DID YOU READ

“The Adventures of Tintin,” reviewed

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Steven Spielberg loves film. And not just movies, but the actual, physical medium of light projected through celluloid. He’s one of the last directors alive who still edits his work by painstakingly cutting and pasting strips of film instead of manipulating files on a computer. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy to embrace motion-captured animation. After all, there’s no film in “mocap.” There are barely even cameras: just actors in an empty room and computerized sensors that record their movements.

And yet somehow Spielberg, the analog stalwart, has brought out the best in this new filmmaking technology. For years I’ve watched mocap animated movies in a state of puzzlement: not quite live-action, not quite animation, motion capture seemed to offer only the worst of both worlds: characters bound by real-world physics and hampered by weirdly lifeless faces and eyes. It’s worked at times as a tool of live-action filmmakers, but almost always in more fantastical settings (see James Cameron’s “Avatar”). Whenever it’s been called to approximate the real world, the previous results have been dreadful. Maybe the technology’s improved, maybe the caliber of filmmaker using the technology’s improved. Either way, Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” is the movie that really made me understand motion capture’s appeal. Now I see what mocap can do. And what it can do is action.

Spielberg does things with virtual cameras and animated characters inside his computerized world that would be impossible to capture in the real one. Some are elaborate: he builds chase sequences and sword fights and battles at sea on an epic scale. Others are ingeniously simple: with a virtual camera he can follow characters through walls, or under moving cars, or zooming in and around an African town in one continuous take. Anything seems possible in this world and Spielberg takes full advantage of the possibilities.

In a way, “Tintin” is the best “Indiana Jones” sequel he’s ever made. There are treasure hunts and daring escapes and an air of excitement, both from the characters and the director, that’s palpable. One sequence is so spectacular, I literally yelled out “Oh man!” in the movie theater. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was that beautiful and that thrilling. And there are two or three other action set pieces that are just as good.

The plot and the characters are, admittedly, not nearly as memorable, but the movie is so feverishly paced you won’t notice until it’s over. The story comes from the longrunning series of Belgian comic books by the artist Hergé about a crusading adventurer journalist named Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his fearless dog sidekick Snowy (Snowy). In this film, which at one point was subtitled “The Secret of the Unicorn,” Tintin purchases a model ship at a flea market which, unbeknownst to him, is desired by all sorts of unsavory characters. The ship is promptly stolen and must be recovered and then a tiny scroll that had been hidden in its mast must be retrieved as well. That scroll, and several others, point to the location of an incredible treasure.

Tintin eventually crosses paths with a drunken sea captain named Haddock, who becomes his other partner in his quest for the scroll. He is played by Andy Serkis, the chameleonic actor who previously motion-captured the performances that gave us Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings,” King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake, and Caesar in this year’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” His Haddock is another remarkable creation; witty, charming, roguish, and perpetually sauced. Serkis is like the Pixar of mocap; he seemingly can do no wrong. He might be the biggest and best actor in the entire world who everyone loves and no one knows.

Tintin himself isn’t much of a protagonist, or a journalist, for that matter — who does this guy work for? Does he ever file a story? — but he’s an acceptable everyman foil for Captain Haddock and the rest of the colorful supporting cast, including Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as a pair of bumbling policemen and Daniel Craig as a mysterious man who wants Tintin’s ship. Really they’re all just there to drive the action. But let’s not forget, the movie is called “The Adventures of Tintin,” not “The Searing Emotional Drama of Tintin.” On that level, the movie is an absolute masterpiece, maybe the first one motion capture has ever produced.

“The Adventures of Tintin” opens today. If you see it, tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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