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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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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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Romantic Comedies are a staple in the entertainment industry. Throughout film history we’ve seen couples meet, fall in love, and overcome all obstacles so they can finally live happily ever after. But how do their exes factor into that equation? A lot of times, characters end up leaving the person they were originally with, in order to be with their “true love,” but what about the ones they left behind --- The ones that got away?
In the movie What’s Your Number?, Anna Faris revisits her past relationships to see if there’s someone special that she overlooked the first time around. I suggest that we follow her example and take a look back at various characters former flames to determine if they deserve a second look. Were they wrongfully dumped or did they deserve what was coming to them? Let’s take a journey to the Ghosts of Relationships Past and find out!
The Notebook – Lon Hammond Some exes had to be dumped whether they were good or bad. Of course everyone was routing for Noah and Allie to get together in this Nicholas Sparks book-turned-movie. They were the main characters and clearly had a special connection that withstood the test of time. But we genuinely felt sorry for James Marsden’s character, Lon Hammond, when Allie kicked him to the curb. He was rich, devilishly handsome, and was an all-around decent guy that didn’t deserve to be heartbroken. There was just no way that his character could be justified enough to get the girl though. He would be an outstanding alternative if Noah was no longer in the picture, but as soon as he kissed her out in the rain it was a done deal. The audience would’ve felt cheated out of an epic love story if she had chosen to remain with Lon. He may have been a nice guy, but let’s face it – he’s no Ryan Gosling.
Sweet Home Alabama – Andrew Hennings We’ve got a very similar situation going on in this movie as well. Girl falls for high school sweetheart, complications drive them apart, girl finds new dreamy boyfriend, but ends up still loving home town hottie. Melanie found a great guy in Patrick Dempsey’s character, Andrew Hennings. He too was rich, good looking, and a very kind hearted man. It always helps when the stand-in boyfriend has a few significant flaws since it makes them easier to root against, but his character is perfect husband material. But once again, even though he looks great on paper, he can’t compare to a couple with so much history and who have known each other practically their whole lives. It’s definitely unfair and Andrew ends up getting majorly screwed over in front of all of his family and friends when Melanie rejects him at the altar (ouch), but you don’t base who you love off of whose resume looks more impressive. You base it off of who already won over your heart. So even though we liked Andrew and his sweet demeanor, we couldn’t help but fall for Jake and Melanie’s country charms.
Made of Honor – Colin Now this was clearly after Patrick Dempsey transitioned into Grey’s Anatomy’s McDreamy and became a full-on hunk, because now his character is the one that gets the girl. Everyone knew his character, Tom, wanted to be with Hannah even after the first time they met in college, but he was still too immature to understand what was right in front of him. It was only when she was about ready to marry Colin that he came to his senses and realized that he was in love with her. Now Colin’s not really as lovable as the other exes that I’ve mentioned so far, so I really didn’t have a hard time seeing him get dumped. I mean, he had the whole Duke thing going for him, but that was pretty much it. He didn’t even really know her that well and I didn’t see much chemistry between them. And when he wouldn’t let Hannah eat cake off of his plate during their wedding rehearsal dinner, I knew without hesitation that I’d had enough of him. Plus those bagpipes were super annoying. McDreamy deserved the girl, hands down.
It’s Complicated – Jake
This movie is a great example that love is not only timeless, but ageless as well. The older generations can have love lives just as complicated as the rest of us, so no one could blame Meryl Streep’s character for feeling unsure of who to choose: Adam (Steve Martin) or Jake (Alec Baldwin). Talk about Sophie’s Choice! These guys are equally lovable in real life, but what inevitably makes you route for Martin’s character in the end is the fact that Baldwin’s character cheated on Jane during their marriage. He was married to Jane (Streep) for 20 years, but then decided to leave her for a younger model. While he ended up realizing that it was a mistake and that he still loved his ex-wife, it’s too little too late I’m afraid. He needed to be taught to accept the consequences of his actions, which made Adam an easy pick. Plus, any decision that Meryl makes is never the wrong one!
The Wedding Singer – Glenn Gulia
In this case, the decision was easy and unanimous (hopefully) as to which guy you wanted to end up getting the girl. Glenn was a jerk and constantly cheated on Julia all the time. He didn’t really want to marry her for love, he just wanted someone to cook him dinner and clean up after him. It was totally justifiable for Julia to pick Robbie over him. Besides, she didn’t want to be stuck with the name Julia Gulia the rest of her life. And while financially Glenn could have provided for her more with materialistic possessions (Robbie did get paid in meatballs remember), Robbie more than makes up for his lack of income with his great personality, adorable dimples, and lovable singing voice. Plus any Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore combo is always two thumbs up in my book.
Spiderman – Harry Osborn
Even Hollywood’s hottest hunks don’t hold a candle to superhero charms. Sure Harry was easy on the eyes, but can anyone really blame Mary Jane for choosing New York City’s friendliest neighbor? I mean, he’s a vigilante who protects the city from countless criminals and murderers – that’s hot (even if he is wearing tights). I could also use the fact that Harry’s father is the Green Goblin and tries to kill her as reasons why she was right in choosing Peter Parker, but she had pretty much already made her decision before any of that happened. And while I admit Peter is somewhat of a dork, he’s a lovable one that deserves to have one thing go right in his life. It complicates matters since Harry is Peter’s best friend and there’s that whole “bros over hoes” rule, but Harry used him throughout the years for homework purposes and eventually tried to kill him. So I’d say they’re about even.
Just Go With It – Palmer
So far it’s been all about the woman having to decide between two men, so let’s switch things up and have the guy be the one in the hot seat. In this cute rom-com, Adam Sandler’s character, Danny, falls head over heels for Brooklyn Decker’s character, Palmer, an absolutely gorgeous woman. But in his attempt to win her heart, he ends up falling for his assistant, Katherine (played by Jennifer Aniston). Talk about a tough decision. Palmer doesn’t really do anything wrong except make all women want to jump on a tread mill and never get off. She’s sweet, gorgeous, wants to settle down, and genuinely seems to like Danny. But she’s almost too perfect, which makes us want to root for Katherine, who is also uncomfortably good looking, but not to as extensive a degree (I’m sure some of you will disagree with me on that one). She’s also closer to his age and they undeniable click together so well. Plus your heart immediately warms to her due to the fact that she’s willing to help him out to such a massive extent. Not to mention that Jen’s already had her heart broken too much in real life, so let’s just give her this one.
American Pie – Nadia
For a little blast from the past, let’s take a look at this classic, feel-good film. Here we’ve got Jim, desperate for some female attention, who ends up having to choose between a flute playing nerd from band camp and a gorgeous European exchange student. Two very different girls, but both of them like the infamous pie boy. You’d think that this would be a no brainer decision, but Jim opts for the band geek, who he ends up really caring for. While I’m not naïve enough to expect this to actually happen in real life scenarios, I think it’s cute that Jim’s character is so pure and chooses to listen to his heart and not his…well, something else.
My Best Friend’s Wedding – Julianne Potter
I saved this one for last because I find it to be a very rare and unique movie. Normally, you would assume that Julia Roberts' character, Julianne, would be the one to win over the guy in the end. She’s the star of the show and usually the past lovers end up together, but the movie takes it in another direction by having Michael stay with his fiancée, Kimberly. I remember feeling very upset when this happened because I was so used to rooting for the underdog couple to overcome all the odds and be together. And to be honest…I still feel that way in this movie. The girl that he falls for is way too perky (to an annoying degree) and he so clearly still has feelings for Julianne throughout the entire duration of the movie (like when he thought she was engaged to George), so I have a hard time buying that he would reject her in the end. Sure, it took her a long time to realize her true feelings and overcome her commitment issues, but better late than never, right? Sometimes you need to lose something first in order to appreciate it. But my own personal feelings aside, I have to give the film kudos for not just giving in to what the audiences may have wanted. It went against the norm and for that I have to respect it.
So now that we’ve weighed in on all the exes, I think we can safely say that for the most part, the characters inevitably ended up making the right decision. Some of them may have seemed a little predictable, but part of us can’t help enjoying that “happily ever after” mindset. While some exes were wrongfully hurt, others deserved the hand they were dealt. And as I’m sure Anna Faris’ character is going to find out in What’s Your Number? – some relationships are just better left in the past.