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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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.
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The Oscar-winning actor hosted the 2013 Sean Penn and Friends Help Haiti Home Gala at the city's Montage Hotel to raise money and awareness for his J/P Haiti Relief Organization, which he set up in the aftermath of the country's devastating 2010 earthquake.
The event drew a star-studded crowd, including Roberts and her Pretty Woman co-star Richard Gere, along with her actress niece Emma Roberts.
Other attendees at the lavish bash included Mel Gibson, Tim Robbins, Melanie Griffith, Eva Longoria, Kristin Davis, Melissa McCarthy, Kiefer Sutherland and Jon Bon Jovi.
Guests were treated to entertainment by Pearl Jam rocker Eddie Vedder.
As the weekend's opening releases dominated the box office charts, it was obvious moviegoers were only looking for one thing--the right Signs.
Buena Vista's Signs, about crop circles and creepy green men from outer space, landed the number one spot with a whopping $60.3 million, giving the film the second best August opening of all time. It follows last summer's smash hit Rush Hour 2, which made $67.4 million when it was released Aug. 3, 2001.
Signs is also the fourth best weekend release of 2002, following Spider-Man, Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones and Austin Powers in Goldmember, respectively.
The PG-13-rated thriller made it to 3,264 theaters nationwide, averaging an estimated $18,474 per theater, and proved audiences were more than willing to see a film pairing wunderkind writer/director M. Night Shyamalan with star Mel Gibson. Signs marks the best opening ever for both talents.
Signs also stars Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin.
Of last weekend's new releases, only one remained in the top five--New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember, which dropped from its top spot to No. 2 this weekend. The raucous PG-13-rated comedy took in an estimated $32.4 million, falling a rather significant 56 percent from its huge opening, but still managing to average an estimated $8,968 per screen in 3,613 theaters. Goldmember's cume so far is $142.9 million, making it the 11th film this year to pass the $100 million mark. Not too shabby.
Directed by Jay Roach, Austin Powers in Goldmember stars Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles and Michael Caine.
Opening in the third spot was Sony's Master of Disguise. The PG-rated comedy from funny man Dana Carvey was a family film alternative that brought in a respectable $13 million ($5,068 average per screen) and joins Sony's other top 10 summer winners, including Stuart Little 2 and Men In Black II.
Directed by Perry Andelin Blake, the film also stars James Brolin, Harold Gould, Brent Spiner and Jennifer Esposito.
The No. 4 slot went to another funny guy, although in a much different film. Opening with $7.5 million, Paramount's Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat proved its worth, taking in an estimated $9,973 on only 752 screens.
In this R-rated stand-up concert film, comedian Martin Lawrence discusses the many things on his mind, including his past troubles with drugs, his run-ins with the law and his near-death experience. It is directed by David Raynr.
At No. 5, some familiar faces return. DreamWorks' Road to Perdition, now in its fourth week, dropped from No. 2 to take the No. 5 position with a steady $6.6 million. Even though the R-rated film took a 41 percent cut from last weekend, the Tom Hanks/Paul Newman gangster drama, which is already being considered Oscar bait, managed an estimated $2,830 in approximately 2,332 theaters. Perdition's cume to date is a solid $77.2 million.
Directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes, the film stars Hanks, Newman, Jude Law, Stanley Tucci, Tyler Hoechlin and Daniel Craig.
The No. 6 slot belongs to Sony's Stuart Little 2. In its third week, the little-mouse-that-could sequel brought in $6 million, slipping from last week's third place slot and falling 43 percent (averaging $1,939 per screen in 3,095 theaters). The PG-rated family comedy's total to date is $46.8 million.
Stuart Little 2 is directed by Rob Minkoff and stars Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki with the vocal talents of Michael J. Fox, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Steve Zahn and James Woods.
Sony's Men In Black II slid from No. 4 to No. 7 this weekend, taking in $4.7 million. Averaging only an estimated $1,620 per screen, the PG-13-rated comedy about policing those darned aliens on Earth, now in its fifth week, dropped 45 percent. But have no fear, fans, the film's total cume is still a respectable $182 million.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Men In Black II stars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Rosario Dawson and Rip Torn.
Talk about a little film that could. IFC Films' My Big Fat Greek Wedding is proving to be amazingly resilient. Now in week 16 and still only showing on 655 theaters, the PG-rated independent comedy about one woman's Greek family and the sweet man she brings into it moved up from the No. 10 slot to No. 8 this week. Taking in a healthy $3.013 million this weekend, Wedding averaged $4,601 per screen. Its total to date is a healthy $40.1 million.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is directed by Joel Zwick and stars Nia Vardalos (also writer), John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin.
Two films that couldn't more different tied for the ninth and tenth spots--Paramount's K-19: The Widowmaker and Buena Vista's The Country Bears, both of which took in $3 million this weekend. Guess it was a toss-up whether to see a movie about a deadly nuclear submarine accident or one featuring giant bears singing and dancing. Hmmm.
K-19 dropped 59 percent from fifth place last weekend (averaging $1,139 per screen), with its cume to date being $30.8 million. The Country Bears fell from sixth with a 43 percent cut (averaging $1,175 per screen), with a cume of $11.7 million to date.
K-19: The Widowmaker is directed by Kathryn Bigelow and stars Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Peter Sarsgaard.
The Country Bears, based on the popular Disney theme park attraction, stars Christopher Walken, Stephen Tobolowsky, Eli Marienthal and the vocal talents of Haley Joel Osment. It is directed by Peter Hastings.
One other prominent film opened this weekend--Miramax's Full Frontal, directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh and starring Julia Roberts. Labeled a sequel of sorts to Soderbergh's indie hit sex, lies and videotape, Miramax only released Full Frontal in 208 theaters. The film still managed to make the top 20, bringing in $725,000 and averaging $3,486 per screen.
Directed by Soderbergh, Full Frontal stars Roberts, Catherine Keener, Blair Underwood and David Hyde Pierce.
Jennifer Lopez's "The Cell" easily locked up first place at this weekend's box office.
The R-rated fantasy suspense thriller from New Line opened to a sexy ESTIMATED $17.2 million at 2,411 theaters ($7,134 per theater).
"Obviously, we're thrilled with the opening," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "It shows that Jennifer Lopez is a star and can open a picture. Also, the two Vinces - Vaughn and D'Onofrio - were very strong, as they always are."
New Line clearly had perfect timing entering the summer marketplace with "Cell." "We picked the date at the beginning of this year," Tuckerman noted. "We've had great luck in August with our films (like 'Blade,' which opened to $17.1 million the weekend of Aug. 21-23, 1998). The picture itself is visually stunning and wildly inventive."
On the marketing front, Tuckerman applauded the campaign done by New Line marketing president Joe Nimziki and his team: "As usual, Joe found a way to sell the picture in unusual ways. We had three different one-sheets in the theaters (hanging side by side in many houses). That's the way they were laid out to be. Obviously, in some theaters you can't get that done. But, for the most part, the theater owners cooperated and did it where they could.
The trailer was spectacular, a great selling tool."
Directed by Tarsem, "Cell" stars Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio.
Paramount's R-rated Spike Lee documentary comedy "The Original Kings of Comedy" kicked off in second place with a hefty ESTIMATED $11.7 million at 847 theaters ($13,813 per theater). Its per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"This is great," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "Frankly, we were hoping to get a $10,000 per theater average, and we're about 33% better than that. That would have given us about $8.5 million. So we're very pleased."
Will Paramount go any wider with "Kings?" "Only strategically," Lewellen replied. "If there are some theaters in some of the urban markets that we didn't cover - I don't really think there's going to be that much - and, perhaps, some of the smaller markets. But it will not be a 200 or 300 print increase."
Directed by Spike Lee, "Kings" stars Steve Harvey, D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac.
Warner Bros. PG-13 sci-fi action adventure "Space Cowboys" fell one orbit in its third week to third place, holding well with an ESTIMATED $9.9 million (-24%) at 2,870 theaters (+35 theaters; $3,449 per theater). Its cume is approximately $54.2 million.
"I think it's going to go north of $80 million," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's great. The picture is exceeding the box office of 'Unforgiven,' and it's neck and neck with 'In the Line of Fire' (two prior Eastwood hits). Both of those movies did (over) $100 million."
Directed by Clint Eastwood, "Space" stars Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated football action comedy "The Replacements" lost one yard in its second week, placing fourth and holding nicely with an ESTIMATED $7.52 million (-28%) at 2,754 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,729 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23.7 million, heading for $50 million.
Directed by Howard Deutch, "Replacements" stars Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman.
DreamWorks PG-13-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" rose one rung in its fifth week to fifth place with a still solid ESTIMATED $7.1 million (-28%) at 2,760 theaters (-165 theaters; $2,557 per theater). Its cume is approximately $123.7 million.
"Beneath" is a co-production of DreamWorks, which is releasing it domestically, and 20th Century Fox, which is distributing it internationally.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Beneath" stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
The weekend's other high-profile, wide opening, Sony Pictures Releasing's launch via its TriStar label of Toho Pictures' "Godzilla 2000," missed the top ten. "Godzilla 2000" arrived in eleventh place to an ESTIMATED $4.6 million at 2,111 theaters ($2,179 per theater).
The film's modest opening looks better, however, considering the modest investment that Sony made to pick it up.
"Basically, it cost us $300,000 to acquire not only North America, but several other worldwide territories like Latin America and the U.K.," Sony Pictures Releasing president Jeff Blake explained Sunday morning. "This is a picture made a year ago that really had no plans to be theatrically released. We got it at a very cheap price and we spent modestly on prints and ads - under $10 million. So despite being eleventh, it's probably one of the more profitable pictures on the board this morning.
"We would certainly hope it could get to no worse than $12-15 million (in domestic theaters), which would be nothing but profit for us."
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13-rated comedy sequel "Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps" dropped one peg to sixth place in its fourth week with a less funny ESTIMATED $6.41 million (-37%) at 2,969 theaters (-282 theaters; $2,160 per theater). Its cume is approximately $104.4 million.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson and Larry Miller.
Columbia's R-rated sci-fi thriller "Hollow Man" skidded six slots to seventh place in its third week with a less visible ESTIMATED $6.1 million (-53%) at 2,956 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,064 per theater). Its cume is approximately $61.7 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross in the low $80 millions.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, "Hollow" stars Elisabeth Shue and Kevin Bacon.
MGM's PG-13-rated romantic drama "Autumn in New York" began to fall after its strong opening without reviews one week earlier. "Autumn" dropped four rungs in its second week to eighth place with an ESTIMATED $5.7 million (-48%) at 2,282 theaters (+27 theaters; $2,498 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.2 million.
Directed by Joan Chen, it stars Richard Gere and Winona Ryder.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13-rated romantic comedy "Coyote Ugly" dropped one notch in its third week to ninth place with a less attractive ESTIMATED $5.0 million (-37%) at 2,539 theaters (-125 theaters; $1,969 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.8 million.
Directed by David McNally, "Coyote" stars Piper Perabo and Adam Garcia.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Paramount's R-rated supernatural thriller "Bless the Child," down three rungs in its second week with a calm ESTIMATED $4.9 million (-48%) at 2,521 theaters (-3 theaters; $1,944 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.1 million.
Directed by Chuck Russell, "Child" stars Kim Basinger and Jimmy Smits.
Although DreamWorks' G-rated animated hit "Chicken Run" didn't place in the Top Ten, it enjoyed a milestone weekend. DreamWorks reported that it is now the studio's top grossing animated film, overtaking "Prince of Egypt."
"Chicken's" domestic theatrical cume is now $101.9 million. "Prince of Egypt" did $101.2 million in 1998.
Directed by Peter Lord & Nick Park, "Chicken" features such voices as Mel Gibson and Miranda Richardson.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Lions Gate Films' R-rated drama "Steal This Movie" in limited release, placing 25th with a quiet ESTIMATED $29,000 at 11 theaters ($2,585 per theater).
Directed by Robert Greenwald, it stars Vincent D'Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo and Jeanne Tripplehorn.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend, Fine Line Features' R-rated comedy "Saving Grace" widened in its third wee , placing 17th with an okay ESTIMATED $0.97 million at 255 theaters (+220 theaters; $3,800 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
Directed by Nigel Cole, it stars Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson.
Artisan Entertainment's R-rated dark comedy "Cecil B. Demented" expanded in its second week, placing 21st with a solid ESTIMATED $0.16 million (+28%) at 30 theaters (+21 theaters; $5,445 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
Directed by John Waters, it stars Melanie Griffith and Stephen Dorff.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $96.83 million, down about 2.38% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $99.18 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 4.64% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $101.54 million.
Last year, Buena Vista's third week of "The Sixth Sense" was first with $23.95 million at 2,688 theaters ($8,910 per theater); and Universal's second week of "Bowfinger" was second with $10.61 million at 2,717 theaters ($3,905 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $34.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $28.9 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Warner Bros. was first with three films ("Space Cowboys," "The Perfect Storm" and "The Replacements"), grossing an ESTIMATED $19.35 million or 20.0% of the market.
New Line was second with one film ("The Cell"), grossing an ESTIMATED $17.2 million or 17.8% of the market.
Paramount was third with two films ("The Original Kings of Comedy" and "Bless the Child"), grossing an ESTIMATED $16.6 million or 17.1% of the market.
Sony Pictures Releasing (Columbia and TriStar) was fourth with three films ("Godzilla 2000," "The Hollow Man" and "The Patriot"), grossing an ESTIMATED $11.7 million or 12.1% of the market.
DreamWorks was fifth with two films("What Lies Beneath" and "Chicken Run"), grossing an ESTIMATED $8.06 million or 8.3% of the market.
Universal was sixth with one film ("Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps"), grossing an ESTIMATED $6.41 million or 6.6% of the market.
(12)X-Men/Fox: Theaters: 1,619 (-526) Gross: $2.55 million (-39%) Average per theater: $1,575 Cume: $148.6 million
(13)The Perfect Storm/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,417 (-521) Gross: $1.93 million (-30%) Average per theater: $1,362 Cume: $173.7 million
(14)Scary Movie/Miramax/Dimension: Theaters: 1,501 (-443) Gross: $1.4 million (-45%) Average per theater: $930 Cume: $147.5 million
(15)Disney's The Kid/Buena Vista/Disney: Theaters: 1,222 (-295) Gross: $1.3 million (-35%) Average per theater: $1,064 Cume: $64.5 million
(16)The Patriot/Columbia: Theaters: 842 (-410) Gross: $1.00 million (-31%) Average per theater: $1,188 Cume: $110.0 million
(17)Saving Grace/Fine Line: (See EXPANSIONS above)
(18)Chicken Run/DreamWorks: Theaters: 1,002 (-312) Gross: $0.96 million (-27%) Average per theater: $955 Cume: $101.9 million
(19)Thomas and the Magic Railroad/Destination Films: Theaters: 1,008 (-494) Gross: $0.6 million (-48%) Average per theater: $590 Cume: $14.6 million
(20)Pokemon: The Movie 2000/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 638 (-785) Gross: $0.4 million (-58%) Average per theater: $685 Cume: $41.8 million
(21)Cecil B. Demented/Artisan: (See EXPANSIONS above)
(22)Blood Simple/USA: Theaters: 61 (-6) Gross: $84,000 (-25%) Average per theater: $1,380 Cume: $1.3 million
(23)Wonderland/USA: Theaters: 25 (0) Gross: $45,000 (-31%) Average per theater: $1,780 Cume: $0.3 million
(24)Alice & Martin/USA: Theaters: 14 (+1) Gross: $41,000 (-20%) Average per theater: $2,964 Cume: $0.3 million
(25)STEAL THIS MOVIE/Lions Gate: (See OTHER OPENINGS above)