Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Muppets (2011)

I guess I should apologize for not updating in, what, twenty days?! Sorry about that. Job-hunting and the like. Not much new to report. I am still actively looking for jobs, but in this cash-strapped period I have not gone out to see many movies. Actually, I think The Hunger Games and The Avengers are the only movies I saw in theaters since I returned.

I caught The Muppets onboard Singapore Airlines during my flight back to America. I was swept up by a wave of nostalgia that compelled me to press “enter” on my remote control and select the movie. It ate up a good fifth or so of my flight, and I enjoyed most of the experience.

I imagine there are many more qualified people who could be reviewing this film. While I grew up watching Kermit and Miss Piggy on the Muppets Tonight television series, I never really followed their work after that, except for a cameo in the Keep Fishin’ music video by Weezer. Most of the time I spent watching The Muppets was spent re-acquainting myself with the cast of characters, Fozzie and Gonzo and all the rest.

The Muppets’ movies were coming out during a period between 1976, the premier of The Muppets Movie, and Muppets From Space, which came out in 1999. The new film plays out as a reunion of sorts, using Jason Segel’s everyman character (Gary) to reintroduce the audience to all of our childhood favorites. The human element to this story comes in the form of Walter, Gary’s brother, born a Muppet but not one of the Muppets. He struggles to come to terms with his identity and is inspired to visit the Muppet Studio for guidance.

The brothers work with Kermit the Frog to reunite the Muppets and put on a show that will allow them to buy their studio back from the trope-tacular evil business tycoon who has purchased it. The film is littered with throwbacks to the original series and movies, as well as a handful of fresh humor that almost seems out of place in terms of modern-day relevance. For every call-back to my childhood, there was also a new chuckle to be had.

This is not one of those films that needs to secretly work in a bunch of covert dirty humor to appeal to the parents that wind up sitting through it with their children. The nostalgia factor will keep parents in their seats as their kids gain an appreciation for these classic characters. The film did well at the box office, so hopefully this is the start of a new series of Muppet movies.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The King's Speech (2010)

Just wanted to take this chance to apologize for taking so long to update the page. I was in California over the weekend and neglected to prepare a post in advance. Then, when I came home, I simply got caught up in the usual chaos that envelops my life.

Like Black Swan, this is another Oscar winner. I must apologize for erroneously saying last time that Black Swan won the award for Best Picture. In fact, The King’s Speech won that award. Natalie Portman won Best Actress and Colin Firth won Best Actor. It’s unfortunate that two films can’t win the award, though—I would have selected these two in a heartbeat. Oh well, no changing the past I suppose.

The King’s Speech chronicles a period in the life of King George VI of England leading up to the onset of World War 2. Played by Colin Firth (remember I mentioned that Oscar for Best Actor?), King George VI struggles to cope with a socially debilitating stutter that makes it nearly impossible for him to speak in front of audiences.

He eventually finds his way to a speech therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush who makes the most progress in teaching the king how to speak clearly. If you don’t know the history, I won’t spoil it for you, but later in the film Firth is called upon to make a very important speech, meaning that his work with Rush is of dire importance.

The film does a very good job of painting two pictures. The first is of a country on the brink of war, searching for a leader to guide it. The second is of a man torn between duty and fear, unable to overcome a hurdle that has plagued him since birth and rise to a station he never expected nor desired. Here is where Colin Firth shines. If I didn’t know better, I would say he actually has a stutter.

Beyond those points, though, the film is lacking in historical accuracy. Though honestly, if it’s a feature film you shouldn’t be surprised. I recommend you critically examine every feature film after you have seen it, to sort out the truth from the lies. In this case, most of the errors deal with inconsistent dates, people, and places. Second-hand accounts also claim that King George VI was never as casual around Logue as the film suggests. I argue that this is an instance of necessary artistic license; our protagonist needs to be down-to-earth and relatable if he is to garner empathy from the audience.

It is another Oscar winner, so I definitely suggest catching it sometime. The beginning might seem a little slow, but once you bite into the meat of the plot it manages to remain engaging and believable until the end.