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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Little known fact: Guy Pearce was approached to play that lead role in the 2003 comic book adaptation Daredevil (the part that eventually went to Ben Affleck). According to Pearce, "playing a comic strip superhero was, some years ago for me, totally out of the question" back when he was courted to play the red-suited, blind superhero. Times have obviously changed, as this weekend he'll be seen opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man 3.
"I think I've broadened my horizons a bit," Pearce tells Hollywood.com. "The difference obviously is that the Iron Man films have proven to be really interesting and really fun and really cleverly done."
Pearce, who recently appeared in Prometheus, Lawless, and the Sundance premiere Breathe In, believes that "a lot of comic book movies out there that don't really work" but Marvel's Iron Man franchise has towed an "interesting line between reality and fantasy" while putting its character first.
In Iron Man 3, Pearce plays Aldrich Killian, mastermind behind a regenerative body enhancement process known as "Extremis." When he arrives on the doorstep of Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), he's your typical genius playboy with a shimmer of pure evil in his eye. But 13 years prior, when he first met Stark at a fateful New Year's Eve party, he was mangy, awkward, and unfit for the future Iron Man's attention.
"Here is someone who wants to get out of the hole that he's in," Pearce says. "He realizes he's annoying, he realizes he's irritating, he's constantly being rejected (and obviously we see in the film that he's rejected by Tony Stark). I think when someone you admire so much turns their back on you, it's almost like a final straw."
Pearce likens Killian's evolution to the modern obsession with plastic surgery. For a fragile personality, there can be an addictive nature to change. "Doing one thing to solve a problem and then thinking you need to do something else because there's another problem and do something else because there's another problem and never knowing where to stop. To me, it was an image I had in mind when looking at Killian and how far he takes it. Getting to the point where he just wants to take over the world," explains Pearce.
Killian may be Shane Black's subtle riff on "comic book fan culture," but Pearce is quick to clear up that it's not symbolically all-encompassing. "Here is someone who clearly has a lot of social difficulties, he's physically disabled in a particular kind of way, [and] he's extremely enthusiastic and ambitious. It was a tricky character to play," Pearce admits. The actor says he's portraying a "geek," but not every geek. Pearce says he's run into a similar situation before where one character resonates as a larger metaphor for audiences and that that's not the case with Killian. "When we did Priscilla [,Queen of the Desert] and a lot of people stepped forward and said, 'you guys are trying to say that all gay people are like this.' 'Well, no, I'm just portraying one character. Not the entire universe of gay characters.'"
Much like Prometheus and Lawless, Pearce goes under the guise of makeup and wigs to bring the pre-dapper-makeover Killian to life. The actor says that he enjoys "the possibilities of costume and makeup and the ability to change yourself on film" and is always surprised when actors look exactly the same from movie to movie. The transformation is part of the supporting character appeal — and for many years, it was the only type of role he wanted to take. He says the reason he took Iron Man 3 and not Daredevil was that he "wasn't asked to play Iron Man himself." At the time Daredevil was casting, he was worried about becoming "a leading man."
"I struggled years ago with the whole prospect of being pigeonholed," he says. "People pounce on you straight away and say, 'Oh, you're a good looking guy, we're going to shove you into leading men roles.' I really fought against that." Pearce recalls getting a taste of leading man work during his time on Australian TV show Neighbours. It left him craving to go back to the stage, where he got his start. "As a kid I did a lot of theater and played a lot of varied roles and I got much more satisfaction out of doing that. So I fought against playing a leading man role. I didn't think that was me. I didn't have anything to say."
"Now if it comes along, I'm more able to go and do it and I'm not afraid that I'll get stuck there," Pearce says of his decision to enlist for Iron Man 3. Pearce recently starred in the action vehicle Lockout where he both had a blast and nailed the persona of gruff, antihero Snow. Pearce says he's come to a moment in his career where he can perform and feel fulfilled tackling the leading man role. "I feel like I can do that (not that I'm doing it that often). I can do something like Killian in Iron Man and think that my versatility is still afloat."
So the ball is in Marvel's court now. Daredevil reboot, anyone?
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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Following in the footsteps of The Avengers, the most comic booky of comic book movies, writer/director Shane Black has helped redefine the Marvel hero Iron Man for his third outing by giving the cold shoulder to the source material. It's hard to call Iron Man 3 a "comic book movie," even while Robert Downey, Jr. flies around in a destructive exoskeleton, aiming to put a stop to a baddie named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and his fire-breathing minions. The movie plays more like a sequel to Black's 2005 neo-noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (also starring Downey, Jr.). Detective-esque voiceover, razor sharp banter, and an obstacle that has Tony Stark piecing together clues and rarely appearing in his iconic armor, Iron Man 3 avoids fantasy in favor of a hefty helping of pulp fiction. The setup makes way for Downey, Jr.'s best work in the franchise.
Iron Man 3 suggests that the whole flying-into-space-to-blow-up-a-worm-hole-and-almost-dying thing from The Avengers' Battle of New York took a toll on Tony. To cope with PTSD, he remains cooped up in his lab, endlessly building new Iron Man suits for whatever otherworldly adversary may hit him next. All the while, his girlfriend/replacement CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) attempts to manage Tony's money machine, Stark Industries. The latest proposition for the tech conglomerate comes from nerd-turned-playboy Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a man with clear resentment for Tony, who still pitches Pepper his latest creation (if only to woo her with genius). It's called Extremis, a genetic treatment that allows for unprecedented human regeneration. It also causes people to gain superhuman powers... with the potential of internal combustion — but hey, it's still in development.
There's an abidance of plot in Iron Man 3: along with Killian's sneaky schemes, The Mandarin, a bin Laden-like terrorist, is growing in power and detonating bombs in random places across the U.S.. Hoping to put a stop to him is Tony's BFF James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). He's painted his Iron Man armor Red, White and Blue to become Iron Patriot, crusader of the War on Terror. In a surprise to no one, intelligence gathered on The Mandarin continually leads him in the wrong directions. When one Mandarin attack hits too close to home, Tony is shaken out of his comfort zone. He goes on the offense, but his cocky attitude is his downfall. After an attack on his cliffside mansion (a tremendous sequence of architectural dismemberment), Tony is left on his butt in the middle of nowhere, with no one to help him.
Black's clear goal is to keep Tony out of the armor. The Marvel regime forces its movies to stylistically conform, keeping Iron Man 3 as flat and generic across the technical board. So Black innovates on the page as he did during his screenwriting days (he's the man behind Lethal Weapon and The Last Boyscout). Downey, Jr. is firing on all cylinders here, shooting off wisecracks faster than Iron Man's repulser rays and giving Tony something to grapple with. Black connects the character with one of the scariest companion tropes in all of filmmaking: "random helpful kid." It ends up working because Tony never loses his sardonic tone — when his 11-year-old helper reveals that his dad walked out a few years prior, Tony tells him to get over it (using very colorful language). They've got bad guys to fight. Completely rude, completely genuine. Downey, Jr. is one of the few performers who can drop that comedy gold then match it with a stunt-filled set piece.
Downey, Jr. isn't alone. Black has a dream cast for Iron Man 3, helping keep the convoluted plot in check with personality. Pearce has a ball with his diabolical Killian while Kingsley subverts every villain trope in the book. His performance as The Mandarin pulls the rug from under the audiences' feet with cackling glee. It might be Black's way of flipping the bird to die hard comic fans, but depending on your investment, Kingsley dominates the movie.
While Black injects his wry sensibilities into the superhero format, he also plays ball with the necessary evils. There's big action in Iron Man 3 and, unlike the previous two installments, it delivers. A scene in which Iron Man swoops through the sky to catch fallen airplane passengers will make your heart race. Whether it's incredible CG or practical stunts, the airborne wrangling feels all too real. Black has his classic '90s action moments too: if Iron Man 3 didn't have a swing-away-from-an-explosion moment, it wouldn't be a Shane Black movie.
Aside from a few raised eyebrows provoked by the film's logic, Downey, Jr. and Black once again found magic together — and on a scale worthy of summer blockbusters. Iron Man 3 easily tops the first two movies and starts the summer off with a bang and a sly wink to camera.
(And don't forget to stay after the credits — Marvel once again drops a scene that completes the film!)
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
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Whether you're currently wrapped in eight layers, praying that you will survive the bitter cold of winter, or you live in a place where it never drops below 60 degrees (screw you!), summer is on the horizon. Helping to remind us of the light at the end of the tunnel are a set of new pics from 2013's biggest blockbuster releases. Nothing warms the soul like a superhero's scowl.
First up is a new still from the little-comic-movie-that-could, The Wolverine. The Hugh Jackman-led action flick is both a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy, a sequel to his spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and a… well, who really knows how it fits into the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, which collides all the mythology — including X-Men: First Class — into one steaming serving of cinematic goulash. It's been a bumpy road for The Wolverine, which clawed its way through pre-production disaster after pre-production disaster to finally come to screens this year. And it looks good! Or, at least, an image like the one below has us pumped for more of Jackman's rough, gruff hero.
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Next, we have a look at the upcoming Ender's Game, a sci-fi epic that has all the makings of a summer movie… but actually drops in November. Based on the acclaimed novel by Orson Scott Card, the movie stars Asa Butterfield (Hugo) as a wunderkind of intergalactic military strategy, sent to "Battle School" to train as a soldier. For fans of True Grit who wondered what happened to the young, Oscar-nominated star Hailee Steinfeld, she appears alongside Butterfield in Ender's Game, as you can see in the latest still from the film:
RELATED: 'Iron Man 3' Trailer: Tony Stark Is Still Having 'Avengers' Nightmares
Rounding out the bunch, Iron Man 3 continues its character poster binge with a new one-sheet of Guy Pearce as the suspected villain Aldrich Killian. While the folks at Marvel were ready to show off their trilogy-capper at Comic-Con earlier this year — with flashy footage of Robert Downey Jr. zipping around the sky and eventually hitting rock bottom as billionaire inventor Tony Stark — we're still in the dark on the plot of Iron Man 3. Ben Kingsley will appear as the popular villain Mandarin, but where does Pearce's Killian fit into the picture? Judging from this poster, he may play Miami Vicedetective James Crockett. Maybe.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox; Summit Entertainment; Marvel]
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So you've watched the new Iron Man 3 trailer a dozen times, but like all first glimpses of the latest and greatest summer blockbusters, it all goes by too quickly and without much context. No problem — that's why we're here.
We went through the new spot for Robert Downey, Jr.'s third Iron Man outing with a fine-toothed comb to unearth all of the secrets peppered throughout the adrenaline-infused two minutes video. What do you think is in store for Tony Stark this time? Check out the breakdown and weigh in with your own thoughts:
The trailer opens with Tony Stark lying cut up and broken on the snowy ground of who-knows-where, and it's immediately clear that unlike The Avengers, the conflict at the center of Iron Man 3 is the Herculean trial of one man. Finally, after two movies, Stark is going to get his butt kicked (which should make for great action, but also marks a return to the character-centric approach of the first film).
When Iron Man 3 started shooting back in June, rumors swirled that the script tackled a revered Iron Man arc by comic book veteran Warren Ellis called "Extremis." During the six-part series, Iron Man develops technology that allows him to control his armor and equip himself using his mind — making him more of a "superhero" (and less regular joe with a spiffy suit) than ever before. Themes of "Extremis" were hinted at in The Avengers (Captain America insults Tony Stark with the zinger, "Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?"), and thanks to the trailer, the rumors seem solidified. Stark can now summon his armor to his body.
Rhodey! Don Cheadle returns as Tony Stark's bestie James Rhodes, who was mysteriously absent from The Avengers. While his alter ego War Machine didn't fly by Iron Man's side in the film's epic battle (most likely because of cost and script reasons), Marvel announced that there would be a comic book prelude to Iron Man 3 that would explain what Rodey was up to while his buddy was being knocked around by Chitauri warriors.
As Tony recalls the war for New York City, the trailer cuts to this somber image of a child walking through rubble to a makeshift tribute site. A haunting reminder of the actual damage caused by Loki's invasion… or is it an outpour of mourning over an event we've yet to see?
The trailer gives us our first look at Guy Pearce as Dr. Aldrich Killian. In the comics, he's an influential brain behind the Extremis technology. With a diabolical grin on his face, he may also be one of Iron Man's new foes. As we'll see later in the spot, Stark's technology seems to have fallen into the wrong hands. Killian could be the reason why.
Bad dream or terrifying reality? Downey, Jr.'s voiceover makes it clear Stark can't sleep and is worried about losing the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). This money shot could be a nightmare from which Stark quickly wakes up… or could actually be a thug in the Iron Man armor ready to strike.
Oh dear. The voice of Iron Man 3's main villain, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), kicks in just after this explosive shot of Stark's laboratory. Much like the chilling poster of Batman's cracked mask from The Dark Knight Rises earlier this year, Iron Man 3 goes right for the gut with the destruction of the hero's iconic suits.
We haven't seen any of Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen, another scientist from the comic books who has been rumbaed as another potential love interest for Tony, but here she's seen suffering some pretty nasty damage. Occasionally, characters with this type of limited exposure have secrets being held close to the chest. Is that the case with Maya Hansen?