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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If you were a young mutant who watched your father get murdered, and then had to deal with animalistic compulsions and claws sprouting from every which crevice of your admittedly well-manufactured physique, you'd probably be a tad miffed as well. So don't blame Hugh Jackman for looking rather moody in the below poster for The Wolverine, his second solo feature in the X-Men franchise.
As the world seems to crumble around him, Wolverine — Logan, James Howlett, Patch, whatever you wanna call him — himself seems to be crumbling, his humanity engaged in unceasing war with the monster brewing inside of him. Either that or he's just cold. Put a shirt on, Hugh, it's still flu season!
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Wolverine hits theaters July 26, with the even more exciting X-Men: Days of Future past slated for summer 2014.
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[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox/Marvel]
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So it's settled. Everyone is agreeing to forget that X-Men Origins: Wolverine ever happened, and will just treat the upcoming The Wolverine as Hugh Jackman's Marvel hero's complete back story. While you're at it, you can also pretend that Australia is Japan — you're going to have to.
After earning a release date, Jackman's James "Logan" Howlett film has just set course for shooting. The Wolverine is being handled by Fox Studios Australia, and will duly be shot on Jackman's home turf of Sydney, staring this August. Australia will double as Japan, where the story will take place. In the comics, Wolverine's travels took him to Japan in the period between the first and second World Wars; during this time, the character started a family and mastered martial arts.
The production will reach an $80 million budget, and will be partially funded by the Australian government. James Mangold, who worked with Jackman on Kate & Leopold, will direct The Wolverine.
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It's officially over for Jane Fonda and Ted Turner. Fonda filed for divorce from the CNN tycoon earlier this week in Atlanta's Fulton County Superior Court, ending 15 months of separation, The Associated Press reported. According to Fonda, 63, and Turner, 62, their marriage crumbled when Fonda became a Christian. "We went in different directions. I grew up," she told AP.
"Titus" stuntman injured
A stuntman practicing a dangerous car maneuver for the Fox series Titus wound up in a Los Angeles hospital on Tuesday. Brian Carson, 44, was rehearsing the stunt at the Los Angeles County raceway-hitting a speed of 60 mph-when his car slammed into a ramp rigged with explosives. According to Entertainment Tonight, Carson suffered serious head injuries and multiple bone fractures. Carson has performed more than 2,000 stunts for the small screen.
Kathleen Turner: proud pop?
Actress Kathleen Turner will take on a role she's never tackled before in a May 17 episode of Friends: a transvestite man. People reports that Turner, 45, will play Matthew Perry's father in the hour-long episode, in which the characters played by Perry and Courteney Cox Arquette discover daddy's little secret after years of no contact. Morgan Fairchild will star as Perry's mother.
Goldie Hawn in the director's chair
First-time screenwriter Goldie Hawn, who has completed her script Ashes to Ashes, also will earn the title first-time director. According to Entertainment Weekly, Hawn's film will follow the travels of a bitter woman who reluctantly takes her ex-husband's ashes to Nepal. Jeremy Pisker (Bulworth) co-wrote the screenplay with Hawn.
Eminem: moving away
Following the path of such fellow musicians as Madonna, rapper Eminem has told British papers that he's intent on moving out of the United States to roost across the pond in England. According to Britain's Sun tabloid on Thursday, Eminem is looking for a suitable apartment in London for the time being, then will branch out and go house hunting in the more exclusive neighborhoods nearby. Says the Grammy winner: "I love Britain."
All Saints/Prodigy wedding
A spokeswoman for singer Natalie Appleton of the girl group All Saints has confirmed that she and Prodigy band member Liam Howlett are engaged. Says Appleton of her hard-rocking beau: "I'm very excited. I love him to bits and I've never been happier." The nuptials are to take place sometime next year.
Rosie's return to Nickelodeon
In a bizarre move, Rosie O'Donnell, who had backed out of hosting the 14th annual Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards last week due to a hand injury, has recanted her refusal and will indeed emcee the event. According to Entertainment Tonight, O'Donnell, 39, was given the green light by her doctors to travel to Los Angeles to host the show. A doctor will accompany her throughout her trip.
Michael Jackson gets dumped
King of Pop Michael Jackson has to search for a new entertainment management company to handle his affairs, according to People. His representation, The Firm, which also handles as the Backstreet Boys, dumped Jacko after just a year of managing his career. The Firm refused to comment, but Jackson was nice enough to thank them anyway for the effort it put forth on his behalf. He has recently been working on a new album that should be released sometime this fall.