<p>Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segel join Kermit the Frog to try to convince Rowlf the Dog to rejoin the group in the joyous new movie 'The Muppets'</p>

Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segel join Kermit the Frog to try to convince Rowlf the Dog to rejoin the group in the joyous new movie 'The Muppets'

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Review: 'The Muppets' is a big-hearted star-packed slice of awesome

HitFix
A+
Readers
A
Jim Henson would be proud to see how deeply his creations marked these filmmakers

Nostalgia is a funny thing, and I've certainly written here at length about the way I think it can often blind people to quality, or the lack thereof.  And when you're talking about nostalgia, The Muppets loom large for at least one generation, and it would be easy to assume that any praise you hear for the new film is based on a long-instilled affection for the characters.

The thing is, if that were true, then everything the Muppets have ever appeared in would be praised highly, and that is absolutely not the case.  I don't care for many of the feature films that the characters have starred in over the years, and their last theatrical outing, "Muppets From Space," was fairly wretched, as was their "Wizard Of Oz" riff for television.  I spent many years convinced that the spirit of the Muppets had died along with Jim Henson.

I was wrong.

You know where it turns out the spirit was hiding?  Inside the kids who grew up with "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show," who were still soaking up culture when the Muppets were at the height of their cultural currency.  One of those kids was Jason Segel.  Another was James Bobin.  Yet another was Nicholas Stoller.  And Bret McKenzie, he was one.  And I'd wager that Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Emily Blunt, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal, Sarah Silverman, and more were Muppet kids, too.  And while it might be enough to make a few jokes, have some celebrities interact with the Muppets, and make a few nods to the past, that's not what Segel and his collaborators have done here.

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<p>That's Brad Pitt and Matt Damon playing a couple of Krill on an existential journey up the food chain in one of the many subplots in 'Happy Feet Two'</p>

That's Brad Pitt and Matt Damon playing a couple of Krill on an existential journey up the food chain in one of the many subplots in 'Happy Feet Two'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Uneven but ambitious 'Happy Feet Two' full of big ideas and big stars

HitFix
B
Readers
B
Less music but more ideas make for a challenging family film

As I expected, I'm already getting yelled at by "Twilight" fans because I dared to dig into the text created by Stephenie Meyer, whose name always appears in red as I write a piece about her or her "Twilight" series because she spells it wrong, and I dared to dislike the film based on what her books say about who she is.

The thing is, I can't just switch off the analytical part of my brain when I watch something, and I don't believe anyone should.  Yes, films are entertainment.  Yes, many of them are about as deep as a puddle.  But should a lack of ambition be the thing we reward in films?  And should ambition be considered a bad thing when a movie is trying to do something different?

George Miller obviously doesn't think so, and thank god for that.  When he makes a sequel, it seems like he goes out of his way to avoid simply rehashing the film we've already seen, and that has thrown people consistently throughout his career.  I may love "The Road Warrior" on a nearly-chemical level, but if you were a fan of "Mad Max," it must have felt jarring to go from this personal revenge story to what is essentially a spaghetti western set after the end of the world.  I know that when I first saw "Max Max Beyond Thunderdome," it threw me because I wanted more of "The Road Warrior," not a story about the Lost Boys of the Outback.  When audiences saw "Babe: Pig In The City" the first time, it must have been a real shock, and it seems like some people (Ron Meyer, I'm looking at you) still haven't gotten over it.  I love that Miller's film was almost completely different from the original, which seemed appropriate since the setting was so different.

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<p>Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are back as Edward and Bella as the 'Twilight Saga' franchise enters the home stretch with 'Breaking Dawn, Part I'</p>

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are back as Edward and Bella as the 'Twilight Saga' franchise enters the home stretch with 'Breaking Dawn, Part I'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I' is beautiful but hard to watch

HitFix
C-
Readers
C-
A slicker surface hides an even more rancid center as the franchise starts to wrap up

If you're already onboard and dying to see "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I," then just go.  Enjoy the movie.  Have fun, and don't bother reading this review.  There's no point.  And I don't begrudge you that at all.  If you love the books and you just want to see the film version of the story you already know, I'm sure you'll be delighted, and if you haven't liked the films so far, I don't think this is going to radically change your mind.

For the rest of you, here's what I wrote at the end of my review for "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse":

I find myself in an interesting position as we face down the prospect of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn," because I like and respect Bill Condon as a filmmaker.  I think he's got good taste.  I think he's made really strong films so far as a director.  I think he's worth paying attention to, and I think he's got a real taste for genre material that he hasn't really indulged since he went mainstream.  He's a smart guy, a writer first, and I think he knows how to shape difficult material for the screen.  And yet, I truly believe that "Twilight" is worthless as source material.  I do not believe there is a filmmaker alive who could manage the impossible feat of creating a faithful adaptation of Meyer's book and also making a good movie.  Going into the home stretch, I think this is one of the worst blockbuster franchises of all time, inept from start to finish, and getting worse as they go.  There will come a time when we look back on these films and wonder what sort of mob insanity drove their success, and we will laugh and shake our heads and pretend they were never really that popular.

I will say this for the new film… you cannot accuse it of being all tease and no delivery (pun fully intended), which was one of the main dramatic issues with both "New Moon" and "Eclipse."  This is a movie that begins with a big event, ends with a big event, and which expends tons of energy trying to convince us that every single thing that happens in-between is also a VERY BIG EVENT.  This is almost too rushed, a breakneck ride that doesn't feel like any of the other films.

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<p>Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy have a chat with HitFix's own Film Nerd 2.0 about their new film 'The Muppets'</p>

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy have a chat with HitFix's own Film Nerd 2.0 about their new film 'The Muppets'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Toshi and Kermit and Miss Piggy in the first-ever Film Nerd 2.0 interview

Be warned... there is more cute here than you can possibly imagine

The overwhelming response you all had to the recent special "Star Wars" series we did as part of Film Nerd 2.0 has been beyond anything I could have hoped for, and I am genuinely thankful for each and every response.  Today, though, I think I've got something even better for you.

For the last couple of years, Toshi's been coming with me to occasional press days because of timing and logistics, and each time, he's been intrigued by the entire process.  He's told me several times now that he wants to grow up to do the same thing that I do, and while I think that's a big choice for a six-year-old to make, I am in a unique position to occasionally put together opportunities that are very special.

For example, with "The Muppets" coming out this month, I had a pretty good idea that we'd be speaking with some of the classic characters as part of the press day, and sure enough, when the invite came in, I saw that one of the interviews was a double-header with Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy.

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<p>George Miller, seen here during the production of this week's new release 'Happy Feet Two,' is not only a guest on this week's podcast, but a major inspiration to our other guest, Evan Glodell</p>

George Miller, seen here during the production of this week's new release 'Happy Feet Two,' is not only a guest on this week's podcast, but a major inspiration to our other guest, Evan Glodell

Credit: Warner Bros.

Listen: George Miller and Evan Glodell join us for a special Motion/Captured Podcast

The director of 'Road Warrior' and the filmmaker behind 'Bellflower' on one podcast?

This week's Motion/Captured Podcast is one of my very favorites we've done so far, and I owe it all to the fickle nature of film releases.

When I saw "Bellflower" at this year's Sundance Film Festival, one of the first things that made me fall in love with it was the way the film made subtle nods to George Miller's amazing "Mad Max 2," better known here in the US as "The Road Warrior."  Now, I've got Evan on the podcast to talk about the home video release of his film, and it just happened to be the same week that Miller's new film "Happy Feet Two" is arriving in theaters.

The way we handled the recording was by having Evan come out to the house on Sunday night to record the main body of the podcast, and then I talked to Miller by phone on Monday afternoon.  There's a great deal of give and take between the segments, and I think it's a really great conversation that unfolds as a result.

We've also got a call this week during our Movie God/Remake This! segment from Keven Van Den Brink, one of our regular callers now, and he's once again calling in from the Occupy Nashville site, so we talk a little bit about how that's going and how things have evolved since the last time we spoke to him.

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<p>Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald, is the lead in Disney/Pixar's 'Brave,' due in theaters June 2012</p>

Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald, is the lead in Disney/Pixar's 'Brave,' due in theaters June 2012

Credit: Walt Disney Company/Pixar

First full trailer for Pixar's lush 'Brave' arrives online

HitFix
B+
Readers
B
Their first female lead looks like a strong role model

There was a teaser over the summer that I thought set an immediate tone, but now, we've got our first big look at "Brave," and for anyone concerned that "Cars 2" signaled a shift into a lower gear for Pixar, this seems to be a pretty strong repudiation of that idea.

It's especially interesting to see how strong this female-driven fairy tale looks coming on the heels of the two "Snow White" trailers.  I'm an immediate fan of what we're hearing of Kelly MacDonald as the voice of Merida, the main character in the film.  I was totally dumbstruck by MacDonald in "Trainspotting," her first big film role, and it has been a pleasure to watch her repeatedly prove that she's one of the most consistent and endearing actors of her age group.  If you're looking to cast a strong voice that's genuinely Scottish to anchor this attempt to really shake things up at the studio, then MacDonald seems positively inspired.

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<p>Jessie Wiseman and Evan Glodell share a rare happy moment in 'Bellflower,' the blistering study of love gone wrong that arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week.</p>

Jessie Wiseman and Evan Glodell share a rare happy moment in 'Bellflower,' the blistering study of love gone wrong that arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week.

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Exclusive: The ladies of 'Bellflower' pick their favorite post-apocalypse films

What do Larry Clark, Scientology, and Kevin Costner have in common?

Let's talk about the ladies of "Bellflower."

I am fascinated by the accusations I've read that "Bellflower" is in some way a misogynistic film, and I heartily disagree.  I think the movie is meant to be enormously personal, and I don't buy for a second that Woodrow, the main character played by writer/director Evan Glodell, is a woman-hater.  Far from it.  He's a guy who is easily crushed because of how much he lets himself fall when he meets Milly, played by Jessie Wiseman, and the dynamic between her and her best friend Courtney, played by Rebekah Brandes, may be poisonous, but that's because of who they are, not what gender they are.

Yesterday, we ran a list of Glodell's five favorite post-apocalyptic films, and today, I thought we'd hear from both Wiseman and Brandes.  I fully expect there will come a point very soon where we hear that Wiseman has been cast in a Hollywood film or a TV show as the younger sister of Christina Applegate.  It's inevitable.  She's an interesting mix of tough and tender, and I always think it's interesting in a case like this to see what someone picks when talking about a specific genre.

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<p>Robin Williams plays two roles again in the new family sequel 'Happy Feet Two' opening this weekend</p>

Robin Williams plays two roles again in the new family sequel 'Happy Feet Two' opening this weekend

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Robin Williams gets serious about his crazy work in 'Happy Feet Two'

A legendary funny man plays it straight to discuss the new George Miller sequel

Robin Williams is an institution.

I'm sure that's not something an actor wants to hear, particularly one who still pushes himself out of his comfort zone so regularly this far into a career, but it's true.  He really is a living legend, and the pleasure at this point comes from watching the choices he makes.

In "Happy Feet Two," he once again plays two roles, and they're very different in attitude.  He's Ramon, the lovesick penguin who is still on the hunt for a mate, and he also plays Loveless, who appears this time as the most ardent cheerleader for Sven, a false prophet who shows up promising to save the penguins and teach them to fly.

It's hard to believe, but this may be the first formal interview I've done with Williams.  I've met him before, and we had a great and funny encounter a few years back when we ran into each other at Meltdown Comics, which Williams told me is one of his favorite places anywhere.  He's always been very genuine when I've run into him, and in this case, I was showing up about halfway through his second day of press for the film, and everyone I talked to was raving about how he was so on fire in their interview, doing impressions and voices and jokes.

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<p>Lily Collins is certainly fetching as Snow White, but Tarsem's 'Mirror, Mirror' looks like a little bit of a nightmare</p>

Lily Collins is certainly fetching as Snow White, but Tarsem's 'Mirror, Mirror' looks like a little bit of a nightmare

Credit: Relativity Media

Watch: Julia Roberts anchors the unintentional nightmare of the 'Mirror, Mirror' trailer

HitFix
D
Readers
D+
Now that we've seen glimpses of both Snow Whites, who's the fairest?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest trailer of them all?

Fair question to ask now with the release of Relativity Media's first peek at their comic fantasy "Mirror Mirror," which finds itself in direct conflict with the recently-released first trailer for "Snow White and the Huntsman," a far more sober-minded take on fairy-tale reality.

Today's trailer is interesting, especially in light of the idea that distributor Relativity Media is dealing with the morning-after fallout from the release of "Immortals," their big Greek mythology-as-modern-action-movie that was also directed by Tarsem Singh, who Relativity has bet big on.  The idea that they had him direct another fantasy so quickly, even before "Immortals" was in theaters, suggests that Relativity really liked what they saw.  I wasn't able to make it to "Immortals" before it came out, and it's been a crazy few days since then, so I have no idea how the film came together.  I know the overall critical reaction hasn't been particularly kind, and I've certainly had both great ("The Fall") and not-so-great ("The Cell") reactions to Tarsem's previous films, so I can see how a movie by him might be divisive.

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<p>Miss Piggy is the center of a romantic triangle in 'The Muppet Saga,' the latest parody campaign on behalf of Disney's Thanksgiving release of 'The Muppets'</p>

Miss Piggy is the center of a romantic triangle in 'The Muppet Saga,' the latest parody campaign on behalf of Disney's Thanksgiving release of 'The Muppets'

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

See Kermit and Piggy as star-crossed lovers in 'The Muppet Saga' posters

But who's the Jacob to Kermit's Edward?

I can't help myself.  I'm Muppet Mad at this point.

You'll see for yourself in a very few days, and when you do, I'm willing to bet that if you've ever loved The Muppets, you'll find yourself utterly defenseless when the film comes out.

For example, there's the music.  There are a few classic callbacks, including a freakshow casino jingle version of the "Rainbow Connection" that is sort of amazing, and it's nice to hear those old faves again.  The new material, though, is just as strong, which is a really welcome thing.  This is fun movie music, smart and funny and sweet, and even something as potentially terrible as Chris Cooper rapping in character as an evil billionaire named Tex Richman works on repeat listens.

But what the Muppets ultimately gets right is the characters, and recognizing what made them icons in the first place.  And they are.  They really are.  Anyone underestimating the deeply-seeded love that many people have for these characters hasn't seen it close up.  Jason Segel just recently signed up for Twitter, and in the first day or so of having his account, he told the story of a guy in his 40s who had a breakdown during an interview with Kermit in Mexico City, and the guy just started to hug Kermit while crying and mumbling in Spanish, and everyone except Jason got weirded out.  

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