Showing posts with label Chris Cooper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris Cooper. Show all posts

Thursday, 17 January 2013

American Beauty

The winner of five Oscars including Best Picture, American Beauty is a film that covers a lot of the problems of Middle America in just two hours. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is an average man in an average town, working an average job. Lester is married to the pushy, cold and career driven Carolyn (Annette Bening) and is in the midst of a mid life crisis which is heightened with an infatuation for his daughter Jane’s (Thora Birch) friend Angela (Mena Suvari).

I thought I’d seen the film years ago and remembered the stand out scenes but had forgotten an awful lot of the plot so ended up unsure if I had actually seen it. American Beauty is a fascinating film which cuts to the heart of the suburban American psyche, bringing up some uncomfortable ideas about sexuality, infidelity, violence, mental illness and incest. Despite a compelling story, some very good performances and fine direction I wasn’t always able to get totally on board with it.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Muppets

The Muppets is a reboot of the classic puppet show that has been on a twelve year hiatus from the big screen. The story follows brothers Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter (a Muppet born character) to Los Angeles where they are meant to be celebrating Gary’s ten year anniversary with Mary (Amy Adams). While in town they take in a tour of the old Muppets studios, only to find that the evil Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) is planning to tear it down and drill for oil. In order to save the studio and the Muppets themselves, Walter must persuade Kermit to get the gang back together…

I have to be honest and admit that I have never seen a Muppets movie before but due to how much they have penetrated modern culture, I was able to name over half of them on sight. Despite never seeing a Muppet movie, I am a big fan of puppetry and love Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The puppetry in the film was incredible. There was so much emotion in their faces, more than Orlando Bloom for instance and it is a feat of direction that the film makers managed to have so many puppets on screen at one time.

The first third of the film was amongst the funniest I have seen in the cinema. I had a constant smile on my face as gag followed gag at a frenetic pace. Had it continued for the entire film I’d be putting it up with This is Spinal Tap as one of my favourite comedies. The number of jokes and laughs inevitably decreases as the film progresses in order to focus more on the plot but there are still more laughs to be had than in even the funniest of films I’ve seen recently. The screening I was in had a real mixture of young children, teenagers and adults and all were laughing, often at the same time and sometimes on their own, but everyone seemed to be enjoying what was on screen.

The film’s songs were excellent and so obviously the work of Flight of the Concords Bret McKenzie. Each one had a Concords ring to it and was funny and catchy. There were also some pretty good cameos in the film, and Jack Black. I’d expected a little more from the cameos having heard about the massive stars the Muppet Show used to attract but most were funny. The main human cast was ok. Amy Adams was her usual fluttery, singing self and although Jason Segal wasn’t great, he has written a very funny film so I’ll let him off. The stars of the show though were of course The Muppets. Kermit and Miss Piggy are at the centre of the story but it is Animal who gets the most laughs and each main character is given at least a couple of chances to shine for a few seconds.

My one complaint with the film is the shameless advertisement for the film Cars. On no less than three occasions we saw a billboard for the film. They might as well have just had Kermit say “You know what guys? We should go and see Cars when we’re finished” and be done with it. I expect this came down from somewhere in Disney rather than from James Bobin but it was disappointing so see so often. I hate to see targeted or semi-subliminal advertising, especially when it is aimed at children.

The Muppets will have created a whole new audience for the fuzzy puppets and I expect we’ll see much more from them in the next few years. The film is a very accomplished comedy that is not afraid to reference itself or even break the forth wall and overall is incredibly enjoyable, funny and sweet.