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Friday, February 07, 2014

MuppetsHenson EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Marando's "Muppets Most Wanted" Screening (*** out of 4 Stars)

On the evening of Thursday January 30th, Daniel Marando, had the opportunity to watch a special screening of "Muppets Most Wanted".
Daniel Marando
Jim Henson Musical World in NYC
Daniel works at a large cinema complex (Village Cinemas) where they have many private & corporate functions and cinema hires. He was told the night before that Disney was hiring a cinema the next morning for
a private viewing of the film.
Daniel, is a lifelong Muppet fan from Australia. He studied a BA in music theatre at WAAPA. He lives in Melbourne and between acting gigs he works at the cinema complex. In 2011 he was lucky enough to be invited to the Australian premiere of 'The Muppets' in which Jason Segal & Kermit the Frog attended. He was even luckier in being able to attend the afternoon show of 'Jim Henson's Musical World' at Carnegie Hall, NYC in 2012. A truly lifelong dream!
And now he's happy and thrilled to say that he has seen 'Muppets Most Wanted' a full 50 days before it's nation wide release in the United States. Daniel has been an avid collector of Muppet memorabilia and merchandise for the past 20 years and continues to do so. He's in the preparation stages of developing his own "Muppet Room" which will be designed to resemble
the Muppet Theatre housing his collection.
Daniel was kind enough to answer some questions about his experience watching the film without giving away any spoilers or surprises. 
Hello Daniel, thanks for doing this interview with MuppetsHenson. On what date did you get to watch "Muppets Most Wanted"?
You are welcome. I got to see it in Melbourne, Australia at 9am on Thursday the 30th of January.
How did the special early screening of "Muppets Most Wanted" come about for you?
As I work at a large cinema complex (Village Cinemas) we have many private & corporate functions and cinema hires. I was told the night before that Disney were hiring a cinema the next morning for a private viewing of the film. That morning I showed up in the hopes of getting in to the session. I was wearing my Kermit Watch, Muppet Show belt, 'I love fine' Beaker T Shirt and my Adidas superstar Kermit sneakers. There was a cloaking table of security workers taking attendees phones. All together there may have been 30 people attending, give or take. I handed my phone over and in I went. I asked if there was allocated seating. There wasn't. So I chose a seat around six rows back right in the centre - the best view in my opinion. No one questioned who I was.

How excited were you when you first learnt you were going to be part of the viewing?
By the time I sat in my seat I realized that at that moment I was actually going to be seeing Muppets Most Wanted. I was excited, nervous, giddy... It was slightly surreal. If you had said to me I was going to be seeing the film a day earlier I think I would've been in denial. It happened so fast! I mean I only learnt less than 12 hours before that there even was a viewing! Anyway the people all took their seats and the house lights dimmed till it was a dark theatre ready to project images on to a screen I had so eagerly anticipated seeing since, well, the last Muppet film 😄 

What was your overall thoughts of "Muppets Most Wanted"?
Was it a good follow-up to 2011's "The Muppets"?
The film was great! It had everything you would expect to be in a Muppet film. Humor, songs, cameos and great puppetry! I enjoyed it thoroughly and however grateful I am to have already seen it, I really cannot wait to see it again. Perhaps because this is an unattainable request right now is what makes it so much more enticing! This is (without giving away any details) the first theatrically released Muppet movie that is in fact a direct sequel to any previous film. This isn't to say that not seeing the 2011 film would make this one any less enjoyable BUT I do think it certainly helps. The Muppets have changed in slightly varied ways since the 90's and if you were to see MMW without any knowledge of their latest work(s), it may take the viewer a little while to relax into the different pace of the Muppets as they appear in MMW. In saying that I do believe they've done an excellent job in following up to 'The Muppets.'
How about the audience you were with? Did they seem to be enjoying, do you know their thoughts after the film?
I did feel that the overall response from the audience was very positive. Laughing at several of the jokes and having a good time. Being the massive Muppet fan I am, I was pleasantly surprised to see some Muppet franchise in-jokes or references that were obviously overseen by others in the audience. I stayed until the very end of the credits along with one other woman who I can only assume was the organizer of the viewing who agreed it was fantastic. I found it difficult having a constructive conversation about how the film was considering I essentially snuck into the film and she may have had to return to her job for the remainder of the day. 
2011's "The Muppets" was a critical hit amongst the fans and the critics. Do you think this film will garner the same response, or even better?
I believe the film will receive mainly positive critical acclaim amongst fans and critics alike. As this is no longer a 'return' (so to speak) for The Muppets it may be easier for critics to find negativity in reviewing this movie due to the high stakes and success of the last film. 
Where would you rank it amongst the nine Muppet films produced so far?
Whoa!!! Such a difficult question. I don't really like ranking any of The Theatrically released Muppet Films (besides The Muppet Movie which is one of my top three favorite films of all time), but I believe it ranks as better than The Muppets Take Manhattan but not as good as The Muppet Movie. I know this film is/was considered to be a homage to The Great Muppet Caper which it definitely IS but TGMC in essence feels almost set in the 30's, 40's where as this film sorta feels set NOW. I'm a stickler for the films of golden era of Hollywood so TGMC is tough to beat, in saying that the songs in MMW really harken back to the essence of that time without loosing that contemporary edge.
What did you think of the overall story and plot? Were there a lot of surprises that you had not heard about in main stream media or on social media?
Overall the plot is clear, entertaining and driven with no slow moments - the story keeps developing. Yeah, quite a few surprises. I had purposely steered clear of the soundtrack listing as to not spoil any of the 'surprises' (I recommend doing this). I had only seen all the trailers, tv spots, interviews, etc before seeing the film so the speculation of what was happening in each screenshot was clarified which at times was not what I was expecting and thus a surprise!
Music has always been a BIG part to any Muppet film. How were the songs in this one? Any one(s) that really stood out for you? See any chances of another Oscar?   
The songs in this film are fantastic, catchy, hummable tunes you can be sure people will be humming out of the theatre. With the last film I found there to be a few songs that I constantly skip during re-listenings. *Lets Talk About Me *Smells Like Teen Spirit & *Forget You. These songs in context of the film are great but don't play as well away from the screen for me. The songs from MMW however, are original songs that are musically interesting and melodic. There are TWO songs that really stood out for me. Oscar buzz? I'm not really sure. My gut feeling is probably not which I hope is proven wrong!!! Is the soundtrack out yet???!! 😩

How were Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell? Any stand-out performances?
Tina and Ty were both hysterical and played to their comedic strengths! Tina has a great singing voice and fantastic comedic timing. Ty is the French Interpol agent, he works well with Sam Eagle, their song is clever and it plays to Ty's specific Modern Family humor. Ricky is good as well, however I'm not a massive fan of him or his work. I guess I felt the same way about Jason Segal. I wasn't a fan of him BUT he did work so goddam hard to bring The Muppets "back"! Anyway, Ricky does his job in the film but nothing about his performance particularly surprised me.
How was the use of cameos in the film? Any surprises we have yet to hear about? Any cameo that really stood out?
Cameos were fantastic as they on a whole were so brief you barely got the chance to say, "was that...?" I prefer the cameos to be quick, get back to the film ☺️ Surprises? Yes! Perhaps Celine Dion was a well executed cameo that stood out! Oh, and Jemaine Clement was pretty great.
Were there any stand-out Muppet performances?
Miss Piggy & Constantine.

How was the whole look of the film? Sets, Costuming, Lighting, Direction etc.
As we've come to expect with Muppet films, color and texture are cleverly executed and MMW is no exception. I sorta feel that they didn't use 'real world' exterior shots as much as I'd like but that's just me. At times it felt very 'sound stage set', which I suppose isn't such a bad thing! 
Any stand-out Special Effects in the film? More full-bodied Muppet shots in this film? Is there that one WOW shot every Muppet film seems to have (eg Kermit riding bicycle in "The Muppet Movie")
ONE?! Not in this film! There are many! What we've all seen in the trailers is the scene with the helicopter right? This is probably one of the most impressive ALONG with what they do with the final song in the film which was so clever and exciting I was buzzing --- you'll see 😉
How many more times will you be watching "Muppets Most Wanted" when it comes out?
Well I saw the last film a total of five times at the cinema and I now get movies for free as an employee, so I'd say at least five more times again.
Thanks to Daniel again for sharing his thoughts of "Muppets Most Wanted" with us. Hopefully we will have more from him soon!

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