain America’s closing title sequences, if memory serves…). Now; roll on the sequel!

Claus and Effect: Arthur Christmas 3-D

December 9, 2011

An Active3D Movie Review

Rating (out of 5 stars): ****

The story behind the scenes at Santa’s headquarters at the North Pole, provides the backdrop to a charming story of family politics. The current Santa Claus (voiced by Jim Broadbent) distributes presents in a spacecraft that looks like something out of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, while Grandsanta (Bill Nighy giving a hilarious vocal performance) bemoans the use of newfangled gadgetry, insisting that he could do the job just as well back in the good-ole sled-and-reindeer days.

But the focus of our story, of course, is Santa’s younger son, Arthur (James McAvoy). An awkward, if well-meaning, lad, his best intentions invariably fall victim to his clumsiness. He lives in the shadow of his older brother, Steve (Hugh Laurie); an imposing, square-jawed heir apparent who runs Santa’s gift-delivering operations with military precision.

One Christmas eve, after every present has apparently been delivered to children around the globe, Arthur discovers an oversight: a bicycle that should’ve been delivered to a little girl in England has been left behind. Teaming up with Grandsanta, he sets off to right matters, unaware that, in the process, he will unleash his inner hero.

It’s a funny, charming and emotionally stirring family film that never labours its point, and it will, no doubt, speak to kids who feel like also-rans within their family dynamic. The 3-D is beautifully realised, and entire show is a credit to Sony Animation and the British outfit Aardman, who are perhaps best known for their Wallace & Gromit films.