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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Well, that was tremendously satisfying.
That's what she said.
After nine seasons on NBC, the American adaptation of Ricky Gervais' beloved British series of the same name, The Office was given an absolutely lovely, sincere, and near-perfect send-off. No, not everything in the episode worked. But what did work — those heartfelt reunions and goodbyes — are what really stood out and what mattered and what made this 75-minute finale so very special.
But, that's almost fitting in a way. The past few years of The Office were pretty bad, but the finale erased all of that. This is exactly what the conclusion was about: redeeming yourself, making peace with something, remembering the good over the bad, and finding the beauty in imperfections. Everyone had their happy ending, including The Office itself.
Picking up a year after the airing of the PBS documentary about them, and a day before Dwight and Angela's wedding, we found our favorite characters at different places in their lives. But the employees of Dunder Mifflin were — and still are — at their core, a family. But, you can't have a family unit without it's papa bear, which in their case is Michael Scott. Yes, the rumors were confirmed and our wishes came true: Steve Carell returned for the finale, and it was just perfect.
After Jim was named best man for Dwight's wedding — or, as the Schrute's call it, Bestest Mensch — and he went above and beyond the call of duty (aw, remember the episode when Jim was terrible at Call of Duty?) by pulling off the Best... Prank... Ever... and surprising the groom with a new Bestest Mensch: one Michael Gary Scott. And their first exchange in nearly two years went as follows:
Dwight: "I can't believe you came." Michael: "That's what she said."
Oh, Michael, you haven't changed a bit. Well, he did a little, in that he now has gray hair and is blissfully happy with a wife and their kids. But at the core, he's still the same old Michael. He still can't dance and he still says things that come out wrong ("I feel like all my kids grew up and married each other... it's every parent's dream!"), but his heart is still in the right place. Please, please let the Emmys at least give Carell one for a guest appearance.
Michael wasn't the only one who got a happy ending so richly deserved. Pam finally made a big, romantic gesture to Jim and decided to move their family to Austin so he could pursue his dream; Dwight and Angela got married; Kelly and Ryan (that's right, Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak returned, too) got back together (even if they did so in the most terrible way possible: by ditching a baby... though would you expect any different from those two?); Andy went from a laughing stock to a hometown hero; Darryl enjoyed his continued success; Toby enthusiastically got invited to hang out; Oscar enjoyed a senatorial campaign (but sadly no showcase of his origami skills) and, in the most touching happy ending of them all, Erin finally got to meet her birth parents (played by Joan Cusack and Ed Begley Jr.).
But, really, even if they didn't have a big goodbye, all the characters walked away with something: wisdom. Lucky for us, they all got to share a few pearls (major kudos to The Office writing team for this episode, it was some absolutely beautiful stuff):
- "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." Oh, Nard Dog. Someone should write a song about that.
- "I worked for a paper company all these years, but I never wrote anything down." Phyllis just destroyed me in this episode (she was so concerned about Andy, and she carried her old nemesis Angela down the aisle, and was so genuinely happy to receive her gift of a cute bird statue of herself from her grumpy pal Stanley) and this little snippet was a reminder to us all to take more pictures and write down your memories — you'll really cherish them someday.
- "Yes, I'd say I have gotten along with my subordinates." Dwight, referring to his wife Angela, best man Jim, and his best friend (aw!) Pam, among others.
- "Everything I have I owe to this job. This stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job." Jim, TV's best crush, always and forever.
- "There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?" Pam, who grew into her own and allowed herself to find happiness over the course of nine years. As she simply put it, "Be strong, trust yourself, love yourself, conquer your fears, go after what you want." And thank goodness that The Office saw the beauty in ordinary things and ordinary people who were capable of extraordinary things.
Other finale highlights:
- Bringing back characters like Carol the realtor (Carell's wife in real life, Nancy Walls), Elizabeth the stripper, and of course, Mose. - Cameos by Seth Meyers and Bill Hader as themselves. Hey, we'll take as much of those guys on SNL as we can while we can get 'em. - Dwight carrying/dancing with Angela. - The group shot in front of Pam's mural calling for "everyone from the office." Judging by the cameo by Greg Daniels, it was likely everyone from The Office. - Creed's beautiful guitar serenade in the office. - Reminscing about the Office Olympics. - Pam getting in one last "Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam" and taking her painting of the office building with her. - Just. All of it, really. Goodbye old friends. And thank you.
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More: 'The Office': The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Episodes The 5 Biggest Character Transformations on 'The Office' Steve Carell is Returning for the Series Finale of 'The Office'
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Arrested Development: The new season of the cult comedy will initially only have 10 episodes, but at least two of them will feature Mad Men grump John Slattery in a recurring role. Details about the part are quiet, but given the show's characteristic randomness, even our best guess for Slattery's role is probably (and embarrassingly) far off. [TVLine]
Ex-Men: Tony Shalhoub, the Emmy-winning star of Monk, will co-star opposite Kal Penn and Chris Smith in CBS's new single-camera comedy about a short-term apartment complex composed entirely of men who have been bumped from their significant others. Shalhoub plays Frank, a four-time ex-husband who still considers himself a ladies' man. [Deadline]
The Mob Doctor: The Big C's John Benjamin Hickey has joined Fox's new fall drama as a presidentially-appointed federal prosecutor from Chicago, who just so happens to double as Zach Gilford's father. Let's hope he turns out to be a better dad than Gilford's last onscreen papa. [THR]
Criminal Minds: Another Hollywood type will be making the now-commonplace transition from actor to director — this time around, it's Criminal Minds' Thomas Gibson (Dharma & Greg, which he directed twice) who will be taking a shot at playing director for an episode in the show's upcoming eighth season. [EW]
Grimm: Bones' Michael Grant Terry is joining NBC's supernatural serial as a police department intern who tries to model himself after Nick (David Giuntoli). [TV Guide]
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You may recognize him from The Boondock Saints, but his latest undertaking is a little something you’d find a hard time escaping these days: AMC’s The Walking Dead. Norman Reedus plays Daryl, one of the remaining Atlanta survivors. We had a chance to chat with Reedus during New York Comic Con about his character’s past, the series after creator Frank Darabont’s departure and what we can expect in Season 2.
First, we’re likely to see a bit more to Daryl than the fact that he’s a skilled hunter who’s rough around the edges. Reedus said, “He’s kind of a side-winder snake. He doesn’t come directly at you. He kind of weasels past in sort of an S pattern and then strikes…I kind of play him like that because he’s an antsy, perturbed, emotionally-challenged dude.” But why is he like that? We have very little explanation of Daryl’s character available to us since he was created just for the series (unlike most of the characters who were born out of Robert Kirkman’s comic books); apparently, Season Two will uncover some of that mystery.
“You’re going to see some things revealed about Daryl’s childhood, about what sort of relationships he had that are really depressing,” said Reedus. He also mentioned that his attachment to his unpleasant (and still at-large) older brother Merle will be explained as well as “some elements of abuse he had growing up that he’s dealing with.”
In the first episode of Season Two, we can already see a somewhat softer side of Daryl compared to last season; his gruff exterior and grudges fall by the wayside a bit when he saves T Dogg and throws such vigor into finding young Sophia. Reedus said there’s a reason for that, “I think what’s happening is as the group is showing that they value him and they rely on him too, he’s starting to feel a sense of self-worth…his attitude is changing a bit in the fact that he feels wanted, when he didn’t feel wanted before – probably even when he was hanging out with his brother [Merle].”
And it seems that Reedus character is in-demand in the real world too. He shared a story about picking his son up from school shortly after Season One began airing: “I go to pick him up from school and he has this huge smile on his face…He said some of the big kids from the upper grade came up to him and said, ‘Hey, is your dad Daryl on The Walking Dead?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah,’ and they go, ‘Sweet! So cool! We really love Daryl!’” Reedus proudly stated that his son now has credit with “the big kids at school,” but other than that Reedus seems fairly nonplussed by the incredible response audiences have to his character – he said he’s just incredibly grateful for the opportunity to play Daryl.
And moving into the second season, his character isn’t the only thing shifting. We’re headed for ground-breaking zombies, like one that Reedus found particularly disgusting. “I can’t really tell you what that zombie is other than that is was extra-large and it was wet [Laughs]. That’s all I can tell you, but it had parts on it that moved in ways it shouldn’t be moving. Pretty disgusting.” I can’t even imagine what he could be talking about, but it seems that producer and zombie makeup guru Greg Nicotero doesn’t plan on slowing down his zombie rampage anytime soon, and that’s good news if you ask me.
Though Season Two is “always moving about 200 miles an hour, even when we’re standing still,” the production did hit a bit of a snag when it lost the man who started it all. With Darabont out of the picture, a new showrunner, Glen Mazzara, stepped in. Reedus assured us that the show isn’t suffering, and won’t suffer, the consequences. In fact, the shakeup may have yielded positive results for the group – which is a steep claim, so bear with me. Reedus said, “Glen didn’t just pop out of thin air, we’d already known him.” He says that Mazzara was very collaborative with the cast from the start, asking for their input constantly. “I’ll probably never know what really happened, but the result of it just made us all form a tighter circle…We never really slowed down to be honest. We sort of picked up speed and it’s been that way ever since,” he said.
We may not have Papa Frank on the team anymore, but if Reedus’ characterization is accurate (and we’re guessing it is) the team of actors, writers, crewmembers and zombie enthusiasts on the show are so dedicated to the series and Darabont’s original vision, that we’ll continue to see fantastic episodes come our way.
Kindly chemistry whiz Sherman (Eddie Murphy) has found the love of his life in cutie colleague Denise (Janet Jackson) who appreciates the heart of gold beneath his extra-large exterior. But the hero's happiness is threatened when his irrepressible alter-ego Buddy Love (Murphy) reappears with a scheme to wreak havoc with Sherman's newly discovered youth potion.
"The Klumps" displays Murphy's remarkable talent for submerging himself in diverse characters even more prominently than the original did. He impressively expands upon the four Klump family members he plays with the aid of Rick Baker's Oscar-winning prosthetic makeup effects -- especially his hilarious turn as sex-crazed Granny Klump. Larry Miller is amusingly caustic as the dean of Sherman's college while pop diva Jackson deserves credit simply for keeping a straight face opposite Murphy's various incarnations.
Peter Segal ("Tommy Boy") hands in a polished if not particularly inspired piece of broad comedy that achieves its primary purpose -- staying out of Murphy's way as he works his special magic. The filmmakers pay little attention to the brainless shamelessly mechanical plotline devoting nearly all their energy to fart and sex gags that if anything aim lower than the original film's. We're talking about a flick draws one of its biggest laughs from a character getting sodomized by a giant hamster. Baby that's nasty!