Get Paid To Promote, Get Paid To Popup, Get Paid Display Banner

Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    Movie Review: The Muppets

    Posted: 21 Nov 2011 04:13 AM PST

    The big screen revival of The Muppets, cleverly titled “The Muppets,” is a generally charming exercise in nostalgia. The musical comedy whimsically and often cleverly  revisits the characters, their shtick and and the TV show and movies that made them most famous.

    British TV director James Bobin, a veteran of the wonderfully dry “Flight of the Conchords” comedy with music, and world’s biggest Muppet fan Jason Segel have concocted a winning walk down memory lane that’s about a walk down memory lane. Times have changed, character after character says in the film. “You’re relics.”

    “I guess people sorta forgot about us.”

    But they’re getting the Muppets back together for one last show, a telethon to save their tatty old theater and their old movie studio from a rapacious Texas oilman named Tex Richman, played without the requisite glee by Oscar winner Chris Cooper — “Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh.”

    Forget that subplot. It’s stolen from “A Prairie Home Companion.” What’s cute here is the frame that Segel (who co-wrote the script) built for it. He plays Gary, a goofy guy who grew up with a Muppet brother. Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) never really fit in, couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t growing like his brother, until the day when he saw his first “Muppets Show.” Here were his people. Here was his kind of entertainment — corny, dated, self-aware.

    cut to their adult years, and Walter comes along with Gary and Gary’s longtime bestest gal Mary (Amy Adams, perfect) as they sing and dance their way to Hollywood for a visit to Muppet history. That’s where they see how forgotten they are, how their studio tour is a wreck.

    “Is this Universal,” the clueless Japanese tourists want to know. “Yes, it is,” cracks the tour guide, played by Oscar winner Alan Arkin — one of scores of cameos in the picture.

    Tex Richman diabolical plans and “maniacal laughs” must be foiled. Let’s get the gang back together. Which isn’t going to be easy. Well, actually, it is. Kermit’s almost a hermit, living in a fading mansion in Bel Air. Fozzie is fronting a tribute band, The Moopets, in Reno.

    Gonzo runs a plumbing supply house, Scooter works at Google and Miss Piggy is plus-size editor at Paris Vogue with Emily “The Devil Wears Prada” Blunt. Animal, the drummer, is in anger management group therapy with Jack Black.

    Along the way — they joke about the old movies, and the fact that they’re making a new one. “Wow, that was an expensive looking explosion. I’m surprised we could afford it.”

    They tell the old jokes. Until it’s “time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights.”

    But the giddiness that Jim Henson & Friends brought to the original Muppets is missing. The antic energy, the old vaudeville/TV variety show references are just plain alien to modern kids. It’s telling than in the big telethon scenes, the audience in the theater watching it (including Hobo Joe, played by Zach Galifianakis) is all old enough to remember the old TV series. there aren’t any kids.

    The songs are amusing enough, and Adams and Segel make a cute duet.  And adult fans who grew up with the show will grin. You have to wonder, though, if kids will get the Muppets, and if this generation of Muppet performers is little more than a tribute band itself.

    MPAA Rating:

    Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, The Muppets, Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin

    Credits: Directed by James Bobin, written by jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, a Walt Disney release. Running time: 1:39

    Movie Review: Hugo

    Posted: 21 Nov 2011 03:32 AM PST

    Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” is a children’s film for grownups — grownup film buffs.

    It’s a charming and quite gorgeous exercise in thew few corners of the medium where the Oscar-winning filmmaker has next to no experience — children’s stories, comedy and 3D. And even though it is too long and the master has yet to develop much of a comic touch, this adaptation of Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is a stunning exercise in 3D and a delightful celebration of Scorsese’s lifelong love of the movies, something he, like Hugo, developed on childhood.

    Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lives in the bowels of a Paris train station in between the World Wars. He is an orphan who hides out, carrying on the job a drunken uncle left him with — servicing the huge clocks there. He slips in and out of the station, getting by on stealing food and drink, hoping not to be noticed by the station inspector, Gustav (Sacha Baron Cohen).

    Hugo’s a tinkerer, something he picked up from his late father (Jude Law). His favorite project is an old clockwork automaton, a wind-up man he tries to fix with parts stolen from the toy shop run by a cranky old man played by the great Ben Kingsley. When the old man catches Hugo, he seizes the boy’s notebook, full of his father’s drawings and fixes for the automaton. Hugo must work in the shop to win the notebook back, and even then, the mean old man may turn him in to the meaner wounded war vet Gustav, who patrols the station with a Doberman.

    Isabel (Chloe Moretz) calls the old man “Pappa Georges,” and even she finds Hugo dubious company, an excuse to try out her burgeoning vocabulary — “You’re nothing but a…reprobate!”

    Hugo must win her over (He takes her to the movies to see Harold Lloyd in “Safety Last”), elude Gustav and get back that notebook — his last tie to his dead father.

    Scorsese uses this vintage Paris railway station set to stage marvelous 3D chases, on foot — his 3d camera following Hugo up ladders, down alleys, weaving through crowds. “Hugo” is the best looking 3D movie since “Alice in Wonderland.” The director peoples the set with character players (Richard Griffiths, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee), and sets in motion subplots about the lonely Gustav, the fate of Hugo’s drunken uncle (Ray Winstone of “The departed”) and clues to the automaton’s and Pappa Georges’ past.

    Moretz, slinging an English accent, is her usual delightful self, showing Isabel’s love of words — “I think we have to be very clan-DES-tine!”

    Cohen takes a number of scenes to make any sort of comic impression. And Kingsley makes the journey from ogre to charmer in his usual winning fashion.

    But the story — period details and mysteries notwithstanding — is too slight to support this length. It’s an 80 minute bon bon struggling to break out of a two hour and ten minute souffle.

    Still, movie buffs, especially fans of early cinema history, will be transfixed by scenes in the latter acts — movie-making, as it was being invented. It’s why Scorsese chose to make the film. It’s where his heart truly is with this material. And it’s no surprise that this corner of his wondrous little picture is where he chose to take a cameo, immortalizing himself in the history of the medium he grew up loving and mastering.

    MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking

    Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, jude Law

    Credits: Directed by Martin Scorsese, written by John Logan, based on the Brian Selznick novel. A Paramount Pictures release. Running time: 2:10.

    Movie Review: My Week With Marilyn

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 09:53 AM PST

    Michelle Williams doesn’t so much impersonate Marilyn Monroe as suggest her in the entertaining new bio-drama “My Week With Marilyn.” She doesn’t have Monroe’s overripe figure, Kewpie doll cheeks or ‘C’mere and kiss me’ lips. There’s va-va without the voom.

    But in scene after scene, Williams “gets” Monroe — the sex appeal, the vulnerability, the sense of fear of discovery behind all that out-there sexual bravado. When she’s singing about starting a “Heat Wave” by “making my seat wave,” friends you will believe it.

    “My Week” is based on a memoir by Colin Clark, an upper class lad who used family connections to land a go-fer job on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier’s film, “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a 1956 comedy that co-starred Monroe, then at the height of her fame. He was 23, Clark (Eddie Redmayne) narrates, and “I wanted to be a part of their world.”

    Clark ingratiates himself with Olivier, played with a flint-edged gleam by Kenneth Branagh. Olivier turns on the charm, puts on his most gracious face and fumes fumes fumes as his new co-star upstages him and keeps one and all waiting, on the set, while she works through her moods and is consoled by her enabling acting coach, Paula Strasberg (the wonderful Zoe Wanamaker).  Clark is willing to endure Olivier barking “Boy!” at him just for the chance to be near Monroe.

    Next thing he knows, the director and fading star has brought him in as third assistant director. Over the course of the film’s production, Colin Clark became the go-to intermediary in various Brits’ dealings with the mercurial, difficult and neurotic blonde bombshell.

    British TV director Simon Curtis (“Cranford”) and screenwriter Adrian Hodges concoct a fascinating milieu that gives us a minor revision of Monroe’s reputation. Every Brit Monroe encounters, on set and off, is just as charming and accommodating as can be. Co-stars such as Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) shower her with compliments, despite her poor showing, late all the time, blown scenes, botched lines.Brits bitingly play supporting figures from her life — agents and managers (Toby Jones and Dominic Cooper), husband (Dougray Scott is the playwright Arthur Miller).

    The clash of acting styles — Olivier’s “The character is on the page” vs. The Method, is nicely evoked.

    But if you’ve read any biography of Lord Larry and his Blanche Dubois wife, Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond), you’ll be scratching your head at his patience and her sanity.  Neither seems accurate, although Olivier needed Monroe much more than she needed him and was most certainly solicitous, no matter how much he resented this.

    The tale traipses down the primrose path to “trite” as it sets Clark up for a romance with the lovely wardrobe girl, played by Emma Watson with a self-confidence that all those Harry Potter pictures must have given her. The seamstress will be forgotten as Clark stumbles deeper into the crush that he develops on Monroe, that need so many men, even the very young ones, felt to try and save her from all this.

    But Branagh and Williams are worth the price of admission, the former “wunderkind” of British stage and screen having a go at the pretentious, plummy Olivier, who referred to movies as “MO-see-un pictures,” whenever he felt the need to toy with a few syllables.

    And Williams, recreating a few of Monroe’s magical moments from that movie, works the “dumb blonde” thing just the way Monroe did on the scene — “Gee Mr. Sir,” she says, not certain of how to address the knighted Olivier, “I could listen to your accent all day.”

    MPAA Rating: R for some language

    Cast: Michelle Williams,Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Julia Ormond, Dominic Cooper

    Credits: Directed by Simon Curtis, written by Adrian Hodges, based on the memoirs of Colin Clark. A Weinstein Co. release.  Running time: 1:38