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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This week’s edition of Leanne’s Spoiler List features five fabulous shows that will make you giggle with excitement and gasp from all the amazing moments that will soon flood your TV screens. Are you ready to return to Westeros?! The stars of Game of Thrones revealed why the ladies are kicking ass and taking control in Season 3, while Revolution's Tracy Spiridakos shed light on all the upcoming darkness and drama in her quest for revenge.
The Middle’s starlet Eden Sher revealed details on tonight’s episode and her elaborate thoughts on a classic SNL character, while Stefania Owen teased that love is in the air on The Carrie Diaries. Plus, I’ve snagged details on tonight’s one-of-a-kind and twitter-friendly event to honor Pysch’s 100th episode. This week’s list is packed to the brim with spoilers so grab a spoon and dig in to the deliciousness!
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1. Game of Thrones: Ladies Night Is in Westeros!
Though many of you reading this may swoon over the lads of Game of Thrones (Robb Stark, Jaime Lannister, sexy bastard Jon Snow, other sexy bastard Gendry, Theon Greyjoy...), the boys aren't part of the only game in this realm — old gods and the new be damned!
We've seen the first four episodes of Season 3, (subtle brag intended) and we think you'll be cheering for the ladies in no time. Newest apple of Joffrey's eye, Margaery Tyrell (former queen-to-be of Renly before he was killed off by a creepy vagina-cloud-monster), has taken quite well to life in King's Landing, and will definitely be a dynamic force to be reckoned with this season.
But it turns out that even an evil Queen Regent who effed her brother to create you can play the jealous mom card. Apparently Cersei, mother to the intolerable boy king, is none too happy with Joffrey's newest romantic development. Especially since — now, take a seat — Joffrey actually LIKES Margaery! (Wait a second, he likes anyone? Ever? Nope!). Cersei's newest distraction is actually a nice break (at least for now) for everyone's favorite ginger-potential-princess-turned-terrified-noble-prisoner.
Sansa isn't a girl anymore (and not yet a woman…), so she's learning a thing or two about the politics of noble relations under Margaery's tutelage. "Margaery and Sansa have a relationship which I think is very much a forced friendship," Sophie Turner, who plays the lovely Sansa, tells Hollywood.com.
"But a true friendship that is very sincere. It’s done for political reasons... for a good end result for the Tyrells and also Sansa. Margaery treats Sansa like a little sister and she educates her, and it’s lovely. It’s a really nice relationship.” But what will she teach her, you ask? "It’s nice to see her going from a chess piece to a player," Turner teased. Yikes! Watch out, Joffrey!
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2.The Carrie Diaries: Hamsters and Hotties
You all already know how much I adore this show, so I’ll keep my gushing to a minimum this week. Carrie is the perfect pre-Sex and The City teen and Sebastian is so hot it almost hurts my eyes, but without a doubt my favorite ‘80s lady is definitely the fiercly independent little sister with a big attitude, Dorrit. So you can imagine my delight when I got the chance to talk with the lovely Stefania Owen last week about Dorrit’s budding love life.
We saw a few weeks ago that Dorrit — in her quest to find Carrie the perfect birthday present — also found a little something for herself: A dark-haired jean jacket-wearing, music store-working hunk named Miller. Although we haven’t seen much from him since, in next week’s episode “A First Time For Everything” Dorrit will turn to an unexpected character for relationship advice: Donna LaDonna! That’s right, while Carrie is out contemplating on going all the way with Sebastian, Dorrit is looking to Connecticut’s biggest skank with a heart of gold for advice on how to handle her first serious relationship with Miller.
“He is the opposite of Sebastian,” Owen explains. “And I think that’s what the writers wanted to have so that you have that contrast.” The 15-year-old actress says that she was eager to watch Dorrit mature through a relationship. “I had a feeling it was coming, but I was surprised and excited — I’m also excited to see how it turns out,” she said.
Dorrit’s relationship status (figuratively speaking of course) is not the only thing that’s going to change for the young Bradshaw — her dark wardrobe will also start to warm up! “The look does change as the episodes go on, and it’s for certain reasons," Owen teases. “Dorrit always changes — one minute she’s the worst child you could ever dream of, but in other moments she’s almost the more responsible child.”
And speaking of changes, here’s the type of question that keeps me up at night: Where the heck did Morrissey the hamster go?! "That’s what I asked!” she says. “I’m really sad because the hamster disappeared and never came back. I thought there would be so many great little scenes between Dorrit and the hamster, but I guess the hamster disappeared. Dorrit wasn’t the best owner I guess.” You’ll always have a special place in our hearts Morrissey!
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3. Revolution: RIP And Revenge
Sorry if there are any typos in this blurb, (yes, that’s the super fancy name I call these things) but you have to bear with me here: I can't seem to see my computer screen clearly through my tears. How heartbreaking was that death on Monday's Revolution? After spending the first half of the season trekking across America to save her brother, Charlie and the rest of the Matheson group of good guys watched in horror as Danny saved the day by blowing up Monroe's locket of power only to get shot and killed himself. RIP, Danny, I'll miss your bright blue eyes and shiny blonde hair!
Renewed with purpose, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) now blames Monroe for her brother's death and will do anything to make him pay... even if that means killing him herself. "She is driven to make things right, but she doesn't want to lose her humanity in light of all the things that have happened — that's her inner struggle," Spiridakos tells Hollywood.com. "She definitely continues to be even more badass than before, but will she continue to keep that heart that she's always had. That's her journey."
And Charlie won't be alone in her quest. Exec producer Eric Kripke revealed that taking down Monroe is now the focus of the second half of the season. "It’s really about facing down General Monroe," Kripke tells Hollywood.com. "If the first half of the season was just, 'Find the brother!', that was just the prologue to a much larger story, which is 'Take down the adversary!' The big bad of the season is General Monroe."
The rest of the season is going to be one big fast-paced war movie, according to Kripke. "We’re really able to get into that story now, where it’s these rebels who want to bring back the United States up against the evil empire which is the Monroe Republic," Kripke says. "But how do they do it in a way that lets them stick together as a family? Because, it’s a family show. It’s really about how the bonds of family and love and loyalty can overcome any obstacle, and can they stick together in the midst of this overwhelming and frought situation." They're already down two Matheson family members, let's hope they come out of this war with no more casualties!
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4. The Middle: Sue vs. Superstar!
If your middle name was the exact same as your first name, would you want it to be permanently displayed on your drivers license as a forever reminder of déjà vu? Yeah, me neither! So that’s exactly what Sue Sue Heck is hoping to change in tonight’s all-new episode of The Middle. Eden Sher — the fabulous 21-year-old who brings Sue Heck’s overly enthusiastic personality to life — told me that she has a lot of hilarious moments in tonight’s episode, “The Name.”
“It’s a lot of me popping in and out of scenes, suggesting names, and asking if those names are good, so I got to be a fun punch line,” Sher explains. “A lot of the names that — of course — Sue spoke in seriousness were hilarious, and that was really fun.” When I asked her to reveal some of these giggle-worthy names Sher was coy, saying, “I will say that when she gets fed up and she can’t decide she just picks a name at random in this baby book, one of them is Sue — she lands on Sue.”
While Sue is busy trying to find the perfect middle name, fans can get excited to see one of the world’s most perfect actresses grace their TV screens. That’s right, the legendary SNL vet Molly Shannon, is back in the Heck household to reprise her role of neat-freak Janet. While Shannon has perfected countless of characters over the years, my ultimate favorite has and always will be Miss Mary Katherine Gallagher.
Of course I had to ask the hard-hitting journalistic question: “What do you think would happen if Sue and Mary Katherine ever met?” And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is something that has crossed Sher’s mind countless times! “Don’t worry I’ve thought about this!” Sher boasted. “I feel like at first they would be like great friends and they would get a long and be very silly, but I actually think that Sue would eventually be so annoyed with Mary Katherine Gallagher,” she said. “I think they might be a little bit too similar and they don’t see the little things about themselves — like the overly enthusiastic things — that nobody else cares about. I think they might get a little peeved with each other.”
There you have it TV lovers! If Sue Heck and Mary Katherine Gallagher ever ended up in the same room together, their combined enthusiasm would be too much for the two superstars to handle. Now we can all feel like we’ve learned something today!
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5. Psych: The 100th Episode!
Oh hey all you little Psych-o’s out there! Guess what? Tonight is Pysch’s 100th episode and the powers that be at USA Network are shaking things up for Gus and Shawn’s exciting milestone. For the first time ever you — yes even you with that cute shirt on! — have the power to determine the ending to tonight’s epically awesome episode, “100 Clues.”
I’ve already seen the episode and here’s what you need to know: The one-hour special was definitely inspired by the classic 1985 film (and now board game) Clue, because Sean and Gus are invited to a mysterious party in a historic mansion. The party is thrown by Billy Lips, a rock icon who Shawn send to prison five year ago for murder. Yikes!
When a deadly crime is committed five potential and very eccentric suspects emerge: The butler, the Groupie, the Manager, the Author, and the Host. (Unfortunately Mrs. Peacock was MIA from this episode — she was always my favorite character to play!) But who did it? That’s up to you!
Fans on both coasts will have to work together to help Shawn and Gus determine who’s to blame for the night’s events. You can cast your votes for one of the five suspects on psych.usanetwork.com or Tweet your choices using a custom hashtag for each possible culprit (#PsychButlerDDit, #PsychGroupieDDit, #PsychManagerDDit, #PsychAuthorDDit and #PsychHostDDit) Sounds like a lot of freakin fun to me! Who do you think will commit tonight’s crime? Shout out your speculations in the comments below!
How excited are you for Game of Thrones to premiere on Sunday? Who would you rather be friends with: Mary Kathering Gallagher or Sue Heck? Were you sobbing after Monday night’s episode of Revolution? Tell me everything in the comments below!
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—Additional reporting by Alicia Lutes, Sydney Bucksbaum and Shaunna Murphy
[Photo Credit: Keith Bernstein/HBO; Brownie Harris/NBC; Alan Zenuk/USA; Michael Asnell/ABC; Patrick Harbron/The CW]
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie