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 Carrie Diaries is a fun retro series about a young girl finding her footing in big city Manhattan in the 1980s. The girl in question … Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame. The only issue with the series is that it’s a new take on wildly popular characters we have come to know in six seasons and two films. Since we’ve known these characters for more than 10 years, can a series really justify making changes?
The series follows Candace Bushnell’s Carrie Bradshaw’s life more closely than the version we know from television and films. However, this Carrie does call into question our perspective about the unlucky in love fashionista. Can a girl with such fabulous teen years be so relatable?
1. Carrie's Daddy Issues
Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) didn’t have a dad in the HBO series. In the episode “A ‘Vogue’ Idea” she confesses that her dad abandoned her family. This explains why she was consistently drawn to older men like Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov). However, in the CW teen series, Carrie (AnnaSophia Robb) has lost her mother. Her father Tom Bradshaw (Matt Letscher) is doting, attentive, and pretty respectful. The shift does work to change the way we'd analyze the behavior of adult Carrie, just a bit.
2. How They Met
In the Sex and the City 2, Carrie describes how she met all of her friends: first Charlotte (Kristen Davis), then Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), then finally Samantha (Kim Cattrall). However, on the Carrie Diaries, young Carrie meets a young Samantha (Lindsey Gort), who is cousins with Carrie’s sex-obsessed school rival Donna LeDonna (Chloe Bridges). From a narrative perspective, it makes sense. Young Carrie has a friend like Charlotte in overachieving Mouse (Ellen Wong) and snarky Maggie Landers (Katie Findlay). Also, Samantha is a fan favorite. But it calls into question why the show would alter the canon if it would so readily pander to fans of the HBO series.
3. Carrie's Lost Virginity
Older Carrie confesses she lost her virginity in a Sean Bateman’s rec room on a ping pong table (something more or less... relatable). In The Carrie Diaries, rather than losing her virginity to her boyfriend Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler) she loses it to a young playwright Adam Weaver (Chris Wood). This is symptomatic of the need to paint a young Carrie Bradshaw of having fabulous teenage years. If she grows up to be a “the last single girl” at 40 years old who makes poor choices with men, money, and her life the series seems more like a tragedy.
4. The Escapades of Samantha
Gort’s portrayal of Samantha is the right blend of a wink and a nod to Catrall’s unique cadence and over the top behavior with a fresh take on the character. Catrall’s Samantha represented successful women with more traditionally "masculine" attitudes on sex. Echoing adult Samantha's business savvy, Gort’s Samantha can scam her way into something fabulous. She isn’t as sex-obsessed as Catrall’s Samantha, but she does have sex pretty indiscriminately in the 1980s with AIDS on the rise. The prospect of Samantha having a ton of sex for 30 years is a little excessive if you stop to think about it.
5. Carrie Doesn’t Struggle at All
Adult Carrie is always struggling but handles it with grace. She can’t pay her bills but can use her cache in Manhattan nightlife to still live fabulously. However, young Carrie has no real problems. She’s upper-middle class, is able to accept an internship at Interview magazine during with her school schedule, and she has rich boy after rich boy interested in her. The series is lighthearted and doesn’t really offer Bradshaw any character building struggles. So why is the woman we meet in her adult years so harried?
Here's a video that shows all the similarities of the two series.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival is officially in full swing, with nearly everyone in Hollywood transported to the prestigious French fest for a week and a half of wheeling and dealing. Catch up on all the goings-on with Cannes Chatter.
For a new mother, Natalie Portman shows no sign of slowing down. Along with roles in the upcoming Thor 2, the Terrence Malick double feature Knight of Cup and To the Wonder and a possible part in the next movie from the Wachowskis, Portman is now attached to star in Jane Got a Gun, a Western from We Need to Talk About Kevin director Lynne Ramsay. Deals for the film, which would see Portman playing a woman who must protect her home from the gangsters who killed her husband, are currently being pitched at Cannes. The script for Jane made the 2011 Black List, a compilation of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. Sounds like a winner already. [Deadline]
One of the bigger premieres of the festival went down Tuesday evening, the long-gestating adaptation of On the Road. Sporting Kristen Stewart, Garrett Headland, Sam Riley, Kirsten Dunst and a host of others, the Walter Salles-directed film was highly anticipated by attendees and film buffs alike. Did it satisfy?
The quintessential tome of the beat generation is loose and expressive, and The Hollywood Reporter suggests the filmmakers found a way to visualize the tone: "the colors are intense, looks and gestures are fleetingly caught, rhythms are varied to convey highs and lows of perception and sensation." HitFix is positive, giving props to Stewart who gives "good work…further indication that as soon as she puts the Twilight series in her rearview mirror, she's got a promising career ahead of her." Indiewire is less enthusiastic, suggesting that "after a while the film feels like any other roadtrip -- no matter how beautiful the scenery flickering by through the window, eventually you just want to get out of the goddamn car," while Film School Rejects points out the clunky nature of the film as a whole — including the placement of its all-star cast. "The film also features lunatic cameos from Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams and Steve Buscemi, which are all accomplished, but are dropped into the narrative too clumsily to make them feel like anything but ill-fitting jigsaw pieces." The movie will be released by IFC in the Fall, and now there are two new looks riding the coattails of the Cannes debut:
Is Cannes turning into Comic-Con? Following in the footsteps of the Weinstein Company's Django Unchained/The Master/Silver Lingings Playbook footage showcase, rumors are swirling that the festival will hold its own secret presentation, a selection of cinematic snippets from films on the horizon. Movies rumored to be involved with the screening include The Impossible, a Naomi Watts/Ewan McGregor drama revolving around the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and legendary Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai's martial arts epic The Grandmasters. What, no Dark Knight Rises? [Deadline]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: WENN.com]