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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After building momentum with Natalie Portman and director David O. Russell in 2009, the adaptation of writer Seth Grahame-Smith's popular mash-up novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies slowly sunk back down into the grave. Over the past few years, the project has had a rotating ensemble of potential leads, from Scarlett Johansson to Mia Wasikowska to Anne Hathaway. The project looked as good as dead — that is until today, when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with Mortal Instruments star Lily Collins joined the Jane Austen-inspired horror flick.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Collins is attached to star in the long-gestating hybrid under the direction of Burr Steers (17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud). With Walking Dead topping TV ratings charts and smaller genre movies like Warm Bodies making bank at the box office, zombies are still a hot topic in Hollywood. Pairing rising star Collins with the brain-eating beasts is a no brainer.
Seeing as the book cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesis even more famous than the text inside, we had to wonder: does Collins have the right look for rotting flesh? Judge for yourself:
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Lily Collins is sinking her teeth into the zombie craze by reportedly taking on the lead role in a horror parody of Jane Austen classic Pride And Prejudice. Phil Collins' actress daughter has been tapped to play Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's book which adds flesh-eating monsters to Austen's period novel.
Burr Steers, who directed Zac Efron in 17 Again and Charlie St. Cloud, will take charge of the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Natalie Portman was originally set for the leading lady role, while Scarlett Johansson, Mia Wasikowska and Anne Hathaway were also said to have been considered.
Hosting an awards show is a thankless job. Even if you do well, it's likely few will really remember you. If you really fudge it up (and you know I didn't really want to say fudge right there), then it can be a stain on the rest of your career. And that is the challenge that Jimmy Kimmel faces when he hosts the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (as they're called on their long-form birth certificate) on Sept. 23.
So what advice can we give him? Since we can only judge based on past awards shows, let's look back at the history books. How can he be as successful as some who have gone before him?
Sing a Song: Know who kills as a host of the Emmys, Tonys, Grammys, Kid's Choice Awards, Ari Weisenberg's Bar Mitzvah, or any thing that he has ever hosted or will ever host in his whole life? Neil Patrick Harris. What does he always start with? A jazzy song and dance number. Come on, Jimmy, we know that you masterminded "I'm Fudging Ben Affleck." That is exactly what the Emmys need: A viral hit.
Script Something: Remember when the Emmys finally deigned to give the reality show hosts their own category, and in celebration, had all the nominees host the show that year? Yes, it was a national nightmare. They actually came out on stage and said, "Just like in reality, we have nothing planned." For real. Now, that is fudging ridiculous. (This is why you have a bad rap, reality.) And we shall never forgive Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandell, Jeff Probst, or Ryan Seacrest for perpetrating this on us.
Be Alone: A good host should act like a good boyfriend — he should make you feel like you're the most important person in the world, and, in turn, you should only want to focus on him. Look at how awful it was when the reality group hosted. Then, in 2003, there was like 11 hosts. No, there was lit-rally, to quote Rachel Zoe, 11 hosts. We can't even remember one. And who cares! Just let one guy do it. Don't share, Jimmy. Don't you dare.
Host a News Show: There are a surprising number of journalists who have hosted the show: Jane Pauley, Hugh Downs, Bryant Gumbel, Jon Stewart, Chet Huntley. That's weird. So perhaps Kimmel should get a lined notebook and put a card that said "Press" in his hat. Or maybe not. There's a reason why Anderson Cooper doesn't have this gig.
Have a Long Skinny Microphone: Television personality Art Linkletter hosted the Emmys twice. Let's remember the good ol' days of mid-century game shows and equip Kimmel with one of those long skinny microphones like on Match Game or one of Linkletter's programs. That would be so rad.
Differentiate Yourself: I have a really hard time keeping Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon separate. They're like the Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney of late night TV. And since Fallon just hosted the Emmys in 2010, Kimmel really has to do something different unless he wants the two of them to be the Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato of Emmy Hosts. Fallon did that whole canned opening with the cast of Glee. Please don't do that. Please, no Glee.
Come Out: Seriously, the hosts of the Emmys are gayer than Richard Simmons' headband collection. The aforementioned NPH, Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Ellen DeGeneres (multiple times!), David Hyde Pierce, Raymond Burr, Joan Rivers (an honorary inductee). Still, there must be something that connects the gay gene with the hosting gene. How about Jimmy get some of that? Wait, maybe we should call Anderson Cooper after all. Either way, I'm sure Ben Affleck will be thrilled to help out.
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[Photo Credit: ABC]
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]