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“The Muppets”
a review by Darby O’Gill

There are a few things that I like to think of as the building blocks of my childhood; The Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, The Three Stooges, and The Little Rascals all played their part, but the one to play the biggest role had to be the Muppets! Allow me to better illustrate my life-long devotion to Jim Henson’s Muppets, if you will. My first soundtrack ever was The Muppet Movie, wait for it… on 8-track. Yes, I know I’m old. It was quickly followed by The Great Muppet Caper, also on 8-track. One of the fondest, and most vivid memories I have from my childhood, is the joy and excitement I would get at 7:30pm, once a week as the drum-roll and trumpets would sound over the rotating ITC Entertainment logo. That image and sound is forever etched into my brain. I remember my cousin taking me to see The Muppet Movie in the theater, just the two of us, because she had just gotten her driver’s license and she could. And when I got married, and my mother requested Kermit’s Rainbow Connection as our mother/son dance, I couldn’t have been more touched. As you can tell, the Muppets have played a huge role in my life, and to say the news of a new Muppet movie, back in the hands of Disney no less, made me nervous, would be a huge understatement.

In The Muppets, two brothers, Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), grow-up in a small town called Smalltown; only Gary is a real boy and Walter is, well a Muppet. There’s not really a lot of explanation for it, so I’m just going to move on. Walter naturally feels out of place in Smalltown, but that all changes after he sees his first episode of The Muppet Show! So, when Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) plan a romantic get away to Hollywood, it’s only natural that they invite Walter along to take a tour of the Muppet studios. But when they get there, the studio and theatre are in ruins. The Muppets are all but forgotten, as all that seems to remain is a sad little tour. It’s on the tour that Walter overhears an oil tycoon’s, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), plan to buy the land and drill for oil. Walter seeks out Kermit the Frog to help him bring the Muppets back together again, and hopefully save the studio in time!

I really wanted to love this movie. I went in with high hopes and wary expectations, but ended up coming out with the same mixed emotions. I really disliked the first half of the film. The thing that makes a good Muppet movie is that the story is being told around the Muppets and their interaction with the people in the real world. The first part of this movie deals with the people and not the Muppets. I understand that that’s just how the filmmakers chose to tell the story, but I just didn’t like it. I think it’s also why The Muppets Take Manhattan is my least favorite of the original movies. Also, the musical numbers are forced and way too over the top. One of the nicest things in the first two movies is the way the music just flows with the story, and sadly that doesn’t happen here. This brings us to the second half of the movie, where the Muppets regroup and hold a last-minute telethon to help save the studio. Now this is the movie I wanted to see! The eye to detail, and love and care that went into bringing The Muppet Show back to life is heart-warming. I fell in love with the second half of this movie! I know that Muppet co-creator Frank Oz walked away from this project, because he disagreed with the way some of the characters were being handled, and that the Muppets were never about money. I agree with him, but I’m also guessing that he was referring to the earlier rendition of the script, which was quickly panned by many of those that got to read it. In the final version of the film, I don’t really have a problem with it. The Muppets aren’t really raising money for themselves, as much as they’re doing it to help save their studio. Some people are also complaining that Kermit is depicted as a Hollywood mogul in the movie, but I think they forget that he was in fact the executive producer of The Muppet Show. He ran the show from his little table just off stage, and was in charge of all the guests. I think the movie nailed the spirit of the old show, and hopefully gets a whole new generation to watch them now on DVD. In closing, there were just two things I would have liked to have seen: 1) I would have loved it if they had found a Fraggle hole in the basement of the studio, and 2) If the marketing people would have gotten McDonald’s to release a new set of Muppet drinking glasses, that would have been AMAZING!

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“Julie & Julia”
a review by Darby O’Gill

I know, not the type of movie you would expect to find here, but I’m all about breaking the mold. Truth be told, I was home over the holidays and my mother made me watch it. Also, my grandmother was a huge Julia Child fan, and I grew up watching her show with my gram in my younger years, so I was a little interested to see Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her. But, that’s not to say I wouldn’t be more than happy to give any film a fair chance. I do also realize that this is another Amy Adams’ movie, and if you read my Leap Year review, you all know how I feel about her. It’s not that much of a problem in this film, because she’s not really the lead; she kind of shares that title with Streep. Although, just for the record, it is still more Amy Adams than I would like. Enough of this tomfoolery, let’s get to the review.

Julie & Julia mainly takes place in 2002, and tells the story of Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, who has just moved to New York with her husband, played by Chris Messina, and finds herself looking for an escape from her day job job at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation‘s call center. She decides to start a blog, but she isn’t quite sure what to blog about, until she comes up with the idea of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook, and giving herself a year in which to do it. The other part of this story takes place in 1949, when Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, and her husband Paul, played by Stanley Tucci, have just moved to Paris for Paul’s job at the American Embassy. Julia is looking for something to fill her time while Paul’s at work, and starts her cooking career. She finds it hard however to learn from the French cookbooks, and realizes that there are no American French cookbook. Therefore, she decides to publish her own cookbook where the French recipes would be a little easier for American cooks to follow.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. I wasn’t a big fan of this movie. The one thing I did find impressive, other than Meryl Streep’s performance, was writer/director Nora Ephron’s ability to intertwine Julie Powell’s novel Julie & Julia with Julia Child and Alex Prud’humme’s My Life in France. By finding the parallels in these two women’s lives, and making the movie just as much about Julia Child’s life, as it is about Julie’s blog challenge, was this film’s saving grace. Well, that and Meryl Streep’s amazing performance. She really embodied the essences of Julia Child in this movie. It’s probably not much of a shock, that I would have enjoyed this movie 100% more, if it was just a story about Julia Child, and skipped all the Amy Adams stuff. I think the movie is better than most would suspect, but in the end it’s just not that satisfying, and leaves you just plain hungry… literally.

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“Leap Year”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Well, it must be January. You know, that time of year when studios dump their leftover crap into theatres. Case in point, I give you Leap Year. I don’t know why I went, but I did, and it sure as hell can’t be unseen. I don’t want to sound rude… And, I’m sure many of you will disagree with me, but Amy Adams… Really?! I don’t see it. I’m sorry. I can’t watch her in a lead roll for two hours. I just don’t like her. I think she’s fine when she’s playing a supporting roll, but I just can’t take her as a lead, which is a big surprise to me, because I’m always saying I like it when a stereo typical supporting actress gets to play the lead. But, for some reason Amy Adams just doesn’t do it for me.

In Leap Year, we follow Anna, played by Adams, as she travels to Ireland in hopes of proposing to her long time boyfriend on February 29th. It’s an Irish tradition that women can propose to the men once every four years on leap day. Believe it or not, a series of “unforeseen” events stand in her way, and the only way to make it her boyfriend in time is by hitching a ride with a bartender that hates her. Can’t see where this is going? If that is truly the case, you are in fact the problem with today’s movie going public. I know every story has been told before, but come on! Can we at least try and do something new with it? Leap Year doesn’t break any new ground. In fact, if you want to see a better version of this movie, watch The Matchmaker.

The bottom line here is… Skip it. But, I’m sure you already knew that. Hell, I should have already known that. I like to try and see everything I can, but sometimes some movies should just be skipped. You’re pretty much better off leaping Leap Year this year, or any year for that matter.

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