Like any sane person who came out of The Muppets, I ended up singing the infectiously unforgettable line ‘I got everything that I nee-eed right in-front o-me’ on the streetcar home. Hats off to Bret McKenzie. But the sugar rush ended because of three grating yet forgivable flaws.
First is vintage store-clad (this is a good thing) Mary (Amy Adams), Gary’s (Jason Segel) girlfriend who si frustrated by her man’s undivided attention towards his Muppets-loving Muppet brother, Walter. Adams sings and dances feverishly, only bringing half of the joy that her scene partners, both human and Muppet, effortlessly produce. She’s more convincing when she’s playing against type than she is as an adorable love interest. It’s not entirely her fault, her face seemingly colourless and lit sloppily. She’s also one of three major female characters who, in a script co-written by Segel, are ‘attention seeking shrews’ ‘distracting men from work.’ An Oscar-nominated actress can’t save badly written characters like hers.
Chris Cooper rapping made me wince in my seat. And the characters’ self-awareness after singing their songs are a bit distracting.
And can I declare a fatwa against the premise in movies that the world is ‘cynical?’ Sure, as the movie shows, broken relationships and sketchy characters and greedy oilmen like Tex Richman (Cooper) and power-hungry executives like Veronica (Rashida Jones) do exist. But the world has its equal share of revisionist, retro-living, overgrown children. Our decade-long obsession for cute old anthropomorphic things is the reason Pixar gets awards. Cute is definitely why this movie exists.
James Bobin‘s movie epitomizes cute with the other Muppets whom this unconventional family is trying to reunite. The group find themselves on a mission to stop Richman from destroying the Muppet studio to build an oil well. Richman also wants to acquire the Muppets name to skew the well-known brand from its original content and form. Sound familiar?
The joyful aura is good enough to sustain itself for most of the movie. Despite the mushy middle, let’s remind ourselves that the movie begins with the postwar nostalgia of Smalltown, USA and we fell for it. Then we see the physical comedy, signature Muppets flailing, celebrity cameos like Emily Blunt and Leslie Feist and loved it. Then it sets up Gonzo as Chekhov’s gun and we smiled. And Kermit, the movie’s undisputed star, sings the old tunes as well as new songs and we cried and we loved the movie a bit more. 3.5/5
- Amy Adams on filming The Muppets: ‘It took a lot of energy’ (arts.nationalpost.com)
Isn’t today Guy Fawkes day? If yes, then those guys are doing it wrong.
Yes, The Town is a masochistic Boston Tourism film. Also, for some reason, screenwriters today have to add vulnerability or worse, neediness to get two unlikely people like career bank robber Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and assistant bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) into a relationship, especially since the former robbed the latter. Thankfully, ‘rebound from a bank robbery’ is better than ‘he’s so gruff and masculine,’ the former being an assessment that Claire’s off-screen friends have given her. I didn’t hate it as much as Dana Stevens, despite having the same gripes as I do.
This movie also reminds me of LA-set film Set It Off. Spoilers: Desmond Elden (introducing Owen Burke) is Kimberly Elise, Gloansy (Slaine, rapper?) is Vivica A. Fox, Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) is Queen Latifah – for more than one reason apparently – and Douggie, as his ex and Coughlin’s sister Krista (Blake Lively) calls him, is Jada Pinkett. Yes, I know the main cast of Set it Off by heart while I had to iMDb the names of the robbers in this movie. Also, for some reason, with a lust-worthy cast that also includes Jon Hamm, I thought Burke was the cutest. My working class east-end formative years really screwed me up.
And yes, Hall and Lively’s growing talents are no match for Gone Baby Gone‘s Michelle Monaghan and Oscar-robbed Amy Ryan, but then arguably the women in this film didn’t get to do much. But for some reason, the men in this film are better than the male veterans in Affleck’s first film. Hamm and Renner gave great soliloquies that seem more convincing than Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris.’ The ‘we’re gonna get you’ or ‘I took you in’ that I would normally hate in other less-polished scripts. The camera somehow also makes their close-ups dimensional, thanks to DP Robert Elswit. Affleck’s head and neck bobs are still distracting and his delivery is the weakest of what is still a decent bunch of male actors.
The film’s last job takes place Fenway Park, reminding me of the big urban settings of the 70’s urban crime films that it’s been compared to. If there’s anything close to revolutionary about crime/action/western films – not saying this film is a western at all, by the way, so calm down – it’s how a film lets the audience see and hear guns. Not a gun expert here, but the weapons are bigger and badder than I remember them, the lower interior of the stadium muffling the gunshots, firing dozens of rounds a second, breaking the edges of SWAT shields. The casualties also look more realistic, when a man’s face swells after being hit in the cheek, looking like the old photos of gangster crime scenes.
In a conversation that occurs when Douggie visits his father Stephen (Chris Cooper) in a federal pen, the latter destroys the former’s perception on his supposed ‘angelic’ mother. In a way, Stephen touches on Doug’s perception of women. Claire and Krista are both Cressida, betraying their man. the consequences for Krista aren’t spelled out.
Doug also knows that Claire has betrayed him, yet he isn’t cruel to her. He doesn’t point out her betrayal since he has lied to her just the same. He also gives her two gifts, understanding her decision and maintaining his perception of her ‘angelic’ nature despite of what she’s done. The Town doesn’t have the character and moral ambiguity of his earlier effort, but Doug and his treatment of women are good enough for me. Maybe, knowing this about him, his doomed relationship with Claire isn’t unconvincing after all.
- Movie Review: The Town (blogcritics.org)
Before Iraq and the other countries before it, the Philippines was one of the first countries under the hand of the American colonial project, and John Sayles‘s new film Amigo tells a part of that story within the fictional, small Tagalog village of San Isidro.
As expected in good films, moral lessons aren’t traceable within the film, and it’s especially hard to find stable morality within wartime. The handful of American soldiers march into San Isidro with little incident. Col. Hardacre (Chris Cooper) follows in and tells his lieutenant (Garret Dillahunt) to work on ‘winning the natives’ hearts,’ eventually introducing them to puppet democracy that reelects the village’s jailed capitan, Rafael ‘Amigo’ Dacanay (Joel Torre). Asked about living with his brother-in-law Nenong, Rafael answers that ‘people have to tolerate living together with one eye always open.’ We can say the same about both Filipinos and American within the village’s new population, helping each other for the village’s infrastructure. We see a lot of little scenes among the villagers, indicating that most people in occupation pretend to set up order as a way of putting off battles between both sides.
There were a few ‘parallel’ scenes, the quasi-tribal music accompanying shots of guerillas is a bit insulting. With those flaws, we also get beautiful natural cinematography of the rain scenes and a villager’s great metaphor about the new telegram wires. Guest starring DJ Qualls, Dane DeHaan and Filipino screen veterans Rio Locsin and Bembol Roco, all parts of an impeccable cast. 4/5.
- John Sayles’ Next Film: ‘Amigo’ & Its Off-the-Radar Website (cinematical.com)
Fighting words from possibly fictional Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage, looking like what Jonah Hill might look like in 20 years) to fictional Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) in “Adaptation.” Those words are more effective than anything Kevin Kline ever says “Sophie’s Choice,” because Charlie’s coming from pain, from a connection and a relationship finally consummated in its own strange way with a woman he’s never physically met until this time. In that scene, both lose important men in their lives. Charlie loses his fictional brother Donald (Nicholas Cage) in an out-of-nowhere car crash, while Susan loses John Laroche (Chris Cooper) to a croc. Their confrontation is both hilarious and sad. The two deceased characters have been Charlie and Susan’s crutches, alter egos, dumber, more oblivious versions of themselves with delusions of grandeur. Charlie unlearns the Susan who’s been both myth and sexual fantasy and sees her just like him, a writer stuck after letting go of an obsession. And now that that part of them is gone, they can fictionalize this part of their lives and move of to other projects.
I also think this is the first movie I’ve seen where Tilda Swinton looks normal. She’s always been a beauty from another world, but as Valerie Thomas in a light sweater she refreshingly looks more conventionally pretty. There’s also the warmth in her, that as much as Charlie’s repulsed by himself, beautiful women don’t just tolerate but actually accommodate him. Her ‘breathing down his agent’s neck’ only happens off screen.
I kinda wanna talk about Amelia (Cara Seymour) and Donald’s girlfriend Caroline (Maggie Gyllenhaal) too. These two women, as well as Valerie and her doppelganger Alice the Waitress (Judy Greer) don’t seem to be repulsed by Charlie, but that’s only because the romantic barrier hasn’t been broken. That only gets broken with Alice, who isn’t as accommodating by then.
I’m not sure if I totally love the movie, but it’s not as jolting in its surrealism as “Eternal Sunshine” or “Synecdoche,” as much as I like those movies. A part of it is probably due to listening to the characters’ voices or seeing what cars they drive before actually seeing them. The characters here are humans instead of aesthetic elements filling up the mise-en-scene.
FACT! Meryl Streep’s other movie in 2002, “The Hours,” partners her with Alison Janney, the latter coincidentally plays Chris Cooper’s wife in “American Beauty” three years before. Sluts.
FACT! Meryl Streep stoned and her calling people fat are longer traditions than previously thought.
FACT! Nicholas Cage was once good.