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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Country stars Carrie Underwood and Kix Brooks have offered well wishes to Lady Antebellum star Hillary Scott, who became a first-time mum on Monday (22Jul13). Just hours before news of the royal baby's birth made headlines around the world, the Need You Now singer welcomed little Eisele Kaye Tyrrell to the world in Nashville, Tennessee.
And several stars have taken to Twitter.com to congratulate Scott and her husband, Lady Antebellum drummer Chris Tyrrell.
Her bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood posted a message on the group's Twitter.com account, writing, "Congratulations to @HillaryScottLA and Chris, parents of the beautiful Eisele Kaye! Happy birthday and we love you!!"
And pal Underwood added, "@HillaryScottLA Congratulations, sweet Hillary! So many blessings to your family and its new gift from God! May she be just like you!"
Former Brooks & Dunn star Kix Brooks was also thrilled by the 'other baby news', tweeting, "Congrats to @HillaryScottLA of @ladyantebellum - sweet lil thing finally showed up! This is where the party starts!"
Scott took to her own Twitter page on Tuesday (23Jul13) to declare, "Thanks to EVERYONE for the congratulations, prayers, support, and love for our precious Eisele Kaye! She has completely stolen our hearts!"
Lady Antebellum stars Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood took time out of their busy schedules last week (ends12May13) to perform for sick youngsters at a New York hospital. The pair headed to Kravis Children's Hospital at Mount Sinai without their pregnant frontwoman Hillary Scott to meet patients in the paediatric unit.
Kelley and Haywood also staged an acoustic set of the band's hits, as well as kids' songs, during the visit, which was made in conjunction with the Musicians On Call organisation. The initiative brings live and recorded music to youngsters' bedsides.
A collection of rare first editions of books by literary greats including Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald and T.S. Eliot have raised $350,000 (£226,000) at an auction in the U.K. Late teacher Bruce Ritchie owned the impressive collection of some of history's greatest tomes, including first editions of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, and 1908's The Wind In The Willows.
The books went under the hammer in Edinburgh earlier this week (begs13May13) and raised $350,000, with a copy of The Great Gatsby from 1925 selling for $2,906 (£1,875) alone.
Other lots included Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited ($2,480/£1,600) and Prufrock by T.S. Eliot ($5,580/£3,600).
"My liquor of choice is tequila and I will say I have missed it. The other day Charles had a margarita and I was, like, smelling it (saying), 'Just one, just one...' But then can I stop at one?" Pregnant Lady Antebellum star Hillary Scott is missing out on her booze of choice.
Lady Antebellum star Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley used to draw straws to find out who would be sleeping with bandmate Hillary Scott. It's not what it seems - the trio was so poor starting out that the singers all had to share the same hotel room.
Scott explains, "We were so broke in the beginning that they would draw straws."
Kelley adds, "One of us (guys) would sleep with her 'cos we didn't really wanna stay in the same bed."
Scott, who is now married to the band's drummer and pregnant with her first child, insists she has never been intimate with her singing pals, even though she approached Kelley in a bar to kickstart their friendship.
He recalls, "We were in a bar in Nashville and she walked up to me and she had heard some of my music randomly online and she said, 'I really like your voice'.
"I said, 'Let's get together and write some songs', which is a pretty typical Nashville pick-up line... She came over about a week later and we started writing and formed a band."
John Travolta's sister Ellen has finally cut the apron strings after more than 30 years of playing Scott Baio's onscreen mum. Travolta took the role of Louisa Arcola - the mother of Baio's character Chachi Arcola - in U.S. sitcom Happy Days in 1981, and she went on to star as his mum in two more TV shows, Joanie Loves Chachi and Charles in Charge.
She was in the running to play Baio's mum again in an upcoming Mother's Day episode of his new show See Dad Run, but Knot's Landing star Michelle Lee was cast instead - and, as the show's executive producer, Baio had the unenviable task of breaking the news to his longtime co-worker.
He explains, "Ellen Travolta played my mother forever on television - she was on Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi and Charles in Charge and then, when we were doing this show... somebody suggested Michelle Lee.
"I love her (Travolta) and I felt so horrible. I said 'We made a decision to use Michelle Lee', and she goes, 'Oh, I understand, thank you so much...' Her brother is a big movie star and he's not gonna use me for anything."
However, Baio insists he enjoyed having a new on-set mother, adding, "Michelle Lee is awesome. She's, like, a real broad. I loved hanging out with her."
Singer Hillary Scott braved the stifling heat to perform with her band Lady Antebellum at the Stagecoach Festival on Saturday (27Apr13) while heavily pregnant. Temperatures hit a high of 104 degrees at the music fairgrounds in Indio, making an uncomfortable situation for Scott, who is currently expecting her first child with her drummer husband Chris Tyrrell, a baby girl due in July (13).
The musician waited out the duration of the event in her air-conditioned trailer until the group took to the stage in front of more than 40,000 fans, and she carried on with the trio's 90-minute set like a pro, opening with the first single off the band's upcoming Golden album, Downtown.
The group played a number of hits before welcoming fellow performer Dierks Bentley for a surprise rendition of Bruce Springsteen's I'm On Fire, and the show ended with a two-song encore of I Need You Now and We Owned the Night.
Scott's bandmate, Charles Kelley, joked the next time they play the festival there would be a fourth member of Lady Antebellum, saying, "We're going to start her really young."
British actress Carey Mulligan is learning to embrace her role as a leading lady of literary costume drama after signing up for another period piece as the star of Far From The Madding Crowd. The 27 year old landed her big break with a role in the 2005 movie adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, and she went on to rack up an impressive list of credits in screen versions of classic books including Charles Dickens' Bleak House, Austen's Northanger Abbey, and Baz Luhrmann's new film re-telling of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
Mulligan has now signed up to play the lead role of Bathsheba Everdene in an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic Far From The Madding Crowd by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, and the actress admits she has given up trying to avoid period roles.
She tells America's Vogue magazine, "I've stopped fighting costume dramas. (Vinterberg) is such an interesting director, I think he'll do something really cool with it (Far From The Madding Crowd). It's a crazy story."
Far From The Madding Crowd focuses on the story of an independent and wealthy woman who is pursued by three suitors.
Bathsheba has previously been played on the big screen by Julie Christie in an Oscar-winning 1967 adaptation.