The Muppets

In an age of dumbed-down action overblown Hollywood busts that should make the average American enraged, there is a soft glow of nostalgia and self-deprecating campy humor.  Oh Jason Segel, I love you.  True story: Jason Segel pitched the idea for the Muppets to Disney immediately after the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Their reaction: Hell No!  Disney was not excited about having a dude in his 20s who just exposed a full frontal of his long schlong to all of America helm a project about the resurgence of a beloved troupe of talking puppets.  However, he came back and somehow convinced them, through his passion of the Muppets, that he was the right guy for the job.  Pretty damn amazing if I say so myself.

But enough about the backstory, what about the movie itself?  Adorable, witty, charismatic and thoroughly enjoyable.  The film plot begs a question I oftentimes think of myself on nights that I find myself unable to sleep, tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling: Where are the Muppets now?  Turns out, Kermit is living a lonely bachelor life in a huge Bel Air mansion, Gonzo is making millions off of toilet manufacturing, or was it doorknobs?, Animal is at an insane asylum with none other than Jack Black, Miss Piggy is off being the Devil Wears Prada in Paris (with Emily Blunt reprising the same role as the aforesaid film), and Fozzy Bear, poor old Fozzy, is performing with Muppet knock offs in some tawdry casino in Reno.  Enter plot twist: an evil Rich Guy is trying to buy up the Muppets stage for the cache of oil beneath it.  And so begins the journey to try to reunite the Muppets once again, get money back in order to buy back the old venerable Muppets stage.

Besides the talented cast (Jason Segel wrote the screenplay and stars with his co-star Amy Adams, Jack Black) there’s a generous dose of random well-placed cameos (Sarah Silverman, Emily Blunt, her husband John Krasinski, Whoopi Goldberg, Serena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, Dave Grohl, Ken Jeong, Neil Patrick Harris, that Columbian kid from Modern family).  With the lovely backup musicals provided by Brett MacKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, you can imagine that this is a film that you wouldn’t want to miss.   I even stayed through the credits.  The Muppets are Back! $9

If you heart the Muppets

Recommendations by …
Toy Story 3
Shrek
The Muppets in Manhattan

p.s.  brilliant

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/jason-segel-gets-date-invite-chelsea-gill_n_1185748.html

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The King’s Speech

Colin Firth…oh you have aged, but I still wouldn’t kick you outta bed. Even with that stammer and grim stare, you’re awfully adorable. So I have been cramming in some oscar nominated films I haven’t gotten around to yet, and the king’s speech has been on my list, since it’s a frontwinner to win the oscar’s. Oscar-worthy? Probably. Was it better than the Social Network? Possibly.

The story about King George the VI’s speech impediment was one I had never heard of before, and the film made it quite clear how incredible awkward and uncomfortable it was to listen to the former King of England. Good points to the film: great acting by Colin Firth, historical story I was not familiar with, likability of characters. Not so good points: story kind of dragged a bit, not the best roles for Helena Bonham Carter or Geoffrey Rush, and well, it was about a bunch of old dead white folks. Like there haven’t been about a million and one movies written about old dead white folks. There seemed to be definitely chemistry between the main characters, you could believe that they genuinely liked each other. Not terribly ground-breaking or innovative, there were some interesting camera shots that I think haven’t been tried in these types of traditional Victorian-esque films, but not a bad film all around. I think I just would have liked it better if it didn’t remind me so much of Howard’s End or Remains of the Day or any other dozen movies out there of old English people.

That said, it was enjoyable, one of the better movies I’ve seen in the last year for sure….$9

If you heart The King’s Speech:
Recommendations from …:
Young Victoria
Remains of the Day
Howard’s End

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Putting an exclamation mark inside the title of a movie may seem a bit presumptuous, like, oh! this movie is so good! we have an exclamation mark! Nothwithstanding, this movie deserves that exclamation mark.  What a heartwarming, uplifting movie about never letting go of one’s dreams.

This documentary/rockumentary revolves around the lives of two 50+ year old rockers, who were semi-huge back in the 80s and never gave up, a great movie to watch if you’re down and out.  There is a movie every so often that leaves you inspired.  This is such a movie.  The producers did a great job of getting famous rock artists, slash from gnr, lars ulrich from metallica, scott from anthrax to talk about how anvil was a huge influence on their music and legitmatize their right to fame.

Mr. Anvil squared, I want to meet you and invite you to my dinner table.   Will you come?  I’d like to sit and be inspired by you because you just seem like really good, goofy, nice guys.  I’ll cook good food I promise!

Even if you weren’t a fan of metal back in the day, I  still recommend this to anyone who has had a dream and wished they had the guts to follow it until the end…$9

If you heart Anvil! The Story of Anvil:

Recommendations from …
This is Spinal Tap
Murderball
Billy Elliot

The City of Your Final Destination

O James Ivory! You would have made Ismail Merchant proud! O City of Your Final Destination! What are you about? Nostalgia? Longing? Jealousy? Heartache? Such sad things to ponder among your idyllic settings. What shall I praise first – your expert set and wardrobe design? Your superb cinematography? Your extraordinary cast? I’m out of adjectives. Let’s begin with cast.

O Anthony Hopkins! I was beginning to have such doubt. I saw The Wolfman and I thought, maybe he has Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer type. Maybe he’s throwing in the towel. But you are not demented. You are as ingenious an actor as you always were. There is something a little Hannibal Lecter about this role – I can’t put my finger on it precisely. It’s elegance punctuated by a dark hunger. O you and Hiroyuki Sanada are so precious together.

Laura Linney you are looking glamorous these days! Most movies they put you in a frumpy sweater. They put you in charge of a child or a profoundly retarded adult. Not that you can’t achieve sexiness in that. But usually you’re mom-sexy and not cougar-sexy. Here you’re kind of mean-sexy which is one of my favorite kinds.

O Charlotte Gainsbourg. You’re so charming! Even when you look sleepy and emaciated. I can’t help it – I want you around at dinnertime. I want to feed you.

What else is there to say? Amazing score. Unpredictable humor. Champagne and cigarettes. Bees. You have it all . . . $9

If you heart The City of Your Final Destination:

Recommendations by DJ Cheet
The Last Station
Babette’s Feast
Hirokazu Koreeda’s After Life

Please Give

O Nicole Holofcener! Another gem to add to your resume! Another worthy companion of Lovely & Amazing and Friends with Money.

I never knew what people saw in Amanda Peet. But I’m starting to get it now. Peet makes me crave neurotic women. Scary, orange women. Rebecca Hall is beautiful and level-headed as always. And Catherine Keener continues to get more gorgeous with age.

Cast and crew aside – you tackle some very interesting thematic territory. In a depression era, I’m excited to see someone interested in charity and excess. That is, grotesque charity and grotesque excess. If all your cruelty, spite, your mean-spirited sarcasm, your lack of pity, your warped sense of charity, your pessimism, your grim portrayal of aging, your grim portrayal of marriage & parenting, and your obsessive attention to the imperfections of the body made me laugh like a manic hyena – does that make me a bad person? No, I mean really laugh – mouth contorting, eyes tearing, balled-up fist slapping the thigh and such. I don’t think anything this year has tickled my funny bone this superbly. Maybe Greenberg. Nah, not even Greenberg.

But I’m not sure about the last scene. There’s a mixed message about money and I think you land on the amoral side (i.e. if you have money that’s great because you don’t have to eat TV dinners, and it’s okay to buy yourself some happiness i.e. $200 jeans). I guess I don’t mind the message so much but why end there? Why end on a point so blatantly derelict? Don’t get me wrong – you are thoroughly un-PC the whole journey and I love you for it. I’m just not sure in that last scene if you’re still interested in parody or if you’re trying to be sincere. Are you trying to be sincere? Sincerity is not your strength. Maybe you were short on ideas and decided to reach for the nearest cathartic experience. I don’t blame you. You never claimed to have all the answers. A lot of fantastic films get fatigued at the end and just can’t finish. Just look at Eyes Wide Shut. Or A.I. And Stanley Kubrick was the greatest director who ever lived!

All in all I have to say I’m impressed that movies like you are getting made . . . $9

If you heart Please Give:

Recommendations by DJ Cheet
The Savages
Sideways
Broken Flowers

And though it’s not a movie . . . How to be Good (book) by Nick Hornby.

The Visitor

the_visitor_movie_poster

The Visitor had a refreshing peek into the common fears and tragedies of an immigrant’s experience.  Most of the films I’ve seen surrounding the undocumented experience focus on the Latin American variety.  The focal point of The Visitor is on a young Muslim couple from two different countries: Syria and Senegal.  The movie doesn’t dwell so much on the hardships they faced as “illegals”.  Instead, much of the story follows the development of a wrinkly, old curmudgeon, played by Richard Jenkins, and his relationship with the undocumented couple.  Writer and director, Thomas McCarthy, demonstrated his talent for tender relationships among unlikely strangers in his last movie, The Station Agent.  He is able to capture the same beauty in this one.  What else do you need in a movie, aside from genuine, heartfelt relationships that keep you entranced?

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Overall, I really enjoyed following the characters and watching them perform.  There were times I felt the writing could be more realistic.  Certainly, the lighter, humorous moments were surprising and much appreciated in the scope of the traumatizing process that encompasses immigration… $9

If you heart The Visitor

Recommendations by Yolkie:
Dirty Pretty Things
Maria Full of Grace
The Station Agent

Trailer: The Visitor

Departures (おくりびと)

It made me laugh, it made me cry, and in the end, it made me hopeful.

A beautifully filmed story about Dai Kobayshi, a failed cellist who returns to his hometown in Yamagata from the urban jungle of Tokyo, and ends up curiously as a encoffiner.  From the understated sentiments and expressions to gorgeous scenery to very likeable characters to unique and at times surprisingly funny moments that come with the process of encoffinment, there’s a lot of appreciate in this movie.  It can be a bit formulaic at times,  with a bit of heavy handedness from the plot and direction in terms of tone, but also very effective in its poignancy.

This view on smaller town life in Japan focused on the everyday life and people, with their quirks and humor, but also clearly about death.  The movie is very good at showing the macabre associations with death, the actual preparation of the bodies, along with the emotional associations and the importance of closure through the enconffinment process, but also, curiously uplifting in its message.  The end of the movie fittingly ends with a death, but also with life with relics from Kobayashi’s past, which makes the whole movie seem almost too perfectly circular.

Although this was a beautifully filmed movie, touching, poignant and uplifting, I’m not sure it will be everyone’s cup of tea all the time, since it will likely at least make you tear up…$9

If you heart Departures:

Recommendations from …:
Beaches
The Wrestler
Boy A

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