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DVD REVIEW: Muppets Most Wanted
Blog, Movies, People, Music
Posted on Aug 19 2014 by Greg

It’s always a great pleasure to see another big-screen Muppet movie. Like the earlier film with Jason Siegel, director James Bobin makes Herculean efforts to recapture the style, flair and glorious inanity of the original Muppet Show, thus the segments of the film featuring the actual show are the most fan-appealing. All the major Muppets and some lesser-known ones get a chance to shine in the most Muppety way possible.

The new movie has lots of color, great songs, clever cameos, very savvy scripting and skillfully timed direction going for it. But there’s still something missing. A jewel heist story was already done back in the ‘70s. Muppet movies seem to work better when they satirize show business, advertising or some other ripe-for-ridiculousness institution. Granted, the stakes are much higher here than they might have been in The Great Muppet Caper. Both films even have an Esther Williams-swimming cavalcade scene, though it was more lavish in Caper.

That wouldn’t matter so much if Ricky Gervais was either a supporting character than the co-star, was given more comedy to do, or was left to improvise so he would have been as funny as he is in the outtakes. Gervais is a great comic star, but not a movie star. Nor does he have the widespread appeal to justify how much screen time his character gets. This is in no way a criticism of him nor his talent, just a comment about how he might have been better utilized.

Ty Burrell, who gets just the right amount of screen time, making one want to see more, delivers his customary screen stealing performance—perfectly teamed with Sam the Eagle. Yes, his character is a Clouseau type, but he could easily play Clouseau. Nobody does determined cluelessness like Burrell. Tina Fey also takes on a tasty comic character role as the head of a Siberian prison, with convict show tunes (and incongruous cameos) worthy of Mel Brooks.

Like the last film, the songs are perfect for The Muppets and have a quality on their own that justifies more attention than they get. It was a shame that singer/songwriter Bret McKenzie did not get an appearance on the Academy Awards telecast, since that would have deservedly raised his profile. At least he is showcased to advantage is a music video with Miss Piggy (Bret looks a little like a bearded, lanky Herb Alpert).

Muppets Most Wanted is very good, yet not quite great. There’s a lot here to love, though, especially seeing the old gang (as well as welcome newcomer Walter) doing whatever it takes to get them on screen. Even on the classic Muppet Show, some episodes were better than others but it didn’t matter because The Muppets were the main raison D’être to tune in (ain’t I continental?).

Bonus Features are fine (but no commentary, sigh). There’s a blooper reel with a funny title about it being the longest ever, maybe. Again, Ricky Gervais is funnier here than he is in the movie. I realize he was playing a villain (Mr. Badguy), but they might have added in some of his infectious laughter.

This week's Spin: Hercules and Thor on Records
Blog, Movies, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Aug 06 2014 by Greg

With Disney's Hercules premiering on Blu-ray, here's a look at how Golden Records interpreted humbler version of the Olympian wonder boy from early '60s TV, plus another Golden adaptation of Marvel's movie powerhouse, The Mighty Thor...

This week's Spin: Bedknobs and Limpets
Posted on Jul 31 2014 by Greg

The music of two beloved live-action / animation movies -- both of which take place during WWII and have underwater sequences -- are showcased in two vintage records.

This week's Spin: TV Classic Top Cat on Records
Blog, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Jul 26 2014 by Greg

Hanna-Barbera's impeccably written and masterfully acted prime time animated series gets the vinyl treatment on two classic albums from the mid-60s.

BOOK REVIEW: "One More Time" by B.J. Novak
Blog, Books
Posted on Jul 15 2014 by Greg

Lots of critics are comparing B.J. Novak's writing to Steve Martin and David Sedaris and other contemporaries. I see a lot of James Thurber and especially Max Shulman. Maybe it's just me.

All I know is that this book is never-lagging, always entertainment funhouse led by a writer who's been staying very quiet and just paying attention to what's going on. And he's been doing this since he was a kid.

While there are adult moments, to be sure, in One More Thing, there's is also a lot of kid's eye-view stuff with the same inverted logic and gotchas you find in the other stories. Even the adult stuff has a child's fresh perspective on life and people. Don't let them beat it out of you, B.J. (Or may I call you "Beej," like Hawkeye on M*A*S*H?) There is outrage, but it's not bitter. The sharp digs are done with more of a headshake than a vitroilic spew.

Insight after insight, page after page. And when he seems to getting a little too close to an edge too far, he knows just how far to lean, making you wonder about what he's up to, then turns it around so you say, "OHHHH!" the way Edith Bunker used to when she finally "got" something.

Besides the cereal box story, which suggests Jean Shepard and Jerry Mathers, I LOVED the story about heaven. How did "Beej" know that's exactly the way heaven is? In addition to the free concerts, look for "I Love Lucy" live with the original cast. That's all I'm saying. Oh, and wait until you read "Wikipedia Brown!"

Worth reading and re-reading. I actually read the Dan Fogelberg story and "If I Had a Nickel" to my wife aloud. Most of the stories are best when shared. When's the last time you could say THAT about a book?

Now that I've read Novak's book, I'm in the middle of the autobiography of the writer he portrayed in "Saving Mr. Banks," Robert B. Sherman, in a book called "Moose." Very different books, but connected in a very unusual way.

The constable's responstable.

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