Film: Review – Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn

Adventure is an easy thing to get excited about, but it’s the characters you follow through a story which make it truly unforgettable. Of all the hand-drawn creations which have come to life in newspapers over the years, Hergé’s Tintin is one of the most iconic; sporting his signature trench coat and blue jumper, with a tuft of ginger hair, The Adventures of Tintin, and trusty Terrier side-kick, Snowy, are known around the world.

This film though, is, technologically at least, as far from Hergé’s original sketches as you can imagine, with incredibly detailed landscapes, immersive weather effects, and the most natural motion-capture committed to film since Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, and the illusion is taken a step further with 3D.

The ultimate adventure journalist, Tintin is brought to life by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as he and Snowy try to uncover the secrets behind the model of a ship called ‘The Unicorn’.

Along the way he meets blundering, but lovable, alcoholic Captain Haddock, played to perfection by Andy Serkis (with all his alliterative catchphrases intact), who is a descendent of the sunken Unicorn’s captain.

From the moment John William’s vibrant score introduces a sublime Hergé-styled intro sequence, you can’t help but warm immediately to the characters. Bell plays a hero which you get behind instinctively from the first sign of trouble, and Serkis’ Haddock brings a lightness to proceedings, even through the Captain’s rich Scottish accent.

The influences of director Steven Spielberg’s earlier films are clear throughout, not least globe-trotting adventurer Indiana Jones. But though the two heroes share an era of history and a taste for a mystery, Tintin has none of the recklessness of Dr. Jones, always running rather than fighting, but don’t mistake this ginger journo for a pushover, as Tintin finds himself in a fistfight on more than one occasion.

The film’s pace drives the action at an almost non-stop pace, with a recollection from Haddock in the desert providing the most visually stunning moments of the film, making daring use of animation tricks to merge the present and the past together.

No hero’s tale is complete without a villain however, and the man determined to get to the sunken Unicorn and its treasure first is grim-faced model-collector Ivanovitch Sakharine.

Ivanovitch is given his gravelly tones by Bond Daniel Craig, and cuts through every line with venom, appearing more evil the longer he appears on screen.

The story, based on a few of Herge’s original works, was brought together by a three-pronged attack from Doctor Who king Stephen Moffat, Shawn of the Dead writer/director Edgar Wright and Adam and Joe Show creator Joe Cornish. The variety of talent has come together to create a genuine, fun and family-friendly film, shying away from the current Hollywood trend of making things darker and more moody to deliver a refreshingly positive and classic cinematic experience.

The film is enjoyable whether you’ve never heard of the young Belgian journalist who never submits his copy before, or whether you spend your Sunday nights leafing through Explorers on The Moon. A blockbuster in every sense of the word, this film commands the attention of all ages and afterwards you’re guaranteed to come out filled with optimism and a thirst for adventure.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

Film: Review – Footloose (2011)

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case you’d do better not to judge a film by its subject. Dancing has had a poor showing in cinemas over the past few years, becoming synonymous with OTT smile-fests like the High School Musical films or even *shudder* Glee 3D.

Thankfully Footloose, a remake of the 1984 classic, manages to avoid this pitfalls to deliver an effective and entertaining slice of boogieing.

The story focuses on Ren McCormack (newcomer Kenny Wormald), a teenager from Boston who is thrown into a quiet, small-town existence where public dancing and rock music have been banned.

The film throws your footing almost immediately at the opening with a shocking and unexpected jolt of juxtaposition, immediately making it clear this isn’t a film just about dancing.

Wormald easily convinces as the slightly cocky but charismatic city-boy, and gives the audience someone to root for. The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Love interest Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough) manages to tiptoe around the soppiness bear trap (just), with only a stray line which remains a bit on the cheddar side. Generic bully/boyfriend Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger) delivers his character with all the subtlety of a punch in the face – which, incidentally, comes up literally more than you might expect – but effectively nails the obvious stereotype nonetheless.

Time to cut loose?Dennis Quaid, as probably the only easily recognisable face, seems troubled as preacher-man Reverend Moore, finding it hard to get the balance between the reserved man of the cloth and one who is forced to deal with the horrific concept of losing his son, who died in a car accident three years earlier after attending a public gathering, which let to the Reverend and the town council banning public dancing altogether.

Andie MacDowell, the Reverend’s wife Vi, falls short the most tellingly though, in a less compelling showing than her oft-seen face cream adverts.

Luckily Miles Teller is on hand as redneck dance-o-phobe Willard to give some much-needed comic relief, and is graced with the most memorable lines and moments in the film, such as being taught to dance by eight-year-old girls accompanied by a Barbie jukebox.

Dancing does, of course, still feature heavily through the film, embracing a number of different styles, and fits in more naturally than something like a musical where characters would undoubtedly burst into it every other scene.

The choreography of the group numbers is stellar and really has some infectious energy, not least the film’s signature tune – this time around given a slightly more country and upbeat feel compared to the original.

Comparisons to the 1984 flick are inevitable and there are differences – the town has moved states and the game of chicken happens on school buses rather than tractors, for example – but really there isn’t anything which seems glaringly out of place. There are some nice nods to the original, such as Wormald donning Kevin Bacon’s signature red tux for the finale, but really this is a film of its own, making a small but clear message of everything in moderation.

In the end the film won’t convert those who can’t stand seeing fresh-faced young teens dance their socks off, but for a film about dancing, you get a fair amount more than just a quick-step.

Rating: 3/5

James Michael Parry

Cyberculture: Is 2011 the beginning of the end for the PC?

Computers have long been a part of everyday life, fulfilling every need from satisfying boredom to delivering the latest shiny products straight to your letterbox, but following the move by number one PC developer Hewlett Packard (HP) to focus on the corporate sector and with Apple on the rise, is the end in sight for the likes of the desktop computer?

One of the biggest challenges to PC’s dominance is the overwhelming success of Apple’siPad and iPad 2, which reported a profit of $7.6billion in the last quarter, more than double from the same time last year and the same as the entire year’s profit for supermarket giant Tesco, with iPad sales up +183% thanks to the launch of the iPad 2. (source: BBC)

The biggest change is the diversification of technology though, with consumers able to do what they used to only be able to accomplish on a computer on any number of devices, many smaller, more portable and more convenient.

PC tried to hit back at the latter with the ‘netbook’ style laptop, a smaller version of the standard laptop designed for increased convenience, but thanks to the iPad having the ‘cool’ factor it continues to dominate.

Consumers valuing portability has shown over the past few years as desktops have increasingly given way to laptops, particularly since the price of laptops has dropped significantly. When the format was first pushed out, you couldn’t find a laptop for under £1000, whereas now you can get an entry-level laptop for £300, around the same price as the lowest grade iPad.

Smartphones are a whole other arena, with many glued to them 24/7. iPhone leads in this arena of course, with the respectable, business-friendly Blackberry and the open-source Android masses not far behind.

iPhone might be the must-have, but the real ingenuity comes through the user-generated Android Marketplace, clearly out to increase the standard and amount of applications available rather than just making profit.

How these devices interlink is another attractive feature, since the days of linked accounts and automatic remembering of passwords mean that a Facebook account can take you a long way across the internet.

The likes of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ cement the day-to-day nature of technology in people’s lives, and this is no longer something you need a PC to access.

There are still areas where only a full PC will do though, such as writing or editing document, where the limited screen space on a phone or tablet make it tricky, or graphic design – although this practice has largely been annexed by Mac. Even for reading websites you often find yourself longing for a computer when reading on a mobile, to avoid the constant need to zoom in and out.

But what next? An announcement of an iPad 3 seems inevitable, but will the familiarity and ease of use be enough to keep PCs in the running as we draw ever-closer to the Back to the Future benchmark set for 2015.

Technological development seems unlikely to move the goalposts at this stage, with computers at a level where almost all standard specifications are more than adequate for the average PC user. Speed will be the thing which will attract people, instant booting up and powering down for example, as well as better connectivity with devices, which might be improved by USB 3.0, 10 times faster than the current USB and allowing for transfers of 5.0Gigabits per second, meaning transferring your music collection to an external hard drive could take seconds rather than hours.

The inclusive, caring-sharing way of taking the technology forward seems the only way to go, with Apple’s stubbornness to cooperate or share with other businesses only allowable because of their market dominance. This Davids and Goliath setup is less than ideal, but it does mean companies will continue to do their best to overcome Apple and encourage competition in areas it can effect. Fingers crossed the giant doesn’t move to crush them, since a marketplace monopoly won’t do any favours for the industry, or its consumers.

James Michael Parry