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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Movie star Danny Glover turned funeral officiant on Saturday (18Jan14) as he led the tributes to late poet and playwright Amiri Baraka at a memorial service in New Jersey. The 79 year old passed away on 9 January (14), and friends, family and fans gathered at Newark Symphony Hall over the weekend to bid farewell to the writer, who served as New Jersey's Poet Laureate in 2002.
Glover, who officiated the ceremony with producer/director Woodie King, Jr., recalled meeting Baraka for the first time in 1967 during a visit to San Francisco State University in California, where the Lethal Weapon star was a student.
He credited the author with encouraging him to pursue his passion for acting, and said of Baraka's influence: "It formed the framework of how I've tried to approach the idea of my work as a citizen artist."
Baraka, who was born Everett LeRoi Jones, was best known for his book Blues People: Negro Music in White America, which was published in 1963.
He also wrote a number of notable plays, including The Black Mass and The Toilet and Dutchman, which won an Obie Award for Best American Play in 1964.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Jared Leto attacked Elijah Wood at an awards show last year, because the Lord of the Rings star had told friends he didn't like Leto's band.
The 26-year-old star was attending the MTVU Woodie Awards in November when Leto, who is the lead singer of cult act 30 Seconds to Mars, approached his table.
Leto came over, whispered in Wood's ear and walked away, but then turned around, grabbed him by the throat and called him a "f**king a**hole."
Wood tells Jane magazine, "He was basically upset at the fact that I said I didn't like his band. He said that initially and walked away.
"I guess he thought I was laughing at him, but I was more shell-shocked and telling people around me, 'Whoa, I just got told off by Jared Leto for not liking his band.' And that's when he came back and grabbed me."
He adds, "I told Jared it wasn't personal. He acted like I'd been disrespecting him or speaking about his family.
"Things like that don't usually happen to me. I'm very non-confrontational. The whole thing was kind of ridiculous."
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Jackson will hold a star-studded concert tonight at Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 30th anniversary as a solo artist. Scheduled to join him on stage in either appearances or performances are 'NSync, Gladys Knight, Eminem, Destiny's Child, Yoko Ono, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Tucker, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and many more. Jackson is promoting his upcoming album Invincible and is trying to reclaim his "King of Pop" title after a six-year absence from the music world.
The concert also marked the reunion of the Jackson 5, with brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Michael and Marlon making an appearance. Ticket prices for the sold out first night ranged from $45 to $2,500. There will be a second concert on Monday, and the show will also air on CBS at a later date.
Alternative band Limp Bizkit's frontman Fred Durst is now the father of his second child. A 7-pound, 3-ounce son, Dallas, was born last week. The mother has not been identified.
French "New Wave" director Eric Rohmer was honored for his lifetime achievements at the Venice Film Festival Friday. The 81-year-old Rohmer had directed such French classics as Ma Nuit Chez Maud (My Night at Maud's), which won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1969, and L'Amour l'Apres-midi (Love in the Afternoon).
Television commentator and sports correspondent Heywood Hale "Woodie" Broun died Wednesday at Kingston Hospital in New York. He was 83. Broun worked for 19 years as a CBS sports correspondent and wrote three books. The cause of death has not been released.
A federal judge rejected a temporary restraining order filed by a Little League Baseball coach to block next week's opening of the movie Hardball, a movie about Little League Baseball starring Keanu Reeves. The coach, Bob Muzikowski, brought a defamation suit against Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures over the film because it depicts Reeves' character, who is based on Muzikowski real-life role, as a gambling and alcoholic coach who bullies the players and shows the 9- to -12-year-old players cursing.
Fox News filed suit Thursday against newly hired CNN anchorwoman Paula Zahn's agent N.S. Bienstock. Fox is accusing the agency of breaching Zahn's contract with Fox in order to broker the deal with CNN.
The premiere of the highly anticipated film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has been set for Nov. 4 in London. The screening at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square is expected to attract a host of celebrities and will be followed by a glittering party.
Anne Heche's mother and sister have come forth to express outrage at Heche's claims of sexual abuse at the hands of her father in her new memoirs Call Me Crazy. Anne's mother, Nancy Heche, told PreviewPort.com, "I am trying to find a place for myself in this writing, a place where I as Anne's mother do not feel violated or scandalized. I find no places among the lies and blasphemies in the pages of this book." Anne's sister, Abigail Heche, believes her sister remembers the events of her childhood sporadically and doesn't feel Anne's claims are true, especially on the fact that their mother knew of the sexual abuse.
Garry Trudeau, creator of the popular satirical comic strip Doonesbury, made a half-hearted apology to President George W. Bush for his Sunday comic, which cited an Internet hoax saying Bush had the lowest IQ of any president in the past 50 years, according to what has now been determined as a study from a fictional institute. The Doonesbury site acknowledges the error, stating "Trudeau takes full responsibility, acknowledging the use of fictional material from an outside source instead of simply making it up as he usually does..The creator deeply apologizes for unsettling anyone who was under the impression that the president is, in fact, quite intelligent."