Review: The Muppets (2011)

On Thursday night, I attended an advance screening of “The Muppets”, which is the Stallone-esque title of the new film starring The Muppets and their infinitely-growing list of celebrity friends.

I’ve been anticipating this film for a long time. I’m an almost-lifelong fan of the Muppets, and yet I’ve never seen one of their movies in a theater (though I have rewatched their classic films MANY times, loving each one more each time I watch it). I also greatly enjoy Flight of the Conchords and most of the works of Jason Segel. I tried to be cautious with my optimism, but every new bit of information just made me more and more excited for the film until I had it built up in my head as not only the greatest movie ever made, but also the cure to twelve known diseases and six unknown.

So I went into this film attempting to suppress my excitement, but not so much that I would have a bad attitude that would taint my perception of the movie, so I wanted to leave just enough optimism that I noticed the goodness of the film, but not so much that I ignored any room for improvement. And I wanted to have fun.

Man, watching movies is stressful.

In the end? The film was quite good. Not perfect by any means, but easily the best Muppets flick since “The Muppet Christmas Carol”, which until now went unchallenged as the best of the post-Henson era. Continue reading

Growing Up With Children’s Playthings: The Obligatory Toy Story 3 Review

I can’t be sure yet, but the Back to the Future series may have just been dethroned as my favorite cinematic trilogy.

The new candidate has some similar circumstances. Like Robert Zemeckis in 1985, the Pixar gang were relative unknowns when they released Toy Story in 1995 and changed the face of family entertainment. Like Universal with Back to the Future, Disney demanded Toy Story sequels. In both cases, a trilogy was never part of the original plan. And in both cases, now that I’ve seen all three movies, I can’t imagine watching just one without the other two to complement them. In both cases, the three films really come together to make a complete experience. Continue reading

The Obligatory Kickassia Review

(Warning: For those of my followers who care, the videos linked to in this article contain strong language, violent slapstick, and other things you may not want your kids to see.)

Last year, when ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (one of my favorite websites) celebrated its one-year anniversary with a massive brawl featuring all of its talent and many of its partners, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Mainly, I thought it was cool that they actually flew all of the contributors to Chicago. This was the first time most of these people had ever been in the same state, let alone the same room. Sure, the Angry Video Game Nerd and the Nostalgia Critic had come face-to-face before, and the Nostalgia Chick also stopped by to cross over with the Critic, but this…this was on a scale I never imagined. Sure, the lighting was bad, the sound was uneven, and many of the participants didn’t really get much time to shine in the fight itself, but it was cool to see so many people whose work I was watching (and a whole bunch of others whose work I had totally been meaning to get around to see, seriously, guys) working together, not only on the fight, but on a veritable deluge of crossover reviews, sketches, interviews, and more.

So when various Channel Awesome contributors started mentioning on Twitter back in April that they were all at a hotel together, the immediate assumption was we would see another fun and goofy fight scene, and more mini-crossovers.

I don’t think any of the fans suspected they were actually shooting a feature-length film in four days. Continue reading

“Press Start” Review

A long time ago, in an era we’ll call “mostly between 2000 and 2005 but especially 2002”, an elite race of geeks was making fanfilms. Largely out of holding out hope that the next Star Wars prequel wouldn’t suck, people filmed their own space adventures, ranging from serious attempts at in-universe stories to goofy parodies, from ten-minute shorts to seventy-minute features, all the time knowing that they would never receive a profit. Like any big movement, the Golden Age of Fanfilms had its fair share of entries that sucked, but even so there was something pure about them, as long as they were being made for the love of it and not for the attention. Films like “The Formula“, “The Empire Strikes Backyard” (and its later sequel, “The Emperor’s New Clones“), “Revelations” and more were the result of passion, dedication, and the desire to make a feature-length movie with lightsabers. The stories weren’t always airtight, the acting wasn’t always stellar, and some of the effects left a lot to be desired, but the one thing that made every great fanfilm stand out was the passion.

Then YouTube showed up. Suddenly, amateur video production was no longer a thing that only the most devoted geeks did; it was available to EVERYBODY, and it was (relatively) easy. There were still fan projects, but mostly in the form of short parody sketches, rarely longer than five minutes. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with brevity, a shorter and simpler piece shot for fifty bucks is much easier to do, and as a result, rarely demonstrates the same devotion as a 75-minute epic shot for a hundred or so.

Enter Ed Glaser’s Dark Maze Productions, with their first feature, “Press Start“. Continue reading

Another Freaking Late-To-The-Game Review of “Avatar”

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS A LIBERAL USE OF SPOILERS FOR MOVIES YOU’VE PROBABLY ALREADY SEEN.

For being such a self-proclaimed pop culture geek, I tend to miss out on a lot of the most widespread phenomenons when they first hit. I still haven’t watched past the second episode of “Lost”. I’ve played, in total, maybe two hours of any of the “Halo” games. I never actually heard a Lady Gaga song until Molly Lewis covered Poker Face.

So it’s not that surprising that before this Monday, I hadn’t gotten around to seeing “Avatar”. In this case, there are two specific reasons I’ve held off so long:
1. I’m just a bit broke, and
2. Unlike certain close friends and frequent collaborators I’ve roomed with for two non-consecutive semesters and one summer in LA, I’m not exactly passionately in love with James Cameron, for reasons I will get into shortly.

But now I’m in Orlando, right across the street from the movie theater that my old friend Rich manages, and he offered me free IMAX 3D tickets. And who am I to say no to an offer like that? So, I finally managed to see “Avatar”.

Before we get into this, I should explain that I haven’t actually been impressed by special effects since…well, probably since I saw “Toy Story” in the movie theater at age 8. Since that moment, I take it for granted that it is possible to get anything on screen. Now, I definitely appreciate the hard work that goes into the effects, but an effect on its own doesn’t get a reaction out of me. The image it creates or its role in the story might be phenomenal, but the mere fact that a computer graphic looks photorealistic doesn’t affect me any more than, say, a photorealistic painting–I appreciate how much effort it took, but it’s not like I’m surprised that it’s possible.

Because of that, while the technological innovations may wow many viewers, my view on “Avatar” lives and dies with the story, the characters, and maaaaaaaybe the action. Using this criteria, I can sum up my review of the film (and, indeed, much of Cameron’s work) in one word: “Calculated”. Continue reading