The Muppets Pilot Review: Not Really for Kids, But That's Okay

Sep 23 // Nick Valdez
There's a bit of a jarring transition going into this new status quo. The show follows the Muppets backstage as they work on a late night talk show starring Miss Piggy (think The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or The Tonight Show and you've gotten the idea). There's also traditional bits of character work for the show moving forward: Fozzie's in a relationship where his girlfriend's parents don't approve of their daughter dating a bear, The Electric Mayhem may have substance abuse problems (but that's in side jokes, don't worry), and the afortmentioned Kermit and Miss Piggy have split up but maintain a working relationship the best they can. The biggest change has to be Kermit's new personality. Maybe it's due to being walked on over the years, or stress from his managerial gig, but this new Kermit's kind of a jerk. A funny jerk, mind you, but a jerk nonetheless. At least he's got all sorts of new facial expressions to toss around. The folks at work have made some great renovations to Kermit's puppetry. He's also got a new girlfriend, Denise.  That's the kind of stuff I'm referring to when I say The Muppets aren't really for kids anymore. They've been all ages for years, so there are probably tons of examples you could point to of when the Muppets had adult-oriented humor. But this is the first time I noticed a clear barrier of entry. By the time Kermit refers Miss Piggy as "sexy," it's already put all the nails in the coffin for kids. But while the whole family can't enjoy, I'm sure the Muppets can draw a lot from this new level of sophisticated humor. I laughed quite a few times during this pilot, and they weren't due to the same kind of slapstick gags or easy jokes you'd expect. Drawing from the more successful aspects of the two films, there's a greater emphasis on joke writing and staging. So there's a better balance of the classic Muppets charm without an over-reliance of some of the cornier jokes. Then again, this could all just be too early to tell if the strength of the writing can hold out for the following weeks.  At the end of the day, it's The Muppets in a brand new package. You don't know exactly what you're getting anymore, but it's the most interesting The Muppets have been in some time.  Final Thoughts:  Imagine Dragons: "Why won't you come on tour with us?" Animal: "Too many cities. Too many women." "You went into a room full of dancing stars and came back with Tom Bergeron?"  "What can I say? I have a thing for pigs." Elizabeth Banks totally kills her guest spot.  Riki Lindhome showed up in both this and Fresh Off the Boat last night, and the world clearly needs more of her. Her presence is always welcome.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Muppets TV photo
Tom Bergeron can't catch a break
The Muppets have made quite a comeback the last few years. After two successful films, the latest Muppet project brings them to ABC in a mockumentary style format similar to shows like Parks and Recreation or The Office (henc...

Pixar photo

Watch dinosaurs talk in a new trailer for The Good Dinosaur

What does the Apatosaurus say?
Sep 21
// John-Charles Holmes
In true Pixar fashion, the closer we get to the release of one of their new films, the more specific details we start to see in the trailers. While many early trailers for The Good Dinosaur showed off awe-inspiring shots of n...
Jungle Book Teaser photo
Jungle Book Teaser

First trailer for Disney's live action The Jungle Book

Sep 16
// Nick Valdez
While I've been wary of Disney's current affinity for live action takes on their classic animated movies, I have to admit this looks pretty neat. Based more off of Rudyard Kipling's novel than the animated original, the Jon F...
Mary Poppins reboot photo
Mary Poppins reboot

Disney rebooting Mary Poppins, going to need lots of sugar

Sep 15
// Hubert Vigilla
Have you been clamoring for a Mary Poppins sequel? No? Well, too bad. Disney is rebooting Mary Poppins with Into the Woods director Rob Marshall at the helm, The film will take place 20 years after the original movie, and wil...

Colin Trevorrow Directing Star Wars Episode IX: Continuing the Indie-to-Blockbuster Director Trend

Aug 17 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219786:42556:0[/embed] I feel sort of bad bringing up Josh Trank, but it's necessary. Trank was attached to direct a standalone Star Wars film until a few months ago. Trank says he voluntarily left Star Wars so he could pursue a small, original project away from public scrutiny. Speculation among film journos (notably The Hollywood Reporter) is that Trank was fired from the gig, partly due to clashes with Fantastic Four screenwriter Simon Kinberg, though largely due to unprofessional behavior. Kinberg is an executive producer on Star Wars: Rebels and wrote the Star Wars spin-off film that Trank was supposed to direct. (Oddly, Kinberg hasn't caught that much grief for writing Fantastic Four.) There have been multiple reports on Trank's troubled Fantastic Four production. New stories of on-set chaos cropped up in the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, one of which alleges that Trank and actor Miles Teller almost came to blows. Fox bears a lot of the blame for the fiasco behind the scenes of Fantastic Four, but Trank's got to wear the movie as an albatross for the rest of his career (or what's left of it). While Trank's first journey into blockbuster filmmaking feels like a cautionary tale, Trevorrow's been extremely fortunate by contrast. Jurassic World has earned $1.6 billion worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing movie of all time. Now he's doing Star Wars. If Trank really was ousted because of his difficulties mounting a big film, this might be considered a vote of confidence in Trevorrow's skills with large-scale storytelling and an agreeable temperament for tent-pole filmmaking. While I've been noticing more and more indie directors being promoted to major films, this leap from indie-to-tent-pole isn't unprecedented. The Wachowskis went from the low-budget noir of Bound to The Matrix, Christopher Nolan went from moody character-driven dramas to Batman Begins. Rian Johnson, who's directing Star Wars Episode VIII, also fits in this tradition, and ditto Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. As much as some people clamor for big names on big movies, sometimes the big movies are a type of proving ground for new names or filmmakers who've distinguished themselves working on a smaller scale. (Think of Sam Raimi when he came to Spider-Man.) Then again, there's a cynical take on signing indie directors to blockbusters. Studios hire young, hungry filmmakers to become journeymen or journeywomen rather than directors with a distinct sensibility. Their job, in short, is to do the studio's bidding. I wonder how much Marc Webb fits that description, having gone from (500) Days of Summer to the two ill-fated Amazing Spider-Man films for Sony. Jon Watts, the director of the recent indie thriller Cop Car, has been tapped to helm the reboot of Spider-Man for the Marvel Cinematic Universe--it's only his third film. And of course, directors with more clout or a particular style often clash with studios over vision. In the MCU alone (which seems to be run more by Kevin Feige than any individual directors), Joss Whedon felt broken by compromises he made while doing Avengers: Age of Ultron, Edgar Wright left Ant-Man over creative difference, and Selma director Ava DuVernay declined Black Panther since she wouldn't have enough control over the character or the project. (Think of Sam Raimi when he made Spider-Man 3.) Trevorrow's hire may be a sign of the MCU model being used for these Star Wars films, with Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy serving as the new trilogy's unifying voice. Kennedy may be the key creative force behind the scenes, guiding a shared vision, molding the new Star Wars universe through her hiring choices and years of experience in the industry. (Kennedy, in an interesting coincidence, was attached as a producer to the fourth Jurassic Park film until 2013, which is when she took the reins of Star Wars for Disney.) This is just speculation for now, but we should have a better understanding of how the new Star Wars series is being crafted in the next few months. As for Trevorrow, we'll find out how he does on Star Wars Episode IX in December 2019.
Star Wars Trevorrow photo
The Tale of Trevorrow and Trank
In addition to news about Star Wars: Rogue One and an exclusive Drew Struzan poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was announced at D23 that Colin Trevorrow would be directing Star Wars Episode IX. Trevorrow's two other...

Disney's Gigantic photo
Disney's Gigantic

Disney working on Jack and the Beanstalk animated musical, Gigantic

Aug 17
// Nick Valdez
Along with all the Star Wars and live action reboot first looks, last weekend's D23 Expo also revealed a good amount of Disney's in the works projects. One of the more exciting to pop out was Disney Animation's next film, Gig...
Star Wars 7 Runtime photo
Star Wars 7 Runtime

The D23 poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and news on runtime

Official one sheet this poster is not
Aug 17
// Hubert Vigilla
There were plenty of major Star Wars announcements at D23 over the weekend. We got a glimpse of the Star Wars: Rogue One cast, for instance, which will star Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Forrest Whittaker, Donni...
Rogue One photo
One rogue, one love
Thanks to Disney's D23 Expo over the weekend, we've got a few interesting tidbits about the coming Star Wars movies and spin-offs. The biggest announcement by far is the cast additions to the first spin-off, which is now goin...

Jungle Book photo
Jungle Book

First poster for live action The Jungle Book

Yea, but how do we get more Tailspin?
Aug 17
// Matthew Razak
D23 was this weekend in case you missed the massive amount of Disney news flowing out from everywhere. That means a whole host of first looks from everything that Disney is doing. While most of the excitement centered around ...

Toy Story 4 plot details are worrisome

Gotta have faith
Aug 14
// Matthew Razak
After Toy Story 3 landed I promised I would never doubt Pixar again unless it involved automobiles, but they are making it hard. Good Morning America revealed our first plot details for Toy Story 4 and they seem a b...
Star Wars TV spot photo
Star Wars TV spot

See new Star Wars: The Force Awakens footage in this Korean TV spot

Reminds me: I ❤ Korean food, movies too
Aug 10
// Hubert Vigilla
It's been a while since we've seen some new stuff from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Leave it to an international TV spot from Korea to give us something new and pretty darn striking as well. A Millennium Falcon ...

Big blu-ray boxset of Hayao Miyazaki's movies headed to Amazon

This boxset isn't a mistake
Jul 31
// John-Charles Holmes
I stand by blu-rays for two types of movies-- colorfully visual movies and animated productions. It goes without saying that the films of Studio Ghibli are some of the best looking to make the jump to HD since the films start...
Sword in the Chest photo
Sword in the Chest

Disney also working on live action Sword in the Stone remake

More like Sword in the Chest
Jul 21
// Nick Valdez
Just after announcing their plans for a live action Aladdin prequel, Disney is literally just redoing all of movies now. Why not Aristocats next? Or a super depressing Fox and the Hound? Hell, give me a live action Goof Troop...
Genie  photo

Disney working on live action Aladdin prequel, Genies

Jul 16
// Nick Valdez
We're going to get a lot of live action reboots of our favorite animated reboots of old fairy tales in the near future. Disney is working on a fair amount of them themselves (like Pete's Dragon, The Jungle Book, Beauty and th...
Star Wars Comic-Con reel photo
The force is strong with this one
While there was no new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, there was a special behind-the-scenes reel that was screened for the packed crowd at Hall H. The behind-the-scenes footage em...


New Pixar Short Brings Us Superpowered Hindu Heroes

You'll laugh AND you'll learn
Jul 06
// John-Charles Holmes
One of the best parts of any new Pixar film (or most animated films these days) is the little short films before the feature. Usually these will showcase unsung animators, student works, or something the new guy was tasked to...

Disney to Shut Down Magic of Animation Attraction this July

Pencils down
Jul 03
// John-Charles Holmes
Disney recently announced that they would be shutting down the Magic of Disney Animation attraction at its Hollywood Studos theme park on July 12th. The attraction originally opened with the park in 1989 and allowed audiences...

Review: Inside Out

Jun 19 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219580:42445:0[/embed] Inside OutDirectors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen Rated: PGRelease Date: June 19, 2015 The plot of inside out is easy, and it's been tackled before. The movie is the story of the emotions who reside inside a girl named Riley's (Kaitlyn Dias) head. There's Joy (Amy Poheler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Everything is going pretty swimmingly for Riley and her emotions until one day the family has to move triggering a flood of sadness in what was a perpetually happy girl. Joy, panicking after a particularly sad moment becomes a key memory, gets herself and sadness sucked out of headquarters and into the nether regions of Riley's brain. The two must find their way back with the help of Riley's old imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), as Anger, Fear and Disgust attempt to hold the fort down with disastrous consequences. If there is a limit to Pixar's wonderful imagination they haven't found it yet. Just when you thought the studio was going to sit back and rest on its laurels an entirely original and creative movie like Inside Out gets made. They deliver a film that has the emotional impact of the beginning of Up and yet somehow still make it fun and enjoyable. They've taken universal emotions and turned them into a children's film that somehow delivers a commentary on sadness that's more powerful than most overwrought dramas. The film is a lesson in how to address serious subjects while still having fun. The screenplay is brilliant and honed to a fine point. Inside Out's story could be an overly complex and melodramatic mess, but it's crafted to a fine point. Reigning in the chaos of two separate worlds, a plethora of characters and a bunch of complex ideas the film masterfully weaves its story. The juxtaposition of the comical Anger, Fear and Disgust at the helm of a young girl's brain with the real world reactions to that is powerful. It delivers a film that tackles depression and loss in ways that never get melodramatic or cheesy. Somehow in a children's film we find some true heart. That heart is going to make you cry. I don't care how much of a tough guy you are Pixar is going to worm its way into your heart and then play those strings like a classical guitar. Part of this is because they're just so damn good at it, but another aspect is the fact that Inside Out's themes are so universal. We've all been right where Riley is at some point in our life and Pixar has put that on the big screen in a way that is not only relatable, but enjoyable. Often films involving sadness only involve that, but the entire point of Inside Out is that our emotions are all mixed together. Sadness and happiness aren't competing forces, they lead to each other. For a film directed at children this is some of the most adult dealings with emotion I've seen. The movie may also be Pixar's most stunning visually. It's definitely a departure from their usual style, though not entirely removed. It simply looks brilliant and is constantly getting more and more creative with its visuals throughout. Joy is especially well designed as her body constantly shines with happiness. Meanwhile Sadness somehow seems to drip with the emotion. At one point the characters are reduced to abstract thoughts in a brilliant and clever animation sequence that just highlights what Pixar can do.  My only concern with the film is that it over simplifies things. Depression and emotional issues are immensely complex medical issues. Inside Out by its very nature doesn't delve into that as much as it could and it may leave some who have been through these things shaking their heads. That being said it's still an incredibly accessible doorway to talk about emotions and change. Humanity as a whole is often remiss in discussing what we're feeling and Inside Out gives us a chance to say, "Yea, I've felt like that before." It does this not by being overbearing in its message, but by inviting you in to enjoy it. So there are some words on Inside Out. They're OK. I still don't think I got it right. I guess the only words I really need to write are: see this movie. 
Inside Out Review photo
Pixar's best?
I'm having a lot of trouble writing this review, and it's not because my computer crashed and deleted the almost finished product at one point. No, I'd already been through a few drafts before that and nothing was working. Us...


Disney eyes a sequel to Maleficent

No word yet on whether Jolie will return
Jun 17
// Matt Liparota
Love it or hate it, Disney's Maleficent was a massive success – it almost quadrupled its budget when it hit theaters last year and more or less set Disney on its current "live-action remake" trajectory. So it shouldn't ...
Zootopia photo

New Zootopia image introduces us to Disney's latest

It's a bunny cop movie
Jun 10
// Matthew Razak
Disney Animation has been on quite a roll -- you know, that little movie called Frozen -- and while we won't be seeing anything from them until next year that doesn't mean we can't start to get excited. Personally I...
Ewan McGregor Star Wars photo
Ewan McGregor Star Wars

Rumor: Ewan McGregor may return as Obi-Wan Kenobi for new the Star Wars films

The paycheck is strong with this one
Jun 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Get your rumor caps on and keep the blastshields down, kids. There are rumors that Ewan McGregor is in negotiations with Disney to return as Obi-Wan Kenobi for the new glut of Star Wars movies that are coming out. Obi-Wan wou...
The Good Dinosaur Trailer photo
Looks good?
The Good Dinosaur has had a troubling development for the last few years. Hit with delays, losing a director, and a major reworking, the film we have now no longer resembles the original idea. It's hard to tell how much of th...

Tron 3 photo
Tron 3

Disney no longer making Tron 3

More like Tron Dead-acy
Jun 01
// Nick Valdez
Although Tron Legacy performed well on home video and seemed to strike a chord with fans, it just didn't become the grand reboot Disney wanted it to be. Stories of Tron 3's possible existence have been floating around since t...

New trailer, clip for Pixar's Inside Out show off mindful adventure

Get it? Mindful. It's a pun.
May 26
// Matt Liparota
Pixar plans to unleash it's newest adorably clever adventure Inside Out on the world next month, and over the long weekend two new clips were released – the first is an international trailer and the second is a short cl...

Review: Tomorrowland

May 21 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219474:42399:0[/embed] TomorrowlandDirector: Brad BirdRelease Date: May 22, 2015Rated: PG-13  Unlike Bird's other writing/directing efforts Tomorrowland is a blunt hammer that uses almost no subtly or panache to tell a story about the contradictions inherent in human nature and our inability to save ourselves. The screenplay is lump of dialog put together simply to once again inform us that we're destroying the earth and if we don't change it's all going to end. What's at fault for this inevitable calamity? Who knows. Politics, money, video games, movies, reality television; everything is wrong and nothing is right. That is, of course, unless we hold on to our hope and try to make a better... sorry, I just threw up a bit in my mouth. Again and again this movie comes back to our destruction of the world. In this case it's literal as there's a count down to doomsday. The move opens with a painfully done "talking to the camera" narration that only serves to highlight the thud of a screenplay. Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) -- yes, naming a lead character Newton is about as subtle as the movie gets -- are telling the story of how they came to be where they are now. It turns out that when Frank was a child he was whisked away to a wondrous city called Tomorrowland by a girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). We flash forward a few decades and Frank is living in a run down house while Casey finds a magic pin that takes her to Tomorrowland, but all is not right and the three must join together to save the future.  Narratively the film is a mess, with cause and effect having little consequence and tension building at a snails pace as the movie spews one cliche ideal after another. The problem isn't the ideals (I agree with almost all of them), but their execution. Tomorrowland screams about a lot of problems and offers almost no solutions. At times hypocritically complaining about action movies and then rolling right into an action sequence. It feels more like the film is saying what it thinks it should be instead of what it believes in, and Bird doesn't help it along any with his uncharacteristically heavy-handed direction. At times the overwhelmingly obvious cues of environmental friendliness and peace illicit eye rolls instead of agreement. We get it. Wind power is awesome and we shouldn't kill each other, you don't need to remind us with every cut. I will admit that despite being burdensome, Tomorrowland's optimism is a bit refreshing. It is truly always happy and excited for itself. In a landscape of movies that are often dour, even from Disney themselves, this one stands out for always, always, always being upbeat even when it's not. Maybe that's part of it's biggest problem, though. Because the film, and Casey especially, are always looking at the bright side and always exclaiming how amazing everything is then nothing is. Except for one scene involving the Eiffel Tower almost nothing from the film is truly amazing.  That goes especially for the movies special effects, action and acting... which is basically the entire film. There's a massive dependence on digital effects for the movie and they aren't where they need to be, especially after seeing what can be done with practical stunts last week. We're supposed to be awed by Tomorrowland itself, but it never feels original or special. When action does come it is routinely basic and incoherent. Bird seems as sloppy as the screenplay in his direction of anything that moves fast.  Almost every actor could be swapped out for any other actor. Clooney especially feels rough in the role, as if he doesn't care enough to really work with it. The only stand out is Cassidy who offers the film's best line and the only serious depth in any character. Finally, the movie is oddly violent. In another instance of hypocrisy, actual murders occur on screen. There's no blood, but people are vaporized at random and a human-looking robot has its head torn off in a fight sequence that would have given the film an R-rating had the combatants not been robotic. It all feels woefully out of context in a film that is decrying our ever escalating enjoyment of violence in media and more importantly is intended for children.  Tomorrowland is nostalgic for a future that never happened, much like Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is for a past that never happened, but it loses its fun and love in its overbearing effort to send a message. It's flat plotline and dud action mean that nothing ever sparkles despite the actors repeatedly telling you that it does. Does it actually care about its message? It's unclear. If it does it's doing such a terrible job of sending it that it feels disingenuous. Great films have meaning to their message, all Tomorrowland does is shout from the mountain top that we're doing it all wrong. Well, Brad Bird, so are you.
Tomorrowland Review photo
The future is a letdown
If you're like me you were pretty excited for Tomorrowland. Almost everything Brad Bird touches is magic and his obsession with nostalgia made a perfect fit for a film based off a Disneyland park whose future never came to be...


Disney reveals a film slate full of your dreams

And remakes, sequels and reboots
Apr 23
// Matthew Razak
Over the past few years Disney has acquired and developed a collection of film properties and franchises that basically means it owns the world. At Cinema Con the company basically bragged about its upcoming slate of films an...

New Tomorrowland trailer full of action taking place tomorrow... land

Things go boom
Apr 21
// Matthew Razak
Brad Bird may have gotten his start at Pixar, but the guy is a fantastic action director as Ghost Protocol and The Incredibles showed us, and this new trailer for Tomorrowland demonstrates that the film is taki...

Ian McKellan to play Cogsworth in live-action Beauty and the Beast

This is one more actor who will be clocking in some serious hours at Disney
Apr 13
// John-Charles Holmes
Beauty and the Beast is a very close forerunner for my favorite Disney movie (perhaps mostly thanks to the mere existence of Gaston) so any news about this upcoming live-action adaptation has certainly caught my attention so ...

Ryan Gosling in talks to star in Guillermo Del Toro's Haunted Mansion

Hey girl, are you a ghost? Because you hunt my dreams
Apr 10
// Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
Good news, everyone! It looks like Guillermo Del Toro's Haunted Mansion, based on the Disney ride of the same name, is finally back on track with Ryan Gosling in talks to star.  Del Toro first revealed Haunted Mansi...
Pinocchio photo

Disney also making a live action Pinocchio

No strings attached
Apr 09
// Nick Valdez
Cartoons are getting live action remakes so often, we're going to need a new term for it. I'm thinking "live-actioning." Not the easiest word to say, but I'll just keep using it until someone suggests a better one (do so in t...

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