The most important elements of a good Muppet movie, in my view, are the jokes and the songs. This fails on both counts. Sure, there are some laugh out loud moments, but not nearly enough of them, and there are several unacceptably long gagless stretches. As for the songs, they’re uneven; some are quite clever and fun, approaching the standard set in the 2011 film, whereas others are quite dull and unmemorable.
Lots of gags and scenes outstay their welcome. A good example is the bit about Miss Piggy singing Celine Dion songs. This morphs into an extended cameo from Dion. Really, all we needed – all that was comedically warranted – was a brief appearance from Dion, perhaps one line in the relevant song; instead, it lasts a minute and a half, completely overdone.
The celebrity cameos are mostly joyless this time around, and overall it seems to be missing the spark that made its predecessor work. Alas, my affection for the Muppets and some of the key performers (Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Danny Trejo, etc.) is not nearly enough to make it a worthwhile viewing experience.
Lastly, I must mention an element I found quite distasteful: the unsubtle Subway product placement, which is apparently part of a broader deal also involving merchandising and Muppet characters appearing in the company’s ads. The scene in question depicts Fozzie eating a Subway sandwich and drinking a Subway drink, with the cup positioned for maximum logo visibility. He even spills some Subway food on a newspaper, which is what enables him to figure out that Kermit and Constantine have been swapped (a key plot point); so we have a product appearing on-screen, as part of a commercial arrangement, that’s actually so integrated into the content that it plays a direct role in the story. In a children’s movie. Ugh.
(Party Central, the short Monsters University spin-off film that precedes the film in its theatrical release, isn’t bad.)
Note: this film was previously reviewed by Movies and Bacon, and given a more generous score of 7.5/10, here.This film makes me angry, and I’ll tell you why: it’s ruined by an absolutely appalling performance from Nicolas Cage. Leaving aside that even on a good day Cage would be outperformed by a scotch egg, Oliver Stone has taken a deeply personal story that is inextricably intertwined in a horrific national tragedy and dumped a massive overacting turd in the middle of it.
The film is actually quite original; following the story of the men trapped beneath the collapsing/collapsed Trade Center towers is a clever angle on an event the world has replayed hundreds of times. The confusion that surrounded NYPD as the news broke heightens the tension, the sense of frightening bewilderment at the sound of the jumpers is disturbing, and the scene where the towers come down viewed from the inside is epic. This makes it all the more frustrating when a moustachioed Cage clomps heavy-handedly all over his character, never once letting you immerse in the plot or ever get beyond ‘oh look, it’s Nicolas Cage doing a really bad job of acting’. His performance is similar to the one given in Kick-Ass, just to give you an idea of scale.
The events of 9/11 evoke many different emotions and reactions in a person’s soul and many will be drawn to this movie, as I was. Some will come for morbid curiosity, some will come looking for a story of humanity triumphing over tragedy, and some will come just to hear a new account on one of the darkest days in history. Sadly, whatever you come looking for, you’re unlikely to find it. And that’s the real tragedy being played out here; you don’t see the wonderful heartening true story of the men involved, all you see is frustration and the overwhelming desire for it just to be over.
Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.
Oh, Scorsese, why? Some of the visuals are interesting and I’ll admit I now know more about Georges Méliès than I did before. Beyond that, this mostly stunk. I didn’t care about the characters or the story, and it degenerated into self-indulgence (OK Marty, we get it, you love Méliès and think early cinematic history is terribly important) and – worse – tedium. The supporting characters were distractingly pointless. For some reason this was critically acclaimed.
Disappointing debut from Wes Anderson. It features most of what would become standard in his movies: quirky characters, excellent and eclectic musical choices, one or more Wilson (in this case, Owen, Luke, Andrew and Teddy), and a distinctive visual style with precisely and interestingly framed shots. Unfortunately there’s not enough humour and it doesn’t really go anywhere. The stuff with Andrew Wilson and Lumi Cavazos (a hotel maid he falls in love with) is quite nice, but it can’t save the movie. Owen Wilson is incredibly irritating throughout and I’d be happy to never see him again.
Mostly unlikable comedy starring Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston. Sudeikis is bland and unimpressive as ever, making me wonder once again how he keeps landing lead roles. The pervy treatment of Aniston made me uncomfortable. Incidentally, she looks like she’s had far too much work done – her mouth in particular looks distractingly odd. Still, there are some laughs to be had, especially when Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman show up. Hahn’s probably the highlight of the whole movie. If you recognise Will Poulter (as I did), it may be from School of Comedy, the British sketch comedy series featuring a cast of children.
Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis are appealing, and there’s a nugget of an intriguing concept here, but the execution is quite poor: it isn’t scary, it’s rarely tense, the pacing is all wrong, and the special effects aren’t all that special. By the end it’s mostly boring and silly.
In short: it’s better than The Lost World but by no means is it good. Fifteen minutes in there’s a talking raptor in a dream sequence – enough said. If I’m interpreting it correctly, this movie posits that Isla Sorna is some kind of magical island that can turn a kid into a survivalist and repair a broken marriage. It also, quite absurdly, ups the ante by retconning the raptors so they’re now even smarter, better at communicating, and (in the case of the males, apparently) have feathers on their heads. I think the slight saving grace, and the only reason I rate it more highly than The Lost World, is that the action sequences are more effective and suspenseful. Watching both sequels now has made me worry that I view Jurassic Park through rose-coloured glasses and perhaps it doesn’t deserve the 9.5 I gave its 3D rerelease; but then, it’s got that nostalgic place the others don’t have – it’s part of my childhood – so I still love it.
Tim Robbins gets points for ambition, but loses more for overreaching and making a turd. It’s a good cast and most of them do well, with the notable exception of Robbins’ then-partner Susan Sarandon, who is hopelessly miscast (and does a dodgy Italian accent) as Margherita Sarfatti. The main problems are a failure to pick one interesting plot thread and stick with it (instead jumping around to various less interesting subplots), and an earnestness that makes this work to get through (yes, Tim, we get it – you feel strongly about this subject (that art shouldn’t be repressed by the state)… but just say it once and get over it, stop hammering your audience over the head with it!). It’s a shame as I really love the two other movies he wrote and directed, Bob Roberts and Dead Man Walking. There are some good bits: the scene in which the actual 1937 musical The Cradle Will Rock is performed; the scenes in which Hallie Flanagan (a standout performance from Cherry Jones) appears before the Dies Committee (though apparently the dialogue was all lifted directly from the official transcripts, so it’s hard to give too much credit); and the brief appearances by Tenacious D’s Jack Black and Kyle Gass. As a massive Pearl Jam fan I have to point out that the second song in the end credits is Croon Spoon, a song from the actual 1937 musical The Cradle Will Rock, performed as a duet by Eddie Vedder and – wait for it – Susan Sarandon.
I did laugh a few times, mostly at Zach Galifianakis and occasionally at Dr Ken Jeong. However, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Todd Phillips and his co-writers actually thought viewers would overlook the fact that they’ve recycled the premise and storyline of the original movie almost beat-for-beat. There is literally nothing new in this, and what little freshness and liveliness there was in the original is now completely gone. Followed by The Hangover Part III.
This film is a failure, but a really interesting one, so perhaps worth watching anyway. I’ve seen it described as both a comedy and a drama, but I regard it as solely a drama. It’s written and directed by Harmony Korine, writer of Kids (which I loved), and he’s definitely got skills, but unfortunately in this case I think his ambition trumped those skills. I think Korine truly believes he made a deep, thoughtful movie, with layer upon layer of subtext, but in my opinion it’s well-made tripe. The constant use of repetition is mostly ineffective, and much of the film consists of music video-style sequences that aren’t particularly engaging (though sometimes the music is used well; it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit this, but I quite liked the way the Britney Spears song ‘Everytime’ was used, and I’ve subsequently found it stuck in my head at times). The four young actresses in the lead roles are all fairly subpar; an almost unrecognisable James Franco is better, if only because he commits to his crazy role, but it’s hard to take him seriously. Near the end of the movies one of the girls discovers (and tells her mum) that “being a good person” is the “secret to life” – at which point I almost vomited. The film seems disturbingly representative of a broader movement in recent years towards ‘false profundity’ from Hollywood: movies that convey the impression of depth but have nothing at all beneath the surface.
Disappointing mumblecore(ish) movie. Ben Stiller is the unpleasant title character and his performance is middling. Greta Gerwig is quite good as his main romantic interest; more than anyone else in the movie, she comes across as someone you might actually want to spend some time with. There’s a really good (both comedically and dramatically) party scene toward the end, but outside of that and Gerwig there’s not much to like in this.
Demetri Martin is a funny comedian with a fairly unique low-key style, and I enjoyed his TV series Important Things with Demetri Martin. However, I think we can all agree that he can’t act. All of us, that is, except Ang Lee, who for some bizarre reason thought it would be a good idea to cast him in the lead role in this odd movie about how Woodstock ended up happening. One critic called Martin’s work here a “nonperformance”, and I have to agree; he seems to be giving it his all, but his all is pretty woeful. Putting that to one side, there are other problems: the movie doesn’t seem to know whether it’s about his character or about Woodstock itself, and by oscillating between the two it loses focus and any dramatic potency it might have had. There’s also apparently some comedy in here, but I couldn’t find it. The bright spots are few and far between but they mostly either involve Liev Schreiber’s cross-dressing security guard character (Schreiber is genuinely appealing in this and steals numerous scenes), drug trips, or the broader spectacle of Woodstock itself, which is restaged impressively. It’s not hard to see why this flopped at the box office.
The second and worse of two movies about Alfred Hitchcock I watched within a couple of days of each other (the first being Hitchcock). Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren are both really just doing one-note impersonations, and they get boring quite quickly. The movie basically only has one quite simple point to make: that Hitchcock was a creep who sexually harassed Hedren during production of The Birds and Marnie. Trouble is, it doesn’t take very long to make this point, and then we just get it repeated again and again for 91 minutes. If you’re at all interested in the subject matter, skip this and watch Hitchcock – or better yet, read a book about it.
If you’re going to bore me this much, at least have the decency to do it in 90 minutes rather than a bloated 143! I admit I haven’t read the book, so perhaps my judgement is somewhat unqualified, but this adaptation just didn’t work at all for me. The performances are fine and none of the actors seem miscast; they’re just given nothing interesting to do. In terms of visuals, there’s clearly a lot of money on the screen, and some of the sweeping shots created with CGI are impressive, though they don’t add much. The anachronistic use of music is slightly jarring, but I would have forgiven it had other elements of Baz Luhrmann’s style been more successful. His failure reminded me of Tim Burton: as with many of Burton’s films, Luhrmann favours style over substance (and story), creating a visual feast that isn’t especially engaging and by the end feels pointless. Whatever profundity he thought he was conveying was lost somewhere between his mind and mine.
Wholly unmemorable indie romantic comedy/drama. It stars, and proceeds to mostly waste, several people I like: Lizzy Caplan (Party Down, Masters of Sex), Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) and Martin Starr (Party Down, Freaks and Geeks). It has nothing interesting to say about relationships (its ostensible subject) and relies on some of the most overused clichés in the romcom book (love triangle! unexpected pregnancy!) without doing anything new with them. Perhaps I’m being too harsh; it isn’t completely terrible, the cast do their best with the material they’re given, and there’s a scene implying that the characters played The Settlers of Catan, earning a bonus half point from me.
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg star in what I think counts as a romantic comedy even though it’s about the end of a relationship rather than the start of one (the genre’s more typical subject). The characters aren’t particularly likable (Jones’ character in particular bugged me), there’s very little in the way of comedy, and there’s barely anything to root for (other than perhaps Samberg’s character’s new relationship). I still don’t understand why people rate Jones, and as I wrote in my review of Hot Rod, I don’t think Samberg has the chops for leading roles in movies (despite being a talented and funny guy). Skip it.