the mini Review: Anonymous, Tintin & The Future

ANONYMOUS

Starring: Xavier Samuel, Rhys Ifans, Jamie Campbell Bower, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson, Rafe Spall, Derek Jacobi, Tom Wlaschiha, Edward Hogg

The one thing that has got more hype than the film itself is that the director, Roland Emmerich, did this period drama at all when his noted backlog includes disaster movie blockbusters such as Independence Day, Godzilla and 2012.

Set during a time of scandalous political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the plotting of nobles lusting for the power of the throne were brought to light in the most unlikely of places: the London stage. Anonymous focuses on the the much debated question of who actually created the body of work credited to William Shakespeare and offers one possible answer: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. So what if William Shakespeare didn’t write all those plays and poems? A little incredulous but not wholly implausible when you delve deep in to the arguments in favour of this concept. This is a film though. And if you’re going to make the accusations then you better have a thrilling story ala The Da Vinci Code to back it up….

STORY *Spoilers may be!*

…or something. Anonymous is a movie of two halves and the first is quite confusing. The constant flashbacks and forwards don’t allow the story to flow and it’s difficult to suss out who is the younger version of whom. Ifans younger counterpart played by the (already typecast?) Jamie Campbell Bower looks nothing like him. Joley Richardson plays a younger and very different version of Queen Elizabeth to the one played by her real life mother Vanessa Redgrave. And don’t get me started on Rafe Spall. Its like watching Pete Versus Life in costume.  His bumbling, idiotic and manipulative take on the famous Playwright is comical, bordering pantomimic.
But somehow, about halfway through, that the plot finally settles down and Emmerich pulls a highly entertaining flick out of the muddle. The various subplots mesh into one strong narrative, albeit an increasingly implausible one, in the second half and the story becomes riveting. Despite the seriousness on show, it’s great fun as the love story and political meanderings worm their way out of the deluge and become the film’s focus.
Apart from Spall’s turn, which was no fault of his own, it’s hard to fault anyone here. Ifans is fantastic as the haunted Earl. Thewlis is magnificent and Edward Hogg’s turn as the hunchbacked Robert Cecil is a memorable one: a cunning and ruthless plotter but also one that drowns in self-pity and fear. Redgrave, and her younger counterpart Joely Richardson, have two different takes on as the Queen but each one works.

Despite the films premise the quality and execution leads me to believe that we won’t be talking about this film a month from now even past this review. Unlike Shakespeare in love, which offered a romanticised and comedic stance on Shakespeare’s life or the devilish thriller of Cate Blanchett’s first Elizabeth that sought to analyse the backstabbing and scandalous goings on in Royal Court – Anonymous is just plain boring and not even sexy.

When it come most period films I expect high production value , decent at best. A familiar British Thespian face, to give it that National Theatre clout, and a certain level of pretentiousness that always comes with the annunciation of  each letter and stretch of each vowel.  Unfortunately Derek Jacobi’s  and Vanessa Redgraves presence does nothing to rescue this film from its own self conscious premise.

TINTIN

starring:Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Sebastian Roché

Geeks arise. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have teamed up to tackle the Belgian cartoon character Tintin in a Hollywood 3D adaptation. And if the dynamic director duo, and the popular rehash of the comic  wasn’t enough its also the first of a trilogy adapted from three of Herge’s original stories. Spielberg takes the reigns of this first instalment with a Jackson keeping a beady eye as the exec producer. The next will be his and both will co-direct the third. Whew. 

Not a massive fan of the cartoon when I was growing up, I found it dull and complicated and at times a little scary. However with the draw of the excellent Directors, a first class clan of writers that brought you Dr.Who, Sean of the Dead and Attack the Block (Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish from Adam & Joe) and an impressive cast, I thought it was worth watching. Yes and No.

Tintin is a a thrill, well produced, executed and fantastically drawn. If you’re looking for Pixar style animation, then you’ll be disappointed. This is exactly what Tintin would look like if Herges (Georges Rémi) were alive today and created it using CGI and motion capture. However story wise, with the calibre of talent involved and what I saw on screen – I admit I was a little disappointed.

Story * may be Spoilers*

The story begins after Tintin is approached by the menacing Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig) for a model ship he has just bought. When the young journalist declines he is later accosted by another mysterious figure Barnaby. Crisis averted he takes the ship home, but his dog Snowy manages to break it during a scuffle with the neighbours cat – but what’s this? a treasure map ? .  It’s not long after an Interpol agent is found dead on his doorstep, that the young scamp decides grab his dog, hire an alcoholic and temperamental (Captain Haddock played by motion capture thesp Andy Serkis) hop on a ship and set out to investigate and race to the pirate treasure.

Aesthetically its a beautiful film, but in terms of actually encompassing the realistic fluidity of emotion, I wasn’t convinced. Bell as Tintin is like the 2d cartoon. Dull as dishwater and creepy. I found myself groaning at his annoying face (the entire movie!) and aching to see more of Serkis’ Haddock. The latter is undoubtedly the owner of this craft. No one can do motion capture acting like Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Plante of the Apes) can. Even the comical pairing of  bumbling bowler-hatted detectives Thomson and Thompson played by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg came off short. I didnt understand why one was Scottish and the other English for starters and I found myself wondering why Frost couldn’t do it on his own. Serious, Pegg’s voice is annoying – it reminded me of his turn in Star Trek. Annoying.

The plot is very lacklustre and if it wasn’t for  the spectacle of watching it in the IMAX or for Spielberg’s trait to provide thrilling action sequences such as a motorcycle chase through a Moroccan souk or for Jacksons Weta workshops ability to create beautiful detail in every single shot and object:  I don’t think I’d even consider watching the sequels. However I am.

THE FUTURE

Starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres, Joe Putterlik, Angela Trimbur, Mary Passeri

 Indie film-maker Miranda July directed one of the most beautiful oddball films I saw when I was a student, You, Me And Everyone We Know. So I was so happy to see she had another film out after so long and in Future she also stars in another story about love and life.
Sophie (July) and Jason (Linklater) are a couple in a tentative fragile relationship. Conventionally ready to take their relationship to the next step its clear that they aren’t necessarily prepared for the responsibilities for what the ‘future’ holds. Regardless of addressing the kinks they decide to adopt. A cat.  Not just any cat mind, a stray, sick one – called Paw Paw- but before they can even take it home they are forced to wait thirty days by the animal adoption agency for the animal to be handed over.  Its this prognosis that causes the couple to begin thinking about their own mortality and lack of fulfilment. Sophie looks to start a business venture online and begins to fall for a sexy artist called Marshall (Warshofsky). Though being married to Jason, one couldn’t blame her. Her husband is boring. He knows it, she knows it the cat knows it. So Jason leaves his job  to become an environmental charity worker knocking on peoples doors and asking them to save trees.
Did I mention this film is narrated by the cat? not in a Garfield way but in a Homeward Bound way. Paw Paw spends the film contemplating the values and complexities of life whilst scenes between the protagonists play out.
The Future is endearing, funny and a completely quirky experience that audiences will either love or hate. I appreciated it. Like most indie films of this nature its an observation of character, supposedly real life, which in this film is slow, not particularly interesting for the most part and awkward.

If you’re looking for a lot of laughs and character arcs then this isn’t the film for you. There is a surprise ending but even that is laid back and nonchalant. The thing I think July is trying to say is nothing at all. She’s documenting the lives of two lost people and she just wants us to sit back and watch. However its not easy – there’s a reason films like this are indie and come around every 5 years. Its not going to appeal to everyone but in my opinion its well acted and well shot – and seeing Sophie dancing around in a yellow t-shirt is probably one of the best scenes I’ve seen in a long while.

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