Cloud Atlas

I don’t know where to start. 

It is funny that, earlier this week, I saw Leos Carax’s brilliant HOLY MOTORS and tonight I have seen Cloud Atlas. They are both movies that refuse to adhere to the conventions of classic film narrative. And yet, in there own way, they are linear. I did not find it hard at all to follow Holy Motors, only fascinating, and I can say the same about Cloud Atlas. Now I should stop drawing parallels between the two movies because in all truths they are very different, and I have covered Holy Motors a little right HERE, so let’s shine the spotlight on Cloud Atlas, shall we?

I don’t know where to start.

Cloud Atlas is magnificent. It’s a symphony. It’s a spralling, thrilling, intimate, funny, harrowing epic about the beauty, bravery and consequences of the choices we make. And it is epic. The scope here is almost limitless. The movie tells six disparate stories, each belonging to a different time period, some past, some present and some future. All the stories are good. They differ in tone and that could have created a mess of a movie but it does not. The cuts from one story to another are calculated. This movie is a marvel of editing, in fact. The movie flows beautifully, cutting from hundreds of years into the future to a conspiracy mystery in the 70s without betraying either storyline’s scenes and how they are meant to resonate with the audience. The crowd I saw this with laughed at all the right moments (some parts of this movie are incredibly funny) and remained silently enthralled exactly when they were meant to. The movie clocks in at about 2hours and 40mins, I was not bored for one minute of it.

The actors are all having a field day here. Each are playing multiple roles, sometimes villains, sometimes heroes, sometimes females, sometimes males, sometimes black, sometimes white. It is a brilliant device just in terms of tying the stories together but it’s also a fabulous opportunity to see some great actors really strech their wings. Jim Broadbent is astonishing in this movie, and Tom Hanks has not felt this relevent since Saving Private Ryan (not that he hasn’t been good since, but this is different, this showcases everything this guy can do, which is a lot). Halle Berry, who has not had much luck with some of the projects she’s attached herself to over the years, shines here. She has no problems holding her own with Mr Hanks. I could list all the actors and sing their virtues but really, there isn’t a sour note in the bunch and one of the great joys of this movie is that you get so much bang for your buck if your a fan of any one of them (Hugo Weaving as a mean nurse is worth the price of admission, trust me).

The movie is directed by a trio of talented directors. Andy and Lana Wachowski, who brought us Bound, the Matrix trilogy, and 2008’s amazing and criminally underrated Speed Racer, and Tom Tykwer, who gave us the now-cult Run Lola Run, the beautiful Heaven, the somehow hated by some but loved by me Perfume as well as many others. I am less familiar with Tykwer than I am the Wachowskis, whom I absolutely love. They are risk takers and have without a doubt some of the most original voices in Hollywood right now. No one takes chances like these two. The first twenty minutes of Speed Racer are a masterful feat of storytelling. There are very few truly artistic voices who have managed to work within the studio system, which is a true shame, but there they are, pushing and pushing to take the artform to places it’s never been. And Cloud Atlas, while not as showy as The Matrix movies or Speed Racer, sees the directors (I’m including Tykwer here) allowing the possibilities of narrative story-telling to stretch and take us to such fresh territories it’s invigorating. Six stories, interwoven on a huge canvas like a kaleidoscopic tapestry, and yet it’s cohesive, it makes sense, and it never sacrifices tone or emation for the sake of a good editing choice or a clever transition.

People bemoan the state of cinema these days, what with all the sequels and remakes and television show adaptations and videogame movies. People say there are no original movies anymore. This, in a year where we got The Cabin in the woods, The Raid, Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the southern wild, Looper, Holy Motors and now Cloud Atlas.

The great movies are out there, passionate artists with exciting visions are working hard to make them, and all that is required of us, our only duty as film lovers, is to see these works of art. That’s it. If you want more good movies, all you have to do is see good movies. How great is that? Just let the money people know that you like it when visionaries are taking the wheel and doing something new. 

Go see Cloud Atlas this weekend. There are a hundred reasons to see this movie and I would list them all for you, but I don’t know where to start. 

Lincoln

Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN is about men, in rooms, talking. It has, seemingly, every good actor ever, and one of the greatest american directors alive today, one of the best composers in the business, a cinematographer at the top of his game, and a fantastic script. And it’s about men in rooms talking.

I didn’T repeat that last bit to discourage you from seeing the movie. I loved the movie. It has one great dialogue scene followed by another, for two hours. And what’s more, the stakes are high. These dialogues matter. Great men are talking, and their words will shape history. It’s riveting.

It’s also a beautifully shot movie. Janusz Kaminski has been Spielberg’s director of photography for well over a decade now, and I understand with the beard refuses to let him go. Since there was not much in the way of artificial lighting in 1865, Kaminski uses natural light whenever he can and what results is often absolutely beautiful. 

Spielberg is all subtlety in his camera work here. It just flows with the dialogues, pushing in slightly when needed, panning softly accross a room to find a specific reaction, often just standing almost still, almost, like a child listening to every word of a wonderful story.

John William’s score is also very subdued. If a lonely piano echoing a few perfect notes to accentuate a moment is all that is needed, this is what Williams will go for. No imperial march to be found here.

All of this in the service of the words. Words given to today’s most capable actors. There isn’t a sour note in the bunch, of course, and it would take days to list all the great performances, but I have to mention that, as expected, Daniel Day Lewis makes an astonishing Lincoln. From his posture to his frail yet powerful voice, to his conviction and his incredible charm, to his weariness, this is another performance for the books by this incredible performer. And wouldn’t you know it, Tommy Lee Jones shows up and steals every scene he’s in. He is fantastic and his character (Thaddeus Stevens) is so well written I found myself eagerly anticipating when he would show up next, and giddy whenever he did.

LINCOLN is a long movie, but it kept me engaged and I found pleasure in every scene, just spying on these great men trying their damndest to change their nation for the better, while lesser, but no less capable men try their damndest to stop them. It makes for great cinema.

Holy Motors

I keep starting this article and erasing everything and starting over. The third time it happened, and I found myself looking at the blank screen yet again, I had a moment of clarity and I smiled. How ironic. There is a real parralel to be made between what I was experiencing and the movie itself. A stop and a start and a stop and a start… except the movie never stops, and only starts at the beginning. This was making sense a minute ago. Maybe I should start over…

Whenever I write these little recommendations for you, when there’s a movie I love enough to sit down and write some words about it, trying to convince you to shell out ten bucks to go see it, I make a point of avoiding to tell you the story, even a synopsis. Sometimes it’s hard but I think it’s worth it. There is nothing that compares to going to see a movie fresh, knowing as little as possible about it. That’s what happened with Holy Motors for me, I hadn’t seen a single trailer. I just went because I heard it was amazing. The funny thing is that if you asked me for a synopsis I’d be hard press to give you one.

I think Holy Motors was made in an alternate dimension where the French new wave re-birth of cinema from the sixties never stopped blooming, and five decades later, Holy Motors is it’s glorious, epic climax. It feels like it is the result of decades of cinema getting crazier and crazier, exploring more and more possibilities of what storytelling can be, and where it can go. Except cinema didn’t do that. In the eighties cinema mostly settled down and got content with itself and where it was at. There are exceptions, of course, but my point is that Holy Motors is kind of a miracle. I can’t trace it’s lineage. What led to this? This brilliant, chaotic, sublime bit of storytelling. How does this happen? 

Leos Carax, the man who wrote and directed this film, is a mad genius. After ten years away from long-form storytelling (his last feature length film was 1999’s Pola X, since then he has done a series of short films) he comes to the plate and bats such a homerun it feels like he has never stopped. 

The film is centered around what is without a doubt one of the best performances of the year: Denis Lavant’s mysterious man in the limousine. I do not want to give too much away but the actor gets to use every trick in the acting book. It’s all there, up on the screen for every moment of the film’s running time, and it is a virtuoso performance that has to be seen to be believed. 

There are dozens upon dozens of memorable moments in the movie, all swimming in my head right now, vying for attention, but one resonated with me more than others: a simple scene of a old man lying on his death bed, and a young woman by his side, saying her goodbyes. The scene is perfectly executed and the way it finishes is nothing short of brilliant. Also, the fact that it works at all, on an emotional level, far enough into the movie that you kind of understand the mecanics of the film, makes it even more admirable.

Holy Motors is not a movie for everyone, but I really wish everyone would see it. It’s bold, daring, unique, more than a little brilliant, and proof that cinema is alive and well, and that the artform can still feel nothing short of vital.

That’s all I will write about it, sorry for the shortness of this post but this is a movie I’d much rather think about than write about, so I’ll leave it to better men than me to do the heavy lifting.

LOOPER

The first time I wrote you about Looper was on September 12th 2010, so just over two years ago, at another corner of the internet before I made tumblr my home (it’s pretty hilarious how wrong I was about the premise of the movie, hehe). I’m saying this because I want you to know I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. You have too, probably, if you know about Rian Johnson. He’s the guy behind Brick (2005) and The Brothers Bloom (2008). If you saw these films then you know, you’re not learning anything right now, and if you didn’t? If you’ve never seen these two films, well, no shame in that, but they’re both great films, smart filmmaking, wholly satisfying. You should check them out. You watch those and you know that Rian Johnson has a voice and a vision and he’s not fucking around. He’s an auteur. You remember seeing Shaun of the Dead for the first time? Or Reservoir Dogs? Or Blood Simple? Yeah, Rian Johnson is in that league. They don’t fuck around in that league.

So four years ago we get the wonderful The Brothers Bloom and it’s fantastic and time passes and I’m wondering what’s next? I want more. I’m a glutton for good cinema. I eventually start hearing about Looper. Word is scarce. It apparently has sci-fi elements and time travel elements and it reunites Rian Johnson with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And it has Bruce Willis. And they play the same guy. And that’s all I can find out which is perfect. Who’d want to know more?

Cut to today. I’m sitting down in the theater with some friends and the lights dim and after a handful of shitty car commercials and a couple of trailers (How great does Killing them softly looks? Pretty damn great…) the movie starts.

Rian Johnson doesn’t fuck around, man.

I don’t talk about plot in my mini reviews, I’m a believer of going into a movie as fresh as you can, but yeah, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a younger version of Bruce Willis and the guy is uncanny. This goes beyond meer imitation. He’s not mimicking Bruce Willis, he’s playing this character as Bruce Willis would play him. It works so fucking well that you never ever question that these to guys who look completely different are the same person at different ages. Gordon-Levitt has some prostetics in the film, just a touch, to bring some of Bruce Willis’s features to lhis own profile, but it’s just a few visual cues, the performance is what truly seals the deal. Gordon-Levitt is a miracle.

Let’s talk about Bruce Willis for a bit. He is in fine form here. He’s weary, desperate, driven and oh so fucking ruthless. He sells you everything about the character, and he’s a guy who does some very questionable things in the movie, it takes a special kind of actor to do these things and not be completely despised by the audience (it also takes a great script, and we’ll get to that soon enough) and Bruce Willis, at this point, is just an actor of that calibre. After this and Moonrise Kingdom, I’m really starting to think that Willis can do it all. Acting is a muscle and you have to keep it in shape. You see a lot of older actors who were once great and just don’t seem to try anymore. Willis does. He’s never stopped. He keeps at it and man, he keeps getting better and better. I think Looper might be his finest day…

What about Emily Blunt? Yes, Emily Blunt is in this too. I’m debating going into a rant about the sad fucking state of female roles in Hollywood, but I’ll spare you. Let’s stay positive. I’m going to put it this way: We need more roles like Sara, the role she plays in Looper. It is wonderfully nuanced. Sara is a badass, a strong independant woman with a past plagued by mistakes and regrets but a strength and unwavering willingness to atone for these mistakes by making good with what she has now. And I want to stress that she plays a woman. Hollywood thinks if you want to make a woman tough in a movie you have to basically write a man’s role and give it to a woman. This is not that. Sara is a tough woman. She has values and hopes and regrets and this movie would not work if Emily Blunt didn’t play the shit out of that role. She nails it and it anchors the whole movie. Make no mistake: she is the soul of this film and the reason everything that goes on matters so damn much. She is the card that Looper keeps up it’s sleeve until just the right time (about halfway through the film) and then uses to form the perfect hand.

Kid Blue. Okay. I need to talk just a little bit about Kid Blue. He’s played by Noah Segan (who was in both of Rian Johnson’s previous films, and for whom the role was specifically written) and whenever he showed up I was happy. Kid Blue is a great character. One of cinema’s great fuck ups. He could have easily been a running gag in the film but written and played the way he is, he’s tragic instead. He’s a beautiful, tragic asshole trying hard to do the best he can strattled with absolute shit karma and it’s wonderful to watch. He is as much a reason this movie works so well as anything else. The reason he works so well is that he’s not an idiot. He’s a decently competent guy and a great villain but he’s got shit luck. It’s a ball.

I’m going to get to Rian Johnson soon, the real hero here, but first I want to shine some light on his cousin, Nathan Johnson, the composer for the film. That score is absolutely wonderful. It’s dark and heavy and looming, haunting, foreboding. It carries the movie, scene for scene, exactly where it has to go. It’s understated when it needs to be and gripping when it’s called for. It’s vital to the movie, like a pillar holding up the foundations of the movie, giving room for the emotion and the power to resonate. I stayed all the way to the end of the credit hoping to hear a piece of the score because I wanted to listen to it out of context just to see, and sure enough (after the fantastic blues song Powerful Love, by Chuck & Mac) a number from the score started playing and, even on it’s own, supporting no imagery, it worked perfectly, carrying a tonnage of emotional weight. Bravo, Mr Nathan Johnson, job well done…

Rian Johnson. Like most of my favorite filmmakers, he both writes and directs. So he’s the guy behind this film in two ways rather than one and in both he comes out looking fucking swell. Writting time travel is tricky. I’m of the opinion that the holy grail of time travel movies is Back To The Future. Forget the sequels, some love them and some don’t, but the first one? If there’s any justice in the world this script is studied in film school. It’s perfect. It’s time travel written to a T. So that’s my bar. There’s other great time travel films, of course, like Terminator, The Time Machine, Time after time, Twelve Monkeys (based on Chris Marker’s amazing shortfilm La Jetté), Time crimes (I haven’t seen that, I’m ashamed to admit, but I’m hearing amazing things about it). All movies that use the time travel conceit extremely well. And now we have Looper. I’ve seen it just a few hours ago and I’ve been accused more that once of being a master of overstatement (I get excited, what can I say?) but I believe that Looper has a place amongst the very cream of that crop, alongside my favorite, Back to the future, and all the other greats. The time travel rules that Johnson sets up early on in the film work like gangbusters. Best of all, he doesn’t spend the entire movie relishing in the science or ramifications of time travel, he takes a few minutes up front to tell you (and show you) the what of it all, and then he tells his story. So narratively, the movie flows extremely well, and yet after the movie you’re given the gift of the puzzle. Does it all work? What if this instead of that? Does it all make sense? It’s not every movie that warrants a few pints with your friends at your favorite pub discussing all the ins and outs of the story, but this one definitely does. I take a long time to tell you something fairly simple: this script is great. It isn’t light, either. This movie is not PG13, it’s rated R. It’s violent, gory, sad, thrilling, dark as hell at times, but also romantic, funny, infused with the golden standard of dialogues. I felt traces of film noir, especially upfront, with the voice over and the quick repartee between the characters. Everyone is given great lines here. A standout is the soon to be infamous diner scene, where Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both playing the same guy, Joe, sit down to have breakfast and say their piece. It’s riveting to watch. So you have film noir elements, sci-fi elements and then, about halfway through, the whole thing pretty much turns, tonally at least, into a contemporary western. And it all works.

Because Rian Johnson, on top of being a fantastic writer, is a great director. I’ve said it before: he doesn’t fuck around. Along with his director of photography Steve Yedlin and his editor Bob Ducsay, Johnson makes this movie feel completely sorted out, instead of the thematic and tonal mess that it could have been, in less competent hands. The movie takes no time to find it’s rythm. This isn’t a roller coaster ride. It’s a movie that knows when to run and when to sit down and let a scene unfold and tension build (like the great westerns do, incidentally). It is impeccably shot and Johnson always knows where he needs to put his camera to let the intent of the scene take over without hitting you over the head with it. As an audience member, I always knew where I was. I knew, in a geographical sense, where every character was in relation to everyone else. Since I knew all this, the scene could just play out and I could just let it take me where it wanted me to go. In an action scene that is crucial. Fuck it, it’s crucial whatever you’re shooting, action or not. Bruce Willis has some emotional moments that Johnson shot so well (and that Willis completely nails), I felt myself choke up, knowing the horrifying truth of what this man was going through. That’s powerful filmmaking. That’s everyone on the team being at the top of their game.

That’s what LOOPER is. It’s a perfect storm. It’s everyone delivering a career highlight. It’s badass filmmaking at it’s finest.

If you haven’t seen Looper yet, stop fucking around :)

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

I’ve been wanting to write about Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts Of The Southern Wild for two days now, but it’s super daunting. I’m afraid I won’t do it justice. I’ve never seen a film like it. I admire not only its ambition and bravery, but the fact that, beyond these great qualities, it succeeds at everything it aims for. Terrible movies can be ambitious and brave, too, but Beasts Of The Southern Wild is great.

The razor-sharp movie focuses on Hushpuppy and Wink, her dad, living in a small community in the swamp lands of Louisiana, in abject poverty. These two performances are electrifying and I’m convinced I won’t see better this year. Hushpuppy is played by a young girl named Quvenzhané Wallis and she is the heartbeat and voice of the film. Her narration is moving, beautifully written and performed, and makes the everyday world around her seem both magical and perfectly normal (for her). She is amazing, but never better than when she shares scenes with her on screen dad, Wink, played with heartbreaking, scary, passionate accuracy by Dwight Henry. Together they are riveting to watch. The father is an extremely complicated character and I was never sure if he was an amazing or a terrible father. In the end I would lean towards amazing, but there is no denying what a flawed human being the man is. There are moments in the movie where Hushpuppy gets very angry with her dad, and the two of them are absolutely stunning in those scenes, and the way the father handles his daughter’s disappointment in him is, well, it’s fascinating.

The camera very rarely looks down at Hushpuppy, instead showing the world from her height, her point of you, which helps us understand what a few feet less can do to a world we’ve become accustomed to witness through our adult eyes. It’s mostly handhelp but rarely shaky or annoying. Cinematographer Ben Richardson does an amazing job if keeping the film alive and energetic without relying on cheap tricks. He takes the time to let the camera linger on something when it’s called for, which is often. The movie takes place in a world I am completely unfamiliar with. I’m a kid from the suburbs, I moved to the city and live in an apartment and I honestly can’t complain about my situation. Its heaven compared to what’s going on three quarters of everywhere else. So to see where this community lives, a place they refuse to leave even though it is threaten by floods, and to see them celebrate life and make the best of what a guy like me would call a really shitty situation (even though to them it’s really not, and a fair point could be made that they’re right) is fascinating.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild is a drama. It’s a fascinating, eyes-glued-to-the-screen movie about people trying to live. There isn’t one single known actor in the film and yet everyone is perfect, I’ve wondered if they didn’t just go to Louisiana (they did, it’s all shot there) and cast the people living in a similar community. It’s possible, I guess. In any case, the cast is riveting.

There is also a hint of fantasy in the movie, and some truly beautiful creature effect work. It all fits completely within the film’s micro-universe and narratively speaking, never seems out of place or irrelevant. Beware: there’s also some graphic imagery. There are some dead animals, victims of the conditions of the harsh land they live in, and the camera doesn’t shy away from showing you that this is a part of Hushpuppy’s reality.

I also have to speak about the truly wonderful score by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin (the film’s director). I have no idea who these guys are (they both scored a couple of short films before but this is their first feature length work) but the music in this film is perfect. It feels very New Orleans-y, with beautifully festive melodies and quieter contemplative moments and, when it’s called for, gloom and foreboding. It’s a score that always complements what you are seeing, never overshadows it.

Benh Zeitlin has done everything right with this movie. It is harrowing and beautiful and wonderful and often truly moving and at times even funny and, even though it’s different than maybe what you’re used to, I urge you to give it a chance. Beasts Of The Southern Wild is pure cinema set free, wild and daring and meaningful. That’s what art is supposed to do.

Moonrise Kingdom

I forget how affecting Wes Anderson’s movies are, and then I see a new one and I’m like: “Oh yeah, that’s right, this guy is super goddamn good”. 

Wes Anderson is super goddamn good.

He makes Wes Anderson movies, always, just like Tim Burton makes Tim Burton movies. He has a style, a signature, a voice. I salute him for it.

I’ve never been let down by a Wes Anderson movie, in fact I’ve loved every single one I’ve seen (to varying degrees, but still).

Moonrise Kingdom is a coming of age story, and a movie about young love. It tackles some difficult themes, some heavy stuff, but Anderson and Roman Coppola’s script effortlessly weaves through these thematics with such agility and charm that while you’re being made to think about serious and sometimes heart breaking issues, it’s all done with a frankly superhuman amount of wit, charm and know-how. 

Moonrise Kingdom is a tour de force. It’s a filmmaker using every trick he knows to tell a beautiful story so well you’d almost be fooled into thinking it’s easy to do.

The cast, peppered left and right by fantastic actors including Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzman (in an albeit small but very fun role) and Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and an army of awesome kids, is absolutely spotless, and amongst them the two incredible young leads shine. I don’t know how Wes Anderson found Jared Gilman (playing Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy) but he struck gold. Both embody their respective roles perfectly, with all the quirks of a great Wes Anderson character, but with underlying humanity and no small amount of pain. These are troubled kids with much emotional baggage and yet it’s never overplayed, it’s only there, in the background, behind their face. I believe in them and in their love. Without the perfect kids this movie would fall appart. But here we are, and it doesn’t.

The photography is gorgeous, with great color schemes (Anderson carries over a lot of the same tones that worked so well in Fantastic Mr Fox) and the same meticulous camera movements that tell whole stories in their panoramic explorations of his great sets.

The music is also used (as in all Anderson films) to great effect but mostly gone are the pop songs that populate most of his other films. Here Alexandre Desplat provides an amazing score that perfectly underlines every beat and movement of the film in often playful and never intrusive ways.

Seriously, the entire thing just works.

If you don’t like Wes Anderson I guess you can skip this one, but that’s really too bad, for everyone else: this is a truly beautiful, often very funny, witty, charming and incredibly honest look at young love and the hardships of growing up, (especially when you’re surrounded by adults who possibly need to do some of that too). I can’t recommend it enough.

I really can’t get over how great these two kids are…

The Avengers

I’m not sure where to begin.

I have no shortage of love for what I’ve just seen. In fact I’ll run it to you this way: this is by far the most exhilarating Marvel movie yet. This movie is EVERYTHING that it had to be. It’s a better movie than both Iron-Man films by a long shot, it’s much better than Thor or the previous Hulk movies, it’s just. So. Fucking. Awesome.

Let’s get something out of the way: I’ve read complaints about the script. About a lack of character archs for the heros. I’m baffled by this. It’s a complaint made by people who missed the entire point of the movie. While it’s true that The Black Widow and Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers and (most of) the rest don’t do a lot of evolving during the movie, the actual main character here is the team, The Avengers, and the team has an INCREDIBLY SATISFYING arch. You couldn’t ask for better. That’s what the entire movie is about. These people should not be in the same room together, let alone form a team. But they have to. Add conflict, stir.

Let’s talk characters.

I was watching Iron-Man 2 yesterday (I ran through all the Marvel films in the past two weeks, just for fun) and I couldn’t believe how much of an asshole Tony Stark was for most of the movie, how unlikeable. It was a long way from the Tony Stark from the first film, who, even though just as self-absorbed, was extremely easy to root for because he didn’t feel like just a selfish jerk.

That guy is back in The Avengers. Tony Stark is great. Still snarky, still funny, completely brilliant, but the jerk aspect from the sequel is gone. In fact all the characters here are fantastic, nobody drew the short straw. Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is incredibly good and relatable and gets some great moments, especially with Stark. Even the lesser known characters that worried me, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are fantastic and absolutely play a vital role in the unfolding events. Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill could have been just a throwaway character but not on Whedon’s watch, no sir. She’s great too. Same for Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury. Most directors would have been fine having him bark orders for the entire film, playing the grandiose loud mouth Mr Jackson is often stuck playing. Not here. Whedon writes him as an almost quiet guy. There’s a clear feeling I got sometimes that Fury is the guy who knows what’s right and what to do but is also well aware that the things that need to be done aren’t always morally all that great. But Fury will make those calls. The beautiful thing is you can tell, in Jackson’s acting, that Fury doesn’t enjoy making them, that he probably gets many sleepless nights because of some of the things he does, but that these things need to be done.

These characters, Captain America, Thor, Iron-Man, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, fight. They fight enemies but they fight amongst themselves too. In really awesome fights as well as in heated arguments. The beauty is that every character has a valid point. When Stark argues with Cap, he has valid points, he’s not just being a dick. And Cap has incredibly valid points too. That makes for decidedly juicy dialogue.

Ahhh, the dialogue.

It’s great how you forget all about Whedon when watching this (normally you hear Whedon in his dialogue, which is not necessarily a bad thing - I love it - but here he understands that these characters already have their voices and he shouldn’t whedonize them) (well, not too much). He just gets every character, and their dynamic within the group, so well that he always puts the right words in their mouth. Often very funny words. Yes, that movie is incredibly funny. There are moments where I laughed, I’m almost certain, harder than I will at the movies for a very long time. There is one gag in particular that I laughed hard at and then continued giggling over for at least a minute or too. But he never makes a character do a joke or say something funny if it doesn’t completely fit both the character and the moment. He never betrays a moment for the sake of a joke. The man is funny but he’s smart too and he chooses his moments well.

But I knew all this going in. I know Whedon is smart and funny, and I know that he gets these characters and that he understand team dynamic. That’s not news to me, I’ve been a fan of him since the 90s for exactly that.

I never would have guessed, however, he’d be this good with all the action stuff. And, man, there is a LOT of action in this film. More, I’ll venture, than in every other marvel films put together. But WAIT! Isn’t that just too much? I mean you don’t want to go to the movies and get pummelled by an avalanche of explosions and punches and needlessly loud dolby surround, right? We already got Michael Bay for that.

Don’t worry. While there is more action in this than in the latest Transformers movie (seriously), there isn’t a minute of it that A) doesn’t make complete visual sense, B) isn’t emotionally compelling, C) isn’t clear in therms of goals, in therms of cause and effect, and D) all of this action is peppered by little moments between characters that let you catch your breath as well as understand why whatever awesome peice of badassery waiting to happen next needs to happen.

You may have noticed I’m staying away from the plot. Look, there is a menace, and they need to fight it. That’s all you need to know. This isn’t a Coen Bros movie, the script isn’t an intricate piece of tangled narative brilliance. It’s very straight forward. That doesn’t stop it from being impossibly effective. There is so much room for interesting character dynamics between all our main heroes that a overly-complicated script would have honestly been a hindrance, not a benifit. 

Man, it’s just a great fucking flick. Every hero got moments that made me cheer, every one had opportunity to prove their worth during the movie’s two hour running time, every last one. But. I gotta talk a bit, just a bit, about The Hulk. Fuuuuuuuuck. The Hulk has a moment that made me want to stand up and cheer so loud, a moment that gave me goosebumps. The Hulk is a fucking star in this movie. He gets some GREAT laughs (remember: never at the expence of the character or the moment) and he gets this absolutely awesome moment (and many more before and after). And I mean “awesome” litterally. As in: inspires awe.

I could continue this for a while yet, but I think I’ve made my point. The Avengers is one of the greatest comic book movies ever made, right up there with The Incredibles and Spider-Man 2. It’s a jaw-dropping spectacle of the highest order and an endlessly satisfying night at the movies. This is one that I will pay to see again. Whedon just threw down the gauntlet and other directors must be shitting their pants.

Bravo.

Oh man I almost forgot: STAY UNTIL THE VERY END! I loooooooove the after the credit easter egg. Pure greatness.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

We have a serious contender for “favorite movie of 2012”. Obviously we’re in April so yeah it’s clearly too early to tell, but let me tell you something: if The Cabin In The Woods doesn’t make at LEAST the top five it will mean we’ve had an absolutely epic year in films.

Because The Cabin In The Woods is fucking great.

Usually I link to a trailer whenever I write a review for a film but I won’t do that here. The less you know the better. So much so that I will reveal very little of the plot. In fact I’ll tell you nothing the title hasn’t already made clear: five young friends go spend a weekend at a cabin in the woods, and things get horribly terrible for them once they get there. Aaaaaaand that’s all I’m saying.

Okay I’ll say a little bit more. The Cabin In The Woods is the best, most fun horror movie I’ve seen in years. It is incredibly clever. It is at once a love letter to the the genre and a fantastic addition to it. It never looks down on the genre either, while side-stepping all of it’s common downfalls. I’ll give you an example: in too many horror films you cannot fuckin wait for most of the characters to die, because they are assholes. There isn’t a single asshole in The Cabin In The Woods (okay wait there’s one, he spits a lot) (spoiler alert: spit!) I liked ALL THE KIDS! I didn’t want any of them to die. They’re smart and nice and clearly great friends, played with real chemistry by a fantastic cast of mostly unknowns (to me) except for a younger Chris Hemsworth (Thor, from the films with Thor in them) and the very funny Fran Krantz whom I remembered from the short-lived TV show Dollhouse. To like these kids is important because when the shit hits the fan I felt emotionally involved. The stakes were great because these were cool people who were in trouble, people I’d gladly be friends with and possibly look at their boobs with. Boobs. There are some in this film. But I digress.

I also love how the movie opens, which I again will not spoil for you, but it throws you for a loop. It takes just a few moments to understand that this movie is different from what you thought you were walking into, better in fact. The opening sets this up so well, and the title card is fucking epic. What is actually going on becomes clear fairly quickly, but the fun is in the why. There are really great reveals in the film, peppered through out. Also, it brings the funny.

That’s right, for the price of one (truly effective) horror film, you get a bag and a half of hearty laughter for absolutely free!!!!! I laughed out loud many times during The Cabin In The Woods. And not cheap laughs either, no fart jokes here, only smart funny is allowed in the cabin.

Drew Goddard (writer of the great Cloverfield) and Joss Whedon (Buffy the vampire slayer, Angel, Firefly, Astonishing X-Men, the upcoming The Avengers) co-wrote the movie together and Goddard directed it. This is a million dollar script directed by a man who knows his horror movies. It is perfectly paced, amps up the creepiness exactly when it should, brings the jumps and the gore (this is not early Peter Jackson level gore, but the movie gets very very bloody) and ties it all up so perfectly in the end that I wanted to stand up and clap.

Also very much worth noting: Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are in this movie and they are so great together I want them to have their own spin off.

My friend Mathieu is a man of great reach and was able to get us passes to see a special screening tonight for free but make no mistake: I am going right back to the theater come Saturday night and seeing this movie again with a bunch of friends. It’s worth seeing again. And again after that. I want to give this movie my ten bucks. I really, really want this movie to make money. It’s great. It’s better than great. Find a word better than great, it’s that. If you are at all a fan of horror movies you really owe it to yourself to see this. You’ll be so happy that you did.

I’m in lesbians with The Cabin In The Woods, and I’m not afraid to say it.

The Raid

I’m going to wake up sore tomorrow. Very sore.

For a many months now I’ve been reading about The Raid. It played a bunch of festivals and got rave reviews seriously everywhere it screened. I’ve seen the words “Best action film in the last decade” thrown at this movie in many articles on it. I’m not making this up, google reviews from it and see for yourself. That being said, living in Montreal I had to wait until today to see it. I brought a bunch of my friends along, they had never heard about the film but they’re awesome so they made with the trusting and followed me there.

They’re all gonna wake up sore tomorrow.

The Raid is about a young man named Rama who is the newbie in a swat team who’s mission is to go in this 15 story appartment complex, get to the top and arrest a scumbag criminal evil-doer. It does not take very long before the shit hits the fan. And we’re talking about a cubic ton of shit, hitting a very tiny fan at five hundred miles per hour.

The jist of it is that, without giving too much away, the crimelord uses this appartment complex as, amongst other things,  a safe haven for other criminals, so every floor is packed with assholes, and when said crimelord finds out about the swat team, he turns on the intercom and lets the entire building know that who ever stops the swat team will be compensated justly. Like I said: Cubic ton of shit. Tiny fan.

There’s a lot I want to cover in this review, but also I’m a lazy writer, so I should get to reviewing.

The director: Gareth Evans wrote, shot and edited this film. I was familiar with Evans (and The Raid’s extraordinary star, Iko Uwais) from Merantau, which I caught at the Fantasia film festival last Summer and quite enjoyed. But he’s grown as a director since, because The raid feels more accomplished. Evans plays with tension very well, ramping up the suspense in truly clever ways before letting fists and/or bullets fly. The movie doesn’t just jump from action scene to action scene (even if it is very fast paced) but instead takes time, between all the extraordinary set pieces, to instal new situations and ring every last bit of tension or suspense it can from them before climaxing into mayhem again. Evans also does some very nice things with the camera, and with lighting, to tell his story. He understands how to film fights, where to put his camera and what to show. Basically, ad him to your list of ones to watch, because as far as I’m concerned his next movie is unmissable.

The actor: Iko Uwais is a star. More than Tony Jaa, in my opinion, because he can act. There’s something going on behind his eyes and you can tell he isn’t just a glorified stuntman. He can play a real person, and he can fight. Goddamn can he fight. There are many fight scenes in this movie and they are never short. Many martial arts movies suffer for one-punch-you’re-down syndrom, but not The Raid. These guys can take a hit and keep on coming. This means long and extremely complex fight choreographies, often pitting multiple assailants at once against Uwais’ Rama. His physical prowess is seriously stunning. Rama seems, by his demeanor, like a peaceful person, you could walk by him in the street and he would appear harmless to you, but when the first fight sequence happens in the movie, it hits you in the face like a bag of bricks. This man is lethal. That fight, a hallway brawl against many baddies, seriously knocked the wind out of me. Do not let Rama have a knife. Ever.

The violence: There is that. This movie is brutal. People die. The fights are not slow-motion balletic graceful acts of dexterity, they are mean, fast and brutal and every hit is meant to put the enemy down. There is a lot of shooting, stabbing and bone breaking. No enemy knee will be spared. No nose will remain unbroken. Heads will be shoved into walls. Repeatedly. Backs will break, necks will be punctured and people will sometimes be thrown out of windows. Whatever works to take your guy down. And boy is it fun to watch in the comfort of a comfortable cinema seat.

This movie feels like being hit in the face five hundred times by fists made of awesome but it doesn’t hurt and at the end you’ve got post-sex exhaustion. And yeah, I suspect I’ll be sore in the morning.

So, the verdict? I don’t know if The Raid is the best action movie of the last decade (who does?), but it’s visceral, amazingly dynamic and does deserve endless praise, so take that as you will. I personally loved it and will definitely see it again.

ps: Because some exec over at Sony Pictures had something to prove, the title in North America has been uselessly changed to The Raid: Redemption. It’s idiotic and shows how little flair these assholes have. So I’m calling it The Raid, which is the damn title (though technically it’s Serbuan maut, seeing as this is an Indonesian production). Still, I can’t stay mad at Sony Pictures, they did distribute the film in my city and this movie certainly deserves the big screen treatment. But hey, the asshole who came up with the redemption bit can go fuck himself.

John Carter (of Mars)

I came into this movie with some baggage. I love the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the pulpy romance aspect of it and I was hoping that would remain intact in the film version. The books are very romantic. They have a bunch of epic adventures and daring-do and bravery and stuff, but John Carter is a guy who falls in love with a princess and that’s what I like about it. I wanted John Carter to be my chick flick.

So is it any good?

The short answer is yes. It’s not perfect (I hate it when people say that! What’s perfect? Why should a movie be perfect?) but what works works so damn well that I’m willing to forgive the shortcomings.

First: The action and adventure aspect of the film is extra great! There is a battle about halfway through the film that is fucking insane. It gave me chills and made me want to cheer. John Carter is a warrior, a hero (albeit a reluctant one) and any time his heart tells him he needs to fight, sparks fly off the screen. But that’s just one scene of many, and all the adventure works incredibly well.

I really liked John Carter as a character too, he isn’t overly complex or layered and that’s fine. He’s a quiet, herioc soldier thrust into an impossible situation and I was more than willing to follow him through it. He’s funny at times but mostly a serious man, just trying to keep up with the unbelievable events unfolding around him.

The princess, Dejah Thoris, is also great! More than just John Carter's equal, she is a thrilling character, full of sacrifice, bravery and dillemas. I hope my nieces end up seeing this film and fall in awe of her. She kicks ass but she is also a great moral compass for John Carter, and a fine role model for young girls. In any case I had no trouble believing John Carter was falling in love with her, and her with him.

Even when the movie starts to, at times,  drag a little (which is the only negative criticism I have) it is always absolutely stunning to look at and the effects and scenery are awe-inspiring. I LOVE that, for example, the space ships are mechanical and stirred much like vessels instead of like, say, the Millenium Falcon. It gives the whole world it’s own unique history. They haven’t gotten to computers yet, but they’ve figured out how to sail on light waves. That’s really awesome.

This movie also gives us another magnificent score from the always great Michael Giacchino. This guy is really becoming my absolute favorite Hollywood composer and here he takes the world of Barsoom (Mars, in the Burroughs universe) and gives it even more emotional depth and grandeur with his sweeping melodies and epic score. 

I will buy John Carter when it comes out on bluray and I will watch it again several times, pouring over every detail of the world and wishing I too could go have adventures on Mars and court a lovely and brave princess and win her heart. 

As far as ass-kicking, rip-roaring sci-fi pulp adventures go, this one’s a winner. I hope they make Gods Of Mars and Warlord of Mars too, and we get an amazing John Carter trilogy! After the terrible Starwars prequels, I think we more than deserve it.

So, yeah, long story short, this will be my new chick flick for a while. There’s a hot princess in it, so it counts.

Chronicle

I don’t like the found footage genre. It’s tired and that gimmick rarely brings anyting worthwhile to the table. Still, I kept reading great things about Chronicle and I liked the trailer so I went. To my surprise, of the four people in our little group, I ended up being the one who enjoyed it the most.

It’s about kids getting superpowers. None of that “With great power comes great responsabilities”, though. The thought of helping others or becoming superheroes never even crosses these kid’s mind. And that’s fine. To be honest it’s much more realistic. The first thing I would do with super powers is not jumb in front of a movie train to save an old lady (that’s not true, Old lady, I would totally save you, but I’m trying to make a point). I would fuck around. A LOT. And that’s what these guys do.

The film starts a bit slow but that’s good. Gives you time to get to know the main guy and what he’s about. Then you meet the two other guys, then they get super, and then they have fun and someone goes too far and shit goes to shit.

The effects in the film are pretty flawless. The flying sequences in particular are some of the best, most fun and realistic looking that I have ever seen. The entire thing, seriously is well done. The action absolutely works (there is in particular a scene, where a guy and a girl are trapped in a car, that is absolutely thrilling). Other than Michael B Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights) I recognized no one in the cast but that doesn’t mean the acting is bad. In fact it’s quite refreshing to not recognize every one on screen, and it makes the whole endeavor feel more real (which is the entire point of found footage).

So what about the found footage aspect of it? Well, it’s not that it doesn’t work, it works fine, but I don’t think it adds much to the film. Had this been a regular movie I believe it would have been just as good if not better. Still, as far as found footage movies go, this one is quite good. I certainly don’t regret seeing it, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Haywire

Did you see the trailer for this? Go ahead, click HERE and watch it, I’ll wait.

Okay, so let’s get situated: we have Steven Soderbergh, the guy who directed such fantastic (and diverse) films as Sex, Lies And Videotape, The Limey, Out Of Sight, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Informant to name but a few. We have MMA fighter Gina Carano with next to no acting experience, and we have a long list of really great male actors including (but not limited to) Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton and Ewan McGregor. So Soderbergh got all these peeps together and decided to make a truly kick ass flick.

What surprised me was how much of a Steven Soderbergh film it is. For some reason I worried that his style might get lost or diluted in the trappings of an action movie narrative. Yet it feels like his movies do. It’s a deliberately paced, beautifully shot, moody little peice of kickassery. 

The narrative cuts back and forth in time to tell it’s story but it never feels confusing or worst, gimmicky. There are no “12 hours earlier” type subtitles to make you understand, all you get are city names and, because the story is well told, you understand that if they’re in this city then they’re at this point in time. It’s good that Soderbergh tells the story this way because it’s a fairly simple plot anyways (a deadly operative gets double-cross, blah blah blah) so what really matters is how you tell the story. Soderbergh, lucky for us, is a great story teller.

There are two real standouts in the movie that I really need to tell you about. First is the score. It is a fantastic score and I really hope I remember it at the end of the year because it deserves to be on a list. This is not the typically bombastic action movie score, it’s more like a 70s spy movie score, very jazzy, lots of lingering horns and funky beats. It’s fucking great. Also great is that most of the (amazing) fight scenes are played without music. The score shows up in between the merciless beat-downs Gina Carano lays on all the poor saps who dare oppose her.

That brings me to the second standout of the movie: It’s lead, Gina Carano. Now let me be clear: she will not win any awards for her acting in this movie. She’s not terrible but you can tell she has limited range. It doesn’t matter. Better: it helps. She seems vulnerable. Even in the terrific fight scenes, she doesn’t kick people’s asses quickly, it takes time because people rarely go down after one punch. These fights hurt. She bruses and she bleeds. This is where her character works so perfectly. Soderbergh is wise to use her exactly as much as he can, never giving her long exposition scenes, long dialogues and heavy drama (that’s left to her male counter parts), instead her part of the story is told mostly physically, and she’s got that down. The beauty is that she never stops being a woman. I love Trinity in the Matrix movie but she rarely feels feminine. Carano’s character is a woman, and that’s great. (Not putting down Trinity here, she’s awesome, but it’s nice to see something different, Hollywood seems to think in order for a woman to kick ass she has to act like a man and that’s just not true).

Haywire is not the greatest action film ever but it’s miles better than a lot of the flicks that have been coming out so far in 2012 and it’s definitely a great night at the movies. Often thrilling, extremely competent filmmaking with a handful of truly great moments and some fantastic actors having a great time getting their asses handed to them by the deliciously lethal Gina Carano. I’ll see Haywire again ten times before I waste ten bucks on another Underworld movie, that’s my two cents.

The adventures of Tintin: The secret of the unicorn

The key word being “adventure”.

Not “action”, adventure.

It implies mystery. Thrills. Danger. Suspense. Fun!

It is a word that makes a completly different promise than the word “action”. 

Mr Spielberg delivers on that promise like a kid in a candy store built inside a candy shopping mall at the center of Candytropolis, capital of Candyland. 

To put it bluntly, Spielberg is the best at what he does. No one does adventure better than him and, in Tintin, he has found a perfect universe in which to explore adventure in a different way than in the Indiana Jones universe (which this movie is sure to be compared to, and rightly so - more on that later). At the end of the day Tintin is a 3D animation film. It has all the technology in the world to back it, impeccable motion-capture performances and truly amazing rendering of characters and environements, but it’s still animation. That’s not important, really, a film is a film is a film, no matter what tools are used to bring it to the screen, but I bring it up because there is a whimsy to Tintin’s adventure that is very much owed to the world of cartoons and it’s inherent playfulness. Like I said, a kid in a candy store.

Tintin is not Indiana Jones. He’s a different character and, let’s just say it, he’s not as great. But hey, Indiana Jones is, in my mind, possibly the greatest fictional charactor in film history, so it’s a bit unfair to measure Tintin against him. Still, it’s a Spielberg adventure movie so it’s relevent to bring up his other baby. Tintin is very much the straight man in this movie. Young, very driven, incredibly curious and yes, with a thirst for adventure. It’s important to point out that Tintin is never ever boring as a character, he’s just not as endlessly charismatic as one Dr Jones (but, again, who the hell could be?) There is, after all, no romance in the film. There is only Tintin and Captain Haddock and the bond that slowly, against all odds, grows between them. Tintin is also not given a back story, other than a few news paper clippings that decorate the walls of his appartement, the movie wastes no time with that and instead just jumps right into the mystery that will drive the entire movie forward. 

I was speaking to a friend earlier today, before seeing the film, telling him I was wondering if Snowy (Tintin’s trusty canine sidekick) would be short-changed in the film. In the books he is very useful, full of personality and very much a part of unfolding events. Fear not, fellow Tintin aficionados, Snowy is very much a part of the action and an absolutely necessary part of the movie. He’s freakin’ awesome.

But we need to spend some words on captain Haddock. Goddamn do we ever. What a marvelous legend he is! What a great character! Andy Serkis is the actor behind the pixels for this one and again he outdoes himself, playing the captain with absolute delight and aplomb. Haddock is one of cinema’s great drunks. It’s amazing that, nevermind all the gags, all the pratfalls, all the stumblings, we always like Haddock and we never, ever, stop rooting for him. He’s a great guy and the movie really picks up once he shows up.

This film also features the return of John Williams, who has scored all of Speilberg’s movies (except maybe his early TV stuff). I’m not really qualified to write at length about the music in Tintin, but I was pleasantly surprised by it’s direction. He went mostly with an upbeat jazzy score, which services the film impeccably well and helps distance it a bit from Indiana Jones. The tone here is very playful and that compliments the universe perfectly.

I could talk about so much more, about the amazing transitions that are found throughout the film, about the delightful Thomson twins, about the beautiful opening title sequence or the perfect ways in which the script, by Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish, respects the source material infinitely all the while taking wild liberties with the stories the film is inspired by, but really all I want to do is write some more about Spielberg…

Spielberg orchestrates adventure better than anyone in the business. Seriously, he is simply unequalled. Every one of his action scenes is riddled with little gags, little character moments, all the while overflowing with thrills and fantastically kinetic adventure beats. There is a chase scene (pictured above) that puts any other chase scene put together in the last 10 years to absolute shame. This is Spielberg showing everyone that he’s still got more than just what it takes, but what his peers simply don’t have. And the chase seen is fantastic but it’s not all the movie has to offer. There is a naval battle in a (stunningly well put together) flashback sequence that downright humiliates all Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Jack Sparrow is pretty neat but he’s got nothing on Sir Francis Haddock, I’ll tell you that much.

Oh, the 3D is worth it. I’ll put that out there. I don’t know that it’s necessary (go see HUGO for that) but it’s still very well done and never disorienting or annoying. I saw the movie in IMAX 3D and I highly recommand you do too.

Look, I loved The Adventures Of Tintin. I had extremely high expectations for it and it blew them all away. It’s a fantastic, funny, whimsical adventure film for the entire familly. One that I will see again at the theater and that I will own on bluray the minute it’s out.

Later, film lovers.

The Muppets

I AM WRITTING THIS REVIEW IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I AM SCREAMING IT AT THE KEYBOARD AS I TYPE IT. SORRY ABOUT THAT (I AM TOO EXCITED). MAYBE I COULD HAVE PICKED A SMALLER FONT TO COMPENSATE BUT I GUESS THAT WOULD DEFEAT THE PURPOSE. PERHAPS YOU COULD LISTEN TO VERY LOUD MUSIC AS YOU READ THIS, MAYBE THE TWO WOULD CANCEL EACH OTHER OUT…

IN ANY CASE, HERE GOES:

THE MUPPETS IS A SUBLIME NIGHT AT THE MOVIES! I’M GOING TO BE TEMPTED TO USE THE WORD “NOSTALGIA” DURING THIS REVIEW BUT I’LL TRY NOT TO BECAUSE THAT WOULD IMPLY THAT WHAT THE MOVIE HAS GOING FOR IT IS TO CONVEY A DESIRE FOR YOU TO RETURN TO WHEN YOU WERE A KID, OR AT LEAST TO THE PAST, AND THAT’S NOT WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT. THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT OLD FRIENDS GETTING BACK TOGETHER AND DOING WHAT THEY DO BEST. IT’S ABOUT YOU TODAY FINDING (OR REMEMBERING) WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY AND DOING IT. AND, COME ON, IT’S ABOUT THE MUPPETS PUTTING ON A SHOW!!!! THAT RIGHT THERE SHOULD BE ENOUGH!

THERE ARE MANY MUSICAL NUMBERS IN THE MOVIE AND ALL OF THEM WORK SPLENDIDLY. I THINK ONE HALF OF THE FLIGHTS OF THE CONCHORDS GUYS WORKED ON MANY OF THE SONGS (THE BRET HALF) AND, BOTH LYRICALLY AND MUSICALLY, HE AND COMPOSER CHRISTOPHER BECK DID AN AMAZING JOB! THE SONGS ARE OFTEN FUNNY, ALWAYS HEARTFELT AND NEVER PROPOSE EVEN AN OUNCE OF CYNICISM. THIS IS A MOVIE THAT WEARS IT’S HEART ON IT’S SLEEVE AND IS PROUD OF IT.

THIS IS ALSO A COMEDY AND AS SUCH IT WORKS LIKE GANGBUSTERS. I LAUGHED OUT LOUD MANY MANY TIMES DURING THE FILM, AND EVEN CLAPPED AT A FEW JOKES BECAUSE I WAS SO HAPPY. IT IS THE MAIN REASON WHY MY CHEEKS WERE WET THROUGH OUT THE MOVIE (BUT NOT THE ONLY ONE). ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE GIVEN GREAT MOMENTS TO SHINE AND IT REALLY FEELS LIKE NOT AN EFFORT WAS SPARED OR WASTED.

STRANGELY, IT ALSO OCCURS TO ME THAT I NEVER ONCE THOUGHT OF THE MUPPETS AS PUPPETS. FOR ME THESE WERE LIVING BREATHING CHARACTERS, EACH WITH MOTIVES AND EMOTIONS AND A BEATING HEART UNDERNEATH THAT, WELL, FELT. THIS IS WHAT MAKES THE MOVIE WORK AS A FILM, BEYOND ALL THE GREAT GAGS AND FANTASTIC SONGS AND DANCE NUMBERS, THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT PEOPLE. IT’S ABOUT THEIR WANTS AND THEIR NEEDS. NOW DON’T GET ME WRONG, IT’S NOT PARTICULARELY DEEP, THIS ISN’T AN IGMAR BERGMAN FILM, BUT IT’S ALSO MORE THAN JUST A SERIES OF SIGHT GAGS. IT’S GOT A HEART.

IT ALSO HAS HUMANS IN IT. I REALLY LIKE BOTH AMY ADAMS AND JASON SEGEL BUT I WAS A LITTLE WORRIED THIS WOULD BE A MOVIE ABOUT THEM. I UNDERSTOOD THAT PUTTING KNOWN ACTORS ON THE POSTERS AND IN THE TRAILERS WAS A SMART MARKETING MOVE TO GET PEOPLE WHO DON’T PARTICULARELY CARE ABOUT MUPPETS THROUGH THE DOOR, BUT I REALLY WANTED A MOVIE ABOUT AND STARRING THE MUPPETS, NOT A MOVIE STARRING SEGEL AND ADAMS WITH MUPPETS AS BACKGROUND PLAYERS. DON’T FEAR, BOTH ACTORS ARE CLEARLY SUPPORTING HERE, WITH THE MUPPETS TAKING CENTER STAGE. STILL, THEY BOTH DO A FANTASTIC JOB OF EMBRACING THE WORLD THEY ARE IN AND TREATING THE MUPPETS AS REAL CHARACTERS, SO THEIR INTERACTIONS ALWAYS FEEL TRUE. SEGEL, ONE OF THE MASTERMINDS BEHIND THIS MOVIE (HE CO-WROTE IT AND IS AN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER), FEELS RIGHT AT HOME HERE AND SELLS EVERY MOMENT HE SHARES WITH HIS FELT BROTHER WALTER. 

HEY LET’S TALK A BIT ABOUT WALTER…

THEY NEVER ADDRESS WHY OR HOW WALTER IS A PUPPET AND HIS BROTHER IS A HUMAN. HE JUST IS. HE IS A NORMAL GUY LIKE YOU OR ME, EXCEPT HE DOESN’T GROW AND, WELL, HE’S VERY FLEXIBLE. HE DOES FEEL DIFFERENT, THOUGH, AND SOMETIMES LIKE HE DOESN’T BELONG, AND EARLY ON IN HIS LIFE HE DISCOVERS THE MUPPET SHOW ON TV AND THAT SORT OF CHANGES HIS LIFE AND BECOMES HIS ANCHOR TO THE WORLD, THE ONE THING THAT REMINDS HIM THAT HE IS NOT ALONE. HE’S A GREAT CHARACTER, A WONDERFUL ADDITION TO THE MUPPET TEAM AND A GREAT GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THE AUDIENCE CAN EXPERIENCE THE MOVIE. ALSO, FOR MY MONEY, HE GETS ONE OF THE BEST MOMENTS OF THE FILM (BUT I’LL SAY NO MORE).

IN CLOSING: THIS MOVIE MADE ME LAUGH, CLAP, CHEER AND BY THE END VERY FEW PEOPLE IN THE THEATER HAD DRY CHEEKS (OKAY I HAVE NO IDEA IF THAT’S ACTUALLY TRUE BUT I BET A SHINY NICKEL THAT IT IS) BECAUSE IT GETS PRETTY DAMN MOVING. YUP, A PUPPET MOVIE GOT TO MY HEARTSTRINGS AND PULLED LIKE THE DEVIL. 

IN MORE CLOSING: LOOK, THE MOVIE WORKS. EVERYTHING IN IT WORKS. IT IS A ROWSING SUCCESS AND I WANT TO SEE IT AGAIN RIGHT NOW.

IN SLIGHTLY STILL MORE CLOSING: YAY FOR CAMEOS! I DON’T WANT TO RUIN ALL THE SURPRISES BUT JACK BLACK HASN’T BEEN THIS FUNNY IN YEARS! ALSO KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR FEIST SINGIN A FEW CHARMING NOTES EARLY ON! OKAY I’LL SAY NO MORE! (DONALD GLOVER!)

IN POSSIBLY EXCESSIVE BUT I FEEL MUCH NEEDED EXTRA ADDITIONAL CLOSING: HERE’S GONZO:

YOU’RE WELCOME.

This is a quote from from Dan Whitehead’s review of The Adventures Of Tintin:

"Two parts Indiana Jones to one part Buster Keaton, it proves once and for all that you can construct a breathless all-ages rollercoaster without abandoning such quaint concepts as character, wit and clarity of purpose."

How great is that? Read the entire Badass Digest review HERE.