Inside Pulse » The Muppets A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:42:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » The Muppets Muppets Most Wanted Breaks Out In August Mon, 19 May 2014 17:20:11 +0000 After Kermit and company’s amazing comeback in The Muppets, the show hits the road for Muppets Most Wanted. Little do they know that their European tour is a front for a criminal plan. They are even more clueless when Kermit is swapped for a wanted thief. There’s plenty of musical numbers and all star cameos for a tale that goes from the dazzling lights of Paris to the frigid darkness of Siberia. Muppets Most Wanted comes out on Blu-ray and DVD on August 12. Here’s the press release from Disney:



Bring Home the Fun on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and Digital HD August 12th
Also Available on Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD & On-Demand!

“Unnecessarily Extended Edition” Features Hilarious Bonus Content,
More Music, More Mayhem, and More Muppets!

BURBANK, Calif. May 16, 2014— The Muppets are back in the globe-trotting, star-studded musical comedy adventure Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital HD, DVD, Disney Movies Anywhere, and On-Demand August 12th, 2014, from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Starring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey, this must-own family film makes its in-home debut with THREE versions of the film: The Original Theatrical Cut, the Statler and Waldorf Cut, and The Unnecessarily Extended Cut, featuring hilarious bonus content, plus more music, more mayhem, and more Muppets!

The #1 comedy in America three weeks in a row, Muppets Most Wanted picks up immediately following the events of the smash hit The Muppets, as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Animal and the entire Muppet gang head out on a world tour. But mayhem follows, as the Muppets find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine – the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog!

Now Muppet fans can experience this laugh and song-filled caper like never before on Blu-ray Combo Pack in an all-new “Unnecessarily Extended Edition,” featuring 12 minutes of exclusive scenes not seen in theaters! Also included on Blu-ray and Digital HD are additional hilarious bonus features, including Statler and Waldorf’s version of the movie, and the laugh-out-loud gag reel, “The Longer, Longest Blooper Reel in Muppets History.”

This most sensational, inspirational, celebrational home entertainment release also includes the featurette “Rizzo’s Biggest Fan” and music video “I Can Give You What You Want,” performed by Bret McKenzie.

Starring Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Animal, Ricky Gervais (The Office) as Dominic Badguy, Ty Burrell (Modern Family) as Jean Pierre Napoleon and Tina Fey (30 Rock) as Nadya the Prison Guard, Muppets Most Wanted also features very special guest appearances by Tony Bennett, Sean Combs, Rob Corddry, Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Salma Hayek, Ray Liotta, Ross Lynch, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christoph Waltz, and more!

Muppets Most Wanted was directed by James Bobin (The Muppets, Flight of the Conchords), written by Bobin and Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, Get Him To The Greek), and produced by David Hoberman (The Muppets,Beverly Hills Chihuahua) and Todd Lieberman (The Muppets, The Fighter).

Don’t miss the most fun, most wanted Muppet movie ever when Muppets Most Wanted debuts in the following formats with bonus features as listed:

Blu-ray Combo Pack (BD + DVD + Digital Copy)

The Unnecessarily Extended Cut

Bonus Materials Overview for These Products:

Blu-ray Combo Pack (BD + DVD + Digital Copy)
Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere*


· The Statler and Waldorf Cut
· The Longer Longest Blooper Reel in Muppets History
· Rizzo’s Biggest Fan
· “I’ll Get You What You Want” Music Video Performed by Bret McKenzie

Bonus Materials Overview for These Products:

Disney Movies Anywhere


· Frog-E-Oke: I’m Number One
· And more!

*Digital bonus offerings will vary per retailer

Bonus Materials for These Products:
Digital SD
1-Disc DVD


· “I’ll Get You What You Want” Music Video Performed by Bret McKenzie

Disc Specifications:

Street Date: August 12, 2014
Feature Run Time: Approximately 107 minutes
Extended Cut Run Time: Approximately 119 minutes

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Muppets Most Wanted – Review Sun, 23 Mar 2014 12:00:09 +0000
Trades sentiments for silliness and toe-tapping songs

Jim Henson’s Muppets have been a fixture of pop culture since their 1970s TV series The Muppet Show. Having conquered the television landscape they made the natural transition to feature films. With three films in the ‘80s and three more in the ‘90s, the lovable song-and-dance troupe was silenced during the first decade of the 21st century. Then Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller entered the picture and revitalized the franchise with 2011’s The Muppets.

That film had the unenviable task of trying to make those felt characters relevant again to a younger generation. The result saw the Muppets rejuvenated and ready to play to audiences, both young and old, for the foreseeable future. A sequel was all but inevitable, and it has arrived three years later with Muppets Most Wanted. And while it may not be as sentimental as its predecessor, the charm remains and there are plenty of toe-tapping songs to enjoy.

Whereas The Muppets was about blowing the dust off the brand and presenting it anew, the sequel forgoes emotional resonance in favor of tomfoolery in the form of lampooning heist movies and prison escape movies with a few Pink Panther nods (despite no animated pink cat or Henry Mancini score) as the icing on top. It picks up right after The Muppets wrap up the first movie with an elaborately choreographed song and dance. With felt tongue firmly in cheek the sequel starts off with a musical number that outright acknowledges that the gang is doing a sequel. The Muppets are in on the joke with lyrics like “We can’t do any worse than The Godfather III,” as well as stating that it is more of the same. Those disappointed with the outcome, well, the troupe sings it out for you in the opening scene. So you can already expect more singing, dancing, and slapstick.

At the start The Muppets have no prospects stateside for its variety show, so they are easily tempted by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who offers his managerial services to book them on a world tour. Meanwhile, in Siberia, master thief Constantine the frog has made a daring escape from a maximum security Gulag. He soon crosses paths with Kermit and assumes his identity, reunites with Dominic (his No. 2), and charts a plan to steal England’s famed Crown Jewels while using the tour as a cover.

Kermit out of the picture becomes the Andy Dufresne of this story and the gulag is his own personal Shawshank. Wrongly imprisoned the amphibian has to survive his new reality behind bars alongside hardened criminals played by the likes of Ray Liotta, Jemaine Clement and Danny Trejo (as Danny Trejo).

Another side plot includes CIA Agent Sam the Eagle and Interpol Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell acting as if he was a distant relative to Inspector Clouseau) working together to uncover the identity of the someone or someones responsible for a rash of thefts coincidentally at locations near concert halls where The Muppets perform.

The Muppets is an enjoyable romp but you could make the case that the addition of Walter as the newest Muppet overshadowed some of the other Muppets. Muppets Most Wanted corrects this by highlighting some of those characters that were pushed to the background (specifically, Rizzo the Rat – a nice touch). It also wouldn’t be a Muppets movie if you didn’t have a bevy of cameos. Surprise appearances include the likes of musicians Celine Dion and Usher, plus Christoph Waltz, Tom Hiddleston (who I didn’t recognize at first glance), and Frank Langella among a dozen others.

Ty Burrell (of Modern Family) and Ricky Gervais seem to be having a ball playing their respective characters and interacting with the Muppets, including participating in the occasional song, but it is Tina Fey that is the standout among the human actors. Highlighted by a cartoonish Russian accent, she has great comedic timing as Nadya, the stern warden running the gulag who becomes dependent upon Kermit to direct the annual prison show. Her song “The Big House” is one of movie’s many song highlights.

The quality of the songs is impressive. Ben McKenzie’s tunes are toe-tapping good and more consistent than what The Muppets offered. Personal favorite would have to be “I’ll Get You What You Want.” It echoes some of the works of Paul Williams who famously composed “Rainbow Connection” for 1979’s The Muppet Movie.

Muppets Most Wanted may not have the nostalgia factor that came along with the release of The Muppets three years ago, but the follow-up is in no way a turkey (or Fozie’s rubber chicken, for that matter). Here is a sequel that is less concerned with the narrative and is more about the troupe doing more of the same that made them stars in the first place: singing and slapstick. So at the very least you should be exiting the theater with at least one of the musical numbers dancing around in your head.

Director: James Bobin
Writer: James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller
Notable Cast: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, and the voices of Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobzon, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel×120.jpg

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DVD Review: The Best of Fridays Thu, 15 Aug 2013 21:19:46 +0000 Fridays is a show that made its name with sex, drugs rock and roll plus mocking Ronald Reagan.]]> When the last of the original Not Ready for Primetime Players left Saturday Night Live, there was a chance for a new late night sketch comedy series to get a foothold. Jean Doumanian took over from Lorne Michaels and drove SNL into a creative wall. ABC smelled blood in the water and green lit their own late night comedy series that would get jump on the older show by airing on Friday nights. Fridays hit the air almost live from the Los Angeles basin on April 11, 1980 right before the final disappointing episode of SNL. This was perfect timing for a changing of the guard. Sure critics quickly called Fridays a clone of SNL, but SNL was a bad clone of its former glory. Fridays didn’t have too high of a hurdle to become the new king of late night counter culture comedy. The Best of Fridays collects 16 of the 58 episodes that aired.

The first episode has the show playing off the idea that it’s an SNL knock off by dressing the cast in the classic characters from SNL‘s glory years. The cast was completely unfamiliar to viewers and for quite a while after the show went off, none of them were considered the next Bill Murray or even Chevy Chase. But nearly a decade later Michael Richards would become a superstar playing Kramer on Seinfeld. Two of the three major creative entities of Seinfeld would meet on the set with cast member Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) meeting writer Larry Charles (director of Borat). Larry David has a massive balding head of curly hair that makes him look like an academic stalker. There’s no way anyone would predict that he’d become a near billionaire. Monkees’ Mike Nesmith contributes “Police Gynecologist” tv series spoof. Melanie Chartoff (Rugrats) hosted the fake news segment that investigates a muppet slaughter. Kenny Loggins was the musical guest. The DVD only has him playing “Keep the Fire” and deletes “This Is It.” Sadly there are many missing musical moments on the collection. This is frustrating, but seems to be the game when getting music rights. The Cars played three songs on Episode 15, but only “Touch and Go” was cleared for the DVD. This isn’t that bad since “Shoo Be Doo” and “Gimme Some Slack” aren’t that great.

The third episode would be the turning point for the series amongst viewers and affiliates. Fridays scored a major deal by getting The Clash to be their musical guest. The punk legends had just released London Calling and this was their first time on American television. The show laid out the red carpet by letting them perform four songs. “London Calling,” “Train in Vain,” “The Guns of Brixton” and “Clampdown are all here. The episode also contained two sketches that were too much for six ABC affiliates. “Diner of the Living Dead” sends a couple into a zombie restaurant where the patrons are eating human body parts. “Women Who Spit” is a talkshow that features women spitting and talking about spitting. These two sketches got the show yanked from a few markets where the station owners thought that was too disgusting for their audience watching TV after midnight. Sadly my city was one place that lost Fridays. Watching this DVD is a brand new experience.

Graham Parker and the Rumor spread their music on Episode 10. Interestingly enough the extended footage of their concert reunion in This Is 40 is coming out on Blu-ray as This Is Live. Their time on Fridays is a good way to see what they were like in the early days. The musical guests get even better with Dire Straits arriving with “Skateaway” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Episode 24 opens with the epic “The Ronny Howard Picture Show” that turns the cast of the cult film into the Reagan White House. Reagan struts around in his Dr. Frank-N-Furter finest for nearly 15 minutes without an ad break. Rocky Horror producer Lou Adler (the guy who sits next to Jack Nicholson at Lakers games) demanded the show never rerun the sketch because it damaged his movie. Decades later Lou would allow Glee to water down and desexualize the musical. Luckily the entire sketch is here to be enjoyed. Sadly Steve Forberts’ three songs had to be snipped? Why did people connected to Steve Forbert not make a deal? When was the last time you thought about Forbert? Do you even remember him singing “Romeo’s Song?”

Jack Burns introduced the first sketch and acted as the wise old den father to the gang of misfits. Burns was more than some old guy sent over from central casting to appear on camera. He was George Carlin’s early stage partner. He hosted a second season SNL episode. He was the headwriter for the birth of Hee Haw and The Muppet Show. He co-wrote the script for The Muppet Movie. Plus he voiced a Crash Test Dummies from the PSAs. Burns should be treated as royalty and not merely remembered as the guy who threw a punch at Andy Kaufman.

The notorious Andy Kaufman episode is included. The highlight of him quitting on a sketch and getting into a fight with Richards and Burns gets repeated often in Kaufman documentaries. People often ask if it was real or staged. But when you canwatch Kaufman’s antics throughout the night, you know that this is a set up. From the start, Andy pointed out that the show is live and they can’t stop him from doing what he wants. This isn’t the complete episode since the Sir Douglas Quintets three songs are missing. Oh well. They also have the Billy Crystal episode when Andy returned to tell the audience that the fight was staged. But Andy takes the moment to dip into psychodrama.

The third season featured the arrival of Rich Hall to co-anchor the Friday Edition with Melanie Chartoff. It’s amazing how funny Hall is. Granted the studio audience of Fridays mainly reacted to drug references. But Hall is so . Strange to think that producer John Moffitt would take Hall to HBO for Not Necessarily the News to be Mr. Sniglet. Hall would go on to a one year stint on SNL before he’d be reduced to performing on a tragic court show taped on a cruise ship with Victoria Jackson and Dom Irrera.

Fridays gained the same cool factor as SNL with high schoolers simply because of its time slot. In most markets, the series didn’t air until midnight which meant you had to sit through the 11 o’clock news and Nightline. It was also opposite of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson so for a high schooler, there was a major chance the parents weren’t going to surrender the remote control. NBC ultimately went after Fridays by booking the stars of SCTV to make SCTV90. ABC gave the show one shot to take their act primetime and it failed big time. After barely two years on the air, Fridays was unplugged. Can there be a second volume of episodes since there’s still plenty of great guests and musical acts in the vault. Please can we see the King Crimson, Rockpile and Split Enz? Can we see the episode where Andy Kaufman returned with the desire to be a Christian music recording artist? In the end, the legacy of Fridays is a show that made its name with sex, drugs rock and roll plus mocking Ronald Reagan.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. There’s an odd video glitch in the transfers. The audio is mono. The bands don’t sound bad, but since it was recorded live, there’s a few moments where actors walk away from the boom microphones.

Actor’s Conversation
(58:54) lets John Moffitt explain that a recent reunion of the cast and crew is what inspired the DVD release of Fridays. Michael Richards gets a chance to relax instead of be pursued by TMZ cameras. Larry David isn’t there although he’s in the photos for the previous reunion.

Writer’s Conversation (58:52) includes Larry Charles, but no Larry David. Oddly enough, Larry Charles has long grey hair and a beard like Larry David sports in the Clear Memory HBO special. The writers are friendly to each other which is better than the blood feuds that remain on SNL‘s writing staff.

Maryedith Burrell Interview
(13:34) lets her discuss how Fridays was West Coast comedy and took advantage of the scene. She talks about the pilot and how it became a clone of Saturday Night Live.

Andy Kaufman Incident – What Really Happened (9:05) goes into the mystery of did Andy really plan out the end of the episode. What’s interesting is that a lot of people knew that it was going to happen, but very few knew other people knew it. This compartmentalization worked to create the perfect TV meltdown moment.

Photo Gallery are dozens of promo pics.

Fridays on the News (8:01) is from Eyewitness Los Angeles. They go behind the scenes to get a big view of how the show is put together.

The Best of Fridays gives a fine sampling of the first show to really scare Saturday Night Live for late night comedy. It’s a shame that musical moments have been cut, but such is the nature of licensing bands for DVD. What’s important is that the four highlights that defined Fridays are on this collection.

Shout! Factory presents The Best of Fridays. Starring: Michael Richards, Larry David, Jack Burns and Melanie Chartoff. Boxset Contents: 16 Episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: August 6, 2013.

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Monday Morning Critic – Chris Evans, The Avengers And Twilight Are Interrelated … and The Muppets Mon, 07 May 2012 12:00:24 +0000 Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

The most surprising thing about this weekend was just how big of an opening The Avengers had this year. I had expected somewhere between $140-160 million or so, right around or bigger than The Hunger Games but not 30% greater. $200 million, the biggest opening ever, is fairly remarkable as a number but there has to be a smidgeon of an asterisk because of the sheer volume of 3D screens boosting the bottom line.

But then again you can argue that with nearly every major film release of the summer season sans The Dark Knight Rises.

3D is kind of the game changer in bolstering up box office revenues. Me, I paid almost $15 to see the 3D version of The Avengers this weekend and I imagine plenty of other people did as well. Normally I stay away from 3D but there are a handful of films I will indulge that particular aspect on and this was one of them. But it brings up something I think is going to get missed as this film makes a truckload of money for Disney and Marvel Studios.

Mainly the Twilight Comparison that needs to be made that won’t for a while.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What the hell does a franchise about sparkly vampires, emo werewolves and a vapid twat trying to figure out which one to have comically hilarious sex with have to do with another franchise about superheroes saving the world? Plenty, actually, in that this weekend’s box office grosses are going to make a whole lot of people a whole lot of stupid when it comes to future projects. And it starts with Chris Evans, who’s about to become rich and famous as an actor without really becoming a star. And there’s a recent historical context to make that fits.

On a side note, I used to call this the Star Wars Comparison because of how divergent the careers of Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill went but that franchise has been replaced in it because it’s more topical to me.

When you break it down Robert Pattinson doesn’t sell tickets in the same way Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t. It’s also going to be the same way Chris Evans won’t, either. All three have something in common: they’re talented young actors who are about to find out that being someone who puts asses in seats and playing a character who puts asses in seats are two very different things. Just look at recent history:

— Radcliffe is just starting this process. The Woman in Black had a respectable box office earlier this year, making a tidy profit off a small budget. But the $120 million or so it made during its run worldwide was about the same size as an opening weekend for a Harry Potter film. An above average amount of horror film fans came out to see the film, as did I, but Harry Potter fans stayed home for the most part. Every major hit he was a part of has Harry Potter in front of it.

— Pattinson had solid box office grosses for Water for Elephants and Remember Me but neither broke $100 million domestically. Elephants broke that mark internationally but the latter didn’t cross $60 million total. Both were helped by small budgets, thus remaining profitable, but neither could be called a hit.

— Evans hasn’t been in a film that has grossed significantly that hasn’t involved a superhero. Captain America was a hit, as were both Fantastic Four films, but when you look at Evans as a box office draw without tights on then it’s a losing case. It’s odd to think that his biggest hit was the first film he starred in, Not Another Teen Movie, which is the high water mark outside of superhero films at under $40 million.

And I feel bad, because I’m not picking on Chris Evans. I like him as an actor; I like Pattinson and Radcliffe as actors as well. I think all three are going to end up getting screwed because of their franchise success because they won’t have the sort of star-power we think they do to get projects they want to get made, et al. In a way I kind of feel bad for all three, particularly the sparkly vampire. Pattinson is a really talented actor who you can tell is happier making and discussing indie films than he is being Edward Cullen; it shows in his interviews and press for projects he makes.

He believes what he’s saying, as opposed to going through the motions to protect the box office like he does with Twilight. And you know six months after the super massive Twilight DVD box set with everything is released three years from now, the final big money thing you can release with the franchise, he’ll come out and be honest about it all. Probably something along the lines of Shia Labeouf’s thoughts on the final Indiana Jones film without the wannabe tough guy/douche bag antics of the guy who has made it his mission to ruin anything good related to the ‘80s.

I don’t think Evans will come out and trash the entire series, which has gotten great reviews (mine notwithstanding), but I think somewhere inside of him the fact that the film made $200 million probably hurt inside. It means that films like Puncture, which he was genuinely passionate about go to the wayside because blockbusters have massive shooting schedules and publicity tours that take up more time. It’s one thing to be famous and to have a project succeed beyond your wildest dreams; Chris Evans is going to have steady work as Captain America in both sequels to the original as well as Avengers films for quite some time.

It’s better to work than not, especially as an actor, but part of me thinks Evans is going to have similar problems once this is over and he’s back to being the sort of handsome leading comic actor he was before all this. He may have been Captain America, which is pretty badass don’t get me wrong, but when that’s all people will pay to see you as it’s not the best spot to be in. Kind of like being Harry Potter … or Edward Cullen … it’s the price of being a popular character and not a popular actor, which aren’t the same thing but many people tend to get confused all the same.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Muppets

One thing kind of bothered me after the success of The Muppets last year. Talk of a sequel, more specifically. I mean honestly … do you really need any more of a story after this film?

You can read Travis’s review here for more formal thoughts, as mine echoed his. Not all the time though; he loved The Avengers and I did not. It happens sometimes.

The Muppets follows the return of the old Muppet gang as they try to save their theatre from an evil oil man (Chris Cooper) by throwing a telethon. Cue in wacky shenanigans in one of the most genuinely affecting films of the past couple years. This isn’t a film to love on the first try, oddly enough, though many did. It’s a film that gets better on the second and third viewing; now I watch it and think if I had to do my best of 2011 list again I might throw it on there.

Strongly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Dark Shadows – Johnny Depp is a vampire in the 1700s who is unlocked into the ‘70s. Shenanigans ensue.

Skip It – We’ve seen Tim Burton do this film before in style, tone and look. The plot has just changed.

God Bless America – Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest, a screed against pop culture or something about a guy who starts killing people or something. In Limited Release

Skip It – Goldthwait’s last was really good but this is getting toxic level word of mouth.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .×120.jpg

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Contest: Win The Muppets Wocka Wocka Blu-ray Release Fri, 06 Apr 2012 11:00:51 +0000 They’re Back! Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets made a grand return to cinemas last Thanksgiving, much to the delight of adults wanting to wax nostalgia. The gang also made some new friends with those younger viewers who weren’t old enough to have seen the Muppets during their heyday in films and on TV.

Now The Muppets has made its way to DVD and Blu-ray.

Thanks to Disney, we are going to award three lucky winners The Muppets Blu-ray Wocka Wocka Value Pack starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams. The Wocka Wocka Pack is THE ultimate Blu-ray release that includes the film on Blu-ray, DVD and as a digital copy, as well as includes a card that lets you download the entire soundtrack for free.

For a chance to win The Muppets Blu-ray Wocka Wocka Value Pack, please send an e-mail to Pulse Movies with the subject line “WOCKA WOCKA“, plus your name and where you would like the Blu-ray sent. You can return daily and enter again and again until the contest is over on April 13, 2012. (Note: You must be a resident of the United States or Canada to enter.)

Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper join the Muppets in a comic adventure that is sure to delight audiences young and old. all-star celebrity cast in a comic adventure for the whole family. While on vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary (Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend, Mary (Adams), from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of a greedy Texas oil baron (aptly named Tex Richman), who wants to knock down Muppet Studios and drill for oil. Now the Muppets must band together and stage a telethon and raise the $10 million needed to save the studio. With plenty of humor and music, The Muppets is so irresistibly fun that you’ll want to light the lights for these fuzzy creatures over and over again.

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Blu-ray Review: The Muppets (Wocka Wocka Edition) Tue, 20 Mar 2012 22:00:05 +0000 The Muppets have been missing on the big screen since 1999’s disappointing Muppets From Space, and their small screen movies (Muppets Wizard of Oz, for example) have left something to be desired. It’s only fitting then that the new Muppet movie start exactly where the Muppets would be now in real life: separated and moved on.

Gary (Jason Segel) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) are going to take a trip to Los Angeles for their tenth anniversary, and Gary is bringing his brother Walter along. Walter has always dreamed of seeing the Muppet Studios, and Gary couldn’t even think of not taking the Muppets biggest fan with him on this once in a lifetime trip. When they arrive at the studio, it’s falling apart and forgotten; Gary, Mary, and Walter are the only people on the studio tour who actually want to be there.

As he wanders off from the group, Walter overhears an oil baron named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) talking to his evil henchmen about his plans to buy the Muppet Studios and tear it down to drill for oil. The only way to save the Muppet Studios is to gather the Muppets together and put on a show. Gary, Mary, and Walter find Kermit at his empty mansion and convince him to rally the gang, so they set off in a small car to find everyone.

The old gang takes very little convincing to get back together – even though Gonzo is a successful toilet salesman, and Fozzie is part of lounge act at a Reno hotel performing with a Muppets tribute band called The Moopets – except for Miss Piggy. In order to get her on board, the gang has to travel to Paris where Piggy is the plus-size fashion editor at Vogue. Piggy and Kermit have a heart to heart conversation where Piggy admits she just wants his dedication to her; and sadly, Kermit cannot give it.

The gang returns to the Muppet Theater to prepare for their show, and it takes awhile for them to get in the swing of things again. But, Piggy shows up, Walter saves the day, and Gary and Mary get their tenth anniversary dinner together. But the question remains if they can save the Muppet Theater? For that answer, you’ll have to watch and find out.

After his vampire puppet musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jason Segel has made no secret of his undying love for the Muppets. He and Nicholas Stoller (writer of Get Him To The Greek) pitched their idea to Disney, and the idea was finally accepted. Segel felt, like many of us, that it was time for the younger generation to experience the Muppets for the greatness that we did, and not for Muppets From Space.

The Muppets is a story about a new Muppet (Walter) who feels like he doesn’t belong in the real world. He goes after his dreams, regardless of how silly or far-fetched, and ends up accomplishing everything he set out to do. He is insecure about himself and doesn’t feel like he has any talents of his own; especially when compared to the Muppets. But he ends up being the star of their show. The Muppets have always spread the message of acceptance, and the addition of Walter only emphasizes that message to a new, younger audience.

True to the classic Muppet movies, there are plenty of cameos including Sarah Silverman, Rashida Jones, Emily Blunt, Dave Grohl, Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris, Selena Gomez, Rico Rodriguez, and a few other surprises that won’t be mentioned. The songs are also amazing. My personal favorite “Life’s a Happy Song” has been stuck in my head since I saw the movie in theaters last November, and “Man Or Muppet” recently took home the Oscar for Best Original Song.

The humor in the film is also true to classic Muppets, there are many jokes that only adults will get. The Muppets perfected the art of family entertainment, enjoyable just as much by adults as kids, and this new film is a celebration of that. The Muppets have certainly been missed from mainstream entertainment; this is such a welcome, joyous return to the spotlight.

The Blu-ray quality is movie-theater clear, with bright, poppy colors and very satisfying sound. The Wocka Wocka Edition comes with a Blu-ray copy of the movie, a DVD copy, a digital copy, and a downloadable copy of the movie soundtrack. There is only one extra on the DVD copy, The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History) and at 8 and a half minutes long, it tests the patience of children. My nine-year old’s comment was that it seemed forced. It’s definitely cute though. Extras on the blu-ray include: Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets, a cute, animated, School House Rock looking making of featurette; A Little Screen Test on the Way To the Read Through, which is a really funny camera test of different lighting with the Muppets and Jason Segel; Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman song, which they should have kept in the film because it makes his character make SO much more sense; Eight Deleted Scenes which left out a bunch more cameos including Ricky Gervais, Wanda Sykes, Kathy Griffin, Billy Crystal, and Danny Trejo; all of the clever Theatrical Spoof Trailers, which if you missed them, you should definitely check out their spoofs of Green Lantern, Planet of the Apes, Fast Five, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and more; and a commentary track with Jason Segel, director James Bobin, and Nicholas Stoller.

If you haven’t checked out The Muppets yet, I highly recommend that you do. Whether you have kids or not. Everyone has some kind of connection to the Muppets, whether you realize it or not. They’re timeless, classic, hilarious, and inspirational. It says on the Blu-ray cover “The Muppets is not only the best family movie of last year, it’s one of the best movies of last year”, and I completely agree. Why, I even it included it in both my lists for best family films and best films of the year for 2011.

Walt Disney Pictures presents The Muppets. Directed by: James Bobin. Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo. Written by: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller. Running time: 103 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: March 20, 2012. Available at×120.jpg

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New The Hunger Games Clip and Muppets Inspired Trailer Debuts Wed, 07 Mar 2012 13:00:13 +0000 A new clip from The Hunger Games, as well as a Muppets inspired parody, have found their way online. You can view them below.×120.jpg

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The Muppets Blu-ray Announced Thu, 19 Jan 2012 21:02:57 +0000 In an early announcement to retailers, Walt Disney Pictures will bring those crazy Muppets to DVD and Blu-ray on March 20th. Opening to healthy returns and critical praise, last November’s The Muppets saw Jason Segel and company open up the pine boxes, remove the moth balls and brought Jim Henson’s famed creations back to life. Now, just as most kids will be enjoying Spring Break, Disney will unleash Muppet Domination on our TV screens with no less than four Blu-ray and/or DVD releases.

Disney’s The Muppets in-home release includes the DVD and music soundtrack packaged together and also offered as the ultimate Muppets experience, a Wocka-Wocka Value Pack, which contains the movie on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy (three discs), plus a download card which allows fans to own all the songs from the film’s hugely popular soundtrack.

Bonus content is set to include The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History––We Think) plus the featurette A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read Through, which follows Jason Segel, Kermit, The Great Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and others asthey get ready for the first day of production, and much more fun.

Regarding the Blu-ray release, Kermit the Frog said, “Blu-ray is a great way to bring the Muppets into your home without having to worry about cleaning up after us.” He later noted that the “behind-the-scenes extras are a revealing tell-all look at what it took to bring our movie to the big screen. It’s a must-see for fans of bloopers, flubs and slip-ups – which pretty much describes our act.”

As an industry first, The Muppets Blu-ray will include Disney Intermission which allows the Muppets to take over the screen when the movie is paused. Fans will also get to see more of Tex Richman’s excised flashback sequence in Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song, where the villain provides the hilarious backstory of why he hates the Muppets. Perfunctory audio commentaries with screenwriter and star Jason Segel, director James Bobin and screenwriter Nicholas Stoller are also included.×120.png

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R0BTRAIN’s Top 10 Movies of 2011 Wed, 04 Jan 2012 02:00:11 +0000 When I look back at my time watching the films in 2011, I can’t deny that I’ve had a terrific experience these past 12 months. While I feel like the year might have been devoid of the sort of transcendent movie or game changer the likes of Avatar or The Dark Knight or Inception, we’ve been lucky to have gotten a ton of great pictures, so much so that it was tough to narrow this list down to just ten. In fact, December alone yielded two films that ended up on my list, and had a few more that were terribly close. Pictures such as Moneyball, Contagion , and Midnight in Paris were all films that could have easily made this list, but when it comes down to getting to a final 10, you’ve got to make big sacrifices no matter how bad it hurts.

Now to be sure, the year had its share of big disappointments as well. Season of the Witch got us off on the wrong foot early, but did anyone expect duds like Sucker Punch and the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean outing to be so boring, or for Pixar to release their first out and out bad film with Cars 2? Thankfully, we got some pleasant surprises to even things out, especially Fast Five, which kind of blew the roof off every other action film that came out for the rest of the summer movie season. And who knew Rise of the Planet of the Apes was going to be so awesome?

My point is, is that while it wasn’t perfect, 2011 was still able to give us a lot of great cinema. While 2012 looks to be busting at the seams with huge epics that are right around the corner, 2011 gave me enough films that I’m really not ready to stop thinking about them yet.

R0BTRAIN’s Top 10 of 2011

10. Captain America: The First Avenger

If you love comic book films, especially those based on Marvel superheroes, then 2011 was a heck of a good time for you. Thor surprised with its liberal amounts of humor and its epic fantasy sequences, and X-Men: First Class was so good it made us forget about every lousy X film since the second one. If I had to pick a favorite though, Captain America: The First Avenger wins out with its combination of high adventure, nonstop action, and tons of heart.

Director Joe Johnston went back to his roots on this picture, showing us the protégé of Spielberg and Lucas who worked on the crews of classic adventures such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Captain America has the director in his oldschool action wheelhouse; producing a true follow-up to Johnston’s best film, The Rocketeer. With its plucky hero, gorgeous damsel, and villains so bad even the Nazis won’t take them, this is a picture that would have fit the bill perfectly during a Saturday afternoon serial, but as it is, it makes a wonderful final piece to Marvel’s Avengers puzzle.

9. War Horse

There were several blockbusters in 2011 that managed to pay homage to the works of Steven Spielberg, many of which were produced by The Beard himself. For most filmmakers that would have been enough of a creative output for one year; but not for the creator of Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and Jaws. 2011 saw the release of two films with Steven Spielberg as director, and while some might not know what to make of the motion capture epic The Adventures of Tintin, Warhorse gives us Spielberg at his schmaltzy best. The director tugs at your heartstrings with expert precision as we watch the picture’s main character, a horse named Joey, travel from the farms of Britain to the battlefields of WWI. Spielberg wrings every bit of emotion out of the story with amazing setpieces, gorgeous photography, and a John Williams score that just won’t quit.

8. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I had some doubts as to whether Brad Bird could show the same sort of creativity and humor he was able to infuse into his animated films such as The Incredibles and The Iron Giant. About five minutes into Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, those doubts were a distant memory. Once Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his IMF team were globetrotting through exotic locales and Cruise himself was hanging from the tallest building on earth, I couldn’t wait to see what Bird had up his sleeve next. The new Mission: Impossible is mind boggling awesome, with enough chases and fights to make it the best American action film of 2011 with very little competition.

Think Tom Cruise is too old to be playing super spies? Think again. Even with other cast members like Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton doing more of the heavy lifting than ever before, Cruise plays his intense superman as well as he ever has. Nearing age 50, he’s still the hardest working action star in Hollywood, putting his body on the line, and doing whatever it takes to get you into the theater. Mission: Impossible 5 can’t come fast enough.

7. Rango

In a year when Pixar disappointed us for the first time, Rango was there to take up the slack. Hilarious and weird, Rango seemed to free director Gore Verbinski like never before, showing us more wit and eye candy than ten Pirates of the Carribean films put together. With incredible character models from top to bottom, this spaghetti western homage is a wonder to behold with its one glorious sequence after another. Without question, my favorite collaboration between Verbinski and star Johnny Depp; this movie had me in stitches and on the edge of my seat all the way up to its final showdown.

6. The Muppets

The Muppets is a like a sledgehammer of nostalgia; wearing its heart unabashedly on its sleeve as it dares you not to sing along with its silly songs, laugh at its nonstop hilarity and get misty eyed at its earnest love for all of its characters. Director James Bobin and star Jason Seagal have created a loving tribute to Jim Henson’s madcap creations, and even if the voices aren’t 100% right, the heart the film gives us definitely hits it mark. As Kermit and the gang try to put on one last show to save their beloved theater, I sat in amazement as I got to watch The Muppet Show performed anew, which is something I thought I’d never see again. For all involved, I simply say “thank you”.

5. I Saw the Devil

Kim Ji-woon’s tale of sadistic revenge seems to put the nail in the coffin of the Korean revenge thriller genre once and for all, but what a way to go. Kim Ji-woon is relentless here, as stars Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik face off in the ultimate battle of cop and serial killer with a nonstop barrage of knife fights, gun fights, murder and mayhem. The flick barely lets you catch your breath as it effortlessly swings one way and then the next. You honestly have no way of knowing what’s going to happen all the way up to the film’s final insane moments, and thank goodness for it, because you might just want to turn off the movie too early.

4. 13 Assassins

There’s something that just stirs inside of me when I watch 13 Assassins. Takashi Miike’s throwback samurai epic about 13 warriors who conspire to take down an evil lord is the most visceral action film to come out of any country in the last year. Everything about the film is just classic “men on a mission” formula, but Miike puts the movie together with such care and expertise that it all feels fresh. Goro Inagaki’s murdering rapist, Lord Naritsugu, is a villain that earns a plot against him of this magnitude with his over the top madness, and while Miike simply doesn’t have the time to delve too deeply into the lives of all of his heroes, veteran actors such as Kōji Yakusho and Tsuyoshi Ihara get the job done, and give us plenty of badassery to unapologetically root for.

Best of all, Miike lets it all hang out for the final hour of this movie, putting together a final battle that puts the conclusion of Transformers: Dark of the Moon to shame. Sure, Miike doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars to play with, so instead we get a screen filled with wall to wall bloodshed. This battle featuring our mighty 13 vs.200 samurai aligned with the evil Naritsugu is a showstopper of a sequence, reminding me of the best of Kurosawa or vintage John Woo. You want classic action without modern over-editing or CGI overload? Then 13 Assassins has you covered.

3. Attack the Block

If classic ‘80s John Carpenter had decided to make an “anti-E.T.“, I’m pretty sure Attack the Block is pretty close to what that would be like. The movie is just a flat out blast, as we see these rough city kids from a London slum who decide to take it to a pack of alien invaders with wild results. The movie is brutal and unforgiving to some of the kids, but there’s still a lot of humor and heart to go around when this group of lovable miscreants isn’t fighting off alien hordes using only fireworks and flea market samurai swords.

The monsters in the movie are particularly wonderful and creative, like pitch-black bears with glowing teeth, and Cornish gets the most he can out of every scare in the flick. It’s our alien fighting street thugs though, that really make this movie work. John Boyega as the group’s leader Moses is a particular standout, showing a cool confidence and vulnerability that you wouldn’t expect from a guy starring in his first film. Top to bottom, Attack the Block is cult movie heaven, and I think we’re going to be hearing a lot from everyone involved for years to come.

2. Super 8

Do you ever feel like a film maker is making movies specifically for you? Like the director is able to tap right into your brain and pull out everything you love about movies and then just put it up onscreen. That’s the feeling I get every time I go to see a J.J. Abrams movie these days. I suppose we live in a time when movie geeks are growing up become film makers themselves, and that explains a lot of the success of directors like Tarantino and Edgar Wright, but with Abrams its seems like he’s going just that extra step. I love spy movies dearly, and Abrams’ underappreciated Mission: Impossible III is a film that has grown in leaps and bounds for me in the last few years. My devotion to Star Wars, Star Trek and space adventures in general is no secret, so to say that I loved every minute of Abram’s new Star Trek reboot would be a giant understatement to say the least.

With Super 8, it’s just same song, different verse. The part of me that has never stopped loving early Spielberg, especially E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, took in this film with open arms and loved every second of it. Abrams and composer Michael Giacchino simply had my number anytime that they were after it and I couldn’t have been happier. The group of kids at the heart of this story are so good together and so naturally charismatic onscreen that I would gladly watch them in a picture even without aliens. Fortunately, I think the alien storyline still works like gangbusters, creating a total package for this film that I found completely undeniable. Add in Kyle Chandler as a modern day Roy Scheider, and Super 8 is a total winner in my eyes.

1. Drive

When was the last time you saw a character that was as effortlessly cool as Ryan Gosling’s driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive? 2011 was an incredible year for Ryan Gosling, who seemed to knock it out of the park with each successive project, but for me, I felt like Drive was his coming out party. His nameless character in this ultra-cool crime thriller was like getting to see the second coming of Steve McQueen. Perhaps simply the strong, silent type or maybe an autistic maniac, Drive shows us an actor in complete control of his craft every moment he’s onscreen. From his subtly sweet love scenes with Carey Mulligan to his ultra-violent, hammer wielding showdowns, we see the full range of Gosling’s screen power and he’s pretty mesmerizing.

Of course, the picture set around the driver is also fairly amazing from top to bottom. Nicolas Refn’s film is like an ode to ‘80s Michael Mann and veterans like Ron Pearlman and Albert Brooks do some of their best work ever. This goes especially for Brooks; cast against type as one of the scariest villains I’ve seen in some time, surprising us with his brilliantly subtle menace. Bryan Cranston and Carey Mulligan are also exceptional here, crafting characters that you have genuine emotional investments in, desperately hoping they stay out of harm’s way.

The film is so meticulously crafted, from its look, to its music, costumes, and to even the fonts of the opening credits, that it’s all a little dizzying. Director Refn stages beautiful, operatic mayhem, but does so with incredibly intense buildup and character work, so the action is never just about being noisy. The love scenes are dreamlike, the action is violent and savage, and the final result is nothing short of a masterpiece.×120.jpg

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Branden Chowen’s Favorite Films of 2011 Tue, 03 Jan 2012 00:00:45 +0000 Given my current standing in life as a graduate acting student, I have limited time and funds to go see new theatrical releases, which makes year-end lists incredibly difficult. I usually spend a lot more time sitting in front of my HDTV than I do in movie theatres, and this year was no exception. Before I jump into my ten favorite films of the year, it should be noted that I have not seen some of the major releases from the past two to three months, and when these get released on home video early next year, this list could change dramatically. I am confident, however, that of the films I was able to see, these ten are the best.

It doesn’t matter how solid or disappointing a year in film has been – and from what I’ve seen, 2011 leans more towards the latter – top ten lists are always difficult. For me, there was one clear winner, while the rest could slide around into any slot and I’d be happy. I’ve surprised myself with this list, which includes three summer blockbusters, a couple family films, a foreign film, and, disappointingly, only two horror flicks. There are plenty of films that I would love to talk about, but didn’t make the list. Check back for the next episode of The Drive-In, Inside Pulse’s movie podcast that I co-host along with Brendan Campbell, for a mention of those. But, enough with the preliminaries, let’s get to the list.

10. 13 Assassins
More than the simple revenge movie that a summary of it might suggest, Takashi Miike’s remake of 1963s The Thirteen Assassins wonderfully and beautifully mixes exquisite cinematography with some of the most brutal violence I’ve seen all year. I was able to catch this one on Netflix Instant Queue, and was blown away. This is one of the first samurai films I’ve watched, but it has set the bar incredibly high. Miike, who also directs one of my favorite horror films, Audition, continues to assert himself as one of the greatest living directors, and anyone with a penchant for violence with meaning should adore what 13 Assassins has to offer.

9. Insidious
In a year that was rather light on quality theatrical horror releases, Insidious stands out as the one film that made me jump the most. Paranormal Activity 3 did a great job trying to steal this title, but after seeing Insidious a second time and still getting chills up and down my spine from the sheer terror of it all, I was forced to give the nod to James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s latest offering. The admittedly clunky third act is not nearly bad enough to topple the goosebump-inducing ride that is the first two acts, and because this is also available on Netflix Instant, anyone who missed it should give it a shot.

8. The Muppets
The Muppets is undoubtedly the most charming, sincere, and endearing film released this year. Jason Segel takes over the reigns as writer, and does a marvelous job preserving the spirit that Jim Henson and company created with the original Muppets back in the 1970s. The humor is special in that it can make both naïve youngsters and hardened film fanatics laugh out loud. The songs are always creative and help push the movie forward, which should keep even the youngest audiences entertained. The Muppets is nearly perfect family affair that I have to recommend to anyone with a heartbeat.

7. The Myth of the American Sleepover
Talk about being blindsided by a movie. The Myth of the American Sleepover was a film I probably never would have seen if it wasn’t streaming on Netflix Instant. I don’t remember how, but I do recall reading about this independent film last year, probably because it was filmed in and around my hometown in Michigan. When it finally popped up on Netflix, I had no excuse not to give it a look. It was one of the best Instant Queue decisions of the year, by far. Myth follows the story of a group of teenagers as they try to enjoy their last few nights of summer vacation. The story is as simple as that. What makes Myth so compelling is 1) the performances from the young, unknown actors, and 2) the screenplay by writer/director David Robert Mitchell. Myth is special because it isn’t until later in the film when one realizes how invested in the characters he or she may be; the beauty and magic of Myth sneaks up on the viewer, but is unforgettable once it does hit. Myth is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year, and one that has potential to be one of my favorites of all-time upon repeat viewings. This is a sleeper hit that fans of independent film need to see.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Although this series has some weak spots – I’m looking at you, Goblet of Fire – I have never watched a more fulfilling, exciting, and successful film franchise quite like Harry Potter. Some complained that last year’s effort was a bit boring, and although I enjoyed it, everything that happened in Part 1 pays off incredibly well in Part 2, which is almost entirely climax. For a film that has six films of set-up, and all the hype that goes with that, it would’ve been much more likely for Part 2 to fail to deliver a rewarding conclusion, and as someone who has never cracked a Harry Potter novel, I had no idea what to expect. In both a nod to JK Rowling’s source material, and David Yates’ directing, Part 2 ends as my second favorite movie in the franchise, barely losing the number one spot to Order of the Phoenix, and my fifth favorite film of the year. Pretty good for a film franchise I had no interest in a year ago.

5. Drive
There’s no doubt that I have a man-crush on Ryan Gosling. I have yet to not be blown away by a role of his, and his performance in DRIVE, though not as breathtaking as his Blue Valentine work, is excellent. What sets DRIVE apart, though, is the work by the ensemble cast of supporting characters. Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, and Albert Brooks all turn in some incredibly emotional work. Ron Perlman does a decent job as the muscle, but I had a hard time believing some of his work, especially at the beginning of the movie. I put that on the casting decision, not Perlman, who is usually wonderful in his roles. Drive is able to grab the viewer from the very beginning thanks in large part to the stellar music. The 80s-inspired soundtrack is not only one of my favorite film soundtracks of the year, but one of the best overall CDs of 2011. With brutality that comes out of nowhere – which is something I adore, as you might notice while reading this list – and a sincerity that is unusual for a film of this nature, Drive was one of the best reasons to sit in a movie theatre this year.

4. X-Men: First Class
Not only is Brian K. Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class one of my top four films of the year, it is my number one regret of the year because I wasn’t able to see it in theatres. Though the Blu-ray rocked my world, I will probably never get to experience this gigantic action film the way it was intended. The reason this summer blockbuster ranks so highly on my list is because of sheer entertainment value. Sure, Drive is a deeper, more meaningful experience, as are a lot of films that didn’t make this list, but as a guy who watches films, first and foremost, to be entertained, First Class nails one of my favorite things about going to the movies. The action sequences are awe-inspiring, but that’s no different than most of the superhero films we get nowadays. What makes First Class so memorable is the characters. It’s exciting to see these characters that we all enjoy mature and find themselves. The acting is some of the best I’ve seen in any superhero film, and everything about the movie screams “fun”. Even if you missed this in theatres, action fans deserve the treat that is X-Men: First Class.

3. We Need to Talk About Kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin is not a horror film in the traditional sense: there are no dancing dead kids from the 30s who like to play records, no multiple fake opening death scenes, or any disappearing dining room sets. In this case, though, that it is an excellent thing. Although I enjoyed all the movies I referenced above (Insidious, Scream 4, and Paranormal Activity 3, for those keeping score), Kevin is so far above and beyond any other horror releases that have come out this year or last, that it’s almost embarrassing to admit that I did enjoy those other offerings. The claustrophobic feeling that creeps up whenever I think about this film is unlike any other film I’ve ever seen because it is so real and visceral that it could happen to anyone at any time.

What if your newborn child was evil? Real evil, not “possessed by the devil”, or some other ilk. That’s the problem that Eva – played hauntingly well by Tilda Swinton – faces with her son Kevin. As Kevin ages, he hates his mother more and more. Eva’s husband and Kevin’s father Franklin, played by the grossly underrated John C. Reilly, doesn’t believe the stories that Eva tells her about Kevin, and thinks that Eva is overreacting. The resulting story is terror in its purest form of inescapability. The beautiful montages and imagery that pop up through the entire film, and the way the plot is structured, will keep audiences begging for more. We Need to Talk About Kevin is still in theatres, and is one that any horror fan fed up with the mediocre quality the big studios have been releasing in recent years absolutely must see once. I imagine that will be enough for most viewers, though.

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The second Rise of the Planet of the Apes ended, I knew it would be written about in this list, I just didn’t know at what number. I loved virtually everything about this return to the Planet of the Apes series, and I can only hope that the sequel to this will be on my list in 2012 or 2013.

As listeners of The Drive-In might know, Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite science fiction films of all time, so my expectations – or, more accurately, my hopes – were high when I went to see Rise. Fortunately the film contains some of the greatest CGI work ever put to film, a beautifully told coming-of-age story that just happens to be about an ape, and Andy Serkis, who will hopefully get some Oscar recognition for his wonderful work as Caesar. Even though the humans rightly play second fiddle to Caesar and the other apes, John Lithgow is another shining star in the film as he plays the sick and aging father of James Franco’s character. As a fan of the original Planet of the Apes, one of the small things that I loved about Rise were all the homage’s paid to the original film. Rise is so much more than the shallow summer blockbuster it could have been, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

1. Super
This is one of the later entries to this list, seeing the film less than a month ago, but the second the Super ended, I knew that it was going to be number one on my list. James Gunn’s ultra-realistic tale of a scorned lover turned superhero uses an incredible mix of comedy and brutality that works much better than it has any right to. Super is a special breed because it can have the viewer laughing one minute, and in tears the next. It’s able to pull this off thanks in large part to some excellent performances from Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, and Liv Tyler. Wilson and Page have an unexpectedly wonderful on-screen chemistry, and their relationship is one of the most interesting and hilarious I’ve seen all year. It’s unfortunate that this film is falling a bit under the radar this awards season because Ellen Page deserves and Oscar for best supporting actress with her touching and hysterical performance as Libby. Though Frank doesn’t stray too far from Dwight, the character Wilson plays on The Office, Wilson manages to find an incredible amount of truth, strength, and charisma for Frank that blows Dwight out of the water. Super is an incredible film, and one that anyone with a strong stomach should seek out.

The biggest disappointment for me in 2011 has to be the lack of high quality horror releases. We Need to Talk About Kevin is almost too good a film to throw in the horror category with releases such as Creature, Apollo 18, and The Rite. As a horror fan, I am hopeful that we can eventually reach a point where deeper, more meaningful movies that have something to say become more prevalent in the genre. That isn’t to say that I don’t adore the Scream 4’s and Paranormal Activity 3’s of the genre, because I do, but there needs to be more options. Hopefully the big studios come to realize that we horror fans are not just mindless idiots that want to see breasts and blood, but we are film fans who can appreciate depth and meaning as well.

The overall disappointment with the horror genre leaks over to the rest of the year’s releases as well. Although I loved the movies on my list, few of them have the staying power that last years films had. Inception, Kick-Ass, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Black Swan, and The King’s Speech would knock most of my top ten movies off of this list. It isn’t that there was a large amount of bad films, either, there just weren’t that many films that had me saying “wow” when the credits rolled, unlike last year.

What does make 2011 special, though, is the quality of the summer blockbusters. I never expect many summer blockbusters to make my year-end list, but this year – and I imagine next year will as well – shows that there can be substance in the summer months. If nothing else, 2011 sets up for an incredible 2012. Though Harry Potter has concluded, The Hunger Games looks like it could be my next favorite film series to follow, and it we’ll also see the end of The Twilight Saga, which is exciting for anyone who gets dragged to them by friends or a significant other every year. The biggest thrills next year, though, will surely come in the form of a special agency named S.H.I.E.L.D., and a Dark Knight. I have a feeling that that list will be even more difficult to finalize.×120.jpg

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