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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Green Acres star Mary Grace Canfield has passed away at the age of 89. The veteran actress died on Saturday (15Feb14) in Santa Barbara, California following a battle with lung cancer.
She was best known for her recurring role as incompetent handywoman Ralph Monroe in the classic American sitcom, opposite Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert.
Canfield appeared in a number of notable TV shows, including Bewitched, The Love Boat, General Hospital and The Andy Griffith Show.
She also had small roles in such films as Pollyanna, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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"Eva Longoria, my friend, called me and said, 'Hey babe... I was gonna have a party for the President... but I can't because there's not three accesses to my home, so we have to do it at yours, OK?' We had a week and a half and they sent three secret service guys, who were with me for that week and a half and they were wonderful." Actress Melanie Griffith on the presidential fundraiser she hosted at her Hollywood home.
The Oscar-winning actor hosted the 2013 Sean Penn and Friends Help Haiti Home Gala at the city's Montage Hotel to raise money and awareness for his J/P Haiti Relief Organization, which he set up in the aftermath of the country's devastating 2010 earthquake.
The event drew a star-studded crowd, including Roberts and her Pretty Woman co-star Richard Gere, along with her actress niece Emma Roberts.
Other attendees at the lavish bash included Mel Gibson, Tim Robbins, Melanie Griffith, Eva Longoria, Kristin Davis, Melissa McCarthy, Kiefer Sutherland and Jon Bon Jovi.
Guests were treated to entertainment by Pearl Jam rocker Eddie Vedder.
The former Desperate Housewives star, who is a co-chair of Obama's inauguration committee, will be joined by Spanish actor Antonio Banderas and his wife Melanie Griffith, as well as fellow Latino stars George Lopez and Mario Lopez for a special event in Washington, D.C. on 20 January (13), the day before the official inauguration ceremony.
The Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at the Kennedy Center is part of a three-day series of lectures and events focusing on Latin issues relating to last November's (12) presidential election which won Obama a second term.
Broadway actress Chita Rivera, singer Rita Moreno and guitarist Jose Feliciano will perform at the event alongside members of New York City's Ballet Hispanico and the San Juan Children's Choir.
Longoria tells the Associated Press, "Latinos played a critical role in (last year's) elections and helped tip the scales in President Obama's victory. But we are not waiting another four years to make an impact on our country's future. What better way to establish our presence at these inaugural celebrations than by showcasing the beauty and diversity of our culture at the nation's premier performing arts centre."
The news comes after it was announced that pop star Beyonce will sing America's national anthem at Obama's inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C. on 21 January (13).
She previously sang Etta James' At Last at Obama's Inaugural Ball after he was first voted into office in 2009.
The Working Girl star donated a snakeskin Valentino purse to the eBay auction, and pregnant Miller gave away her suede J.J. Winter's red fringe bag.
The sale, in aid of the We Promise Foundation, an organisation which helps grant wishes for severely ill children, also featured an H&M handbag Michele wore on hit show Glee, and her co-star Mark Salling offered up an autographed book bag.
Taylor Swift gave a signed guitar to the auction, which also included donations from Eva Longoria and Julie Bowen and raised a total of $7,068 (£4,417) for the cause.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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The American leader headed to California in October (11) as part of his three-day trip to garner donations for his re-election campaign, and the Hollywood couple opened its home for a bash, hosted by Eva Longoria, aimed at raising funds from Hispanic donors.
Security was tight at Banderas and Griffith's mansion, and the Spanish actor reveals the whole family were given strict instructions in a bid to keep Obama safe.
The Mask of Zorro star tells U.K. chat show Graham Norton, "We had a benefit for Barack Obama. We received the President of the United States in our home! It makes me laugh because it is not something you do every day.
"We all had, in the family, code names, for security. The Secret Service (gave us the name). I was Zorro."
The American leader headed to the state as part of his three-day trip to garner donations, and Hollywood's biggest stars busied themselves on Monday (24Oct11) to help boost funds.
Obama enjoyed a lavish dinner with Will Smith and Hilary Duff at the home of film producer James Lassiter, where around 40 people paid $35,800 (£22,375) to eat with the president.
He then mixed with his followers at Banderas and Griffith's mansion, where Eva Longoria was hosting an event aimed at Hispanic donors.
California is Obama's biggest donor state - he pulled in $1 million (£625,000) in the Los Angeles area alone during his last two fundraising visits.