Alluring, dark-haired former model and English leading lady, in Hollywood from the late 1930s through the 50s, best remembered as the title character in "Dracula's Daughter" (1936) and as Paul Muni's...
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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It happens every Halloween: Magazines and movie sites (like this one) trudge up a list of horror movies for recommended Halloween horror viewing. As a lifelong horror fan, I’m sick of seeing the same films on these lists – Frankenstein, The Exorcist; Alien, etc. – with the more adventurous writers occasionally recommending something like Dario Argento’s Suspiria that’s not so well known to mainstream audiences but are classics to the horror crowd.
I don’t want to read about the same old movies I’ve known and loved for decades; I want to put the focus on some horror films that are so good, not even all die-hard horror fans have seen them. What I’ve got for you here is a listing of eight really solid horror films from different eras that are not only well worth seeing but also readily available on DVD or VoD. They’re smart, they’re scary and they all stay with you, like any good movie should. Enjoy!
Dracula's Daughter (1936)
Most people are unaware that Universal even made a sequel to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, much less that this film (directed by Lambert Hillyer) is actually a superior film. Despite some unnecessary moments of comic relief, it’s one of the most intelligent and adult films in the classic Universal canon, with some surprisingly frank lesbian context for the era. Star Gloria Holden delivers an excellent performance in the lead role that makes her one of the finest vampires in screen history.
And Soon the Darkness (1971)
British schoolgirls Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice, on a biking holiday in the French countryside, encounter the mysterious Sandor Eles, unaware that he’s the same serial killer who’s been terrorizing the area. One of the best British horror films of the 1970s, director Robert Feust makes excellent use of sparse, open locations and perfectly captures the feelings of isolation and dread that come from being a stranger in a strange land – all of it set during a bright, sunny day.
Hausu (a.k.a. HOUSE, 1977)
This crazed Japanese horror fantasy/comedy has finally been released in the U.S., 33 years after its initial release, and it’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray from none other than the Criterion Collection (who have done their usual stellar job). The film itself is pretty indescribable, which is exactly the key to its appeal; Hausu simply throws a lot of crazy ideas and marvelously insane visuals at the viewer for 90 minutes, and once it’s done, you have no idea what you’ve seen, but you know you love it. A major rediscovery, Hausu is proof positive that no one does ultra-weird horror quite like the Japanese.
Long Weekend (1978)
One of the best Australian horror films of the '70s stars John Hargraves and Briony Behets as an estranged married couple on a remote camping holiday who abuse the environment as much as they do each other – and find that nature isn’t in a forgiving mood. What follows is a stark, brutal and powerful film, one of the best “nature run amok” films ever made. Quentin Tarantino is on record as being one of the film’s many admirers.
Cemetery Man (1996)
Adapted from a popular Italian comic book, Michele Soavi’s funny and frightening zombie film stars Rupert Everett as the caretaker of a cemetery whose residents keep coming back to life, which puts a real damper on his love life. Perhaps the best horror film of the '90s, Cemetery Man is consistently unpredictable and surprising, all of it anchored by a wonderfully funny and droll lead performance from Everett.
Five Across the Eyes (2007)
Paranormal Activity put the focus on micro-budget genre films being produced for only a few grand that exhibited new talent behind the camera. This Tennessee-shot winner is filmed entirely from the inside of a car with five lost teenage girls who have dented its fender and whose driver happens to be completely insane and won’t leave them alone. The very definition of a movie that knows how to use its low budget effectively, the constant screaming and crying of the girls may grate on some viewers, but for this one, it only amped up the tension.
Murder Party (2007)
Low-budget horror comedies that are actually funny are extremely rare, so major props must go to this ingenious indie that gets it right. A shy mailman gets a mysterious invite to a Halloween party – actually a “murder party” thrown by a group of Brooklyn hipster artists – and he’s the victim! A clever premise that plays well throughout, and like the best horror comedies, it adds a lot of social satire with the blood and scares.
The Burrowers (2008)
Writer/director J.T. Petty effectively mixes the horror and Western genres with this little-seen gem that was dumped by its studio. A posse, on the search for a missing family of settlers, discovers that instead of hostile Indians, they’re really up against underground creatures who know the terrain better than they do. Beautifully shot in New Mexico locations, The Burrowers is smart and intelligent horror that will also appeal to Western fans, and there’s not a lot of movies you can say that about, are there?
Classic Hollywood Movies: 1950's 'A Lonely Place'
Imagine a screenwriter -- say, Michael Arndt (who wrote Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3) -- going to a bar, flirting with some pretty young thing, talking crap to the head of Warner Bros., and then punching out Shia LaBeouf for talking down to a sadly drunk Richard Dreyfuss. Now that’s a screenwriter I can get behind.
My dirty little secret is that I’m a wannabe screenwriter. That’s what they call people who write spec scripts, investing time and energy into writing something that hasn’t already been purchased, that nobody will necessarily have any interest in, and that will most likely end up in the useless ether forever and always.
It’s a strange transition coming from the world of playwriting, which is what I'm attempting to do. Playwrights don’t sell the rights to their work forever, they get to control the pace of a production with the rhythm of their language, and they're contractually protected from anyone changing their words. And naturally, playwrights don’t have enough money to buy fancy pants too often. Screenwriters are different. Even though there’s more writing and reading going on in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the U.S., screenwriters are the beginning, rather than the end, of a highly collaborative process.
Auteur theory notwithstanding, cinematographers, editors, and directors are all “authors” of a movie. It’s been said that a movie gets written three times: when it’s written, when it’s shot, and when it’s cut. It seems to me to be more like a process of creating an iceberg in sedimentary layers, with only the top visible to the public. This means movies stars are famous, directors are powerful, editors and cinematographers are sought-after, and screenwriters support everyone while being held underwater in the dark until they drown. But they die wearing the very, very fancy pants they’ve bought with all their dough.
That’s an overstatement, of course, but a decent example of how screenwriters in Hollywood tend to see themselves -- as neglected chumps. Pound for pound, screenwriters seem to be wusses by choice. There's an iconic image of a screenwriter from 1950’s Sunset Boulevard of a screenwriter (played by William Holden) floating face down in Gloria Swanson’s swimming pool.
I’m only a wannabe screenwriter coming out of playwriting, but if I ever graduate into real deal screenwriter, I’m gonna be a lot less like William Holden in Sunset Boulevard, and a lot more like Humphrey Bogart in this week’s case in point:
1950’s In a Lonely Place
In the first minute of the movie a starlet tries to pick up screenwriter Humphrey Bogart while her husband’s right there. Bogart deflects her advances (she just wants to be in his next picture, anyway) and threatens to beat up her husband. Five minutes later, he’s teased a coat check girl (“And what do you call an epic?” “Oh, you know a picture that’s real long and has lots of things going on!”), gone after a studio head (“Nobody makes flops except you ... You haven’t had one because you’ve made and remade the same picture for the last 20 years -- you know what you are? You’re a popcorn salesman!”), and beaten the crap out of a rising star who was giving that aging actor a hard time.
That year saw two legendary movies about the entertainment business: Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve. Both brilliant, both movies you should have under your belt. In a Lonely Place takes similar material and puts it through the pulp blender: tough guys, a murder mystery, a guy with demons to purge. That’s the movie I go to when I start to worry about being a wannabe screenwriter. Bogart makes it all look cool.
Next week: Suicide Is Painless
With the huge Broadway success of Mel Brooks' The Producers, it looks like you can bring the movies to the stage.
On Monday, Brooks' musical stage adaptation of his classic movie received 15 Tony nominations, including nods for best musical, for stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and for Brooks for best book and score. Brooks based the show on his 1968 film, which starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. A down-on-his-luck Broadway show producer and his accountant decide to produce the worst show ever, after raising thousands of dollars in investments, and watch the money roll in when the show flops miserably. Of course, the fictional musical, Springtime for Hitler, becomes a smash success, thereby ruining them both. Broderick's character is much different from Wilder's original character, but the film poses a perfect scenario for a real-life Broadway musical.
The Americanized stage adaptation of the 1997 English hit The Full Monty also got a nomination for best musical. Instead of blue-collar workers from Northern England, the musical features blue-collar workers from Buffalo, N.Y., who not only strip but must sing for their suppers, bringing a whole new meaning to stage presence.
Even though the book was first produced as a Broadway play in the 1960s, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is best known for its Academy-Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson. This year saw a critically acclaimed revival of the play, staged by the famed Steppenwolf Theatre Co. and starring Gary Sinise as McMurphy, the unconventional convict who turns a mental ward upside-down. The play and Sinise each received a Tony nomination. [for complete list of nominations, go to http://www.broadway.com]
Is this a trend for future shows?
If it's a trend, then it's a "fake trend," said Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theatres and Producers.
The success of a show is based on a good story and compelling characters, regardless of its source, he said.
"Whether the material is original or from a movie or from a comic book, if it's a great story, people will gravitate towards it," he said.
Here's a look at some other movies turned into or likely to become stage productions:
That Thing You Do!: Tom Hanks' 1996 directed and scripted film is now being considered for a Broadway musical, with Hanks' production company, Playtone, putting the deal together. They are looking for a top-notch musical director, with Des McAnuff (The Who's Tommy) on the list. The stage production would follow the quick rise and fall of the Wonders, a fictional mop-top 1960s band from Erie, Pa., whose swinging title song (written by Adam Schlesinger) propels them to the top of the pop charts. The idea to turn the film into a stage musical came from the numerous requests to the production company by local high schools eager to mount their own productions.
The Witches of Eastwick: The musical version of the 1987 film, based on the novel by John Updike, is currently playing to rave reviews in London. Starring Lucie Arnaz as Alexandra (played by Cher in the film), the story remains pretty much the same. In the tiny New England town of Eastwick, R.I., three modern-day witches innocently plot to bring the perfect man to them, over several weak martinis and peanut butter brownies. But when their longings are made flesh in the arrival of one Darryl Van Horne, all hell breaks loose.
Saturday Night Fever: Based on the smash 1977 film, the musical seemed to be a natural fit for the stage, with the cool 1970s tunes-and the dancing. The story was the same: Tony Marino dreams of making it big in the world of dancing, but at the same time he must deal with two women in his life--one who wants him and one he wants. The stage musical wasn't able to capture the hearts of theatergoers quite the same way as the film did for its audience. The musical opened on Broadway in 1999 and closed quickly. There also was a British tour that closed in February 2000.
Sunset Blvd.: Andrew Lloyd Webber's staged musical is based on the Academy-Award winning 1950 film starring the incomparable Gloria Swanson and William Holden. The musical opened in London in 1993 and went to Broadway quickly after, starring the larger-than-life Glenn Close. Once again, the stage production did not live up to its hype and couldn't capture the magic of Billy Wilder's exquisite film. Webber also collaborated with Jim Steinman on a musical adaptation of the 1961 film Whistle Down the Wind, based on the Mary Hayley Bell novel. It closed in January after running for 2 ½ years in London, but it has failed to make it to Broadway.
Also, there have been a few other flops, such as the stage production of Big, based on the hit 1988 Tom Hanks film, which opened on Broadway in April 1996 and closed in October 1996. Footloose, based on the just-as-silly 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon, also flopped on Broadway but continues to tour nationally.
The Tony Awards will air June 3 on PBS and CBS.
Appeared on stage and as the lead in the Theatre Guild's tour of "As Husbands Go"
US film debut, "Dracula's Daughter"
Final film, "This Happy Feeling"
Managed an Elizabeth Arden salon in Southhampton, Long Island
Worked as an artists and clothes model
Church soloist and singer
Alluring, dark-haired former model and English leading lady, in Hollywood from the late 1930s through the 50s, best remembered as the title character in "Dracula's Daughter" (1936) and as Paul Muni's wife in the Oscar-winning 1937 film "The Life of Emile Zola". Often cast as a femme fatale, Holden also appeared in "Test Pilot" (1938) opposite Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy, "This Thing Called Love" (1941) and "The Eddie Duchin Story" (1956).