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The Muppets

Return delivers an endlessly entertaining celebration of its characters

0 Comments · Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Hard as it is to pick one scene that captures everything that is so delightful about the endlessly entertaining The Muppets, let me go with this one: During the climactic live Muppet Show revival at the end, Camilla — beloved chicken of Gonzo the Great — and several poultry friends perform a version of a certain recent, ubiquitous Cee Lo Green hit. The tune is sung entirely in “buck buck” noises, without subtitles.  

Happy Feet Two

Ambitious animated sequel needs more focus

0 Comments · Friday, November 18, 2011
The original 2006 Happy Feet incorporated live-action actors to surreal effect and presented a hard-to-miss allegory for tolerance of “alternative lifestyles” that inspired outrage from the likes of Glenn Beck and Michael Medved. Happy Feet Two is, in its way, also utterly distinctive from the great mass of contemporary animated fare — yet it’s also far too frantic and muddled to work as simple storytelling.  

J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood's Hoover biopic needs more psychological depth

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black have as a subject one of American history's most enigmatic, polarizing figures in J. Edgar Hoover, and yet J. Edgar almost never offers the buzz of discovery. It's merely a 50-year kaleidoscope of American history, with the founder of the modern F.B.I. serving as Forrest Gump.  

The Rum Diary

Adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson book is appropriately wacked

0 Comments · Thursday, October 27, 2011
Loosely based on Hunter S. Thompson’s early years as a journalist circa 1960, The Rum Diary casts Johnny Depp once again as Thompson’s surrogate, this time a young writer named Paul Kemp. Flailing in his attempts at completing a novel, Kemp accepts a job at an English-language newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the atmosphere is considerably less than quietly professional.  

The Big Year

High-profile cast can't overcome middling story

0 Comments · Saturday, October 15, 2011
Director David Frankel takes a story of single-minded pursuit and squeezes it into a convenient package — albeit one that doesn't feel as though it has all that much to do with the subject at hand. Inspired by Mark Obmascik's fascinating nonfiction book, The Big Year follows three avid birders trying to identify the most individual bird species in North America over the course of one calendar year.  

The Ides of March

George Clooney's political thriller doesn't quite transcend genre

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) — the precociously successful political media consultant at the center of The Ides of March — knows how to handle his business. Sure, he might believe that the man he’s working for, Pennsylvania Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney), is the best candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and the man who can do the most to make America better. But he’s also just fine with feeding a specious allegation about their opponent to the media, just so it will require time spent to fight it off.” If you’re looking for a starry-eyed idealist in The Ides of March, whose utopian dreams might be crushed by harsh reality, you best look elsewhere.  

Moneyball

Brad Pitt shines in compelling baseball tale

0 Comments · Thursday, September 22, 2011
In adapting the nonfiction book by Michael Lewis, director Bennett Miller and screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin are telling the story of people who decided to throw away the romanticized notion of baseball in favor of something pragmatic that actually worked for their circumstance. And it feels not at all coincidental that Moneyball itself takes a uniquely un-romanticized approach to making a baseball movie.  

Our Idiot Brother

Paul Rudd saves comedy from its more cliched tendencies

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 24, 2011
We all bring certain baggage to movies, and here’s one of my too-big-for-carry-on pieces: I hate holy fools. Film history is full of stories about cynical and/or Type-A people whose lives are changed for the better through their experiences with plot devices in the shape of a simple-minded person. Your Rain Mans and your Forrest Gumps charmed audiences, sure, but largely on the basis of the brutally anti-intellectual notion that real wisdom only comes from the mouths and hearts of those who aren’t all about the book smarts.  

The Smurfs

1980s cartoon gets formulaic film adpatation

0 Comments · Thursday, July 28, 2011
As directed by Raja Gosnell, 'The Smurfs' hits every required element for such movies: musical number, toilet gags, rib-nudging pop-culture references, sloppy sentimentality. The familiar blue faces from the '80s cartoon, now in CGI, form-fly through a vortex from their Smurf village to New York City, where they can be a problem for an overworked, soon-to-be-first-time-dad marketing executive (Neil Patrick Harris). Grade: D-.  

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Saga says goodbye by reaching adulthood

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 13, 2011
If you’ve followed the cinematic adventures of Harry Potter over the last decade — whether in print or cinematic form — it’s hard to imagine how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 could fail. A series that began as an investment in J.K. Rowling’s remarkable hero-quest narrative evolved, over the course of seven films, into something else: an investment in the coming-of-age of three young actors.