I know, that headline is trouble. You're always treading dangerous ground when you insist on defining what makes a good this or the right kind of that, as if there is no room for change or improvement when it comes to classic properties. Of course there is — Jason Segel's 2011 Muppet film approached the concept from an entirely different direction. It didn't hit all of its marks, but it prevailed overall in its conceit: make a movie not about Muppets, but about Muppet fandom. But Muppets Most Wanted, in absence of a clear mission statement and fueled largely by the monetary glimmers of the sequel game (the film's opening number admits this outright), has fewer marks readily available to hit. Landing in the ambiguity between the classic Muppet adventure formula and Segel's post-modern Henson appreciation party, Most Wanted feels like a failure on both counts. It doesn't know which kind of movie it wants to, or should, be. So it doesn't really be anything.
On the one hand, there's the half-cocked "get-the-band-back-together" through line, mimicking but not quite accomplishing the spirit of the 2011 picture. None of the Muppets are particularly likable or charming in this turn, and even fewer of them actually given anything to do. Kermit loses his s**t in the first act after a spat with Piggy and a barrage of insubordination from his troupe (provoked by the nefarious Dominic Badguy, Ricky Gervais), storms off in a huff, and gets swept up in a case of mistaken identity when his criminal doppelganger Constantine pulls the old switcheroo, landing Kermit in a Russian gulag. You'd think this would be a good opportunity for the second tier of Muppet favorites — Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo, Scooter, Rowlf, et al — to go on a search and rescue... but save for a very brief sequence at the tail end of this achingly long film, none of the other Muppets are giving anything to do. They just hem and haw and perform the occasional "Indoor Running of the Bulls" while Dominic and Constantine scheme, rob banks, and bicker.
Meanwhile, Kermit has some fun in prison — a far more endearing plot that sees him befriending the merry convicts, organizing a penitentiary revue, and even winning the heart of the vicious warden Nadia (Tina Fey). If only we could spend more time with real Kermit and less time with fake Kermit and his second banana Gervais, an effectively boring pair.
On the other hand, though, there's the Muppet shtick that fans of The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island — and yes, The Muppet Show itself — will deem the movie's best material: CIA Agent Sam Eagle and Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) hot on the trail of Constantine and Dominic. Here, we get a different type of Muppet movie entirely from what Segel and the A-plot in Most Wanted are opting: the old fashioned vaudeville act, with Sam standing as an independent entity from his googly-eyed brethren, on a goofy, musical prowl with Burrell that fuels the film with its best and most consistent chuckles. Their "Interrogation Song" number is outstanding, exemplifying the many talents of Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie, who wrote all the music for this and the previous film.
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Unfortunately, Muppets Most Wanted isn't sure that it wants to be The Great Muppet Caper, beheld so stubbornly to its Segelian roots. There's a palpable compulsion to stick with this agonizingly self-aware, nostalgia-crazy, brimming-beacons-of-the-past-in-a-callous-today theme that doesn't work a fraction as well as it did in the 2011 film. Without a legitimate celebration of any of our favorite characters, how could it? With so much going on in this movie, and such a lengthy runtime at just under two hours, it's a sure sign of failure that we walk away feeling like we spent barely any time with the Muppets.
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Lone Survivor isn't a film for the faint of heart. It's a film that beats you down and only lets you up for a few precious moments before the credits roll, but that emotional throttling is what helps make the film such a powerful experience.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, primarily focusing on a group of four Navy SEALs who are sent to the mountains of Afganistan to capture or kill a member of the Taliban. The plan goes wrong, and the team has to fight for their lives to escape the enemy-infested area. The film does a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension before collapsing into its main action sequence, one that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. The long sequence brings forth memories of the infamous D-Day opening of Saving Private Ryan, except this film's fire-fight stretches out the violence like a medieval torture device. The langourous scene is, at times, hard to sit through. Each moment slips by in coiled tension. It's undoubtedly uncomfortable, and the film makes a point to never make the violence fun or enticing. The action isn't consequence-free, and every bullet fired carries weight, making the scenes brutal and unrelenting because of it. The film takes on the aura of a horror movie that wants you to feel every second that ticks by, and director Berg makes sure that a pressing hopelessness starts to weigh on the viewer just as it does on the soldiers.
Mark Wahlberg is plenty capable as Marcus Lutrell, a member of the SEAL unit that is sent on the mission. The supporting cast plays its parts admirably by believably infusing a diverse set of personalities and values into the soldiers, while still keeping them in tune with the same military culture that governs much of their thoughts and actions. There's a great scene where a difficult decision has to be made, and the viewer gets to see the different directions to which some of the character's moral compasses are tuned. Sometimes the right thing can mean different things to different people when the risk of death is on the table. The real standout in the cast is Ben Foster, whose SO2 Matthew Alexson swirls with barely contained fury. He is darkly intense and has electric screen presence that really starts to manifest when the bullets star flying and things become dire.
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For all the good will that the film builds up in its first and second act, the final third of the film hits some snags as history demands that the story take itself to a different location, sacrificing some of the tension that it has built up. In the last 30 minutes of the film, there are some odd tonal choices that don't gel with the tension brimming in the first half. A comedic scene involving a language barrier stands out in particular.
The movie makes a point to steer clear of any political judgment, and it doesn't try to lay blame for the botched mission on any one head. And while the film never outwardly states and opinion on the conflicts that America found itself embroiled in during this time period, the searing brutality depicted in the movie highlight that no one should be subjected to the pain that these men were faced with. Made abundantly clear is the soldiers' willingness to drop everything and serve their country the best way they know how. Lone Survivor tries to honor the soldier, but not glorify war.
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Lone Survivor is at its best when it makes you feel the worst. It gives soldiers their due reverence by showcasing the true terror of the battlefield, and while the film does start to sag a bit in its third act, it's still more than worth the experience in order understand the consequences of war, and its toll on the people in the trenches.
Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
It was a freaky weekend at the box office this weekend as the horror parody Scary Movie 3 helped moviegoers get into the spirit of Halloween--to the tune of $21.1 million*, making it the No. 1 film for the second consecutive week. But sandwiched between the slasher spoof Scary Movie 3 and the limb hacker pic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which came in third with a gory $10.9 million, was a little animated tale called Brother Bear."Brother Bear totally capitalized on a marketplace devoid of family films," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations told The Associated Press Sunday. "There's always an opportunity where there's a scarcity of product for a particular segment of the audience." The Disney film opened Saturday with a burly $18.4 million, an impressive debut compared to the Mouse House's recent animated features. Although Brother Bear didn't premiere as strongly as the Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios collaboration Finding Nemo, which netted $70.2 million when it hit theaters in May, it surpassed the openings of other Disney pics this year, including Piglet's Big Movie ($6 million) and The Jungle Book 2 ($11.4 million).The lone film to open wide this weekend, Brother Bear was also the only new addition to this week's box office Top Ten. The feel good drama Radio came in fourth with $10.2 million, while the John Grisham thriller Runaway Jury rounded out the Top Five with $6.8 million. The Human Stain, starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman, opened in limited release with an impressive $1.2 million, while the re-release of the digitally remastered Alien: The Director's Cut, which boasts six minutes of never-before-seen footage, opened in select cities to the pulsating tune of $ 1 million. THE TOP TENDimension Films' PG-13 rated spoof Scary Movie 3 reigned in the No. 1 spot for the second week with an ESTIMATED $21.1 million (-56%) in 3,505 theaters (unchanged; $6,020 per theater). Its cume is approximately $78.6 million. Directed by David Zucker, it stars Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, George Carlin and Leslie Nielsen.Buena Vista's G rated animated film Brother Bear, which opened Saturday, debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $18.5 million in 3,028 theaters with a $6,119 per theater average--the highest of any film playing wide this week.Set against the majestic natural splendor of the Great American Northwest, the film tells the story of a boy whose life takes an unexpected turn when he is transformed into a bear.Directed by Aaron Blaise and Bob Walker, it features the voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, D.B. Sweeney and Michael Clarke Duncan.New Line Cinema's R rated horror remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, slipped from second place to third in its third week with an ESTIMATED $10.9 million (-25%) in 2,970 theaters (-48 theaters; $3,670 per theater). Its cume is approximately $66.1 million.Directed by Marcus Nispel, it stars Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen and Andrew Bryniarski.Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated drama Radio dropped one notch to fourth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $10.2 million (-23%) in 3,074 theaters (unchanged, $3,318 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.8 million.Directed by Michael Tollin, it stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris.Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated courtroom thriller Runaway Jury fell one position to No. 5 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-19%) in 2,736 theaters (-79; $2,507per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.6 million. Directed by Gary Fleder, it stars John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz.Warner Bros.' R rated drama Mystic River fell from its No. 5 position to sixth in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6.2 million (-19%) in 1,551 theaters (+58 theaters; $4,046 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.5 million.Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.Miramax Films' R rated gory actioner Kill Bill Vol. 1, held steady in seventh place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-26%) in 2,429 theaters (-204 theaters, $1,939 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.9 millionDirected by Quentin Tarantino, it stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and David Carradine.Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy School of Rock, dropped two positions to No. 8 in its eighth week with an ESTIMATED $4.4 million (-33%) in 2,786 theaters (-165 theaters; $1,579 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69.1 million.Directed by Richard Linklater, it stars Black, Joan Cusack and Michael White.Universal Pictures' PG 13 rated romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty held on to its No. 9 position in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-27%) in 1,661 theaters (-629 theaters, $1,600 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32 million.Produced by Ethan Coen and directed by Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.Screen Gems' R rated erotic thriller In the Cut expanded in its second week to place tenth with an ESTIMATED $2.3 million at 825 theaters (+819 theaters, $2,788 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.4 million. In the film, Meg Ryan plays a self-determined NYU professor who, following the brutal murder of a young woman in her neighborhood, tests the limits of her own safety by entering into a risky sexual liaison with a detective. Directed by Jane Campion, it stars Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nick Damici.OTHER OPENINGSMiramax's R rated drama The Human Stain debuted in 160 theaters with an ESTIMATED $1.1 million. Its $7,025 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this week. The film stars Anthony Hopkins as a man who, throughout his life, has been a master of deception and self-reinvention. Years later, when he becomes an esteemed professor, false accusations ruin his career.Directed by Robert Benton, it stars Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise and Wentworth Miller.Twentieth Century Fox's R rated sci-fi thriller Alien: The Director's Cut opened in 347 theaters with an ESTIMATED $1 million, with a $2,997 per theater average. In the film, a re-release of director Ridley Scott's 1979 film, seven crewmembers of the commercial ship Nostromo are awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate an S.O.S. distress call from an alien vessel.Directed by Scott, it stars Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto.WEEKEND COMPARISON The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $91.9 million, down 23.16 percent from last weekend's $119.5 million. The Top 12 movies were also down 8.94 percent from this time last year when they took in $100.9 million.Last year, Buena Vista's G rated The Santa Clause 2 debuted in the No. 1 position with $29 million in 3,350 theaters ($8,659 per theater); DreamWorks' R rated thriller The Ring stayed at No. 2 in its third week with $18.1 million in 2,808 theaters ($6,452 per theater); and Sony's PG-13 rated I Spy opened in third with $12.7 million in 3,182 theaters ($4,008 per theater).
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.
It was very Scary at the box office this pre-Halloween weekend.
Scary Movie 3, which spoofs horror films such as The Ring and Signs, crop-circled the competition and took the top spot with a record $49.7 million*, knocking last week's winner Texas Chainsaw Massacre down to No. 2 with $14.7 million.
Things just keep getting better and better for the Scary Movie franchise. The third installment surpassed its predecessors--Scary Movie opened in 2000 with $42.3 million, while Scary Movie 2 opened in 2002 with $20.5 million--and broke the record for the best October opening ever, beating reigning champ Red Dragon, which opened in 2002 at $36.5 million. Scary 3 is also the seventh best opener so far this year.
The feel-good movie Radio opened strongly in third place with $14 million, while courtroom drama Runaway Jury came in fourth with $8.4 million. Clint Eastwood's Mystic River rounded out the top five with $7.6 million.
As the other wide release opening this week, the Angelina Jolie romantic epic Beyond Borders didn't manage to make it to the top 10, bringing in a tepid $2 million.
THE TOP TEN
Dimension Films' PG-13 rated spoof-o-rama Scary Movie 3 triumphed in the No. 1 spot with an ESTIMATED $49.7 million in 3,505 theaters. Its $14,189 per theater average was the highest of the films playing wide this week.
The Scary Movie horror spoof franchise goes for a third round, this time taking shots at Signs, The Ring, The Matrix Reloaded and, strangely enough, 8 Mile.
Directed by David Zucker, it stars Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, George Carlin and Leslie Nielsen.
Last week's champ, New Line Cinema's R rated horror The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dropped from the top spot to take second place with an ESTIMATED $14.7 million (-48%) in 3,018 theaters (+2 theaters; $4,879 per theater). The horror remake's cume is approximately $51.1 million.
Directed by Marcus Nispel, it stars Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen and Andrew Bryniarski.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated tearjerker Radio debuted in the third spot with an ESTIMATED $14 million in 3,074 theaters, averaging $4,554 per theater.
Inspired by a true story, the film is the tale of a mentally challenged young man nicknamed Radio and the high school football coach who takes him under his wing, onto the bench and into his classroom.
Directed by Michael Tollin, it stars Cuba Gooding, Jr.. and Ed Harris.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated courtroom thriller Runaway Jury fell to No. 4 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $8.4 million (-29%) in 2,815 theaters (unchanged; $2,993 per theater). This latest John Grisham adaptation has taken in $24 million so far.
Directed by Gary Fleder, it stars John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz.
Warner Bros.' R rated drama Mystic River once again rounded out the Top Five in its third week with an ESTIMATED $7.6 million (-27%) in 1,493 theaters (+3 theaters; $5,094 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.5 million.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy School of Rock, dropped two positions to No. 6 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6.5 million (-41%) in 2,951 theaters (unchanged; $2,203 per theater). Its cume is approximately $63.3 million.
Directed by Richard Linklater, it stars Black, Joan Cusack and Michael White.
Miramax Films' R rated Kill Bill Vol. 1, fell a considerable way from last week's second place to seventh in its third week with an ESTIMATED $5.9 million (-52%) in 2,633 theaters (-469 theaters, $2,271 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.6 million
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, it stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and David Carradine.
MGM's PG rated canine comedy Good Boy! dropped two spots to come in eighth in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-46%) in 2,762 theaters (-463 theaters; $1,756 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.8 million.
Directed by John Hoffman, it stars Liam Aiken and the vocal talents of Matthew Broderick, Brittany Murphy, Carl Reiner and Vanessa Redgrave as the dog Hubble and his four-legged friends.
Universal Pictures' PG 13 rated romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty slipped two rungs to place No. 9 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $3.5 million (-45%) in 2,290 theaters (-280 theaters, $1,560 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.1 million.
Produced by Ethan Coen and directed by Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Under the Tuscan Sun rounded out the top 10 in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.2 million (-34%) in 1,224 theaters (-439 theaters; $1,811 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.1 million.
Directed by Audrey Wells, it stars Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta and Raoul Bova.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated Beyond Borders premiered with an ESTIMATED $2 million in 1,798 theaters, averaging $1,112 per theater.
This romantic tale between a disaster relief doctor and a philanthropic socialite spans several years against an ever-changing backdrop of war.
Directed by Martin Campbell, it stars Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen.
Fine Line's R rated Elephant opened with an ESTIMATED $90,000 in six theaters, averaging $15,000 per theater.
This year's Canne Festival's Palme d'Or winner, Elephant is about high school violence that unfolds on an ordinary school day inside an American high school, filled with schoolwork, football, gossip and socializing. For each student we meet, high school is a different experience: stimulating, friendly, traumatic, lonely, hard.
Directed by Gus Van Sant, it stars a cast of newcomers including Alex Frost, Eric Deulen and John Robinson.
Screen Gems R rated In the Cut and Disney's animated Brother Bear both opened in limited theaters this weekend before expanding wide next week. The erotic thriller In the Cut, starring Meg Ryan, took in an ESTIMATED $95,000 in six theaters, averaging $15,833 per theater while the delightful tale Brother Bear wowed 'em with an ESTIMATED $285,026 in two theaters, averaging $142,513 per theater.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $121 million, up a healthy 17.32 percent from last weekend's $103.2 million. The Top 12 movies were also up 39 percent from this time last year when they took in $86.9 million.
Last year, Paramount's R rated Jackass: The Movie was the hit of the week, debuting with $22.7 million in 2,509 theaters ($9,073 per theater); Dreamworks' R rated thriller The Ring dropped to No. 2 with $18.4 million in 2,634 theaters ($7,019 per theater); Warner's R rated Ghost Ship opened in third with $11.5 million in 2,787 theaters ($4,128 per theater).