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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The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Pedro Almodovar's Volver picked up five honors at the Goya Awards in Madrid last night, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress for Penelope Cruz.
The movie, which had received 14 nominations, also won Best Original Soundtrack for Alberto Iglesias.
On collecting her Best Actress award, Cruz said, "This award is very important, very special for me. I am going to try not to cry because I'm a disaster, and these 30 seconds are not going to be enough."
Pan's Labyrinth, which is nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at next month's Oscars, collected the most awards--seven in total, including Best Original Screenplay for Mexican writer/director Guillermo Del Toro.
Del Toro said, "My relationship with Spain as a filmmaker is one of profound admiration and respect... that began with the hand of Pedro (Almodovar)."
Elsewhere, Juan Diego won Best Actor for Vete de Mi, while Stephen Frears’ The Queen won Best European film.
The full list of winners is:
Best Actress--Penelope Cruz, Volver
Best Actor--Juan Diego, Vete de Mi
Best Director--Pedro Almodovar, Volver
Best Original Screenplay--Guillermo Del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Adapted Screenplay--Lluis Arcarazo, Salvador
Best First-Time Director--Daniel Sanchez Arevalo, DarkBlueAlmostBlack
Best European Film--The Queen
Best Foreign Spanish-Language Film--Las Manos, by Alejandro Doria(Argentina)
Best Supporting Actress--Carmen Maura, Volver
Best Supporting Actor--Antonio De La Torre, DarkBlueAlmostBlack
Best Breakthrough Performance, Actor--Quim Gutierrez, DarkBlueAlmostBlack
Best Breakthrough Performance, Actress--Ivana Baquero, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Animated Feature--The Hairy Tooth Fairy, by Juan Pablo Buscarini
Best Art Direction--Benjamin Fernandez, Alatriste
Best Cinematography--Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Line Production--Cristina Zumarraga, Alatriste
Best Documentary Short--Castanuela 70, El Teatro Prohibido, by Manuel Calvo and Olga Margallo
Best Animated Short Film--El Viaje De Said, by Coke Rioboo
Best Live-Action Short Film--A Ciegas, by Salvador Gomez Cuenca
Best Visual Effects--David Marti, Montse Ribe, Reyes Abades, Everett Burrell, Edward Irastorza and Emilio Ruiz, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Costume Design--Francesca Sartori, Alatriste
Best Documentary Feature--Cineastas en Accion, by Carlos Benpar
Best Film Editing--Bernat Vilaplana, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Sound--Miguel Polo and Martin Hernandez, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Original Score--Alberto Iglesias, Volver
Best Original Song--“Tiempo Pequeno,” Bebe and Lucio Godoy, from The Education of a Fairy
Best Make-Up and Hair Design--Jose Quetglas and Blanca Sanchez, Pan's Labyrinth
Lifetime Achievement Award--Teddy Villalba
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Top Story: Roy Horn May Be Out Within Weeks
Famed Las Vegas magician Roy Horn, half of Las Vegas' legendary Siegfried and Roy, may be released from the Los Angeles hospital by the end of the month. The 59-year-old animal trainer and performer, who was savagely mauled by a 600-pound, 7-year-old, male white tiger during an Oct. 3 performance at The Mirage Hotel, has been recovering at UCLA Medical Center where he was transferred after initially being treated at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas. The duo's publicist, Dave Kirvin, told CNN Monday that Horn is still undergoing treatment for his injuries, but his doctors are optimistic he will be well enough to continue recovering at home in Las Vegas within a couple of weeks. "He's getting better every day," Kirvin said.
Carmen Electra Weds Guitarist Dave Navarro
TV vixen Carmen Electra and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro tied the knot on Nov. 22 in at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles before 200 guests. People magazine's Dec. 8 issue reports the platinum-and-red invitations called for "hot and sexy" attire and guests were greeted by men dressed in black and wearing red masks similar to those seen in one of the couple's favorite films, Eyes Wide Shut. "What's really going to touch my heart," Electra said before the ceremony, "is when my dad takes a step back when walking down the aisle and my husband takes his place." The 31-year-old actress was married briefly to Dennis Rodman in 1998.
Zellweger's Weight Gain a Non-Issue
Renee Zellweger, who put on 20-some pounds for her role in Bridget Jones's Diary two years ago, tells Vogue magazine in its December issue that she doesn't see what the big deal is about doing the same for the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. "The first time I did it, I learned a lot. I realized the influence of living in a society that focuses so much on physicality has affected me," Zellweger, 34, said. "When the film was coming out, the question I was asked the most was regarding my weight. And again it's happening. I was followed around Heathrow (airport) by a guy who wanted to take a picture of my backside. I don't understand the obsession."
RCA Drops Justin Guarini
There is a reason why American Idol season one number two Justin Guarini didn't join Clay Aiken, Christina Christian, Kelly Clarkson, Tamyra Gray, Kimberley Locke and Ruben Studdard on Fox's November 25th special An American Idol Christmas: he's been dumped by RCA. Launch.com reports Guarini was dropped from the record label after his self-titled debut album landed at No.20 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling only 54,000 copies. A third season of American Idol is set to debut on Fox in January, starting with a special two-hour episode Jan. 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, followed by a special one-hour episode Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Peter Jackson's Rings Premieres in NZ
In Wellington, New Zealand, yesterday, some 100,000 euphoric fans welcomed native director Peter Jackson for the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at the newly refurbished 852-seat art deco Embassy Theater, Reuters reports. Flanked by armored characters on black horses, Jackson led stars Liv Tyler, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Elijah Wood for three miles through the capital city. Filmed in New Zealand, The Return of the King opens worldwide Dec. 17 and in New Zealand Dec. 18 due to the time difference.
Missing Finalist in Berlin Film Fest
Director Ron Howard's Western thriller The Missing is among five films to compete in next year's Berlin Film Festival, which runs Feb. 5-15, The Associated Press reports. German director Romuald Karmakar's Nightsongs, Spanish director Manuel Gutierrez Aragon's Your Next Life, Croatian director Vinko Breoan's Witnesses and Danish director Annette K. Olesen's In Your Hands were also chosen. The films are the first of about 20 that will be chosen to compete in February for the festival's top prize, the Golden Bear.
Luke Perry in West End Production of Sally
Former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Luke Perry is set to star as Harry in London's West End stage show based on the 1989 hit film When Harry Met Sally.... According to the AP, the play is scheduled to open Feb. 20 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket for a limited run of 16 weeks. Sally has not yet been cast, but producer James Tod said Monday he expected an American actress to take the part. When Harry Met Sally... is the latest in a string of hit films to have spawned stage musicals and plays, including The Graduate. Billy Elliot is also being developed as a London stage musical to open late next year.
Stephen King Recovering From Pneumonia
A spokesman for Stephen King said Monday that although the author remains hospitalized, his condition was improving in his recovery from a bout with pneumonia, AP reports. King, 56, was diagnosed with pneumonia before a Nov. 19 trip to New York City to receive the National Book Foundation's 2003 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He was hospitalized Nov. 23 and underwent surgery two days later to remove fluid and scar tissue from one of his lungs. But his condition worsened when he returned home to Bangor, Maine, and doctors at Eastern Maine Medical Center later diagnosed him with pleural effusion, an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the membrane surrounding the lung.
TV Director Earl Bellamy Dead at 86
Prolific TV director Earl