Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

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Directed by John Carpenter

Written by Gary Goldman & David Z. Weinstein

Adaptation by W. D. Richter

Starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis DunJames Hong, & Victor Wong

Release Date: July 2, 1986

Running Time: 1hr 39min

Rating: PG-13

Plot: Tough talking, meat headed trucker, Jack Burton (Russell) gets in way over his head when a simple trip to pick up the fiancé of his best friend, Wang Chi (Dun) becomes a fight to save the world from ancient sorcerer Lo Pan (Hong). They must traverse the underground of San Francisco, Chinatown to stop Lo Pan from marrying Wang’s fiancé, Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), to make himself fully corporeal and regain his full power. The two are aided by strong willed lawyer, Gracie Law (Cattrall), and local tour bus driver/wizard, Egg Shen (Wong). Together this ragtag group will shake the pillars of Heaven!

Personal history/how I came to see this film: This one of those movies I remember seeing certain clips on TV as a kid, but I finally got around to seeing it thanks to my older brother owning a copy on DVD. Since then, I’ve gotten my own DVD copy (later upgraded to Blu-ray) and I’ve had the opportunity of seeing it in theaters a couple times.

Reception: The film was, unfortunately, a box office failure, earning only $11.1 million against an estimated budget of $19 to $25 million. It was met with mixed reviews from critics, but became a cult classic thanks to home video and TV airings. It’s often ranked among John Carpenter’s best. It’s also spawned merchandise, comic book spinoffs, there’s rumors of a sequel in the works.

Personal Opinion: I’m guessing obvious at this point that I adore this movie! No horseshit, this movie is awesome! It’s silly as all hell, but that’s exactly the point, tongue is firmly in cheek with this story. Kurt Russell is at his macho cheesy best as Jack Burton, doing his best John Wayne voice. The rest of the cast is fun too, with Dennis Dun’s Wang Chi looking to at first be the sidekick but being way more competent at fighting, plus having a more personal stake in the story.

Should you see it? I’ll admit, that really depends on your taste in movies. If you like over the top kung fu, Kurt Russell and the 1980’s then I say you definitely give this one a look.

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Rocketman (2019)

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Directed by Dexter Fletcher

Written by Lee Hall

Starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, & Bryce Dallas Howard

Release Date: May 31, 2019

Running Time: 2hr 1min

Rating: R

Plot: The early life and career of music legend Elton John (Egerton) is explored.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: I’ve enjoyed Elton John’s music my entire life, I’m also a fan of actor Taron Egerton (who performed a great cover of Elton’s song “I’m Still Standing” in the 2016 animated musical Sing), and biopics, so this was right up my alley!

Reception: The film was a financial success, earning $185.2 million against a $40 million budget. Critically the film has been met with mostly positive reviews, with Egerton’s performance, the costume design and musical numbers receiving general praise.

Personal Opinion: This movie is fantastic! Egerton is amazing in the lead role, a multi talented actor for sure! The musical numbers are tons of fun and often poignant, and the costumes are so cool! The movie goes for a lot of fantastical elements, but I honestly wouldn’t expect anything else from an Elton John biopic.

Should you see it? You like Elton John? Musicals? Classic music? Then absolutely!

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Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (2019)

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Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie with Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, & Al Pacino

Release Date: July 26, 2019

Running Time: 2hr 41min

Rating: R

Plot: Former TV star, Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), and his stunt double/best friend, Cliff Booth (Pitt), try make it big in the film industry in the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: I’ve been a fan of Tarantino since I was 13, so of course I’m gonna check out any new film of his.

Reception: The film has received mostly positive reviews, with particular praise going to the performances and the 1960s period detail.

Personal Opinion: Once again, Tarantino knocks it out of the park! This movie is wild, tense, and funny as hell! There’s amazing period detail, fun behind the scenes of Hollywood of the era, and like any Tarantino film, a bitchin soundtrack. The performances are all around top notch, DiCaprio and Pitt have great chemistry, Margot Robbie proves her talents once again.

Should you see it? You like Quentin Tarantino films? You like period films? Movies about making movies? Then yes! See it!

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Toy Story 4 (2019)

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Directed by Josh Cooley

Written by by Andrew Stanton & Stephany Folsom

Story by John Lasseter, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Valerie LaPointe, & Martin Hynes

Voice Cast of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack

Release Date: June 21, 2019

Running Time: 1hr 40min

Rating: G

Plot: When a new toy called Forky joins Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and the rest of the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: I saw the first Toy Story in theaters when I was 8, and I’ve seen every sequel after that in theaters as well. I personally felt things had ended perfectly in the third and that a fourth was unnecessary, but at the same time there was no way I was missing a new entry in the franchise!

Reception: The movie has been a huge financial success, earning $920.5 million against a $200 million budget, currently being sixth highest grossing film of 2019. Like its predecessors, it has received critical acclaim, with critics praising its story, humor, emotion, animation, and vocal performances.

Personal Opinion: I’m glad I was proven wrong! This movie hit me right in the feels, plus it was a major nostalgia bomb! Tom Hanks once again shines as the voice of Woody, perfect balance of humor and heart. The rest of the cast does a great job too, both the familiar and new voices.

Should you see it? Yes! If you also grew up on this franchise, or are being introduced to it for the first time, absolutely you should see this one!

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Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

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Directed by Rob Letterman

Written by Rob Letterman, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, & Derek Connolly

Story by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, & Nicole Perlman

Based on Pokémon created by Satoshi Tajiri

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy

Release Date: May 10, 2019

Running Time: 1hr 44min

Rating: PG

Plot: Former Pokémon trainer, Tim Goodman (Smith), looks for his missing father, teaming up with his Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds) that he’s able to speak to. Along with a plucky young reporter, Lucy Stevens (Newton), they stumble upon a world altering conspiracy.

Sonrlax, one of my favorite Pokémon!

Personal history/how I came to see this film: Pokémon has been part of my life since it first came to America. I played some of the games, watched the show, saw the first two films in theaters, and I’ve collected various merchandise involving the franchise (which is vast!). So yeah, I was definitely gonna check this one out! I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure Pokémon could work in a live action setting, I felt it was too fantastical. Still I was willing to give it a chance because that’s the power of nostalgia!

Psyduck, another favorite Pokémon!

Reception: The film was a huge financial hit, earning $430.8 million against a $150 million budget, becoming the ninth highest grossing film of 2019 (as of writing this) and the highest grossing video game film adaptation of all time. Critically it was met with mostly positive reviews, with the performances (especially Reynolds) and creature designs getting praise, but the plot being criticized as standard (given this is a video game movie, I would say that’s not a bad thing).

Personal Opinion: I’m very glad to be proven wrong about Pokémon working in live action! This movie is better than expected, and better than it has any right to be! The humor is great, Reynolds is indeed fantastic as Detective Pikachu, with the rest of the cast also doing a good job. The Pokémon designs are amazing, realistic but still recognizable, and often adorable. I also enjoy how lived in the world feels, with Pokémon just being around and people being casual about it.

Should you see it? You like Pokémon? Then yes! You like buddy comedy movies? Then again yes!

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Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

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Directed by  Jon Watts

Written by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers

Based on Spider-Man by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Starring Tom HollandSamuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal

Release Date: July 2, 2019

Running Time: 2hr 9min

Rating: PG-13

Plot: All Peter Parker (Holland) wants to do is have a regular summer trip around Europe with his friends and take a break from being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But Nick Fury (Jackson) needs his help assisting Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Gyllenhaal), from stopping a bunch of elemental monsters from another dimension.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: It’s another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course I’m gonna see it!

Reception: The film has been a box office smash, earning over $1 billion against a $160 million budget. It’s also been met with positive reviews for the special effects, humor, and acting (particularly Holland and Gyllenhaal).

Personal Opinion: Of course I love this movie! Tom Holland once again does a great job in the lead, with the rest of the supporting cast also providing plenty of entertainment. The action is thrilling, the special effects top notch, and some really nice surrealism courtesy of Mysterio.

Should you see it? If you’ve enjoyed the other entries in the MCU, then yes!

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The Quiet Man (1952)

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Directed by John Ford

Written by Frank S. Nugent

Based on the short story by Maurice Walsh

Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, & Victor McLaglen

Release Date: June 6, 1952

Running Time: 2hr 9min

Rating: Not Rated

Plot: In the 1920s, Sean Thornton (Wayne), an Irish-born American, returns to his birthplace, the small Irish village of Inisfree, looking to buy his family home. Upon arrival, he has an encounter with fiery redhead, Mary Kate Danaher (O’Hara), and the two have an immediate attraction. Unfortunately, her older brother, Squire “Red” Will Danaher (McLaglen), was interested in Sean’s land too, and isn’t too happy with losing his bid. The law of the time in Ireland means that Sean and Mary Kate can’t marry, or even have a courtship, without her brother’s consent, so this causes tension. What will they do? This movie may be 60+ years old, but I’m not gonna be the one to spoil things!

Personal history/how I came to see this film: This was a movie my dad owned first on VHS and eventually DVD, being a big John Wayne fan. It was a movie that was a staple of family vacations when we just felt like staying in. If you’ve seen the Steven Spielberg classic, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, then you’ve seen one clip featured and spoofed in that movie.

Behind the Scenes Info: Republic Pictures, who financed the film, would only do so if Ford would first direct a western starring Wayne and O’Hara, as they felt this movie wouldn’t be much of a financial hit. They agreed, and made the 1950 film, Rio Grande, which was the first of three films Ford made with Wayne and O’Hara. [Wayne and O’Hara would star in two non Ford directed films together later on. O’Hara was also in two other Ford films without Wayne, who himself was in a total of 24 films made by Ford.]

Reception: The film was a financial success, earning $3.8 million against its $1.75 million budget in its first year of release, being one of the top earning films of that year. [Adjusted for inflation today, that’s a box office of over $36 million, not bad!] The film was met with very positive reviews, Ford would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Director (his 4th, he’s the only director to achieve this) and Winton C. Hoch for Best Cinematography, and it was also nominated for Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Supporting Actor (McLaglen), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Personal Opinion: This is a great movie! There’s a reason John Ford has the reputation as one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived, framing every scene of the film like a vivid painting. Then there’s the star power, pretty much everyone knows the legendary status of John “The Duke” Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and it’s much deserved. The two had a natural chemistry, you buy O’Hara as a woman who can stand up to Duke, makes you wish they were in more than five films together. The rest of the supporting cast is top notch as well, and there’s a great balance of humor and drama.

O’Hara definitely looks best in color, with that bright red hair and those piercing green eyes (she was nicknamed “The Queen of Technicolor”)! It’s shocking that she was never nominated for an Oscar! Really! Look it up! She would be awarded an Honorary Academy Award in November 2014 at least. She passed away in October of 2015 at the age of 95. I recommend reading her 2004 autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, lots of great behind the scenes stories of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Should you see it? Yes!

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Booksmart (2019)

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Directed by Olivia Wilde

Written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman

Starring Beanie Feldstein & Kaitlyn Dever with Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers, Noah Galvin, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis

Release Date: May 24, 2019

Running Time: 1hr 42min

Rating: R

Plot: Best friends Molly Davidson (Feldstein) and Amy Antsler (Dever) are high school students who have excelled academically instead of having fun like everyone else. But on the eve of graduation, they discover several of their classmates that they thought were inferior to them are actually getting into decent colleges too, despite doing a lot more partying. So the two decide to cram as much fun into one evening as they can before they graduate.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: I’m a fan of teen comedies and nerdy characters attempting to party with ensuing shenanigans, no dip this is up my alley.

Reception: The movie was a decent hit at the box office, bringing in $23.1 million against at a $6 million budget. Critically it’s received mostly positive reviews as well, particularly for the acting.

Personal Opinion: This movie is hilarious! Feldstein and Dever have great chemistry, you buy them as longtime friends. The supporting cast is a lot of fun too, especially Billie Lourd as this crazy, drugged out classmate who seems to be at every party before our main characters somehow. It’s also nice to show teenage girls being as foulmouthed as guys usually are, that wasn’t always as common in movies, and I definitely remember there being girls who could curse up a storm as well as any guy I went to high school with! It plays up some high school stereotypes for sure, but anyone who remembers high school know that some of those do exist.

Should you see it? You like coming-of-age films? You don’t mind adult language? Then abso-fucking-lutley you should!

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Stuber (2019)

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Directed by Michael Dowse

Written by Tripper Clancy

Starring Kumail Nanjiani & Dave Bautista with Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, & Karen Gillan

Release Date: July 12, 2019

Running Time: 1hr 33min

Rating: R

Plot: Timid Uber driver, Stu Prasad (Nanjiani), has his entire day hijacked by tough as nails LAPD detective, Vic Manning (Bautista), who’s attempting to capture a ruthless drug trafficker (Uwais). Stu has no choice but to tag along, especially if he wants a 5 star rating!

Personal history/how I came to see this film: I’m a fan of bot leads, plus several of the supporting cast members, so I was definitely wanting to check this out.

Reception: The movie did decently at the box office, bringing in $24.2 million against a $16 million budget. Critically it’s been mixed, with the chemistry between Nanjiani and Bautista being praised, but that the genres haven’t been meshed well.

Personal Opinion: I think this movie is fucking hilarious! I also think the comedy and action is blended just fine. And yeah, the chemistry between Nanjiani and Bautista is fantastic, elevating the material greatly, so I really hope they collaborate again. Iko Uwais makes an effective villain, and I’m glad to see him in more things as he’s an amazing martial artist, and the rest of the supporting cast do good work.

Should you see it? If you like action comedies and don’t mind adult language, absolutely! I don’t typically give star ratings on here (I personally find them unnecessary), but in keeping with the theme of the movie, this one here definitely gets ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️!

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Ed Wood (1994)

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Directed by Tim Burton

Written by  Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

Based on Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. by Rudolph Grey

Starring Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, Lisa Marie, Bill Murray

Release Date: September 30, 1994

Running Time: 2hr 7min

Rating: R

Plot: The early filmmaking career of Edward D. Wood Jr. (Depp), often considered to be one of the worst directors of all time, is chronicled. We see the making of his best known films (Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and his magnum opus Plan 9 from Outer Space), as well as his friendship with horror icon, Bela Lugosi (Landau), who’s in a career slump and addicted to morphine. Despite major setbacks in productions and harsh criticism, even from his own girlfriend, Dolores Fuller (Parker), Ed remains positive and is always excited to get a movie made; his love for angora sweaters also help him get through.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: I was around 13 when I first learned of this movie’s existence, finding it on a premium cable network (HBO, Showtime, STARZ, etc.), and I already enjoyed most of Tim Burton’s film at that point. This was my introduction to Ed Wood the filmmaker, I recall there being an interview with Dolores Fuller on the same channel the movie played. It would be a few years later that I saw the three films highlighted within the film, and I can see how they have a cult following (especially Plan 9).

Reception: At the time of the release the film was a box office disappointment, bringing in only $5.8 million against an $18 million budget (which is more than any of Wood’s films cost to make combined!). It was well received critically, and went on to win two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Landau and Best Makeup for Rick Baker, Ve Neill and Yolanda Toussieng. Since then, its developed as big a cult following as any Ed Wood film.

Personal Opinion: I love this movie! I almost always enjoy movies that are about making movies, plus I enjoy cheesy movies so this film is right up my alley. Johnny Depp is an absolute delight as Wood, Martin Landau is amazing (and foul mouthed) as Lugosi, and the rest of the supporting cast are tons of fun as well. The 1950s period details are great, from the cars to the costumes and sets, it all looks fantastic. The cinematography is gorgeous, black and white really was the only proper way to tell this story.

I’ve learned over time that certain aspects of the film were dramatized (Dolores wasn’t as bitchy as shown in the film, and she left Ed more for his drinking issues than his cross dressing and poor quality of the films he made), but that’s to be expected with most biopics. The intent is what really matters, and that was to make a loving tribute to a filmmaker who still manages to entertain people to this day, even if it’s not in the way he may have planned it.

Should you see it? If you’re a fan of Tim Burton, definitely, also if you love movies about making movies.

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Avengers: Endgame (2019)

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Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo

Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Based on The Avengers by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, & Josh Brolin

Release Date: April 26, 2019

Running Time: 3hr 1min

Rating: PG-13

Plot: Following the events of Infinity War, the remaining Avengers attempt to undo the damage caused by Thanos (Brolin) and the Infinity Stones.

Personal history\How I came to see this film: I’d seen all the other entries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so there was no way I was gonna miss this.

Reception: The film was a huge box office success! In addition to being the highest grossing film of 2019, it has become the highest grossing film of all time!

Personal Opinion: I love this movie! That should be obvious by now. Comics are my second obsession after movies, so to have a comic book movie be the highest grossing film of all time is a double victory for a geek like me!

Should you see it? Yes! It’s awesome!

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The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

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Written & Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Austin Butler, RZA, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane Selena Gomez

Release Date: June 14, 2019

Running Time: 1hr 44min

Rating: R

Plot: A trio cops (Murray, Driver, Sevigny) deal with a sudden zombie outbreak in their usually quiet small town.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: I’ve been a fan of Jim Jarmusch since high school, this was the first movie of his I got to to see in theaters.

Reception: The movie did decent financially, earning $12.8 million against a $2.5 million budget. Critical response was mixed.

Personal Opinion: I really enjoyed this movie. It’s not a laugh hysterically kind of comedy, the humor is very dry (those familiar with Jarmusch’s previous films won’t be surprised by that). Bill Murray is his usual brilliant deadpan self, while Adam Driver has great rapport with him.

The rest of the ensemble cast is fun too, particularly Tilda Swinton as an eccentric mortician who’s handy with a katana. The zombie effects are also unique, they spurt out ash instead of blood and gore, plus some retain certain memories of their past lives (this of course has been brought up in other zombie films, notably George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead).

Should you see it? If you’re a fan of Jim Jarmusch then I say definitely. Anyone else, it really depends on your sense humor. Like I said is a dry film and the pace is leisurely. Still I think it’s a unique addition to to the zombie genre.

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The Muppet Movie (1979)

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Directed by James Frawley

Written by Jerry Juhl & Jack Burns

Based on The Muppets created by Jim Henson

Starring The Muppet Performers: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, & Dave Goelz

With Charles Durning & Austin Pendleton

Cameos by Dom DeLuise, James Coburn, Madeline Kahn, Telly Savalas, Carol Kane, Paul Williams, Milton Berle, Elliott Gould, Edgar Bergen, Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Cloris Leachman, & Orson Welles

Release Date: June 22, 1979

Running Time: 1hr 35min

Rating: G

Plot: Kermit the Frog decides to leave behind his ideal swamp life in Florida to make it big in Hollywood. Along the way he makes new friends, finds romance, encounters various celebrity cameos, and tackles with a fast food tycoon (Durning), who wants him to be the mascot for French fried frog legs.

Personal history/how I came to see this film: Some of my earliest memories are watching reruns of The Muppet Show and Muppet Babies, so needless to say the Muppets have always been a huge part of my life.

Reception: The film was a huge hit, making $76.6 million against an $8 million budget. I’m sure it’s easy to guess it was also a hit with critics, and was nominated for two Academy Awards (Paul Williamsand Kenneth Ascher) for Best Score and Best Original Song (Rainbow Connection also by Williams and Ascher), and in 2009 was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed  “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And of course several more films would come out starring the Muppets.

Personal Opinion: I love this movie! It’s 40 years old and holds up incredibly well. Vaudeville style humor rarely goes out of style, nor physical gags, and this movie has plenty of both. I love the wordplay that goes on between characters, the celebrity cameos are great, and the musical numbers are tons of fun. There’s a good reason people still love the Muppets!

Should you see it? Yes! It’s a comedy classic!

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