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Movie Review: The Muppets

Mike Finkelstein decided to take a trip back to when he was five years old. Suddenly, he saw Kermit the Frog! And there’s Miss Piggy! And Animal! And Beaker! And Rowlf! His heart just exploded from happiness. Here is his review of “The Muppets.”

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Mike Finkelstein decided to take a trip back to when he was five years old.  Suddenly, he saw Kermit the Frog!  And there’s Miss Piggy!  And Animal!  And Beaker!  And Rowlf!  His heart just exploded from happiness.  Here is his review of “The Muppets.”

PLOT: Gary (Jason Segal) and his Muppet brother, Walter, have been fans of The Muppets ever since they were little boys.  When the two, along with Gary’s girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams) decide to take a trip to visit the old Muppet Studios, they’re shocked to learn that oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to rip down the buildings to drill for oil.  Hoping to save the land, the three seek out Kermit the Frog and the rest of the Muppets to put on one final show.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Yay!  Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Beaker (I could go on and on, as I’m sure you can)…all these characters have a special place in our hearts, and after more than a decade long absence, they are back on the big screen in all their ridiculous glory!

Just in case you didn’t know, Disney bought the Muppets back in 2004, and since then, they’ve driven the franchise straight into the ground.  Sure, we got a few appearances and straight-to-DVD/TV movies here and there, but they were essentially gone.  Then, one day, Jason Segel (who was known at that time for movies like KNOCKED UP and FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) told Disney in a meeting that he wanted to make a Muppet movie.  They laughed.  He pushed and wrote and pushed some more, and finally, they caved.

Segal was exactly what Kermit and the gang needed.  He, along with Nicholas Stoller, wrote a simple story about two brothers (including a brand new Muppet named Walter) who were huge fans of the original Muppet show.  When they find out the theater is going to be torn down by a rich oil barren (Chris Cooper), they try to get the gang back together to save the day.

The story may not be anything too complex, but if you know the Muppets, you know it doesn’t call for it.  A self-admitted Muppet fanatic, it is obvious that Segal put his heart and soul into this movie.  This is a Muppet movie made for fans BY a fan.  It is playful, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you could just imagine Segal taking those opening scenes of childlike wonder straight from his youth.  The love is apparent, and that’s all you need.

Not convinced yet?  Let’s go through what makes a Muppet movie great…Inside jokes?  Check.  Constantly filling the screen is memorabilia from old movies and episodes.  You’re not just seeing a stand-alone movie.  You’re seeing a glorious history lesson.  Breaking the fourth wall?  Check.  They got everything from referencing the movie to traveling by map to picking up people by montage.  Celebrity cameos?  Check!  Jack Black, Whoopi Goldberg, NPH, and many more show up (including Selena Gomez and Rico Rodriguez beautifully poking fun at themselves).  Everyone is in on the jokes, and it only makes the experience that much more fun.  Life lessons?  Check.  Be yourself, and you will find your place in life.  Love those around you and work together, and you could do anything.  Is there anything more important than that?

And then, there’s the music.  Every Muppet showcase has to have music, and we get the pleasure of some amusing diddles like “Life’s a Happy Song” (complete with obligatory flash mob), as well as some beautiful, reflecting tunes such as “Man or Muppet”, and Kermit’s love song to his friends and memories, “Pictures in My Head” (that one broke me).  Throw in “We Built This City”, three chickens clucking Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”, and classics like the Muppet theme and “Mahna Mahna”, and you better make sure you’re in a row with enough room to get you up and dance along  Do do doo doo do!

It could have been very easy for Disney to say no to a new Muppet film.  It could have been easy for them to ask Segal to add in more risqué or dirty humor, like so many other children’s flicks do today to appeal to adults.  Luckily, they did neither.  No matter how old you are, this is how the Muppets should be remembered…with Gonzo shooting himself out of a cannon, Beaker getting exploded, and Ms. Piggy screaming “Kermie! Kermie! Kermie!”  If this film was made for just a profit or because Disney needed another reboot, it would have fallen completely flat, trying too hard to make the franchise something it wasn’t.  Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller have created an absolutely beautiful, life-affirming film that is a tribute to and celebration of the man who created it all, Jim Henson.  But the biggest treasure of all, to me, is not the memories, but the guaranteed smiles and wide eyes of all those little kids’ who get to experience our friends for the first time ever.  Congrats, Jason and Nick, you did it right for them.

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) OLD FRIENDS ARE BACK: Oh, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and all the rest.  These are all classic characters and all old friends, and seeing them back on screen again just made my five-year-old heart melt.

2) MADE BY FANS FOR FANS: From the first moment that Walter and Gary appear on screen, you could tell this film was written from the heart.  It’s easy to imagine Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller acting exactly like the two brothers when they were kids, and that love is apparent in every scene.

3) INSIDE JOKES/BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL: The biggest laughs of the night had to come from all the jokes about traveling by map, picking up characters by montage, and cleaning to music.  Every inside joke about a character and the old movies just made me smile even more.

4) CAMEOS: Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, Alan Arkin, Jack Black (pretty much in a supporting role), Zach Galifianakis, and so many more filled the screen to pay homage to the Muppets.  Oh, and by the way, one specific cameo that hasn’t been mentioned completely blew the rest away…

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) LITTLE LONG: With all the fun that was had and all the childhood memories, the movie did seem a little too drawn out.  My friend and I were actually surprised that the film only ran 103 minutes, and not closer to two or even a little more.  Maybe that’s just the impatient grown up in me…

EXTRA FACTS:

1) The ripped picture that Miss Piggy and Kermit put back together is a photo of them getting married from THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN.

2) The first Muppet film that Frank Oz was not involved with. Oz performed and voiced Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle and Swedish Chef, among many others, in all the TV shows and movies.

 

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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