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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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.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
Ratings for CBS's Survivor: Africa continued to fall Thursday
night, as the show averaged a comparatively weak 10.7 rating and a 17
share, losing out this time not only to NBC's Friends, which drew
a 16.0/25 in the first half hour at 8:00 p.m. but also to the troubled
NBC sitcom Inside Schwartz, which managed 10.8/16 at 8:30 p.m.
CBS improved its fortunes at 9:00, however, with CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation drawing a 15.7/23 and beating NBC's Will & Grace (10.8/16) and Just Shoot Me (9.3/14).
NBC regained the
upper hand at 10:00, however, as E.R. pulled the best numbers for
the night (and probably for the week), a 16.8/27.
CBS's Survivor: Africa, which scored strongly in its season debut a
week ago but didn't quite overtake NBC's Friends, dropped
significantly in its second week, averaging an 11.2 rating and a 17 share
for the hour versus a 13.2/19 last week.
Friends scored a 15.9/25
during the first half hour, but NBC's new sitcom Inside Schwartz,
which followed, lost nearly a quarter of those viewers in the second
half-hour, ending up with a 9.9/15. (Survivor pulled in many of them,
apparently, as its numbers jumped from a 10.3/16 in the first half hour to a
12.1/18 in the second.)
CBS scored its best numbers for the night in the
9:00 hour with its drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which scored
By contrast, the NBC sitcoms Will & Grace and Just
Shoot Me pulled a 10.5/16 and a 9.2/14 respectively.
The business of predicting viewers' inclinations appeared ever more problematic Tuesday as Nielsen released results for the second week of the new season. NBC's The West Wing, which had delayed its season debut a week so that it could open with a drama about terrorism -- and, with its biggest numbers ever, appeared to be a shoe-in to win the top spot for the week -- ended up instead in third place.
It was beaten out by two NBC must-see stalwarts, Friends (which pulled in a sensational 30.04 million viewers wanting to find out who the father of Rachel's baby is) and E.R. Most of the networks' new shows continued to take a beating in the ratings, and both episodes of ABC's once-intrepid Who Wants to Be a Millionaire were trounced for the second week in a row, tying for 34th place for its Monday episode and winding up in 36th place for its second. NBC's reality show Fear Factor, which debuted strongly during the summer, wound up as the lowest rated program carried by any of the Big 3 networks as it plummeted to 99th place (out of 111 primetime shows).
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Friends, NBC, 18.9/31; 2. E.R. NBC, 17.4/28; 3. The West Wing, NBC, 16.3/25; 4. Law and Order, NBC, 15.0/24; 5. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 14.6/21; 6. Inside Schwartz, NBC, 13.0/20; 7. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.6/19; 7. Will & Grace, NBC, 12.6/19; 9. Becker, CBS, 12.0/17; 10. Judging Amy, CBS, 11.2/18; 10. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 11.2/18.
The new television season got underway last week with audiences welcoming back old favorites and deserting the reality series, game shows and TV magazines that they had flocked to during the summer. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? not only failed to make the top 10, it failed even to make the top 40 (the Thursday night episode coming in at No. 41 and Sunday's at No. 52). All of the new reality series, Who Wants to Be a Princess?, Love Cruise, Amazing Race, Lost and The Mole II, finished out of the top 50, with most of them in the bottom 25 (out of 101 primetime shows).
Indicating that viewers have become numbed by the rehashing of Sept. 11 survivor tales and confused about the political response to the attacks, ratings for magazine shows also plummeted. Barbara Walters' 20/20 on ABC dropped to No. 40; Sunday's Dateline NBC fell to No. 52 and CBS's 48 Hours dived to No. 56. NBC won the week with an average 9.1 rating and a 15 share. CBS placed second with an 8.5/14; ABC took the third spot with a 7.7/13, followed by Fox with a 4.6/7.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Friends, NBC, 19.5/31; 2. E.R. NBC, 18.3/29; 3. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 14.4/20; 4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 14.2/21; 5. Inside Schwartz, NBC, 14.1/22; 6. Law and Order, NBC, 13.9/22; 7. Will & Grace, NBC, 13.1/20; 8. Frasier, NBC, 13.0/19; 9. JAG, CBS, 12.0/19; 9. Just Shoot Me, NBC, 12.0/18.
NBC plans to unveil most of its new primetime shows during the week of Sept. 17, it said Wednesday. Emeril, the new sitcom starring TV chef Emeril Lagasse debuts on Tuesday night, Sept. 18, followed by new episodes of Three Sisters and Frasier. The reality series Lost is set to debut at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18, followed by new episodes of The West Wing and Law & Order. Must-See TV will return on Thursday, Sept. 20, with the new series Inside Schwartz landing the 8:30 p.m. period between Friends and Will & Grace. The network's Friday-night shows will return unchanged on Sept. 21. On Sunday, Sept. 23, the network will premiere Law & Order: Criminal Intent and UC: Undercover.
Raising new questions about how thoroughly CBS performs background checks on contestants for its reality shows, published reports said Monday that Justin Sebik, booted off Big Brother last week after he held a kitchen knife to the throat of another contestant, had been arrested five times in Bayonne, NJ--three times for simple assault. Each case was eventually dropped. In an interview with Tuesday's New York Post, CBS spokesman Gil Schwartz accused the Bayonne municipal court of withholding critical information about Sebik. "Certainly if we had had the information that was made available to the press, we might have given some serious consideration to the facts that were represented," Schwartz said.
Ticket sales for R-rated films have plummeted since movie theaters, bowing to political pressure, began tightening their enforcement of age restrictions, the Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a study by research group MarketCast. The study concluded that "significant numbers" of children under 17, especially girls, were being deterred from seeing R-rated movies. The theaters' policies, the study said, caused the recent releases The Mexican, starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, and Angel Eyes, starring Jennifer Lopez, to lose a major share of the audience that ordinarily would have been attracted to them, the study said. It estimated that the movie Tomcats, from Joe Roth's Revolution Studios lost 30 percent of its potential audience because of theater enforcement of age restrictions. "I think the implications are that studios will take a hard look at movies that could be cut to be PG-13," Michael Schwartz, research director at MarketCast, told the Post. "They'll ask whether the R-rated scenes will gain them enough appeal to offset the losses, especially where there is strong teen interest." Indeed, Roth told the newspaper that he would never make a movie like Tomcats again. "This is material that's mostly innately appealing to 12- to 16-year-olds, so you're really stuck."