Graham Young and Roz Laws review the latest films

The Adventures of Tintin - The Secret of the Unicorn 3D * * * *
Cert PG, 107 mins

It will be two years this December since James Cameron’s Avatar started to become the one film which could be classed as a runaway box office success at Millennium Point’s IMAX cinema.

Bigger, better and brilliant were the watchwords as 80,982 tickets generated £716,873 of revenue from dozens of sell-out performances.

Last month, at the end of its initial ten-year deal, Millennium Point’s team decided that after a relatively fallow 2011 it was time to ditch the content-restrictive IMAX format.

After splashing out more than £600,000 on a state-of-the-art projection system and a new 70ft6in by 41ft screen with plush seats, it’s fitting that the film opening the replacement Giant Screen Cinema this half-term should be from the most famous director of his generation. Steven Spielberg – come on down!

For the first time since Avatar, The Adventures of Tintin is an attention-grabbing, fully-immersive, high-action 3D film which you should be able to watch without fear of a headache.

As it should be with tickets costing £10.40 per adult and £8.60 for under 15s.

Some 82 years after the characters were launched by Belgian comic writer and artist Hergé, the action begins when young reporter Tintin visits a market with his faithful dog Snowy.

He buys a model ship and discovers that others desperately want it, too.

Not everything makes sense despite – or because of – the efforts of three scriptwriters and it will be too violent and complicated for younger children.

Spielberg is content to plunge us headlong into a breathless non-stop, round-the-world, air-sea-and-desert swashbuckling action fest.

Tintin has been shot using the motion capture technology chiefly pioneered by Robert Zemeckis in Polar Express, but while the technology has come on in leaps and bounds in the past seven years, its ability to stir the soul remains limited.

Tintin’s all-star mostly British cast including Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook have all clearly worked hard on this.

If you aren’t sure who is who, though, then it’s too easy to see Pegg and regular screen partner Frost as two of the leading characters they are not actually playing. And Tintin himself looks like he’s just had botox on top of a facelift.

But I guess it’s all part of the film’s fun quota that Daniel Craig’s Ivanovich Sakharine resembles a caricature version of Spielberg himself. GY

The Ides of March
* * * *
Cert 15, 100 mins

It’s hardly a surprise that George Clooney doesn’t take the lead role in this compelling political thriller.

He is quite busy enough beavering away behind the camera, directing the movie as well as co-writing and producing it. Clooney is charismatic enough to light up every scene he is in, but the film really belongs to Ryan Gosling. He seems to be the actor of the moment, as this is his third film in only a month.

At 30, Gosling is reminiscent of a young Clooney and it’s clear his character looks up to the older man in the film. He plays Stephen Meyers, a key member of the campaign staff trying to get Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) elected president. First they must win the Democratic ticket ahead of rival Senator Pullman.

The crucial primary vote is on March 15, hence the title, although the film’s themes of loyalty and backstabbing fit in well with the story of Caesar’s assassination on that date.

The film is full of great actors, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti as Morris and Pullman’s campaign managers. Marisa Tomei is a political journalist, Jennifer Ehle is Morris’s wife and Evan Rachel Wood is Molly Stearns, an intern who may look young and innocent but isn’t shy in chatting up Stephen. And he’s not so morally upright that he resists.

Morris appears to have integrity and the right ideas, but realises he will have to make deals and compromises in order to win. And he might not be quite as squeaky clean as he appears.

That’s the smart thing about this film – no-one is the hero you hope they will be, while everyone has the ability to be a villain. When Stephen is faced with a dilemma, he has to ask himself how important loyalty really is when it comes to saving your own skin.

With a few surprises and twists, plus snappy dialogue and performances, this is a treat for audiences prepared to concentrate and think. RL

The Help
* * *
Cert 12A, 146 mins

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel, this film has built up an early Oscar buzz.

It’s competent enough, with some good performances from a mostly female cast, but I think it’s been overhyped as there are some major flaws.

Emma Stone plays Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, an aspiring writer in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. She decides to write a book about ‘‘the help’’, the black servants who go unnoticed and abused in rich white households but who cook, clean, wash, iron and, most importantly, bring up the white children of their vain and selfish employers.

At great risk to herself, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) agrees to speak out about her experiences. She also tries to persuade Minny (Octavia Spencer) to talk, as she has more to complain about than most – her mistress is nasty Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard).

She won’t even let the coloureds use her toilet, saying: “It’s just plain dangerous, they carry different diseases.”

When Hilly disobeys her, she is fired and eventually gets a job with fellow outcast Celia (Jessica Chastain), deemed ‘white trash’ by her snobby contemporaries.

Also impressive is Allison Janney as Skeeter’s mother, desperate to marry her off.

The Help should be applauded for shining a light on entrenched racism, and if nothing else, you can enjoy the lovely frocks. But it really does drag – two hours and 26 minutes is far too long for any film.

The strong Southern accents are sometimes hard to comprehend, Skeeter’s love story is thinly sketched, and the ‘‘shocking’’ revelation about what happened to her childhood maid is a let-down.

It’s a rather sanitised version of events and really needs more bite and jeopardy, and fewer homilies like “fried chicken makes you feel better about life”.

It manages to be poignant at times, though it’s not as emotionally connecting as it could be. The Help might well garner some Oscar nominations, but come February I reckon we’ll have forgotten all about it. RL

Paranormal Activity 3
* * *
Cert 15, 84 mins

You can understand why they wanted to make a sequel to the first film, which was made for just $15,000 and earned more than $100 million.

But now they’re really starting to milk the format, which stays exactly the same. Everything is still seen through the lens of a home video camera (it is the 1980s) and we still spend much of the film waiting for something to happen, with varying degrees of tension. It is better than the second film, but lacks the first’s intensity and element of surprise.

It’s a prequel to the original, showing what happened to sisters Katie and Kristi when they were young – events they’ve conveniently forgotten.

Back in 1988, they were living with mum Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) who makes wedding videos and, naturally, films all the spooky goings-on in their Californian home. It will make you jump, several times.

See it if you enjoyed the other Paranormal Activity films. It is more of a Halloween treat than a trick, but only just. RL

Monte Carlo * * *
Cert PG, 104 mins

There’s only one way to describe this family-friendly film – and that’s pleasant.

We’ve seen mistaken identity French farces before, most recently with Audrey Tautou’s Priceless.

And this won’t be the last film in which a clutch of attractive young actresses (Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester) try to make a name for themselves at the expense of underwritten boys.

Rather like Anne Hathaway’s The Princess Diaries it’s heavy going at times but the fashions and set designs are everything a budding Sex and the City girl would want to see.

And the sunshine scenery will make you feel like you’ve been on holiday without bothering airport staff.

Sometimes it’s rather pleasant to see something that’s just, er, pleasant. GY

Mademoiselle Chambon * * * *
Cert 12A, 101 mins

Still in France, this wonderfully absorbing story of what it takes to not give into temptation is a hauntingly beautiful, ultra-simple account of the affections growing between a teacher Véronique (Sandine Kiberian) and a married builder (Vincent Lindon) who has a son at her school.

Utterly believable, right down to Jean’s practical nature, there is more emotion in the scene when children get exciting by his appearance in class to talk about bricks, than in the whole of Tintin put together.

By paring everything right down, director Stéphane Brizé elegantly proves that less really is more.

Showing at the Mac from Friday until Sunday. GY