Thanks to the success of Veep, The Mindy Project, New Girl, Orange Is the New Black and the like, female-driven comedies are no longer the red-headed stepchild of television. Case in point: upcoming Fox pilot Dead Boss, adaptation of a British comedy of the same name. Its cast? So far, almost identical to the guest list to your dream funny lady dinner party.
Jane Krakowski stars in her first post-30 Rock lead role as Helen, a woman falsely accused of murdering her awful boss. Strangers with Candy comedienne and unlikely heir to Martha Stewart's lifestyle queendom Amy Sedaris will play the convict's nosy coworker; and Deadline reports that Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch just signed on as Helen's cellmate, "a sunny but emotionally needy arsonist." Still to be cast is Helen's "trainwreck" sister, her only hope of clearing her name. With how stacked this ensemble is so far, we can only expect another killer name. Is it too early to buy a season pass?
Dead Boss already has serious girl comic pedigree. The original U.K. series was created by Sharon Horgan (Pulling, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret) and stand-up sensation Holly Walsh; it starred Horgan and AbFab legend Jennifer Saunders. So far, the source material is only one six-episode season old. So the impetus is on the U.S. creative team (which includes Suburgatory producer Patricia Breen) to turn the concept into a viable sitcom in an American network structure.
But with Krakowski bringing a touch of Jenna Maroney's high-minded disdain, Sedaris full-on conniving, and Dratch turning up the crazy, we can't help but be hopeful. Are you looking forward to Dead Boss? Let us know in the comments.
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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Let's face it the world of Hollywood pirating — with its peglegs eyepatches shoulder parrots and bounty of other swashbuckling tropes — is pretty silly. Even a high seas adventure like Pirates of the Caribbean has the ridiculous Jack Sparrow to help it hobble along. Pushing the comedy can only work in pirate movie's favor and Aardman Animation's Pirates! A Band of Misfits goes all out seizing the absurdity with a flare only British sensibilities could conjure. The film is a treasure trove of design and technical wizardry but for those less interested in the intricacies of stop motion animation Pirates!'s simple story packs plenty of low-key laughs that viewers all ages can pick up.
The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) is at wit's end. While he's enjoyed his time leading a ragtag group of wannabe pirates including Albino Pirate (Anton Yelchin) Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson) Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) and his number two Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman) a lifestyle of eating ham and barely making ends meet is losing its luster. When Pirate Captain shows up to the annual Pirate of the Year submission day he's once again outdone by Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) who rides in on a whale full of gold. Driven by competition Pirate Captain reassembles his crew hits the open waters and begins a new wave of pillaging. It's all for naught until the pirates cross paths with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) who identifies Pirate Captain's "parrot" as an extinct dodo bird. Suddenly the pirates have a new (and lucrative) calling: science.
There's an unexpected intelligence to Pirates!. The movie based on a children's book of the same name centers on Pirate Captain's mid-life crisis delves into the world of 18th century science and pegs Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) as the mastermind bad guy behind the elimination of the pirate occupation. That gives the accompanying adults plenty to chew (and laugh) on but director Peter Lord doesn't stray away from an ol' fashioned slapstick routine. There's a marvelous stray bathtub sequence halfway through the film a wild ride through Charles Darwin's old tudor house that's a true spectacle. But even a simple gag involving baking soda and vinegar exploding sud bubbles is expertly crafted and executed by Lord.
The stop motion technique never feels limited in Pirates! even with a great deal of walking and talking scenes. Gideon Defoe's script is elevated by the vocal performances; Grant is perfectly cast as the faux-burly Pirate Captain while Martin Freeman's perfected "timid skeptic" routine from The Office and Sherlock is once again on full display. The Aardman team continues to have a knack for gesturing their puppets uniquely natural and human. Even with all the enormous pirate ships detailed cityscapes and dazzling action Pirates! is at its best when it focuses on the sillier calmer moments.
The tangibility of Pirates! A Band of Misfits comes through in its physical stop-motion animation techniques but also its genuine heart. There's a rare reality to the storytelling even at its most fantastical. While the film doesn't hit the same emotional chords as some of Pixar or Dreamworks' best you would need an X-marked map to find a Hollywood cartoon as sweet and heartfelt. So don't walk the plank on this one — board with kids in tow immediately.
What I've always loved about J.J. Abrams (other than the fact that he's a contemporary entertainment visionary) is that he's loyal to his creative collaborators. Thanks to his TV series' Alias, Lost and Fringe, the industry has gained a host of talented writers and producers following in his footsteps. From Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who started as writers on shows like Hercules and Xena before working with Abrams on Alias and, eventually, becoming power producers in their own right (Hawaii 5-0 and Fringe are their babies, and they've got features like MI:3, Star Trek and Transformers under their belt) to Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who worked on Felicity and Lost with the auteur before moving into the film world with Tron: Legacy and the forthcoming Ouija project, the Abrams effect has sent qualitative ripples throughout showbiz.
Once such writer/producer pair is Monica Breen and Alison Schapker, who have worked on all three of Abrams' fore mentioned small screen hits. According to Deadline, they've just been re-hired by WBTV to continue working on Fringe, but they are also rewriting a top-secret feature for Abrams. The working title for the mysterious movie is Zanbato, and it is said to focus on "swashbuckling robots with swords" with a deep rooting in Japanese history. If that isn't enough to get you excited, then you probably should check your pulse.
The project is set up at Paramount, where Abrams has a lucrative deal that has resulted in hits like Cloverfield, Star Trek and this June's sure-to-be-a-smash Super 8. Breen and Schapker are also developing more original material with their master; one such project is the "heightened reality" crime series Pulp, which may now actually move forward as a graphic novel/comic book series at DC Comics (but as the publishing giant is owned by Time Warner, like WBTV where Abrams has his TV deal, you can expect it to go to series if it is as good as it sounds). In my eyes, more J.J. means better television and film, so I hope he can continue with the break-neck pace of production in which he's currently involved.