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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Since delving into Christopher Guest's new television series Family Tree, I have been asked by many a Best in Show and A Mighty Wind fan deprived of an HBO subscription, "Is it hilarious?" And the answer, the unabashed truth, is no. Throughout the seven-episode season, I found myself going full half-hours without more than a laugh or two — and we're talking modest chuckles. Approaching the program with the expectations garnered from years of adoring Guest's uproarious big screen work, I found myself perplexed by the pilot: Are these punchlines supposed to earn more than just a knowing smirk? Are the gags and quirks of these subdued characters meant to stand up against the riotous one-liners of Guest's past work? Perhaps the director was going for something different, something alogether new, with this venture — something that might aptly be defined not only by its comedy but by its drama.
A full season having gone by, I still wonder exactly what Family Tree was going for all this time, whether it meant to identify itself by its laughter or its heart. But this muddled identity notwithstanding, these seven episodes proved that Guest knows precisely how to tell a story. On Sunday night, the chapter closed on star Chris O'Dowd's wayward hero Tom Chadwick, a recently unemployed and newly single 30-year-old Londoner who compenstates for his new void of substantial happiness by investigating his own family tree (an exploit brought on by the passing of a great aunt he barely knew). Having somewhat of a conflicted relationship with his alarmingly eccentric sister Bea (Nina Conti) — who carres a monkey puppet with her at all times through which to speak candidly — and their moreover distant father Keith (Michael McKean), Tom seems to look at family as the "final frontier," after coming up short in the realms of the romantic and the professional.
And so, his journeys take him much farther than he might have anticipated. He discovers his roots in showbiz, a set of unknown second cousins in a rural England town, and — in what seems to be the pay-off to which the first half of the season had been leading — takes a trip to U.S. soil when he finds out about a collection of Chadwicks residing across the pond, dating back to the 1800s.
The latter four episodes have Tom uniting with his American brethren: conspiracy theorist Al (Ed Begley Jr.) and his flighty hippie wife Kitty (Carrie Aizley), an eccentric but good-hearted pair who open their home to their visiting cousin; Civil War reenactor Rick (Matt Greisser) and his incurably blunt girlfriend Julie (Maria Blasucci), who also enjoy their share of clubbing; and oddball Southerner Dave (Guest himself), who suffers from a vestigial tail and hasn't seen his wife in two years. But his journeys do not cease with the Chadwicks — Tom learns, through interracting with his new kinfolk, that he has roots in American Indian and Jewish lineages, eventually coming to meet the equally amicable Schmelff side of the family (which includes the familiar faces of Kevin Pollak and Guest fixture Bob Balaban).
Recalling just how eager each new character is to welcome Tom into his or her life and home offers a new rationale behind what makes Family Tree work so well in the absence of obviously laugh-out-loud comedy, or punch-to-the-gut tearjerker moments. Whereas Tom's plight to find new family could have easily disintegrated into mayhem in the face of unanticipated madness, the quirks and eccentricities of his new relatives are met with the sort of kindly, humorous sensibility that you adopt to approach your own relatives' psychological shortcomings. Everyone that Tom meets, even Rick's didactic historian friend Harvey (Don Lake) who grows frustrated with Tom's irreverence for their Civil War reenactments, is more than happy to help him on his mission, and is just as excited as he about the background and legacy of the Chadwick clan.
Of course, the series takes some pretty standard turns: Tom meets an American girl, Ally (Amy Seimetz), whom he saves from a scuffle via his talents assessing the point of fault in traffic accidents, and becomes smitten with her, as does she with him. In the finale, he pioneers a ribald affection for his sister, warts and all, when he steals back her beloved Monk after it has been apprehended by a stubborn charity worker. These are the "high points" of the show's energy, the explosions of purpose and direction. Otherwise, Family Tree delivers a slight, slow, smooth arc to get Tom over his breakup and layoff, allowing him a new sense of self worth, which he derives from his bloodline adventure. And it's as engaging as it is pleasant.
Its outlying climactic beats aside, the series takes pride in its low energy and its realism, melding that classic Guest nuttiness with some down-to-earth charm. It's not as much a comedy as it is a venerable slice of life — we accompany Tom on his trip, which fits not to any particular storytelling form, but unravels organically as he learns about, contemplates, and experiences these new episodes of his life. So perhaps it isn't a misplaced identity at all, but just one that we don't often see on television: a program that realizes we don't need excess comedy or drama to stuff a story. We just need to be, as the character of Tom is at his core, fascinated with the intrinsically majestic idea of a story itself.
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If you had to choose between Girls, Game of Thrones, and Homeland, which one would you say is your favorite show? We know, this is tough question. The shows are all equally entertaining, but in very different ways. These and other series have been pitted against each other in the 2013 Arqiva British Academy Television Awards (put out by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) international category. Up against Danish/Swedish crime drama The Bridge, only one of these four shows can come out the winner. Which one will it be?
See the full list of 2013 BAFTA Television nominees below.
2013 BAFTA TV Nominees:
LEADING ACTOR:Ben Whishaw, Richard II (The Hollow Crown)Derek Jacobi, Last Tango In Halifax Sean Bean, Accused (Tracie’s Story)Toby Jones, The Girl
LEADING ACTRESS:Anne Reid, Last Tango In Halifax Rebecca Hall, Parade’s End Sheridan Smith, Mrs Biggs Sienna Miller, The Girl
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Peter Capaldi, The Hour Stephen Graham, Accused (Tracie’s Story) Harry Lloyd, The Fear Simon Russell Beale, Henry IV Part 2 (The Hollow Crown)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anastasia Hille, The Fear Imelda Staunton, The Girl Olivia Colman, Accused (Mo’s Story) Sarah Lancashire, Last Tango In Halifax
ENTERTAINMENT PERFORMANCE:Alan Carr, Alan Carr: Chatty Man Ant and Dec, I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!Graham Norton, The Graham Norton Show Sarah Millican, The Sarah Millican Show
FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A COMEDY PROGRAM:Jessica Hynes, Twenty Twelve Julia Davis, HunderbyMiranda Hart, Miranda Olivia Colman, Twenty Twelve
MALE PERFORMANCE IN A COMEDY PROGRAM:Greg Davies, Cuckoo Hugh Bonneville, Twenty Twelve PeterCapaldi, The Thick Of It Steve Coogan, Welcome To The Places Of My Life
SINGLE DRAMA :Everyday, Revolution Films/Channel 4 The Girl, Wall to Wall/BBC Two Murder, Touchpaper TV/BBC Two Richard II(Hollow Crown), Neal Street Productions co-production with NBC Universal and WNET Thirteen/BBC Two
MINI-SERIES:Accused, RSJ Films/BBC One Mrs Biggs, ITV Studios/ITV Parade’s End, Mammoth Screen/BBC Two Room At The Top, Great Meadow Productions/BBC Four
DRAMA SERIES:Last Tango In Halifax, Red Production Company/BBC One Ripper Street, Tiger Aspect Productions/BBC One Scott And Bailey, Red Production Company/ITV Silk, BBC Productions/BBC One
SOAP & CONTINUING DRAMA: Coronation Street EastEnders Emmerdale Shameless
INTERNATIONAL:The BridgeGame of ThronesGirlsHomeland
FACTUAL SERIES:24 Hours In A&E, Garden Productions/Channel 4Great Ormond Street, Films of Record/BBC TwoMake Bradford British, Love Productions/Channel 4Our War, BBC Productions/BBC Three
SPECIALIST FACTUAL:All In The Best Possible Taste With Grayson Perry, Seneca Productions/Channel 4The Plane Crash, Dragonfly Productions, MAP TV/Channel 4The Plot To Bring Down Britain’s Planes, Raw TV/Channel 4The Secret History Of Our Streets, Century Films, Halcyons Heart Films/BBC Two
SINGLE DOCUMENTARY:7/7: One Day In London, Minnow Films/BBC TwoBaka: A Cry From The Rainforest, River Films/BBC TwoLucian Freud: Painted Life, Blakeway Productions/BBC TwoNina Conti – A Ventriloquist’s Story: Her Master’s Voice, Nina Conti in association with the BBC/BBC Four
FEATURESBank Of Dave, Finestripe Productions/Channel 4Grand Designs, Boundless/Channel 4The Great British Bake Off, Love Productions/BBC TwoPaul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs, Shiver/ITV
REALITY & CONSTRUCTED FACTUAL:The Audience, The Garden Productions/Channel 4I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, ITV Studios/ITVMade In Chelsea, Monkey Kingdom/E4The Young Apprentice, Boundless Productions/BBC One
CURRENT AFFAIRS:Britain’s Hidden Housing Crisis(Panorama Special), Genie Pictures Ltd/BBC OneThe Other Side Of Jimmy Savile(Exposure), ITV Studios/ITVThe Shame Of The Catholic Church(This World), BBC Northern Ireland/BBC TwoWhat Killed Arafat?(Al Jazeera Investigates), Al Jazeera English/Al Jazeera English
NEWS COVERAGE:BBC News At Ten: Syria, BBC News/BBC One & BBC News ChannelChannel 4 News: Battle For Homs, ITN/Channel 4Hillsborough – The Truth At Last(Granada Reports), ITV Granada/ITV
SPORT & LIVE EVENT:The London 2012 Olympics: Super Saturday, BBC Sport/BBC OneThe London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony: Isle Of Wonder, Done & Dusted/BBC OneThe London 2012 Paralympic Games, Sunset & Vine, IMG/Channel 4Wimbledon 2012 – Men’s Final, BBC Sport/BBC One
ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM:Dynamo Magician Impossible, Phil McIntyre Entertainment, Inner Circle Films/WatchThe Graham Norton Show, So Television/BBC OneHave I Got News For You, Hat Trick Productions/BBC OneA League Of Their Own, CPL Productions/Sky One
COMEDY PROGRAM:Cardinal Burns, Left Bank Pictures/E4Mr Stink, BBC Productions in association with Bert Productions/BBC OneThe Revolution Will Be Televised, Hat Trick Productions/BBC ThreeWelcome To The Places Of My Life, Baby Cow/Sky Atlantic
SITUATION COMEDY: Episodes, Hat Trick Productions/BBC TwoHunderby, Baby Cow/Sky Atlantic The Thick Of It, BBC Productions/BBC Two Twenty Twelve, BBC Productions/BBC Two
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
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