Actor Jerry O'Connell is set to make a return to Broadway in the upcoming production of Living On Love. The Jerry Maguire star rounds out the cast of playwright Joe DiPietro's comedy about an opera singer, which is based on Garson Kanin's 1985 stageshow Peccadillo.
O'Connell will portray a young writer who chronicles the life of the diva, played by real life opera star Renee Fleming in her Broadway debut.
O'Connell previously appeared on the Great White Way in 2011 play Seminar, alongside Alan Rickman.
Living On Love, which premiered at Massachusetts' Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer (14) to rave reviews, also stars Veep's Anna Chlumsky, Tony Award nominee Douglas Sills, and actors Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson.
The production will begins previews at the Longacre Theatre in April (15).
'Lip Sync Battles' are BACK! One of the most infamous segments on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon came back last night, with musically talented guests (and The Voice judges) Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. Every night, we watch Fallon's show fully expecting things of this nature, but we are still always surprised by how hilarious they are. In this competition to out do each other, who do you think will win? We have yet to watch a Lip Sync Battle in which Jimmy Fallon has won. Do you think this will change?Watch the Lip Sync Battle now and decide:
And once again, Jimmy lost. Sorry Jimmy, we love you for giving us this awesome segment, but you guests can seriously out do you. If only we all could be like Blake and have Jimmy hold our champagne while we bust out some stellar tap dancing moves. Somehow, Blake manages to Lip Sync with a Southern drawl and we love it so much.
Gwen Stefani easily had us rooting for her when she dacned all on Jimmy and had the host cracking up. But when she broke out the Lip Sync for Lionel Richie and Blake Shelton did his best Diana Ross, we knew they had changed this game forever with their duet of "Endless Love." Game over!
We have to credit Jimmy on his rendition of Ellie Goulding's "Burn." He's got a lot of heart. One day we hope to see him win.
Who do you think killed it in this Lip Sync Battle? Tweet us your thoughts!
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Superstar couple Beyonce and Jay Z are set for a big night at the 2014 BET Awards with four nominations apiece. The Crazy in Love hitmakers will compete against each other in the Best Collaboration category, in which Beyonce's song Drunk in Love, which features her husband, will battle Jay Z and Justin Timberlake's Holy Grail. Drake and Majid Jordan's Hold On (We're Going Home), Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams' Blurred Lines, YG's My Hitta collaboration with Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan and I Luv This by August Alsina and Trinidad Jame$ are also up for the prize.
Meanwhile, rivals Jay Z and Drake will go toe to toe in the Best Male Hip Hop Artist category, alongside Future, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, while Beyonce will battle Janelle Monae, Jhene Aiko, K. Michelle, Rihanna and Tamar Braxton for the Best Female R&B/Pop Artist title. Jay Z and Beyonce will also vie for the coveted Video of the Year award with the videos for Drunk in Love and Partition, respectively. Pharrell Williams' Happy, Chris Brown's Fine China and Drake's Worst Behavior are also nominated.
In the movie categories, Angela Bassett, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Lupita Nyong'o and Oprah Winfrey will fight for the Best Actress prize, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Forest Whitaker, Idris Elba, Kevin Hart and Michael B. Jordan are up for the Best Actor trophy. The Best Movie nominees are: 12 Years a Slave, The Best Man Holiday, Fruitvale Station, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain and Lee Daniels' The Butler.
The 2014 BET Awards will be handed out at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on 29 June (14).
The full list of nominees are:
Best Female R&B/Pop Artist: Beyonce, Janelle Monae, Jhene Aiko, K. Michelle, Rihanna, Tamar Braxton
Best Male R&B/Pop Artist: August Alsina, Chris Brown, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams
Best Group A$AP Mob Daft Punk Macklemore & Ryan Lewis TGT Young Money
Best Collaboration August Alsina featuring Trinidad Jame$ - I Luv This Beyonce featuring Jay Z - Drunk in Love Drake featuring Majid Jordan - Hold On (We're Going Home) Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake - Holy Grail Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharell Williams - Blurred Lines YG featuring Jeezy & Rich Homie Quan - My Hitta
Best Male Hip Hop Artist Drake Future J. Cole Jay Z Kendrick Lamar
Best Female Hip Hop Artist Angel Haze Charli Baltimore Eve Iggy Azalea Nicki Minaj Video of the Year Beyonce - Partition Beyonce featuring Jay Z - Drunk in Love Chris Brown - Fine China Drake - Worst Behavior Pharrell Williams - Happy
Video Director of the Year Benny Boom Chris Brown Colin Tiley Director X Hype Williams
Best New Artist Ariana Grande August Alsina Mack Wilds Rich Homie Quan ScHoolboy Q
Best Gospel Artist Donnie McClurkin Erica Campbell Hezekiah Walker Tamela Mann Tye Tribbett
Best Actress Angela Bassett Gabrielle Union Kerry Washington Lupita Nyong'o Oprah Winfrey
Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor Forest Whitaker Idris Elba Kevin Hart Michael B. Jordan
YoungStars Award Gabrielle Douglas Jacob Latimore Jaden Smith KeKe Palmer Zendaya
Best Movie 12 Years a Slave The Best Man Holiday Fruitvale Station Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain Lee Daniels' The Butler
Subway Sportswoman of the Year Brittney Griner Lolo Jones Serena Williams Skylar Diggins Venus Williams
Subway Sportsman of the Year Blake Griffin Carmelo Anthony Floyd Mayweather Jr. Kevin Durant LeBron James
Centric Award Aloe Blacc - The Man Jennifer Hudson featuring T.I. - I Can't Describe (The Way I Feel)" Jhene Aiko - The Worst LiV Warfield - Why Do You Lie? Wale featuring Sam Dew - LoveHate Thing
Best International Act: Africa Davido (Nigeria) Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania) Mafikizolo (South Africa) Sarkodie (Ghana) Tiwa Savage (Nigeria) Toofan (Togo)
Best International Act: UK Dizzee Rascal Ghetts Krept & Konan Laura Mvula Rita Ora Tinie Tempah
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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The Kids' Choice Awards: where humans too young to drive pick the winners, nominees range from Lebron James to Jennifer Lawrence to SpongeBob SquarePants, and everyone goes home dripping in lime green slime. What a glorious awards show.
With Josh Duhamel at the helm, this year is a battle of the heavy-hitters. Justin Bieber is pitted against Bruno Mars, The Avengers against The Hunger Games, and Anne Hathaway against Kristen Stewart. In the only awards show where it's conceivable for Taylor Swift to beat Adele in a head-to-head race and for The Rock to triumph over Robert Downey Jr. (which he did, in the category of Favorite Male Buttkicker), this is anyone's game.
Watch the Kids' Choice Awards on Nickelodeon on Saturday, March 23 at 8 PM ET and check back here to see all the winners — we'll be updating the list during the broadcast.
Favorite TV ShowGood Luck CharlieiCarlyVictorious — WINNERWizards of Waverly Place
Favorite Reality ShowAmerica's Got TalentAmerican IdolThe VoiceWipeout — WINNER
Favorite CartoonFairly OddParentsPhineas and FerbSpongeBob SquarePants — WINNERTom and Jerry
Favorite TV ActorJake T. AustinLucas CruikshankRoss Lynch — WINNERCarlos Pena
Favorite TV ActressMiranda CosgroveSelena Gomez — WINNERVictoria JusticeBridgit Mendler
Favorite Male AthleteLebron James — WINNER Michael PhelpsTim TebowShaun White
Favorite Female AthleteGabby DouglasDanica Patrick — WINNERSerena WilliamsVenus Williams
Favorite BookDiary of a Wimp Kid seriesHarry Potter seriesThe Hunger Games series — WINNERMagic Tree House series
Favorite VideogameJust Dance 4 — WINNERMarioKart 7Skylanders GiantsWii Sports
Favorite AppAngry BirdsFruit NinjaMinecraftTemple Run — WINNER
Favorite MovieThe Amazing Spider-ManThe AvengersDiary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog DaysThe Hunger Games — WINNER
Favorite Movie ActorJohnny Depp — WINNERAndrew GarfieldZachary GordonWill Smith
Favorite Movie ActressVanessa HudgensScarlett JohanssonJennifer LawrenceKristen Stewart — WINNER
Favorite Animated MovieBraveIce Age: Continental DriftMadagascar 3: Europe's Most WantedWreck-It Ralph — WINNER
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Chris Rock (Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted)Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania) — WINNERBen Stiller (Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted)Taylor Swift (The Lorax)
Favorite Female ButtkickerAnne HathawayScarlett JohanssonJennifer LawrenceKristen Stewart — WINNER
Favorite Male ButtkickerRobert Downey Jr.Andrew GarfieldChris HemsworthDwayne Johnson — WINNER
Favorite VillainReed Alexander (iCarly)Simon Cowell (The X Factor) — WINNERTom Hiddleston (The Avengers)Julia Roberts (Mirror Mirror)
Favorite Music GroupBig Time RushBon JoviMaroon 5One Direction — WINNER
Favorite Male SingerJustin Bieber — WINNERBruno MarsBlake SheltonUsher
Favorite Female SingersAdeleKaty Perry — WINNERPinkTaylor Swift
Favorite Song"Call Me Maybe""Gangnan Style""We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together""What Makes You Beautiful" — WINNER
Celebrity Slime Count: 8 (Pitbull, Dwight Howard, Sandra Bullock, Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Josh Duhamel, Nick Cannon)
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
The remake of Total Recall never escapes the shadow of its Arnold Schwarzenegger-led predecessor — and strangely it feels like a choice. With a script that's nearly beat-for-beat the original film Total Recall plods along with enhanced special effects that bring to life an expansive sci-fi world and action scenes constructed to send eyes flipping backwards into skulls. Filling the cracks of the fractured film is a story that without knowledge of the Philip K. Dick adaptation's previous incarnation is barely decipherable. Those who haven't seen Paul Verhoeven's 1990 Total Recall? Time to get a few memory implants. 2012 Recall makes little sense with the cinematic foundation but it does zero favors to those out of the know.
Colin Farrell takes over duties from Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid a down-on-his-luck factory worker hoping to escape his stagnate existence with a boost from Rekall a company capable of engineering fake memories. Quaid calls the damp slums of "The Colony" home (one of two inhabitable parts of Earth) but he dreams of moving to the New Federation of Britain a pristine metropolis on the other side of the planet. When the futuristic treatment goes awry — caused by previously existing memories of our blue collar hero's supposed past life as a secret agent — Quaid emerges from Rekall with lethal power hidden under his mild-mannered persona. He quickly goes on the run escaping squads of soldiers robots and his assassin "wife " Lori (Kate Beckinsale) all hot on his tail. Total Recall turns into one long chase scene as Quaid unravels the mystery of his erased memories.
But when it comes to answers and heady sci-fi Total Recall falls short. Farrell isn't a hulking action star like Schwarzenegger but he's a performer that can sensitively explore any human crisis big or small. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld Live Free or Die Hard) never gives his leading man that opportunity. Farrell makes the best of the films occasional slow moment but the weight of Recall's mindf**k is suffocated in a series of fist fights hovercar pile-ups and foot chases pulled straight out of the latest platformer video game (a sequence that sends Quaid running across the geometric rooftop architecture of The Colony looks straight out of Super Mario Bros.). When Jessica Biel as Quaid's former romantic interest Melina and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as the power-hungry politico Cohaagen are finally woven into Farrell's feature length 50 yard dash it's too late — the movie isn't making sense and it's not about to regardless of the charm on screen.
The action is slick and the futuristic design is impeccable but without any time devoted to building the stakes Total Recall feels more like a HDTV demo than a thrilling blockbuster. The movie's greatest innovation is the central set piece "The Fall " an elevator that travels between the two cities at rapid speed. The towering keystone of mankind is a marvel but we never get to see it explore it or feel its implications on the world around it. Instead it's cemented as a CG background behind the craze of Farrell shooting his way through hoards of bad guys.
Science fiction more than any other dramatic genre twist demands attention to the details. New worlds aren't built on broad strokes. But Total Recall tries to get away with it in hopes that audiences will recall their own movie knowledge to support its faulty logic. The movie repeatedly prompts viewers to think back to the 1990 version with blatant fan service that's absolutely nonsensical in this restructured version (no longer does Quaid go to Mars but there's still a three-breasted alien?). The callbacks may have given Total Recall a "been there done that" feel but rarely is it coherent enough to get that far. By the closing credits you'll be struggling to remember what you spent the last two hours watching.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
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.