A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The movie world's highest of high brow event is indubitably Festival de Cannes, the annual French film fest that handpicks the finest works of new cinema to unleash upon the world. From legendary auteurs to first time directors, Cannes is exalted by film buffs as the premiere stage for big screen debuts. If a movie gets into Cannes, it's already earned a level of respect.
That same respect extends to the stars, who flock to the chic festival to walk the red carpet and command audiences with their latest performances. Cannes imbues an actor or actress with immediate cred — especially helpful if for up-and-comers looking for respect. There's a theme of this year's line-up: the new and the old rubbing shoulders, a younger generation ready to step out the door and rise above their goofy franchise roots. Robert Pattinson has teamed with the highly-respected David Cronenberg for the absolutely bonkers-looking Cosmopolis; Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund help Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries) bring his long-gestating Kerouac adaptation On the Road to life; Shia LaBeouf drops alien robots for Depression era gangsters and Tom Hardy in Lawless; and Zac Efron stars opposite John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy, the latest from director Lee Daniels (Precious). The kids, as it seems, are all grown up.
But don't think Cannes has abandoned its A-Listers. Facing off against the Millennials are familiar faces like Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly), Clive Owen (Hemingway & Gelhorn) and the incredible ensemble assembled for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, which opens the festival. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman…Hollywood friendly, but with the unique quirk that only an Anderson film could provide.
Check out the full list of titles, films ready to hook lucky attendees when the festival gets underway May 16.
Rust and Bone - dir. Jacques Audiard
Moonrise Kingdom - dir. Wes Anderson
Holy Motors - dir. Leos Carax
Cosmopolis - dir. David Cronenberg
The Paperboy - dir. Lee Daniels
Killing Them Softly - dir. Andrew Dominik
Reality - dir. Matteo Garrone
Love - dir. Michael Haneke
Lawless - dir. John Hillcoat
In Another Country - dir. Hong Sang So
The Taste of Money - dir. Im Sang So
Like Someone In Love - dir. Abbas Kiarostami
The Angels' Share - dir. Ken Loach
In The Fog - dir. Sergei Loznitsa
Beyond The Hills - dir. Cristian Mungiu
Baad el Mawkeaaa (Apres La Bataille) - dir. Yousry Nasrallah
Mud - dir. Jeff Nichols
You Haven't Seen Anything Yet - dir. Alan Resnais
Post Tenebras Lux - dir. Carlos Reygadas
On The Road - dir. Walter Salles
Paradise: Love - dir. Ulrich Seidl
The Hunt - dir. Thomas Winterberg
Un Certain Regard:
La Playa - dir. Juan Andres Arango
Miss Lovely - dir. Achim Ahluwalia
God's Horses - dir. Nabel Ayouch
Antiviral - dir. Brandon Cronenberg
Trois Mondes - dir. Catherine Corsini
Days In Havana - dir. Benicio Del Toro, Gaspar Noe, Laurence Cantat, et all
Laurence Anyways - dir. Xavier Dolan
Le Grand Soir - dir. Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern
Aimer A Perdre La Raison - dir. Joachim LaFosse
Después De Lucia - dir. Michel Franco
Mystery - dir. Lou Ye
Student - dir. Darezhan Omirbayev
La Pirogue - dir. Moussa Toure
Confession Of A Child Of The Century - dir. Sylvie Verheyde
The White Elephant - dir. Pablo Trapero
11:25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate - dir. Koje Wakamatsu
Beasts Of The Southern Wild - dir. Benh Zeitlin
Out of Competition:
Tess - restored by Polanski
Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir - dir. Laurent Bouzereau
Once Upon A Time In America - dir. Sergio Leone
The Central Park Five - dir. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon
Garbage In The Garden Of Eden - dir. Faith Akin
Les Invisbles - dir. Sebastien Lifschitz
Journal De France - dir. Claudine Nougaret and Raymond Depardon
Dracula 3D - dir. Dario Argento
Madagascar 3 - dir. Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
Me and You - dir. Bernardo Bertolucci
The Legend Of Love and Sincerity - dir. Takashi Milke
Mekong Hotel - dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Villegas - dir. Gonzalo Tobak
A Musica Segundo Tom Jobim - dir. Nelson Pereira Dos Santos
Hemingway & Gellhorn - dir. Philip Kaufman
[Festival de Cannes]
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New York's Central Park Zoo's main attraction--Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) and his best friends Marty the curious zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (voiced by David Schwimmer) and Gloria the motherly hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith)--are pampered beyond belief. They enjoy lavish meals and have their own park views. In other words they live in blissful captivity. But Marty isn't as content as his friends. He yearns to live in the wild and when he makes an attempt to see this wilderness firsthand he inadvertently drags his friends into his wild scheme. Soon the animals are darted captured crated and put on a ship to Africa to go live in their natural habitats. Add a quartet of renegade penguins looking for their own wild time and you've got yourself an Animal Planet special. But when the penguins stage a mutiny the four crated pals get accidentally knocked off the boat. They suddenly find themselves washed ashore on the exotic island of Madagascar with the jungle all around them. No daily shows. No adoring fans. And especially no steak served on a silver platter. There is a gaggle of dancing lemurs but that's about it. What's a lion to do? Why eat his best friend of course!
The fun part of listening to celebrity voices is trying to imagine the actors as their CGI-created characters. Stiller finds his inner-lion strutting around as the conceited neurotic but lovable Alex. Rock easily slips into his striped alter ego Marty the "crack-a-lackin'" zebra with the free spirit and the zippy one-liners. And Schwimmer fits Melman's germaphobe personality perfectly-he's the ultimate New Yorker who doesn't want nature all over him. Only the petite Pinkett as the zaftig Gloria is a little hard to picture but Pinkett's sassy attitude comes shining through. The ones who steal the show however are the four plotting penguins lead by no-nonsense leader Skipper (voiced by co-director Tom McGrath). Part Charlton Heston part Robert Stack Skipper has never believed he was a real penguin. But he is determined to get his crew to the "wide open spaces of Antarctica." "Just smile and wave boys smile and wave " is his double-talk for "Let's dig a hole into the sewer and blow this Popsicle stand." Maybe we shouldn't tell them Antarctica really isn't all that great of a place to live.
The folks at DreamWorks still haven't quite been able to top their best Shrek as opposed to their rivals at major competitor Pixar who just seems to be getting better and better. Sure Shrek 2 made a lot more money but it ended up just being more of the same and not quite as funny. Shark Tale was just a frenetic underwater mess. Madagascar with its crazy animal antics comes the closest to matching Shrek's wit and originality especially during the first hour. Directors McGrath and Eric Darnell paint a pretty picture of zoo life if a tad unrealistic. Please has anyone been to a zoo lately? Blissful is hardly the word I would use to describe how animals live. But for the movie's sakes we'll go with it. Yet when the gang hits the shores of Madagascar the pace unfortunately slows down. The fish-out-of-water scenario as the four try to adjust to the wild is hilarious especially tangling with the lemurs. But then it switches gears as Alex's wrestles with his own beastly nature while trying not to bite Marty's butt. It feels tacked on and contrived and doesn't fit in with the rest of the raucousness.
Wesley Snipes sues New York City
Blade: Trinity star Wesley Snipes is suing New York City over an arrest warrant issued against him in an Indiana paternity case. Reuters reports the Manhattan judge took the action on an interstate paternity petition filed in Indiana by a woman who claims Snipes fathered her 3-year-old son. But the actor says the city had no authority to seek his DNA and his suit, filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court, alleges the woman involved had a history of making wild claims against celebrities, including Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Prince. Snipes' suit also charges that the woman is a mentally ill former crack addict who began having delusions about him after watching the movie Blade. Snipes' lawyer Robert Bernhoft said the actor lived in Orlando, Fla., so New York City had no jurisdiction to file the arrest warrant issued by a New York family court judge and is seeking a court ruling to have it invalidated. The suit also names LaPorte County, Indiana, as a defendant. A lawyer for New York, Emily Sweet, said the lawsuit was being evaluated and could not comment further but a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.
Rapper charged in Vibe Award stabbing
Rapper Young Buck was charged Monday with stabbing a fellow performer at the Vibe Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., last month. Reuters reports Young Buck, whose real name is David Darnell Brown, attacked rapper Jimmy James Johnson after Johnson, who was refused an autograph by Dr. Dre, punched the rap impresario in the face. The dispute set off a chair-throwing melee that that nonetheless did not stop the ceremony. Johnson was arrested and remains in custody on a suspected parole violation while Brown remains free on $500,000. If convicted, Brown faces up to eight years in prison.
Actor Brolin cited with domestic battery
Actor Josh Brolin was cited for misdemeanor domestic battery Sunday after his wife, actress Diane Lane, called police during an argument at the couple's home, The Associated Press reports. Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, told the AP no charges have been filed. Brolin, the son of actor James Brolin and stepson of Barbra Streisand, was arrested around 3 a.m. Sunday and released on $20,000 bail. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the couple said the incident was a "misunderstanding" and the couple had reconciled. Brolin, 36, and Lane, 39, were married in an August ceremony on Brolin's ranch north of Los Angeles.
Host Probst dates former Survivor
Survivor host Jeff Probst and former Survivor: Vanuatu contestant Julie Berry are now an item, Reuters reports. "Nobody is more surprised than me," Probst, 43, was quoted as saying on People magazine's Web site. Probst said he and Berry, a 24-year-old youth mentor, started dating after he e-mailed her to say hello once the show was over. Berry, one of 18 contestants on Vanuatu, was among the five still in the running before she was voted off by her rivals during a show that aired Dec. 9.
Alley hawks Jenny Craig
After being tagged a Fat Actress for a new Showtime series, Kirstie Alley is now getting serious about losing weight. The actress has signed a deal to appear in ads for the Jenny Craig weight-management program, the AP reports. "I had a great time getting fat and now I'm going to have an even greater time losing weight," Alley, 53, said in a statement. "I had four offers from other companies, but I wanted to go with the ... one that I knew would work--and, let's face it, Jenny Craig's food is hands-down the yummiest." The TV commercials will begin airing Jan. 10, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company announced Monday.
Next Harry Potter installment due in July
J.K. Rowling has finished the sixth book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is due to be released July 16, Reuters reports. The book picks up the story of Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as his evil foe Lord Voldemort's "power and followers are increasing day by day," Rowling's publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic said. "I know you all expected this to happen on Christmas Day, but I was sure that those of you who celebrate Christmas have better things to do on the day itself than fight your way into my study, whereas those of you who don't celebrate Christmas would definitely prefer not to wait until the 25th," Rowling said in a message on her Web site.