Archives for the month of: April, 2014

“Muppets Most Wanted” is directed by James Bobin, written by James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, based on characters created by Jim Henson.

So, a Muppets sequel.

Hmm. I love The Muppets, so it is hard for me when they miss the mark and when they miss the mark, they do so in spectacular fashion.

The sequel picks up right after the previous movie – it begins with the words “The End” across the screen and then The Muppets break the fourth wall and speculate on why the cameras are still hanging about and realize they are about to do a sequel, during the first musical number “We’re Doing a Sequel”.

Now, I’m a big, big fan of breaking the fourth wall – I love when actors acknowledge that they are being watched, but it is technique you need to use very lightly. In the very first movie, back in 1979 (!), they used this knowledge to read the script! And it was hilarious! They gag worked a couple of times but for the most part, they played it pretty straight ‘cuz there is always wackiness to be found in a Muppet movie and you have to push for the laughs. And in the last movie, they “travelled by map” when they had to go somewhere fast – funny stuff!

Here it was as if these were the best jokes – the Muppets and actors mugged for the camera, but the gag is overused and is pretty tired by the time the story ends. It stops being funny long before the joke ends and still they keep going.

There is also a big problem with the acting, by human actors – Ricky Gervais, Ty Burell, Tina Fey are great and they are two actors that I love to see at work, the problem is, of course that one should never aim to out-wacky The Muppets. I like the moments best when the humans actors play it straight and allow the wackiness to come from the Muppets and not playing for laughs and competing with the Muppets for laughs and wackiness. When I think back on the funniest and most touching moments from Muppet films, they are all when the human actors treat their roles with depth and seriousness which allows the Muppets to do the same – the humour is organic, because the heart is too.

And this is the biggest issue with this film – there doesn’t seem to be a heart. The previous film was a touching, emotionally complex journey which had layers and humour. This film isn’t so finely crafted – it goes for cheap gags where it should have gone for heart – 2 Kermits? – and contrived plot points where organically moving the story forward would have worked more effectively.

And why are they on a European Tour?! This doesn’t make any sense at all – The Muppets is a thoroughly North American franchise and although they have international fame, why send them to places that children may not be able to appreciate or understand? The travelling took away from character development and spending so much time flipping back and forth between locations made for a disjointed tale. The new characters had no need to be European neither did the places. Although I did enjoy the guest star of “Christopher Waltz doing the waltz”…

There were more cameos this time round too – but not necessarily better. Some of them were so fast that you were left wondering “I know that person! Who was that?!” and “That was a bit of a waste.” I think a better way to use cameos would have been to gone with less cameos and made them more meaningful – Lady Gaga pretty much says this in her one-liner.

I really missed the heart, the affection for The Muppets that Jason Segel brought to his movie a few years ago and, even though I’m still really angry at him for “How I Met Your Mother” ended, it would have been lovely to have him pen the next movie – I could have used more heart in this film. The worst moment of the film for me was when a Muppet who wasn’t in the last movie says something along the lines of “In the last movie we introduced this new character even though there are already all these beloved characters that could have been used” and then beckons to another character (my favourite Muppet, in fact!!) and they leave the movie…yeah, I kinda felt like that too.

The music this time around, too, felt less sincere, never mind the whole “We’re Doing A Sequel” there were just far too many duets with humans and Muppets – let the Muppets do their thing! And why anyone thought it was a good idea to have Miss Piggy and Celine Dion do a song together I have no idea – Celine Dion tries to out diva Miss Piggy and let me tell you, when I see a Muppets movie, I’m only interested in the pig diva.

My biggest problem with this film is that they tried to do a crime movie before, “The Great Muppet Caper”, and it was a failure, and again, they allude to heist movies not working in the script, so why they thought they should try another crime movie, I have no idea. For me, I want to see them in simpler stories – saving their theatre, the story of how they got together, doing a variety show night after night, re-telling a version of “Christmas Carol” etc. etc. And I’m far less interested in the human actors too, when I walk into a Muppet movie, give me as many and as much of the Muppets as possible, don’t waste my time with showing me human actors that I can see on other shows or in other movies – humans should be used lightly and should always play it straight.

This film made me want to see “The Muppet Movie” from 1979 and, even more, their version of “The Frog Prince” (which introduced two of my favourite characters – Kermit’s nephew, Robin and Sweetums – to the world), stories with more heart, more laughs and less humans.

I’m afraid I came off as a bit anti-human in this write-up…I have nothing against humans, really. Some of my best friends are human…

 

 

“Monsters party Central” is directed by Kelsey Mann, written by Kelsey Mann, this is animated by the good folks at Pixar and takes place (presumably) as part of the “Monsters” story arc.

A few weeks ago, I made the huge mistake of reading about “The Pixar Theory”. Somehow I completely missed out on this theory when it was new – the perils of taking continuing education courses, I guess – so when a friend referred to it in conversation she was pretty surprised that I had never heard of it. So I read all about it.

I have to tell you that it gave me nightmares, kept me awake for a few nights which made for some pretty grumpy days at the office. Luckily for me, I’m a chick, so was able to cover most of the visible damage with make-up.

The biggest problem with knowing “The Pixar Universe Theory” is all the movies now seem far…darker. I’m bothered by observations such as “Oh man! They are doing double time travel to steal that party! This can’t be good!” and “Oh! Sure they are partying it up and meanwhile, in their time, all the humans are dead!” Needless to say, these intrusive thoughts sometimes impact on my enjoyment of the film.

That being said, yep, Pixar does it again – another fun romp. This time, a fun romp before a fun romp. There are no heart-strings tugged no innovations, just some fun gags and killed tag ending after the short’s credits.

That said, I find Pixar is increasingly missing something that I used to love about their films – a difference in story-telling from Disney. Now that Disney owns Pixar, The Muppets and certain Marvel characters, I’m increasingly getting the feeling that my film-watching has been somewhat co-opted, it has been Disney-fied. I don’t have an issue with Disney, but I think there is something to be said for being able to pick and choose between franchises. They have so far done a pretty good job of keeping things separate, but it used to be a matter of pride that you could say “I like Pixar animation and stories better than Disney.” You can’t say that anymore and neither can I, it is the same studio.

On the up-side, I try to balance this Disney experience with seeing other films – docs, indy films, art films – and enjoy the Disney films for what they are when I see them.

So, yeah, fun time, but not incredible or anything. Just another cute film by Disney.

 

“Captain America: The Winter Solider” is directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, comic book by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Yeah.

If you  are following “The Avengers” storyline or watching “The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” you have to see this movie. Not because it is an amazing movie, but because any of the “Marvel movies” that come after it – I’m looking at you “The Guardians of the Universe” and “The Avengers 2”! – will not make sense if you don’t.

Actually, if you didn’t see it opening week-end, “The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” didn’t make much sense. And contained MASSIVE film spoilers.

AND, if you did see the film opening week-end, then you HAD to watch “The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” this week to appreciate the full scope of what happened in the film as it will play into the upcoming movies. Again – I’m looking at you “Guardians” and “Avengers 2″…

So sorry, I’m not impressed that it did so well at the box office, when they threaten to spoil it if you watch the wrong TV show. I even had to watch the TV show that I watched only once, just so I won’t be out of the loop when the next films come out. Not impressed at all.

The thing is. I’m still going to see the movies. And, if I understand contracts correctly, they have me until 2020!

Yikes.

That is a really long time to commit to watching these films…

Ok, enough of my rant, back to the film.

Yeah, good film.

Captain America remains as the most accessible and human of “The Avengers”, he is all round good guy who has morals that are humourously out dated compared to modern mores. He believes in goodness and truth and…well, he doesn’t quite fit with modern sensibilities.

The film was nicely balanced between setting Captain America against more seasoned agents, Black Widow and Agent Hill notably, and introducing some new characters – Falcon and The Winter Solider.

We saw it in IMAX 3D, the 3D was useless – it added nothing to the film, it wasn’t innovative or creative, you can safely skip the 3D. The sound was great but not worth the extra cost of the 3D it accompanies.

The fight sequences were too closely shot for my tastes, once again I’d prefer a longer shot where I can actually see the fight choreographer. At this point I’m starting to believe fight choreography no longer exists and directors simply ask the actors to do a series of moves and then cuts them together to suggest that interesting action is happening when in fact, nothing is happening. Stop already! Lets see some return to good fight sequences where we can appreciate the actors’ physical skill and ability to characterize using their body language. The scenes of mass destruction were frightening – the number of casualties and innocent bystanders that would probably occur would be incredible. As would property damage and insurance costs!

The big surprise of this movie for those who know the comics (or those who understood the massive amounts of heavy-handed foreshadowing) was no surprise at all. Too bad the film makers decided to cover up the face of the actor – Captain America is the only one who needs to be surprised, so to continue to cover the face of the character when everyone knows who it is completely senseless and just disrespects the audience’s intelligence. (That being said, shout out to the lovely ladies in the seats on either side of my friend and I who both whispered to their dates at the same time “Who is that?” when the big reveal to Captain America finally happened. You didn’t pay attention to any of the previous movies nor the heavy-handed flashbacks and your dates didn’t see fit to let you know information that would have helped you understand the movie. Nice…)

So, yes, you have to see this movie so it doesn’t matter what I say about it. I had to see it and I felt there were moments where the film makers knew I had to see it so they tried less – they know I’m committed to seeing these films so I can enjoy the films I really want to see, so will see all the other films too. Nice marketing!

That being said, I really like Captain America best of the Avengers, he is the most human and sensitive character who presents an interesting character journey. His angst is interesting not self-indulgent and we know that he continually questions his place in the modern world. It is a good story and a pretty good movie. The problem I have with it – it should have been a great movie.

Also, remember to stay right to the end of the credits. I realize most people have now caught on to the fake that Marvel always puts in “tag endings” – they give you a little extra at the end of the film, a laugh, a plot point, a blatant bit of advertising – but what most people still don’t know is Marvel does “double tag endings” – there are 2 extra bits, one soon after the credits roll and one right before the theatre lights go up. The plot point right before the lights go up introduced the next round of baddies – so if you left after the first tag ending feeling like you finally saw the tag ending, you missed out.

I know you’ll see it, even if I said it was the worst movie ever made, you will see it. Because you HAVE to see it. So…enjoy…

“Finding Vivian Maier” is directed by John Maloof and Charlie Sikel, story by John Maloof and Charlie Sikel.

“Finding Vivian Maier” is a documentary that follows John Maloof as he uncovers the woman who took over 100,000 photographs that he acquired in trunk auctions. The film shows various photographs, interviews friends, academics, employers, children she was in charge of and discovers long-lost relatives as John tries to get Vivian posthumous recognition as a talent street photographer.

I have a weakness for films about “found” artists and people trying to solved mysteries.

Great film and even better photographs.

I am amazing by John’s commitment to make sure that Vivian gets recognized and equally amazed by the denial to recognize her by museums and art establishments. John has mounted a few shows and, if the film is to be believed, have been extremely successful with the public.

The personal contacts offer confusing and interesting hints about who she might have been – someone who cared, someone who was extremely talented, someone who was able to engage people, disappear and someone who probably struggled with mental illness.

It was a very nicely textured movie – it peels back the layers and exposes the mysteries at a good pace and shows loads of the photos. The interviews are cut and interspersed to give different perspectives.

This is also an ongoing story – the prints are still be scanned and uploaded for people to find and leave feedback, there is a books of her prints and her prints are being exhibited and sold.

If you have the chance to see this movie, then you should. It was a fabulous story and leaves just enough questions to leave you wanting to see how it all goes.

You can out the website here.

 

 

 

 

Um…

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is directed by Wes Anderson, story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, screenplay by Wes Anderson, inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig.

Look, I realize I just saw this film, but…I had to see it again. I was a bit shocked and confused after my first screening, so when a friend put it on the short list of films we should see together, I immediately said “Well. I’ve already seen it. But I want to see it again.”

So we did!

I loved it.

I was right – the colours, the models, the script, the actors, the finely crafted story telling and film making – is so enjoyable. Where I wasn’t sure if it was one to see, I know now for sure – see this film. If you love films and movies, you need to see films by Wes Anderson, he is changing the way movies are made and what audiences love about movies. You are always aware you are watching a movie, it isn’t realistic film making, it is highly stylized and visually wonderful.

See this film!