“Muppets Most Wanted” is least wanted

The Muppets are back in a lackluster sequel.

The Muppets are back with all its tropes but without its humor.

2011 ushered in a new era of Muppet-ry which gave hope to old and new fans of the variety of felt-made creatures. Headed up by Jason Segal with music by Bret McKenzie, the revival promised a fresh breath of air into a franchise which lost its steam through the years with lazy iterations. Now, history won’t repeat itself will it?

Sadly, yes.

Muppets Most Wanted (originally named The Muppets Again, which is more funny than most other jokes in the movie) begins at the end of The Muppets. Immediately, the self-referential humor begins as all the characters understand that the movie has ended, they’re back on the map and… now what? With a few pitches from the cast, a sneaky Ricky Gervais suggests a world tour. And we’re off with just that. Gervais’ Dominic Badguy, entices the overly-oblivious Muppet crew to make terrible artistic and business decisions for his sketchy plans. Teaming up with a world-class villain who is a Kermit look-a-like, Constantine, they plan on robbing London’s crown jewels as the Muppets roadshow as guise. With some trickery, Kermit is taken to a Russian prison camp with Tina Fey’s strict warden Nadya, he must escape to save the Muppets show and take Miss Piggy back from Constantine.

Phew. As you could probably tell, the plot is weighty, confusing, boring and disorienting to say the least. And that’s source of the film’s problems: the script. With the case of other children focused sequels, like Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and The Smurfs 2, the writers need to make the film more accessible to a worldwide audience so they take the story to a global scale. That’s where the device of a world tour (which is just Europe) comes into play. It’s just a sign of lazy screenwriting and lack of creativity.

What made The Muppets so impressionable is that it was a movie about itself; it knew its setbacks and its goals. This sequel just doesn’t know what it wants to do. Sure, it has most of the Muppet tropes it’s known for such as celebrity cameos, musical numbers, and self-referential jokes. It just doesn’t do any of it well. It takes one shot of a celebrity and moves on.

the-muppets-most-wanted-kermit-and-the-muppets-600-370I won’t say that the music was “bad,” per se, just not memorable. Bret McKenzie returns to supervise the music and in writing original tracks. The introductory number, “We’re Doing a Sequel,” is admirable effort Muppet fare and lively. It’s the highlight of the whole movie, and it’s just at the beginning. All the other songs are canned and traditional Broadway style. Others are uncomfortable and just for the sake of giving a musical number to one of its stars. Such as Gervais’ duet with Constantine, “I’m Number One.” Gervais seems uncomfortable and out of his element. But, Miss Piggy’s balled “Something So Right,” which features Celine Dion, is actually touching and poignant. It’s this movie’s “Man or Muppet.”

The length is exhausting and the lackluster plot doesn’t help move the film along at all. The jokes fall on their face time after time that it becomes pretty embarrassing.

Coming from an avid Muppet fan, I wanted this movie to tickle every fancy I have for the characters and makes them them. But it is just a sad effort on all fronts.

Rating: Bad.

Are you as much of Muppet fan as me? And how did you like it, if you had seen it?

Up next: Divergent. 

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2013 Loose-ends Review Blitz

2013 is a long way behind us and there are many movies that I didn’t give their due for one reason or another. It’s like having a sneeze that just can’t get out so I have to hold some pepper up to my nose. Just get it out so I feel better.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll be as brief as I can and give a numerical value and a finalizing word on it. Slap it on the bare bottom and let it go into the wild. Let’s do this!

Don JonDon Jon- 9/10

As you may recall from my Best of 2013 List, “Don Jon” held my #2 spot just being “Into Darkness.” This hit a reality that many think of but is rarely explored in cinema. It’s about reality versus fantasy, about the meaning of relationships, and about sex versus love. It’s a poignant film with taboo material that will make your cringe at times but for the right reasons. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s confident directing hand only adds to the experience.

Must watch.

Dallas Buyers Club- 9/10 dallas buyers club

I have never been so happy when I saw both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto grab their Golden Globes last Sunday night. But I’ll be even more happy if they grab the rightly deserved Academy Awards next month. They are nominated and favorites so far. “Dallas Buyers Club” begins with the most despicable character you can imagine; McConaughey’s Ron Woodroof is a gay-hating racist who only cares about himself. When he gets AIDS he flees to Mexico for help and finds not a cure but a way to feel better. He turns this into a business/club for the AIDS community in Dallas. What comes out of it is an examination of the politics and lobbying used to benefit the money-mongering pharmaceutical companies. I’ll stop there. Just…

Watch it!

Gravity- 6/10

Everyone and their mother is salivating over this and for good reason. Alfonso Cuaron’s vision of a survival in a zero gravity setting miles above the earth is done perfectly. I wouldn’t dare to take that away from him. But the story left much to be desired, for me at least. I understand that it is simple and a beautiful allegory of depression and recovery. But it was also too on the nose with it. To me, it was set piece after set piece without much in between the two. It felt like an IMAX documentary rather than a narrative film. I only saw it in 2D on a smaller theater screen, and I’ve heard to “fully experience” it you have to go full IMAX with 3D. So maybe that’s why I wasn’t gushing over it like others.

See it in 3D IMAX, I suppose.

Captain_Phillips_PosterCaptain Phillips- 8/10

I’m surprised at myself for not writing up one of “Captain Phillips.” The tension that Paul Greengrass gets in this simple story of survival and desperation is amazing. Unlike “Gravity” it is about man versus man. Barkhad Abdi, who has a true Cinderella story, delivers the performance of a veteran actor and is comparable to Hanks’ its caliber and intrigue. The resolution acts as another climax where emotion for Phillips overflows.

Eventually watch!

12 Years a Slave- 7/10

There’s no denying the horror and inhumanity that came out of the slavery era of the United States, especially after watching “12 Years A Slave.” Another story of survival that is brilliantly carried out by Chiwetel Ejiofor and artistically touched by director Steve McQueen. It acts as a horror more than a historical drama with Michael Fassbender the monster to fear and despise. It truly rips your heart right of your chest and makes you look at it.

For acquired viewers.

Frozen- 7/10

What do you expect from a Disney Princess flick? A beautiful protagonist. A cute animal. A sidekick. A handsome man for the princess to fall for. Beautiful and catchy music. Cute acts and characters. Yep. That’s what you’ll get from “Frozen.” But that’s all you’ll get too. Trusted and true Disney fare.

For kids and most adults.

The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug- 5/10 hobbit

Ugh… I have to talk about “The Hobbit.” Okay, if I must. Not only did I not like the first installation of Jackson’s prequel to one of the most successful and well-told fantasies of our time, but I had a terrible watching the second one. I don’t understand how anyone can find satisfaction in this very gooey middle of Bilbo’s story. Nothing really happened. The boon which was stated at the beginning of “Smaug” never came to realization. I took the chance of watching it in 3D HFR. Bad choice. Okay. I’m done.

If you must, but not in 3D HFR.

All Is Lost- 7/10

Very simple and yet again a survival story. Robert Redford plays a nameless older gentleman who finds his boat punctured by adrift cargo. All done in action with few words, Redford takes all the right steps to better his situation but finds fate relentless in its punishment. One of the film’s detriments is not giving us a reason to care for the man other than the direction of the camera which makes us fill we are with him yet helpless like he is. In any case, it was a very different cinematic experience.

Exciting, but at the same time… not?

American Hustle- 7/10

I got lost in a lot of the logistics of the cons. Shame on me. But I enjoyed the powerful cast’s performances and how the characters related and bounced off of each other. Loosely based on a true story of proving corruption in American politicians, David O. Russell is continuing his streak in creating zany characters and surrounding them in an enjoyable plot and world.

Hilarious, must see eventually.

The Wolf of Wall Street- 6/10

Okay. Hear me out. I loved Scorese’s directing. The story. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill were amazing and comically outstanding. But… sooo much could have been cut and still had a great movie. Especially all the drugs and sex and immoral actions that polluted every scene. I felt like they were there just for shock’s sake and had no merit in the overall story. I’d be sad to see DiCaprio win for this performance. He had many other better ones.

Stay away unless you want to feel dirty.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues- 6/10 anchorman-2-posters-ron-burgundy-will-ferrell-us

They tried to make a sequel to the Mona Lisa and failed. Rehashed jokes that were a third as funny as the originals. The last third of the movie was a weird mess. It was nice to see the funny characters back but it would have been more nice if they were funny again.

Watch the First. It’s better.

Saving Mr. Banks- 7/10

When I saw the trailers for “Saving Mr. Banks” I couldn’t help comparing it last year’s “Hitchcock.” A behind-the-scenes look at a monumental film with a couple legendary actors playing iconic people. And that’s why I got. Like “Hitchcock” “Banks” had a central theme that the movie was based around and revisited. Many say it put Disney in his proper light, I must have missed that. Emma Thompson was the intolerable, relentless and unapologetic P.L. Travers who captured the essence perfectly. I think I would have appreciated the comparison to the story behind the book of “Mary Poppins” if I were more familiar with the plot points of “Mary Poppins” the movie. So, it’s not in any way a “bad” movie, just directed at a particular audience that I wasn’t in.

For the right audience, it’s perfect.

NebraksaNebraska- 7/10

Bruce Dern plays a delusional and out-of-touch father who “won” a million dollars and has to travel to Nebraska to claim it. It’s an interesting premise to be sure. But the execution wasn’t to its full potential. At most times I felt it was more in the vain of an undergrad student film. It didn’t play on the sap which would be easy to do which I appreciated. But it played on unneeded dark humor that I found more depressing than funny. Bruce Dern’s character was pathetic which made me empathetic yet many in the theater were laughing at his misfortune. I wonder what Alexander Payne was intending.

Only if you’re curious.

Her- 10/10

It’s a shame that I didn’t see this movie before making my Top 10 of 2013. I’m waiting to see it again to write a full and respectable review, so be watching for that.

Must see ASAP!

There you have it! Now, how wrong am I? Just kidding. Write your feeling below.

Thanks!

The Lone Ranger Review

Lone RangerUnlike most people, I happened to enjoy all the installments of the Pirates of Caribbean franchise save the last cinematic mess that was On Stranger Tides. I even loved Verbinski’s and Depp’s animated team-up with Rango, an inventive take on the Western genre with stunning graphics and action. I had moderately high hopes when I sat in my middle front row seat despite all the bad buzz surrounding Disney’s retelling of the radio series The Lone Ranger. I wanted to be naive to the negativity, but I fear I was too naive.

The narrative begins in a Wild West show where an unnamed boy dress as the Lone Ranger struts around an exhibit of the untamed west where he meets a much aged and ugly version of Tonto. This framing device gets in the way of the story throughout. When the pace gets going it abruptly stops at the most unfortunate times. In any case, we are introduced to John Reid (Armie Hammer,) a young noble lawyer from the cities to help tame the West with the law. From here, it’s difficult to retell the plot since it goes in so many aimless directions. Let’s just say that Tonto (Johnny Depp) and the “resurrected-like” John Reid must take outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) to justice.

As said before, the plot goes every which way without reason or remorse. It’s like there were a whole bunch of ideas for scenes were thrown at the all and they were haphazardly strung together. No one really impressed me in the acting department. Hammer played his righteous self that we’ve seen before. Depp is being his weird self while still only imitating an American Indian rather than being one. Helena Bonham Carter makes a small appearance that doesn’t contribute little to nothing to the plot. The only acting kudos I have to give are to Fichtner for his devilish grotesque demeanor as the villain. Other characters, like the aforementioned, were terribly miscasted and largely forgettable.

Another major gripe was that it was incredibly close to rated R violent. All it was missing was the Tarantino blood spatter. But the sound and presentation of the violence was what made it incredibly difficult to watch. It makes movies like The Lord of Rings look like a walk in the park.

Despite the direction, acting and plot which all fall on their face, the cinematography did not cease to amaze me with nearly every frame. Yes, the palette was have that flashy wonder to it, but they stuck to the grays and browns and filled the frame with their beauty. With most of Verbinki’s other pictures, the world is full and realized. The Lone Ranger is no exception to having a rich world to live in for 2 hours or so. It’s like the Cinematographer Bojan Bazzilli and the art department were the only ones who cared about the quality of this movie.

Verdict: Wow… don’t spend any more money than you have to. Either Redbox for a day or borrow it.

Summer’s Best of List (So far)

1) Star Trek: Into Darkness

2) Iron Man 3

3) Man of Steel

4) Monsters University

5) Now You See Me

6) This Is The End

7) The Great Gatsby

8) World War Z

9) The Lone Ranger

Monsters University Review

Last summer before I watched the disappointment that was Brave, I ranked all Pixar movies from my favorite to least. This year, the groundbreaking computer animation department of Disney pulled out another win to end the streak of mediocrity that was Brave and Cars 2. Although I am not one for money-grabbing sequels or prequels, I can’t deny the power of continuing with compelling characters or going back to their origins and finding out what made them the way they are. Monsters University does the latter pretty efficiently. Monsters University

I went in blind to this movie, so if you want the same luxury the plot skip this next paragraph.

We start out on an elementary school field trip to Monsters Inc. where a little (and dang cute) version of the single-eyed Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) finds his ambitions to become the world’s best scarer. His dream to attend Monsters University ignites and time jumps to Mike’s first day at the school of scaring. Mike has the drive to become the best in his class but not necessarily the build or demeanor to achieve his dream. The first day of class he meets a younger James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) who is a lot more cocky, confident and lazy as he is in the original adventure. He comes from a pedigree of the best scarers so he assumes he can skim by on that alone. The two are put at odds with each other with their idea of how to achieve in the scaring program so when they are forced to work together is when the story really builds. Mike and Sully join a fraternity of misfits who have zero talent in the art of scaring as they compete in a campus wide Scaring Games.

What comes out of this premise is an underdog story with great tension between two likable characters. About a third of the way through I thought I had it figured out on which way Pixar was going to go with the story. If they would have it would have been pretty conventional. Because they didn’t take the easy road of focusing on just the two main characters.  Pixar stuck to their strengths and pulled in an ensemble of other enjoyable monsters who have fun chemistry.

The energy that the movie brought into the theater was lively and kinetic; I never felt bored or time wasted. The mix of emotions throughout from tension to dramatic to hilarious keeps interested. There weren’t many laugh out loud moments, mostly small chuckles which only tells me that they didn’t try to overdo the cute factor that plagues many “children’s” movies.

What comes out of the wash is an origin of a buddy relationship that doesn’t tell anything too deep but helps us understand that friends aren’t supposed to be the same but complimentary of each other to have a good relationship. As far as Pixar movies, it runs in the middle to high level of the packs. It doesn’t draw any tears like Toy Story 2 but doesn’t leave you feel unsatisfied like Brave. 

Rating: take your family to an affordable matinee.

Summer’s Best of List (So far)

1) Star Trek

2) Iron Man 3

3) Man of Steel

4) Monsters University

5) Now You See Me (Review coming next week)

6) The Great Gatsby

7) World War Z

Oz: the Great but Mediocre

James Franco puts on the top hat of Oz.

James Franco puts on the top hat of Oz.

I was looking forward to seeing my first 2013 released movie this weekend and to write a review about a decent movie. When I saw that Oz: the Great and Power  was the first movie I actually was interested in seeing, I was happy. A interesting ensemble cast with a competent director with the money of Disney behind it had to be a  clear winner right? I thought so, but I still had my skepticism.

James Franco helms the lead character, Oscar Diggs (Oz), a magician in his own right, who is aiming to break the barriers of his own limits. When an unfortunate tornado sucks him in and launches him over the rainbow, he finds himself in the land of his namesake. Theodora, played by Mila Kunis, finds him and informs him that prophecy tells of him saving the land of Oz. From there, Oz needs to find his greatness in his skill by putting himself behind the priority for once.

Oz: the Great and Powerful is a satisfying but underwhelming prequel to the classic of 1939.Clearly, this is a homage to the source material. There are many references that point to specifics to the original, but not a major one that could have easily been sneaked in and could have resonated strongly in the audience. The movie is full of missed opportunities. Oz’s core is around how essentially he’s a fraud who uses that to manipulate but help others. Even though it’s brought up a few times in plot and is the main attribute in the finale, it should have and could have been the driving force behind his actions. It would have made Franco more of an interesting character and maybe drew more of my sympathy.

It’s no secret that the iconic Wicked Witch of the West takes a role in the movie. But this rendition could have been more tasteful. First, make her more ugly. Her wickedness was spot on, but her cosmetics and voice could have gone through a de-makeover. Also, her arc to evil made me sympathize with her more than I wanted to which is a disservice to the original rendition.

Michelle Williams plays Glinda the Good Witch, and without being over-the-top sweet like the original, she balances it with true early Hollywood charm. Her performance was the only stand-out of the mix.

Lastly, the CG was sub par at best.  It was going for the Alice in Wonderland world building with full CG but couldn’t fill the frame with enough authenticity to really keep me in the universe.

Overall, it wasn’t a deadbeat, good for nothing movie. Even though I had problems with the pieces that went into the whole, I like what the whole looked like. It was a faithful reinvention and homage to an untouchable classic.