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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TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already?
To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from.
But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper.
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In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so.
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On Nov. 16, Twilight fans around the world will say goodbye to their favorite saga as the epic finale, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 hits theaters. Twilight fans – self-proclaimed Twihards – are some of the most passionate and driven fans any genre could ever hope to see. Before the final Twilight movie hits theaters with a worldwide event, Hollywood.com decided to get into the mindset of a Twihard by profiling one of Twilight’s biggest fans.
Meet Jamie. A 28-year-old NYC resident originally from Florida, Jamie is Hollywood.com's featured Twihard. We'll be getting to know her and learning all about what a day in the life of a Twihard is like over the next two weeks. We began by focusing on the first days of her life as a Twihard. Now let's find out how she took the above picture, and how many others she has just like it.
Jamie knows she’s a Twihard, and she has the experiences and photographic evidence to prove it. “I’m a big fan,” she says. “I’m not like a crazy teenage fan, but I’ve met three vampires, seen one, and met one werewolf. I pride myself on saying that.”
While some Twihards fervently believe that vampires and werewolves are real, Jamie has her feet firmly planted on the ground. She is actually referring to the actors who play the mythological creatures in the Twilight saga movies. “I did meet Robert Pattinson [last year], and he was on the checklist of people I want to meet,” Jamie says. "My friend works for Letterman and I told her if Robert Pattinson or Radiohead ever got on Letterman you need to help me and I need to meet him!”
Jamie got her wish when Pattinson appeared on David Letterman on Nov. 8, 2011. “I remember going to my boss and saying, ‘Look, remember I told you that if I ever have a chance to meet Robert Pattinson… ’ And before I could finish she was just like, ‘You’re turning red, you can go.’ I got there really, really early because I was just paranoid. There were these little girls standing next to me with their mom, and he came and he took pictures with these little girls and then the mom was like, ‘Oh, me too!’ And I was like, wait, what? And he was about to walk away, so I had to say, ‘No I’m sorry, I’m a big fan. Can I get a picture?'” Her persistence paid off, and Jamie got her picture with Pattinson, which she proudly displays at work by her computer. But that picture wasn’t the only one that got attention after that day.
“Apparently, because I was wearing red and blocking the paparazzi, I ended up in all these pictures,” Jamie says. “I didn’t know until the next day when somebody was on Popsugar.com, she was like, ‘Jamie Jamie is on Popsugar!’ So I started looking up all these fansites and realized I was on, like, six or seven of them. In one picture it looks like we’re a couple. In others it literally looks like I’m his publicist. Like, I have a paper in my hand and I’m showing him where to go. They’re funny candid photos. It definitely was the best moment.”
And if Pattinson was one of the vampires she met, who were the others? “I had a really fun moment where I met Kellan Lutz [Emmett Cullen] by accident when the movies first came out. That was another really awesome moment,” Jamie says. How did the meeting go down? She was at a club in Miami with a friend when they noticed 90210’s AnnaLynne McCord, who was dating Lutz at the time. “I saw her and then I saw Ashley Greene [Alice Cullen], and I turn around and I see Kellan Lutz. I said, ‘Oh my god, you’re from Twilight!’ It was very organic,” unlike her “surreal” experience meeting Pattinson. “It’s just one of those things where you think it’s never going to happen. It was the highlight of my year.”
Along with Pattinson, Lutz, and Greene, Jamie has also met Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Cullen) and she's seen evil vampire Jane (Dakota Fanning), from afar. “I saw Dakota Fanning on the street once,” Jamie says. “I was like, ‘Oh, that girl has cute shoes,’ and then I realized that it was Dakota Fanning! I didn’t say anything to her but everyone else I actually met and took a picture with, so it’s pretty cool.”
Jamie knows that she has met more than her fair share of the vampires that make up the world of Twilight, and she’s content with that. “As far as the cast goes, I think I’m pretty set,” Jamie says. “I met all the big ones. It would nice to meet all of them but if it doesn’t happen that way I think I’ve done my quota. I’ve met more than most people who don’t work in publicity have.” But if she could meet any other member of the Cullen family, who would it be? “Peter Facinelli [Carlisle Cullen] wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” Jamie says laughing.
Even though Jamie is passionately Team Vampire, she wouldn’t pass up the chance to meet the werewolf caught up in a love triangle with a human and a vampire. That’s right, along with all the Cullens she has met, Jamie also met Taylor Lautner at an MTV event in Los Angeles in 2008. This was back when Lautner had yet to bulk up in the fight to keep his role for the second movie, New Moon, in lieu of a taller, beefier actor. “He was so tiny,” Jamie says. “And people were so worried about him being able to play Jacob. And I was like, he’s going to go through puberty in, like, five minutes.”
In New Moon, Jacob begins his transition from human to werewolf, and his body changes rapidly. He has a massive growth spurt, and bulks up in a short amount of time. “Obviously in the books he’s supposed to be a little taller, but I think he played the role fine,” Jamie says. “He’s good-looking kid, he fits the part, I think out of all the characters he’s the most enthusiastic about his role. I’m not a Jake fan but I don’t hate on Jacob. So I do think that was a smart decision [keeping Lautner on as Jacob]. [His muscle gain] was unbelievable. I show people pictures of when I met him and they’re like, what? He was like a little baby and now he bulked up. He definitely worked for that. It’s funny to see how much he bulked up… and how much Robert Pattinson didn’t.”
Despite the fact that Pattinson is her favorite, Jamie does admit that the actor's performance skills leave something to be desired during some key Twilight moments. But if Pattinson didn’t play Edward, who could have embodied the role better? “I thought about that so many times,” Jamie says. “I think Robert Pattinson has the look. I think he’s gorgeous and I think he definitely going to become a better actor but I think this was just a very new role for him. Friends and I have definitely played the game of who could play who, but we’re always stumped with who else could play Edward. There was just no one in their early 20s that could have fit that role. No one really wanted a 17-year-old boy to play a 17-year-old vampire. We wanted it to be someone that was a little more mature than, like, Justin Bieber.”
When it comes to the other roles, Jamie is much more decisive with how to cast better actors. Like many Edward fans, “I don’t like Kristen Stewart,” Jamie says. And the actress' recent cheating scandal certainly didn't help. “Just tramp. Tramp!” Jamie says. “She’s just stupid because this girl spent so much time talking about how her life is private and she doesn’t want anybody to talk about her dating and all that stuff and then goes and cheats and then makes a public apology. And I’m like, ‘You’re an idiot.’ Then when I heard they got back together, I was like, ‘I’m done with him!’ I have no respect for him anymore if he took her back.”
Jamie isn’t sure whether or not Stewart and Pattinson’s relationship is real or fake, but it doesn’t change her opinion of Stewart either way. “Whether it’s a publicity stunt or not, she just sucks,” Jamie says. “I’m not a fan of her. She always has the same facial expressions. And I mean, she couldn’t keep her pants closed before this movie was over? She couldn’t have waited six more months?”
Read the first of this four part series here, and stay tuned to read more about Hollywood.com's Twihard, Jamie Jamie, as A Day in the Life of a Twihard series continues on Nov. 14.
Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Jamie]
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In this make-believe world where animals can talk and magical sorcerers look like big Slinkys with a heads and arms we meet a shaggy puppy named Doogal (voiced by Daniel Tay). The candy-loving mutt lives a carefree life entirely devoted to his best friend Florence (voiced by Kylie Minogue). But when the evil sorcerer Zeebad (voiced by Jon Stewart) escapes from his ancient prison he vows to exact revenge by collecting three magic diamonds that will plunge the land into an eternal deep freeze. Now Doogal and his friends--a cow a rabbit and a snail--embark on an epic adventure to stop him and save the world in the process. Interestingly enough Doogal was actually already made as a direct-to-DVD movie called The Magic Roundabout based on the popular British animated show. In that version all the voices were done by big-name British folk including Robbie Williams Bill Nighy Joanna Lumley Jim Broadbent and Tom Baker as Zeebad. But I guess when the Weinstein Company brought the film over the Pond to release in the U.S. they felt the British voices were too obscure replacing almost all them with American actors. Now instead of Williams we have a kid Tay (Elf) playing the dog; Jimmy Fallon voices the laid-back rocker rabbit instead of Nighy; Whoopi Goldberg takes over Lumley’s part as the opera-singing cow; William H. Macy replaces Broadbent as the sweet snail whose in love with the cow; and lastly the wise-cracking Stewart takes over as the voice of Zeebad the maniacal Slinky head. Only Ian McKellen as a good wizard and Minogue as the little girl remain from the original cast. It’s a shame. I’m pretty sure the British voices would have made Doogal at least a little better. Honestly why did the Weinsteins feel they had to Americanize the film? Perhaps with a distinctly British flavor the jokes wouldn’t fall so flat. Doogal is just one derivative after another--everything from The Lord of the Rings to The Matrix to Raiders of the Lost Ark is referenced. There isn’t one truly original idea in it. The imagery is decent enough if slightly rudimentary but the worst part of the film is the trite dialogue. Young children probably won’t notice much but Doogal really insults moviegoers' intelligence. Sitting through the film is like watching one of those Barney or Teletubbies episodes in which you can just see how it ever so slowly lowers childrens' IQs. There’s a good reason why Doogal wasn’t pre-screened for the press: Bad word of mouth should kill this.