Muppets Most Wanted (2014 Movie)

This was a direct sequel to The Muppets (2011 Movie) and by direct sequel I mean this picks up at the last scene of that movie. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this until 2 things happened. First, Ricky Gervais showed up as “Dom Badguy”, so I knew I was going to appreciate the humor (how can you not love it when one of the dumb badguys is named such?). Secondly, Sam the Eagle, as a CIA agent, has a badge measuring scene with an Interpol Agent (played by Ty Burrel, whoever he is) and THAT’S when I knew this movie was for me.

The gist of the movie is that Kermit gets replaced by his evil duplicate and nobody notices except Animal, Fozzie and Walter (the new muppet introduced in the previous movie). Bad Kermit has plans to steal the Crown Jewels and uses the Muppets and only Kermit can stop him.

I loved this movie. I am not usually a fan of Ricky Gervais, but once again what made the difference is that he really played like he was acting with others in the scenes with the muppets. I think the biggest issue with Muppet movies is getting actors who can simply accept, and thus show by tone and body language, that the muppets are other legitimate actors in front of the camera. He played up his own strengths but at the same time didn’t feel like he was stealing any scenes for himself. Much like Michael Caine in Muppet Treasure Island, Gervais enhanced the scenes he was in.

The pure zaniness was back. Whoever wrote this, they seemed to understand the kind of humor that Jim Henson had captured in the original Muppets. It was whacky, it was silly, it was zany and it most important of all, it worked. I will be buying this and its prequel on bluray sometime by years end. This deserves a spot on the Muppet Shelf.

The only downside to this movie is that it is pretty essential to have watched the previous movie to understand everything clearly. Other than that, I highly recommend this Muppet movie.

The Muppets (2011 Movie)

Disney attempts to cash in on the Muppet Franchise and reboots it. There are a lot of call back scenes to the Original Muppet Movie and there is a LOT of group singing and dancing. That cover feels pretty accurate in conveying the tone of the movie.

I enjoyed this movie more than some of the other Muppet stuff but this time I felt that it would have been ok if the Muppets had been left in the past. There were some great comedic schticks (the scenes where Jack Black is tied up on stage and is involuntarily having a comedy duo routine with Fozzy was absolutely priceless) but Disney’s fingerprints were all over this and they were very smudgy and jelly’ish fingerprints, not at all unobtrusive or subtle.

Unlike the Muppets Wizard of Oz, I found the interaction between the humans and the Muppets to be quite believable and once again the Muppets were as much stars as the human cast. That’s how it should be.

I’m going to keep on watching the Muppet oeuvre until the end but it is now completely apparent to me that without Jim Henson’s direct hand, the Muppets aren’t quite all that. Henson made the correct decision to end the tv show on a high point and this continuation of the franchise shows the wisdom of his decision. While fans clamor for more Muppets, they should have trusted Henson’s decision. While Disney is a big fat target for my dislike (what they have done to my beloved Star Wars is unconscionable), fans are as much to blame.

I’d only recommend this to hardcore Muppet Completionists.

The Muppets Wizard of Oz (2005 Movie)

In my April ’22 Roundup & Ramblings post I mentioned that I’d heard this was a really bad Muppet’s movie, possibly the worst ever. After the struggle it was to write the Sherlock Posts I felt it would be a relief to really dig into something and eviscerate it mercilessly.

Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be THAT kind of bad movie. This was exactly in the same vein as Muppets from Space, ie, childish, stupid and not one whit funny. But this was even more vanilla and even more boring than From Space. From Space at least had a few laughs. Wizard of Oz? I don’t think I cracked a smile even once.

Ashanti, playing Dorothy Gale, had ZERO chemistry with the muppets. This was the first movie where every single original Muppeteer was gone (as far as I can tell), so that might have played a part, but it was evident that Ashanti was used to being the center of attention and to diminish that by allowing the Muppets to be the stars was more than she could handle.

There were things that SHOULD have been funny. Miss Piggy as the 4 Witches, each with their own costume and personality, well, it should have been funny. It wasn’t. Like I noted before though, nothing was outright bad. It was just boring as all get out. I usually watch these movies 2-3 times to make sure I’m not missing anything (I watch it the first time to just enjoy it. The second time to get ideas about reviewing and a 3rd if I need clarification on something). With this one, I watched it once and said “good enough” because any more would be interrogating myself enhancedly! and as I’m a bona fida genuina Americhino Citizen, we simply can not have that.

I would only recommend this to a Muppet Completionist. Every one else? Go watch something else, ANYTHING else. If I may make a suggestion? Go watch Tron. Broaden your lumpy modern mind with something classic and good.

Dune: Part 1 (2021 Movie)

Oh man. What a movie! When this was being produced and talked about, I had my reservations. The gender change for Dr Kynes smacked of pure woke bullshit. The “Part I” let us all know it wasn’t a complete movie and that was worrisome as well. As an avid fan of the Novel by Frank Herbert (having reviewed it 3 times since 2011), I do consider myself a bit of a snob when it comes to Dune.

Thankfully, I follow a couple of people who reviewed Dune Part 1 when it hit the cinemas back in October. Those reviews relieved all my fears and actually got me excited to watch it. I pre-ordered the blu-ray as soon as it was possible and it was released January 11. Because I’m a member of prime, I got it that day. Since then, I’ve watched it 3 times plus all the “extras”.

Let’s deal with the “problems”. Kynes being changed to a woman didn’t matter because they completely neutered the character’s impact on the story. In the novel Liet Kynes is not only the Royal Ecologist for the Emperor, but is also the de facto leader of the fremen, leading their secret ecological fight to transform Dune into a watery paradise. In the movie, Kynes helps Paul and Jessica escape and then is killed by Sardakar almost by accident. It was laughable, in a pathetic way. I “almost” felt bad for the woman playing Kynes but not that much and she was just such a non-entity that the change didn’t bother me like I thought it would. The other issue of this being Part One has already been resolved as this was such a success that Part Two is a green lit.

This follows the first half of the book and ends where Paul and Jessica head out into fremen society. As such, this was a real setup movie with lots of introductions to the universe. I thought they did a good job and kept it interesting with the whole Harkonnen / Atreides feud. I also liked just about every casting choice except for Lady Jessica. As minor as it may seem, her hair wasn’t red enough for me. I know my mental picture has been influenced, greatly, by the SyFy (that’s syphilis to the uninitiated) Channel’s miniseries in the early 2000’s. That is a very minor complaint though, so I’m not sure I can even really call it a complaint.

Saskia Reeves was a wonderful Lady Jessica from the tv mini-series

One thing I did miss was the dinner scene soon after the Atreides take control of Dune. It is very memorable and informs the reader/viewer about a lot of the political scenes going on. I didn’t miss it on the first watch but on the second and third I realized it was missing and did feel it rather keenly.

The musical score was absolutely top notch. I felt like Hans Zimmer watched the finished movie and then wrote this weird, throat singing, chanting, atonal sound track that fit the barbarity of the desert of Dune and political fighting and betrayals that occur. I thought the music fit the movie perfectly. However, as a musical score on its own, it’s an abysmal failure. I listened to it on youtube and it was shudderingly jarring and I gave up before I got to the halfway mark. I will NOT be buying the cd of this sound track. Here’s the youtube embed so you can listen for yourself.

Since I got the bluray I also watched the extras. What few there were. While there were many in number, a lot of them simply repeated the same things or the same scenes over in a different way. There was no commentary track (something I tend to like) nor were there very many of the technical “making of” parts. There were a few bits and bobs of that stuff, but not anything close what I have come to expect from extras. There were no interviews with the cast, another thing I tend to enjoy.

Looking at this, it comes across as a check list of issues I had with the movie. The problem with that is that I really did enjoy the movie but it can be harder to write about what I enjoyed than what I didn’t. For instance, I thought Timothy Chalot was a great Paul. He was small and wiry and looked like a young adult and not just a small old person. The Bene Gesserit “Voice” was done wonderfully too. I liked how the ornithopters were portrayed. I’ve always imagined them as mechanical sparrows but the change to make them more like dragonflies than birds worked aesthetically. The little bit we see of the sandworms and how the sand acts around them fit perfectly too. There were enough “little” touches that I wouldn’t mind getting a directors cut some day ๐Ÿ˜€

My issues in watching this (and hence why I’ve watched it 3 times so far) is because it is VERY easy to mix up what I’m watching with the previous Dune screen incarnations. The 1984 David Lynch version was such an odd duck that you almost have to like it just for its weirdness but trying to keep track of what was from that movie and what was from the book gets intermingled in my mind. Then throw in the aforementioned SyFy mini-series and it’s sequel series, Children of Dune and suddenly, well, there is a TON of information to keep track of. What was original to this movie, or what came from the 1984 film or the Mini-series OR the book itself? I think it is a testament to Frank Herbert that Dune has inspired so many incarnations and that us fans continue to lap them up and give them a chance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and am very glad I bought the bluray. It is making me look forward to the sequel that much more. If you are tired of Super Hero movies but still need that bigger than this world feeling, Dune Part 1 might just fit the bill. If you liked the book, I think you’ll like this too. It IS an adaptation but one that I am quite glad has been realized. A solid thumbs up.

I realize this is a bit longer than my usual posts, so thanks for sticking it out to the end. Cheers!

Muppet Treasure Island (1996 Movie)

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Muppet Treasure Island is the fifth Muppet Movie (Muppets from Space wasn’t made until 1999) and I must say, I think it edges out even A Muppet Christmas Carol. So far, only the original Muppet Movie has been better. Which is to say, this is one fantastic movie..

Loosely based, and I mean LOOSELY, on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island, this version takes the story’s outline and completely makes it its own. Which works surprisingly well. Part of it is because it is so silly and everyone leans into that silliness. It also helps that Tim Curry as Long John Silver just throws himself into the role and drags you along with him. He makes you think “Well, if Tim Curry can act like this then the least I can do is enjoy the silliness”. It takes chops for that.

While not a huge hit financially, it helped revive interest in the Muppets and I suspect propelled the Muppets Tonight show onto the silver screen (which failed. Without Jim Henson or Frank Oz, the Muppets are missing their soul). What this movie did correctly was show that the current Muppet creators need a good, already existing story for the Muppets to hang their frame on. Could you imagine Muppets 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, or Muppets Don Quixote? Of course, I am well read. I’m not sure if the average American would have any interest or even know what the stories were based on. But come on, can’t you see Kermit as Don Quixote and Fozzie Bear as Sancho and Miss Piggy as Dulcinea? I tell you, it’s just money waiting to happen!

But that is getting off track.

I had a lot of fun watching this and even Mrs B enjoyed it because of the many musical interludes. Some were stupid and sappy, like soprano Jim Hawkins (ugh) singing about adventure but then you have Cabin Fever, probably the song I remember most from any Muppet adventure, movie or tv. Below is the youtube embed of the song and about a minute and a half of the movie after it. This is the tone of the movie and if you don’t find it hilarious, you probably won’t enjoy the movie as a whole either.

Since this movie was so good, I want to keep the good times rolling. I’m going to be starting in on the Fraggle Rock tv series for next month. I’ve heard good things about that and since it was done by Jim Henson in the early 80’s I’m pretty sure it WILL be good.

Onward!

The Illusionist (2006 Movie)

Eisenheim is a magician, taking the city of Vienna by storm. He is set to become a very rich man when his path crosses that of Prince Leopold and an old flame, the Duchess Sofie von Teschen. Leopold sets out to disprove that Eisenheim has any real power, only tricks and Eisenheim subtly mocks and humiliates him. Eisenheim also begins to make a move on Sophie, who is supposed by the populace to be engaged to Leopold. Leopold gets jealous, appears to have her killed but gets away with it because he’s the Crown Prince. Eisenheim changes his act to show spirits of the dead and eventually brings forth the spirit of Sophie, who accuses Leopold. Leopold attempts to have Eisenheim arrested but in the end Eisenheim is just an illusion. But he has set up everything pointing to the Prince as the murderer of Sophie. Between that and a plot by the Prince to overthrow the Emperor, Leopold gets his comeuppance. The movie ends with Eisenheim and Sophie living the simple life, alive and well.

What a great movie! Norton is a great actor and as funny as it may sound, it was actually his playing Bruce Banner in the second Incredible Hulk movie that made me a huge fan of his, not this movie. But with this, Hulk, Fight Club and the Italian Job, I’m certainly more willing to try a movie if he’s in it.

There’s a gravitas to this movie, a heaviness that suddenly disappears right at the end when the Inspector (played by Paul Giamatti) realizes all that has gone on and begins to laugh uproariously at the great jest Eisenheim has played on the entire city. That scene of laughter clears away the sadness and melancholia like a wind clearing away a fog on the sea coast.

This is my third time watching this and I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Knowing what is going on does take away a bit of the magic and you don’t get that “Ohhhhhh, so THAT’S what is really going on” feeling you get the first time you watch it. All 3 times I’ve watched this I’ve borrowed it from the library and honestly, I think I’ll keep it that way.

If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and borrow it sometime. It’s a good movie with a happy ending and the world needs more of that instead of the crap so many movie goers seem to clamor for.

Muppets from Space (1999 Movie)

After the success that the Muppet Show was, I decided to take a chance on one of the “later” movies, that way even if it was bad I was sure to have some good stuff left over. This wasn’t so much bad as childish and mediocre.

The movie starts out with Gonzo having a dream that he couldn’t get on Noah’s ark because there was only 1 of him and he didn’t even know his species. All the muppets are living in some sort of house that they share and Miss Piggy is trying to be a news anchor. Gonzo’s cereal tells him that they are looking for him and he leaves a message cut in the lawn in return. At the same time, a US Government Agency is picking up the signals and kidnap Gonzo to use him as a bargaining chip with the aliens. Who are all gonzos, noses and all. They play a great rock concert, agree to take the Government Agency Man as their new ambassador and Gonzo decides to stay on Earth with his friends.

Despite the bold statement on the dvd cover that “the magic is back”, it most definitely was not. This was much more of a sequel to the short lived “Muppets Tonight” show that lasted for 22 episodes than anything else. I should have watched that before this to ease me into the changed circumstances of the Muppets. Kermit is done by a different voice actor, Fozzie barely appears, Miss Piggy got a new hairstyle and Animal can almost control himself. It was just too much of a change from the Muppet Show or even the Muppet Movies for me to easily take in.

I can imagine a 7 year old loving this, maybe even a 10 year old. But after that? It’s just too stupid and simple, things that the Muppets didn’t use to be. There is a difference between Zany, Silly, Insane & Stupid. Plus as shallow as it sounds, I really didn’t like Miss Piggy’s hair.

The Muppet Show Season Three (1978)

Man, things really had money poured on them for this season. The little hole in the wall theatre has had some upgrades so it’s a lot bigger and glitzier. The backstage now consists of a whole restaurant style thing plus the regular table and dressing rooms. In one episode they even took the show to a trainstation and had it there. Everything just screamed “more money, hurray!”.

I have not previously listed out who starred in each episode, but the star power really went up (money, money, money) and I think I’ll include it this time around.

  • Episode 301: Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge
  • Episode 302: Leo Sayer
  • Episode 303: Roy Clark
  • Episode 304: Gilda Radner
  • Episode 305: Pearl Bailey
  • Episode 306: Jean Stapleton
  • Episode 307: Alice Cooper
  • Episode 308: Loretta Lynn
  • Episode 309: Liberace
  • Episode 310: Marisa Berenson
  • Episode 311: Raquel Welch
  • Episode 312: James Coco
  • Episode 313: Helen Reddy
  • Episode 314: Harry Belafonte
  • Episode 315: Lesley Ann Warren
  • Episode 316: Danny Kaye
  • Episode 317: Spike Milligan
  • Episode 318: Leslie Uggams
  • Episode 319: Elke Sommer
  • Episode 320: Sylvester Stallone
  • Episode 321: Roger Miller
  • Episode 322: Roy Rogers & Dale Evans
  • Episode 323: Lynn Redgrave
  • Episode 324: Cheryl Ladd

The biggest thing I found out was that Dale Evans was a woman. I also enjoyed just how varied everything was. The stars didn’t overpower the show. and in some cases only showed up for 1 or 2 scenes. This really was the Muppet Show. Statler and Waldorf, the grumpy old critics even get into a fight with a guest but thankfully they lose. It was just so perfect though. Their bad jokes just make me laugh.

This came on 4 discs and I’d watch a whole disc at once. Pop in the dvd and let 6episodes just wash over me. Good times! I also watched the bonus content on the final disc. It was a rather long PBS’esque thing by Jim Henson about puppets. You could probably learn more about puppets than you ever wanted to know.

While it was all enjoyable, I did not like the increased glitz and glamor to the theatre or the addition of “more” to everything. This felt like the cusp of the Muppet Show making it big and I’m always leery of something filled with downhome charm and bluster becoming successful among the plebes.

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984 Movie)

The Muppet Gang all graduate from college and have big dreams of making a play that will storm Broadway. So they write a play, travel to Manhattan and present their play to a famous director, telling him they hope it will make them all rich and famous. The director slowly looks at them and proceeds to throw the manuscript away. The rest of the movie is kermit trying to get the play accepted and all the other muppets giving up and going elsewhere. Once Kermit does succeed, he gets the gang back together, only to get amnesia and go missing. He’s found, Miss Piggy karate chops his memory back and the play is a smash hit and Kermit and Piggy get married.


This was definitely the weakest of the 3 movies. While as self-referential as the others, it lacked the cozy bonhomie of the first and the zany over the top situation of the second. I’m not a Broadway Play kind of guy so the whole situation didn’t work for me. Second, and more important to me, was just how mean Kermit could be. It was a very sharp departure from the carefree, optimistic Kermit of the first movie.

The Muppet show had ended in 1981 and the animated tv show, the Muppet Babies was to start in just a few months. This movie felt like a promotional ad for the Muppet Babies and as a “Happily Ever After” for fans of Kermit and Piggy. For me, Piggy and Kermit should have been eternally engaged, with all the drama and antics that go along with it.

I bought this but to be honest, I’ll probably watch it once or twice more and call that good. I felt too “meh” about this for most of it for me to give it anything else than a thumbs sideways.

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

The Great Muppet Caper is the second (as far as I can tell) in the Muppet movie franchise.

The basic plot is that twin reporters, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear, miss a jewel heist happening right in front them, get fired and end up going to England to try to interview Lady Holiday and to recover her jewels, thus ensuring a triumphant return to their jobs.

The self-awareness of this film is even more deliberate, even sharper and more 4th wall breaking than in The Muppet Movie. I found it highly amusing at the beginning but by the end of the movie the charm of it had rubbed off and it felt overused, like a 3 day old sardine out of its tin. Ok, not that bad but it had definitely stopped being amusing by the end.

Once again, there were musical numbers out the wazoo. And once again, it was quite different from The Muppet Movie. Where I was humming, singing and tapping my metaphorical toe in the first movie, these numbers were much more group oriented, almost felt like broadway chorus songs. I didn’t find myself entranced by the music at all. Psychic Grandma wouldn’t have tried to convert any of these into belgian boom wave, not even into 7/92 tempo!

The silly, over the top, zany humor, situations and physical comedy were just the same however. Miss Piggy is as bipolar as ever between Bashful Debutante and Kungfu Queen. Fozzie is clueless, Gonzo is suicidal (in a very “I wonder what X would be like” rather than a depressed and anxious way) and Kermit is the glue that binds every character together. The human cast did an admirable job of playing to the Muppets but my goodness, they were even more shallow and ridiculous than Doc Hopper and his Frog Hunter in the first movie. The Love Triangle between the Jewel Thief, Kermit and Miss Piggy is as developed as a can of playdo and is used as an excuse to A: further the plot and B: make comments about it doing nothing but furthering the plot. I have to admit though, just thinking about it all still brings a smile to my face.

While this had some differences from the first movie that didn’t work for me, I still laughed and smiled while watching this. And since that is ALL I expect from this franchise, it’s a solid success. I guess my final verdict is a thumbs up.