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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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
7:50: I'm ready to start this. I've just finished some leftover Chinese food, and now I'm ready to tear some people apart. Good thing I'm not at my own apartment because my old neighbor Madeline would surely stop giving me lemon tarts every week after a full night of screaming for more shots of Christina Hendricks.
7:51: Ah, commercial. Back to Law and Order: SVU to watch Robin Williams reboot his One Hour Photo creep.
7:59: HERE WE GO! BRING ON THE LOSERS!
8:00: OHHHHH snap just show me Tina Fey and I'll play along. Kate Gosselin, not so much.
8:01: NICE. BETTY WHITE AND JON HAMM. I'm liking this more than the cold noodles I just ate. Oh look! Jane Lynch's wax figure.
8:05: I really like this and everything, but if Conan O'Brien isn't there, I almost don't even want to watch anymore.
8:06 It's funny, I know I'm supposed to be looking at Jimmy Fallon, but I just keep going back to the guy from Lost who was in the news recently about something who had to do with Weezer.
8:07: January Jones is sitting next to Jason OMG CONAN IS THERE!
8:09: Ah yes, a montage of a year in comedy. Set to Chris Brown. Too perfect.
8:11: Is this the first category? Betty White looks like some kind of gradient you use in a Microsoft paint application.
8:13: Eric Stonestreet's rockin that "what's in his tux pocket?" look. So is Seacrest, incidentally. Aw, parents.
8:15: Can I just say thank Prosecco that it's not Jon Cryer?
8:18: Sofia Vergara's supposed to run naked if Modern Family wins. If she does, I suspect you'll check out a little bit early from this and I'll get to go do something crazy, like put on my Thundercats t-shirt.
8:21: Modern Family won best writing. Cool. Why did we go from Best Supporting Actor to best writing?
8:23: Every time I update this I just realize how I have 2 more hours to do this. It's like waiting for a plane that keeps getting delayed, and you're not in a cool city like Manhattan, Kansas.
8:25: BADASS, JANE LYNCH! BADASS. Thank your wife, Jane.
8:27: Matthew Perry's coming on? Where has he been? What, they couldn't get the cow that stands outside Stew Leonard's?
8:31: Oh, I see Lauren Graham was available.
8:33: Ryan Murphy for Best Directing, yeah, I see that. I also see that tux.
8:37: Alright bitches, let's slab some lube on Steve Carell and give him something new to play with.
8:38: WELL SHIT! JIM PARSONS FOR BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY. I don't get this one. Is he even strong enough to be wearing that tie?
8:40: Do I have any designated pee breaks while I'm doing this? I forgot to ask my boss. Maybe this commercial for "You Again" is the best one I'll get.
8:44: I feel like Jimmy isn't even in this. Where's the tweeting? AAAAND Neil Patrick Harris brings the first funny joke of the night.
8:45: Nice! Edie Falco just schooled Tina Fey and Lea Michele. That's her fourth Emmy! She's tied with Tina now, I think! What's the point of Jimmy Fallon's guitar? Is there a theme? Was I drinking when they tried to make it obvious?
8:49: Ah yes, Top Chef for best reality program. I can really say I've never watched this show because nobody ever breaks up with anybody. Padma looks like she just had Angelina Jolie/Billy Bob Thorton limo sex with the baby-daddy we know but kind of don't -- the one who invented Dell or something.
8:52: Lots of commercials for Oprah's last season. I feel like this award show is already so bipolar the Oprah stuff is overkill.
8:59: I will be VERY SURPRISED if Connie Britton and/or Kyle Chandler win. But this cliché montage music...WAIT. THE END OF LOST IS A MASS SUICIDE?! That dog must've been pretty pissed if he'd been there since the plane crashed.
9:04: NICE. Aaron Paul for Breaking Bad. This guy looks so ADD, but cool.
9:05: Did he even thank his mother? I know he told her to stop crying, but that just shows you how ADD he really is.
9:10: Wow, I have nothing to contribute about Archie Panjabi's win for The Good Wife. So instead, here's some video of a shih tzu puppy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpjyCE-R4Y4 My boyfriend doesn't have Firefox, so I can't actually put the link in this post. But I promise you, it's worth the trouble of copying and then pasting into a new window. TRUST.
9:13: AWESOME. Bryan Cranston won his third Emmy. I seriously just started watching Breaking Bad yesterday, and to Michael C. Hall, whom I love: you deserve recognition too. Maybe go have a kid?
9:22: If Dexter only gets an award for Best Director, I will never watch another Emmys again.
9:23: If Jimmy Fallon's going to do this, he might as well go back to SNL. Seriously. JIMMY! HAVE YOU HIDDEN YOUR BALLS IN SOME STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE? Oh, I take it back. Boys II Men. Very nice.
9:27: AVON AVON AVON.
9:30: AVON AND WHISKIES.
9:31: These Twitter updates Jimmy Fallon keeps giving almost make me want to quit Twitter. Wow, Kyra Sedgwick for The Closer! Nobody saw that coming. Not even Paul the Octopus! WAIT SHE JUST PASSED HER EMMY OFF TO TINA FEY! Kyra, you got some bitch in you!
9:34: Do you think she's going to make Kevin Bacon do the Footloose dance tonight in celebration? It's such a waste if she doesn't. He even pimped it out for an episode of Will and Grace!
9:35: VARIETY! CONAN'S CATEGORY! WHAT SHALL I DO IF HE WINS? OH GOD, PLEASE LET HIM WIN. I WILL SIT DOWN IN SOMEONE'S BEDBUG-RIDDEN APARTMENT IF HE WINS.
9:37: Oh, nevermind. Writing for a variety special. Go back to watching some shih tzu puppies.
9:40: Did this asshole just thank Jay Leno?
9:43: How do you guys think Conan is passing the time while he's there? Do you think he's playing Tetris or something? He hasn't been tweeting.
9:46: Ricky Gervais should just do a vampire show already. Now that he's so skinny, your eyes immediately go to his Edward teeth.
9:47: Ah yes, Ricky Gervais does a Mel Gibson joke. "Not worse than the Jews!" he says! Stellar. Not even worse than when you walk into Pets on Lex because you're hungry and you find every puppy that's there in a dead puppy sleep.
9:51 OH SNAP IT'S HERE. I HOPE COCO SAVED HIS TETRIS GAME. THAT SHIT'S A BITCH TO START OVER.
9:53: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO'WEFHIAOWR723057208YFJNASDMVNMCXZV.NASDKLJF;EW857429---DWRU I;FDSHAF;ASHG;AGY8EWAOPTY9WPQT5729357Q2PIUE'WJFEIJIAKOFJLAKS;HFLAHREOIWRYOIWEYRDKVNSKLNVLFASKHFOAIWEYRO3YO3ITHASHGDSAKLFNLKSDFOIHOWA;IEHR;WOIH;OAEIHTO;AHW;OIASHGO;ADYG
9:53: JON STEWART. AND HE'S NOT EVEN THERE TO ACCEPT IT. I CAN'T BELIEVE I HAVE AN HOUR LEFT OF THIS.
9:57: I can't even enjoy a commercial for Nate Berkus' new show now.
10:00: And now I have to watch George Clooney accept something he'll probably lose on a plane when he's going to stay at his villa in Italy? Please.
10:01: Betty White even stood up to honor George. It just got like a vomitorium all up in here.
10:04: Does anybody watch these "mini-series" or "movies" things?
10:10: That commercial for Jimmy Smits playing a lawyer for Outlaw did less for me than Kim Kardashian's Twitter background.
10:17: GAMECHANGER! JEWEL! PLEASE TELL ME SHE'S GOING TO MISUSE THE WORD 'CASUALTY' AGAIN!
10:26: I think it just hit me that John Slattery didn't win for Mad Men.
10:30: Claire Danes for the win for Temple Grandin. She didn't thank her husband. Downgrade. Now I'm going to go back to googling whether or not Roy Disney was an anti semite.
10:35: Alexander Skaarsgard is officially Jack Skellington. If you don't know who that is, you don't get me and you never will.
10:38: Very nice, Al Pacino for You Don't Know Jack.
10:45: Laurence Fishburne! How's it going brother?! No Montana tonight? That's okay, she's probably studying algorithms.
10:51: Mad Men's third Emmy! I'd like to make a joke about how Fred Armisen deserves and Emmy for having been married to Scientologist Elisabeth Moss for 10 months, but I already took a crack at Jewel and I've gotten lazy after doing this for 2 hours and 53 minutes.
10:57: Who's this goat (thanks EB) and what did he do with Ted Danson! AAAND UPSET! MODERN FAMILY FOR BEST COMEDY SERIES!
10:59: AAAAAAAAAND I'm spent. Remember to tip your lobotomist and visit Hollywood.com for the latest and greatest on awards you'll never win.
E-mails call for Rather's resignation
Station managers at several CBS affiliates told The Associated Press Thursday there is a national e-mail campaign building to oust Dan Rather as anchor of the CBS Evening News over his nebulous report on President Bush's military record on 60 Minutes. Bob Lee, president and general manager of WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va., and head of the CBS affiliate board, said many e-mailers offer the same message: I will not watch CBS News again until Rather is gone. "To be honest, I'm most concerned when the e-mail is coming from a local viewer," said Gary Gardner, vice president and general manager of WINK-TV in Fort Myers, Fla. Rather and CBS News have apologized for reporting on documents critical of Bush's service, now widely assumed as fakes, and appointed a panel to investigate what went wrong in the report.
O'Connor wants her privacy
Singer Sinead O'Connor took out a full-page ad in the Irish Examiner newspaper asking the media to leave her alone, Reuters reports. The singer, best known for her hit song "Nothing Compares to U," was responding to an article written earlier this week about her "latest wacky" campaign to rid the country of head lice. "I have been the whipping post of Ireland's media for 20 years," wrote O'Connor, who stirred controversy by ripping up a photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live in 1990. "Please, I just want to be a little old lady now, and not be all controversial and not be bashed and called crazy and laughed at when I open my mouth to sing or speak."
Creditors after part of Brando's estate
Would-be creditors are lining up to make claims on the late Marlon Brando's estate, Reuters reports. Brando's estate attorney David Seeley said at least five or six potential creditors intend to file claims on the estate, equaling about $21.6 million worth of assets, including Tahitian-based Air Moorea, who flew guests to his private Tahitian island and Joan "Toni" Petrone, a longtime friend and personal assistant who lost a diamond ring down the actor's drain. Brando's will lists 10 surviving children, ages 46 to 10, and names all as beneficiaries except for his adopted daughter Petra Brando-Corval. It also provides monthly payments for two friends of Brando's, Reuters reports.
John stands by his comments to Taiwanese media
Elton John ended his whirlwind tour of Taiwan unapologetic about calling the local media "rude, vile pigs," Reuters reports. John targeted his ire at the reporters after they caught him unprepared at Taipei airport Thursday when he emerged from an elevator before passing immigration. Many countries do not allow media into restricted areas, but Taiwan reporters, notorious for aggressively chasing celebrities, can obtain special passes for the Taipei airport, Reuters reports. "The television and photographers at the airport were the rudest people that I've ever met and I've been to 60 countries," John, 57, told fans at a concert on Thursday. "They are a disgrace to your country. They shouldn't be allowed access to people just getting off planes like that."
The View's Hasselbeck pregnant
The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck is expecting her first child with her husband, Washington Redskins quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, AP reports. The former Survivor: The Australian Outback contestant revealed the news Thursday during the ABC daytime chat segment "Hot Topics." "I'm nauseous," Hasselbeck said, "but I'm fine with that because it's all for a good cause." Hasselbeck said she is due sometime in March.
NBC gears up for Seinfeld special
They're baaaaak! Jerry Seinfeld is returning to NBC, along with TV pals Elaine, George and Kramer, for a special Thanksgiving Day retrospective on the smash hit "show about nothing," the network told Reuters Thursday. The planned Nov. 25 broadcast, highlighting the origins of Seinfeld and the early years of the mega-hit comedy, is timed for two days after the DVD release of the series.
Gates named the richest man in America
Big surprise. For the 11th consecutive year, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates took first place on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the United States. Others on the list include Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder; Michael Dell, founder and chairman of Dell Inc and Larry Ellison, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle Corp. Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner dropped off the list this year. Forbes magazine will publish its annual list in its Oct. 11 issue.