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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They say if you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, so it's no wonder the 50th Annual New York Film Festival is enjoying so many buzzed about films in its lineup, which was recently announced. Aside from the previously announced opening and closing night films — Ang Lee's Life of Pi, which will open the festival with NYFF's first-ever 3-D screening, and Robert Zemeckis' Flight — NYFF has laid out 32 films to be screened at this year's fest. And the list includes a few projects you've probably already caught wind of.
The Bill Murray-starrer Hyde Park on the Hudson is the film in which the classic comic actor takes on Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cineophiles who've been waiting patiently to see the winner of the Cannes Film Festival Palm d'Or can rejoice because Amour is also gracing the long list of films hitting New York's Lincoln Center. Other highlights include Christina Hendricks as an unhappy mother in Ginger and Rosa and Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in Brian DePalma's erotic thriller Passion.
Check out the full 2012 lineup and check back in September for coverage from Hollywood.com:
Amour (directed by Michael Haneke)
Araf—Somewhere In Between (Yesim Ustaoglu)
Barbara (Christian Petzold)
Beyond the Hills/Dupa dealuri (Cristian Mungiu)
Bwakaw (Jun Robles Lana)
Camille Rewinds/Camille Redouble (Noémie Lvovsky)
Caesar Must Die/Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani)
The Dead Man and Being Happy/El muerto y ser feliz (Javier Rebollo)
Fill the Void/Lemale et ha’chalal (Rama Burshtein)
First Cousin Once Removed (Alan Berliner)
Flight (Robert Zemeckis)
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
The Gatekeepers/Shomerei Ha’saf (Dror Moreh)
Ginger and Rosa (Sally Potter)
Here and There/Aquí y Allá (Antonio Méndez Esparza)
Holy Motors (Léos Carax)
Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell)
Kinshasa Kids (Marc-Henri Wajnberg)
The Last Time I Saw Macao/A Última Vez Que Vi Macau (João Pedro Rodrigues)
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
Lines of Wellington/Linhas de Wellington (Valeria Sarmiento)
Memories Look at Me/Ji Yi Wang Zhe Wo (Song Fang)
Night Across the Street/La Noche de enfrente (Raul Ruiz)
No (Pablo Larrain)
Not Fade Away (David Chase)
Our Children/À perdre la raison (Joachim Lafosse)
Passion (Brian de Palma)
Something in the Air/Après Mai (Olivier Assayas)
Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet/Vous n’avez encore rien vu (Alain Resnais)
NYFF kicks off Sept. 28 at New York's Lincoln Center.
[Photo Credit: Fox 2000]
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Finding Nemo, Pixar Animation Studios' little movie about a fish, netted a briny $70.6 million* take at the box office this weekend, posting the best opening ever for an animated film. The feature, distributed by Walt Disney Co., also became Disney and Pixar's fifth No.1 opening and the biggest opening for any Disney film--live or animated.
Finding Nemo bumped Disney and Pixar's previous No. 1 opener Monsters, Inc., which opened in November 2001 to the tune of $62.5 million. The studios' three other collaborations also debuted at the top of the box office, including Toy Story 2, which opened in November 1995 with $57.3 million, followed by A Bug's Life, which premiered with $33.1 million in November 1998. Toy Story, their first project, opened in November 1995 with $ 29.1 million.
Together, Disney and Pixar's computer animated films have generated ticket sales totaling more than $1.7 billion worldwide.
Driven by Finding Nemo and Bruce Almighty, the top 12 films this weekend grossed $165 million--up more than 41 percent from this time last year.
THE TOP TEN
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo debuted at the top of the box office this weekend with an ESTIMATED take of $70.6 million at 3,374 theaters. Its $20,925 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this week.
The animated pic revolves around a clownfish in the Great Barrier Reef who is looking for his son, Nemo.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 Bruce Almighty dropped a notch to No. 2 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $35.6 million (-48%) at 3,492 theaters (+9 theaters; $10,195 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $135.7 million.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated actioner The Italian Job debuted in third place with an ESTIMATED $19.3 million at 2,633 theaters with an impressive $7,330 per theater average.
In the movie, a mastermind thief and his crew pull off what they think is an amazing gold bullion heist--but one of them turns out to be a double-crosser.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def and Edward Norton.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded came in fourth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $15 million (-62%) at 3,453 theaters (-150 theaters; $4,356 per theater). Its cume is approximately $232 million.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Daddy Day Care dropped to No. 5 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-51%) at 3,128 theaters (-344 theaters; $2,174 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.9 million and headed for the $100 million mark.
Directed by Steve Carr, it stars Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
Twentieth Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United moved down two spots to sixth place in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $5 million (-52%) at 2,553 theaters (-534 theaters; $1,984 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $199.2 million.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox's R rated horror thriller Wrong Turn premiered in seventh place with an ESTIMATED $5 million in 1,615 theaters with a decent $3,102 per theater average.
The film revolves around a group that gets stranded on a dirt road deep in the wood of West Virginia and faces a horrific fate at the hands of gruesome mountain men.
Directed by Rob Schmidt, it stars Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jeremy Sisto.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 The In-Laws dropped three notches to No. 8 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $3.6 million (-50%) in 2,652 theaters (unchanged; $3,443 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $14.4 million.
Directed by Andrew Fleming, it stars Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Candice Bergen, Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love came in ninth with an ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-61%) in 1,300 theaters (-818 theaters; $1,212 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.1 million.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
Fox Searchlight's PC-13 rated comedy Bend It Like Beckham made it back to the Top 10 this week with an estimated $1 million (-41%) at 491 theaters (-31 theaters; $2,088 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.1 million.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
MGM and United Arists' PG rated drama Together debuted in limited release to an ESTIMATED $66,000 in six theaters with a $11,000 per theater average.
The film revolves around a 13-year-old music prodigy and his father, a chef who has put all of his hopes on his son's success. Together they set out for Beijing so the boy can further his studies.
Directed by Chen Kaige, it stars Tang Yun, Liu Peiqui, Chen Hong and Wang Zhiwen.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $165.4 million, up 5.7 percent from last week when they totaled $156.9 million.
The Top 12 were up a whopping 41.7 percent from last year when they totaled $116.7 million.
Last year, Paramount's PG-13 rated Sum of All Fears premiered at the top of the box office with $31.1 million at 3,183 theaters ($9,795 per theater); Fox's PG rated Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones came in second in its third week with $21 million at 3,161 theaters ($6,644 per theater); and Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man came in third in its fifth week with $14.3 million at 3,646 theaters ($3,927 per theater).
Winners of the second annual Tribeca Film Festival were announced at the Stuyvesant High School Auditorium in Tribeca Sunday, with French director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi taking the prize for emerging narrative feature filmmaker for her Italo-French comedy, It's Easier For a Camel.... The comedy revolves around a walthy woman, Frederica, whose money is keeping her a prisoner rather than giving her a life of ease.
The French director also stars in the pic and walked away with best actress honors, Variety reports. Tedeschi collected a $25,000 prize for her film plus six months of services from PMK/HBH Public Relations.
Igor Bares won the actor category for his role in Some Secrets, along with Ohad Knoller in the Israeli army love story Yossi & Jagger.
Tribeca also honored Li Yang's tale of Chinese mine workers, Blind Shaft, which won the Silver Bear award at Berlin earlier this year.
In the documentary category, Mohamed Zran won the prize for emerging documentary feature filmmaker for Song for the Millennium. The prize includes $25,000 and six months of services from PR firm PMK/HBH.
Prize for documentaries by directors with two or less previous films went to Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Hugo Berkeley for A Normal Life, with honorable mentions going to Laura Gabbert's Sunset Story and Francesca Comencini for Carlo Giuliani, a Boy.
For directors with more than two previous features, Moslem Mansouri won for Trial with Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill picking up an honorable mention for Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.
The winners picked up $25,000 worth of services from Technicolor Creative Services New York.
The documentary short film award went to Harvey Wang for Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones.
Lars Daniel Krutzkoff Jacobsen won the narrative short film category with Precious Moments, and Richard Linklater's Live From Shava's Dance Floor received a special citation.
The Budweiser/TriggerStreet.com audience award for feature film went to the documentary by David G. Berger, Holly Maxson and Kate Hirson, Keeping Time: The Life, Music & Photographs of Milt Hinton and Chen Kaige for Together. Both films will share the $25,000 prize.
The MTV Films Award for student visionary film went to Enrico Kahn for Make Up.
Presenters at this year's festival included Martin Scorsese, Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Parker Posey, Nora Ephron, Sheila Nevins, Fisher Stevens and Sandra Bernhard.