6:00 PM, 18th March, 2012
"The Muppet Show" ran for five years from 1976 and in that time it was surprisingly hard to doubt that the Muppets were real. How could you? There were the human co-stars - everyone from John Cleese to Elton John - right alongside them. There was no winking at the audience; not the slightest hint of any unreality, and everyone in the entertainment world played along. The first Muppet movie, released in the middle of the show's run (1979) kept the conceit: it was the story of how Kermit gathered together a group of hopeful Muppets (the term is a portmanteau: marionette and puppet) and went to Hollywood to make the show (and the movie).
There were five subsequent films and this basic foundation was lost along the way but has been resurrected at last. The story now is that the old theatre, where the Muppets once performed, has fallen into disrepair, and a villainous oil tycoon wants to have it pulled down (to drill for oil underneath, of course). The Muppets must be reunited to pull out all the stops in a special performance to save their old home.
The other fundamental of the show's success was its central message of hope: however much we may quarrel, our differences can be resolved and the show will always go on. Despite the length of time since "The Muppet Show" was on the air, the characters still feel like old friends and those unfamiliar with the show will soon be drawn into their world.
It's time to play the music...
8:00 PM, 18th March, 2012
Is there any filmmaker working today that is as masterful a storyteller as Steven Spielberg? From futuristic sci-fi opuses to historical epics; light-hearted human dramas, action-adventure films and everything in between; there doesn't seem to be anything the man can't do - and do well, for that matter. And War Horse - one of his two new releases on this Semester's programme - serves to demonstrate that, even after over forty years in the business, Spielberg's still at the top of his game.
The film begins with a young foal being bought at an auction by an alcoholic war veteran (Mullan), after a brief battle of bids (and egos) with his arrogant landlord (Thewlis). Already falling behind on their rent, the man is reprimanded by his wife (Watson) for purchasing a thoroughbred when what they needed was a plough horse for their farm. Their son Albert (Irvine), however, immediately takes a liking to the animal and names him Joey, with the two soon forming a remarkable bond. Unfortunately the First World War begins shortly after, and Joey and Albert are separated. From there, the film follows Joey's extraordinary journey as he moves through the war and through Europe, touching the lives of all he meets.
War Horse is unabashedly old-fashioned filmmaking at its best, with a straightforward plot, a memorable assortment of characters, and its heart on its sleeve. In an age of CGI-fuelled blockbusters, films like this simply aren't made anymore and it is absolutely not one to be missed.