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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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The Muppets

Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper | PG |


“I’m gonna shoot straight,” a TV exec (Rashida Jones) tells Kermit and pals. “You guys aren’t famous anymore.” How harsh, how true, how meta to acknowledge that in a movie called The Muppets. But then, this winning reboot bursts with quirkiness. Take Gary (Segel) and his brother Walter (voiced by Peter Linz). Gary is a nice man with a nice girlfriend, Mary (Adams). Walter is made of felt. Together they round up the estranged Muppets to save their theater from a tycoon (Cooper), often pausing for a song. (The brilliant rock ballad “Man or Muppet” is a high point.) With her musical-theater voice and quick wit, Adams edges Segel, who cowrote the script. But this is his passion project, and thank goodness. If it weren’t for his affection, we’d still be without the Muppets, and for this die-hard fan, it had been way too long.


Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz | PG |


Hugo certainly looks like a Martin Scorsese film: gorgeous, with expertly choreographed shots and meticulous detail. Even the 3-D trickery lends itself to his eye, turning a Paris train station into a playground, albeit a perilous one. It’s the children who seem out of place. Based on Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret Hugo is Scorsese’s bumpy first foray into kids’ films. Orphan Hugo (Butterfield)lives in the train station’s clock tower, starving, lonely and trying to repair his late father’s (Jude Lawmechanical man. He’s befriended by Isabelle (Moretz), the goddaughter of the station’s toy peddler Georges Melies (Kingsley), who has a mysterious past. After a tedious first hour, Hugo morphs into a loving primer on film history and preservation that must absolutely thrill Scorsese’s inner child. I question whether real 9-year-olds will be so enthralled.

Arthur Christmas

James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie | PG |


Santa? You think that daft dude single-handedly delivers billions of presents in one night? No, it takes the military precision of his son Steve (Laurie) to make it happen … until it doesn’t. When one child’s gift gets missed, Santa’s kinder, klutzier son Arthur (McAvoy) takes off with Grandsanta (Nighy) to finish the job. Funny, warm and sometimes too clever by half (just try to keep up with that snappy British humor), Arthur Christmas is the latest from the folks behind Wallace & Gromit, who know well what kids like. The fun use of 3D and a deep bench of terrific actors should also charm adults.