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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Martin Richards, famed producer of stage and screen, has passed away yesterday in his New York home after a battle with cancer at the age of 80. Marty—as he was more commonly known—was most widely-known as a producer and backer of the 2003 Oscar winner for best picture, Chicago.
Richards was something of an old school producer-type. Tenacious as can be when it came to projects he loved, he began his quest to convert Chicago into a film shortly after the Broadway version premiered on stage in 1975—though it wasn't put into production until 2001. And when it came to lifestyle? Richards was also no slouch, frequently hosting extravagant parties at his and his wife's apartment in Manhattan, as well as their mansion on Southampton's Gin Lane. Regular guests included stars like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Some of Richards' credits include The Norman Conquests, Sweeney Todd, La Cage aux Folles (in its original and 2005 revival forms), and The Will Rogers Follies. His other movie production credits include The Shining, The Boys from Brazil, and Fort Apache, The Bronx.
All in all, his stage productions received 36 Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, seven Outer Critic Circle Awards and two New York Drama Critics Awards.
In honor of losing such a legend, Broadway is said to be dimming its lights tonight.
[Photo Credit: Robert Mora/Getty Images]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The Charlie Sheen of 2011 was a very specific entity—an embodiment of hedonistic, unpredictable and destructive behavior unlike that which Hollywood had seem in quite some time. The Charlie Sheen of 2012 is a separate being altogether. At some point in the fall of '11, following his expulsion from the incredibly popular Two and a Half Men, Sheen abandoned his oddball persona for a more down-to-Earth and stable mentality. Although Sheen's career is still fruitful, the death of his "loose cannon" character has definitely kept him further from headlines attention than he was last year. This shift in persona, and in public interest, begs the question: is Charlie Sheen still Winning?
Sheen has some good things on the horizon for '12. Leaving a wildly popular sitcom like Two and a Half Men so abruptly seemed like a dangerous path—it has certainly not boded well for the show. But Sheen seems to have a bright television future in store with his upcoming FX series, Anger Management (based on the 2004 Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson comedy film). The series is accumulating a cast including Shawnee Smith as Sheen's ex-wife, Selma Blair as his love interest, and Brett Butler as Sheen's bartender friend. As is becoming more of a prevalent practice with basic cable network original series, Sheen's Anger Management was picked up initially for a ten-episode trial season which, if successful, would lead to the production of one hundred episodes. That is quite an investment to make in Sheen, as he stands as the show's primary appeal for the American public. Sheen's career on the small screen is not limited to Anger Management. Although his "settled down" image is widespread, connotations with the actor are not so far gone to render him incapable of making some money off of his old oddball character. A new advertisement for the FIAT 500 Abarth features Sheen embodying his old character, the free-living "bad boy" who exemplifies the desired personality of the car. Further still is his old character being utilized in the commercial world. DirecTV employed Sheen for a recent commercial, depicting him in free-living, mentally unstable form as a frequent patron of Turkish bathhouses and a delusional figure who likes to reenact scenes from his 1986 movie Platoon (much to his company's dismay). Although they might still retain some relevance, it's curious how much longer the public will accept commercials like this. Once Sheen is years past his old lifestyle, will these sorts of jokes still work in the sale of cars and television packages? Will Sheen still be able to bank on his wilder days to make a few dollars? If Sheen is intent on reinventing his life and image, commercials like these might be a bit of a road block. In order to truly reign victorious in his production of a clean lifestyle, he might need to separate himself from the old Sheen completely, ads and all. And these commercials aside, he seems to be doing just that. Sheen's personal life has also taken quite a turn. Last the public heard, Sheen's relationship with his ex-wife Denise Richards was highly erratic and volatile. But thanks to this new era of Sheen, he and Richards are apparently enjoying a rejuvenated friendship, both playing a part in the rearing of their daughters Sam and Lola. Daily Mail released photos of Sheen and Richards attending seven year-old Sam's soccer game. If this incident is any indication of the Sheen we'll come to know, the man might be completely relinquishing himself of the drug- and alcohol-induced playboy identity and assimilating into the role of family man. Most exciting of all has got to be Sheen's resurgence in the film world. The actor the actor will also be starring in A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, wherein he'll be playing the title character. The film is directed by Roman Coppola, and also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza. The big screen is where America came to recognize Sheen's tremendous talent. His collaboration with Coppola in this upcoming movie indicates a return to the artistic integrity for which he was celebrated in his younger days, for films like Platoon and Wall Street. 2011 was an eventful, trying year for the actor. But somewhere around last fall, Sheen seemed to develop a new attitude. Some say that criticisms from comedians on Sheen's Comedy Central Roast really got through. Some credit an eventual appreciation of his time on Two and a Half Men and his friendship with the cast and crew, and some praise Sheen's family, father Martin Sheen especially, for pulling him out of his funk. It's hard to say what it was exactly that led Sheen to his shift in identity, but whatever it was, it's something for which he, his loved ones, and his fans should all be thankful. This coming year has a great deal of new prospects for Sheen: television, film, and a flourishing personal life. Sure, the new Sheen might not be as fertile grounds for tabloid headlines or as rich a source of bizarre catchphrases, but that's nothing compared to the creation of good movies and interesting television, and, most of all, the love of a family. All in all, 2012 looks to be an improvement on Sheen's 2011. Source: Time, Daily Mail
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.