The Muppet Movie Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz
  • Director: James Frawley
  • Writers: Jack Burns, Jerry Juhl
  • Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD High Res Audio)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: G (General Audience)
  • Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: August 13, 2013
  • Run Time: 95 minutes



            In celebration of just short of a 35th Anniversary, the original Muppet Movie is being released on high definition Blu-ray. After years of success with The Muppet Show, Henson finally brought the gang to the big screen in 1979 with The Muppet Movie. It seems less likely that this release has to do with an anniversary, and more probable that this is merely a marketing ploy to get these loveable puppets into the minds of young audience members prior to the latest addition in the film franchise, Muppets Most Wanted (2014). Even if that is the case, I welcome any reason to return to this incredible first entry into the world of film for Jim Henson’s wonderful creations.


    The Muppet Movie takes us to the imaginary beginning of all of the legendary characters, and how they found their way into show business. It is a magical film that manages to escape seeming at all dated, even with a few tunes that are apparently influenced by the times in which the film was made. Mostly it is a fun and enjoyable film that has plenty for adults and children alike to enjoy. A perk for adults will be all of the great cameos by huge stars, staying true to the formula which made the television such a success. Among the most memorable are Steve Martin as an irritated waiter and Mel Brooks as a mad German scientist.  



            The movie is set up as a movie within a movie, so it begins with all of The Muppets gathering in a studio screening room to watch the film they have just finished about the very beginning of The Muppets. The audience is then brought back to the beginning, when Kermit the Frog was just a frog on a log in a swamp. It isn’t until a Hollywood agent just happens to pass by in a canoe and tell Kermit that he should be in show business that Kermit decides to leave the swamp. As he travels towards Hollywood, he finds himself meeting all sorts of other animals and creatures that also have a dream in Hollywood, so they form a group as they make their way. The group gets larger and larger, and Kermit is also being pursued by a fast food mogul who wants Kermit to help promote his fried frog leg chain.


    With danger, dancing, show business and songs, The Muppet Movie is filled with entertainment. Kermit has a very sophisticated sense of humor, and he often tells one-liners directly to the audience. Many of the jokes are incredibly sophisticated and only adults are likely to understand them, but there is plenty of other stuff for the children to enjoy as well. It was also incredible how some of the scenes were done with the puppets at the time the film was made, and to a certain extent the same remains true today. There were not the easy digital solutions which would be used today, so it is all about camera tricks and great puppetry.


    The Blu-ray release of this classic film is highlighted by the enhanced audio and visuals, but it also has some exclusive new special features which were not included in any previously released DVD. Though one of the features from the previous DVD is now released as a Classic Bonus feature, all the rest are new. There is a Disney intermission feature which is similar to others from Disney, with a special Muppet touch. There is also a karaoke feature, allowing a sing-along option for the famous songs. There is also a technical featurette, with never-before-seen footage of the first outdoor camera test of the famous puppet characters.



    Entertainment Value: 9.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

    Historical Significance: 10/10

    Disc Features: 8/10



    On the Road Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley
  • Director: Walter Salles
  • Format: Blu-ray, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English  
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: August 6, 2013
  • Run Time: 124 minutes



            As long as it took for this film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s generation-defining novel to come to arrive, it was sure to be met with mixed feelings. Any novel with a following is bound to be judgmental of any interpretation which exists off of the page and outside of the reader’s own imagination, and this is only truer for a piece of literature many hold as nearly holy. I have no impression of the original source material, though I can’t imagine Kerouac imagined a bunch of pretty boy actors playing the roles in a tepidly safe adaptation of what was once a controversial text.


            I can almost see the attempt to draw in a specific audience group with the casting choices, and it was nearly brilliant in construction while the execution failed miserably. Casting an actress from Twilight alongside a bunch of Abercrombie models markets the film toward a younger audience, and with the film taking place during the beat generation we are also given a clear example of how unoriginal and uninspired hipsters are. The problem with a film starring a young and attractive cast looking and acting similar to the target audience is that it then has to appeal to that target group. Kerouac’s novel may have been youthful and exuberant, but the source material seems to have aged with him and the narrative in this film is so lifeless that it nearly has one foot in the grave.


            Sam Riley heads up the cast as Sal Paradise, our narrator and a struggling author who finds his voice through a relationship and random adventures with the selfish whirlwind of personality, Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hudlund). They travel cross country, occasionally with Dean’s first young wife, Marylou (Kristen Stewart), in tow. There are times that Marylou is along, even as they travel for Dean to visit his second and current wife (Kristen Dunst) and children. We are meant to dismiss Dean’s abysmal irresponsibility, because he is a free spirit. In the end, Sal just comes of a putz for trusting Dean or ever thinking he is capable of friendship without needing something in return.


            The cast is impressive, although mostly under-used. All people seem to be talking about is Stewart’s “bold performance,” which is code for her being willing to show her breasts and taint the image which fueled her career in another adaptation of a popular book. Stewart is good for reasons other than nudity, which is actually tasteful and limited. The cast also includes Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss, and Viggo Mortensen, though none are used as much as they should be. Each scene with one of these actors is heightened, until we are forced to return to the story of Dean and his shadow.


            The Blu-ray release includes deleted scenes and a trailer.

    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10

    Historical Significance: 6/10

    Disc Features: 3/10



    The Demented Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Kayla Ewell, Richard Kohnke, Ashlee Brian, Brittney Alger, Sarah Butler
  • Director: Christopher Roosevelt
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: July 30, 2013
  • Run Time: 92 minutes


            There are two types of independent horror films, and this is how it has always been. On one hand you have filmmakers like Roger Corman and his modern-day imitators, making films which blatantly rip off a more successful mainstream film in hopes of stealing a little of the residual glory. The other types are made by the more daring filmmakers who use the freedom of independence cinema to make a film which might not have been made in mainstream cinema. Unfortunately, The Demented is one of the first type of low budget horror films, and even more disappointing is how late it is to the party.


            To say that all of The Demented has been done in other films better is an understatement, as the market has been flooded with these type of infection-based horror since 9/11. In yet another quarantined biohazard horror, a group of college friends escape for a weekend getaway at an estate in a Louisiana bayou when a missile attack disrupts their peace. Suddenly all of the people in the surrounding areas act rabid and are contagious, in another zombie-like scenario.


            There are moments in the film which are well shot, and even a few sequences of suspense that almost make it worth enduring the standard bad dialogue and over-acting. All the rest won’t have to look far in the horror genre to find something similar. The Blu-ray release includes a high definition presentation of this low expectation horror film.


    Entertainment Value: 3/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10

    Historical Significance: 1/10

    Disc Features: 1/10



    Ishtar Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman
  • Director: Elaine May
  • Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Sony
  • Release Date: August 6, 2013
  • Run Time: 107 minutes


            Ishtar was one of those passion projects with a horrible reputation in the press long before it was released in 1987. As is the case with most massive cinematic flops, it isn’t nearly as bad as you might imagine. Mostly, Ishtar just feels like a waste of time, both for the talent involved and anyone unfortunate enough to sit through it. The director’s cut has no major changes to vastly improve the blandness of the film, and somehow I can’t imagine many people are excited to see this homage to classic Bing Crosby road comedies released in high definition.


            Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman are the only things keeping this surprisingly unfunny comedy afloat and even their performances get lost amidst a convoluted satire of Reagan-era international politics. The film works best when the jabs are directed at the entertainment industry instead, and the first act of Ishtar has the potential of being a Spinal Tap for lounge singers, but it quickly falls apart when the pair travels to the fictional country.


            Beatty and Hoffman are Rogers and Clarke, two singer/songwriters with little talent and endless ambition. Upon the advice of their limited agent, the pair goes on a concert tour in the Middle Eastern republic of Ishtar. Instead of performing, the pair becomes mixed up with beautiful freedom fighter (Isabelle Adjani) and ends up inadvertently taking on the CIA (led by Charles Grodin).


            The scenery looks fine in high definition, but no amount of image and sound clarity can help make the jokes funny. The highlight of the film are the moments of intentionally bad song writing, and even that isn’t enough to demand either a director’s cut or a Blu-ray release.



    Entertainment Value: 5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10

    Historical Significance: 3/10

    Disc Features: 1/10