Capsule reviews of new releases

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 18 2011 5:05 a.m. MST

"The Muppets" — Jason Segel, Amy Adams and friends deliver a very welcome return for Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of Jim Henson's creations after a 12-year big-screen absence. From start to finish, the movie is a healthy, dizzy dose of childlike bliss, the songs campy but catchy, the humor corny but clever. Co-writer Segel and Adams play small-town tourists embarking on a quest to reunite the Muppets and save their old Hollywood studio, which is targeted for demolition by an evil oil man (Chris Cooper). Director James Bobin maintains a nimble pace throughout, the story gleefully dashing from song-and-dance numbers to hilarious montages to the sort of precious asides that are a staple of the Muppets, among them plenty of self-aware winks at Hollywood convention. Celebrity cameos, also a Muppet strength, are plentiful but a bit disappointing; after such a long time in mothballs, the Muppets deserve a better turnout of top stars to welcome them back. But overall, the movie's refreshing on every level, a piece of nostalgia so old it's new again, and a breather from Hollywood's 3-D digital onslaught in favor of fur and fuzz. PG for some mild rude humor. 110 minutes, including an amusing "Toy Story" short that precedes the movie. Three stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" — "Laughable" probably isn't the word the filmmakers were aiming for, but there it is; laughter, at all the wrong places. The fourth movie in the freakishly popular girl-vamp-wolf love triangle series is so self-serious, it's hard not to cackle at it. The dialogue is, of course, ridiculous and the acting ranges from stiff to mopey. But moments that should be pulsating with tension are usually hilarious because the special effects are still just so distractingly cheesy. This latest installment has yet another new director: Bill Condon, a man capable of both panache ("Dreamgirls") and serious artistry ("Gods and Monsters"), little of which you'll see here. The first of two films adapted from the final book in Stephenie Meyer's series (with part two coming next year), this serves as a placeholder for the ultimate finale but is jam-packed with developments in its own right. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire beau, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), marry in a lavish, romantic outdoor ceremony. Bella's childhood best friend and the other man in the equation, werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), stops by as a gesture of goodwill. Finally, Bella and Edward can have sex, the thing she has wanted all along but he has been reluctant to do for fear that deflowering her will, you know, kill her. And he may have been right. He impregnates her on the honeymoon and the resulting hybrid spawn threatens to destroy her from inside. PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements. 117 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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