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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TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already?
To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from.
But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper.
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In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so.
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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.
S2E4: I’m about to make a comparison that may stun most of you, but bear with me. As I recap both Glee and Shameless, I find that they share a similar burden: a surplus of character plotlines. Whereas Ryan Murphy’s opus takes us through the daily activities of an entire show choir and the teachers and parents who serve as the wind beneath their attention-hungry wings, Shameless delivers a slightly more grounded, yet riotously absurd, look at the activities of the kinetic Gallagher family and their friends and cohorts. But while Glee flails about, throwing in songs in lieu of transitions and character development, the Gallagher clan is rife with richness – so much so, that we’re almost overwhelmed on a weekly basis. But as an avid television viewer, a surplus of dense characters is a great problem to have.
Of course, the person leading the cavalry in the developmental department is de-facto Gallagher matriarch, Fiona. After her whirlwind romance with her Knight in stolen sports cars, Steve, she’s driving her life (and her self-esteem) into the ground in an effort to forget the relationship she lost when she opted out of moving to Costa Rica with Steve. She’s rivaling on Frank-level debauchery which is an equally delicious and soul-crushing notion. It’s also the factor that lends the Gallaghers’ wet-hot-salacious-summer a little depth. It’s basically justified dirty, sexy fun – also known as the reason we fell in love with Showtime’s hit series in the first place.
“I was chased from own house and now I’m hiding in yours. Holy s**t, I’m you.”-Fiona
“I’ve been waiting for this day.” –Frank
From the start of the episode, we find Fiona in motion. She lays down to take a nap, but it’s seconds until a woman comes to the door asking for her; when she greets the visitor, the woman chases her down so fervently that Fiona ends up hiding under a table with Frank at Sheila’s house. She really is Frank’s daughter. The tormentor is Craig’s very angry wife, Lucy Jo, and Craig, being the manchild he is, confessed the whole sordid, sandwich-covered affair to her. This continues throughout the episode with Lucy Jo throwing a milkshake at Fiona’s head and going so far as to station her children on the main thoroughfare with a “Fiona Gallagher Had Sex With Our Daddy” banner. It’s too bad the sex wasn’t good enough to make dealing with his psycho wife worth it. Overwhelmed with work, Debbie’s issues, and being hunted by Lucy Jo, Fiona is additionally haunted by her brief call to Steve and throughout the episode she tries him again, only getting voicemail. This only further supports my theory that the long-lost lover will be showing his face in Chicago very soon. Veronica, forever the perfect confidant, cautions Fiona that she’d better know why she’s actually calling Steve the next time she picks up the phone. But summertime Fiona isn’t one for making smart decisions, so V’s good advice will go unused.
On top of her already debaucherous turn, Fiona’s got a bad influence in the form of Jasmine (guest star Amy Smart). She previously dismissed Jasmine’s drug-addled, sugar-daddy-draining bouts of infidelity, but she’s screwed up her own life, and the escape of Jasmine’s hedonistic, leeching paradise is looking pretty good. Fiona’s planning to take Richard up on his offer when he returns from France, but as we can tell from Jasmine – who’s using her mother’s breast cancer to fool her husband while she does coke in the Gallaghers’ kitchen at 8 a.m. – this path is only going to lead to more destruction. It’s too bad she seems determined to continue on it – well, too bad for her, but great for the series. Still, Fiona’s hanging on to her few connections to Steve, hoping he will appear again and make her life better, just like he did last winter. She tries Steve again on her way home from work at the club, and just then, her Steve look-a-like, Adam, shows up just in time to distract her by letting her drive his BMW. The similarity to her first few wild nights with Steve is uncanny. Still, she has the sense to make Adam sleep on the couch when she gets the fairly inebriated suitor back to her house.
“I never should have f***ed Dotty to death. Coulda made that work.” –Frank
Frank is in crisis because Shelia finally makes it to the beauty salon, which means it’s only a matter of days until she makes it to the Alibi Room and learns what a horrible person he actually is. Frank is desperate, so Lip tells him “no one trades an MVP” and Frank takes that as ammunition to make the world scarier so she suffers a relapse of agoraphobia. He does follow the conventional bit of Lip’s advice too, breaking and then easily repairing things around the house to remain indispensable, but he also throws in a story about a woman getting her head chopped off at a market to scare Sheila, but it doesn’t work. Next, he has his armless friend from the bar put Halloween-grade guts on his arm and come stumbling into the house, but Sheila’s already left. It does, however work on dumber-than-a-broken-toaster Jody. Frank later steals the prized Luger from its mantle at the Alibi Room, and despite Mickey’s advice that Frank refrain from trying to make modern ammo fit into the Luger, Frank does it anyway and ends up shooting his eye out, giving him a pirate aesthetic for the rest of the episode. The gunshot doesn’t even phase Sheila, who writes it off merrily as a car backfiring. Basically, Frank’s screwed.
And this would have been a delicious turn of events, considering we’ve seen Frank escape consequences time and again, but he’s saved once more by the most unlikely of events. The sky is literally falling – or a piece of an airplane is anyway – and it lands right in front of Sheila as she heads to the Alibi Room. As she runs screaming back into the house, we witness Frank’s exuberance. He’s baffled at his luck – and so are we. Then again, we can’t have both of the head Gallaghers in the dumps; the show has to be deep and fun, after all.
“You’re a good kid Deb, you deserve to have friends.” –Fiona
Debbie is overwhelmed with daycare, hilariously smashing Barbies to smithereens. This stress manifests itself in an intense rash, which V says will be healed by relaxing. Naturally, this worries Fiona, but Debbie won’t take a break from Daycare, so Fiona forces her to throw a slumber party for fun – a foreign concept to 4th grader with the mind of a 40 year-old. Then comes the issue of the guest list: it’s only V, Fiona and Aunt Ginger. Debbie has no friends, but how do you force a hard-headed kid to start making friends? Fiona enlists all the brothers and sisters as party guests and insists that Debbie invite Ethel and two other kids from her class. This culminates in an embarrassing task for any pre-teen: talking to the cool kids. She bribes Simon, from the library (the well-meaning nerd with a crush on her), to introduce her to Holly, the popular 15 year-old fourth-grader. Holly looks like a Bratz doll come to life and only agrees to come to the party because she likes Lip.
After prodding Debbie, Fiona ends up having to work at the club or risk getting fired, which upsets Debbie momentarily until Lip and Ian promise to make it fun. It upsets Fiona more, and sends her into the bathroom once more to call Steve, this time leaving a message and inviting him to the party and rambling on like an idiot when she should be saying “I miss you.” As she leave, Ian icily tells her he’s doing this for Debbie, not her, signaling that her behavior really is starting to affect the one thing she’s trying to protect. And when she leaves, things don’t get any better – and all of the blame falls on her once more.
At first the party seems promising, Carl brings his new friend, Little Hank, who’s a house sitter who steals booze and bras for “practice.” Debbie instantly has a crush, but Little Hank is chasing Holly, who’s in turn chasing Lip, while Simon is hopelessly chasing Debbie. It was nice to add this element of schoolyard romance into a show that’s so hell-bent on relying on overt sex among its adult characters, but the innocence doesn’t last long. Holly gets up in the middle of the night seduce Lip, but because he’s not a horrible person, he won’t. She storms out. Little Hank follows her. Deb thinks it was a bust, and of course, it’s all Fiona’s fault.
“You’re a little s**t-starter.” –Kev
Ethel gets some much-needed development this week. Kev is concerned because Ethel still won’t wear summer clothes or a bathing suit and figures it’s because she doesn’t have friends her own age. So when he catches her eying Malik from the basketball team he coaches, he introduces them. They’re both teenage parents, so they set up a play date, much to the chagrin of Malik’s outspoken ex. They bond and flirt over baby care techniques; Malik tells her about living with his grandparents and Ethel drops the bomb about her ancient “husband” Clyde, still Malik seems interested. Debbie points out that Malik likes Ethel and convinces her that it’s okay because her husband has 10 wives – or because he’s a criminal, but let’s not split hairs. This seems to bring V and Kev closer because V is concerned about Ethel spending time with Malik; Kev’s excited that she’s become a mama bear. So does this mean he’s distracted enough to abandon the bar plan?
“Speaking of hookers, how’s Karen?” –Ian
It turns out Karen was serious about the no sex thing, which prompts Lip to try to dig up dirt on Jody and break up the happily engaged couple. Lip insists that he just misses the sex, but Ian constantly points out that there’s an emotional factor, no matter how much Lip tries to deny it. Also, Ian is still trying to get into West Point the honorable way despite his deficiencies, but that story is completely overshadowed by Lip’s issues. One brother at a time, I suppose.
Finally, Lip convinces Jody to go to the Alibi Room with him to scope it out for “mom” (a.k.a. Sheila), but Jody won’t drink anything but Coke, so Kev spills his drink so Lip has a chance to steal Jody’s phone and wallet to look for dirt. That doesn’t last long because Karen shows up and takes them back. Lip tries to trigger her sex-button and tells her she’s too good for Jody, but it doesn’t work. She insists “she’s not.” But the way Ian (and the rest of us) sees it, shee needs a boring 35 year-old, because she’s a sex-maniac. Lip, in his fragile emotional state, can’t handle Ian talking that way about Karen and freaks out. He can’t seem to accept that Karen has moved on. He’s convinced there’s an out.
And he thinks he’s found one when he hooks up with Mandy. He launches a post-coital plot to get Mandy to seduce Jody. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out the way he hopes because Karen later shows up and kicks him to the ground telling him to leave her, Jody and the baby alone. She hasn’t had sex with Jody – that means the supposed baby is Lip’s, which means she could be marrying Jody for the stability she’s sure Lip can’t offer. Also, way to drop a bomb, Shameless.
“Hi, I’m Adam.’ –Adam
”You married?” –Debbie
In the morning, Fiona is confronted with a zoo. Debbie is still pissed, Adam is fighting for her attention despite his hangover, and Lucy Jo and Carl show up to make Fiona part of Carl’s big reformation. And with the results of her hard living packed into the kitchen, Fiona escapes to the bathroom where she finally breaks down. She emerges into the backyard, seemingly back to normal, but she just released her well of sadness for now. When Steve shows up, we can be sure the mystery fellatio girl will be a factor, and who knows how Fiona Gallagher will react to such a stimulus in her fragile state?
Do you think Fiona can go any lower? Is it too weird to see Frank do alright while Fiona is drowning? And what about Karen and the baby? I rewound that bit 10 times because I can’t believe it. Is she telling the truth? What do you think Lip will do? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter. @KelseaStahler