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Still Wanted

film muppetsfinal‘Muppets Most Wanted’ keeps the recently rebooted franchise alive

You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when a movie features a Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga duet and a homage to Ingmar Bergman in the first 15 minutes. Welcome to the fractured fairy tale world of The Muppets, returning to the big screen in, Muppets Most Wanted, the second installment of their recently rebooted franchise.

Scriptwriter Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin (returning from their 2011 outing, The Muppets) have put together a caper comedy in which the intrepid gang, in all their glorious innocence, are encouraged to go on a world tour of the capitals of Europe by their shifty new manager, Dominic Badguy (a perfectly cast Ricky Gervais). (He tells them the name on his business card is pronounced “Ba-gee.”)

What they don’t realize is that their, um, unique stage show (which includes such segments as the Indoor Running of the Bulls, and Miss Piggy’s dubious Celine Dion solos) is just a front for a series of museum heists perpetrated by Dominic and his boss, Constantine, “the world’s most dangerous frog,” who has just busted out of a Russian Gulag—and who happens to be a dead ringer for humble Kermit. In short order, the old switcheroo is pulled: Constantine becomes the leader of The Muppets as they tour to Berlin, Madrid, Dublin, and London, while, Kermit is thrown in the Gulag, where he catches the eye of a soon-smitten guard named Nadya (Tina Fey), who puts him to work directing the prison talent show.

On the trail of the thieves is a suave French Interpol agent (Ty Burrell), who’s reluctantly teamed up with foursquare CIA op Sam Eagle. (They keep bickering about who has the biggest badge.) Add songs, extravagant production numbers and a cavalcade of celebrity cameos and you have vintage Muppet mania, suitable for kids, but still with enough witty asides to give the grown-ups something to chuckle at. An early number in Hollywood high-kicks through several movie backlot sets with references to “Gonzo With the Wind,” and that black-and-white faux Bergman clip featuring the Swedish Chef playing chess with Death.

In a song about who’s the top crook, Constantine warbles to Dominic, “We’re criminals at large, but I’m at larger than you,” and on the verge of cracking the case, the French cop suddenly departs for “my annual eight-week paid vacation.” Look out for Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Tom Huddleston and Josh Brogan among the Gulag prisoners, while Miss Piggy duets with the real Celine Dion. (And whoever thought we’d ever see Miss Piggy at the altar with not one, but two frogs?) It’s all good, clean, silly fun, starting with the all-new Monsters University comedy short that precedes the main feature. (PG) 112 minutes. (★★★)

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Dancing In the Rain

District Attorney Bob Lee’s death in October stunned the Santa Cruz community, but he had battled cancer fiercely—and privately—for more than a decade. Now one of his closest friends reveals the remarkable inside story

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

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Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

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