Monday, March 24, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted/Party Central (short)

Directed by James Bobin and written by Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, Muppets Most Wanted is the story of the Muppets who take part in a European tour where a notorious criminal who looks like Kermit the Frog has Kermit taken to the Gulag in Siberia while pretending to be Kermit much to the suspicion of the other Muppets. The sequel to the 2011 film that brought the Muppets back to the public consciousness, the film is a suspense-comedy where it involves thefts, doubles, singing Russian criminals, and all sorts of crazy things. Starring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, and the Muppets. Muppets Most Wanted is a very entertaining film from James Bobin and the Muppets.

Party Central

Written and directed by Kelsey Mann, Party Central is a sequel short to 2013’s Monsters University in which Mike and Sulley help out their fraternity brothers in Oozma Kappa create the ultimate college party. It’s a short where Mike and Sulley do some very crazy things to help their friends create the ultimate college party where a lot of craziness ensues that includes moments where monsters walk through the homes of humans who become freaked out by what is happening. It’s a fun, fun, fun short film from Pixar who continues to deliver with the shorts.

Muppets Most Wanted

The film is a simple story which picks up where the last film is left off where the Muppets try to figure out what to do next. Under the advice of a tour manager, the Muppets go on an European tour where Kermit the Frog is ambushed and taken to the Gulag prison in Siberia as he is believed to be the notorious thief Constantine who switches places with him. Yet, Constantine’s real plan with his associate Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) is to steal clues to obtain the Crown Jewels of England while a few of the Muppets become suspicious over Kermit’s odd behavior. It’s a film that has a premise that may not be entirely original but it does play into a world where taking one Muppet out of the equation in the group can spell disharmony as Miss Piggy finds herself unfulfilled in the new devotion that Kermit has for her unaware that it’s really Constantine.

James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller’s screenplay keeps the premise simple in the way the Muppets not only deal with success but also deal with the fact that many of their ideas don’t always work sometimes. In some respects, the film is sort of the anti-sequel as the film opens with a song about sequels and how they’re often not as good as the predecessor. Not only do Bobin and Stoller take a few shots at it but also infuse it with some suspense and comedy to play into Kermit’s situation at the Gulag where its warden Nadya (Tina Fey) has a major crush on Kermit. Meanwhile, an Interpol agent in Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) teams up with Sam Eagle to not only uncover the jewelry thefts but also deal with each other where a lot of hilarity ensues.

Bobin’s direction is very simple where he aims for something that is crazy at times but also slow things down so that audiences can be engaged into the story. While there’s a lot of excellent musical numbers, it is balanced by its approach to comedy and drama where much of the film is shot in Britain with a few location shots in Berlin, Madrid, and Los Angeles as Bobin goes for mostly medium shots and close-ups. Yet, he does manage to create a few wide shots for some of the film’s big musical numbers as well as present this elaborate climax that is definitely entertaining and gripping. Overall, Bobin creates a very delightful and fun film about the Muppets dealing with a doppelganger and other crazy things.

Cinematographer Don Burgess does nice work with the film‘s cinematography from the look of the scenes at the Gulag to the lavish lighting for some of the stage performances by the Muppets. Editor James Thomas does terrific work with the editing as it‘s pretty straightforward while has some effective use in the montages. Production designer Eve Stewart, with set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson and supervising art director Grant Armstrong, does excellent work with the set pieces from the Muppets stage presentation to the look of the Gulag.

Costume designer Rahel Afiley does wonderful work with the costumes from the look of the prison uniforms to some of clothes the Muppets wear. Visual effects supervisor Sean Mathiesen does fantastic work with the visual effects in some of the musical numbers to some of the more action-based effects in the film. Sound editors Kami Asgar, Sean McCormack, and Jeffrey A. Pitts do superb work with the sound in creating layers of sound effects and textures in some of the stage performances and the scenes in the Gulag. The film’s music by Christoph Beck and Bret McKenzie is great for some of the original songs that is made as well as some of the musical choices they put in including a very inspired take on Working in the Coal Mine and an over-the-top duet between Miss Piggy and Celine Dion.

The casting by Randi Hiller and Tamara Notcutt is brilliant for the cameos they bring in as among the celebrities that appear in the film are Celine Dion, Salma Hayek, Tom Hiddleston, Chloe Grace Mortez, Christoph Waltz, Mackenzie Cook, Toby Jones, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Zach Galifianakis, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Frank Langella, Hugh Bonneville, Stanley Tucci, Miranda Richardson, Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, Josh Groban, Usher, and Til Schweiger. In other cameos as prisoners of the Gulag, there’s Danny Trejo, Jermaine Clement, Ray Liotta, and Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl as they bring a nice edge to their performances as tough criminals who want to sing. Ty Burrell is terrific as the very comical Jean Pierre Napoleon who teams with Sam Eagle to find what is going on.

Tina Fey is amazing as she does a very comical Russian accent as the Gulag warden Nadya who tries to be tough but has a secret crush on Kermit. Ricky Gervais is excellent as Constantine’s henchman Dominic Badguy (pronounced Bad-gee) who serves as a foil for Constantine. Finally, there’s the Muppets as the people who perform such great characters as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, Fozzie Bear, Walter, Scooter, Animal, and the rest of the gang are just fun to watch. Especially as Matt Vogel does superb work in voicing Constantine who does his worst to ruin Kermit’s persona.

Muppets Most Wanted is an excellent film from James Bobin. Not only is it a worthy successor to its 2011 predecessor but also proof that the Muppets are still vital. Even as they manage to engage audiences from all ages to kids and adults as they all want to do is entertain and give the audiences a good time. In the end, Muppets Most Wanted is a superbly fun film from James Bobin.

The Muppets Films: (The Muppet Movie) - (The Great Muppet Caper) - (Muppets Take Manhattan) - (Sesame Streets Presents Follow That Bird) - (The Muppets Christmas Carol) - (Muppet Treasure Island) - (Muppets from Space) - (The Adventure of Elmo in Grouchland) - The Muppets

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