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.
Wes Anderson for some time now has been one of the biggest indie directors around. With a slight dip in form occurring with 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, both of which are enjoyable but lacking a certain heart, Anderson seems to have rediscovered himself following on from his animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. So in 2014 he returns with The Grand Budapest Hotel, a sprawling crime caper with a cast bigger than one of those terrible ‘New Years Eve’ type movies. Starring Ralph Fiennes as the spectacularly posh/camp owner of the Hotel, M. Gustave, a character who has always had a special relationship with his older lady visitors is gifted a priceless painting by one of his closest visitors when she is murdered. This doesn’t go down particularly well with her sons though and this begins a manhunt for Gustave with an aim to frame him for the murder.
This is perhaps Anderson’s most precise work, known for his meticulous style The Grand Budapest takes this a new level, at least in live action. It’s so perfectly framed with every little detail designed to be just so the film often feels like an animation in the same vein as Fantastic Mr Fox. And here the script really suits the style, the script and the aesthetic merge together to create what could well be Anderson’s best realised comedic universe yet. The casting is flawless too, Fiennes’ performance is inspired as the rather bizarre but inifinitely likeable Gustave and other highlights come from his lobby boy, newcomer, Tony Revolori who is Gustave’s protege and best friend. Willem Dafoe as Jopling, is a psychopathic son of the murdered Madame D. and with very few lines he brings probably the most laughs of anyone. The cast is so large, though, and all of them perform so well that I can’t mention tham all as much as I would like. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a bit slow to kick things off and it does spend slightly too long setting the scene but when events do start picking up it is well worth the wait and as it builds to a climax the visuals become more and more impressive in equal measure to the humour. This is a prime example of an auteur confident, accomplished and at the top of his game.
This may not be a film for people who aren’t familiar with Anderson but for those who are this is certainly one of his best. And a prime example of his unique style. Although I wouldn’t go as far as this is his best film this continues a blinding run of form for the writer-director and is up there with his best works.
The Coen brothers returned this week with Inside Llewyn Davis. Set in the early ’60’s Llewyn Davis is a folk musician trying to make his fortune in the music business but is never really able to make his mark. Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, Inside Llewyn Davis is a restrained yet warm tale of a struggling musician who can’t seem to manage to sell out.
The film is full of the usual Coen charm, all shot in the soft focus with saturated colours and beautifully framed images we follow Llewyn as he sofa surfs and travels about the States looking for a decent management deal. The film is frequently funny and full the Coen’s quirky humour which is at times very black particularly in the case of John Goodman’s hilarious character. The film looks so good that no matter what’s actually happening on screen you’re drawn to it. Fortunately that stuff that’s going on is just as interesting this a a deep character study of an extremely flawed lead character. While many critics have deemed Davis an unlikable protagonist I found him quite sympathetic, despite disagreeing with a number of his decisions I felt pity for him in many ways. It’s full of metaphors for his characters throughout and the ginger cat he’s holding in the picture above which are well thought out and often very clever but if you were to pick a flaw in the film it would be that there are a few too many of these existential moments that don’t seem necessarily needed. But that is being overly picky.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a highly enjoyable, masterfully made film it may not be the Coen’s best effort but it certainly deserves a lot more recognition than it’s got from the Academy.
After the major disappointment of Moonstruck hopes were high for this next Cage entry, the movie that contains some of the best clips included in the YouTube video that inspired this very project. Vampire’s Kiss tells the story of a lonely man with some mental health problems who starts to imagine he’s been bitten by a vampire and that he’s therefore turning into one himself.
The film is as bizarre as its plot sounds, perhaps even more so. It’s never clear what director Robert Bierman is ever trying to do. The tone changes drastically almost every scene. One second it’s comedy the next horror the next it’s trying to be an intelligent psychological drama. Needless to say it fails to be any of those but is instead just a mismatched mess of nonsensical stuff. That said Vampire’s Kiss is Cage’s purest platform yet to do exactly what he does best and really lose his shit. His performance is one of the most demented things I’ve ever seen. He’s so ridiculously over-the-top you’ll have fun trying figure out what the hell he was thinking, or anyone involved in this movie for that matter. The pacing’s completely off we’re never given any background to Cage’s character, he starts as a bit of nut-job ends as a complete and utter fruit cake and is seemingly driven to it because his work assistant lost an important document.
Vampire’s Kiss may well be one of the worst films ever made but Cage’s performance is complete genius and for that reason this is one of the funniest films I’ve ever watched. This is the reason why Cage Rage exists and it reminds you why this project was a great idea. BEHOLD….
So this week for me saw the reuniting of Scorsese and Di Caprio in a film that I was ridiculously excited for. With it being the height of Oscar season this was the one that I thought looked as though it’d be the most entertaining. However in the build up to finally seeing it some of the reviews around sprouted some doubt in my mind. Many people saying that it’s lead character was too hard to sympathise with and the film was too long.
I, however, had no problem with either of these factors. While Jordan Belfort (Di Caprio) is an entirely unlikable character I think the movie does well to make him appear as a casualty of the American Dream, someone who’s insatiable need for material things and lust for women provides him with a quick fix of happiness but it’s not long before it all comes crashing down around him. In many ways it isn’t entirely his fault, it’s the consumerist ideals of the Wall Street mob and he just figured out how to be on top of the game. I don’t think its correct to say that the film glamourises his lifestyle either much of the humour comes from just how ridiculous his life, and for me it was more a laughing at than a laughing with. The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the funniest, most entertaining films I’ve seen in ages, the performances from everyone are absolutely top notch. Jonah Hill is stupidly hilarious as is Di Caprio, something I’ve not seen him do before but he manages it perfectly. Also worthy of a mention is romantic interest Margot Robbie who is so stupidly beautiful it’s impossible to get her out of your head. And also what you’re treated to in this film is typical Scorsese storytelling. He is simply the greatest living director and he can tell a story like no other, every scene brings something to the table and the pacing is just perfect.
While it could be argued that 12 Years is a better film, The Wolf of Wall Street is the most fun I’ve had at the cinema since last years Sightseers and is strong contender for my film of 2014 despite us only being in January! It may not bag the awards but I love it.
Cage Rage made its largely anticipated return this week with Raising Arizona. The first really notable film with cage in the lead role. Its a screwball comedy made by the geniuses that are the Coen brothers which tells the story of Cage’s criminal who falls in love with Holly Hunter’s policewoman. They get married and try for a child but when they find out that Hunter’s character is baron they have to look for an alternative method of starting a family, due to his criminal past they can’t adopt and so make the decision to steal a baby from a nearby family that have given birth to quintuplets.
The film is great comedy, with a plot that twists and turns and keeps you enticed with jokes to match. Performances all round are strong. John Goodman is particularly brilliant as an escaped prisoner and Holly Hunter performs well throughout too. This is also the first film in the Cage Rage project to actually provide Nic with a role that really sorts his crazed performance, the Coen’s are the first to really discover that Cage’s uniquely insane acting can be incredibly effective. Raising Arizona is not one of the Coen’s best but it is genuinely entertaining from start to finish and a really great easy watch stamped with the brothers usual cinematic expertise.
Cage, for the first time, is given the opportunity to fully give a role his all and he succeeds brilliantly. Despite the reams of shit that we have had to trawl, and the load more that we will have to endure, it’s films like this that remind you why he is such an interesting character in the first place. His rage levels here are also the closest we’ve seen to the first 5/5 rating but whats lacking is a completely bizarre Cage meltdown so it just falls slightly short of the full marks.