Category Archives: The Muppets

What I’ve Been Watching: Muppets Most Wanted

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The Muppets hit the big screen in 2011 and marked a reboot of sorts for a group of characters that had last been on the big screen in 1999 with the forgettable Muppets from Space.

The reboot was a runaway success, with fans, critics and the general public alike (It even topped this incredibly prestigious end of year list). So, as Muppets Most Wanted‘s opening number makes clear they’re “doing a sequel”. Can it match the standard set by the 2011 film?

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Top Five Films of 2012

The end of one year gives film fans like myself the chance to reflect upon the past twelve months and consider what has past.

2012 was a year which saw The Artist cruise to Best Picture at the oscars.

The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Skyfall all broke $1 billion worldwide showing that sequels/franchises continue to be box office gold. In fact 9 of the Top 10 Highest Grossing Movies of 2012 were sequels or part of an existing franchise.

It also saw films as diverse as Cloud Atlas and John Carter receive a thumping at the box office… or at least the American Box Office, which tends to be the only one reported. John Carter actually made $283 million worldwide against a budget of $250 million. Likewise Cloud Atlas could still break even after it gets a full release worldwide. One unmitigated disaster, however, was The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure which made back only 5% of its $20 million budget. If you’re curious as to why, this article offers a good explanation along with some mind-altering clips.

Anyway, onto the main feature:

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5. The Imposter
I have a suspicion of documentaries that ‘tell a story’ or purposefully withhold information from the viewer, rather than merely showing them things and letting them make their own mind up.
The Imposter breaks this rule, but the way it structures its narrative is such that I didn’t really mind. The story, of a young spanish man who poses as a missing american teenager, is so difficult to believe anyway that telling it like a Hollywood thriller really does suit the nature of the tale.
Finally, getting the antagonist of the film to not only agree to the interviews but be so up front about what he did, gave the whole film a creepy Silence of the Lambs feel that you do not see very often in documentaries. At times astonishing, at times disturbing and at times heart-breaking; make sure you check it out if you missed it.

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4. Looper
Brick and The Brothers Bloom showed the invention of director Rian Johnson, and in some ways are reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s early films like Momento and The Following.
Looper showed what Johnson could do with more of a budget. Like Nolan’s Inception its plot is full of complex twist and turns, however, unlike Inception, the characters, ideas and substance of the film are able to match said complexity.
In making the lead character deal with killing his older self, Looper also manages to do something creative and interesting with the time travel genre, without getting itself too wrapped up in the finer details of how it all works.
Looper was a smart, engaging film which kept the audience on its toes the whole time without resorting to an over-the-top twist or withholding too much information (cf. Prometheus). This year’s best sci-fi film by far.

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3. Cabin in the Woods
Avenger’s Assemble may be the Joss Whedon movie most people saw in 2012, but Cabin in the Woods is the one that shows us just how creative he can be when he is given the space to do so.
Collaborating with fellow Buffy writer Drew Goddard, Cabin in the Woods is a twist on the traditional horror set-up; with five young people going on a vacation that can only have terrible consequences.
With a third act that thrilled like few films can, Cabin in the Woods was one of the most surprising and fun films of the year that is sure to be remembered as one of this decade’s best horror movies.

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2. The Angel’s Share
Ken Loach is renowned for his brand of ‘social realism’ which normally sees things going from bad to worse for his working class characters. The Angel’s Share has moments like this (a scene where the protagonist has to confront a victim of his crimes for example), but mostly it’s an upbeat affair about a young father trying to turn his life around through whisky. One scene in particular had me laughing more than anything else I saw at the cinema this year (the one involving two Irn Bru bottles for those who have seen the film).
Overall the film was ‘feel-good’ without being saccharine, a story where you feel the story and characters have really earned the right to smile at the end.

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1. The Muppets
I grew up watching The Muppets Tonight on BBC and also The Muppet Christmas Carol pretty much every Christmas since it was first released. So when I heard they were making a movie much like the original films/tv series I was very excited.
The film did not disappoint; completely capturing the spirit of the films/series of the 70s/80s whilst creating a tale that made sense of The Muppets absence from popular culture for the past few decades. No other film this year brought me just as much joy as The Muppets, and for that reason it simply has to be number one.

Agree/Disagree? Feel free to provide your own Top 5 Films in the comments below:

What I’ve Been Watching: The Muppets

The Muppets Movie PosterIt’s time get things (re-)started

In an era of relaunches and rebirths like Batman, James Bond, and Spiderman perhaps it should come as no surprise that the fondly loved and remembered Muppets should make a return.

Televised in the late 70s/early 80s as a variety show which broke the fourth wall, The Muppet Show was a huge hit with plenty of celebrity cameos and Emmy nominations to show for its run.

The Muppets then turned its attention to the big screen after the success of The Muppets Movie (1979) with The Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island all proving popular with fans.

People of my generation will probably remember The Muppets gracing our television screen in the form of The Muppets Tonight (1996-1998) which I remember fondly on a Friday night on BBC1. However, it proved less popular with audiences than executives had hoped, and The Muppets have failed to really set the world ablaze since, with most of the general public probably being unaware of Muppets from Space, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.

The plot of the movie recognises The Muppets lack of achievement recently and sees human Gary (Jason Segel) and his muppet brother Walt (Peter Linz) visit the crumbling Muppet studio, only to find out its about to be destroyed by an evil oil tycoon (Chris Cooper).

Accompanied by Gary’s long-term girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) they visit Kermit with the intention of bringing the old gang back together to put on one last show at The Muppet Studio to raise enough money to stop the beloved theatre from being destroyed.

Jam-packed with plenty of musical numbers overseen by Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords) whose style is a perfect fit for the self-referential and unshakeably positive stylings the characters are known for: witty without being too clever; sweet without being sickly.

The music for the film is probably its strongest point, setting the tone for the scenes proceedings and succeeding each one; as well as giving us insights into each of the character’s physiques. It’s a musical, the way musicals should be done, with the songs perfectly fitting in with the tone and feel of the film’s universe.

It’s one of the few movies where it’s nearly impossible to criticise the plot since it’s so obviously not the point of the film. Instead, Segel, the film’s writer, rightly decides to come up with a story which is merely an excuse to spend time with these characters.

Whether or not this film succeeds for you will depend entirely upon whether or not you want to go back and dig out or rent/buy the previous incarnations of The Muppets, or are left desperate to find out if there are any plans for another film or a new television series.

For me, the joy of seeing the old gang interact together, with the inevitable mishaps, ill-thought-out schemes, and familiar camaraderie made the film an undoubted success, and left me hungry to find out what this new generation of Muppets writers has planned next.