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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Happy Birthday, Mr. Dictator. On Saturday night, Jennifer Lopez stirred up controversy by performing at an event in Turkmenistan where she sang "Happy Birthday" to authoritarian leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. According to Human Rights Watch, the former Soviet Republic's government is "among the most repressive in the world," with President Berdymukhammedov imprisoning and torturing citizens who have criticized his regime.
During the event hosted by the China National Petroleum Corporation, J.Lo performed her hit songs and shimmied away onstage at a lavish $2-billion resort on the Caspian Sea. According to the New York Times, she "graciously obliged" to sing to the country's dictator to celebrate his 56th birthday. The singer was reportedly paid $1.4 million for her performance — guess it's not true that "Love Don't Cost a Thing."
J.Lo is by no means the first celebrity to have performed in countries or for leaders with human rights violations. Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Usher, and 50 Cent have all performed at parties for family members of the oppressive Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Hilary Swank attended a birthday party for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been "linked to a litany of horrific human rights abuses." For the most part, these celebrities apologized profusely when they learned that these leaders were connected to serious human rights violations, from brutal torture to acts of terrorism. They also donated their performance earnings to charity.
But some celebrities have shown no qualms about their associations with suspect political figures. Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Danny Glover, and Kevin Spacey were never shy about their friendships with controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Michael Jackson was close with and accepted money from Prince Abdullah al-Khalifa of Bahrain, whose family has quite a track record of human rights violations. Steven Seagal is a pal and supporter of Vladimir Putin, and he has allegedly signed on to be the face of Russian weaponry abroad. Seagal has also been known to defend Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov — yep, the same guy whose party Hilary Swank "deeply regrets" having attended.
Hey celebs, do the world a favor and make sure you've done some research before you legitimize brutal leaders who violate human rights. Thanks.
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Thought the raging house party-turned-teenage-riot in Project X was out of control? Wait until you near the pitch for the next big party movie — it's whole new level of debauchery.
The as-yet-untitled movie pitch 20th Century Fox just acquired focuses on the electronic dance music (EDM) scene and will involve one of EDM’s biggest artists, Diplo, Deadline reports. Diplo is an American DJ and music producer and has worked with M.I.A., Beyonce, No Doubt, and Usher, and comprises half of the Major Lazer duo.
Diplo and his business partner Kevin Kusatsu are teaming up with Underground to executive produce the movie that's being described as "8 Mile meets Project X in tone." It will follow three teenagers as they attempt to get into Diplo's electronic music festival.
So basically a grittier, louder, bigger party, with more naked women, drugs, and alcohol, higher stakes, and better music? Bring it on. We just hope entire city blocks don't get destroyed in this movie.
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Get ready for some glitter.
Ke$ha, along with Usher, No Doubt, and Justin Bieber, will perform at the 40th annual American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 18. They will take the stage with previously announced acts Pink, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Christina Aguilera, Carrie Underwood, Pitbull and Linkin Park. More artists will be announced in the upcoming weeks.
This year's fan-voted event will make history with the introduction of the new category for Electronic Dance Music (popularly referred to as EDM). Nominees include DJ's/producers such as grammy-winning Skrillex, David Guetta, and Calvin Harris.
The AMA's will air live on ABC from L.A.’s Nokia Theatre at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Nov. 18. If you want to see the star-studded event in person, you can still buy tickets via Ticketmaster.
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