Posts Tagged ‘Sesame Street

28
Apr
13

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 288: Free Comic Book Day 2013 Preview

showcase logo smallNext week is Free Comic Book Day 2013, and once again, Blake and Erin are here to walk you through the books being offered. What are this year’s can’t-miss titles? What are books you’ve never heard of that may be worth your time? And what special treat has Blake cooked up for you guys? Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 288: Free Comic Book Day Preview 2013

19
Dec
12

The Christmas Special Day 19: A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

Muppet Family ChristmasDirectors: Peter Harris & Eric Till

Writer: Jerry Juhl

Cast: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Kathryn Mullen, Jerry Nelson, Karen Prell, Steve Whitmire, David Rudman, Caroll Spinney, Gerry Parkes

Plot: Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) and many of the Muppets are off to spend Christmas at Fozzie Bear’s mother’s house (Fozzie and Ma Bear performed by Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson, respectively). They arrive to find that Ma is about to leave, having planned on taking a vacation to Florida for the holidays. Doc (Gerry Parkes) and his dog Sprocket (Steve Whitmire) are renting the house for a quiet holiday. When the Muppets arrive Ma decides to call off her vacation, and Doc finds himself surrounded by strange creatures. (Perplexed, he asks Sprocket if the Muppets are like the “Fraggles” his dog often reports encountering back home.) As everyone settles in, Kermit gets a call from Miss Piggy (Oz again), who is finishing up a photo shoot and plans to join them later. A Turkey (Whitmire again) arrives at the door, having been invited by the Swedish Chef (Henson), and the poultry-loving Gonzo (Dave Goelz) tries to convince him that a turkey at Christmas is more likely to be the main course than a guest. As more Muppets arrive, the farmhouse begins to descend into chaos: the Turkey tells Chef that Sprocket is the turkey, Fozzie Bear attempts to start up a new comedy routine with a Snowman (Richard Hunt), and the Turkey starts to hit on Gonzo’s girlfriend, Camilla. Scooter (Hunt) cheers everyone up with some home movies of the gang as babies, and just before Gonzo and the turkey come to blows, a group of carolers arrive: the Muppets’ friends from Sesame Street. They come in, Bert and Ernie (Oz and Henson) engage Doc in small talk about the letter B, and Christmas Eve.

Chef gets the Turkey into the kitchen and begins sizing him up for the pan, but the Turkey deflects his attention by pointing out the most delectable dish of all: Big Bird (Caroll Spinney). The news reports a terrible storm approaching, and Kermit begins to worry about Miss Piggy, who still hasn’t arrived. The different groups begin bonding, with Janice (Hunt) and Cookie Monster (Oz) “sharing” a plate of treats, drawing Animal (Oz)’s admiration, Oscar the Grouch (Spinney) offering to share his trash can with Rizzo the Rat (Whitmire), and Bert and Ernie leading the Sesame Street gang in a performance of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Kermit gets a call from Piggy and tries to convince her to stay off the road during the storm. The pigheaded (rimshot) Muppet doesn’t listen, though, and tries to hail a taxi. The Chef summons Big Bird into the kitchen, planning to prepare him for dinner, but is touched when Big Bird – feeling sorry for him spending Christmas so far away from his home in Sweden – gives him a present of chocolate covered birdseed. When Doc sees Kermit staring out into the snow again, he offers to head out and look for Piggy. As Kermit waits, his nephew Robin (Nelson) summons him to the cellar, where he’s found what he believes to be a Fraggle hole. The two frogs wind up in the subterranean world of Fraggle Rock, where the Fraggles are in the midst of their own midwinter celebration, in which Mokey (Kathryn Mullen) is giving Boober (Goelz) a yellow pebble – which has been a present from Fraggle to Fraggle 37 times. Boober gives the pebble to Robin. As the Frogs return to the farmhouse, Doc arrives on a dogsled wearing a Mountie uniform – all things Miss Piggy just happened to have for him when he found her in the snow. After all, Miss Piggy knows how to make an entrance.

With everyone finally safe and warm in the farmhouse (which is now so tight on space Gonzo and Animal have to sleep on hangers on the wall), Ma Bear officially welcomes everyone to her home and Rowlf the Dog leads the extended Muppet family in their annual Carol Sing. The music summons the Fraggles into the farmhouse, and they join in. Gifts are exchanged – Kermit gives Piggy a mink, and Robin passes the Fraggle Pebble on to Grover – and in the kitchen, Jim Henson himself watches on and smiles… then recruits Sprocket to help him wash the dishes.

Thoughts: We finally get to Jim Henson’s most famous family of characters, the Muppet Show Muppets, making the Henson company’s final entry in our countdown. This special hits on several levels. First of all, it’s full of fantastic Christmas music – in and of itself, that’s enough to make it worth watching. We get a lot of traditionals in the Carol Sing at the end, as well as plenty of other songs throughout. There’s also a song plucked from Fraggle Rock – the joyful “Pass it on” – and the show caps off with a slightly modified version of “Together at Christmas” from The Christmas Toy.

It’s also impressive just how many different stories the special manages to juggle. Kermit and Piggy’s story is ostensibly the A-plot, but it doesn’t really have much more screen time than the Chef’s attempts at dinner, Gonzo’s rivalry with the turkey, Fozzie’s new act, Ma’s effort to find room for everybody, or the introduction of the Fraggles to the rest of the family. All of these things could command a larger chunk if they eliminated the other stories, but it would be a real loss to do so.

It’s also worth noting that most of the stories are pretty original – no retreads of Dickens or Capra or O’Henry, even though Henson has turned to that well before. It’s interesting to note, though, that of the four specials we’ve watched from the Henson company, all four have dealt with gift-giving and self-sacrifice on a fairly significant level. Food for thought.

But the thing that makes this legendary for fans of the Henson company is because this is the only time the casts of all three major Henson families came together on-screen. We saw the Muppet Show and Sesame Street characters interact on several occasions in the past, but throwing in the Fraggles (at the height of their popularity when this special was made) makes it… well, extra-special. There’s even a small bit with the Muppet Babies, when Scooter shows the home movies, allowing us to see them as puppets for only the second time. (Their debut was in the feature film The Muppets Take Manhattan – for their own show, they were animated.) Unfortunately, due to rights issues with the music used in that scene, most of it was cut from the special’s DVD release. There are actually several scenes removed or abbreviated for this reason, so a complete version has never made it to DVD. Even worse, because of the fracturing of the Jim Henson company, in which the Muppet Show characters were sold to Disney and the Sesame Street characters given to the Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), the three families are now all owned by three different companies. Because of this, the DVD has been out of print for years, and can only be obtained used. Good luck – I managed to snag it when it was new and I’ve been watching the same disc for ten years, and it’s now extremely hard to come by. (Although you can find the whole thing on YouTube, and it’s worth it.)

Jim Henson was one of those creators that comes along once in a generation. While he wasn’t the sole force behind the creation of the Muppets, and probably gets too much credit for Sesame Street in some circles, the fact that he was the epicenter of so many different creative movements in his too-short time on this planet is nothing short of astonishing. The fact that so many people continue to use his creations to tell new and wonderful stories 20 years after his death is astonishing. He made something magical and lasting, and this special is one of the few places you can see the scope of his talent all at once, all together, as it should be. That, in and of itself, is a Christmas miracle of a kind.

Don’t forget, The Christmas Special is the third Reel to Reel movie study. The first, Mutants, Monsters and Madmen, is now available as a $2.99 eBook in the Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords.com bookstore. And you can find links to all of my novels, collections, and short stories, in their assorted print, eBook and audio forms, at the Now Available page!

13
Dec
12

The Christmas Special Day 13: Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)

Christmas Eve on Sesame Street DVDDirector: Jon Stone

Writer: Jon Stone, Joseph A. Bailey

Cast: Caroll Spinney,Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Linda Bove, Northern Calloway, Debbie Chen, Will Lee, Loretta Long, Sonia Manzano, Bob McGrath, Roscoe Orman, Alaina Reed

Plot: On Christmas Eve the gang on Sesame Street takes a trip to the local ice skating rink. While everyone else is having a good time, Oscar the Grouch (Carroll Spinney) decides to poke fun at the naive Big Bird (Spinney again), asking him how Santa Claus can possibly fit through the tiny chimneys the buildings on Sesame Street have. Dismayed at the thought that Santa may not be able to get in, Big Bird and his friend Patty (Debbie Chen) set out to solve the mystery. They turn to Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson, and if you didn’t know that stop reading my article right now, you heathen), who suggests turning to the Santa Claus experts – the children – to find the answer.

Meanwhile, Bert (Frank Oz) is stuck for a Christmas present for his best friend Ernie (Henson again, I mean it, stop reading if you didn’t know that already because I don’t want you here). When he comes across Ernie’s Rubber Duckie, he gets an idea. Ernie, facing a similar dilemma, stumbles across one of Bert’s prize paperclips and decides to get him a cigar box to keep his paperclip collection safe. Going to Mr. Hooper’s store, Ernie finds he doesn’t have enough money for the box, and offers Mr. Hooper (Will Lee) his Rubbier Duckie as a trade. As Ernie leaves, Bert enters with a similar offer: he wants to trade his paperclip collection for a soap dish where Ernie can keep Rubber Duckie. Mr. Hooper takes both deals, even though Bert and Ernie are both clearly distraught over surrendering their prized possessions.

When Kermit’s investigation proves fruitless, Big Bird and Patty recruit Mr. Snuffleupagus (Jerry Nelson) to try to test out a method for squeezing into a chimney. Snuffy, unfortunately, gets stuck. Outside, as Bob (Bob McGrath) and Mr. Hooper exchange holiday pleasantries, Oscar groans and launches into his own seasonal anthem: “I Hate Christmas.”

Bert and Ernie exchange gifts, and both are stunned to realize they’ve been given a gift intended specifically to compliment the very item they have sacrificed. Neither wants to confess to the other that his gift is now useless, and before either of them have to, there’s a knock at the door. Mr. Hooper is there with gifts for the boys – Ernie’s Rubber Duckie and Bert’s paperclips. Bert and Ernie are overjoyed at having their treasures back, but sadly say they haven’t a gift to give Mr. Hooper. The kind old man smiles and tells them they’ve already given him the best gift ever: the chance to see everyone get what they want for Christmas.

When the snow begins to fall that evening, Big Bird sends Patty home. As she leaves she tells him not to worry, she’s certain Santa will come, even if they don’t know how he’ll do it. Left alone, Big Bird decides to go to the roof and wait for him. Patty later turns up at Gordon and Susan’s apartment (Roscoe Orman and Loretta Long, respectively) to tell them she went back to Big Bird’s nest and he’s gone. Everyone on Sesame Street begins searching for him, while on the roof Big Bird watches them, wondering what all the fuss is about. With the temperature dropping and everyone worrying Maria (Sonia Manzano) confronts Oscar over upsetting Big Bird in the first place. Guilty, Oscar sets out to find him. On the roof, away from his safe, warm nest, Big Bird falls asleep, unaware of the figure that has joined him there. When he wakes up he sees nothing, not even footprints, and decides to go downstairs and warm up. He meets Gordon and Patty on the stairs, and Gordon refuses to let him go back outside. In Gordon and Susan’s apartment, he finds a beautiful Christmas tree and stockings loaded with presents for everyone – Santa must have passed while he slept. Gordon explains to Big Bird that it isn’t important to explain a miracle; the important thing is that they’re all together again. Oscar turns up and tells Big Bird he’s glad he’s back… but the Grouch can’t resist one last dig. “How do you think the Easter Bunny can hide all those eggs in one night?”

Thoughts: Jim Henson and company return, although this time he’s joined by some of the other great “J”s of his era – Jon Stone, the writer responsible for so many of the greatest Sesame Street moments of your youth; Jerry Nelson, who gave us the Count and Mr. Snuffleupagus (a word which, somehow, is not in my spellcheck); producer Joan Ganz Cooney, the woman who conceived of using entertaining television to educate children in what would become the Sesame Street style. Henson and his Muppets were integral to the success of this show, but he sure didn’t do it alone. Regardless, as fantastic as each of those creators are, the true magic of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street isn’t brought to you by the letter J, but rather by C and S: Carroll Spinney, the Muppeteer responsible for both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

Unlike the regular daily episodes of the show, this prime time special didn’t have any of the cutaway educational segments, didn’t include lessons on counting or spelling… instead, the Children’s Television Workshop used the opportunity to teach a moral lesson or three. And like they did in all their finest moments, they did so without preaching, presenting the lesson in a way that would be easy for children to accept, understand, and internalize.

The A-plot of this special belongs to Oscar and Big Bird in a way that shows off their relationship for what it is: an older sibling (Oscar) who enjoys picking on the younger (Big Bird), but still feels guilty and tries to set things right when confronted with the consequences of his actions. Anyone who has a brother or sister can probably relate – it’s crafted in a very realistic, natural and believable way. Spinney plays their relationship with Oscar’s edge and Big Bird’s unrelenting sweetness clashing at every turn, allowing the kids to worry along with Big Bird until the obvious conclusion is reached at the end. Spinney is a master performer, and I only wish I could have been there to watch him rushing back and forth between the two characters as the camera cut away. Dude must have been exhausted.

The story reveals a depth of character I don’t think is obvious when you’re a child watching these specials. It’s telling to me that only Maria, out of all the adults on Sesame Street, is able to convince Oscar to go out and look for Big Bird and fix what he did wrong. That’s not an accident – Maria and Oscar have a surprisingly complex relationship, in which Maria plays both mother and big sister to the Muppets. It’s one of the few moments in Sesame Street history where I remember seeing one of the human characters get genuinely, justifiably angry, and Sonia Manzano pulls it off wonderfully. Oscar comes across as the problem child who reacts to a stern but loving hand when gentleness fails. (I also maintain that Oscar – at least in my formative years of watching Sesame Street – was written to harbor a forever-unspoken crush on Maria, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The B-plot, featuring Bert, Ernie, and Mr. Hooper, is surprisingly only the second story in our countdown to play with the “Gift of the Magi,” although this is a much more straightforward retelling than Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. Bert and Ernie fill the roles nicely, with writer Jon Stone playing on their legendary friendship and slightly childlike outlook to create a story where you can naturally accept them sacrificing for one another. Seeing Mr. Hooper step in to save the day is a lovely moment, and one that still touches the heart all these years after actor Will Lee’s death. (A rare non-Christmas tangent: if you’ve never seen the Sesame Street episode where Big Bird learns that Mr. Hooper has died, watch it on YouTube. And if it doesn’t make you cry, stop reading my blog forever and go back to your day job strangling baby owls and selling their feathers to stuff pillows for Neo-Nazis.) Although this story was once copied almost as often as A Christmas Carol, it’s fallen a bit by the wayside in recent years. That may be a good thing. A child seeing this special now wouldn’t necessarily see the ending coming, and the message of the piece will more likely remain intact.

One thing I didn’t mention much in my synopsis of the episode are the musical numbers peppered throughout. In truth, most of these do little (or nothing) to advance the plot, so they didn’t really belong there, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t memorable in and of themselves. Bob McGrath and Linda Bove (playing Bob and Linda, respectively) lead the children of the cast in the haunting “Keep Christmas With You (All Through the Year),” and the whole cast joins in for “True Blue Miracle,” another one of those songs that has transcended the special that birthed it and become something you may well hear on the radio or in a shopping mall. It’s nice to have some traditional music in there as well – Bert and Ernie’s duet of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is lovely. Hardcore Muppet fans can probably hear just a bit of Frank and Jim’s friendship in the performance as well. And Oscar’s “I Hate Christmas” is just a joy whether you’re a true believer or an eternal humbug.

There are other moments that don’t actually contribute to either of the two main plots. Grover has a few scenes where he interviews children about Santa’s efforts to enter the chimney, similar to scenes in the regular episodes of the TV show. There’s a running gag about Cookie Monster trying to write a letter to Santa and eating his assorted writing implements as well. It’s a good bit, but there may be no moment of sheer comedy in the special as great as when he realizes the traditional Santa Claus exchange: when he leaves you a present, Gordon tells him, you should leave him a plate of cookies.

But as far as those moments that don’t go with the plot are concerned, the champion is the very first scene in the ice skating rink. As wonderful as the rest of the episode is, this opening scene is still bizarre, with ice skaters wearing full-size costumes of the Muppets skating on the ice. Seeing a six-foot Bert and Ernie or an adult-sized Count is just bizarre. And yes, I know they’ve been doing essentially the same thing with the Sesame Street Live shows for decades. I think it’s weird there, too.

This special won two Emmy awards, ironically beating out A Special Sesame Street Christmas, which aired in prime time on CBS. Both of these shows are now available on DVD, and a quick comparison makes it clear why Christmas Eve walked home with the awards. Out of the two, this special is far more special than Special.

Don’t forget, The Christmas Special is the third Reel to Reel movie study. The first, Mutants, Monsters and Madmen, is now available as a $2.99 eBook in the Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords.com bookstore. And you can find links to all of my novels, collections, and short stories, in their assorted print, eBook and audio forms, at the Now Available page!

30
Jul
12

2 in 1 Showcase at the Movies Episode 30: Silent House and a Cinematic Rundown

At the Movies Episode 30: Silent House and a Cinematic Rundown
by Blake M. Petit
This week, Blake takes a look at the new-to-DVD horror film Silent House, then takes the time to do quick reviews of several other recent films he’s watched in the last few months, from the sublime to the surreal to the surprised anyone would make such a thing. In the picks, he urges you all to rush out and get the hardcover collection of The Monolith. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

At the Movies Episode 30: Silent House and a Cinematic Rundown

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02
Jun
12

An open letter to Disney and Muppet Studios

To the powers that be at the Walt Disney Company and Muppet Studios:

I’d like to tell you about my niece, Maggie. Maggie is 19 months old and completely in love with the Muppets. She can recognize Kermit on the spine of a DVD from a wall of over 500 cases. She carries her Walter doll everywhere she goes. She is not yet speaking in complete sentences, but she will sing along with “Mahna Mahna.” Her current record for watching The Muppets is four times in one day, and it would have been higher had her parents not carefully snuck in some of the other DVDs when she wasn’t paying attention.

Although the most recent film, The Muppets, is her favorite, Maggie has gleefully consumed every Muppet movie and television special currently available on DVD, as well as the first three seasons of The Muppet Show. When she sees me, her Uncle Blake, working on my computer, she gives me pleading eyes until I hoist her onto my lap and start finding clips of Kermit, Gonzo and the others on YouTube. The number crunchers at Google probably find it rather unusual that a 34-year-old man can spend upwards of an hour watching the same clips over and over and over and over and over again.

We’re trying to branch out. We’ve started sneaking episodes of Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock into the rotation, and although Maggie enjoys these programs as well, her heart belongs to the Muppet Show Muppets.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. I’m a Muppet fan from as far back as I can remember, and if Maggie is going to be obsessed with something, I’m glad it’s the Muppets instead of some of the truly insipid shows that are on the air for the preschool set right now. (I’m not going to name any names, but I’m sure you can think of a few.)

The thing is, we’re running out of stuff. Oh sure, Maggie is perfectly happy watching the same Muppet movie over and over (and over and over) again, time after time, but for myself, her grandparents, and especially her parents, we’re really starting to crave new material.

Which brings me to the point of this letter. Please. For the love of God. Get the next Muppet movie made as fast as you can.

And while we’re waiting, why not release the last two seasons of The Muppet Show on DVD to help tide us over? And for that matter, the 22 episodes of Muppets Tonight? (I’d ask for Muppet Babies too, but I understand the legal hurdles involved with clearing all of the short film clips that program included that make such a DVD highly improbable.) I would have happily purchased these DVDs to add to my personal collection even before Maggie was born. Now, they’re practically a necessity.

We need — desperately — more Muppet product. And you, my friends, are our only hope.

In closing, let me just introduce you to the little girl you’ll be disappointing if you don’t produce these DVDs as quickly as possible:

Seriously. How can you say no to that face?

26
Mar
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 260: Superheroes Beyond Comics

Although comic books gave birth to the superhero as we know it, that doesn’t mean they’ve been restricted to the four-color pages all these years. This week, Blake and Kenny share their own top ten lists of superheroes who were born outside of comic books, then dive into some of your suggestions. In the picks, Kenny goes with Aquaman, and Blake chooses Wolverine and the X-Men and the final issue of Tiny Titans. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 260: Superheroes Beyond Comics

12
Mar
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 259: John Carter and Books on the Screen

With John Carter finally in movie theaters a century after publication, with Game of Thrones and Dexter burning up your TV screens, this week we take a look at other books that should be made into movies or TV shows. In the picks, Erin goes with Fables Vol. 7 and Blake takes Action Comics #7. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 259: John Carter and Books to the Screen

11
Feb
12

What I’m Watching in 2012

Just like yesterday’s post about books, I also keep a running list of the movies I watch each year. You know you do it to. Okay, some of you. Three of you? Harvey?

Anyway, for those who are interested, here’s the tally thus far. As with the books, if I happen to write a review of any of these films, I’ll throw up a link. And, should I happen to watch a movie as it’s being riffed by the likes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Rifftrax, or Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, I’ll provide a separate “grade” for the riff.

1. Tucker and Dale Versus Evil (2011), A
2. Little Shop of Horrors (1960), D; RiffTrax, B+
3. Eurotrip (2004), B-
4. Barely Legal (2011), D
5. TransFormers: Dark of the Moon (2011), B
6. Lady Frankenstein (1971), D; ICWXP, B+
7. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), B+
8. Serenity (2005), A
9. Bloody Pit of Horror (1965), F; ICWXP, B
10. Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory (1961), F; ICWXP, B+
11. Cedar Rapids (2011), B
12. Pontypool (2009), B+
13. Atlas Shrugged Part I (2011), B
14. Ghosthouse (1988), F; RiffTrax,  B+
15. The Slime People (1963), D; MST3K, C+
16. The Crucible (1996), B+
17. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011), B+
18. Chronicle (2012), A-
19. Justice League: Doom (2012), A-
20. Timer (2009), B+
21. Tree of Life (2011), D
22. Another Earth (2011), B+
23. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), A-
24. Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension (2011), A
25. Real Steel (2011), B
26. In Time (2011), C-
27. John Carter (2012), A-
28. My Week With Marilyn (2011), A-
29. The Adjustment Bureau (2011), B+
30. The Help (2011), A
31. Forrest Gump (1994), A
32. The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones (1987), B
33. The Flintstones (1994), C
34. The Hunger Games (2012), A-
35. Hereafter (2010), C+
36. The Task (2010), B
37. Cabin in the Woods (2012), A
38. The Adventures of Tintin (2011), B
39. Win Win (2011), B+
40. Millennium (1989), C
41. Immortals (2011), B
42. Iron Man (2008), A
43. Being Elmo (2011), A
44. Incredible Hulk (2008), B
45. Iron Man 2 (2010), B+
46. Apollo 18 (2011), C+
47. Reefer Madness (1936), D; RiffTrax, B+
48. Them Idiots Whirled Tour (2012), B
49. Thor (2011), B+
50. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), A
51. The Avengers (2012), A+
52. The Muppets (2011), A
53. The Goonies (1985), A
54. Spaceballs (1987), B+
55. Airplane (1980), A
56. Men in Black 3 (2012), B+
57. The Descendants (2011), A
58. Insidious (2011), D-
59. Muppets From Space (1999), B
60. Pom Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011), A-
61. The Swing Parade of 1946 (1946), D; RiffTrax, B
62. Lucky (2011), B+
63. Exporting Raymond (2010), A
64. Alien (1979), A+
65. Aliens (1986), A
66. Prometheus (2012), B
67. I Want Candy (2007), B-
68. Sirens (1993), C
69. Superman Vs. the Elite (2012), A-
70. Drive (2011), C
71. The Wizard of Oz (1939), A
72. Blade Runner (1982), B+
73. Total Recall (1990), B+
74. Rock of Ages (2012), D
75. The People Vs. George Lucas (2010), A-
76. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012), C-
77. Brave (2012), A
78. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), A
79. Media Malpractice (2009)
80. Batman Begins (2005), A
81. The Dark Knight (2008), A+
82. The Dark Knight Rises (2012), A
83. Troll 2 (1990), F
84. Silent House (2012), B-
85. 50/50 (2011), A
86. Total Recall (2012), C+
87. The Darkest Hour (2011), C
88. Moneyball (2011), A-
89. The Expendables (2010), B
90. The Expendables 2 (2012), B+
91. Red Tails (2012), B
92. Walkabout (1971), C
93. Finding Nemo (2003), A
94. The Woman in Black (2012), C-
95. The Incredibles (2004), A
96. The Boys (2010), A
97. In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger (2004), A-
98. In the Mouth of Madness (1994), B
99. Act of Valor (2012), B
100. Project X (2012), C+
101. Tales of Terror (1962), B
102. The Birds (1963), B+
103. Hellraiser (1987), B+
104. Child’s Play (1988), C+
105. Looper (2012), B
106. Cinderella (1950), A
107. The Ghost Breakers (1940), B+
108. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), A+
109. Young Frankenstein (1974), A
110. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978), C-
111. An American Werewolf in London (1981), B+
112. Ghostbusters (1984), A+
113. The Toxic Avenger (1984), C
114. Beetlejuice (1988), A-
115. Arachnophobia (1990), B-
116. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), C+
117. Army of Darkness (1992), B+
118. Bride of Chucky (1998), C
119. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), A-
120. Eight Legged Freaks (2002), B-
121. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006), A
122. Slither (2006), A-
123. The Evil Dead (1981), B-
124. Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987), A-
125. Trick ‘r Treat (2007), A
126. Zombieland (2009), A
127. 2016: Obamas America (2012), B
128. The Lorax (2012), B
129. The Pirates! Band of Misifts (2012), A-
130. The Room (2003), F
131. Skyfall (2012), A-
132. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), A
133. Home Alone (1990), B+
134. Finding Mrs. Claus (2012), C+
135. Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009), B
136. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), B+
137. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), D; MST3K, B
139. Santa Claus (1959), F; MST3K, B+
140. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), F-; RiffTrax, A
141. Magic Christmas Tree (1964), D-; RiffTrax, B+
142. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), B
143. Arthur Christmas (2011), A-
144. A Christmas Story 2 (2012), C+
145. Trading Places (1983), B+
146. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), A
147. Nativity! (2009), B
148. A Christmas Story (1983), A
149. Love Actually (2003), A
150. Scrooged (1988), A
151. Die Hard 2 (1990), B
152. Django Unchained (2012), A-
153. Les Miserables (2012), A

–Updated January 5, 2013.

24
Dec
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 250: It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Podcast

The Muppets are back on the big screen, Blake’s niece Maggie is in love with Kermit, and it’s Christmas Eve. What better reason for Blake and Heather to sit down, watch, and discuss the Muppet specials A Muppet Family Christmas. The Muppet Christmas Carol, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa? Also: learn the joys of podcasting with a 1-year-old! In the picks, Heather has become a big fan of ABC’s Once Upon a Time and Blake gives a plug to the first issue of IDW’s Memorial. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 250: It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Podcast

10
Nov
11

It’s (Almost) Time to Play the Music

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Muppets lately. In and of itself, there’s nothing unusual about this. I spend approximately 63 percent of my waking time thinking about various projects connected to Jim Henson even on an ordinary day, so being Muppet-heavy is par for the course for me. But this week I’m thinking about them for a reason… because in a little less than two weeks, they’re going to be back on the big screen for the first time in 12 years.

To say I’m excited about this movie would be something of an understatement. I was “excited” when the McRib came back again. The Muppets? I’m ecstatic to have them back in movie theaters. I, like virtually everybody reading this who was born after 1957, grew up with the Muppets as a constant presence in my life. I loved the Sesame Street Muppets, I grew into the Muppet Show Muppets, I fell in love with their feature films one at a time. I still defend their 90s TV show, Muppets Tonight, as a worthy successor to the Muppet Legacy. I was devastated when Jim Henson passed away, and I waited with terrible anticipation to find out if Kermit the Frog would find a voice again with his creator gone. (He did, although some of Jim’s other creations — and here I am specifically thinking of Rowlf the Dog — still haven’t quite made a comeback.)

I was okay when the Walt Disney company bought the Muppets in 2004, because this was actually something Jim had been considering himself prior to his death. And I felt secure that, under Disney, the Muppets would flourish. But sadly, I have thus far been mistaken. Although they’ve made a few efforts — the TV movie Muppet Wizard of Oz and the special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (the former was a mess, the second was good, but not great).

In truth, except for a few YouTube videos and a brilliant comic book series by Roger Langridge, there hasn’t been a lot about the Muppets for fans to get excited about. Disney’s intentions were no doubt good, but they haven’t known what to do with the characters. They still haven’t put out the last two seasons of the TV show on DVD, for Heaven’s sake. No, as is so often the case, our hope for the salvation of a brilliant cast of characters lies not with studio executives, but rather in the hearts of our own,  unabashed Muppet fans made good. The film was co-written by director Nick Stoller and actor Jason Segel, one of the stars of one of my favorite TV shows (How I Met Your Mother), who previously collaborated on the film Forgetting Sarah Marshal… which, admittedly, doesn’t make them the first choice for the Muppets. But I think Segel — himself an oversized Fozzie of a man — has the right heart for the property. Segel is star of the movie, which will feature a new Muppet named Walter (Segel’s character’s brother, in a wink-at-the-camera nod to The Great Muppet Caper) trying to find and reunite the Muppets after some time apart. The premise frankly sounds perfect for a movie intended to bring the characters back, make them stars again, and introduce them to an entire generation that hasn’t really gotten to see them enough.

“Geez, Blake,” you say. “Why are you getting so worked up over an old kids’ show?”

No, sir. No. If you dismiss the Muppets as “some old kids’ show,” you are not only demonstrably wrong, but you’ve fundamentally misunderstood one of the greatest artistic achievements of the last 50 years. And no, this is not one of those times I’m exaggerating for the sake of hyperbole. The Muppets were brilliant. Jim Henson was the second-greatest wizard of the 20th century, right behind Walt Disney himself. And those who carry his standard have a lot to live up to.

First of all, the Muppet Show Muppets (Kermit and the gang) were never intended to be characters merely for the entertainment of children. Hell, the title of the pilot episode of their show was “Sex and Violence.” You don’t do that if you want your entire audience to be in short pants. Yes, children should be able to watch the Muppets, and they should love them, but if their parents can’t sit down with them and love them just as much, then somebody, somewhere, has failed.

Henson gathered around him a cast of magnificent performers: Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Jerry Juhl, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Kevin Clash and many more that I’m embarrassed not to have mentioned by name. Each of these people was not only a puppeteer, but an actor, a comedian, a singer, a dancer, a mime, and probably a dozen other performing specialties all rolled into one. And the characters they created are every bit as clever and diverse: the exhausted Kermit the Frog, would-be diva Miss Piggy, neurotic comedian Fozzie Bear and so forth… each of them capturing a specific goal or ideal, something that speaks to something inside of us.

The Muppets were also subtly subversive, sneaking in little jokes and comments that the kids wouldn’t understand but that their parents snickered at, even going back to the aimed-at-kids Sesame Street segments. (One of the goals of Henson and show creator Joan Ganz Cooney was to create an educational show for children that wouldn’t bore the parents out of their minds.) The Muppets could teach, not only simple math, reading, and phonics on Sesame Street, but moral lessons in the likes of Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, conservation messages in Fraggle Rock, and even classic literature from projects like A Muppet Christmas Carol (which, despite the fact that Charles Dickens was played by a little blue weirdo, remains one of the most faithful adaptations of Dickens’s original novel that exists).

And by God, they’re funny. I can pop in any episode of the Muppet show at random and be laughing in seconds, because the writing was not only smart and clever, but timeless. I’ve never seen anything with Rudolf Nureyev except for his Muppet Show episode, but I never felt left out of the jokes. Still don’t.

Disney may own the Muppets, but Henson and company’s creations really belong to everybody. For every goofy guy who just wants to tell jokes, every little girl who dreams of being a show-stealer, every awkward kid who knows they have the heart of a dancer in there somewhere, and every friend who spends half his life keeping the rest of his friends from coming apart at the seams… and wouldn’t have it any other way. The Muppets aren’t just felt and foam. The Muppets mean something. The Muppets matter.

Here’s hoping, in two weeks, they prove that all over again.




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