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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RuPaul’s Battle of the Seasons tour may be wrapped up, but we’re still hungry for some more Drag Race excitement. While we wait for the next batch of queens to grace our screens with more eleganza extravaganzas, let’s take a walk down memory lane and take a look at some of the show's best lip syncs that left audiences gagging for more.
Latrice Royale & Kenya Michaels: “Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin) Latrice Royale is one of the most loved and most memorable queens on the show, and her Aretha Franklin lip sync against Little Kenya Michaels was absolutely chilling. While Kenya bounced around the stage like a bunny in heat, Latrice barely moved from her place, letting her face do all the talking. At that moment, Latrice was Aretha.
Raja & Carmen Carrera: “Straight Up” (Paula Abdul) The awesome Alexis Mateo flat out referred to Raja and Carmen Carrera’s lip sync as soft porn, so that should tell you enough. The 2 “Heathers” were gutted to have to go up against each other, but ended up turning out one of the most memorable performances in RuPaul’s lip sync history. From Carmen stripping down to virtually nothing and Raja leaving her lipstick mark Carmen’s shoulder, this lip synch was straight up hot.
Raven & Jujubee: “Dancing On My Own” (Robyn) In the All Stars season, squirrelfriends Raven and Jujubee were forced to lip sync against each other to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” The lip sync was extremely emotional, with Jujubee and Raven barely even having any oomph in them left to compete against each other. The performance was so moving that RuPaul uttered the magic words to both queens: “Chante, you both stay.”
Alyssa Edwards & Coco Montrese: “Cold Hearted” (Paula Abdul) This was it, guys!! One of the most anticipated sync-offs in Drag Race history. Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese made no secret of their history-laden, drama-filled beef with each other that seemed to transcend countries, eons, and wars. Although both queens had their ups and downs, they had somehow managed to avoid being pitted against each other in the be-all end-all lip sync… until now. Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” was ridiculously apt for the 2 stars and though Coco got to stay, Alyssa left us with some of the best moments from the show (see: “… Back rolls?”)
Roxxxy Andrews & Alyssa Edwards: “Whip My Hair” (Willow Smith)The only time we actually wanted to listen to “Whip My Hair” was during Roxxxy and Alyssa’s crazy lip sync to it. The performance was full of helicopter hair-flinging and sharp dance moves, but when Roxxxy took off her wig only to reveal another wig underneath (!!!!), even RuPaul’s jaw dropped to the floor. Roxxxy may have been petty at times, but she could bring it like no other. The legendary lip sync marked the first time that RuPaul let both contestants stay, because even she knew that all that hair-flipping was no joke.
Manila Luzon & Delta Work: “MacArthur Park” (Donna Summers) What the hell was Manila on during this lip sync? No one will ever know, but we do know that whatever it was, it helped her churn out one of the weirdest yet fiercest performances ever. Looking smoking hot in her yellow Big Bird dress, Manila turned it up all the way – we’re talking eyes popping out, mouth wide open, arms to the sky, crazy queen realness. Her performance was so good that she ended up sending fellow “Heather,” Delta Work, home.
Jinkx Monsoon & Detox: “Malambo No. 1” (Yma Sumac) Hands down one of the greatest lip syncs of all time – the lovable Jinkx Monsoon and the incomparable Detox. The showdown was bound to be intense, since both queens were extremely talented in completely different ways. As fiercely as Detox was bringing it, though, Jinkx stole the show without question. “Malambo No. 1” was made for Jinkx – her over-the-top character and goofy personality complemented her crazy awesome dance moves, and even the always-perfect Detox couldn’t even come close.
Dida Ritz & The Princess: “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” (Natalie Cole) It’s nerve-wracking enough to have to perform in front of Her Royal Majesty RuPaul, but having to perform a song by the original performer of that song makes it even more high pressure. In Dida Ritz’s best performance, she forced The Princess to sashay right the f**k away with her high energy, carefree lip sync to Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be,” done in front of Ms. Cole herself. The performance was so awesome that Dida got handkerchief waves from all the judges.
Jujubee & Sahara Davenport: “Black Velvet” (Alannah Myles) While Raja vs. Carmen was seductive in a porno kind of way, Jujubee’s lip sync of “Black Velvet” was seductive in a classy kind of way. Performing against the lovely Sahara Davenport, Jujubee killed it with her rock chick style and emotional syncing. You really believed that Jujubee was singing the song herself, and her flawless performance sent Sahara packing.
Nina Flowers & BeBe Zahara Benet: “Cover Girl” (RuPaul) One of the best lip syncs for the titles was performed in the very first season of Drag Race – the showdown between Camerooooooooooon (aka BeBe Zahara Benet) and one of the best drag queens in the world, punk rock majesty Nina Flowers. The queens had literally polar opposite styles and their fight for the very first Drag Superstar title was as fierce as expected. Performing to RuPaul’s classic “Covergirl,” the queens battled it out and left audiences everywhere begging for more.
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British singer Cheryl Cole stunned a group of schoolchildren in her hometown in England when she stopped by to watch them perform one of her songs. The former Girls Aloud star visited the Tyneview Primary School in her native Newcastle after discovering some of the pupils had been working on a six-week project charting her rise to stardom.
To mark the end of the school year, the children were singing and dancing to Cole's hit track Fight For This Love and were thrilled when the singer herself showed up to watch the performance.
The children had written to Cole asking for signed merchandise to raise money for the school but she went one better when she turned up in person, chatted with the kids, and posed for snaps after the show.
Teacher Robyn Bonnick told local newspaper the Evening Chronicle, "The whole topic, especially Cheryl's involvement, has been amazing. I now have ten-year-olds with a greater attitude to learning and the ethos of 'not giving up', as well as a whole new knowledge of the many job opportunities in the performance business."
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.