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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While ABC is building Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. out of the Marvel film franchise and the CW is expanding their DC superhero universe to include The Flash, NBC is delving into the world of classic movie monsters. The network’s adaptation of Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the infamous vampire, will be joined by a new take on the werewolf.
Deadline reports that NBC is developing a TV series based on the 2010 film, The Wolfman, that starred Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. Daniel Knauf & Scott Stuber are creating the new paranormal series despite the fact that no one remembers that movie: it was a box office and critical flop.
Although Dracula has continuously declined in the ratings since its premiere Oct. 25, NBC’s other supernatural series Grimm is going strong in its third season. Maybe NBC has clued in to the fact that vampires are so over. Werewolves have been working for True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and of course Teen Wolf, so maybe NBC can salvage the movie monster trend with a wolfman. (However, basing a TV show on a movie flop doesn’t sound very promising.)
But were not sure about this trend, NBC. If Marvel, DC , and The CW’s Arrow have taught us anything over the past few years, it’s that superheroes are hard to beat. Besides in a fight between Iron Man and the Wolfman, we’d put money on Iron Man.
Wonder what Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) was like as a boy? Well even as a youngster he had a keen interest in (eating) human anatomy but as we see in Hannibal Rising he wasn’t born a cannibal. It all started in World War II Lithuania where a young Hannibal is left an orphan after he watches his whole family die at the hands of war criminals. In the eight years that pass only the hope of revenge has kept him afloat. After escaping the orphanage at which he was bullied Hannibal finds his uncle’s Japenese widow Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) who lives in a similarly lonesome state. They strike up a very close bond in which she helps him tap into the memory of his family’s death--most importantly and painfully his young sister’s--while he more or less let’s her live. Not the case for those who wronged him but hot on Hannibal’s murderous trail is a French inspector (Dominic West) who both sympathizes with and greatly fears the madman-child Lecter. And given that Anthony Hopkins has thrice played a grown-up Hannibal and Brian Cox once everyone should know how this prequel ends. With Anthony Hopkins having lent his unmistakable visage to his now iconic Lecter no actor would be given a fair chance to do the same for a young Hannibal. Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement) often tries his darndest to contort his makeup-scarred face so that it alone will frighten viewers but an actor either looks like a psychopath or doesn’t; Hopkins with the utmost respect looks like a straightjacket escapee whereas Ulliel looks like an over-exerting actor. Forced scowl aside he’s creepy as a near mute in the movie but it’s almost impossible to believe that this is the young man who would go on to become Hopkins’ Lecter. Li (Miami Vice) looks incredible and easily 20 years younger than her actual age. She does what she can with her mysterious and emotionally stunted Lady Murasaki but it’s an odd character to begin with. In a supporting role Englishman West (HBO’s The Wire) adds a needed subtle performance and fits well alongside the past lawmen in the Hannibal series and Rhys Ifans as a villain continues his trend of unpredictable role choices. Hannibal Rising is astonishingly the fifth installment in a franchise that truly lost its luster after Silence of the Lambs and the neglected Manhunter. Of course the franchise is only kaput if the latest doesn’t make enough money but this should have been stopped years ago—at least as a movie series. As novels the saga is much more sustainable because author Thomas Harris who makes his Lecter screenplay debut with Rising can get away with murder (no pun intended). But while Rising is far from over the top director Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and Harris can’t make the movie nearly as tense as any of its novel or film predecessors. Webber is an editor-turned-director and it shows: The film is masterfully shot by Ben Davis (Layer Cake) and put together by the director but once Webber gets down to the movie’s blood and guts (pun intended this time) he can’t deliver much excitement at all. Ultimately Webber takes his restraint too far.
Agent Clarice Starling could be back on the case in the big-screen version of "Hannibal." After Jodie Foster dropped out to direct "Flora Plum," the project looked to be filed away -- or at least returned to producer Dino DeLaurentiis.
Now it appears that "Magnolia" star Julianne Moore could be ready for her FBI badge and power suit. Daily Variety reports that the busy actress (she appeared in five movies in 1999) is in strong contention for active duty. Although Universal tells Hollywood.com that the actress hasn't committed yet, the studio may very well put her on the front line.
Variety says the role Moore is looking at is indeed that of Clarice Starling -- and not an all-new FBI agent character, as had been rumored when Foster bailed on the project.
Moore is a wild card in a "Hannibal" derby where Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Gillian Anderson and Ashley Judd have all been touted as plucky replacements for the gun-toting heroine.
The casting of the role is key to the "Hannibal" puzzle, since Hannibal Lecter doesn't appear in Steve Zailian's script until one-quarter of the way into the movie. Whoever gets the call to action is also important in a fiscal sense. Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for his turn as Hannibal the Cannibal, is likely to take a big bite out of the budget, with a deal worth more than $10 million, plus likely gross points.
Gross, not gore, is also the anatomically correct term for the horror drama's behind-the-scenes players. Before production even begins, DeLarurentiis, director Ridley Scott and "Silence of the Lambs" / "Hannibal" writer Thomas Harris have managed to gobble up a very scary 26 percent of the gross, according to reports.
DOUBLE DUTY: "Pretty Woman" Julia Roberts will definitely head south of the border with Brad Pitt in DreamWorks' "The Mexican," today's Hollywood Reporter says.
And for good measure, the actress also has reportedly said okay to a Vegas side trip with George Clooney in Warner Bros.' "Ocean's Eleven" remake.
According to the Reporter, the $20 million-a-pic mega-star won't receive that kind of spectacular payday for either film. Instead, she settled for a small advance against a significant part of the backend. (Translation: Don't worry about her bank account.)
"The Mexican," co-starring James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos"), is an action comedy about a con (Pitt) contending with an ancient gun -- believed to be cursed -- and an impatient girlfriend (Roberts). "Ocean's Eleven" is a new version of the 1960 Rat Pack film about a bunch of guys who rob Las Vegas casinos.
SHE SAYS, HE SAYS . . . NO: Catherine Zeta-Jones had her reasons for dropping out of Oliver Stone's "Beyond Borders." Now Kevin Costner has his excuse. Zeta-Jones is pregnant. Costner can't fit it into his schedule. Daily Variety reports that Stone, ever the optimistic Hollywood mogul, will press on to meet his scheduled May 1 start date with a new cast.
WEIRD 'NATURE': No one will ever accuse Charlie Kaufman of being a regular guy. The screenwriter of the offbeat "Being John Malkovich" keeps things a bit on the oddball side with his latest script, "Human Nature."
Variety reports that the dark comedy starring Patricia Arquette, Paul Giamatti and Miranda Otto begins shooting in May with music video maker Michel Gondry in the director's seat. The premise (believe it or not) is this: A woman (Arquette) suffers a hormonal abnormality that leaves her covered with body hair. Somehow, she becomes connected to a scientist who wants to save the world by teaching table manners to mice. The woman and the scientist, along with an assistant (Otto), have plans for a man (Rhys Ifans) raised in the wild as an ape.
Said Gondry to Variety: "The characters in 'Human Nature' may seem a bit extreme." Really?
STALLONE REVS UP: Sylvester Stallone, missing in action since 1997's "Copland," will try to switch to a higher gear by making a film about Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). According to Variety, Stallone's polishing the script, which will be produced by Franchise Pictures.
Variety also notes that the actor was quoted as saying he was "in total limbo" after being shunned by Hollywood.