In the late 1970s and early 1980s I watched The Muppet Show on television fairly often. Favorite muppets: Animal, Gonzo and Fozzie. The show was an odd mix of childlike silliness, adult humor, songs and sketches with the human guest host. In this CGI universe, the non-CGI pure puppetry of the muppets is pretty out of style. That's why I was excited about muppet fanatic Segal's attempt to revive the muppets in popular culture with this film. I've been a big fan of Segal since the Freaks and Geeks days [I watch the increasingly annoying How I Met Your Mother just because of him], but I can not think of more un-cool thing for him to write, star in and gushingly promote. His love of the muppets is no joke--this is a wide-eyed love project for him. Just take note of the look on his face during some of the scenes of The Muppets for proof. It looks like he is thinking, "I can't believe I'm standing next to Kermit" or some other character throughout the film. His love of this world is infectious and the entire film is non-stop muppet worship. Thankfully, it's a good movie too. It's funny, fast-paced, has catchy songs ["Man or Muppet" was my favorite] and made me have a tingly, I love life feeling as I excited onto a buzzing, neon lit Hollywood Boulevard when it ended. Rating ****
While I enjoyed the movie, I have to talk a little bit about the place I saw it: El Capitan. Owned by Disney, the El Capitan only screens Disney films, so I'm not sure how often I will come here, but this theatre really ties into the nostalgia of seeing a film in a movie palace. The El Capitan goes all out. When you enter the house, there is an organist on stage playing a large pipe-organ. Old school pre-show entertainment! When the organist finishes, they drop into the stage. I love that sort of thing. Then the theatre has two minutes of historic screens raised to music [see video of that below] and some trailers. Then, the house lights came up and a very chipper man with a microphone came on stage and introduced both Kermit and Miss Piggy and the audience were given a ten minute medley of holiday songs and jokes by the two lead muppets. To end the pre-show festivities, the theatre actually snowed down onto the theatre! Wow. You have to hand it to Disney and the El Capitan, they try to give you your money's worth for this screening of The Muppets.
White Men Can't Jump. This is an odd pairing of Los Angeles related movies! A few weeks ago SJ and I found ourselves on the Venice boardwalk, amidst the freaks, oddballs, weightlifters, tourists, skateboarders, gawkers and other members of the diverse population of Los Angeles. We made our way to the basketball courts and muscle beach where oiled up guys donning red speedos got their iron-pumping on. It reminded me of the 1992 film that begins at Venice Beach, White Men Can't Jump. So, we watched it a few days later.
White Men Can't Jump [which has a terrible poster on the left!] is a basketball comedy written and directed by Ron Shelton [Bull Durham] and stars Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and Rosie Perez. Harrelson and Snipes play bickering hoops hustlers who take to some Los Angeles playgrounds and pull the cash out of the their socks, hats and shorts in trying to make some money playing street-styled pick-up games. There's lots of race humor in this one as you'd expect in a buddy comedy set mostly on inner city basketball courts where one of the main players is a caucasian. Some of it is still funny, some of it is a bit dated. I'm a long-time fan of Harrelson [go here to read an "I Heart WH" post I did way back in 2008], but this is one of my favorite Snipes films. Snipes is a guy who could have done more comedy [Major League is another sports film of his I'm fond of] as he's got some comedic chops he gets to unleash every so often. He goes full-on in this one and maybe comes on a bit too strong at times. Shelton never reigns him in though and that goes for the rest of the cast, as pretty much everyone in this goes a little over the top in their performances. White Men Can't Jump is still a fun basketball film with a lot of Los Angeles locations spread throughout. Rating: ***
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