Tagged: Muppets

Michael Davis: Jump

It’s the same voice thought that … you’re standing at a precipice and you look down, there’s a voice, and it’s a little quiet voice that goes, ‘Jump…’” • Robin Williams

Last week on Bleeding Cool someone posted a one-word comment meant as a commentary on my depression.

Jump.

I couple of years back I almost did.

I put a loaded gun to my head and pulled the trigger. There was no shell in the chamber as life, not luck, would have it. Life would have it before I cocked the slide I answered a phone call. A dear friend could tell the pain I was in made me promise to “stay here.”

That stopped me.

On my twenty-fifth birthday, a gun was put to my forehead. When my would-be murderer pulled the trigger, the gun jammed.

That saved me.

There’s a big difference between being saved and being stopped.

I didn’t then, nor do I now, want to die. I just wanted the pain to go away.

I write about my depression for the same reason Wayne Brady and Robin Williams and so many others talk about their depression because it may help someone else deal and help us cope.

Both Wayne and I are still fighting the good fight victories and setbacks along the way are part of the conflict we both know that. Robin lost his battle on August 11, 2014.

He spoke about his depression yet was likewise stricken by dementia with Lewy bodies, a type of dementia that gets much worse over time. I can’t imagine living with that kind of hell.

It pains me to think Robin endured it for as long as he did.

Yes, this is a pop culture website, and there’s an argument to be made my sort of personal reflection does not belong here. On the other hand, I write editorials and opinion columns and It’s because of my opinion, so many of you have found an easy target to voice your opinion.

Unless someone totally mispresents my point or is rude just for the sake of being rude, I take time responding to even the harshest of my critics, and I do so with respect.

In return, I mostly get people trying to school me on my swagger.

Telling a depressed person “jump” and isn’t something you screw around with those who do play with fire. If all you want when you visit sites like Bleeding Cool, ComicMix or any pop culture website is to discuss comics movies or whatever there is nothing at all wrong with that.

I get that. More over I’m not interested in a “very special” episode of the Muppets. I have zero interest in Kermit facing his battle with depression, grabbing a gun high, and tailing it up to the roof of 30 Rock intending to blow his brains out. So, yes, I get that.

If I did end up watching I doubt I’m posting on the Muppet website how I wanted to see Kermit shoot himself.

However, making such a comment while pretending you’re just scoring points in the hate Michael Davis game is cruel heartless uncalled for and can be dangerous.

I could care less about me, My focus has always been on young people.

Mental illness is still a big taboo in the African American community.

What happens if some black 15-year-old girl suffering from severe depression posted a reply in support of my struggle and got a “jump?” As is often the case what happens is she was subject to the troll pile on mob attack? Most likely nothing happens.

This, however, did happen the mother of such a young lady sent her daughters post to me directly. Having read some BC comments, she was smart enough to think better of having her daughter post at Bleeding Cool.

Say what you will about anything I write – even my depression if you’re sick of hearing about it. I get that; I get all of that. But for god’s sake have some regard for those who may read such as an act of cruelty directed toward them and on a bad day that’s all it takes.

If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. Shit, I can’t stand fruit cake so why the hell would I ask for a slice, hate it even more, then ask for seconds?

If you’re of such character that you feel ok posting that type of darkness over a silly story about Lois Lane, I’d rather you take your business elsewhere. If this community continues to support this sort of stuff, I’ll go elsewhere.

It’s not worth it.

I didn’t out that person and have no idea if the comment is still up. More than likely was meant to be funny and not hurtful. If there, I’ll ask please that no hurtful comments or hateful rhetoric be directed at him or her. I reacted last week without thinking that the writer may be young, despondent or both.

Thanks, Sandy. I loved the note, enjoy the books.

 

Box Office Democracy: Muppets Most Wanted

muppets most wanted photoI feel bad for The Muppets in the same way I feel bad for aging rock bands.  They used to be cutting edge but now they’re content to be a nostalgia act making money by playing the hits.  I don’t begrudge them the work and frankly I might be a little jealous of how much money they’re making doing the same old thing but I wish they doing new and exciting things rather than just jamming out on “Sympathy for the Devil” one more time.  Muppets Most Wanted is a fun movie but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

The plot of Muppets Most Wanted centers around an international jewel thief frog who is identical to Kermit with the exception of a mole on his lip.  Using his underling Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), Constantine switches place with Kermit, taking over running the Muppet world tour while Kermit rots away in a Siberian Gulag.  The movie then breaks in to three threads with Gervais, Constantine, and the duped Muppets going on a world tour that corresponds to where robberies need to be made leading to a heist of the crown jewels while Kermit tries to escape his captors at the Gulag (led by Tina Fey) and a pair of mismatched cops (Sam Eagle and a Clouseau-esque Ty Burrell) try to solve the crime.  It doesn’t break any new ground in any of the three threads but the live-action actors are giving it everything they have even when they seem a little over their heads in the musical numbers.  Muppet purists might be a little upset that Walter is still front and center in this movie instead of some of the more established characters.  Muppet purists might also find this film too similar to The Great Muppet Caper to really warrant a whole new film.  Are Muppet purists a real thing?  Is this a demographic that moves tickets?  Wouldn’t they have given up when Jim Henson died, Frank Oz retired and Disney bought the company?

There are two lengthy sequences where you can see all of Constantine’s body and he moves around on his legs and Disney needs to promise they won’t try this with any other Muppets until the effect gets much better.  Everyone knows these are puppets and is willing to accept the limitations that come with that.  I don’t know if it was a marionette or a CGI effect or some combination of the two but it looks atrocious.  There’s a classic look to the Muppets and it all looks fine introducing new for the sake of new (you cannot convince me a dance number was essential to the plot) is a dicey proposition even when it doesn’t look like you’ve hastily inserted a frog puppet via green screen.

I’d like to close by briefly scolding whoever had the idea to have Usher do a cameo as an usher.  I groaned over the next two lines.  You almost pissed away all the good will you generated by having Salma Hayek appear exclusively in a red spandex bodysuit.  Almost.

The Point Radio: Creating Creatures With Henson

Brian Henson and the company formed by his late father, Jim, are taking their talents to a new reality based competition show on SyFy. Brian talks about why he’s doing the CREATURE SHOP CHALLENGE and what his toughest creations have been on the big and small screens. Plus DOCTOR WHO comic fans get some freebies and Fox stakes some claims in the box office.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Jen Krueger: Apparently I’m Kermit

Krueger Art 140128Of the myriad of characters that exist in Westeros, apparently I’m most similar to Tyrion Lannister. When it comes to the cast at Hogwarts, I could stand in for Hermione. And in a galaxy far, far away, I’m interchangeable with R2-D2. All of these results were drawn from online quizzes, but I probably didn’t have to tell you that. Your Facebook feed is likely as full as mine of results to the same (or similar) questionnaires.

The first memory I have of a “where would you fit in the world of (insert pop culture reference here)” quiz is one featuring the Hogwarts Sorting Hat placing the user in one of the school’s four houses. I recall seeing it online shortly after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone became a huge hit in theaters, and my reaction to it was, How cute, I bet little kids will get a kick out of doing that. Today though, this bite-size pop culture personalization is a daily occurrence amongst my adult friends. With so much of ourselves represented in social media, it’s natural to want our interests in entertainment reflected there, but lately I’ve been wondering why that expression now comes so commonly in this quiz form.

I’m sure some of the draw is in the unique style of fan service these quizzes offer. They encourage geeking out by breaking down shows and movies in a way only fans would understand, and do so in an interactive and personalized manner. Obviously anyone could take a quiz to learn which companion they’d be if they found themselves in the TARDIS, but only a Doctor Who fan would appreciate the difference between being told they’re a Donna or an Amy. This active invitation to the user to move beyond simply thinking about the property’s world and into thinking of themselves as part of the property’s world is hard to replicate in other things aimed at fans. And since fancying yourself similar to a character you love is obviously going to be flattering, it’s no surprise the bulk of these questionnaires are aimed at telling people which character they’re most like.

So the impetus to take the quizzes makes sense. But why post the results on Facebook? Sure, sharing our favorite entertainment with friends is nothing new, but proclaiming I love the BBC’s Sherlock is very different from posting that I got Sherlock Holmes in a “Which Sherlock Character Are You?” quiz. The former reveals one of my pop culture touchstones, but the latter takes things a step further by letting me define a bit of myself with that specific touchstone acting as a yardstick. And silly as it might be, I have to admit it’s actually possible to tell things about people based on their results.

This week, a questionnaire telling the user what Muppet they would be was particularly popular amongst my friends. Looking at which Henson creation everyone got, I saw a correlation between the traits of their designated Muppet and the traits those friends prize in real life.

Is this a shallow way to think about people? Yes. But, weirdly, it works, at least to a certain extent. It also explains something I hadn’t ever understood before: people answering the questions in a way they think will yield a particular result, or re-taking a quiz until they get their desired answer. If we put enough stock in the results to be pleased when aligned with a favorite character, and we find other people’s results to the same quiz to be generally accurate, then I suppose it stands to reason that receiving a result comparing ourselves to characters we don’t like would be undesirable.

At the end of the day though, the lifespan of the results of these quizzes is the same as that of the quizzes themselves: extremely short. Accurate or not, today’s Downton Abbey questionnaire will be replaced by one about The Hunger Games tomorrow, and both will be forgotten by next week. But maybe this actually contributes to the popularity of these quizzes in a way; they’re quick bursts of fandom made no less fun for their brevity. If movies and TV act as pop culture meals, then these questionnaires are pop culture amuse-bouches. And they fulfill that role well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can get someone other than Lady Edith on this Downton quiz.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

 

New Muppets Promo Tweaks Twitter

New Muppets Promo Tweaks Twitter

Disney has released a hysterical new clip on support of Muppets Most Wanted, coming in March.

Genre:                         Family Comedy
Rating:                        TBD
Release Date:           March 21, 2014
Cast:                            Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Animal, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey
Director:                   James Bobin
Producers:               David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Executive Producers:    Nicholas Stoller, John G. Scotti
Screenplay by:              James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller

Disney’s Muppets Most Wantedtakes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine—the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit—and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, aka Number Two, portrayed by Ricky Gervais. The film stars Tina Fey as Nadya, a feisty prison guard, and Ty Burrell as Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon.

Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted is directed by James Bobin and produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman. Bobin co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller, who is also executive producer with John G. Scotti. Featuring music from Academy Award®-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie, Muppets Most Wanted hits the big screen March 21, 2014.

Starring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey, Disney’sMuppets Most Wanted takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour where they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper.

NOTES:

  • Director James Bobin returns to Muppets mania. For his work as Disney’sThe Muppets director, Bobin was nominated for BAFTA (Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer). He co-created HBO’sFlight of the Conchords, which he wrote, directed and exec produced.
  • Bret McKenzie, who won an Oscar® for best original song for “Man or Muppet,” returns to the Muppets stage as music supervisor. McKenzie created, co-wrote, executive produced and starred in the hit HBO television series Flight of the Conchords,”
  • Ricky Gervais is the creator of Derek and the Golden Globe®- and Emmy®-winning series The Office and Extras.
  • Ty Burrell is an Emmy® Award winner for his role in TV’s Modern Family.
  • Tina Fey is a Golden Globe®-, Emmy®- and SAG Award®-winning actress and writer Tina Fey (30 Rock, Mean Girls, Date Night).

New Images and Trailer for Muppets Most Wanted

MUPPETS MOST WANTEDDisney has released new images from Muppets Most Wanted, coming in spring 2014. Additionally, a new trailer has been released. ComicMix has it all below.

Genre:                         Family Comedy
Rating:                        TBD
Release Date:           March 21, 2014
Cast:                            Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Animal, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey
Director:                   James Bobin
Producers:               David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Executive Producers:    Nicholas Stoller, John G. Scotti
Screenplay by:              James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller

MUPPETS MOST WANTEDDisney’s Muppets Most Wanted takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine—the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit—and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, aka Number Two, portrayed by Ricky Gervais. The film stars Tina Fey as Nadya, a feisty prison guard, and Ty Burrell as Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon.

Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted is directed by James Bobin and produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman. Bobin co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller, who is also executive producer with John G. Scotti. Featuring music from Academy Award®-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie, Muppets Most Wanted hits the big screen March 21, 2014.

MUPPETS MOST WANTEDStarring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey, Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour where they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper.

NOTES:

  • Director James Bobin returns to Muppets mania. For his work as Disney’s The Muppets director, Bobin was nominated for BAFTA (Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer). He co-created HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, which he wrote, directed and exec produced.
  • Bret McKenzie, who won an Oscar® for best original song for “Man or Muppet,” returns to the Muppets stage as music supervisor. McKenzie created, co-wrote, executive produced and starred in the hit HBO television series Flight of the Conchords,”
  • Ricky Gervais is the creator of Derek and the Golden Globe®- and Emmy®-winning series The Office and Extras.
  • Ty Burrell is an Emmy® Award winner for his role in TV’s Modern Family.
  • Tina Fey is a Golden Globe®-, Emmy®- and SAG Award®-winning actress and writer Tina Fey (30 Rock, Mean Girls, Date Night).

REVIEW: Meet the Fraggles

Meet the Fraggles key art 1.15.13One of the most amazing things about the talented and long-missed Jim Henson is that he was always creating something new, exploring news forms of storytelling and puppetry. While he may have started out with single characters, such as Kermit, he went on to create characters that hawked cereal and interacted with humans on Saturday Night Live. In between, he also helped pioneer engaging and  educational children’s television with Sesame Street’s inhuman inhabitants and created a universe of Muppets. When HBO was looking for original fare in the 1980s, it made perfect sense that they turn to Henson who whipped up a brand new universe of characters, the Fraggles. His Fraggle Rock lasted five seasons and 96 wonderful episodes.

Coming this week is Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection, including every episode plus recently discovered behind the scenes interviews, a collectible Red plush keychain, and an all new exclusive Fraggle Rock graphic novel featuring a parent-friendly activity guide. That’s a lot of fun puppetry for the nostalgia-minded.

Also being released is Meet the Fraggles, a six episode sampler for those uncertain if today’s young will respond with the same delight. Wisely, Vivendi Entertainment includes the pilot episode so everyone of the cast is introduced, including the human Doc, who never sees the inhabitants, although his Muppet dog, Sprocket, does.

Much as the residents on Sesame Street were there to help teach numbers and letters, the mixed races of Fraggles were designed as an allegory to the human world. Henson was determined to demonstrate mankind’s interconnected nature and the episodes are fun, but touch on complex issues. Living in their system of underground caves and tunnels, the Fraggle subsist on radishes and Doozer sticks, made from ground up radishes. They can share their dreams if their heads touch one another as they fall asleep.

The series focuses predominantly on Gobo, the leader; Mokey, highly spiritual and artistic; athletic Red; nervous Wembley; and, Boober, the depressive. Whereas the Fraggles were carefree explorers, they frequently encountered the Doozers, who are workers. As a result, there is a great deal of misunderstand and incomprehension between them, allowing the lessons to be learned. Then there are the rules of the Universe, or so claim the Gorgs. Junior Gorg, Pa Gorg, and Ma Gorg are several times the size of a Fraggle and consider them pests.

Described by Henson as “a high-energy, raucous musical romp. It’s a lot of silliness. It’s wonderful”, it began production in March 1982 and debuted on January 10, 1983, becoming the template for many international co-productions that added their own unique elements. The six episodes included on the sampler are culled from the first 37 aired on HBO and nicely focus on the different Fraggles.

We have “Beginnings” that has Doc (Gerard Parkes) and Sprocket set up an old room as a workshop where they discover the first in a series of holes that turn out to be access points to Fraggle Rock. In “Boober’s Dream” we learn that he has a fun side, a split personality named Sidebottom,. There’s also a nice nod to Henson’s other 1980s creation when they go to the drive-in and see a clip from The Dark Crystal. The most charming of the bunch may be “Red’s Club”, where she wants to lead a club that forms without her.

There are no extras on this inexpensive disc but well worth a look if you’ve never experienced these before.

Dennis O’Neil: It’s Like A Kind Of Torture

The Cookie Monster finished duct taping Kermit to the chair, stepped back, removed a cattle prod from somewhere within his fur and growled, “Where cookie?”

“I don’t know where your cookie is,” Kermit whined.

The Monster brandished the cattle prod.  “Last chance.  Where cookie?”

Then he jammed the cattle prod into the part of Kermit’s anatomy that would have sported genitals, if puppets had genitals, and pressed a stud.

Fzzzzzzzzt!

“Ow!” Kermit complained.

“One last time,” The Cookie Monster said.  “Where friggin’ cookie?”

(more…)

From The Muppets to Richard Parker, Animated Animals in Film

Life of Pi TigerIt’s been a very good week for Ang Lee and novelist Yann Martel. Lee, of course, won the Best Director Oscar for The Life of Pi, adapting Martel’s magical novel. The film itself was warmly received, earning it admiration from the Academy. The film is being released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on March 12.

Based on the acclaimed best-selling novel from Yann Martel that has been published in 40 languages, and brought to life by visionary Academy Award winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), this magical adventure of hope, wonder, survival, and the power of the human spirit has been celebrated by critics all over the world.

Much was made of the animals brought to life through digital legerdemain but the film was far from the first to bring artificial animals to the screen, dating all the way back to Windsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur. In more recent times, puppetry was the way to go, pioneered in numerous ways. The first commercially successful film to use puppets, of course, was from Jim Henson.

THE MUPPETS

The Muppets castThe first Muppet movie came to our screens in 1979 and these lovable characters were created without the use of CGI. Each Muppet character was carved out of various types of foam, and then covered with fleece, fur, or other felt-like material. Muppets represented a multitude of species including animals, humans and aliens. Even in this modern age, when interacting with Muppets, children still tend to act as though the Muppets were living creatures, even when they can see the puppeteers.

STAR WARS

The original Star Wars trilogy contained over 100 alien animals spanning a multitude of planets without using CGI. The first film in this epic saga provided audiences with a multitude of film-firsts, including the first ever animated 3D wireframe graphic. Star Wars: A New Hope was made with a relatively small budget by today’s standards and many of the animals and aliens looked surprisingly familiar, check out the very Wolfman-like alien from the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina scene below. This character was changed using CGI for the special edition re-release in 1997.

LABRYNTH

Blink and you will miss the first use of a realistic CGI animal in a feature film.  The 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth showed off a flying digital owl in the opening credits. The opening sequence of Labyrinth was created by animators Laryy Yaeger and Bill Kroyer and won its animators the NCGA Best Computer Animation award of 1986.

JURASSIC PARK

the-lost-world-the-lost-world-jurassic-park-32533948-1800-1013-300x168Lucasfilm’s ILM division provided the Oscar-winning visual effects wizardry in this classic film. The studio used CGI along with animatronics and stop-motion miniatures to create the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The iconic first glimpse of those Brachiosauri was voted in the top 30 most magical moments in film by Empire magazine and broke new ground in CGI animation of animals on the big screen.

RISE OF PLANET OF THE APES

Rise of the Planet of the ApesThe latest addition to the Planet of the Apes franchise did not use a single real-life ape during filming. Working with WETA Digital the studio created lifelike apes through revolutionary motion-capture technology and visual effects. The film highlights the journey of an ape named Caesar, a fully CGI creation realized through a brilliant motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis, who used body suits and cameras to create the realistic movement we see in the film. This is the same technology Serkis used to play Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

LIFE OF PI

Ang Lee’s award winning adaptation Life of Pi relied on the use of CGI to create the Bengal tiger “Richard Parker” which shares the lifeboat with Pi. This was a tough task and so Lee brought in James Cameron and his team from the blockbuster Avatar to make sure that the CGI was the best it could be. To put this into context, the production team employed 15 artists to work only on Richard Parker’s fur, combing and placing all 10 million hairs on the tiger’s body to create the beautiful creature pacing across the screen.