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J. Edgar

When handled well cinematic biographies can be compelling.  If a subject’s personality has many facets this helps spin a story in any direction.  ‘J. Edgar’ tries valiantly as it charts one of the 20th century’s most powerful men.  Only vaguely succeeding, its measured study of power and its consequences attempts to paint an intimate portrait of someone whose influence was felt for generations.

 

As head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) exerted immense authority.  Pursuing crime with intense zeal, he wasn’t above blackmailing others to achieve his aims.   Using buried secrets against them his background had their own.  His relationship with FBI Deputy Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), his mother Anne (Judi Dench) and his secretary Helen (Naomi Watts) would reveal a personal life full of contradictions.  Hiding these with as much fervour as his skills in gaining further supremacy, his actions would define his era.

 

Directed by Clint Eastwood ‘J. Edgar’ is one of his less stellar outings.  The ingredients are there for a very interesting story although unfortunately only occasionally does its potential surface.  The script tries too hard to examine Hoover’s entire career where perhaps exploring one aspect of may have been better.  This lack of narrative focus harms proceedings – especially when it casually flits back and forth through the timeline without any much needed exposition.

 

Whilst it touches on his personal and professional life, there’s a feeling Eastwood is pulling his punches.  Hoover was an enigma and trying to accurately portray him would be difficult however his hard-line tactics are well known and aren’t effectively shown.  There are moments when the acting feels far too theatrical although Hammer is very good while DiCaprio does what he can in an unevenly written role. 

 

Lacking the passion making such bio-pics compelling ‘J. Edgar’ is a disappointing Eastwood venture. But even the least of his work still has interest and serves as an appetiser for those wanting to discover more about a man fitting the phrase ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

 

Rating out of 10:  6

 

The Muppets

The Muppets have been an enduring part of many childhoods.  They made a big impact on mine as Jim Henson’s puppet creations captured my imagination with their antics on The Muppet Show.  Their various films have been just as good with this latest their first for many years.  Like an old friend you haven’t seen for some-time it’s a pleasure being reacquainted with these zany and always entertaining characters.

 

A long-time fan of the Muppets, Walter decides to visit their famed Los Angeles studios.  Taking his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), Walter receives a shock when he discovers it has been sold to evil oil magnate Tex (Chris Cooper).  Wanting to save it from destruction Walter aims to reunite Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang so they can put on a show and return it to its former glory.

 

It’s always a relief knowing some child-hood memories remain intact.  Thankfully ‘The Muppets’ has been done with a love by film-makers who are obviously huge fans.  Referencing many past characters and moments it reveals Kermit and co still nutty after all this time.  They are well served by a simple plot allowing each to have their own time in the spotlight.  As with any movie aimed at children there are messages herein about acceptance and being different which are delivered in fun style.

 

Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller deserve credit for their highly droll screenplay.  Their knowing humour and sometimes bizarre touches add to a production filled with plenty of genuine good spirit.  There isn’t any nastiness and nor are the characters cheapened in any way – most are how you remember them.  The musical numbers are great and the creativity displayed in making them stand out re-captures the wacky wit creator Jim Henson worked so hard to establish.

 

Nostalgia sometimes can be a sweet ride and The Muppets provides a fine journey.  A frothy confection and a nice gift for fans, their return is very welcome and should re-capture the child within the most cynical of minds.

 

Rating out of 10:  8