For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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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 first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Actors in Los Angeles may be used to getting up earlier than most mere mortals to make their set call times and hit the makeup chairs and wardrobe trailers. But Desperate Housewives star James Denton's wee-hours rise to announce this year's 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award nominations on Tuesday came with an extra special reward: not only did he get to reveal that his co-star Teri Hatcher was in the running in the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series category, Denton himself was a nominee as well, joining his cast mates in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
"It's a real honor to be nominated for best ensemble," the wide-awake Denton, who was called to West Hollywood's Pacific Design Center as a last minute fill-in for Dennis Franz (who was stuck up north in Montecito unable drive to waterlogged L.A. because the freeways were shut down), told Hollywood.com. "And I was REAL happy to get to call Teri's name."
The actor, who plays the plumber-with-a-secret Mike Delfino on the hit show said it was definitely worth getting up on his day off. "I've got a baby, so I'm at this time of day anyway. Well, maybe I got up a little earlier than normal. But it was no problem at all. I was happy to jump in and fill in for Dennis."
Denton was eager to share the news with his co-stars but planned on waiting until a more appropriate hour. "I'll probably call Teri and congratulate her--I'll give her a couple hours. We'll see each other later on today. It'll be really fun to talk about it. Everybody's so thrilled. We're really honored with the People's Choice Award, and the Golden Globes are next weekend and almost all the women are nominated, so we're just really happy that people found us."
"I've been around long enough to know we're really fortunate, and take it sort of with a grain of salt in a way, because you don't want to feel like 'Oh, suddenly we've all arrived and we're gonna be rich and famous.'" said Denton of the Housewives" breakthrough season. "It's more a matter of people appreciating what you're doing. It's fun to go to work when you know people are going to see it. Believe me, I've gone to work on TV shows where you knew nobody was going to see it. It's really been a fun ride in that respect."
Along with the ensemble nod, Hatcher was the only Housewife to snare a solo nomination, joining familiar SAG staples Patricia Heaton, Doris Roberts, Megan Mullally and Sarah Jessica Parker in the female comedy category. The ensemble will compete against the casts of Arrested Development, Everybody Loves Raymond, Sex and the City and Will & Grace.
No Peer Pressure
Denton teamed with Alexander actress Rosario Dawson to make the live announcements for nominations, which encompass actors in both film and television. The SAG Awards will be presented and televised live on TNT on Feb. 5 in what is traditionally a star-studded ceremony, as most actors enjoy receiving accolades from their fellow thespians. "As an actor if you're getting nominated you know it's coming from your peers as opposed to a critic," Dawson told Hollywood.com. "It's not just an awards show, or a popularity or critics' contest.
"It's really about people who understand the work that goes into acting, who are inspired by it to the point of wanting to do it themselves, and just recognizing that an active actor," Dawson explained. "I'm really looking forward to the awards ceremony themselves. It's supposed to be just a love-fest: film and TV actors get together and just hang around and have a good time."
Denton agreed that the SAG Awards have a particular resonance among performers. "The SAG Awards are cool because we know how it works. So many of the other voting boards are kind of nebulous, and you're not really sure who they are. But with the SAG Awards it's people you know and you've worked with. And you get your own ballot so you know exactly how the process works, so it feels a little more real. And it's always interesting to see what actors respond to, That's a lot of fun, because I think we, whether it's right or wrong, tend to respect each others opinions-maybe more so than other people because we have the same attitudes. So it's fun to see what they nominate and what they vote for."
There were some clear favorites among this year's acting nominees. Jamie Foxx led the pack, with nods in the film categories for male lead and the ensemble of Ray as well as supporting male in Collateral and as the male lead for the TV movie Redemption. Hilary Swank also fared well, collecting noms as the female lead and in the ensemble of the feature Million Dollar Baby along with a nod as the female lead in the HBO telepic Iron Jawed Angels. Members of the cast of Sideways were other clear actors' darlings, with film nominations for Paul Giamatti (male lead), Thomas Haden Church (supporting male), Virginia Madsen (supporting female) and the entire ensemble.
Among series TV performers, familiar faces ruled: Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Jennifer Garner, Sean Hayes, Edie Falco, Tony Shalhoub, Christine Lahti, Kiefer Sutherland, James Gandolfini, Hank Azaria, Anthony Lapaglia, Heaton, Roberts, Mullally and Parker are among the perennials in various categories. Two and a Half Men's Charlie Sheen scored his first-even nomination as male lead in a comedy, while Drea de Matteo also got a solo nod-for The Sopranos not Joey-after several seasons of ensemble nominations.
And nine-times-ensemble-nominated actor Jerry Orbach, the Law & Order veteran who died in December, received his first solo nomination as male actor in a drama series.
In addition to sharing their respect for one another's talents, SAG president Melissa Gilbert also congratulated the prominent actors-such as Sandra Bullock, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Famke Janssen and many others-who have stepped up and shown compassion and financial relief for the victims of the devastating tsunami in South Asia.
"The acting community has a long and distinguished history of aiding people in need, particularly in times of crisis, and I'm proud of the many actors who stepped forward this past week to be part of the relief effort," said Gilbert. "Our hearts and a prayers continue to be with those who have been affected."
In the tradition of giving and receiving, SAG has loaded up a celebrity gift basket jammed-packed with A-list goodies, many of which will be donated back for auction to benefit the SAG Foundation's community children's literacy and member assistance programs. To check out the SAG swag, visit www.sagawards.org/auction.
Here is the complete list of nominees:
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for Television
Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives
Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond
Megan Mullaly, Will & Grace
Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City
Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Made for Television
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series for Television
Everyone Loves Raymond
Sex and The City
Will & Grace
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series for Television
Hank Azaria, Huff
James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
Anthony LaPaglia, Without A Trace
Jerry Orbach, Law & Order
Kiefer Sutherland, 24
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for Television
Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos
Edie Falco, The Sopranos
Jennifer Garner, Alias
Allison Janey, The West Wing
Christine Lahti, Jack & Bobby
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for Television
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Six Feet Under
The West Wing
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Glenn Close, Lion in Winter
Patrica Heaton, The Goodbye Girl
Keke Palmer, The Wool Cap
Hilary Swank, Iron Jawed Angels
Charlize Theron, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Jamie Foxx, Redemption
William H. Macy, The Wool Cap
Barry Pepper, The Dale Earnhardt Story
Geoffrey Rush, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Jon Voight, The Five People You Meet In Heaven
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Annette Bening, Being Julia
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Kate Winslet, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Leading Role
Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator
Jamie Foxx, Ray
Paul Giamatti, Sideways
Outstanding Performance for a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
Cloris Leachman, Spanglish
Laura Linney, Kinsey
Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Thomas Hayden Church, Sideways
Jamie Foxx, Collateral
Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
James Garner, The Notebook
Freddie Highmore, Finding Neverland
Outstanding Performance by a Cast of a Motion Picture
Million Dollar Baby
Novelist Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) once again probes the dark side with this look at a group of spoiled college brats at Camden College. The adaptation of his novel focuses on the parties ("The End of the World Party " the "Pre-Saturday Night Party " the "Dress To Get Laid Party") and following logically from there the ubiquitous hookups heavy petting and yes even rape--in this case of the drunkest girl at one of said parties. Walking us through the madhouse of debauchery is sometime student sometime drug dealer Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek) whose propensity for wicked sexual exploits seemingly knows no bounds (yes his brother is indeed American Psycho's Patrick Bateman). Still Sean is in love although you can't tell from his behavior with Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon)--perhaps the only BVOC (that's Big Virgin on Campus) remaining on the planet. Lauren is in love with Victor (Kip Pardue) who's sleeping and drugging his way through Europe this semester and she used to be in love with Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) who's now out of the closet and himself in love with Sean. See how it all comes full circle? The key goals of all the characters seem to be to get laid get drunk find pot smoke pot get laid again--all in the space of an evening. It's a fairly nihilistic existence--and one that the film staunchly refuses to comment upon or judge. This is just the way it is; watch at your own risk.
The young cast is right at home in the '80s college atmosphere and Van Der Beek in particular gives a fine performance as the guy you love to hate. He makes his several extreme close-ups more about developing his character than about making his face look prettier which is refreshing to see. Heck the guy even takes a dump on camera--he is not afraid. Sossamon as the only sympathetic character in the movie fares well too although in several scenes she's put in what I'll just call compromising positions. Jessica Biel as Sossamon's slutty roommate Lara spends most of her screen time rather unflatteringly on her back and from that position it's kind of hard to judge her performance. She seems believable enough. Somerhalder's Adonis looks complement his Wildean character whose façade of worldliness covers an insecurity that shows us the pitfalls of sophomoric homosexuality--but he's not afraid to let loose with a little childish joy either hamming it up like a pro in a Risky Business-like scene that has him dancing in his underwear on a hotel room bed with a new partner.
From The Rules of Attraction's first scenes which begin at a party then rewind to show how each character came to be there and how they came to be in their present condition director Roger Avary lifts what could have been another drug-addled film about the lives of self-indulgent college students from that particular cesspool and into the sometimes murkier realm of sordid realism. Throughout the movie you can almost feel the sticky beer-covered floor beneath your feet yet at the same time the college setting is almost coincidental to the underlying theme which seems to be that people are inherently hedonistic brutish and self-serving. Still because he insists on showing rather than telling Avary lets the scenes speak for themselves; he doesn't judge the characters or throw messages at the audience. That means that even as the end credits roll (backwards of course) you'll be thinking about his film--trying to work out exactly what it meant and what it says about desire love and human relations. And that can't be a bad thing.