Archive for the ‘TV Movies’ Category

Channel Flippin’ – "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa" Review

December 23, 2008

The Muppets’ renaissance to stardom continues with a much-needed breath of fresh air in their new Christmas special, “Letters to Santa.”

By Blake

Originally posted December 22, 2008.

It’s been a long time since I was completely content with a new Muppets production. The short new videos appearing lately on YouTube and on the new have been great, but if the Muppets are supposed to have really won audiences over by the time their new movie hits theaters in 2010, I knew it was going to take a lot more than short Internet clips to make viewers want more Muppets. The Studio DC specials that aired in August and October of this year did their job to get younger audiences interested in the Muppets, but were somewhat painful for longtime Muppet fans to watch.

Thankfully, Kermit and the crew were back to their classic flair and charm in the superb new Christmas special, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, which aired Wednesday, December 17, 2008 on NBC.

In the new special, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the Great Gonzo, Pepe the King Prawn, and Rizzo the Rat are getting ready to embark on a tropical vacation for Christmas, but put their plans on hold when they accidentally forget to mail a letter to Santa written by Gonzo’s friend and neighbor Claire (played by Cory in the House’s Madison Pettis). Since it’s Christmas Eve and the post offices have closed for the holiday, the Muppet bunch decides that the only way that Claire’s Christmas wish can come true is if they deliver her letter to Santa personally. You can imagine the hilarity that comes from them as they make their way to the North Pole on a quest to find Santa.

It seems that every Muppet imaginable has come out of extinction to make an appearance in Letters to Santa. It actually reminded me a lot of the Muppet*Vision 3-D attraction at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks. The two productions’ plots are completely different, but it seemed like they were very similar in making sure that each Muppet character had their own bit of screen time, even if it was brief. We get a great short sampling into each character’s personality that I hope will be repeated in more force in the upcoming Muppet feature-length film. Sam the Eagle’s quick and random appearance was hysterical.

Even the lesser-known characters that have been absent for several years returned, including Kermit’s nephew Robin, Lew Zealand (with his boomerang fish), Beauregard the custodian, Crazy Harry, Bobo the Bear, and a few others. The only smaller characters that I didn’t spot were Sal Minella and Johnny Fiama, who I didn’t even notice were gone until I really thought about who was absent.

Muppet veteran Kirk Thatcher serves as director for Letters to Santa, and he has previously directed It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and written Muppet Treasure Island, as well as episodes of Muppets Tonight and Dinosaurs.

Another Muppet favorite, Paul Williams, wrote the four original songs that appear in Letters to Santa. Williams first worked with the Muppets in a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, and later wrote the songs for Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Muppet Movie, and The Muppets Christmas Carol. I’m not sure why, but it had somehow registered in my head that this new special wasn’t going to be a musical, so I was very pleasantly surprised when Kermit started singing the opening song, “Delivering Christmas,” which turned out to be my favorite of the new songs.

The writers of the special include Paul Williams, along with Saturday Night Live writers Hugh Fink, Scott Ganz, and Andrew Samson. They add mature, but definitely not inappropriate, jokes and gags that make the special appealing to any age group. Pepe and Rizzo especially seemed to be given extra care when being written for – they’re the center of many of the jokes and apply most of the comedic side of the special.

As with any Muppet production, celebrity cameos are around every corner in Letters to Santa. Embarrassingly, the only cameos I recognized were Madison Pettis, Whoopi Goldberg, and Nathan Lane. However, many other celebrities appeared that I didn’t recognize, including Jane Krakowski, Uma Thurman, and more.

Not too lengthy to prolong itself or its storyline, though not too short to leave us wanting much more, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa is honestly one of the best Muppet productions I’ve seen in years. Filled with all of the favorite Muppet characters and featuring a healthy balance of comedy with heartfelt emotions, there’s not much to criticize. And considering the relatively quick amount of time that it took to pull the special together, it’s amazing that it turned out the way it did. If this rate continues in the quality that the Muppets’ works are producing, then I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves – er, paws – for 2010.

How do I rank A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa will most likely please: Muppet Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-7) – Older Kids (ages 8-10) – Young Adults – Adults – Old Folks

If you missed A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, you can catch it again on Hulu through December 31, 2008. So hurry if you missed it or if you want to see it again!

By Blake; originally posted December 22, 2008. All images (C) Disney.


Channel Flippin’ – ‘Twitches Too’ Movie Review

October 13, 2007

‘Twitches Too’ lacks the charm of its original.

By Blake

Originally posted October 13, 2007.

Nearly everything that’s produced by the Disney Channel is successful, these days. Disney Channel pours in tons of viewers with their three main hit shows (Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and Cory in the House), and majorly promotes some young talents who go on to be way big. (Ever heard of Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake?) Even though the network attracts the attention of millions of young viewers, it seems like the shows they’re producing aren’t made with quality and effort – it seems more like they’re made with moola in mind.
So, when I sat down last week to view Twitches (a 2005 Disney Channel movie) in preparation to view the upcoming sequel and write a review of it, I was really expecting another cheesy TV production with bad acting. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when Twitches delivered a delightful fantasy suitable for the entire family (not just bee-bopping tweens) that involves strong characters, deep family relationships, and plot-turning twists.
However, the same is not to be said of its sequel, Twitches Too (which refuses to have its title grammatically correct). A choppy, low quality film, the new movie seems to be a poor attempt to further develop a franchise to a film that really didn’t need or leave room for a sequel. The original Twitches ended happily ever after with no real reason to go back to these characters. Therefore, Twitches Too is surrounded by a not-so-appealing storyline that seems choppy at times and doesn’t really get going until the last 20 minutes of the movie. Furthermore, the choppiness of the plot means that most of the movie seems like stalling (much like the episode of a TV show) until a big twist is revealed at the end. The audience feels like they’re on the wrong end of this bad-reception phone call: we get bits and pieces of what’s going on, but we don’t really know what happened until we can catch up with our caller later.
So what’s this choppy plot? Well, twin witches (“Twitches”) Alex and Carmen are living peacefully with their foster parents after recently discovering that each other existed (in the original movie), and now they discover that their magical kingdom that they happen to be princesses of isn’t so safe anymore, like we thought it was at the end of the original. The twins’ evil uncle Thantos is taking the form of a shadow and occupying unlikely suspects’ bodies to shape the personality of his victims. Another discovery has also been made: the twins’ father, who was thought-to-have died when the twins were born, may still be alive, also taking the form of a shadow. The keep their kingdom safe, the twins must say a special spell within the presence of each other during the upcoming solar eclipse. They can either choose the freeing spell, which will free their father and make him human again (if he really is alive), but will also make Thantos come back, too. Or they can choose the vanquishing spell, which will put a stop to Thantos’ evil doings once and for all, but will also banish the twins’ father forever, as well.
Although this may sound like a thorough, well-developed plot . . . it is! However, it’s not put to justice when we don’t really know all the elements of this plot until the last 20 minutes of the film. The other 70 minutes are spent with pointless diversions, such as the twins’ protectors making their wedding plans and the twins getting new boyfriends. And it certainly doesn’t help that the actress of one of the protectors is a different actress from the original (even though it’s the same character). On top of it all, we’re repeatedly shown a poorly-rendered computer-animated, “videogame-ish”-looking castle, where the twins reign as princesses.
All in all, Twitches Too had the potential to be a really great sequel. And it could have been, if it weren’t for the stalling of the plot and the delays we’re thrust along the way. Perhaps it would have worked out better as a half-hour Halloween special. If you saw the original, then by all means you’ll want to see the sequel to know what happens next. And you should, so I suggest you see the new movie. However (like several other Disney Channel productions), just because Twitches Too will attract millions of viewers; doesn’t mean it’s a quality, worth-seeing product.
How do I rank Twitches Too? (Bolded is my choice.):
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Who will Twitches Too most likely please?: Kids (ages 5-8) – Older kids (ages 9-10) – Tween (ages 11-13)

By Blake; originally posted October 13, 2007. All images (C) Disney.