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“Muppets Most Wanted 2.5stars

"Muppets Most Wanted" loses sight of its primary audience by tilting to the grown-up side, with sophisticated references to Ingmar Bergman (not the first time in Muppet history) and Hannibal Lecter trussed up in "The Silence of the Lambs" and quickie appearances by Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga and Christoph Waltz, among many.

This time around, a stranger named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) offers to arrange a global tour for the Muppets who are, as he says, "having a moment."

The gang doesn't realize Badguy is really the second in command to the world's most wanted criminal, Constantine, a green frog who looks just like Kermit except for a mole on the right side of his face and a slightly shorter collar around his neck.

The no-goodniks plot to have Kermit change places with Constantine in a Siberian prison while Badguy books the Muppets in European theaters near museums or banks he can burgle. The thieves are working their way up to a fabled treasure while imprisoned Kermit doesn't understand why his friends aren't missing or rescuing him.

"Muppets Most Wanted" cranks up the caper quotient. It brings everyone together for an event Miss Piggy has dreamed about for years, a confrontation between the look-alikes and additional guest stars, songs and stunts -- and a chance to test the bonds of friendship.

As usual, the Muppets seem as remarkably real as any flesh-and-blood characters, and the cameos are impressive if slightly over the top. But at 106 minutes, it seems a bit long -- it could have used one less tour stop -- and the references too rooted in pop culture.

Rated PG for some mild action.

Extras include music video by Bret McKenzie. Also, on Blu-ray: extended cut, blooper reel and more.

-- Post-Gazette

“Neighbors”  2stars

"Neighbors" is a summer comedy for college students or for adults who pine for the days before graduation, gainful employment and grass that had to be mowed.

It stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as Mac and Kelly Radner. He has some sort of ill-defined office job, and she stays home with their infant daughter in their nice suburban house.

The Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves in next door, and their bashes make the toga parties of old seem like quaint ladies teas. They party almost nonstop, which is a problem when baby Stella is trying to sleep yards away.

It's also a problem when little Stella's parents want to be the cool folks who would like the boys to keep the noise down but don't want to appear to be crotchety "Get off my lawn!" boors. The Radners, therefore, are willing to share some weed and devour mushrooms or booze and pledge to contact frat president Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) rather than the police with complaints.

But when repeated calls go unanswered, Mac calls the cops and it's war. The frat brothers torment their neighbors, who scheme to make the house uninhabitable or to get the college dean (Lisa Kudrow) to act. The battle escalates into a party worthy of the 2012 movie "Project X" but without fears of the parents returning home.

"Neighbors," directed by Nicholas Stoller and also starring Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as students, has a few laughs courtesy of pop culture references, as when Mac and Teddy imitate the actor who is Batman to them.

Themes about being forced to face the future are anemically explored and much of the movie is raunchy and repetitive with jokes about sex, genitals, breast milk and the hazing of a character whose nickname cannot be printed.

Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity and drug use throughout.

-- Post-Gazette

“A Haunted House 2”

The sequel to Marlon Wayans' horror movie parody may be billed as a comedy but is bombastically stupid and rarely funny. Mr. Wayans once again stars as Malcolm, a man plagued by otherworldly forces who moves into a new house with his girlfriend Megan (Jaime Pressly) and her children. No sooner do they start unpacking boxes when weird things begin to happen.

The editing is sloppy, the narrative is weak and every lame gag goes on twice as long as it should.

Rated R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive profane language, drug use and some violent images. Extras include commentary with Wayans, director Michael Tiddes and co-writer/producer Rick Alvarez, and deleted and extended scenes.

-- The Washington Post

“The Railway Man”

Despite solid performances by Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skarsgard, and a handsome cinematic sheen burnishing the shocking, true-life tale of wartime torture and reconciliation, the film is less deeply affecting than merely admirable. Still, it is good, slick and well-intentioned.

Based on a 1995 memoir by Englishman Eric Lomax -- who as a World War II soldier in the Far East was captured and brutalized by the Japanese army -- the film jumps back and forth between Lomax's shellshocked veteran circa 1980 (a nerdy looking Mr. Firth) and his much younger wartime self (portrayed with earnest appeal by Jeremy Irvine).

Contains images of violence and torture.

Extras include interviews with the director, producer and cast, including Mr. Firth, Ms. Kidman and Mr. Irvine.

-- The Washington Post

“Muppets Most Wanted”  2.5stars

"Muppets Most Wanted" loses sight of its primary audience by tilting to the grown-up side, with sophisticated references to Ingmar Bergman (not the first time in Muppet history) and Hannibal Lecter trussed up in "The Silence of the Lambs" and quickie appearances by Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga and Christoph Waltz, among many.

This time around, a stranger named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) offers to arrange a global tour for the Muppets who are, as he says, "having a moment."

The gang doesn't realize Badguy is really the second in command to the world's most wanted criminal, Constantine, a green frog who looks just like Kermit except for a mole on the right side of his face and a slightly shorter collar around his neck.

The no-goodniks plot to have Kermit change places with Constantine in a Siberian prison while Badguy books the Muppets in European theaters near museums or banks he can burgle. The thieves are working their way up to a fabled treasure while imprisoned Kermit doesn't understand why his friends aren't missing or rescuing him.

"Muppets Most Wanted" cranks up the caper quotient. It brings everyone together for an event Miss Piggy has dreamed about for years, a confrontation between the look-alikes and additional guest stars, songs and stunts -- and a chance to test the bonds of friendship.

As usual, the Muppets seem as remarkably real as any flesh-and-blood characters, and the cameos are impressive if slightly over the top. But at 106 minutes, it seems a bit long -- it could have used one less tour stop -- and the references too rooted in pop culture.

Rated PG for some mild action.

Extras include music video by Bret McKenzie. Also, on Blu-ray: extended cut, blooper reel and more.

-- Post-Gazette

ALSO THIS WEEK: 

•  A standout performance by James Spader makes this one of TV's top dramas. The NBC series follows Raymond "Red" Reddington (Mr. Spader), a top criminal, who through a wide variety of mysterious twists and turns helps the FBI find and stop some of the world's most notorious criminals. The set includes 22 episodes, commentary on three and two featurettes.

"The Marx Brothers TV Collection": Includes more than 50 television performances.

"Batman: Assault on Arkham": Next DC Universe original movie features Batman facing a major treat at Arkham Asylum.

"Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series": Contemporary story of murder, deception, revenge and corruption.

"Turtle Power": Film chronicles the birth of the franchise about the most unlikely superheroes of all time.

"Power Rangers Megaforce: A Battle To The Finish": Rangers battle to save the planet in the four final episodes of the 20th "Power Rangers" season.

"Decline of an Empire": Peter O'Toole stars in this tale of a man's quest to find his lost friend.

"Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride": Features 12 episodes starring the charming little piggy.

"The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man: Season 1": Reality series about swamp logger.

"EastSiders": Feature film version of Web series from Kit Williamson.

"Favorites of the Moon": The 1984 has been digitally remastered.

"Rage": Respectable businessman (Nicolas Cage) returns to his violent past to save his daughter.

"Locke": Series of phone calls sets in motion a chain of events that will unravel a man's perfect life.

"Motel Hell": Classic horror film now available on Blu-ray.

-- Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

 


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