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The Muppets Most Wanted

26 Mar

mmw

Synopsis: While on tour in Europe, directly after the last movie ends, the Muppets find themselves involved in an international crime spree headed by Kermit look alike, the world’s # 1 criminal Constantine.

CAST
Kermit the Frog (Himself), Ricky Gervais (Dominic, a.k.a. Number Two), Miss Piggy (Herself), Ty Burrell (Jean Pierre Napoleon), Tina Fey (Nadya), Constantine (Himself) and Sam Eagle (Himself).

REVIEW: The Muppets return in The Muppets Most Wanted. This film is the most fun I have had the movies in a long time. They’re all there, Kermit, Fozzy, Miss Piggy, Rolf the Dog, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth and Company, Animal , Gonzo etc. etc. . From the opening musical number to the end credits, this is Muppet mayhem that Jim Henson would be proud of.
The plot centers on the Muppets not sure what to do after the end of the last film, hire tour manager (Ricky Gervais) Dominic Badguy (pronounced badgee, it’s French). They prepare for a world tour when the worlds number 1 criminal, Constantine, a dead ringer for Kermit, except for a black mole on his face, escapes a Siberian Gulag. In cahoots with world’s number 2 criminal, Dominic Badguy, of course, they kidnap Kermit in Berlin, Germany, while the rest of the Muppets are rehearsing their show. Kermit is mistaken for Constantine, after a black mole is secretly attached to his face, is taken to the Siberia gulag, while Constantine tries to pass as Kermit. Constantine’s constant struggles with perfecting both Kermit’s unique voice and style are hilarious. Apparently only Animal thinks Constantine is, “Bad Kermit!, Bad Kermit!”, no one else suspects. The newest addition to the Muppets Waldo , so awed by Kermit, suspects something is wrong, but lacks the confidence to tell anyone. Waldo has heart and determination and comes through, with the help of Fozzy and Animal of course.
Tina Fey plays Nadia, a guard at the gulag; she is a big fan of Kermit and secretly loves him. Fey gives a bravura performance; she is hilarious, charismatic and steals every scene she is in. I can’t say enough about how she builds everything she says and does to comic delight. Considering we are in a time in history when Russian leader Vladimir Putin has just invaded Crimea, the timing of this movie is in fact just the tonic the world needs to see how insidious Russian politics can be. The Siberian Gulag is depicted as bleak as in any movie. I think Mel Brooks couldn’t have satirized the Russians any better than the Muppets did.

On the trail of Constantine is Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), a French Interpol detective who works together with Muppet, Sam Eagle. Napoleon is very much like Inspector Clouseau with outrages French accent and bumbling.
With any good Muppet feature there come a slew of famous cameos, they include, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Zack Galafinakis, Josh Groban as a maximum security prisoner at the gulag, Frank Langella, Christoph Waltz, doing a waltz with Sweetums, Salma Hayeck, Danny Tucci as a gulag guard, and Usher as what else a theater usher and Ray Liotta. Celine Dion plays Miss Piggy’s fairy Godmother in a duet together that will have you in tears with laughter. There 24 cameos, half the fun is seeing who you can spot.
The music is spot on; at times the songs are filled with humor and fun. There is enough music, laughs and excitement to hold the attention of any child, and more than enough irreverent references and gags to delight the adults as well. Even the end credits complete with budgetary references is worth watch. This one of the few times the sequel is better than the reboot. They even joke about the reboot and they are very self aware of being in a sequel. To quote Animal: “See movie, see movie, see movie!”
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Les Misérables

25 Dec

les-miserables-four-new-production-featurettes

Synopsis: From the novel by Victor Hugo, Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption-a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.

CAST:

Hugh Jackman………………………………………..Jean Valjean

Anne Hathaway………………………………………………Fantine

Russell Crowe…………………………………….Inspector Javert

Amanda Seyfried……………………………………………Cossette

Eddie Redmayne………………………………………………Marius

Sasha Baron Cohen……………………………………Thernardier

Helena Bonham Carter…………………..Madame Thenardier

Review:Go see Les Misérables, it’s that simple. I will not talk about plot points, I feel unless you are a Tibetan Monk, there isn’t an adult on the planet who hasn’t seen the  play or read Victor Hugo’s epic book. The Broadway show was eye candy compared to this realistic, gritty in your face interpretation. Director Tom Hooper delivers outstanding performances from his world class troupe of actors, so this is where I shall begin, from best to least.

Anne Hathaway will take your breath away as Fantine.  As Fantine, mother of Cosette, sacked factory worker turned prostitute, Hathaway delivers the show stopping number I Dreamed a Dream. Her soul searing, gut wrenching, sympathetic, performance of the song, will stay with you long after you leave the theater. Her interpretation of the song is so real, like the way Judy Garland sang, she just doesn’t sing the song she feels every emotion in it. Her performance is so strong when she appears toward the film’s end, her redemption of Valjean fills you with tears. Trust me there wasn’t a dry eye of any gender in the house.  Kudos to Hathaway, whatever awards she has been nominated for she certainly earned them with this performance.

Hugh Jackman no stranger to musical theater, delivers a solid performance as Valjean. Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving baby. Branded a thief, he spends the next 19 years at hard labor. His emotional transformation from criminal, to a man with a heart of gold, is both enthralling, and masterfully navigated by Jackman.  Blaming himself for Fantine’s downfall, he promises her, while she is dying in the hospital, he will find her daughter Cosette, and give her the life she deserves. It is through Cosette, he finds the love in his heart, and the goodness in the world he thought he had lost as a slave. His face says it all.

Sasha Baron Cohen chews scenery with comic timing. He plays Thernardier the pick-pocket, insidious, opportunistic, money grubbing low-life inn keeper, who is Cosette’s guardian. Cohen plays the part with much glee. The song Master of The House tells you everything you need to know about Thenardier. He would sell his own mother if he thought he could make a few francs. He is also quite stupid.

Helena Bonham Carter plays Madame Thenardier, she chews scenery with comic timing as well as Cohen. Together they make a nefarious pair. Madame has a daughter whom she loves, she took in Cosette to get Fantine to pay for her support. Fantine leaves Cosette with the inn keeper and his wife when she is left a single mother, and has to make it on her own. Madame takes full advantage of this and is always sending for more money. Obviously she is using the money to buy her daughter gifts and fine clothes. Cosette, until bought by Valjean, is forced to work as a servant at the inn. Carter is always fun to watch no matter what role she plays. This time she reminded me of her work in Sweeney Todd, with Johnny Depp.

Amanda Seyfried plays Cosette. Here is a young actress with a healthy future before her.  Her Cosette is lovely, innocent and yearning. Her juxtapose between her longing for Marius and her devotion to Valjean is hard to do for a seasoned actor, here she makes it her own.

Eddie Redmayne is Marius and delivers a heartfelt performance. His love for Cosette is real, you feel every twist of his emotions. He is torn between his love of country and his comrades fight for freedom, and his love for Cosette. When he finds out Cosette may be leaving the country, he fights with his comrades behind the barricade. Valjean finds out Marius loves Cosette, so he risks his life to save Marius. The revolution scenes tear at you as the songs of freedom and revolution are sung by Marius and his comrades.

Russell Crowe as Javert was unconvincing. His performance lacked what everyone else had, heart. Even when he sang his arms hung limp at his side, his face stoic , he didn’t reveal through his song his inner demons.  As much as Hathaway and Jackman let you see inside them, Crowe did not. There where times you felt Crowe would rather be anywhere else but playing Javert.  In fact when he struggles with the notion that Valjean represents God’s goodness and he, Javert, perhaps was wrong all along to stick with his sense of duty, you remain unconvinced. Javert final moments should have some sympathy, but not so with Crowe’s performance.

They say true art can change people. If that is truth, then Les Misérables is a work of art. Everyone at the film felt every emotion through the journey Hugo’s story takes you on. Despite what people say about the emotional manipulation of the book and score, the underlying themes of love and redemption are universal.

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