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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At Any Price is a movie that desperately wants to be taken seriously, but it fails to leave a mark. Writer/director Ramin Bahrani's fifth feature film is a family drama that combines the desperation of the middle class businessman trying to stay afloat with the hot button issue of genetically modified crops, then throws in a chafing father/son relationship and the everyday disappointments of growing up. Somehow, it's both too much and not enough.
The Whipple family and their problems encapsulates the predicament of Midwestern famers who are driven to desperate measures to stay afloat. This isn't the same homestead that the ancestors of Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) once farmed; it's big biz agriculture, which means Henry's out hustling genetically modified seeds and snatching up land from graveside families of freshly dead farmers. His Glengarry Glen Ross-style exhortations to "Always Be Closing" is emphasized by a sort of sweaty and pathetic performance from Quaid, who manages to be both charming and loathsome.
Naturally, Henry has a favorite son, the athletic and handsome Grant (Patrick Stevens), whom Henry and his wife Irene (Kim Dickens) actually roll out a red carpet for in anticipation of his return. (Surprise: He's more interested in traveling the world than returning to Henry's clutching embrace.) That leaves Dean (Zac Efron) to take over the family business, even though he'd much rather hang out with his sh*tkicker friends and race cars and make out with his hot girlfriend Cadence (Maika Monroe).
The cinematography is sweeping and beautiful; those amber waves of grain sway hypnotically, lulling us into the sort of complacency that makes it perfectly acceptable to eat food that was tweaked out in a lab. Efron and Quaid are a perfect father and son pair: the Type A aging golden boy versus the fiery-tempered teen who eventually trades his sleeveless T-shirts for a nicely pressed button-up. Of course, dressing like your dad and actually having an affair with his mistress (Heather Graham, in a role as thankless as Dickens') is another. T
The core idea of At Any Price is to put a human face on the changing nature of agriculture, and not just how it affects the food on our shelves but the farmers who've had to change the nature of their livelihood to keep pace. Trying to build a drama around an idea is difficult, especially such a big and political one. The dynamics between Henry and Dean are nothing new or interesting; the only time you really feel the pain of intergenerational disappointment is when Henry meets with his father and you see that it's all a game of trying to live up to a father figure that will never be satisfied.
At Any Price also deals with the shadier nature of the corn business, but it's a dramatic development that lacks the sort of urgency that the title of the movie implies. Although on paper it would seem the stakes are high in At Any Price, documentaries about subsidized farming or GMO crops are far more alarming.
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The only thing stranger than Simon Cowell's eraser-shaped head is the fact that he is currently dating Carmen Electra. The X Factor judge confirmed to Ryan Seacrest during his radio show that Electra (who has a long dating history of "Say what now?" men that includes Dennis Rodman and Dave Navarro) is not his "girlfriend" but they do "date." While Electra, 40, has had a more notorious love life, Cowell, 53, is no stranger to unexpected couplings, either. The music mogul had a long-running on-and-off relationship with pop star Sinitta, which started when she was just 14. (He is nearly ten years her senior.)
While the Cowell and Electra (Cowlectra? Electrawell?) is one of the more bizarre pairings to come out of Hollywood in a while, the two join a long lineage of Tinsel Town odd couples. Check out some of the other duos that have made us all go "Hmmm...."
Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin
Sure, they were both former child stars, but that didn't make the pairing of bona fide beauty Mila Kunis and troubled tabloid regular Macaulay Culkin any less strange. Even more eyebrow-raising? The mismatched duo dated for over eight years. Mary-Kate Olsen and Olivier Sarkozy
Let's do some math: half of the Olsen twins is dating the half brother of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is almost twice her age. It adds up to one incredibly creepy pairing that looks more like a kidnapping than a relationship.
Amber Tamblyn and David Cross
Before having the most hipsterrific wedding in the history of Hollywood, the Arrested Development funny man and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants actress turned heads with their noticeably significant age gap and arguably different levels of attractiveness.
Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett
Like Carmen Electra (bet you didn't think we could compare Julia Roberts to Carmen Electra, did you?) the Oscar-winning actress has had an eclectic love life. But this was none more evident than when the beautiful movie star wed goofy looking (sorry!) country singer Lyle Lovett. The pair eventually split in 1995 after less than two years of marriage.
Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton
One could argue Jolie's strangest pairing was her Oscar date brother, but since we've scrubbed that image clean out of memory, we'll go with BBT. In the throws of her wild child, blood vile-wearing days, the gorgeous actress was married to the guy who became famous for saying "French fried potaters" for almost 3 years, during which time they apparently had a lot of sex and creeped everyone out.
Christina Hendricks and Geoffrey Arend
Totally shallow to think it, we know. We know.
Brigette Nielsen and Flavor Flav
Take your pick about what's weirdest about these exes: that they met on Flavor of Love, that they were actually kind of a cute couple, or that the clock-wearing rapper/reality star could reasonably be considered one of the action starlet's more normal conquests — as she also has been with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Drew Barrymore and Tom Green
When Barrymore first got married she was practically still a child (she was 19 when she wed Jeremy Thomas in 1994), but her second marriage was to someone who behaved just like one. The lovely actress, who had made her transition into adorable pixie at this point, was married to MTV jokester/goon Tom Green for a year while the whole world kept waiting to find out if this was one of his pranks.
Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson Musical worlds collided in the most bizarre, unsettling way imaginable when Elvis Presley's daughter married the King of Pop. Their infamous MTV Video Music Awards kiss was one for the ages.
Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen The odd Hollywood coupling that started and ends them all: Woody and Soon-Yi. The legendary director became romantically involved with the adopted daughter of his longtime partner Mia Farrow, who was 20 years his junior. It's still pretty creepy to think about, but at least it's given the Farrows some seriously delightful Twitter fodder.
[Photo credits: Josephine Santos/Pacific Coast News; Chris Polk/FilmMagic/Getty Images; James Devaney/WireImage/Getty Images; WENN; Jim Smeal/WireImage/Getty Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images; B. Dowling/Wenn; Jody Cortes/Wenn; WENN; Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images; WENN]
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The Amazing Spider-Man would prefer if you didn't call it the fourth Spider-Man movie. See this ain't the Spider-Man your older brother knew from ten years ago — it's a reboot. The latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger throws three movies worth of established mythology straight out the window swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and resetting the franchise with a spiffy new origin story. "New" in the loosest sense of the word — the highlights of ASM mainly a sleek new design and spunky reinterpretation of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and gal pal Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are weighed down by overpowering sense of familiarity. Nearly a beat for beat replica of the 2002 original with some irksome twists of mystery thrown in Amazing Spider-Man fails to evolve its hero or his quarrels. The film has a great sense of cinematic power but little responsibility in making it interesting.
We're first introduced to Peter Parker as a young boy watching as his parents rush out of the house in response to a hidden danger. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave their son in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) who raise him into Andrew Garfield's geeky cool spin on the character. Parker's a science whiz but faces the challenges of every day life — passing classes talking to girls the occasional jock with aggression issues — but all of life's woes are put on hold when the teen discovers a new clue in the mystery behind his parents' disappearance. The discovery of his dad's old briefcase and notes leads Peter to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a scientist working for mega-conglomerate Oscorp and his Dad's old partner. When they cross paths Connors instantly takes a liking to the wunderkind and loops him into the work he started with his father: replicating the regeneration abilities of lizards in amputee humans (Connors is driven to reform his own missing arm). But when Parker wanders into Oscorp's room full of spiders (a sloppily explained this-needs-to-be-here-for-this-to-happen device) he receives his legendary spider bite that transforms him into the hero we know.
Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) desperately wants Amazing Spider-Man to work as a high school relationship movie but with the burden of massive amounts of plot and mythology to introduce the movie sags under the sheer volume of stuff. Stone turns Parker's object of affection Gwen Stacey into a three-dimensional character. Whenever they happen upon each other an awkward exchange in the hallway a flirtatious back-and-forth in the Oscorp lab (where Stacey is head…intern) or when the two finally begin a romantic relationship the two stars shine. They're vivid characters chopped to bits in the editing room diluted by boring franchise-building plot threads and routine action sequences. Seriously Amazing Spider-Man another mad scientist villain who uses himself as a test subject only to become a monster? And another bridge rescue scene? Amazing Spider-Man desperately wants to disconnect from the original trilogy but it's trapped in an inescapable shadow and does nothing radical to shake things up. Instead it settles for the same old same old while preparing for inevitable sequels instead of investing in its dynamic duo.
There's a sweet spot where the film really hits his stride. After discovering his spider-abilities Peter hits the streets for the first time. He's superhuman but still a headstrong teen full of obnoxious quips and close calls with shiv-wielding thugs. The action is slick small and playful Webb showing us something new by melding his indie sensibilities with big scale action. If only it lasted — the introduction of Ifans reptilian half The Lizard implodes Amazing Spider-Man into incomprehensible blockbuster chaos. A gargantuan beast wreaking havoc around New York City promises King Kong-like escapades for the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man but the lizard man has other plans: to rule the world! Or something. Whatever it takes to get Lizard and Spider-Man fighting on the top of a skyscraper over a doomsday machine — logic be damned.
Amazing Spider-Man peppers its banal foundation with great talent from Denis Leary as Gwen's wickedly funny dad and the police captain hunting down Spider-Man to Fields and Sheen as two loving adults in Peter's life to Garfield and Stone whose chemistry demands a follow-up for the sake of seeing them reunited. But it's all at the cost of putting on the most expensive recreation of all time with new demands imposed by the success Marvel's other properties (except that franchise teasing worked). Amazing Spider-Man introduces too many ideas that go nowhere undermining the actual threat at hand. No one wants to be unfulfilled but that's the overriding difference between the original movie and the update. You need to pay for the sequel to know what the heck is going on in this one.