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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Sir Mick Jagger's supermodel daughter Georgia May Jagger has cancelled an appearance at a fashion show and rushed to her father's side following the death of the rocker's longtime girlfriend. The Rolling Stones star's partner of more than a decade, fashion designer L'Wren Scott, was found dead at her New York City apartment on Monday (17Mar14) and the veteran rocker has cancelled his band's show in Perth, Australia in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Jagger is believed to be flying back to the Big Apple from Australia, and his model daughter Georgia is set to be by his side after calling off her own work commitments. The blonde beauty, who was also in Australia when news of Scott's death broke, has pulled out of a runway show for fashion house Camilla in Melbourne this week (beg17Mar14).
A statement from the brand reads, "In light of the recent sad news, Georgia May Jagger will not be participating in Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival for the Camilla Grand Showcase. We ask that you respect Ms Jagger and her family's privacy at this very difficult time. We offer our sincere condolences to Ms Jagger and her family."
Jersey Shore Star Gets A Life: Jenni "JWoww" Farley just landed a recurring role on the long-running soap One Life To Live, which is re-launching on April 29th on Hulu, Hulu Plus and iTunes thanks to The Online Network. She will play Nikki, a bartender hired at the trendy nightclub Shelter, and can mix an Alabama Slammer as well as she can flirt with customers. As Shelter’s newest barmaid, club owner Blair Cramer (Kassie DePaiva) knows that it’s best to keep an eye on Nikki so things don’t get out of control. [Via Press Release]
Scorsese Heads to TV: Miramax and Martin Scorsese have teamed to develop a television series based on Scorsese’s 2002 movie Gangs Of New York (which was released by Miramax). The series will focus on organized gangs at the turn of the century and shortly thereafter in America, not only in New York but in other cities such as Chicago and New Orleans and the birth of organized crime in America. "This time and era of America’s history and heritage is rich with characters and stories that we could not fully explore in a two-hour film," Scorsese says. "A television series allows us the time and creative freedom to bring this colorful world, and all the implications it had and still does on our society, to life." [Deadline]
Grey's Anatomy Hires One Tree Hill Alum: A new doctor is coming to work in Seattle. One Tree Hill alum Hilarie Burton has signed on for a recurring guest role on Grey's Anatomy as a craniofacial specialist who visits Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital to work on a case. She'll make her debut in early May. [E!]
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Once Upon a Time Spinoff Castings: Sophie Lowe and Michael Socha has just been cast as one of the three leads in ABC‘s possible Once Upon A Time spinoff presentation, Once: Wonderland. OUAT creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz focused the presentation in pre-curse Wonderland and the story is told through the point of view of Alice (Lowe), who is surrounded by two major characters, The Knave of Hearts (Socha), a sardonic adventurer, a man of action, a loner and a heart-breaker; and Amahl, described as exotic, soulful and optimistic. Additionally, Peter Gadiot has been cast as Alice's mysterious love interest, Cyrus. Production is slated to begin April 7 in Vancouver, immediately following the season wrap of OUAT. [Deadline, THR]
Dads Casts New Wife: Vanessa Lachey has just joined Fox’s six-episode multi-camera comedy series Dads. She is now a regular after a recent recasting. From the creators of Ted, Dads centers on two successful guys in their 30s, Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (Tommy Dewey), who have their lives turned upside down when their nightmare dads (Peter Riegert, Martin Mull) unexpectedly move in with them. Lachey will play Camilla, Warner’s (Dewey) wife and, the mother of their two children (replacing Erin Pineda in the role). [Deadline]
From a Partner to a Friend: David Krumholtz (Partners) has joined NBC’s Brenda Forever pilot. He will play a close friend of Ellie Kemper's Brenda, a 31-year-old who does her own thing. He’ll appear as a guest star in the pilot, but if the project goes to series, there’s a good chance he’ll be back. The potential series would consist of stories from Brenda Miller’s past and present, creating a unique portrait of how a chubby, awkward but incredibly confident 13-year-old grew up to be the woman she is today. [TVLine]
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Actress SERENA SCOTT THOMAS has signed on to play KATE MIDDLETON's mother Carol in a new TV movie about the royal courtship. Nico Evers-Swindell will play Prince William and Camilla Luddington will portray the bride-to-be.
The Godfather star has been making movies since 1969 and will spend 2010 shooting his latest film project, Mary Mother of Christ, alongside Camilla Belle and Peter O'Toole in Morocco.
To celebrate Pacino's landmark birthday, WENN has collected 10 fascinating facts about the man who brought Michael Corleone to life.
- His full name is Alfredo James Pacino.
- Pacino's maternal grandparents hailed from Corleone, Sicily - mirroring his character's last name in The Godfather trilogy.
- He has received eight Academy Award nominations over the years, and won one - he was named Best Actor for his role 1992's Scent of a Woman. The win came 21 years after his first nomination for The Godfather.
- Pacino turned down the role of Han Solo in 1977 sci-fi epic Star Wars - the role gave Harrison Ford his big break.
- He once worked as an usher at New York's Carnegie Hall.
- During his early years as an actor, Pacino considered changing his name to Sonny Scott - derived from his childhood nickname.
- The nickname comes from the song Sonny Boy by Al Jolson, which Pacino loved to sing as a youngster.
- Pacino is one of only three screen stars to receive Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in the same year - the others are Jamie Foxx and Barry Fitzgerald.
- He has never married.
- An Oscar nomination for 1972's The Godfather marked a run of four consecutive nominations for Pacino, a feat only managed by four other stars - Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Jennifer Jones and Thelma Ritter.
Towne’s film is a noble but ultimately flawed attempt to adapt author John Fante’s highly regarded 1930s novel (the screenwriter discovered it and befriended the author while researching Chinatown and spent over three decades trying to bring it to the screen). It tells the tale of wannabe writer and second generation Italian American Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) who comes to the sunny Sodom-by-the-Sea to seek fame and fortune by penning the Great American Novel and collides with a headstrong sharp-tongued Mexican waitress Camilla (Salma Hayek)--a far cry from the beautiful blonde of his romantic fantasies. But she too isn’t looking for an Italian--she longs to marry a WASP and shed her Latin identity. The two tangle--and become entangled--with each other as they try to make their dreams come true in the misnamed City of Angels. It’s a potent premise--a racially charged romance set against a vivid Day of the Locust-style backdrop--that gets off to a stylish start but quickly gets bogged down in a morass of too-familiar oh-so-soap opera sentiment. Looking perfectly fit for a fedora Colin Farrell attacks his role with an abundance of passion wit and verve and the strength of his performance carries the film through many of its rockier trails. As well Salma Hayek practically radiates sensuality AND a keen intelligence in one of most fully realized performances to date. The two strike some very palpable sparks--fireworks even--during both their amusing verbal sparring matches and their highly charged sex scenes (yes both her caliente curves and his bad boy beefcake are on full--and full frontal--display to strong effect). Both performers lift the film to heights it might otherwise not have achieved but are let down by the film’s lugubrious pacing and pat uninvolving third act. Idina Menzel (of Rent fame) pockets nearly every scene she’s in as an eccentric woman obsessed with Farrell’s character delivering a performance that deftly spins its initial quirky comic appeal on a dime into a more moving note of tragedy and sympathy. Towne’s abilities behind the camera--in films such as Tequila Sunrise and Without Limits--have often taken a back seat to his stellar reputation as one of Hollywood’s finest living screenwriters. Still his directorial gifts are considerable as he proves again in Ask the Dust. He adroitly visualizes the Bunker Hill district of Los Angeles circa 1939 with the aid of a masterful set built in the unlikely locale of South Africa and his lengthy rehearsal process and trust of actors helped concoct great chemistry between Hayek and Farrell. Where he really trips up is in the editing: the film plays like a screenwriter’s full version if his own final draft. The lack of nips and tucks in the cutting room slows the pace and progression to a fault resulting in scenes that play too long and turgidly. After the too-slow march to the inevitable end you’ll feel like you’re the one who should be brushing the dust off as you leave the theater.