Muppets Most Wanted

maxresdefault

2011’s reboot of The Muppets was exactly what the furry troupe needed with Jason Segel sentimental yet warmly funny script and Brett Mckenzie (of Flight of the Conchords) trademark comedy song writing we were treated to a movie which stood up to the original series and in some aspects surpassed them. It was a box office smash and now being a Disney property a sequel was inevitability. This time round Segel’s no longer on board but with a replacement human lead in the form of Ricky Gervais and more original songs from Mckenzie this crime caper adventure still held promise.

Muppets Most Wanted begins exactly where The Muppets left off, it literally begins with the ‘The End’ firework that closed the first movie and we immediately found ourselves treated to our first musical number, ‘We’re Doing a Sequel’ and from here on the laughs come thick and fast. The plot sees Gervais’ Dominic Badguy assuming control of The Muppets and offering to take them on a world tour. Little do they know Badguy is not all kosher and is in fact in cahoots with the most wanted criminal in the world and Kermit doppelganger Constantine. Together they’ve hatched a plan to switch places with Kermit seeing the friendly frog sent to stay in Gulag while Badguy and Constantine find a way to the crown jewels framing The Muppets as they go. Hot on their trail though are Sam the American Eagle and French police office Jean Paul Napoleon (Ty Burrell) who provide us with perhaps the best laughs of the film most of which come from the ridiculous stereotypes exemplified by Burrell’s delightfully over-the-top Frnechman. Similar amounts of humour are to be found in the Gulag scenes as Kermit is entailed to teach inmates, who include the likes of Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta, how to perform a Broadway musical. Though the laughs don’t stop this film does suffer from a lack of heart, that sentimentality that Segel managed to inject into part one is missing here and by the films overlong climax this does become quite apparent and unfortunately for me the last ten to fifteen minutes don’t manage to keep the momentum going.

Overall though this is a sequel that on a comedy aspect is perhaps even better than the first part, however, its lack of heart means that as a while this isn’t quite a complete piece of work. Definitely worth a watch though for some light entertainment with good jokes and some great songs.

Monsters University

MONSTERS UNIVERSITYMonsters, Inc. is quite simply one of the greatest animated movies of all time, often overlooked because of the other great Pixar movies like Toy Story, I think the original Monsters has a good case for being the studio’s best. And when you compare that to the rest of Pixar’s output that is quite a statement. But Monsters, Inc. gives us one of the most brilliantly original ideas of any film I’ve seen, it creates a fantastic new universe of wacky creations and lovable characters. It’s a great example of everything that Pixar is about, forgetting conventions and coming up with something new. In fact it comes as a surprise to me that it has taken this long for a sequel to come out. Monsters University, though, isn’t your average sequel and although I’ve often moaned about the lack of original concepts from Pixar in recent years this prequel is something that has not just been dashed together, its a movie that has only been made because the idea is good enough, not for a quick profit like the shoddy Cars 2. Monsters University sees a return to form for the kings of computer animation.

While Monsters University does lose some of the magic that the first one had, mainly because the idea was so original, there ire still so many fresh and new ideas here that it would be harsh to judge it in that sense. The plot of the movies takes a rather predictable route, with a classic underdog story, but it’s greatest ideas are to be found in the smaller details. The collection of Monsters that have been created is both hilarious and impressive featuring a range of beasts which start at walking balls of fluff with hair and stop at everything in between before reaching multi-limbed, multi-horned, multi-eyed creatures that must have been an absolute joy to design. The writing remains fresh here too with great jokes that are a cut above your usual kids movies fodder, something Pixar have always been good at is appealing to all generations and Monsters University’s humour is the best example of this in a long while with the last two pictures, Brave and Cars 2 sadly lacking the holistic approach most of the studios movies have. They find humour in everything in this movie and keep a smile on your face from beginning to end. ┬áThe animation is some of the best I’ve ever seen as well, with vibrant colours that practically jump out the screen at you, it was a shame I saw it in 3D as the glasses reduce the amount of colour you see and the 3D itself is never actually used but it was still stunningly good looking.

With Monsters University, Pixar have delivered perhaps there most original, non-original movie and have given us a light, fresh, funny new film which stands up very well against some of their greatest hits. It may not be as good as its predecessor but this deserves to be one of the biggest hits of the summer.

 

My Neighbour Totoro

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while you may have come across my old review of Ponyo, this was back when I was only really a beginner when it came to Studio Ghibli. Since then my knowledge has grown somewhat and I only have a few more of Miyazaki’s films left to watch. My Neighbour Totoro is the original Ghibli movie and having now watched the film twice I can fully confirm that it is my favourite so far.

My Neighbour Totoro is the story of a small family, two little girls and their father (their mother is sick in hospital) who move into a new house that is supposedly haunted by soot gremlins. One day when Kanta, the older of the sisters, is at school Mei finds a magical creature which she names Totoro. As the film goes on Totoro pops up and helps the girls when they need it most. The strangest thing about this film is that there actually seems to be no conflicts at all. Every character is good and happy and trying to make the best for each other. This is what Miyazaki does so well and so uniquely. The magic of the characters and the wackiness of his inventions are enough to make the film entertaining enough without there needing any baddies or fights. Totoro is the prime example of this, when it comes to magical creatures he is the most lovable and when it comes to wackiness his flying, multi-legged, invisible cat bus is enough to make anyone smile with sheer glee.

It is this trait that sets Ghibli apart from any other childrens studio on the planet. Disney can’t do an animation without an evil baddie, not even Pixar can muster something quite so whimsical as to bypass any need for some kind of conflict. But Miyazaki can pull it off. The result are a collection of films that can genuinely brighten up your day, put a smile on your face and make you happy about life whether you’re four years old or forty.

 

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s latest sees him work with some different personnel than you might be used to, drafting in the likes of Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Harvey Keitel. No sign of Owen Wilson though, which is unusual but we are treated a nice dose of Bill Murray. It speaks to Anderson’s talent the way he’s managed to attract such stars to a quirky, alternative, teenage rom-com an they all manage to fit into his strange world seamlessly.

With the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox this is probably Anderson’s more child based films taking a number of his techniques from Rushmore. As with all of Anderson’s previous movies all the characters speak the same, in this very matter-of-fact, slightly monotone manner, in his films that way of talking transcends age and gender. Moonrise Kingdom focusses on a young boy and girl who both have fairly messed up families. Sam (Jared Gilman), it is discovered is an orphan, and a scout, he runs away from his scout camp to meet Suzy (Kara Hayward), they promptly fall in love an we learn of their back stories. The style of dialogue is even more ridiculous when it’s spoken by these two kids but it brings the film a nice charm and is frequently hilarious.

What follows is essentially a chase movie where the scout camp and Suzy’s parents try to round up the pair with a number of complications on the way. It builds up to a bit of a mad finale during a freak weather storm with a climactic scene that is put together in a classic Anderson fashion panning between all the different groups of characters as the events unfold. The ending is very heart-warming and the emotional side of the film is one of the best developed in Anderson’s back catalogue.

Bruce Willis and Edward Norton are superb, Willis being a huge amount more vulnerable than I’ve ever seen him and pulling it off particularly well. And Norton being fantastically peculiar. Harvey Keitel is a great addition to the team of bumbling scout leaders who don’t really have a clue what they’re doing. Overall all the elements of the film really work and makes for a great addition to Anderson’s filmography and is fun for all the family too.

 

Brave

Pixar’s offering for 2012 saw their first non-sequel for three years. Brave is the story of a Scottish princess who has the tendency to be more of a boy than is thought acceptable by her mother and the film sees her attempt to break free of the forced life her parents want her to lead. On the way everyone learns an important lesson and manage to tolerate each other a little better than they did at the beginning.

The problem I thought from when I first heard about Brave was that despite not being a sequel it doesn’t sound that original, since seeing the film I can confirm that, no, it isn’t very original. It seems as though it would be much better put out as a Disney classic princess story. The plot points are familiar to say the least and the weak final message leaves you wanting to go back to the old greats like Up, Ratatouille or Wall-E. Because most of all where Brave falls short is in its character, unlike all the studios previous efforts there isn’t an element in Brave that sets it apart from anything else. More so, it brings elements that don’t push any boundaries, that sit nicely in the middle, not taking any risks and keeping everything safe.

On the other hand, the animation is, as always, stunning. The Scottish highlands by Pixar is almost as pretty as Bora Bora by god. The contrasting greens, the bright orange hair, the blue forest spirits everything looks amazing and it does prove that in terms of animation Pixar certainly do rule the roost. The dialogue isn’t all that bad and there are a number of decent jokes even if the laughter remains very light, in terms of the usual Disney princess stories it is just as strong as most, it would quite easily sit along the line of classic Disney cartoons but when put up against Pixar’s back catalogue it, sadly, falls below par. Leaving the cinema my biggest fear is, have Pixar run out of good ideas, their first original in three years lacks anything, well, original next year’s offering will be another sequel and a sequel of Finding Nemo is also in the works plus some talk of a possible Toy Story 4 when will we get ourselves another truly great stand-alone Pixar film?