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Movies Review

Movie Review – Muppets Most Wanted

The Muppets have never been an obsession for me, as they are for some of my friends. They know all the Muppet lore, can break down each movie in a scholarly tone, and name you all the cameos in each one. For me, I remember enjoying the show, and seeing a few of the movies here and there, but that’s about it.  When the Muppets ‘relaunched’ with the last movie, I was mostly unmoved – though I’ve sen it since, or most of it, and laughed.  But hey, the kids wanted to see it bad, and I don’t have to have my arm twisted to go to the theater and have some popcorn.  I came away quite entertained.

First, there’s a Monsters University short in front of it.  The guys ‘steal’ a party from the popular frats, I thought it was a nice change from all the Toy Story shorts.  As for the Muppets, the movie picks up just after the end of the last one – literally.  Kermit (after the sequel-themed musical number) has to deal with the demands and ideas of the rest of the team as he tries to keep a coherent show together.  If you’ve seen the Muppet Show before, you know that it rarely works out but you can’t fault him for trying.  In swoops Dominic Badguy, played by Ricky Gervais, who offers the Muppets a European tour.  However it’s all a ploy, as his partner, Constantine “the most dangerous frog in the world”, breaks out of a Russian gulag to do a crime spree across Europe.

The Muppet-centric parts of the movie were a bit hit or miss for me.  Some jokes landed hard (Fozzie’s comment when they figure out what’s going on killed me), but many were worth a chuckle or eyeroll at best.  I really liked Tina Fey as the gulag warden, she seems to get this kind of movie is a great excuse to get hammy.  Sorry Piggy.  Ricky Gervais was solid, and they probably didn’t pay him enough for the costume he ends up wearing.  Sam the Eagle with Ty Burrell as the French Interpol guy was actually quite funny.  Their interrogation musical number was surprisingly good.  The cameos were similarly hit or miss, with some just seeming surreal, like Christoph Waltz.  Danny Trejo was hilarious though, almost worth the price on it’s own for him and the other prisoners and the show they put on.  There’s a few more good ones but they are better unspoiled.

Muppets Most Wanted was definitely an enjoyable movie, though it probably won’t supplant your favorite original Muppets movie as best ever.

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Random

Lightning Book Review – Itty Bitty Hellboy

It might seem like an odd combination, Hellboy getting the cutesy ‘Itty Bitty’ treatment, but if you enjoy HB and want to get your younger ones in early, this is a good way. The bright, simple shapes are indeed cute, reminding me a bit of the Powerpuff Girls. Art Baltazar and Franco do a solid job with the art and stories, most of which are a few pages long and have simple kid-friendly jokes (Johann sneezes himself out of his suit, jokes about Roger’s underwear, and so on).

I reviewed this TPB via NetGalley, collecting 5 issues of the comic.  You can pick it up now, at Amazon.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – 300: Rise of an Empire

I got in to see 300: Rise of an Empire at an advanced screening (thanks, Buffalo.com!) and I left shaking my head.  It’s basically the ‘rest of the story’ about what’s happening in Greece while the Spartans are kicking messengers into pits and defending gates.  Themistokles is a Greek general known for his cunning, trying to unite the various city-states to defend against the Persians.  Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo in a framing story of her retaliation against the Persians for killing her husband, I imagine so they could put her on a poster.  Gotta make sure to grab those Game of Thrones fans.  Sullivan Stapleton has all the presence of a tree stump, and his underlings don’t fare much better.  There’s an eye-rolling father and son playing out the tired “You’re too young to fight!”/”I’ll sneak away and fight anyway!” trope (I was taking bets on which one would die as soon as they appeared on screen).

If you go to this for any reason, it’s to see Eva Green having a blast as Artemesia, a Greek general who was taken in by a Persian man (apparently the dude Leonidas kicked down the pit) after she was betrayed.  She trains and becomes their fiercest and most blood-thirsty warrior, gleefully presenting the severed heads of her enemies to King Darius.  When Darius gets killed (by an arrow from Themistokles, because OF COURSE) she manipulates the dumber-than-a-bag-of-hammers Xerxes into undergoing the transformation that makes him 10ft tall.  Doesn’t make him any smarter though.

On the positive side, the final battle scene is good.  Some of the earlier ones are a little hokey (oh, we see a body falling on the camera and splashing blood?  never seen that before).  There are some humorous moments, though not all of them were intended.  The sex scene is ridiculous.  I did like that they didn’t try to make Themistokles and the other Greeks the equal of the Spartans in a fight – their wins against the Persians came from outsmarting Xerxes and Artemisia’s lieutenants.

If you think you might want to see 300: Rise of an Empire, I’d suggest waiting for the Rifftrax after it’s on DVD.  This is VERY riffable, I couldn’t resist a few comments while we were watching it.

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Books Review

Book Review – Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves

As soon as I heard James S. A. Corey (the Sci-fi pen name for writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) had signed on to write a Star Wars novel, I was all in. Even better was the fact that most SW novels get put on Netgalley so I can read them early review them for you.  This is actually the second of three books in the ‘Empire and Rebellion’ series (though they are not interconnected), which has books that follow each of the three primary protagonists of the original trilogy in a new story set during the Rebellion.  The first, Razor’s Edge, focused on Princess Leia.  Honor Among Thieves is all about Han.

The first thing I’d point out is the only thing you need to know about the Star Wars universe to enjoy this book is just the original trilogy.  That’s great, as some of the other books are deep into the Expanded Universe nerdery (and much of that may be getting swept aside as Disney tries to make it one big happy universe).

This story follows Han and Chewie after the destruction of the first Death Star, as they try and reconcile being scoundrels who dislike any and all governments with working for the Rebels, whose stated goal is to replace the Empire with a new Republic.  I really enjoyed Han’s internal struggle – he likes and trusts Leia and Luke, but doesn’t (yet) want to join the team.  This plays well against the new hero we meet in Scarlet Hark.  Han and Chewie go on a simple mission to extract the Rebel spy, but thing don’t go exactly according to plan.  But hey, do they ever?  What it kicks off is a race between the Rebels and the Empire for a long-lost superweapon that adds a very Indiana Jones feel to the Star Wars universe.  The use of Leia and Scarlet as a choice between the independent life of a smuggler and the legitimate government agent works well to build the character of Han into the man we know later in Return of the Jedi as well as in Zahn’s books.  If I had any complaints – and they’d be very minor – it’s that the plot contrivance of a superweapon created by a long-lost race seems a bit played, but it didn’t take my enjoyment away at all from the rest.  There’s a few EU lore bits that stuck out as being off, such as a Noghri appearing (and Han knowing what it was) but again, doesn’t cause a problem for the story.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in what happened during the Rebel years, or who enjoys Corey’s Expanse series.  Honor Among Thieves will be on sale 3/4.