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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Ryan Reynolds is returning to television... sort of. The movie star and all-around A-lister (who memorably portrayed one of the titular fellas in ABC's Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place) will hit the boob tube in a producing capacity after Fox requested scripts for two comedy pilots from Reynolds' company DarkFire. The first pilot, an animated program titled Lowe Rollers, centers on a family that owns a struggling (or, sinking?) Titanic-themed hotel in Las Vegas. The second, an as-yet-untitled live-action show, follows a disgraced hotelier who is forced to manage a cheap airport hotel and its eccentric staff. [TVLine]
Ricky Martin, who's currently swinging his hips to an Andrew Lloyd Webber beat in Broadway's Evita, is apparently sticking to the acting thing. The former pop superstar has inked a talent holding deal with NBCUniversal that will eventually lead to the development of a TV show — with Martin as star. The singer last appeared on television in February in a minor guest spot on Glee. [THR]
John Legend's film company Get Lifted has signed with Universal Cable Productions to develop multiple series for cable and broadcast networks. Although Legend appears on ABC's musical competition Duets, the deal marks the musician's first major entry into television production. Legendary! [Deadline]
Where's the Trust, ABC? Two weeks after veteran comic Fred Willard was arrested for lewd conduct in an adult movie theater in Los Angeles, the alphabet network has pulled Trust Us With Your Life, an improv show hosted by Willard that premiered less than a month ago, from its schedule. However, the show was the network's lowest-rated broadcast of the summer, so the relation between Willard's arrest and the program's cancellation isn't necessarily post hoc ergo propter hoc. [THR]
Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker
[Photo Credit: Sean Thorton/WENN.com]
TV Tidbits: CBS Nabs Michael Madsen, Ken Leung and Sarah Jones
TV Tidbits: Laurence Fishburne Joins 'Hannibal,' Victoria is Back on 'How I Met Your Mother'
TV Tidbits: 'Glee' Casts a Romantic Rival; Animation Attracts Zooey Deschanel, Sofia Vergara
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
The race to Macedonia is in full swing--and it looks like director Oliver Stone is in the lead. He'll be directing a feature film on Alexander the Great--you know, that wily young king of Macedonia who, at the tender age of 20, conquered most of the known world in 300 B.C. and then died at 33--and vows to have it in the theaters Christmas 2003. This would put the film way ahead of the competition, including HBO's 10-part Alexander series, due to air in 2004, and Martin Scorsese's film for Initial Entertainment Group with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star.
This is what Hollywood does: All at once, producers collectively decide the time is right to make a movie about one topic and then run around frantically to get the first one made. They did it with virus movies (Outbreak won the race--or lost, depending on how you look at it) and journey to Mars movies (but both Mission to Mars and Red Planet failed). Now it's Alexander the Great. True, it's a compelling subject matter, promising many bloody battles and much gnashing of teeth. We'll see if the talented, but crazy, Stone has what it takes to make the best one.
Stone is off to a good start, though, with his choice to play the young king--Aussie hunk-o-rama Heath Ledger. Hollywood is certainly clamoring onto the young actor's bandwagon after he made a huge splash in last year's sleeper hit A Knight's Tale. With that wild hair and smoldering good looks, I could see Ledger playing Alexander, easily. Now, let's see if he's up for all that bisexuality the real Alex was so famous for.
Portman "Wore Black"
Young waif Natalie Portman, who will be reprising her role as Queen Amidala and get it on with the dashing Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode II--The Attack of the Clones (oh man, I cannot wait!), is attached to star in Bride Wore Black, a film currently in development at 20th Century Fox.
This romantic comedy centers on a young man who, while attending the wedding of an ex-girlfriend, finds out his hotel room is haunted by a beautiful ghost (Portman). Apparently, she was jilted at the altar long ago and is bitter about it, so she plans to ruin the wedding. That's the synopsis The Hollywood Reporter gives us. Let me see if I can guess the next part: The guy, who desperately wants the wedding to go through so he can rid himself of the ex-girlfriend, tries to stop the ghost but ends up falling in love with her instead. Yep, that sounds about right. The film will most likely work if and only if they can find the right leading man. Good casting is always the key.
The question is: Do we really want the mean little guy who uses rats as a weapon to come back? My first and only answer would be a resounding NO. But who listens to me? New Line Cinema has decided to do a remake of the 1971 horror film Willard and has hired Crispin Glover (Charlie's Angels), one of the weirdest actors to ever make it to the big screen, to play the title character. Granted, that's the only somewhat interesting part to this really horrible idea. Glover seems born to play the part and will certainly add a level of, shall we say, insanity to the role.
Now, in the 1971 version, if we all care to remember the plotline, Bruce Davison played a nerd whose only friends were pet rats. When a careless co-worker killed one of them, Willard didn't just get mad, he got even--by using the rats. They bit, gnawed and then, of course, killed Willard's enemies. Right. Can't wait to experience that little bit of joy all over again.
Cusack needs some "I.D."
John Cusack tends to pick interesting projects--and his next film seems to follow suit. He'll star with Amanda Peet (Saving Silverman) and Ray Liotta (Hannibal) in the psychological thriller I.D. for Columbia Pictures. Here's the premise: A group of 10 strangers find themselves in the desert, running from a terrible sandstorm. How or why remains to be seen, but somehow they all end up in a roadside hotel to ride out the storm. The hotel apparently makes the Bates Motel seem like the Biltmore because no sooner do they get there than one by one, they start to get bumped off. Now the survivors have to figure out who the killer is while also trying to stay alive. Agatha Christie meets Alfred Hitchcock, ladies and gentlemen. Done right, this could be a lot of fun.
Cusack also just completed another eerie-sounding film,Max, where he plays a prominent art gallery owner named Max Rothman who meets a young Adolf Hitler and tries to steer him into the world of art as an painter. I don't think it works out to Max's advantage in the end, do you?
Connery joins "Gentlemen" club
Sean Connery will star in 20th Century Fox's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which starts production this summer. Labeled a period piece X-Men, the film is based on the Victorian era-set comic book by Alan Moore. Queen Victoria calls upon several literary protagonists, including Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, Allan Quartermain and Mina Harker, to help fight against an evil madman. Well, you can't say that isn't an original idea. Where do they get these comic books? Connery will play Quartermain, a character created by British novelist H. Rider Haggard, who was an adventurer, a precursor of sorts to Indiana Jones.