Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Small Bites: The Great Train Robbery and The Muppets

The Great Train Robbery
Directed by Michael Crichton, and based on his novel of the same name, The Great Train Robbery is a heist film set in Victorian-Era London. The film centres on Edward Pierce (Sean Connery), a master thief who also happens to be a member of upper class society. For his latest heist, Pierce plans to do the impossible and steal gold from a moving train. In order to pull off the heist he must enlist the aid of Robert Agar (Donald Sutherland), a safecracker, and Miram (Lesley Anne-Down), an actress who is also Pierce’s mistress. As far as heist films go, The Great Train Robbery is an enjoyable romp. It plays up the laughs at the beginning, but cranks up the tension by time the last act hits. The scenes with Connery on the roof of the train really are quite thrilling, especially when you consider how close he is to the bridges the train is passing under. Connery is clearly channeling his Bond swagger for the film. The number of double entendres in the first half of the film is just ridiculous. Fortunately the film does not take itself too seriously. Connery and Sutherland have great chemistry which helps to keep you interested in how they go about setting up the heist. It would have been nice if Lesley Anne-Down had been more than just be the love interest/temptress, but given that the film is set in 1854, it is understandable that her options as a female would be limited. While The Great Train Robbery may not be the most memorable heist film, it has enough action and comedy to make it a fun ride for a few hours.

The Great Train Robbery is part of our "The Must See List" series. The film was recommended by Andrew

The Muppets
In an odd way, watching The Muppets reminds me of the fashion industry. Every few years, something that was popular years ago is brought back and repackaged as something cool simply because it was in vogue years ago. However, once you get past the shining new packaging, it quickly becomes apparent that the new designer bellbottoms are the same bellbottoms your parents wore. Unfortunately, you are now paying more. Although a decent film, the unanimous love that The Muppets received from bloggers upon its release is a bit perplexing. The film is indeed an enjoyable 90 minutes, but there was very little in this version that really set it apart from the classic Muppet films of the 70’s and 80’s. If anything, Jason Segel’s adaptation feels more like it is geared to 20 to 30 year-olds rather than creating a new generation of younger fans. This is most noticeable when looking at the various cameos in the film. There was a time when a Muppet film felt important because you had big name stars like Steve Martin, Richard Prior, John Cleese, Joan Rivers and Liza Minnelli making cameos. While there are a few really inspired cameos in this version, several of them would hardly be considered household names outside of a niche group. Further proof of this are the musical numbers written by Bret McKenzie, they feel like they could easily fit into a Flight of the Conchords episode...not that this is a bad thing. Though I cannot fathom how “Life’s a Happy Song”, by far the best number in the film, did not get nominated in the best song category at this year’s Academy Awards. Regardless, it was nice to see that Segel’s script kept the self-reflective tone of the original The Muppet Show and subsequent films. Segel also wisely lets the Muppets take centre-stage in the film, as he and Amy Adams are just there to keep the plot moving forward. Despite my slight disappointment with the film, mainly due to my expectation being raised, The Muppets does offers an enjoyable, although forgettable, time.


  1. I agree that there were better songs in the film than the one that got nominated. I still don't understand that.

    However, I really disagree on this being a forgettable movie. I am one of the people who loved it. The things you note as flaws (i.e. it being aimed at adults, it being in the same vein and tone as the original Muppet shows) are the very things I consider to be its strengths.

  2. I think the thing that sets the muppet movie apart from all the other rehashes is that it retained the heart and soul of the original.

    No easy task considering just how much heart and soul there was in the first place.

  3. I just saw Great Train Robbery a few weeks ago, and it was a fun little romp. I was really taken aback by the scenes of Connery running across the roofs of the train. Considering how often that's used in film, I was amazed how tense it still managed to be. Glad to see you liked it too.

  4. @Chip Lary - I can see how you, and others, would view those elements as strengths. Besides the a few of the musical numbers, the scene with Jack Black and Fozzy, and the Hobo cameo there is very little that really wowed me. I did enjoy the film overall, just not as much as most. I guess I was just expecting more.

    @Dan - I will say that the film plays far better than Muppets in Space, or Muppets Treasure Island. It will be interesting to see how the sequel fares now that Segel is now longer attached.

    @Mr. Sheldrake - It is an amazing scene when you consider how many heist films nowadays use so much CG and still cannot match the level of tension in the Great Train Robbery.


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