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Non-Review Review: The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders may be the worst film of the year.

There are any number of issues with The Happytime Murders. The film is only ninety one minutes long, but feels interminable. The film has no idea what it is about in any meaningful sense, beyond assembling a number of familiar tropes in a very familiar way. Beyond that, the film seems to believe that rehashing familiar clichés is amusing of itself, some sort of self-aware postmodern ironic anti-comedy where the reference to the thing is enough of itself to become a joke.

It really blows.

A larger problem is that the film assumes that seeing puppets do “adult” things has greater novelty than it does. The Happytime Murders is a film that is consciously powered by the juvenile thrill of watching beloved children’s characters caught in inappropriate situations – swearing at one another, smoking cigarettes, engaging in vigorous sexual activity. This glosses over the fact that there are plenty of other media that has already covered this ground. The Happytime Murders runs on a joke that has already been repeated and rehashed several times.

However, all of these concerns distract from the biggest issue with The Happytime Murders. It is just not funny.

The boy in blue.

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Non-Review Review: The Muppets Most Wanted

“We’re doing a sequel,” the Muppets sing in the opening number of The Muppets Most Wanted. “That’s what they do in Hollywood. And everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good.”

That’s the sort of wry self-awareness we’ve come to expect from the gang, but there’s also a note of truth in the statement. The Muppets was a cinematic highlight of 2011, and the best movie musical of the past decade. It was light, it was fun, it was sweet and it was moving. There was – as with the best Muppets material – an endearing sincerity underpinning all the well-observed gags and broad comedy.

The Muppets Most Wanted falls into the traditional pattern of Muppet sequels. Like The Great Muppet Caper or Muppet Treasure Island before it, there’s a sense that The Muppets Most Wanted has been constructed as a lighter film. The film lacks the emotional resonance of The Muppets, instead opting for high-concept fun. The result is endearing and enjoyable, but doesn’t feel quite as satisfying.

muppetsmostwanted1

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Non-Review Review: Les Misérables

It’s hard not to admire Les Misérables. It’s the first honest-to-goodness entirely sincere and mostly unironic big budget musical that we’ve seen released in quite some time. While song and dance will always be a part of the movies (The Muppets, for example, carrying many a dainty tune last year), there’s something quite impressive about seeing a music as epic and as iconic as Les Misérables carried across to the big screen. The stage musical became something of a cultural phenomenon on the West End, and Tom Hooper does an effective job of transitioning from stage to screen – even if he doesn’t consistently capitalise on the format shift.

There are some fundamental problems. The second half is a little too awkwardly paced and too disjointed to come together as well as it should, and Hooper seems to have a great deal pitching the right amount of camp (and humour) for an Oscar-bait musical about the aftermath of the French revolution. However, if you can look past those problems, the opening half is a superbly staged musical and the performances are impressive. Including the much maligned Russell Crowe, who might – hear me out – be the best thing about the film.

Sing when you're winning... or at least nominated...

Sing when you’re winning… or at least nominated…

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Perfectly Random: Channel Surfing In The Digital Age…

NetFlix have arrived in Ireland. Minor complaints about their selection of films aside, it’s time to rejoice as a film fan. Living here in Ireland, it can’t help but feel like we’re a bit behind the times when it comes to cinema. After all, our release schedule tends to lag behind that of our American cousins, with The Muppets only arriving on our shores next month. Still, as excited as I am at the prospect of having an entire universe of film and television at my very command, I can’t help but feel a slight sense of trepidation going forward. I know that this isn’t the end of the digital era of television, but it will undoubtedly affect the way I consume my films. And, while I’ll laud the amount of choice at my fingertips, I reckon I’ll miss the delightful randomness of channel-hopping in the digital age.

Getting on board with new media models...

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Are the Muppets the Meme of the Moment?

I don’t know what it is, there’s just something incredibly sweet about knowing that aspects of your own childhood are still hip and cool. Yes, I’m 23 years old, but I sound like I’m 80. Anyway, with not one but two big budget Tintin adventures on the way (which involved – though he’s departed – Stephen Moffat alongside Peter Jackson and Stephen Spielberg) and the surprising on-line popularity of the string of Muppet Studio Music Videos, I actually feel quite good. There are their three releases so far peppered through their post. If you haven’t had a chance to hear them, they’re well worth a look. You know you want to.

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