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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As we wrap up another month, and the summer as well, perhaps you’re noticing that with all the time you spent sitting in a theater to gawk at the latest blockbusters, you’ve been neglecting your DVD shelf. Sure, you could run out and buy whatever mainstream Hollywood films just hit stores, but variety is the spice of life…as well as the key to a more impressive DVD collection.
Here are a few gems that probably escaped your notice during that first pass down the aisle.
Company: Millennium Entertainment
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Despite getting his start in Guy Ritchie comedies, Jason Statham has established himself as a major action hero. Films like The Transporter, Death Race, The Expendables, and—most recently—The Mechanic have demonstrated Statham’s propensity for kicking serious ass.
In Blitz, he returns to London to take on a serial killer picking off police officers one by one. Blitz is far more compact in scale than something like The Expendables or Death Race, but packs just as much punch. The back and forth between Statham and Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz, Dead Man’s Shoes) alone is worth the price of admission.
Special Features Include: UK Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Interviews, Behind the Scenes Featurette
Company: Image Entertainment
If you’re an expecting mother, you’re probably constantly bombarded with concerns. I would therefore highly recommend that expecting mothers not watch The Clinic—lest she add “Having Baby Stolen Directly From Womb” to that list of concerns.
A young couple stops at a backwater motel for the night, and thus begins the most unsettling nightmare of their lives. The Clinic is a dark, viscerally horrifying film that relies more on nuance and building a relationship between the audience and its female protagonist than it does on cheap scares. You may recognize the male lead, Andy Whitfield, from the Encore original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
Special Features Include: None
High and Low
There is little argument that Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived. What is particularly fascinating about his career is that he created two very distinctive categories for his cannon: samurai movies and film noir. He proved to be equally skilled at making gritty crime dramas as he was at creating sweeping samurai epics.
In High and Low, he tells the story of a kidnapping plot involving a shoe company executive and his servant. The film is suspenseful, gripping, and visually playful; Kurosawa choosing interesting angles and unceremonious movements for his detective characters in order to avoid being spotted by the kidnapper. Doubly interesting is the fact that Kurosawa is adapting an American crime novel here; the epitome of his love affair with American film noir.
Special Features Include: Commentary featuring Akira Kurosawa and scholar Steven Prince, Making of Documentary, 1984 Video Interview with Toshiro Mifune, Theatrical Trailers
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Sword and Sorcery Collection
Company: Shout! Factory
If you dug the remake of Conan the Barbarian and were interested in its roots, of course the two Schwarzenegger Conan movies would be the place to start. But if you wish to gain a better understanding of the sword and sorcery craze that swept the '80s, this is the box set for you.
Roger Corman was a producer who always had his finger on the pulse of what was popular and knew the best ways to exploit varying trends. The highlights of Shout! Factory’s latest Corman four-pack are the hilariously inept Deathstalker and The Warrior and the Sorceress starring the late, great David Carradine. Run through all four films in a single sitting and you may find yourself wearing a loincloth by the end of the day.
Special Features Include: Audio Commentaries, Trailers, Deathstalker II director’s cut, and Photo Galleries
A Horrible Way to Die
Company: Anchor Bay
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Release Date: September 6th
One of my favorite films of 2010, A Horrible Way to Die is a testament to the power of independent horror films. Sarah just got out of a bad relationship—I mean REALLY bad. Her ex turned out to be a mass murderer and it fell upon her to lead the police to him. Now he’s escaped from prison and is making his way back to her, leaving a trail of bodies in his path.
The ever-escalating suspense, the intriguing story, and the knockout performances by Amy Seimetz and AJ Bowen elevate the bare-bones production to something truly remarkable. The ending of the film is absolutely chilling.
Special Features Include: Audio Commentary featuring Director/Editor Adam Wingard and Writer/Producer Simon Barrett and a Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
Company: Synapse Films
Release Date: September 13th
Synapse is a company that specializes in almost completely forgotten films. This time around, they bring us the nasty little revenge film, The Exterminator, from 1980. It is entirely unnecessary to go into detail on the plot of this film, partially because it is a paint-by-numbers revenge film and partially because the movie doesn’t trouble itself with trifling things like exposition and character development.
In its place, they have loaded this thing to the gills with wanton violence and destruction. The violence reaches slasher movie levels by the time the titular vigilante is finished. I’m not knocking the film by any means, but it’s definitely for hardcore exploitation fans only. Synapse has done a phenomenal job cleaning up the picture quality and making The Exterminator look better than it ever has before.
Special Features: Original Director’s Cut, Audio Commentary with Director James Glickenhaus, High-Def Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
Be sure to check out our weekly column New in Blu for all the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases!
Here's a complete list of winners for this year's SAG Awards...
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Winner!
The Station Agent
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - Winner!
Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent
Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog
Bill Murray, Lost In Translation
Sean Penn, Mystic River
Film: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Patricia Clarkson, The Station Agent
Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give
Charlize Theron, Monster - Winner!
Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Al Pacino, Angels in America - Winner!
Justin Kirk, Angels in America
Paul Newman, Our Town
Forest Whitaker, Deacons for Defense
Jeffrey Wright, Angels in America
TV: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Sex and the City, HBO - Winner!
Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS
Will & Grace, NBC
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Tony Shalhoub, Monk - Winner!
Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond
Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace - Winner!
Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond
Lisa Kudrow, Friends
Debra Messing, Will & Grace
Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Meryl Streep, Angels in America - Winner!
Anne Bancroft, Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
Helen Mirren, Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
Mary-Louise Parker, Angels in America
Emma Thompson, Angels in America
TV: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Six Feet Under, HBO - Winner!
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS
Law & Order, NBC
The West Wing, NBC
Without a Trace, CBS
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under - Winner!
Stockard Channing, The West Wing
Tyne Daly, Judging Amy
Jennifer Garner, Alias
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Allison Janney, The West Wing
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Kiefer Sutherland, 24 - Winner!
Peter Krause, Six Feet Under
Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace
Martin Sheen, The West Wing
Treat Williams, Everwood
Film: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain - Winner!
Maria Bello, The Cooler
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider
Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April
Holly Hunter, Thirteen
Film: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Tim Robbins, Mystic River - Winner!
Alec Baldwin, The Cooler
Chris Cooper, Seabiscuit
Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams
Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai
Screen Actors Guild Awards 40th Annual Life Achievement Award
Tune in to Hollywood.com next Sunday, Feb. 29, 2004, for complete Academy Awards coverage.