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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:


“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Well, here we are again… I know. Why am I even surprised?! I should know better by now! The first Transformers, was a total fluke. The only hope at this point is a total reboot. Okay, I’m going to be upfront with you guys. This review might have a few spoilers, but not full-on spoilers. It’s just that some of the things I’m going to talk about in this review might inadvertently lead you to figuring out some of the movie’s plot points and twists, not that you wouldn’t have been able to do it on your own in the theatre. I’m not going to be saying them out right, but they will however be implied. So, if for some reason beyond me, you still want to waste your time seeing this movie, and have yet to do so, please feel free to stop reading this review and come back here after you’ve clearly wasted three hours of your life. We’ll be here for you, like a support group, but without the milk and cookies.

In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a movie so poorly written they can’t even get the subtitle right. I mean shouldn’t it be Dark Side of the Moon?! Ugh, whatever! So the Transformers are still working with the U.S. Government, minus the racist gold tooth learning disabled bots, which are replaced with slightly less offensive racist stereotypes, and the I can’t tell one from the other Decepticons are still in hiding. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is fresh out of college and is having a really hard time finding a job that makes him feel important again in his post robotic war lifestyle. And I’m sorry, but why is John Malkovich in this movie?! His character seriously serves absolutely no purpose! Remember when seeing John Malkovich in a movie meant it was going to be good?! Boy, are those days over! Let’s get back on track. Sam’s got a new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), mostly because director Michael Bay fired Megan Fox for quitting after Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Yeah, doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but that’s okay because who cares, well not the screenwriter that’s for sure. Just like in Speed 2, the script for Transformers: Dark of the Moon is, I’m guessing, the exact same as it would have been if Megan Fox’s character Mikaela was still around. There are a few added lines to make Carly fit-in, but the role was clearly written for Mikaela. Case-in-point, Carly has supposedly never seen these alien robots before now, but yet she manages to have a heart to heart conversation with Megatron, when she’s never even met him before. I for one find that amazing, because even I can barely tell the Decepticons apart. That scene makes way more sense with Mikaela, but once again at this point who cares? And while we’re on the subject of writing, here’s a tip: maybe don’t give away a major plot twist in the first ten minutes of your film with the use of an old Star Trek clip. Once again, not that I didn’t see it coming without your help, but that’s beside the point. Oh, and when did Optimus Prime become a cold-blooded killer? Did I miss a meeting?! Way to completely miss the point of the “good guys” Bay! I don’t think I ever needed to her Optimus say, “You die now!” or see him shoot someone execution style in the back of the head. I’d also like to take a moment to talk about product placement, and the use of two Australian NASCAR bots. I would love to know how much Target had to dish-out for the coveted codpiece. What is it, with Michael Bay and balls? I’ve known for sometime now that Michael Bay is a total douchebag, but this film just confirms it. How you ask? Well, even though Bay hasn’t officially announced that he won’t be making another Transformers movie, he did manage to kill-off almost the entire cast. Much like a 5 year old in a schoolyard sandbox that finds out it’s time to go, he chooses to break all his toys instead of letting other kids play with them when he’s gone. Douchebag. The only problem with that is this isn’t a sandbox, and luckily for us, Hasbro will most likely just reboot the entire series. Even if that’s not the case, I’m with Shia on this one. This will be my last Michael Bay Transformers movie!

Rating:

 

“The Hangover Part II”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Bangkok can keep them! I know, I’m just as shocked as you. It’s been almost two years since a little movie called The Hangover beat the odds and became one of the highest grossing comedies of all time. But, lightning doesn’t always strike twice, and as much as I loved the first one… man, did I love that first movie! Sadly, the same can’t be said for this one. Spoiler alert! If you saw the first movie, guess what? You’ve also already seen The Hangover Part II! Why, you ask? Because it’s the exact same movie! Every plot point, every joke, and every setup… Only this time they’re in Bangkok and have a monkey instead of a baby. I didn’t really have high hopes when I heard they were making a sequel. I mean the first one was just so good that I almost didn’t want them to mess with it. And to be honest, the characters are so much fun that I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see them again. The good news: we get to see them again! The bad news: it’s a complete rip-off of the first movie! How does that happen?! I mean, sure, when something is a big hit like that, of course people are instantly going to copy it. For example, just this year on Smallville they had an episode that was blatant rip-off of The Hangover. And it was terrible! But the one person who should never ever make an unoriginal copy of that movie is Todd Phillips! How does that even happen?! I almost couldn’t believe my eyes! For the first half hour, I thought it was a joke. I wanted to stand up at the screening and say, “Good one, Todd. Now play the real movie.” Only this was the real movie! Let’s see if you can spot the all comparisons in the breakdown.

In The Hangover Part II, Stu (Ed Helms) is preparing for his wedding. That’s right another wedding! Stu tells Phil (Bradley Copper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) that he doesn’t want a bachelor party in hopes of avoiding the same mistakes that almost ruined Doug’s wedding. Phil quickly calls bullshit, and demands a proper sendoff. So when they get to Thailand… oh, wait. I forgot about Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Of course, Stu has no desire to invite the man that roofied him to his wedding, but Tracy (Sasha Barresse), Doug and Phil somehow convince him, and the Wolfpack is back! A new addition to the group is Stu’s brother-in-law to be, Teddy (Mason Lee), a medical student and teenage musical prodigy. Then guess what? They wake-up and can’t remember what happened? Yes! Lose a member of the group? Yes! Find a baby? No, a chain-smoking monkey! Do they find a tiger that belongs to a former heavyweight champion? No, but how about a monk that belongs to a monastery?! I mean, come on! I really hope they didn’t actually pay someone to write this! Oh wait, they paid three people to write this. That had to be the easiest paycheck ever! I know that I’m making light of it, but it is kind of heartbreaking. I mean, the first movie was just so amazing, and really managed to change the way Hollywood studios looked at scripts. I don’t think the sequel had to be better than the original, I just think it had to be different. They could have at least tried. That’s not to say it’s not funny. Well, parts of it anyway. Some of the jokes are great, and yes the “don’t you remember last time” stuff is amusing to a degree, but do we really need a Chris Farley Show version of the first movie? I can’t even say it’s worth checking out, which is not something I thought I’d be saying a year ago.

Rating:


“Couples Retreat”
a review by Darby O’Gill

When is a vacation not a vacation? Two words… couples counseling. When the very together Jason and Cynthia, played by Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell, feel their marriage may possibly be coming to an end, they decide to enlist in a very special couples program on a remote tropical island. The only problem, is they need to convince three other couples to join them in order to get the cheaper group rate. There’s the couple that seems to have it all together, Dave and Ronnie, played by Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman, a nice happy family. Then there’s Joey and Lucy, played by Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis, who are counting down the days to their divorce, once there daughter heads off to college. Finally there’s Shane, played by Faizon Love, who is recently divorced and finds himself dating Trudy, played by Kali Hawk, a girl young enough to be his daughter. At Eden Resort West, the couples can find all sorts of activities, like couples skill building, open sea swimming with sharks, full contact yoga, and even a little “Guitar Hero.” Which brings us to Sctanley, played by the brilliant Peter Serafinowicz, who watches the couples like a hawk. He makes sure the couples don’t venture over to the resort on the other side of the island, Eden Resort East, which is a singles resort that promises all the fun that seems to be missing from their side of the island.
I know a lot of people are knocking Couples Retreat for not taking the story somewhere new, but I kind of like that this movie feels like an old school comedy. Sure you know where they’re taking it, but it’s funny, and fun to watch. Isn’t that the point of an entertaining movie? These days, it seems like movies have to be totally amazing, or so bad you want to leave the theater. Can’t we have an Uncle Buck these days? You know, a movie that isn’t the best, but makes you say, “That was fun!” I would like to think it’s that kind of movie Favreau and Vaughn had in mind when they wrote this. I also think director Peter Billingsley, did a great job of capturing that feeling visually. Speaking of the visuals, I think it’s safe to say that Bora Bora makes every shot look amazing! Why couldn’t I have been invited to that press junket!? A free trip to Bora Bora! No thanks, it’s nice and cool here in Los Angeles. Hey Jon, I’m available for the Iron Man 2 junket by the way. I also love the fact that the characters Jon Favreau is playing these days, has gone from the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen, to the guy in the rated R movie that cheats on his wife; although Couples Retreat is rated PG-13. But you know what I mean. He’s played some really great assholes lately, and some of those movies were rated R. Look, the bottom line is, if you want to see something deep, go see A Serious Man. But, for a fun date movie that makes you laugh and feel good, Couples Retreat is a nice getaway.

Rating:
3.5 Little People


The Hangover
a review by Darby O’Gill

Well, I went to see “The Hangover” last night… I think. To be honest I can’t remember. What the hell happened last night?! Okay, let’s see. Met up with Wayne and Kathy around… nine o’clock? We picked up Karen from work… went to the theatre. The Arclight, right? No! It was in Woodland Hills. We went to a late show, or maybe we had dinner? Come on Darby! Check your pockets. Maybe there’s a ticket stub in there. Let’s see, a pen cap, some change, and a wooden nickel? Where the hell did I get a wooden nickel? Here we go. A ticket stub to “The Hangover” at eleven fifteen at AMC. And what else do we have here? It’s a fortune from a fortune cookie? Where did that come from? I remember now. We got to the movie early and went to have dinner at P.F. Chang’s. Oh man, no wonder I can’t remember anything. I’ve seen “The Food.” I know that P.F. Chang uses M.S.G. Okay, fun time is over; let’s get on to the review.

“The Hangover”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Hands down the best movie of the summer! No, really. I went to see an advanced screening of “The Hangover” back in March and wanted to see it again immediately. Unfortunately, I had to wait three months before I could see it again. A long three months later, I’m pleased to say I enjoyed it just as much, if not more. The movie really is air tight. It’s just a non-stop laugh-fest. Zack Galifianakis steals the show, which is fantastic because I’m a long time Galifianakis fan. I have been waiting for him to get a project that would bring his genius to the masses, and I’m happy to say this is the one. But if this is your first time seeing Galifianakis in action, and you think he’s hysterical, please do not hold “G-Force” against him when it comes out in July.  The only performance that comes close to upstaging Zack is that of his baby co-star. The faces this kid makes are unbelievable. I mean it. That baby has to be CGI, there’s no way that’s a real baby.

Okay, let’s get to the plot breakdown; not that I have to tell you what the movie is about, I’m sure you’ve seen the trailers that give away everything. If you haven’t, here’s a breakdown that doesn’t give anything away. Three buddies, played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zack Galifianakis, take their best friend Doug (Justin Bartha) to Las Vegas for his bachelor party, and a night they’ll never remember. With no memory of the events that took place the night before, the guys wake up to discover that not only is Doug missing, but they only have 40 hours to retrace their steps and find Doug before his wedding.

This movie really does have it all. The script is hysterical from beginning to end. I’m not even going to hold the screenwriters’ last script, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” against them. Director, Todd Phillips, keeps the pace of the movie moving, almost to a fault.  At times you actually feel exhausted because you truly don’t stop laughing for such a long period of time. The locked-off camera shot of Ed Helms, when he first wakes up is fantastic. Heather Graham stands out; with a charming performance that reminds us why we fell in love with her as Mercedes Lane in “License to Drive.” The cast works so well together that it was of no surprise to me that Warner Bros. green-lit a sequel more than a month before the film’s release. “The Hangover” is destined to be a comedy classic, with the likes of “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” and “Bachelor Party.” I just hope the sequel can live up to the incredibly high standard set by the first film.

Rating:

5 Little People