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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Zac Efron has linked himself to a pair of projects he hopes will give him the chance to broaden his range, Deadline.com reports. In separate deals at Universal and Warner Bros., the actor is looking at a Ludlum-esque thriller and a Back to the Future-style pic, according to Deadline.
Efron will tackle Universal's Fire, a spy thriller that is an adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis' graphic novel. He would play a college student who is recruited by the CIA, only to find that he has been trained for a program that creates expendable agents, Deadline says.
Bendis will write the script. Neal Moritz will produce with Circle of Confusion’s David Engel. Efron and Alchemy Entertainment’s Jason Barrett will be exec producers.
A separate deal at Warner Bros. will put Efron in a Back to the Future-like film that melds two projects. One, according to Deadline, is a pitch from writers Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski, and the other is a WB project called Algorithm that the studio was already developing as a directing vehicle for Nick Stoller.
Mark Gordon and Bryan Zuriff are producing and Alan Riche is exec producer along with Efron and Barrett.
Michael Jackson was preparing to make his debut as a filmmaker after signing up to co-direct and finance a drama about foster children just three months before his death, according to a new report.
The pop superstar passed away on June 25, days before he was due to return to the stage with a 50-date live spectacular in London.
But he was also planning to move into Hollywood as a director, claims producer/filmmaker pal Bryan Michael Stoller.
Stoller alleges that Jackson had agreed to be his partner in the film company Magic Shadows and they were preparing to co-direct They Cage the Animals at Night, a project they had been working on for the last seven years.
Stoller claims the movie, based on a 1985 autobiography by author Jennings Michael Burch, was the brainchild of Jackson, who wanted to highlight the plight of foster kids because he felt he could relate to their circumstances.
He says, "Michael told me often he felt like he grew up as an orphan, like a foster kid, because he never was in one home. To him every hotel was like a different foster home. He said he used to sit in the window and see kids playing outside and cry because he couldn't be part of that."
But Jackson had no plans to step in front of the camera again, following his acting turn in The Wiz in 1978.
Stoller adds, "He was very excited about making movies and wanted his hands on everything, from working on screenplays to producing, to writing the music. However, he never showed any interest in acting."
Stoller videotaped a series of meetings between Jackson and Burch and he now hopes to turn the collection of footage into a documentary to shed light on the singer's life behind the walls of his Neverland Ranch, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
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MORE NEWS: Sutherland's Headbutting Trial Dropped
Filmmaker Bryan Michael Stoller is keen to make a movie based on pal Michael Jackson's idea after Mel Gibson turned the project down.
Stoller found Jackson's ideas about a movie adaptation of Jennings Michael Burch's hit book They Cage the Animals at Night compelling and set about
getting it made in 2000, and at one point had movie mogul Gibson interested.
He tells MTV News, "Michael handed me this book, They Cage the Animals at
Night, and said he'd been wanting to turn it into a movie and thought I'd be
the perfect co-director for it.
"I submitted the book to Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, and Gibson actually
liked the book a lot. I spoke with Mel and he wanted to meet Michael. They had
"I set up a meeting between the three of us. It was pretty interesting--here
I am, a country boy from Canada, introducing Mel Gibson to Michael Jackson. We
sat for three hours."
Gibson's Icon Productions company has since lost interest, but Stoller is still keen to get the project made.
"It's a true story of Burch in the late '40s, growing up in orphanages, and
how rough a time he had. He had no real friends all he had was stuffed
Stoller insists Jackson is so passionate about the project because he feels
his childhood mirrors that of author Burch's.
He explains, "Michael feels that he grew up like an orphan; he wasn't
imprisoned in an orphanage, but he was pretty much imprisoned in hotel rooms by
his father, and Michael said he used to stare outside at the kids playing
basketball or doing normal kid things."
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The fifth installment of CBS' popular reality show Survivor is staying in the tropics. This time, the show will take place on Tarutao Island off the west coast of Thailand. Despite ratings that have begun to wane, the eye network remains committed to the show, and the latest edition will premiere this fall. The 16 contestants will try to "outwit, outplay and outlast" each other this summer, with the winner receiving a $1 million prize.
Technical difficulties may have delayed Madonna's London stage debut in Up for Grabs, but that didn't stop the pop diva from giving fans a sneak peek at her new role. Madonna posed for promotional shots for the production, The Associated Press reports.
At his very own Overlooked Film Festival, film critic Roger Ebert apparently overlooked indications that the floor he was walking on had been just recently waxed, and Ebert slipped and fell, suffering two small fractures in his left shoulder. Ever the trooper--criticizing the shows must go on!--Ebert finished the festival sporting a sling.
In the Biz
Halle Berry will extend her relationship with MGM. According to Variety, the Oscar-winning actress, a Bond girl for MGM, has signed on to star in and produce two other movies, Brown-Eyed Girl and an updated remake of '70s blaxploitation flick Foxy Brown.
Art imitates life once more. Jerry Springer, host of the eponymous trashy Jerry Springer talk show, has inked a deal to star in a film as the producer of a trashy courtroom reality-TV series, the AP reports. No word on whether Springer tough-guy Steve will make an appearance.
The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, has not only picked his first film to co-direct, but he's also picked the director he wants to co-direct it with. Jacko has optioned the book They Cage the Animals at Night by Jennings Michael Burch and will co-direct it with Bryan Michael Stoller (Undercover Angel). In related news, Hollywood.com staffer Noah Davis has changed his name to Noah Michael Davis in hopes of being hired to write the screenplay.
ABC has announced that this Sept. 11, it will spend the day commemorating last Sept. 11's tragedy, with the entire day's TV slate devoted to coverage of those awful events, the AP reports.
HBO's acclaimed prison drama Oz has begun production on its sixth and final season, it was announced today by Chris Albrect, president of HBO's original programming. The network's first hour-long dramatic series, Oz will return to HBO with eight new episodes in early 2003 and will have presented a syndication-eligible 56 episodes when it completes its run.
From the Things That Make You Go Hmm Department, the police report covering Creed frontman Scott Stapp's car accident reads, "No injuries noted," the AP reports. Yet Creed's spokesman cited Stapp's "injuries" as the reason for the band's recent cancellation of its Weathered tour. We reiterate: hmm.
Twentieth Century Fox has set the domestic release of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones for Thursday, May 16, one day earlier than expected. "Around the world, many territories open on Thursdays," Bruce Snyder, Fox's president of domestic distribution, told Reuters. "And because Star Wars is such an international phenomenon, it seemed to make sense to go out on a standard date in as many places as possible." Many foreign markets, like Japan and South America, will have to wait until June or July to see the second prequel to George Lucas' franchise.
Alicia Keys leads this year's American Music Awards with five nominations, including best female artist, new artist and best album for the year, The Associated Press reports. Among other nominees are Janet Jackson's All For You (best R&B album of the year); Lenny Kravitz (best male artist) and Dave Matthews Band, 'N Sync, and U2 (best band, duo or group). The 29th annual American Music Awards will be broadcast live on ABC on Jan.9 from Los Angeles.
R&B singer Usher has been forced to delay the start of his U.S. tour for three months after he underwent surgery on Monday in a Los Angeles hospital for a shoulder injury sustained during tour rehearsal, his publicist told AP on Tuesday. The tour, scheduled to kick off on Dec. 6 in Minneapolis, will now begin in April.
Record producer Phil Spector was ordered to pay $3 million to The Ronettes, the 1960s trio he discovered, managed, and allegedly cheated after the trio was paid next to nothing while Spector earned millions, AP reports. Justice Paula Omansky of the New York State Supreme Court's Appellate Division ruled Tuesday that Spector violated his 1963 contract with the trio after keeping the rights to all Ronnettes recordings. Spector sold the recordings for use as background music in movies, videos and advertising.
Michael Jackson is reportedly heading to Canada next year to co-direct a low-budget flick about an 8-year-old orphan boy called Home of the Angels, the Toronto Star reports. Jackson, who is also financing the film, has chosen former Canadian child star Bryan Michael Stoller to co-direct the picture.
The CBS reality show Survivor doesn't seem to be pleasing many of its fans-it's no longer at the top of the ratings every week, Reuters reports. According to Nielsen Media Research reports, Survivor Africa averages between 20.7 million viewers per episode and 10.8 million among advertiser-coveted 18- to 49-year-olds. That is almost a 30 percent decrease from last spring's Survivor: The Australian Outback, which averaged 29.8 million total viewers and 16 million during its run.
Dan Rather found himself working up a sweat on Monday after the American Airlines crash in Queens forced area airports to close and his flight from Texas to La Guardia airport was diverted to Philadelphia. Rather, who desperately wanted to get to New York to cover the story, slipped $100 to a Philadelphia cab driver to get him from the airport to the railroad station in a flash. "In the rear window you'll find sweat from the back of my head," Rather told the Philadelphia Enquirer about his speedy ride to the train station.
CBS execs are pleased enough with the direction of The Ellen Show to pick it up for a full season, Reuters reports. Although its Sept. 24 premiere was low rated, the show did record ratings on Nov. 9th; its first airing since the Emmys. The episode averaged 6.9 million viewers and a 2.5 rating among 18- 49-year-olds, the sitcom's best showing in its regular time period.
Jami Gertz will portray the late comedian Gilda Radner in ABC's upcoming biopic of the Saturday Night Live star tentatively titled It's Always Something: The Gilda Radner Story. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Janet Brownell wrote the script for the film based on Radner's autobiography of the same name. Merv Griffin Entertainment and Winsome Entertainment, in association with Jaffe/ Braunstein Films Prods., will produce the film, which will begin shooting next January in Toronto.
Fans of the ABC sudser General Hospital will be able to view the memorable 1981 wedding of its characters Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) on Nov. 16, People magazine reports. Although GH's favorite couple is now divorced, Geary's character will flash back to his wedding vows on his 20th anniversary date. In related news, the wedding, which the magazine says remains the most-watched soap event in history, will be shown in its entirety on the SoapNet cable channel on Nov. 23, when it airs a 12-hour Luke and Laura marathon including highlights of their two-decade relationship.