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Monthly Archives: November 2011

It’s time to meet The Muppets… again…

After some time displacement issues between 2008 and this afternoon, I finally had a chance to see The Muppets, the first theatrical Muppet movie since 1999’s Muppets From Space.

The review following has some spoilers past this point, but I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of the classic Muppet movies. Lots of humor, celebrity cameos, catchy songs, and heart.

The film follows Walter, the Muppets’ biggest fan, Gary, his human brother played by Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the film with Nicholas Stoller), and Mary, Gary’s longtime girlfriend played by Amy Adams. The three travel to LA for Gary and Mary’s anniversary, but go to the long abandoned Muppet Studios for Walter. When Walter overhears a plot from oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down the old Muppet Theater, it sets the trio in action to reunite the Muppets for one last show to save not only their theater, but their legacy.

There’s a running joke in the film that laughter is the third most important gift you can give someone, behind a child and ice cream. If laughter is the third greatest gift, this film provides a lot of it. Segel and Stoller prove that they have a great understanding of how the Muppets work, with lots of fourth wall breaking moments, character gags, and great cameos from various celebrities. My favorites would have to be Neil Patrick Harris with a blink and you’ll miss it cameo as a celebrity phone operator and Dave Grohl as an Animal Impersonator. I will admit though that my hardest laugh came from the first appearance of 80s Robot and his tray full of Tab and New Coke.

Along with the humor and heart of the written dialogue, there are plenty of songs sung on this adventure. Written by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, the new songs are catchy and cheerful in traditional Muppet fashion. The most notable example is probably ‘Life’s a Happy Song’, which opens and closes the film with big, cheerful dance numbers. My favorite though is ‘Me Party’, a single ladies’ anthem performed by Mary and Miss Piggy. There are points where the songs feel a bit Conchords-y, but that’s perfectly fine since they’re still plenty funny. Perhaps I am a sucker for the classic Muppet songs though, because my favorite musical moment in the entire movie was when all of the Muppets performed the classic ‘Rainbow Connection’ in the third act. I hope Paul Williams loves that moment just as much as I do.

As I said before, the film is very similar to early Muppet films such as The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan. The Muppets are setting out for an adventure, but this time, it’s in a world that has forgotten about them. Which is weird to think about because the Muppets have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but it has been a very long time since the Muppets have been a public eye like this. If the end of the film is any indicator though, the Muppets won’t be disappearing again any time soon.

To me, that’s just as great as Children and Ice Cream.

(And as a side note: The Toy Story short that shows before the movie might be one of the funniest things Pixar has produced. Two words: Jane Lynch.)

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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Film

 

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Taking the high road with Brave

Hello readers!

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I’ve been meaning to write this particular post since last Wednesday, but life has been rather chaotic. I hope to fall into a MWF schedule starting this week.

First off, my first review at Steampunk Chronicle went up last week! I reviewed Verdant by Emerald Rose, and it has gone over rather well. Read it here! The next review should be going up rather soon.

Anyway, I want to talk about one of my most anticipated movies of 2012 today. A gorgeous looking film set in the Scottish Highlands and will surely be one of the three films to be the source of an archery trend among young children.

Ladies, gentlemen, and those not in the binary… Let’s talk about Brave.

Brave marks a lot of firsts for Pixar. Their first film co-directed by a woman, their first film to star a female protagonist, their first fairy tale/princess movie, and their first film released since the death of former CEO Steve Jobs. It’s also the first original story to be released by Pixar since 2009’s Up. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this film for a while now, and it just grows with every image that’s released and every argument I get into with film students over it.

So this past week was like Christmas for me.

Last Tuesday, Pixar released three new images from the film, further detailing how gorgeous this film will be, how far Pixar has come since the first Toy Story, and that John Lasseter knows people who know how to animate gorgeous hair.

(No lie, I actually said, “Finally! A princess with my hair!”)

Then, on Wednesday, Pixar released a full length trailer for the film.

Cue my Hunger Games style crying all over again.

It’s obvious that this story is going to be a bit more traditional in comparison to Pixar’s past films, but there’s still plenty of Pixar in there to make it stand out. The scenery is gorgeous, the characters are lively, and there’s still plenty of humor to go around. Not to mention a great cast that is actually Scottish. I thanked the Gods of Film when Reese Witherspoon was replaced by Kelly MacDonald as Princess Merida…

Of course, Disney has created some sort of stigma around the word ‘Princess’. Many have already started acting like they know how the film will go or that Disney has somehow corrupted Pixar. Which just makes me wonder why. How is having a movie about a fiery Scottish princess who practices archery and goes on a journey to discover what bravery really means a bad thing? If it was a Prince, would Brave still be getting the same naysayers?

I once got into an argument with a friend of mine who doubted the film because of it’s more traditional story and the fact there was a female protagonist. That Pixar’s movies were “men’s stories” disguised as family films. He has now changed his stance on the film, but only because of the presence of Billy Connolly.

I… didn’t quite agree with him. At all.

Females often don’t get to be the star of the adventure. Especially not in family films. They’re the plucky friends  or the love interest of the main charismatic male. Sometimes both at once. Sometimes, they’re even the antagonist. Disney’s last few Princess films have turned this on its head by allowing the main female protagonist to go on an adventure with her budding love interest, helping create a Princess for a more modern age.

However, for Brave, there doesn’t seem to be a double protagonist in sight. Here it’s Merida’s fight to change her fate and save her kingdom. Here, it’s Merida fighting for her own freedom and the right to NOT be married off. For this, I want to quote Fionna the Human Girl from Adventure Time.

“I think the reason I got all these guy friends and no boyfriend is because I don’t really wanna date any of ’em. I don’t need to feel like I’m waiting to be noticed. I know who I am and I’ll know what I want if and when it ever comes along.”

This is a message I wish I heard when I was younger and if Merida can carry that message across the way I think she can, then maybe Princess Merida can be the princess those fiercely independent girls need.

Either way, I’ll be the first in line on June 22nd to see Merida succeed.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Film

 

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An introduction and beating the odds with The Hunger Games

Hello world.

I do believe an introduction is in order. My name is Liesel Hindmann (or Ashley, in some dimensions), and I’m an apprentice. I work for the Atlanta-based Steampunk rock band The Extraordinary Contraptions as I continue my studies in public relations, music management, and many other things in between. I’m also a media lover. Half the fun of being a time traveller is the fact that I get to discover music, books, and films from all over the place. Sometimes all at once. Which brings me to the first topic of this diary of dimensional discoveries: the film adaptation of The Hunger Games.

Earlier this year, I began to read Suzanne Collins’ dystopian young adult trilogy after seeing the mockingjay’s presence follow me everywhere I went. I read the first book in April before I went on tour, and the last two in July while recovering from an expedition to Alaska. Despite the time between when I read the open and the close, I was hooked. The series plays out much like a cycle of Greek tragedies. Three books with three acts each telling the continuing story of Katniss Everdeen and her fight against the Capitol as it grows into a full out war. The series is action packed, but shows the very real consequences and outcomes of the situation the characters find themselves in. Despite taking place far into the future, the story is timeless and realistic.

It was sort of inevitable that the books would get a movie series adaptation. The film adaptation of The Hunger Games is coming out March 23rd and its sequel Catching Fire has already been announced for a November 2013 release date. Today, the first full length trailer for The Hunger Games came out on Apple Trailers.

And it is astounding.

On first glance for someone who has read the book, it seems like they have kept a fairly faithful adaptation to the book. Well, I do believe having Suzanne Collins and shooting much of the film around where District 12 is supposed to be in North Carolina does help. It’s not just that, however. From the multiple times I’ve watched this trailer, I’ve gotten emotional each time. Especially in a particular part with a certain gesture. I will not spoil it for those who have not read the series, but fans will know what I mean. If I can gain this emotion from brief clips in the trailer, then it’s highly possible that the movie has already succeeded.

For The Hunger Games to succeed financially though, they still have odds they need to play against. For a cynical and unaware market, the series will seem like a Twilight knockoff. For cynical film snobs, the concept of pitting children against each other for the entertainment of others might be too close to Battle Royale. In its favor though is the astounding cast and Lionsgate throwing everything it has at promoting this film. Jennifer Lawrence is still riding on the high of her Academy Award nomination for Winter’s Bone (which I still haven’t seen, but hope to review for a future blog) as well as her fantastic performance as a young Mystique in X-Men: First Class. She’s already set to knock Katniss out of the park at this point. Alongside her, the cast also has Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and Lenny Kravitz playing several of the film’s adult characters. Personally, I’m looking forward to Kravitz’s performance as Cinna, who’s actions set much of Katniss’ journey in motion throughout the books.

Lionsgate has also been working this film as hard as they can. For fans, they’ve set up registration to be a Panem citizen, have offered free poster promotions at theaters across the country, gave Mockingjay pins at San Diego Comic-Con (which became one of the most sought out pieces of swag this year), and have worked hard to appeal to many of the fanblogs. Before the trailer came out today, I had already heard exited rumblings from Twiffidy over at The Victor’s Village after she had been invited to an advanced screening of said trailer. Not to mention that the trailer will be played before Twilight: Breaking Dawn this weekend. Exposure, exposure, exposure…

Personally, I believe that the film adaptation is going to have a lot of appeal to retro-futurists like myself. Many of the settings in the book are not as far along technologically as the Capitol, so places like District 12 are more rustic and old fashioned in both appearance and tradition. However, even the Capitol’s fashion has a bit of a neo-victorian flair to it. Take a look at Elizabeth Banks as the ever pink and cheerful Effie Trinket.

The hat, the puffy sleeves, the very stylized hair, and the fitted waist… Give her a parasol and she’s ready to go for a Steampunk-themed outing.

As for the men, let’s look at our representative of tyranny played by Donald Sutherland, President Snow.

With the jacket, vest, and cravat combination, he gives the look of the esteemed gentlemen. Of course, esteemed gentlemen are never usually what they seem.

Alongside all of this, I’m also looking forward to the music of the film. With Danny Elfman and T-Bone Burnett in charge of the score and the soundtrack, we are bound to get something appropriately anachronistic and futuristic for the world of Panem. Plus, it helps that Academy Award winning songwriter Glen Hansard wrote a song for the film. Still holding out for Mumford and Sons for a future installment, but ‘Come Away’ is appropriate for Katniss and her District 12 background. Can’t wait to hear how it comes out in recording.

Overall, I feel as if the odds are in The Hunger Games favor, but I guess we will not know until March if those odds will pay out. I’ll be keeping those hopes high and will try to report back on it. Until then, and to quote Effie Trinket, may the odds be ever in your favor.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2011 in Books, Film

 

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