Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Pacific (2010)

This review is a work in progress.

I've now watched nine of the 10 episodes of this HBO mini-series.

The Pacific is not easy viewing. The battle scenes are gripping and repeated attention is paid to the stress combat has on American marines fighting the Japanese enemy on islands such as Peleliu and Pavuvu. Soldiers commit suicide and go insane.

With just a half an episode to watch, the bottom line is this. The Pacific is difficult viewing, but essential watching. To its credit, this series repeatedly focuses on the mental toll the war takes on young Americans. Even veteran Marines crack.

Rami Malek is creepy good as Private Merriell 'Snafu' Shelton, whose initial wariness of new recruit Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello) transforms into a friendship.

The Pacific earned a Golden Globe nomination for best mini-series or movie made for television.

I wouldn't recommend this series for younger audiences because of the graphic violence and some sexuality.

FUN FACTS: Jeremy Podeswa and Timothy Van Patten each directed three episodes of The Pacific. Podeswa is a Canadian, born in Toronto in 1962.

Older viewers may remember Timothy Van Patten acting in television's The White Shadow - Season 1.

Joseph Mazzello, who appears as Private Eugene Sledge, was Tim Murphy in Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Carl Franklin directed one episode, Peleliu Landing. He's worked with Denzel Washington on features Devil in a Blue Dress and Out of Time. Franklin also appeared in an episode of The White Shadow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Hey, did this film help inspire The Muppets Most Wanted ?

Having just watched the most recent Muppets' big screen adventure, I couldn't help buy notice a few similarities between its story and The Muppets Take Manhattan.

The gang has a show. Kermit isn't as keen as Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Rowlf and the rest of the group. He's brow beaten into agreeing to tour Europe in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Kermit is encouraged to bring their show, done as college students, to the Big Apple in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Poor Kermit is mistaken for a criminal mastermind in The Muppets Most Wanted. Here, he suffers amnesia after getting hit by a taxi. Evil Kermit lookalike speaks with an accent in Most Wanted. Kermit's voice changes a bit after he's struck by a cab and starts working for an advertising firm.

Bad Kermit, aka Constantine, asks Miss Piggy to marry him in Most Wanted. Pig and frog walk down the aisle as part of their Broadway show in Manhattan. Side note: Do Kermit and Miss Piggy really get married in The Muppets Take Manhattan? It sure looks like they tie the knot for real.

The similarities continue.

Kermit is separated from his troupe in Most Wanted when he's shipped off to a Russian gulag. Here, his friends have to leave New York City when their efforts to get on Broadway take more time than expected. "My friends are all gone," says Kermit. "I'm going to get them back. I'm not giving up. The frog is staying."

Celebrity cameos are a mainstay of Muppet movies. The stars don't shine quite as brightly in Manhattan. Watch for Art Carney, James Coco, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Frances Bergen, John Landis, Linda Lavin, Joan Rivers, Brooke Shields and Elliot Gould.

Most of these brief appearances are not very funny. Rivers has her moments, but her scene goes on a bit too long. I do give full marks to Liza Minelli for her showing up at Sardi's restaurant and noting, with surprise, that her caricature was replaced with Kermit's. Shields gets a funny line in as a customer at a coffee shop where Kermit works while trying to mount his show.

The Muppets Take Manhattan is good fun. There's the usual mantra of follow your dreams - seen here with the song You Can't Take No for an Answer when Kermit tries to sell his musical. Keep an ear ready for some sharp lines.

Art Carney, when he sees his son and Kermit hugging:
"If you two are in love, I don't want to hear about it."
Carney, again, when Kermit sings one of the songs from his show.
"I'm allergic to amphibians singing."
Ad executives when they hire Kermit to work with them:
"We can always use a frog with horse sense."

There's also some neat effects with the Muppets out and about in the Big Apple leading to the popular question: How do they do that?

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Wow. That's Gates McFadden, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, as Dabney Coleman's secretary in her film debut. Cool.