2014 Written by James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller
Directed by James Bobin
The Muppets return again with a new adventure that feels strangely familiar. While it is great to see the Muppets actually being the stars of their movies again, Muppets Most Wanted lacks the emotional depth of some of the prior films to focus instead on a heist caper that features an evil twin and Muppets running wild under no supervision. The center core is buried a bit deeper, showing the Muppets can’t really survive on their own as they need Kermit’s guidance to keep them from drowning in their own excess.
In Muppets Most Wanted a new manager – Dominic Badguy – signs with the group and gets them to go on a world tour that suspiciously is happening in towns needed to get pieces for a jewel heist. More importantly, Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog, has escaped from his Russian gulag and managed to switch places with Kermit, who finds himself incarcerated while Constantine takes the place of our main frog. Hijinks then ensue. Muppets Most Wanted shines when it’s doing meta-commentary and breaking the never-present fourth wall. It continues literally from the final seconds of The Muppets, complete with Muppet confusion on what to do next. The opening song will go on to be touted as a manifesto for the film itself, and I particularly like the song Constantine sings as an apology to Miss Piggy, because it summarizes his entire allure to the group and why no one seems to notice anything is wrong. Constantine becomes a Satan character, promising the Muppets whatever they want to keep them happy while he and Dominic Badguy plot to steal the crown jewels of England. The various characters take this to extremes, resulting in increasingly bizarre and disastrous acts. Both Constantine and Dominic use unbridled freedom as a weapon and a distraction, but it soon becomes apparent just why oversight and control is needed. At times Muppets Most Wanted turns into Muppets Needful Things, but luckily things get solved for they start getting Stephen King disturbing.
Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire) – Kermit is the leader of the Muppets and totally is not a dangerous criminal mastermind with a mole.
Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson) – The fabulous Miss Piggy may have finally convinced Kermit to marry her. But why does she feel weird about it?
Fozzie Bear (Eric Jacobson) – No he’s a-not, he’s a-wearin’ a neck tie!
Constantine (Matt Vogel) – The world’s most dangerous frog has escaped from Siberia and has a plan to go down in history as a master criminal. And it involves the Muppets! Posing as Kermit, Constantine lets the Muppets do whatever they want to distract them from the truth.
Walter (Peter Linz) – Walter is back and on tour with his new family, the Muppets. Only something is wrong….
Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) – The French-named new manager of the Muppets who leads them on the world tour that’s just an excuse to get the items needed for a heist.
Nadya (Tina Fey) – Runs the Siberian gulag that Constantine escaped from and Kermit is now held at. Like everyone there, they know Kermit isn’t Constantine but does nothing because she’s obsessed with Kermit and won’t let him go.
2012 Written by John Augus and Seth Grahame-Smith
Based on characters created by Dan Curtis
Directed by Tim Burton
Needs more spires…
The thing about Dark Shadows is it is the type of film that Tim Burton directing and Johnny Depp starring should make it a natural hit and an amazing cinematic experience. But instead things just don’t turn our right, in fact, they go pretty wrong pretty quickly. The dark and dreary atmosphere is unfortunately too familiar with Burton’s other works, even though it should stand out here. The plot is the weakest part, the whole jilted ex-lover out for revenge trope we’ve seen time and time again. Sure, it’s dandied up with all the spooky trappings, ghosts and vampires and witchcraft, but it’s nothing new. Unfortunately, that’s a big problem. Just reading through the plots for the series, there was a lot of things going on, most of which is ignored and discarded, though there are a few references. But what we end up with is bland.
The Transylvanian version of The Help didn’t do as well
Though the period setting of 1971 is largely used on a few jokes that fall flat and hippie murder (killing hippies is soooo Kent State…) it does help in giving some characters a distinct look as they’re dressed in period clothing as opposed to modern fashion (and it helps that retro looks are in and what old is new!) Beyond that, you’ll not even notice that it is set in the past and not modern day, the few times older technology is used, it’s not intrusive and it keeps things from getting diluted with cell phone videos of vampire action being uploaded to YouTube.
The film is not all bad, there are bright spots. The strongest aspects of Dark Shadows are the actors. Everyone is bringing their A games. But they got little to work with, and the film can’t be carried by performances alone. And remember that it’s Collins, not Cullen. Let’s not say things we can’t take back and have sparkle vampires starting to wander around…
Three Stooges witchcraft
Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) – A 17th-century man cursed to become a vampire by a scorned lover. He’s imprisoned in the ground for 200 years and is freed in 1971, where he sets out to try to bring his family back to prominence. There is no actor I could have conceived of playing this part except Johnny Depp, and no one else could have done it justice. But Depp seems to be acting a constant stream of Jack Sparrow variations, eventually it’s going to get tiresome. Eventually means real soon.
Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) – A former servant of the Collins family 200 years prior and a witch, who has been enacting revenge against the family ever since Barnabas spurned her. Eva Green is spectacular and looks spectacular.
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) – The matriarch of the Collins family, and the only thing holding it together until Barnabas arrives with help and secret treasure. Michelle Pfeiffer is frakking awesome. It is great to see a strong role for an older woman in a Hollywood film.
Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Moretz) – Elizabeth’s teenage daughter, who seems to think she’s some sort of rocker chick and is permanently scowling.
Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) – Hired to be the governess of David Collins. Victoria is a name she made up on the train ride over. She bears a striking resemblance to Barnbas’s true love, Josette du Pres, and quickly catches his eye.
Actual photo of the original test audience five minutes after the film ended…