Mike at the Movies

Happytime Murders (R)

Mercy, is this one hard to describe! Put it this way: The featured actors are all Muppets but this is NOT a kids’ movie! Melissa McCarthy as Detective Connie Edwards teams up with Phil Phillips, ex-cop (Bill Barretta, voice), to try and solve a series of murders of puppets, some in a most grisly way. Goofer is the worst. Drained of stuffing and tossed into the ocean, nothing much is left of the puppet but just enough cloth to wring out.

Phil, you see, is known throughout the puppet world as the cop who had a chance to blow away a bad guy who was holding Connie but had a mantra in his head: “Puppets don’t shoot puppets.” Instead he blows away an innocent bystander and the event haunts him to this day.

Meanwhile, Connie has her own problems. She had a puppet liver transplant, and this makes her crave sweet things and snort Twizzlers at every opportunity. Meanwhile, Bubbles (Maya Rudolph), who is Phil’s secretary, tries to keep things together while Connie and Phil go out after the killer.

Thanks to her transplant and resulting mixed identity, Connie is able to socialize with the puppet mob of very strange characters and exchange insults with them. These insults and most of the dialogue of the film are unprintable here.

This is, however, a very funny film. The jokes are almost nonstop, rude and hysterical, but I won’t detail them here lest I get in trouble with our censors. Suffice it to say, we find that a judgment of the Muppets is untrue: “All these dummies want to do is sing and dance.” They do much more—perhaps more than you can imagine without seeing the film—and all of it hilarious, if you’ve a certain sense of humor. DO NOT TAKE CHILDREN. But parents, laugh away!

Operation Finale (PG-13)

A solid and workmanlike mounting of the story of the capture of Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), this detailed look at the system-like capture of the organizer and chief officer of the Holocaust moves relatively quickly. Unlike most of the versions of the story (at least six other versions), this one concentrates on Eichmann’s ego and need to get his story out—“I was only following orders.”

Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) is the lead Mossad agent who keeps a tight rein on the project. At least one of the other agents, Moshe Tabor (Greg Hill), wants no trial— he wants to be left alone with Eichmann and nearly gets his chance. Malkin does as well but in the film is pulled off the arrogant Nazi by the only woman in the Mossad group, Hanna Elian (Melanie Laurent).

There is a love interest hinted at between Malkin and Elian but, oddly enough, she turns up pregnant by somebody else at the end of the film.

The story of the capture and airlift of Eichmann to Israel from Argentina may be well known to many of you. There have been several versions of the story, each riveting in their own way. Perhaps the most interesting was “Eichmann in My Hands” by Malkin himself.

That the Mossad group was able to function as well as it did in Buenos Aires is remarkable considering that, because of the immigration of many ex-Nazis, the Argentine police were almost as rabid against Jews as the Nazis were. The story has many “spy” moments: messages are passed in restaurants in teapots, cars get through roadblocks only because Mossad has attached diplomatic plates to the cars and the unveiling of Eichmann is tidily done with Malkin treating his ego and winning a signature that was necessary in order to escape Argentina.

Oscar Isaac is almost inhumanly handsome and plays his part to a “T” while Laurent’s Hanna is winning as well. A good film for kids to see in order to lessen the mystery about Nazism and Eichmann, the man. Adults will enjoy it as well.

AXL (PG) 

Those looking for an option to the classic boy-loves-dog movie may have found it here, but that’s not saying much. A.X.L. stands for Attack Exploration Logistic. He’s an experimental, computer-driven robotic dog who is accidentally programmed to be loyal to Miles (Alex Neustaedter) and those who love him. Fortunately for Alex, this includes Sara Reyes (Becky G), a very attractive graffiti artist who links up with Miles as they figure out what this thing that has adopted Miles is. That he is fierce they figure out, but the extent of his loyalty has to be tested. (Clue: When his eyes turn blue, the human is OK. Red is BAAAD!!! The story becomes a classic freelancer vs. the government tale as Miles wants to protect A.X.L. and two programmers want him back on behalf of a frustrated and, as usual, incompetent government.

There are lots of motorbike stunts, attempts to disarm A.X.L. and a build-up to the inevitable love (at least deep smooching scene) between Miles and Sara and not much else. I wish I could say this is a good dog movie, but the creature is metal and programmed, even if he is repaired by a motorbike fender. Not too harmful for the young set.

Kin (PG-13) 

Ostensibly a film about brothers, one of them, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), is so bad that it is almost inconceivable that he could bond with his younger and black brother, Eli (Myles Truitt.) Eli discovers a powerful weapon in the wreckage of an old factory and experiments with it in empty buildings, most of the time. That’s a good thing because the weapon can blow apart trees, cars and anything else in its way. He uses it, largely by experiment, to save Jimmy from various baddies, most notably Taylor Balik (James Franco) who chews himself some scenery as the Very Bad Guy.

Taylor is hunting down Jimmy after a scuffle with Jimmy and his father (Dennis Quaid) results in the death of Jimmy’s brother, Dutch (Gavin Fox), who deserves it. Quaid is also knocked off in the fight, so things should be even, but not to Taylor. Fleeing the scene without telling Eli about the death of his father, Jimmy takes him to a strip club (Eli is only 14) where Jimmy gets drunk and Eli filled with too much Coca-Cola. They meet a sympathetic stripper named Milly (Zoë Cravitz) who bonds with young Eli and protects him, as much as she can, from his brother.

In the meantime, Eli gets to use his super weapon several times, but we are made aware of the fact that apparent aliens want the weapon back and can track every time it’s fired. Eli gets to remind Jimmy, “The good man does the right thing, even if it’s not the easy thing,” but Jimmy should have learned that a long time ago.

The sci fi takes over the story near the end and gets too fantastic for belief, but the story of bonding will please some audiences. And Myles is a cute kid with a potential future in film.

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