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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!

Rating:



Before kindergarten we all started our education on the street… Sesame Street. Can you count to forty? Well, thanks to Count Van Count, I can. Sesame Street is turning forty years old today, and they don’t seem a day over five. Sesame Street taught me everything, from near to far, from A to Z, and even that one of these things is not like the other. They even taught me loss. I, to this day, remember the day Mr. Hooper died. My favorite character from the show wasn’t even a regular on the show. No, I’m not talking about Kermit the roaming reporter. My favorite was always Barkley. What!? You don’t know who Barkley is! Barkley is the giant dog. I loved seeing him run down that hill with those kids in the end credits of every show, but would always be devastated when he wasn’t in the show. Which was like 90% of the time. I remember asking my mom, “Why would they show him at the end of every show, but never have him in the show?” I think the best part about Sesame Street for our generation, is that we got to graduate to The Muppet Show when we out grew Sesame Street. I can’t even begin to thank all the men and women who worked on this show over the last forty year, and helped raise billions of kids. However, there are two men, that we should all take a moment to be thankful for today. They are Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Would we even have a childhood without them? Not one I would care to remember.


“Where the Wild Things Are”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Hands down one of my favorite books as a kid, right up there with The Digging-Est Dog, Where the Wild Things Are, was most likely an iconic children’s book for most of our childhoods. I remember just staring at Maurice Sendak’s illustrations of Max and his monster friends for hours on end. So, imagine my excitement when I heard that visionary director Spike Jonze and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop were going to bring that beloved book to life on the big screen.
In Where the Wild Things Are, we follow the journey of Max, an 8 year old boy, trying to find his place in the world. His teenage sister is starting to hangout with friends of her own, and his single Mom is starting to date again, leaving little time for them to play with Max. Until one night, when Max puts on his beloved wolf costume to cause a little mischief and ends up running away from home. When he stumbles upon a small boat, he sets sail, and soon finds himself on an island of monsters. On the island the monsters make him king, and they play and howl at the moon together; but Max quickly learns that one can never truly run away from one’s problems.
Spike Jonze does an amazing job of fleshing out Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book. In this film, he also captures the raw feeling and imagination of being a child. The other thing I realized he managed to do was give the film the feel of a children’s movie from our generation. You know, it didn’t feel like a modern movie for kids. It had me thinking of the kid movies I grew up with, like The Red Balloon and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. With that being said, I don’t think that this movie with its lack of narrative will hold the attention of kids today. I think this movie is only going to truly appeal to our generation. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop has once again out done themselves. The use of mixing real life puppets with CGI effects, has clearly laid a new path for the future of special effects. I would like to think that his company, being the driving force behind bringing these classic illustrations to life, would have made Jim Henson very proud. The bottom line is, if you’re thirty years old or older, you are going to love this movie. But, if this is the first time you have ever heard of Where the Wild Things Are, you might find yourselves a little bit lost on what makes it so great.

Rating:
4.5 Little People


That’s right true believers, the Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel Comics today, for a mere $4 billion dollars! Wait, What!? Disney? Marvel? What?! Well, I guess it’s a good day to be DC Comics.

I was flipping through the channels this weekend, and came across a channel called “Disney XD.” I have no idea what that means, but I thought it was weird that they were playing nothing but Marvel cartoons. Now it’s not so weird. Well, no it’s still pretty weird. I’ve never been a big Marvel fan, but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Disney has been nothing but bad new for the Muppets… Not once but twice! It looks like we’ll be getting that “Spider-Man: The Musical” sooner than we thought. That’s right, Zack Efron will be playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Miley Cyrus will be Mary Jane Watson, in Spider-Man 4 next summer. Can’t wait for that! I really hope that Warner Bros. and DC Comics take full advantage of this mistake, and green light some really edgy kick ass comic book movies.  Boy, and I thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was bad before, I can’t even imagine it now with a “G” rating. I hope it was worth it Marvel, because it’s too late now. Have fun in the kiddie pool.