The Muppets Take Manhattan – BlogalongaMuppets 3

Similar to The Muppet Movie this instalment is about the Muppets themselves as an entertainment group seeking fame. This time they are just finishing college and want to take their final year musical, Manhattan Melodies, to Broadway. After initial failure to find a producer they disband and Kermit is left alone (or so he thinks) to try to get the show off the ground.

I’m finding it harder than expected to write about these early Muppet films, somehow I don’t find them distinctive enough from one another to comment effectively. Similar to the two previous films I found the songs forgettable and the plot a little lacking. With the Muppets spending the majority of the film disbanded a chunk of the film feels like a series of sketches rather than a coherent whole.

More continuing themes include the meta in-jokes, much less heavy-handed this time round, and the occasional celebrity cameos. Joan Collins makes an appearance with a face so different to that which she has now, I could barely recognise her. Again they include a bit of impressive bike riding, and again the appearance of Rizzo and his fellow rats provide by far the best moments.

One highlight, so this doesn’t get too heavy, is a wonderful song (yes, I liked a song!) in which Miss Piggy sings about what life would be like if she had known Kermit all her life. Cue adorable baby Muppets and the inspiration for Muppet Babies.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Kermit in this film. With success not coming easily the majority of the Muppets leave him behind, their faith in his vision apparently not strong enough to keep them in Manhattan. Apart from Miss Piggy of course, her love for Kermit leaves her keeping an eye on the green fella, never leaving him unloved.

Kermit, as ever, is the rock holding this film together, he is the true stalwart trying to make The Muppets happen, and realise the promise of the “standard rich and famous contract”. It’s not so much The Muppets Take Manhattan as it is Kermit Slowly Works Hard to Get a Musical Off The Ground While The Muppets Try to Get On With Their Lives. Obviously that is much less catchy.

Still, this is a Muppet film so I’m probably being too harsh. Thanks to Rizzo and the Muppet babies, it’s my favourite so far.

I’m staying! You hear that, New York? THE FROG IS STAYING!

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppets Take Manhattan
2. The Great Muppet Caper
3. The Muppet Movie

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – DVD review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 DVD

This isn’t the end. Pop the film disc for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 into your DVD player and once past the obligatory copyright notice, first you will see an advert for the Lego games for years five to seven, and then the introductory video for Pottermore. So every time you’re reminded of tiny Harry, all wide eyes in Philosopher’s Stone, and start welling up a little at the idea that it’s finishing, you can always book your studio tour during a break in watching your Elder Wand DVD boxset and know that this franchise isn’t going anywhere.

But even while I am cynically half-expecting a reboot to be announced within a year, I was hard-pressed to stay completely dry-eyed while watching this two-disc package. We’ve reviewed the film itself pretty extensively so this post will focus on the special features. Like Part 1, the one difference between the Blu-ray and DVD is the Blu-ray version has Maximum Movie Mode, which interrupts your film-watching with extra behind-the-scenes information. It’s a shame there isn’t a more conventional commentary, which would be informative without being overly intrusive.

The Special Features disc is more satisfying, if not exactly overflowing with extras, and there are adverts scattered all throughout as if someone watching might actually be surprised that it was possible to get the other seven films on DVD and Blu-ray too. The Focus Points section contains nine behind the scenes featurettes (well, eight and a soppy farewell sequence) which provide interesting extra details on different aspects of the film, such as the Room of Requirement set, the Molly and Bellatrix fight and evolution of the costumes.

The most meaty feature is the 45 minute When Harry Left Hogwarts – a documentary with some behind the scenes coverage and a lot of banter and reflection on what Potter has meant to everyone. An air of melancholy colours all of their musings – Emma Thompson recommends therapy for the “kids”; Julie Walters declares the set as one of the least dysfunctional places they could have grown up on. Of Radcliffe, Grint and Watson, Emma is by far the most eloquent and thoughtful an interviewee, but all of the young adults speak about the pressure of being child stars and how it feels with the world waiting for them to screw up and what they have missed out on through not having a “normal” life – while all the time emphasising how happy they are and grateful for the opportunity. It’s also evident how much work the Harry Potter franchise has provided for people and I was left fretting about what the setbuilders and stunt people are going to do next. Stick with it through to the closing credits though, which might be my favourite part of the whole disc.

The Women of Harry Potter left me feeling similarly sad, even as Joanne Rowling speaks of being rightly proud of creating a wide range of well-rounded female characters. It’s the interviews with the dwarves in the main documentary and the additional The Goblins of Gringotts that provide a bit of relief from all the goodbyes and retrospection. This is partly down to getting to see Warwick Davis chat as himself and not as his Life’s Too Short character, but also because all of the actors playing goblins seem so good humoured and the excitement of Warwick Davis’ kids is very cute.

Apart from these features (and more adverts) there are eight deleted scenes, which are mostly small character moments that would have added a bit more emotion to the film’s existing action, including Tonks and Lupin reuniting on the Hogwarts’ battlements and a Ginny and Harry moment that I found more touching than any kiss they had in the films.

If you’re a fan, it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t want this DVD in some form, whether it’s to join your existing seven others, or if you intend to buy all eight in one set. Although then you have to choose between a no-frills version, or a special numbered edition, or whether to hold on for a year if you believe the rumours of the “Ultimate” boxset, expected to come out at the end of 2012. (I told you the franchise wasn’t going anywhere).

And if you haven’t followed these films from Philosopher’s Stone to Deathly Hallows, I have no idea why you’re still reading this. You definitely don’t need me to tell you this isn’t the purchase for you.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is out on DVD and Blu-ray on Friday. And then gets recalled on 29th December. Then will get re-released again and again and again ad infinitum.

We Love Anime: Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva & Mardock Scramble Parts 1 & 2

When asked by a man called Jon whether I wanted to check out the We Love Anime Festival screening at Stratford East Picturehouse on Saturday I was tentative. All I knew of anime was Pokémon and feared that true, hardcore anime would involve more amorous tentacles than I can handle. Curious to try a new genre of film, I went along and did enjoy myself, though it was a shame the two screenings I attended were struggling to get audience sizes into the double digits. Where’s the anime love Londoners?

Here’s what I saw:

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva

A children’s film based on a Nintendo DS game is a worrying prospect but Eternal Diva turned out to have the ideas and visuals to turn a simple spin-off into a solid film of its own. Professor Layton (lover of puzzles, renowned archaeologist and a true gentleman) and his apprentice Luke reminisce about an old case, one which involved both puzzles, archaeology and being a gentleman.

A trip to see one of Layton’s old students perform turns into a quest for eternal life as the concert hall sets sail on the sea and its inhabitants are set a series of puzzles. The winner, last man standing, is to be given eternal life, while all other contestants will receive instant death. Oh no! With a surprisingly complex plot, entertaining dialogue and gorgeous backdrops, this is a surprisingly great family film.

Mardock Scramble Parts 1 & 2

Mardock Scramble is a trilogy of short(ish) films based on the manga series based on a series of novels by Tow Ubukata. After being left for dead by Shell, fifteen year old prostitute Rune Ballot is rescued by Dr. Easter and made into a semi-cyborg so that she can testify against Shell and his gang. With a robotic mouse, Oeufcoque, Rune must come to terms with what happened to her and fight to stay alive so she can win the case against Shell.

Much more in keeping with my assumptions about anime these films are like no court room drama I’ve ever seen. What we have is extreme violence, constant nudity and plenty of talking cyborg animals, including a gay dolphin who seems to be dating a small boy. I could go on listing the bizarre things we witnessed that day (Shell’s gang is headed up by a man called Boiled and consists of men who graft various body parts to themselves) but that would spoil the wonder for anyone hoping to see it one day. Though I will admit to drifting off during the first of these two films, they were beautiful, horrific and mesmerising. While I may not be launching into the world of anime any time soon, I will happily watch the third film once it is released.

Take Shelter’s Biggest Fake Fans

Earlier this week Movie Mavericks noticed that the positive comments on their Mirror, Mirror trailer post had all come from the same source and were duplicated across the internet. Could social media marketing have reached the depths of posting fake comments? We can’t really tell, but whatever is going on it seems that Take Shelter is getting in on the act if a look at five of our followers is anything to go by.

Last month when I was pushing our review of Take Shelter on Twitter we picked up a few followers and some appreciative tweets, a rarity in itself.

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Out of curiosity I had a look at these new followers and they seemed an odd bunch but that’s to be expected. On closer inspection they were all tweeting in an odd way, most repeating a similar tweet about the weather and what to have for dinner, the rest made up of random retweets and identical messages to people about Take Shelter. Could this be a coincidence? There’s nothing too suspicious about a group of passionate movie fans. But then it turned out that they were lying to us.

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Out Now – 25th October 2011

It’s Oscar season! With this being a baseball movie I am at a loss to try to comprehend the plot. What I can say is that this film stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman and yet none of these are the most exciting cast member, that title belongs to Chris Pratt. Pratt is an amazing comedic actor, keep your eyeballs on him.

The Deep Blue Sea
Sadly not involving hyper-intelligent killer sharks. Instead a poorly reviewed romantic period drama starring Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz.

To quote my rave review (cruelly left off the film’s poster): “In short, a moving and hilarious film about living with cancer. Who knew a Seth Rogan project would almost make me cry?” Fans of indie drama and broad comedy can unite and see who lasts the longest without crying.

My Week with Marilyn
Michelle Williams is Marilyn Monroe! Kenneth Branagh is Sir Laurence Olivier! Emma Watson is some random costume woman called Lucy! Eddie Redmayne is the lead! You know him! He was in an episode of Doctors eight years ago!

Dream House
Rachel Weisz (again) stars in this horror alongside her new husband Daniel Craig. Apparently this is the film where they moved from friends to friends with a serious commitment to one another, so there’s something to look out for if the plot is a little lack-lustre.

Take Shelter (limited release)
In my (mostly) rave review I used phrases like, “infinitely better than Evan Almighty“, “Shannon is brilliant”, “a clever, well told story” and “an enthralling watch and a great showcase for Michael Shannon”. Michael Shannon plays a man who thinks the world is going to end and then it either does or doesn’t. If your local cinema isn’t showing this film, move.

An African Election (limited release)
“An African Election is a political documentary that exposes the never-before-seen, nitty-gritty of political electioneering in Africa.”

Resistance (limited release)
“In 1944 a group of women in an isolated Welsh village wake up to discover all of their husbands have mysteriously vanished.” Oooh a thriller. Shame this will be overshadowed in this over-saturated week of releases. A cast of Iwan Rheon, Michael Sheen and Andrea Riseborough is worth leaving the house for.

We Were Here (limited release)
A moving look at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. Sadly only showing at the ICA, why not work it into a trip to see where the Queen lives?

Revenge: A Love Story (limited release)
Quirky romantic comedy in which a man’s girlfriend is raped by a psychotic killer leaving him to seek revenge.

Parked (limited release)
“Fred Daly returns to Ireland with nowhere to live but his car. Then dope-smoking 21-year-old Cathal parks beside him, and brightens up his lonely world. Encouraged by Cathal, Fred meets attractive music teacher Jules. Growing closer, these three outsiders are set on a course that will change their lives forever.” WARNING! The synopsis on the official website includes that most familiar of phrases, “forms an unlikely friendship”.

The Future – Review

For The Future writer Miranda July has teamed up with director Miranda July to create her second feature starring Miranda July as Sophie, alongside Hamish Linklater as her partner Jason and Miranda July as Paw-Paw a narrating cat. In the bizarre set-up Sophie and Jason have one month before they can adopt injured cat Paw-Paw. If they bond with him the cat could live for a further five years. By their logic this means by the time he dies they will be forty, which is practically fifty and after that your life is over. With just one month left to “live” the young couple try to fulfil their kooky dreams.

On a brief positive note, The Future is a likeable film with a pleasant cast and agreeable direction. What lets the film down is an over-abundance of kook, leaving this art-house film feeling a little try hard and difficult to deal with. Kook is allowed in a film, Beginners had a dog with subtitles but that was fine as a single unit of kook.

The Future has the following seven units of kook (at least):

  • Narrating cat
  • Interpretive dance
  • Door to door tree salesman
  • Man who can freeze time
  • Talking moon
  • Animated yellow T-shirt
  • Girl buried in the ground

That is too much kook. By the time the moon started talking my kook limit had been breached. Think back to Office Space when Jennifer Aniston was resisting wearing any more flair on her uniform, now think of Brian. Brian had flair all over, and if you remember then you’ll know he was an irritant.

When The Future tips over into being a Brian it goes too far and the charm it had in abundance at the start becomes incredibly grating and the end result is very unsatisfying. David Warshofsky as Marshall is as close as the audience gets to having someone to relate to, until he essentially plants his daughter in the back garden.

The Future is out on limited release and can’t wait to charm and frustrate you.

Orange Rising Star Award 2012 Nominees

This week the nominees for the 2012 Orange Rising Star Award were announced. With voting handled by the Great British Public, this is the one time we get a say on who wins a proper award. It is our duty as UK citizens and internet based film fans to have that say and vote. Let’s have a completely objective look at the nominees.

Jessica Chastain
Appearing in no less than five films this year, Chastain has burst out of nowhere to become a big upcoming presence in modern cinema. Highlights for me include Take Shelter and Coriolanus.

Eddie Redmayne
With the look of a male Gemma Arterton about him, Redmayne has only one major release this year, and it isn’t out until tomorrow. Still, having the lead role in My Week with Marilyn amongst so many British stalwarts is impressive.

Adam Deacon
A good handful of films out this year and yet the only roles I am likely to have seen Deacon in are the two separate characters he’s played on Casualty. Anuvahood did look amusing though.

Chris Hemsworth
From Home and Away to playing Thor, God of Oversized Hammers, Hemsworth has come a long way in the past four years. FUN FACT: He also did one episode of Neighbours.

Tom Hiddleston
Hiddleston is all over the shop starring in everything from comic book blockbusters to arty family dramas, from Woody Allen to The Deep Blue Sea. His face terrifies me slightly but we shouldn’t hold that against him.

Jennifer Lawrence
Lovely Jennifer Lawrence went on from her Oscar nominated performance to play Anton Yelchin’s love interest twice and to take on the role of a blue X-Person. Soon to be heading up the Next Big Franchise, Lawrence’s star is on the rise.

Felicity Jones
HELLO! No, I must remain impartial. Since getting the nod from us early last year (way before everyone else), Jones has been on a dramatic rise topped by a win at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Not bad for a Brummie.

Chris O’Dowd
After slogging away on Channel 4 since 2006, O’Dowd has hit the big screen three times in the past two years. It was his appearance in Bridesmaids which everyone actually noticed though, providing a much-needed core to a fun but messy comedy.

There are your eight nominees, who will you vote for? We are remaining totally impartial…

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Shame, Sex and Full Frontal Nudity: The NC-17 Debate

There has been a bit of a kerfuffle online over the fact that Shame has been given the rating of NC-17 in America. Shame being a drama about a man with sex addiction containing “strong sex” and full frontal sexy nudity of both the male (Michael Fassbender) and female (Carey Mulligan and many more) variety, it is not too surprising that an 18 certificate applies in the UK. So why is it that a similar rating in the US is seen as an exercise in draconian censorship and a death sentence at the box office, leading some people to ask whether “the MPAA be empowered to make parenting decisions“?

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Titanic 3D – Trailer & Pics

Something odd happened to me as I watched the trailer for Titanic‘s 3D re-release: I got a bit nostalgic for a James Cameron film. The sweeping camera, the intense emotion, the inevitable sinking feeling, and a time when seeing Kate Winslet naked was a treat rather than an inevitability, all rushed back to me, 12 years after I first saw the film. Have I got James Cameron wrong? Was I too harsh when I declared him a prick?


This is a 3D re-release after all, making it more expensive, more difficult to watch and therefore plain unnecessary. In essence, modern-day prickish James Cameron has taken the good work of pre-prick Cameron and retroactively pricked it up… if that makes sense. It’s as if he looked at his back catalogue, saw something of genuine quality and couldn’t help but ruin it. It’s enough to make me shake my fist in the air and shout out in a growl, “CAMERON!”, but I haven’t done that since the last general election (political!)

The trailer is below, and is a bizarre case of a 2D trailer for the re-release of an old film made into in 3D, therefore unable to showcase any of the new draw. There are also some fresh new stills, some including a pre-prick Cameron, which are also from a film over 10 years old. To repeat a joke, you can get 280,000+ more stills by buying Titanic on DVD.


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In summary: I do quite like Titanic, just not in 3D please.