Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

2016 #41
James Bobin | 103 mins | streaming (HD) | 16:9 | USA / English | U / PG

After the success of their 2011 revival, this sequel sees the Muppets embark on a world tour at the behest of Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais). Meanwhile, Kermit is mistaken for a master criminal and sent to a gulag run by Tina Fey.

As irreverent and cameo-filled as ever (so many famous people, you won’t even know who some are!), something just doesn’t work this time — it’s neither as funny nor as charming as their last outing.

With the recent TV series receiving mediocre reviews too, it looks like they’ve killed off the Muppet renaissance as soon as it started. Shame.

2 out of 5

For more quick reviews like this, look here.

Ghost Town (2008)

2010 #37
David Koepp | 98 mins | TV | 12 / PG-13

Before I come to write a review, I tend to check out the sort of scores it’s received at a few different sites. This isn’t to help form my opinion, but actually just a side effect of the fact I go to places to rate the films myself. What one usually encounters is some degree of discrepancy, be it as little as half a mark or as large as several. As you may have guessed, Ghost Town is going to prove the exception: on IMDb, both the DVD and the Blu-ray on LOVEFiLM, and FilmJournal’s own Slate Scrawl, Ghost Town is a three-and-a-half-out-of-five film.*

As some readers may have noticed, I don’t do half-stars, which means Ghost Town must in my eyes become either a three-star or a four-star effort. Which for once is a little irritating, because Ghost Town really is a three-and-a-half-out-of-five kind of film.

This is the point at which it becomes apparent I have far more to say about my arbitrary assessment of the film’s reception than the film itself. It’s a gently amusing affair, with little that’s especially memorable but is absolutely fine while it goes about its business. Many scenes may raise a smile or a giggle, but little more than that. Scenes of hospital bureaucracy, for example, are amusing because we can identify with the legal-technicalities-to-the-point-of-silliness that it plays upon, but it’s both a familiar target and perhaps pushed a little too far.

The high-concept at the film’s centre — that Ricky Gervais sees dead people and doesn’t want to — is neat enough. It largely sticks to its rules, it manages a few moments of humour, it doesn’t get too repetitive, it often plays the most obvious card (someone thinks Ricky’s talking to them when he’s actually talking to a ghost! Oh, my sides.) And Gervais, as you’re no doubt aware, plays himself. He doesn’t do characters but variations on a theme, and while this means he’ll never be a good actor per se, he can fulfil such characters very competently.

Ghost Town won’t have you fighting back tears of laughter (unless you’re particularly undiscerning), but it also won’t have you wondering where they left the humour (unless you’re particularly discerning). It’s quite amiable, quite pleasant, a little above average. It’s three-and-a-half-out-of-five.

3 out of 5

The half star’s a ghost. Only Ricky Gervais can see it.

Ghost Town is on BBC One tonight, 28th April 2015, at 11:55pm.

* If you cast the net further afield this collapses, but shh, that’d ruin my point. (Though read the actual review quotes on that link and you begin to wonder how accurate a meter that particular fruit/vegetable-based system is.) And besides, this particular four-way alignment is still rare enough that I find it worth commenting on, especially as IMDb’s out-of-100 system lands it with an exact 7.0. OK, so this is ultimately a largely-meaningless selection of averaged-out and individual opinion, but again, shh, you’re spoiling my point. ^

The BAFTAs 2008

British film’s big night has been and gone. I won’t offer a comprehensive list of winners, or even many thoughts on them — such things are easily found elsewhere — but I will instead offer my thoughts on one of the few ceremonies this year to be presented in full (well, relatively speaking), and the only film awards ceremony that receives a terrestrial television airing in the UK.

The first thought that comes to mind is, “oh dear”. Anyone would think the writers’ strike was affecting the UK too, if this was the evidence they had to go on. Jonathan Ross’s jokes were few and far between, and rarely gained much reaction from his audience. To be fair to Ross, Stephen Fry had a good deal of excellent material when he used to host the BAFTAs and he was often met with silence too… but not as often, and it tended to be the silence of “that went over the heads of the yanks in the audience” rather than of “it wasn’t that funny…”

I like Ross as a presenter, generally speaking — I enjoy his Friday night show, and while I rarely catch his radio show (I’m rather lax about listening to anything on the radio) I enjoy that even more; and I liked Film 2000-whatever, because I often find I agree with his views and have some broadly similar tastes. But he’s no BAFTA host. He’s just not funny enough… oddly, because his work at the Comedy Awards is usually hilariously good.

The opening, with a troop of 300-style Spartans, was by far the most interesting bit. It all seemed quite incongruous for an awards show, but through this it suggested a show with some flair and excitement. Sadly it just remained incongruous, with nothing else even vaguely close amongst the endless troop of fairly famous people reading poorly from an autocue. Even that Spartan-packed opening was flawed, missing out on the apparently obvious joke of having someone enter and yell, “THIS. IS. BAFTA!”, which would’ve been a far stronger opening than… whatever Jonathan Ross said. I can’t remember now…

It’s a shame we couldn’t make a better fist of it for a year when more eyes than ever were on the BAFTAs, thanks to the faltering performance of US awards shows under the strike. A new host would help. Eddie Izzard, maybe — he got laughs. So did Ricky Gervais, not that he’d do it. But when even Hugh Laurie can’t bridge the cultural divide of British and American humour, you have to wonder if the host is doomed to failure from the start. At least the awards themselves threw up some surprises, with enough nods to the American films (and a consequent shunning of British talent) to keep them interested — I do wonder if the BAFTAs pander to trying to gain an American audience too much, but one could probably debate that for hours.

There’s one thing we do better though: fewer awards, and we don’t even screen them all. It makes for a much less tiring experience.