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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Within moments of meeting the cast and director of the new movie Drinking Buddies, you can see exactly why the end product turned out as funny, loose, and honest as it did. Their rapport in real-life is just as fast and loose and funny is it played out on screen. Case in point: while discussing blurring the lines of male-female friendships, the conversation bouncing between director Joe Swanberg, and stars Jake Johnson and Ron Livingston, sounded like something, well, straight out of a comedy.
Joe: " I feel like when people who have had that kind of chemistry, through whatever means have gotten past it, and you've sort of gotten close to the flame and figured out how to stay close and create a boundary, those can become great friendships and you kind of have to push them past the breaking point and let them break a little bit and then you know where that is and then you both just agree to stay on your side of the line from there on out."
Ron: "Or you f**k the whole thing up and move to a different city."
Drinking Buddies, which opened to raves and boisterous laughs at the Paramount Theater at SXSW this weekend, is a sexy, smart will-they-won't-they romantic comedy about two friends Luke and Katie —played by Johnson and co-star/producer Olivia Wilde — who toy with the boundaries of friendship, flirting and their relationships — both to each other, and their significant others Jill and Chris, played by Anna Kendrick and Livingston, respectively.
RELATED: SXSW Review: 'Drinking Buddies' is a Good Time, With Less Filler
But what sets Drinking Buddies apart from all the movies that ask the age old question "Can men and women really be friends?", aside from their refreshingly new take on it, is that this one was heavily improvised. Instead, Swanberg let his tremendously gifted ensemble take an outline and flesh out their characters into fully realized, fully flawed, but relatable people. Swanberg, Johnson, Kendrick, and Livingston all talked to Hollywood.com about the art improv, breaking rom-com stereotypes, and "the magic of four" in comedy.
Swanberg explained why he's a fan of improv, and why it worked so well with Drinking Buddies. "It's so weird that the way that we make movies is that we have these scripts and these characters in our head and then you have to go find people who then either match your pre-conceived idea of the character or can create that character through the performance. But you're plugging real humans into fantasy constructs and it's always seemed bizarre to me."
"When I meet with somebody to talk about doing a movie, it seems crazy to me to not incorporate the things that I like about that person into the movie," Swanberg continued, "Because, isn't that the reason why I hired them, because we had a great conversation or we liked each other? When I watch Drinking Buddies, it's so great for me because it's like all the things I enjoyed being around these four people are there in the movie. They can't not be, because of the way that we work, because we're actually engaging in conversations with each other, making the same kinds of jokes we would make. It's just such a nice little record of that moment of these four people interacting in a way where they're exactly the four people that I was like 'Oh yeah, these guys, they're great!'"
So what real-life things wound up manifesting in the movie? "Jake does this funny voice sometimes that makes me laugh, [and] there's the funny voice in the movie. It's really allowing the things that are charming, or annoying, all of that full spectrum of somebody... it's just creating a stage for those things to be captured, versus that person becoming a character on pre-written stuff."
For Livingston, the improv aspect was "scary and freeing." He explained, "There's that night before you start a film where it's like, 'This is awesome, I don't have to learn any of my lines,' and then you realize, 'But I am gonna have to shoot a scene!'"
But it's that very nature of improv that allowed the cast to create characters that live well outside the confines of most romantic comedy stereotypes. Take, for example, the overused trope of the shrill girlfriend or jerk boyfriend, simply used to lessen an audiences guilt about cheating or as a prop to push the would-be couple together. (Johnson jokingly altered his voice to sound like what that annoying character would have sounded like in their movie, "You're not allowed to hang out with your friends and drink beer! But I love you!") In Drinking Buddies, however, Kendrick's character Jill is anything but. In fact, you find yourself rooting for her, then against.
It was something that was important to Kendrick, creating a character that was not only likable, but walking the fine line of not being the villain. "That was something that, because there was no script per se, I was worried the audience would anticipate her to be that. And that that was something we would have to actively fight against. I didn't feel that Joe was going to push me in that direction, but I was concerned that would be the assumption."
RELATED: 5 Movies to See at SXSW
Kendrick made sure that nailing down what might seem like minor details, would actually be a major influence for how viewers percieve the character. The actress recalled, "I remember my first day [shooting] during the wardrobe fitting, every time I put on something that was a little too school marm-y, I was like, the first time we see her it can't be like, 'So here's the thing about Jill: she sucks'."
But for any comedy to work, improv or otherwise, at the end of the day it really depends on the actors and how they work with the material and each other. In Drinking Buddies, the foursome of Johnson, Wilde, Kendrick, and Livingston, all bounce off of each other in a way that only four could.
"I think it's like a team," Johnson said. "When you have a two-person thing, then you guys have to fill the voids with each other. With four, something like this, everyone in this cast is very good, so you don't need a star on this team, a Michael Jordan per se...you can win with the group. You either go hard for the laugh, or go hard for the moment or go hard to support a laugh or support a moment. With four, if everybody's good, it's fun."
Livingston said he likes how the dynamic of four "can shift to be really balanced or or really unbalanced and all it takes is one person walking away to go from unbalanced back to balanced again", while Kendrick cited "chamber plays, like Dinner with Friends and Closer and Through A Glass Darkly. I think there is something magic about four, for exactly that reason. Things get messy."
RELATED: SXSW Review: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' Should Have Disappeared From SXSW
Of course, for every unplanned, on-the-fly moment of Drinking Buddies, there was one that Swanberg planned: to have a character named Gene Dentler. In Drinking Buddies, Wilde's real-life beau Jason Sudeikis plays her and Johnson's boss Gene Dentler. "That's a cool story that I'm happy to tell," Swanberg said, "My friend David Lowry, he had a movie at Sundance this year called Ain't Them Bodies Saints. They started shooting the same day we started shooting Drinking Buddies and for both of us it was bigger projects than either of us had ever done before. We were texting and we were like, 'We should have the same character in both movies just as a little hat tip. There's a cop named Gene Dentler in his movie and Sudeikis plays Gene Dentler in ours. The name plate on Sudeikis' desk [in Drinking Buddies] that says Gene Dentler, we sent down to Shreveport and he shot it in his movie, too."
In a fittingly off-the-cuff moment, Kendrick marveled at the anecdote, "That's amazing, I had no idea!"
[Photo credit: Ben Richardson]
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With each outing in his evolving filmmaking career actor-turned-director Ben Affleck has amped up the scope. Gone Baby Gone was a character drama woven into a hard-boiled mystery. The Town saw Affleck dabble in action pulling off bank heists many compared to the expertise of Heat. In Argo the director pulls off his most daring effort melding one part caper comedy and two parts edge-of-your-seat political thriller into an exhilarating theatrical experience.
At the height of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 anti-Shah militants stormed the U.S. embassy and captured 52 American hostages. Six managed to escape the raid finding refuge in the Canadian ambassador's home. Within hours the militants began a search for the missing Americans sifting through shredded paperwork for even the smallest bit of evidence. Under pressure by the ticking clock the CIA worked quickly to formulate a plan to covertly rescue the six embassy workers. Despite a lengthy list of possibilities only Tony Mendez (Affleck) had a plan just enticing enough to unsuspecting Iranian officials to work: the CIA would fake a Hollywood movie shoot.
There's nothing in Argo or Affleck's portrayal of Mendez that would tell you the technical operations officer has the imagination to conjure his master plan — Affleck perhaps to differentiate himself from the past plays his character with so much restraint he looks dead in the eyes — but when the Hollywood hijinks swing into full motion so does Argo. Mendez hooks up with Planet of the Apes makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to convince all of Hollywood that their sci-fi blockbuster "Argo " is readying for production. With enough promotional material concept art and press coverage Mendez and his team can convince the Iranian government they're a legit operation. A location scout in Tehran will be their method of extracting the bunkered down escapees.
Without an interesting lead to draw us in Affleck lets his eclectic ensemble do the heavy lifting. For the most part it works. Argo is basically two movies — Goodman and Arkin lead the Ocean's 11-esque half and Affleck takes the reigns when its time to get the six — another who's who of character actors including Tate Donovan Clea Duvall Scoot McNairy and Rory Cochrane — through the terrifying security of the Iranian airport. Arkin steals the show as a fast talking Hollywood type complete with year-winning catchphrase ("ArGo f**k yourself!) while McNairy adds a little more humanity to the spy mission when his character butts heads with Mendez. The split lessens the impact of each section but the tension in the escape is so high so taut that there's never a moment to check out.
Reality is on Affleck's side his camera floating through crowds of protestors and the streets of Tehran — a warscape where anything can happen. Each angle he chooses heightens the terror which starts to close in on the covert escape as they drift further and further from their homebase. Argo is a complete package with the '70s production design knowing when to play goofy (the fake movie's wild sci-fi designs) and when to remind us that problems took eight more steps to fix then they do today. Alexandre Desplat's score finds balance in haunting melodies and energetic pulses.
Part of Argo's charm is just how unreal the entire operation really was. To see the men and women involved go through with a plan they know could result in death. It's a suspenseful adventure and while there's not much in the way of character to cling to the visceral experience tends to be enough.
Okay we’ll admit it: The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a very odd movie indeed. In a mere 125 minutes you will, without a doubt, laugh, gasp, sob, and smile, and then want to call up your parents just to say you love them. Oh yes, it’s a Disney movie all right, but before you pass judgment on this PG flick, we suggest you read on. Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) Green desperately want a child to love, but after learning their dreams are heart-breakingly impossible they decide to bury their hopes. Literally. The adorable couple writes down all the characteristics they would hope to see in a child and buries the notes in a box in their backyard. One stormy night – and in true Disney fashion – ten-year-old Timothy (CJ Adams) sprouts from the garden, leaves and all, to claim the Greens as his own. Hollywood.com recently sat down with the always-lovely Garner, and we were surprised to learn that one of the sweetest moments in the movie was actually the scene she most dreaded. “It was painful!” she reveals with a laugh. Plus, Garner shares the cutest story starring her real-life hubby Ben Affleck. You’ll never guess which celeb’s property the actor was able to charm his way into. The Odd Life of Timothy Green sprouts into theaters Wednesday, August 15 and check out Hollywood.com’s exclusive interview below. Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: Disney] More: A Very Whimsical 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' Trailer Disney Has Planted 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' Poster Ron Livingston Joins ‘Ten Year’ & ‘The Odd Life Of Timothy Green’
Up-and-coming studio mogul Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media announced today that it has acquired the distribution rights to The Raven, a mystery-thriller starring John Cusack as a fictional version of American writer and poet Edgar Allen Poe.
'The Raven,' now in post-production, was directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) with a script from television actor Ben Livingston and writer Hannah Shakespeare. In McTeigue's creative re-imagining, Poe (Cusack) is frantically trying to hunt down a serial killer inspired by his often dark poems. Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson, Alice Eve and Oliver Jackson-Cohen also star in the period thriller.
This isn't the first time that Poe has been fictionalized as a character. The 19th-century poet has often appeared in literature or film as a tormented artist, reflecting the dark characters Poe himself liked to invent for his Gothic stories. And fictional versions of the writer often possess the sleuthing skills Poe liked to give his characters in his own mystery novels, so the The Raven's Poe-as-serial-killer-hunter plot, strange as it may sound, isn't without some precedent.
As I sit here, blog-post writing, Wishing for a Cusack sighting, And reading Cusack wiki-lore, Quoth the Raven, "NEVERMORE."
Sorry, got away from myself there for a second.
No release date has been set.
Luke Evans is set to star in The Raven -- the upcoming Edgar Allen Poe film directed by James McTeigue (V For Vendetta).
Written by Hannah Shakespeare and Ben Livingston, the fictionalized story follows Poe (John Cusack) in the last week of his life. His fiancé is kidnapped by a serial killer and Poe teams up with a detective -- played by Evans -- to find the person responsible. Rumors say Alice Eve will play the female lead.
I think this is a solid move for Evans, who quietly built up an impressive resume in 2010. This past year, the young actor starred in the Clash of the Titans-remake and had a small part in Robin Hood. He also just wrapped a role as Zeus in the upcoming Immortals. And currently, he's shooting the 3D-remake of The Three Musketeers.
But -- and there's always a but -- he does have one thing going against him. The initial look of The Raven is bleak. From the plot, Edgar Allen Poe doesn't sound like the crazed poetic lunatic we would expect. Rather, it appears he'll be this weird, spin-off version of Sherlock Holmes. Plus, John Cusack is playing the role, and he hasn't done anything of value since High Fidelity days. So, yeah. At this point, all we can do is hope that the direction of McTeigue, who also worked as an assistant director on The Matrix, will save this film. But let's be real. It probably won't.