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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The British actor, who won acclaim as the director of last year's (11) Thor, will take charge of the latest Tom Clancy movie adaptation, which will feature Chris Pine as the book-to-screen hero, according to Variety.
Ryan has been played on the big screen by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, while the franchise films The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, A Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears have been directed by John McTiernan, Phillip Noyce and Phil Alden Robinson.
Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary director of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather, has been awfully tight-lipped about Twixt Now and Sunrise, his mysterious Val Kilmer-starring project, considering that it has been underway in Napa, California for some time now. Thankfully, the New York Times managed to squeeze some new information from Coppola, including some more details about the film's genre (horror-thriller) and some of his exciting casting choices.
Twixt Now and Sunrise actually "grew out of a dream I had last year - more of a nightmare," Coppola said in a statement. "[It] seemed to have the imagery of Hawthorne or Poe." While the director didn't reveal any plot details, he explained that "as I was having it I realized perhaps it was a gift, as I could make it as a story, perhaps a scary film… so I recorded what I remembered right there and then on my phone. I realized that it was a gothic romance setting, so in fact I'd be able to do it all around my home base, rather than have to got to a distant country." The memories Coppola recorded as he was waking up soon became a short story ("something I always do as a first step") and then a screenplay.
Coppola also revealed that in addition to Kilmer, Twixt Now and Sunrise will star Elle Fanning (Stephen Dorff's co-star in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, which just won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival) and Joanne Whalley (Kilmer's ex-wife), as well as Bruce Dern, Ben Chaplin, Don Novello, David Paymer, and Alden Erenreich, who starred in Coppola's Tetro just last year. Fanning will play "a young ghost named 'V,'" but no other character details have been released.
Twixt Now and Sunrise is currently shooting in and around Coppola's hometown of Napa, California - mostly at his own estate. That's part of the reason Coppola expects the film to cost under $7 million to make, which is good news since he is personally financing the film and producing it. (A personal investment of that kind might intimidate a lesser director, but as we know, if anyone has the hubris to flirt with bankruptcy in order to realize a dream, it is Coppola.)
While the film doesn't yet have a distributer, Coppola said he was optimistic that the "gothic romance/horror subject matter may make it good for this time next year." Let's hope so: Halloween 2011 just got a lot more interesting.
Spider-Man Casting Showdown
It's been a three years since the Spider-Man trilogy came to a close, and since Hollywood seems to be working in dog years, someone has decided that it's time for a remake. While the first Spider-Man series was a commercial success, fans were less than enthused about Spider-Man's transformation from wise-cracking, nerdy high schooler into a generic angst-filled superhero. And let's not even get started on Spider-Man 3. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have brought on indie director Marc Webb and scriptwriter James Vanderbilt for the pared-down project, but the casting of the titular webslinger has been kept under wraps, until today. We'll walk you through the choices and our take on who should play your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and who's got the nerdy essence of Peter Parker down pat.
The Stage Star
Bio: English-American Andrew Garfield is one of the most critically acclaimed actors on our list. He's won a number of awards for his stage acting, and was named one of Variety's "10 Actors To Watch" in 2007. He's also had some big-screen success, appearing in The Other Boleyn Girl, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and Boy A, for which he won a British Academy Television Award. He's next appearing in the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's bestselling novel Never Let Me Go due out this fall, and The Social Network which tells the stories of the founders of Facebook.
Nerd-O-Meter: 5/10 - Garfield may look a bit gangly, but he's still a put-together professional.
Our Take: Garfield seems to be the best actor of the bunch but is virtually unknown in the States, which is a liability to the would-be blockbuster. While having older actors play high schoolers is a time-honored Hollywood tradition, at 27 he would actually be older than Tobey Maguire was when he first took the role. Garfield looks young, and cute (and kind of like Neil Patrick Harris and Seth Green's lovechild), but by sequel time a thinning hairline could catch up to him.
Bio: Despite his youth, 17-year-old Josh Hutcherson is one of the most experienced actors on our list, and one of the most recognizable. Or at least, he would be if he hadn't been hit by the puberty truck recently and changed from a gawky kid to an actual hottie. Star of such kiddy fare as Zathura, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, and Bridge To Terabithia, he's begun to transition to more adult films with this summer's The Kids Are All Right.
Nerd-O-Meter: 8/10 - Hutcherson is an actual teenager, which is the kind of awkwardness that's tough to fake. No matter how many makeovers you get, we'll all still know about Firehouse Dog.
Our Take: Hutcherson may have experience, but there's a big difference between appearing in a film as the wisecracking child sidekick and having to carry a film by yourself. Since this Spider-Man will doubtlessly be following in The Dark Knight's "gritty" footsteps (sigh), he may not be up to the task of dealing with Spider-Man's often angsty personal life.
Bio: I'm sure that Frank Dillane is not actually creepy in real life, but when your only publicity photos are of you as a young Lord Voldemort that's the impression people are going to get. Dillane is the son of British actors Peter Dillane and Naomi Wirthner, but made his first acting debut in last year's Harry Potter film.
Nerd-O-Meter: 6/10 - Like Hutcherson, Dillane is still technically a teen, which helps him out, but his look seems less "dork" and more "serial killer."
Our Take: No one knows who Dillane is right now, but Potter has made plenty of people stars.
The Rising Star
Bio: Alden Ehrenreich may be unknown at the moment, but he's lined up to be Hollywood's next big thing. Ehrenreich's lucky break came from being "discovered" by Steven Spielberg, who saw him in a short film when he was 14. He made his big-screen debut in Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro last year, and will appear in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere.
Nerd-O-Meter: 1/10 - Ehrenreich looks more like one of those jocks who would shove Peter into a locker.
Our Take: Ehrenreich may not have a lot of experience, but straight out of the gate he's been marked for success, developing relationships with two of Hollywood's finest directors. But he is still virtually unknown, and you can't say that he really looks the part.
The Big Name
Bio: "Big" is very, very relative in this case, but Jamie Bell is probably the best-known actor on the list, even if it's just in a "hey it's that guy" sort of way. Bell made his name as the star of Billy Elliot in 2000, but has generally moved towards action films like King Kong and Jumper. He's also set to take the titular role in Spielberg's Tintin film adaptation.
Nerd-O-Meter: 3/10 - He may have gotten his debut in a tearjerker, but he's pretty buff these days. Plus, he danced like no one was watching, and that takes serious moxie.
Our Take: Bell's probably the front-runner at this point, as he's got that added "people know who the hell he is" appeal. But while Bell isn't as old as Garfield, he's still pretty old to be playing a high schooler, and could run into similar issues. Plus, his hair is disturbingly close to Tobey Maguire's infamous emo bangs from Spider-Man 3. Hopefully they won't take his Billy Elliot experience as incentive to insert another dance scene to the film.
The Heat Vision blog reports that Spider-Man director Marc Webb has been quietly meeting and reading actors to play the title role in Columbia's reboot for several months with the list narrowing in the past week or so. The candidates include Jamie Bell, Alden Ehrenreich, Frank Dillane, Andrew Garfield and Josh Hutcherson.
Bell, who made his film debut as the eponymous Billy Elliot, has already stepped into the comics world by portraying Tintin in Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin, which hits screens in December 2011.
Ehrenreich was discovered by Spielberg, who saw a comedy video of him at a bat mitzvah of his daughter's friend. A couple of TV appearances followed and was cast by Francis Ford Coppola in 2009's Tetro.
Dillane, a Brit, had a role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where he won notices playing a young Tom Riddle.
Garfield gained notices for playing a young reporter in the UK TV movie trilogy Red Riding. He will also be seen in David Fincher's The Social Network.
Finally, Hutcherson, who is the youngest of the candidates at 18, also has the most experience. He's scored key roles in Bridge to Terabithia and the upcoming Red Dawn remake. He also appears in the Sundance hit The Kids Are All Right and starred with Brendan Fraser in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Journey sequel will see his character leap to the forefront as Fraser is likely to drop out.
The group of actors seems to fall in line with what Webb has been looking to do with his take on Spider-Man, which is to cast relative unknowns in a story that roots Parker back in high school, HV notes.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Five-time Oscar-winning legend Francis Ford Coppola writes his first original screenplay in nearly 30 years for this arty black-and-white drama about siblings whose lives take very different courses. Eighteen-year-old Bennie returns to Buenos Aires after a decade-long absence in an attempt to reunite with his much older brother Tetro a once-promising writer now living life on the fringes. But when he moves in with Tetro and his girlfriend Miranda he finds that his brother is not the great talent he thought but someone who has grown bitter sad and complacent — a shadow of his former self. When Bennie discovers an unfinished play of Tetro’s he takes matters into his own hands leading to revelations that affect their shared past and uncertain future.
WHO’S IN IT?
Leading an international cast that also includes many fine Argentine stars is Vincent Gallo an actor best-known as the director of the notorious flop The Brown Bunny. Gallo is an unusual but winning choice to play Tetro’s title role of a talented writer whose tortured past and stormy relationship with his father have paralyzed him creatively. Gallo’s naturalistic acting style is unmannered and effective opposite that of newcomer Alden Ehrenreich who plays his naïve younger brother. A dead ringer for a young Leonardo DiCaprio Ehrenriech is a real find endowing this almost Shakespearean story with just the right touch of curious idealism. Spanish actress Maribel Verdu is an inviting presence as Tetro’s understanding and long-suffering girlfriend while the great Carmen Maura is a hoot as “Alone ” the apparent goddess of all art in Argentina. Klaus Maria Brandauer (Out of Africa) appears in colorized flashbacks as Tetro’s domineering father an acclaimed symphony conductor.
Coppola now 70 has gone back to his roots as an independent filmmaker. Though this Godfather of new-age cinema didn’t hit paydirt with last year’s incomprehensible Youth Without Youth this spare black-and-white drama is much more accessible and intriguing. Tetro is a gorgeously photographed and beautifully lit art film that elicits fine performances from a varied and impressive group of talented performers.
The esoteric European flavor of the film may turn off some audiences but so what? There are also scenes that go a little too far over the top — particularly those set in the small theater where the plays are performed. The scenes border a little too much on parody to fit in comfortably with the central tale of two brothers separated by years and miles.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Just for the increasingly rare opportunity of seeing a widescreen black-and-white movie in a theater try to find it at a multiplex. Unfortunately the chances of that happening outside the big cities are remote for this self-distributed Coppola fantasia.
Jack is back--and this time around we get to see how effusive CIA analyst Jack Ryan got his start in the game of world politics. The green Ryan (Ben Affleck) has been working for the CIA on the Russian intelligence desk for just a short while and has started dating beautiful medical resident Cathy Muller (Bridget Moynahan). When the president of Russia suddenly dies and is succeeded by Alexander Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds) a man the U.S. knows very little about old paranoia springs up anew between the two countries. CIA Director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) recruits Ryan who had written an in-depth paper on Nemerov to supply insight and advice. But things get ugly fast. First a bombing attack levels the capital of Chechnya. Then the unimaginable happens--a nuclear bomb explodes on U.S. soil at the Superbowl outside of Baltimore. U.S. blames Russia but Jack bets his life that an outside terrorist faction is responsible. When Jack's suspicions are found to be true it's up to our hero to try and stop the two world superpowers from starting WWIII.
Affleck joins the growing list of actors to portray Clancy's hero Jack Ryan and in all fairness to the actor his performance isn't really one to compare. This isn't Harrison Ford's Ryan who in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger is the established CIA honcho having played the game a long time. It isn't even Alec Baldwin's Ryan who in The Hunt for Red October is already a proven CIA analyst with a wife and young child. Affleck's Ryan is just starting out full of youth and idealism. He's a little nervous to be working with the CIA but excited to be involved in it--and he is falling in love for the first time. Plus he gets to save the world. All combined the performance is a cakewalk for the affable actor and he handles the action chores well. As far as Affleck continuing the Clancy franchise it remains to be seen because we've already seen the different stages of Jack Ryan's life played out. Where is there left to go? As always Freeman is also excellent and quite convincing as the CIA director; the actor could read a phone book out loud and make it compelling. Liev Schreiber also does a nice turn as a secret CIA operative who helps Ryan discover the terrorists.
Tom Clancy takes his material directly from real-life world conflicts and it's understood that his novels however far-fetched they may seem in some ways could actually happen. The fact is there are 164 transportable nuclear warheads currently unaccounted for (according to the film's production notes)--and a terrorist group could get their hands on one at any time. Still like reading a fictitious novel Fears is a Hollywood movie. Director Phil Alden Robinson orchestrates plenty of tense moments that you know are highly implausible--i.e. surviving a nuclear blast and then running through a debris-strewed street while trying to use a cell phone--but we go along with it anyway because we are action junkies. There are two aspects however that differentiate this film from the hundreds of other films of its genre. First it actually shows a nuclear bomb going off. It's somewhat shocking when it happens since we are used to the hero stopping that in time. It's powerful stuff. The second is that the Russians aren't the bad guys (Nazi fascists are but that's another matter)--a definite and refreshing change of pace. Even if Fears mirrors the current unsettling climate the film is still an enjoyable ride.