Saturday, 17 March 2012

Anonymous, The Muppets and Chronicle.

Conspiracy theories are always floating about, much of these conspiracy theorists believe that 9/11 was a government planned operation, the moon landing was faked and Shakespeare was a fraud and never wrote his own plays.  The final conspiracy theory is the focus of Roland Emmerich’s film Anonymous which so convoluted, dull and unconvincing that it will not even convince the most gullible of us into believing that Shakespeare was a fraud.

Set in the era of Elizabeth I, Roland Emmerich’s film takes on the issue that has been debated among academics for years; this debate focuses on the authorship of the world’s most famous plays. Apparently, according to Emmerich and others, it was the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) who wrote the likes of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Henry V not William Shakespeare (played by Refe Spall), this theory is the central plot of the film. As the Earl of Oxford is unable to publish the poems and plays in his own name he is more than happy for Shakespeare to take the credit, which he does, but there is a lot of political controversy and backstabbing.

Roland Emmerich fully believes that Shakespeare did not write any of his plays or poems claiming, after years of research, that it was the Earl of Oxford he tries to convince us of this by making Anonymous, but the performances are played without any conviction that the film fails to be persuasive in anyway.  Despite consisting of a rather impressive cast list (Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis) Anonymous is a poorly acted film as much of the cast seem to sleepwalk through their various roles. There are some subplots (a Queen’s child and the next King) which are poorly developed and just as deeply uninteresting as the meandering mess of the central story. That said the production design, cinematography and costumes are very impressive, but the boring story, poor performances and a woeful script work against the finished product.


Created in the mid 50s The Muppets (branded communists by Fox News) have a very high appeal among those who grew up with them, best known as a TV show there have also been a few films in which The Muppets are the stars. The latest one is a widely popular and welcomed one as the 2011 film is loved by both critics and audiences alike, however I fail to see the magic that others have seen.  Both Gary (Jason Segal) and his Muppet brother Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) are big fans of The Muppets, and they can’t pass up an opportunity to visit the Muppets theatre in LA (this was intended as an 10 year anniversary trip between Gary and Mary (Amy Adams). Meanwhile an evil businessman (Chris Cooper) looks to buy the ruined Muppet studio and turn it into a museum; however there is oil under the ground and the rich Texas businessman uses the museum idea as a front to cover up his real plans. The Muppets must gain $10,000,000 to buy back the factory before it’s too late.

Co-written by Jason Segal with Nicholas Stoller The Muppets is likely to strike a chord with the fans of the original series and may bring also appeal to those who are new to The Muppets, but the childish elements in the humour may put off those who are new to the Muppets, as I am and was. The songs are great (Man or a Muppet won an Oscar) and the performance from Segal and Adams (who are clearly having a good time) are superb. Unlike the best films that appeal to a wide audience, young and old, The Muppets does not do quite as a good of a job at appealing to both child and adult as the likes of Toy Story, but the great performances and the fact that it is so good natured and whole hearted makes it an enjoyable ride. There is a good chance that fans of The Muppets will enjoy their company once more, those who are not fans may be slightly harder to please.  However I did enjoy it somewhat but I did not enjoy it as much as others had, man, I feel such a miserable bastard right now...


The found footage genre is one that has, as good as, worn itself thin with the regularity of films being made using such a technique that it has become rather tiresome. It’s mainly horror movies that use such a technique with Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch Project and, most recently, Apollo 18 being examples.  Chronicle isn’t a horror movie, but it still uses found footage techniques that are not necessary.

Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is a bit of sociopath, he is social awkward and difficult to talk to, looking at his family and school life it’s not great a surprise. Andrew’s mum is dying from cancer, his dad is a violent alcoholic and he is often bullied at school leading to a troubled exsitance. Anywho Andrew’s popular cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), invites him to a party, and as Andrew films everything with his camera he brings his camera along with him and as a result he antagonises a guest.  Andrew is found sobbing outside after this altercation with by Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), a popular student running for president, who urges Andrew to film what he and Matt have found.

It turns out that what these two teens have found is a hole in the ground, the three boys climb down the hole, something happens, and they emerge with superpowers. At first the three boys just use their powers to play pranks on unsuspecting members of the public, but for Andrew, the most powerful of the three, power has its issues, as the strains in Andrew’s life causes him to crack.

What I liked about Chronicle was the fact that the film went deeper than most found footage films normally do, by giving the central character some development Chronicle gains some emotional weight, it gives Chronicle something more that the likes of Cloverfield do not have, we care for Andrew and we sympathize with him. Andrew wasn’t going to be the bland lifeless figures you see in Cloverfield. Andrew’s life is plagued with bullies, an abusive alcoholic father and a dying mother, all of these add up to create a stressful life for Andrew and as a result both the drama and Sc-Fi aspects make more interesting viewing. However the short running time (88 minutes) means that his braking point is rather sudden.  

Plenty of critics have discussed the value that the handheld/found footage gimmick adds to Chronicle and have concluded very little, I to also feel that presenting the film as found footage adds very little to proceedings. It does not make events seem more real than a film that is not presented as found footage; the scenes in which Andrew’s father beats him are not more brutal because they are presented as found footage.  Furthermore the use of more than one handheld camera just comes across as being rather contrived. However even with the use of handheld cameras and the decision to present the film as found footage Chronicle is good and entertaining film thanks to perfectly decent central performances by Jordan, Hehaan and Russell. The first half is the better half as the three friends play pranks with their new found skill, but as the film gets closer to the conclusion pandemonium ensues and its gets slightly silly and less entertaining. Some questions are left unanswered and some of the special effects look a bit iffy but Chronicle is rather fun.  



  1. Excellent site you've got here. It's unusual to find someone who knows so much about all the different genres that you cover, and this post is a perfect example. Bravo!

  2. For what it's worth - the theory about Devere writing Shakespeare's plays has been around for decades and is not original to Emmerich. I saw that more as a plot device to set up the succession claims, rather than the other way around.

    I'm one of the generation that watched The Muppets when I was young, so I enjoyed this film quite a bit. It was like sitting down again with old, dear friends.