Tag Archives: Frank Oz

The Set of 400: #279 – My Favorite Talking Sandwich

Today! Because you go ahead and eat me now, you’re gonna need the energy –

Muppets From Space (1999)

Directed by Tim Hill

Starring Dave Goelz (x2), Steve Whitmire (x2), Bill Barretta (x2), Frank Oz (x3), Jerry Nelson (x2), Brian Henson, Kevin Clash (x2), Jeffrey Tambor, Josh Charles, Andie MacDowell, David Arquette, F. Murray Abraham, Ray Liotta (x2), Pat Hingle, Kathy Griffin, Rob Schneider, Hulk Hogan (x3), Katie Holmes (x2), Joshua Jackson, Gary Owens

Often referred to as the first big screen Muppet film where Kermit wasn’t the lead, Muppets From Space is actually the third in the ’90s trilogy of post-Jim Henson films where Gonzo is the unquestioned star, following his roles as Charles Dickens in virtually every scene of The Muppet Christmas Carol and as Jim Hawkins’ boon companion, er, Gonzo in Muppet Treasure Island. This is, to date, the only original Muppet feature where Kermit doesn’t nominally star, though, that’s true.

This was also the only theatrical Muppet film released between 1996 and 2011, and as such, it serves as an interesting keystone – wrapping up the entire early history of the franchise with the characters playing themselves, signaling the end of the Jim Henson/Frank Oz era of features, and introducing the Muppets Tonight characters into the film family for the first time. Most of them would be roundly discarded by the time the reboot of the ’10s came around (even fan favorite Pepe), and so this is likely the only film where these eras of Muppets will appear together.

We honor you, Pepe!

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The Set of 400: #312 – My Favorite Wise-Cracking Lobster

Today! Because I’m not Jim Jimmy Jim Jim Jim Jim, he’s Jim Jimmy Jim Jim Jim Jim –

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Directed by Brian Henson

Starring Tim Curry (x2), Billy Connolly, Jennifer Saunders, Kevin Bishop, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Bill Barretta, Frank Oz (x2), Kevin Clash, Louise Gold

By wide pronouncement the worst of the big screen Muppet films, Treasure Island gets a hugely unfair rap, in my opinion. If your argument is that the other Muppet movies are of such high caliber that something has to be labeled the worst, okay, I’ll accept that. Because there is little inherently wrong with Treasure Island, especially for hardcore Muppet fans.

Sure, the movie falls squarely on Gonzo and Rizzo to keep moving, a tactic used to such great success a few years prior in Christmas Carol. This time, they tag along with the novel’s Jim Hawkins to meet Long John Silver, get on the boat, get swept up in the mutiny and whatnot, and break into epic musical numbers. Really, the main gripe you could have about this – and Christmas Carol and the 2011 Muppets – is that there aren’t quite enough Muppets. At least Christmas Carol had the wisdom to make Kermit Bob Cratchit, considering Scrooge was a human. This movie takes both the main characters away from the felt gang, so Muppets have to fit into roles wherever they’re left, leaving the film decidedly light on Kermit, Fozzie, and Piggy, to say nothing of Rowlf, the Electric Mayhem, Statler & Waldorf, and the rest of the gang.

Uncle Deadly would’ve made a great Long John, just saying

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The Set of 400: #332 – My Favorite Door Melting

Today! Because yud say boom de gasser, den crashin der bosses heyblibber, den banished –

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Directed by George Lucas

Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Brian Blessed, Terence Stamp, Ray Park, Warwick Davis, Pernella August, Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic West, Sofia Coppola, Keira Knightley, Greg Proops (x2), Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie

Let me just start by saying SHUT UP. I know, I’m not exactly in the majority for my enjoyment of this film. And rest assured, I recognize the amount of ridiculous bullshit that’s in it. Why did I use a Jar Jar Binks quote at the top? Because I’m owning it, and I want you to know I’m not overlooking the crammed in nonsense that ruins this movie for people. And perhaps I’m projecting backward onto this film – because I largely haven’t enjoyed the Star Wars things that have come since 1999 – but I think this is a hugely underappreciated movie, with a lot to like. So just shut up.

Let focus on the big things – the lightsaber battle at the end is the best lightsaber fight in any Star Wars movie. Hell, it might be the best swordfight in the history of film. John Williams score for this movie is my favorite of the series. The pod racing scene stands up with any sequence in any Star Wars. Ewan McGregor was a terrific choice to carry the prequels, and is always excellent as Obi-Wan. Darth Maul is a terrifically cool villain. Mace Windu is pretty cool, too. Plus it cannot be overstated how eagerly anticipated this movie was in ’99, to the point that I can’t believe it could’ve been warmly accepted no matter how it turned out. Look at The Force Awakens – the only reason people fell all over themselves in love with that thing is because the prequels were so hated. The logic – let’s just straight remake A New Hope and pray no one notices – worked great, as things got so out of hand by Episode III that fans just wanted anything resembling the original movies, no matter how derivative.

Groan!

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