STEVEN SPIELBERG'S first film since the much lamented Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull arrives as a huge, multi-million dollar gamble for many reasons.
First off, it's an adaptation of what is a fairly niche property, Hergé's 80-year-old Belgian comic book.
And, unknown for a film of this scale from the world's most famous and successful filmmaker, it is out in Europe now but won't hit cinemas in the States until Christmas, the reason given that its Euro-ancestry makes it only right that it should play here first.
More to the point, the financiers will be praying it already has some hundreds of millions in the bank from its worldwide run before it arrives Stateside.
That's because the other massive gamble is that this is a motion capture animation, much like that notorious disaster from earlier this year, Mars Needs Moms, which was one of the biggest flops in box office history.
But it will sell on Spielberg's name, and hopefully it will sell based on the fact that it is really very good indeed, a rollicking adventure that contains several moments of unrivalled cinematic exhilaration from a director whom we'd thought had forgotten how to have fun.
We meet our hero, young reporter Tintin (voiced and performance-captured by Jamie Bell) as he buys a model ship in a market, one which a lot of people seem keen to get their hands on, including the devious Sakharine (Daniel Craig).
The ship is the Unicorn, a replica of a real boat lost since the 17th century, and thought to have gone down with its secret treasure.
Kidnapped by Sakharine, Tintin meets Captain Haddock, whose ancestor was captain of the Unicorn, and is played as a drunken Scotsman with a mostly agreeable but occasionally fishy accent by Andy Serkis.
It's a blend of intrigue and action that spends much of the first half introducing plenty of engaging supporting characters, like Tintin's dog Snowy, who frequently appears to be smarter than he is, and the useless detectives Thomson and Thompson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg).
But it hits its stride during a marvellously inventive biplane sequence which takes Tintin and Haddock to Africa and the meat of the adventure, and an equally impressive flashback featuring the original Unicorn captain.
It's at this point the action barely pauses for breath and when it most begins to resemble an Indiana Jones flick.
The centrepiece, a chase through a Moroccan town, is truly breathtaking, although this does make it seem like the film peaks early.
A pertinent question might be why it's been filmed as an animation at all, and not simply live action.
The answer to that lies in an astonishingly detailed level of richness and opulence in the design that would have been hard to achieve on any budget, and action sequences so fluid and imaginative that they would have been impossible as live action without the need for so much CGI that it would look like a cartoon anyway.
The issue of dead eyes and waxy features that has blighted so many mo-cap efforts also seems to have been addressed, with faces full of life and expression, although every once in a while the characters do move like they're on strings.
But that's a tiny flaw, and let's hope the gamble pays off, so that in a couple of years from now we'll be enjoying the proposed Peter Jackson sequel, followed by many more Tintin adventures to come.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Running time: 107 mins
MISS BALA (15) Mexican drug thriller is far too vague
IN the Mexican state of Baja California, a young woman (Stephanie Sigman, left) has dreams of triumphing in a beauty pageant. But this is all thrown into disarray when she is witness to a gangland shooting and gets mixed up in an elaborate murder conspiracy.
Though slickly directed, with several well-choreographed long takes, as a crime thriller this lacks urgency, and is frustratingly frugal with information, which extends to exactly who is who, and can therefore cause confusion.
On the one hand this can keep it intriguing, but on the other, it makes it difficult to get a handle on characters and relationships.
Ultimately it's a worthy portrayal of the scale of the tragedy of the Mexican drug wars, but it rarely makes for persuasive cinema and is just too vague and formless to really succeed.
Director: Gerardo Naranjo
Running time: 113 mins
THE HELP (12a) Terrifically acted and deeply emotional
IT'S Mississippi in the 1960s, a place of second and third generation black maids.
Returning from university, young white woman Skeeter (Emma Stone) gets a job at the local paper and comes up with an idea to write stories from the point of view of the help, who have all but raised the white children while the mothers attend bridge clubs and socialise.
As a look at the ignorance and bigotry still prevalent even in such a recent past, the indignation rises through the lively characters and situations – like the appalling Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard), who won't let her maid use their toilet – and this makes for drama you can get your teeth into, as does the increasing danger and persecution the help face from them telling their stories to Skeeter.
Powerful, terrifically acted by all concerned and deeply emotional in places, this is a fine, laudable piece of story-telling.
Director: Tate Taylor
Running time: 146 mins
THE IDES OF MARCH (15) Gripping heavyweight political drama
IN the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, Ryan Gosling is the youthful but experienced aide Stephen Meyers who sees his candidate, Governor Morris (George Clooney) as a messianic figure, but is he really just another politician?
It all kicks off when Meyers is approached by rival Paul Giamatti to come and work for his guy, something he doesn't tell his boss, campaign manager Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Initially the joys come from these heavyweights pairing off against each other, and this would be compelling enough, since Gosling shines yet again, and you could watch Hoffman and Giamatti playing Monopoly for two hours.
Clooney only appears in short bursts as the smooth politico, but directs with economy in a film that's talky but never dull and slick without being flashy.
But the layering of the tricks, the blackmail, the secrets and the deceit is when it truly grips in a phenomenal final third, as the full Shakespearean heft of the title becomes apparent, as does the price of a man's soul.
Director: George Clooney
Running time: 100 mins