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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Last night, viewers were treated to a particularly emotional Grammy Awards. Naturally, the tributes to the deceased Whitney Houston were some of the most moving moments of the night, and in recent television. But many rising artists had a lot to celebrate; particularly, Adele, who swept the awards with four major wins. Check below for a complete list of winners from the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, and for a recap, hop over to our Seven Things You Need to Know About the 2012 Grammys list.
Album of the Year
21 by Adele
Record of the Year
"Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
Best New Artist
Best Country Album
Own the Night by Lady Antebellum
Song of the Year
“Rolling In The Deep” by Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)
Best R&B Album
F.A.M.E. by Chris Brown
Best Rock Performance
“Walk” by Foo Fighters
Best Rap Performance
“Otis” by Jay-Z and Kayne West
Best Pop Solo Performance
“Someone Like You” by Adele
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Body and Soul” by Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse
Best Pop Instrumental Album
The Road from Memphis by Booker T. Jones
Best Pop Vocal Album
21 by Adele
Best Dance Recording
“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex
Best Dance/Electronica Album
“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Duets II by Tony Bennett & Various Artists
Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance
“White Limo” by Foo Fighters
Best Rock Song
“Walk” by Foo Fighters
Best Rock Album
Wasting Light by Foo Fighters
Best Alternative Music Album
Bon Iver by Bon Iver
Best R&B Performance
“Is This Love” by Corinne Bailey Rae
Best Traditional R&B Performance
“Fool For You” by Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona
Best R&B Song
“Fool For You” by Cee Lo Green, Melanie Hallim, Jack Splash
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
“All Of The Lights” by Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie
Best Rap Song
“All Of the Lights” by Jeff Bhasker, Stacy Ferguson, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West
Best Rap Album
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
Best Country Solo Performance
“Mean” by Taylor Swift
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
“Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars
Best Country Song
“Mean” by Taylor Swift
Best New Age Album
What’s It All About by Pat Metheny
Best Improvised Jazz Solo
“500 Miles High” by Chick Corea
Best Jazz Vocal Album
The Mosaic Project by Terri Lyne Carrington & Various Artists
Best Jazz Instrumental Album
Forever by Corea, Clarke & White
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
The Good Feeling by Christian McBride Big Band
Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music
“Jesus” by Le’Andria Johnson
Best Gospel Song
“Hello Fear” by Kirk Franklin
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song
“Blessings” by Laura Story
Best Gospel Album
Hello Fear by Kirk Franklin
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album
And If Our God Is For Us… by Chris Tomlin
Best Latin Pop, Rock, Or Urban Album
Drama Y Luz by Maná
Best Regional Mexian Or Tejano Album
Bicentenario by Pepe Aguilar
Best Banda Or Norteno Album
Los Tigres Del Norte And Friends by Los Tigres Del Norte
Best Tropical Latin Album
The Last Mambo by Cachao
Best Americana Album
Ramble At the Ryman by Levon Helm
Best Bluegrass Album
Paper Airplane by Alison Krauss & Union Station
Best Blues Album
Revelator by Tedeschi Trucks Band
Best Folk Album
Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars
Best Regional Roots Music Album
Rebirth of New Orleans by Rebirth Brass Band
Best Raggae Album
Revelation Pt 1: The Root Of Life by Stephen Marley
Best World Music Album
Tassili by Tinariwen
Best Children’s Album
All About Bullies… Big And Small
Best Spoken Word Album
If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White
Best Comedy Album
Hilarious by Louis C.K.
Best Musical Theater Album
The Book of Mormon: Josh Gad & Andrew Rannells; Anne Garefino, Robert Lopez, Stephen Oremus, Trey Parker, Scott Rudin & Matt Stone (producers); Robert Lopez, Trey Parker & Matt Stone (composers/lyricists)
Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media
Boardwalk Empire: Volume 1: Various Artists
Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media
The King’s Speech by Alexandre Desplat
Best Song Written For Visual Media
“I See The Light (From Tangled)” by Alan Menken & Glenn Slater, songwriters (Mandy Moore & Zachary Levi)
Best Instrumental Composition
"Live In Eleven” by Béla Fleck & Howard Levy, composers (Béla Fleck & The Flecktones)
Best Instrumental Arrangement
“Rhapsody In Blue” by Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)
“Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” by Jorge Calandrelli, arranger (Tony Bennett & Queen Latifah)
Best Recording Package
Scenes From the Suburbs, Caroline Robert, art director (Arcade Fire)
Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package
The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge of Town Story by Dave Bett & Michelle Holme, art directors (Bruce Springsteen)
Best Album Notes
Hear Me Howling!: Blues, Ballads & Beyond As Recorded By the San Francisco Bay By Chris Strachwitz In The 1960s, Adam Machado, album notes writer (Various Artists)
Best Historical Album
Band On the Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection — Deluxe Edition), Paul McCartney, compilation producer; Sam Okell & Steve Rooke, mastering engineers (Paul McCartney & Wings)
Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
Paper Airplane, Neal Cappellino & Mike Shipley, engineers; Brad Blackwood, mastering engineer (Alison Krauss & Union Station) Producer Of the Year, Non-Classical Paul Epworth
Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical
“Cinema (Skrillex Remix)” by Sonny Moore, remixer (Benny Benassi)
Best Surround Sound Album
Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (Super Deluxe Edition), Elliot Scheiner, surround mix engineer; Bob Ludwig, surround mastering engineer; Bill Levenson & Elliot Scheiner, surround producers (Derek & The Dominos)
Best Engineered Album, Classical
Aldridge: Elmer Gantry, Byeong-Joon Hwang & John Newton, engineers; Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) Producer Of the Year, Classical Judith Sherman
Best Orchestral Performance
“Brahms: Symphony No. 4” by Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)
Best Opera Recording
“Adams: Doctor Atomic” by Alan Gilbert, conductor; Meredith Arwady, Sasha Cooke, Richard Paul Fink, Gerald Finley, Thomas Glenn & Eric Owens; Jay David Saks, producer (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
Best Choral Performance
“Light & Gold” by Eric Whitacre, conductor (Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann; The King’s Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet & The Eric Whitacre Singers)
Best Small Ensemble Performance
“Mackey: Lonely Motel — Music From Slide” by Rinde Eckert & Steven Mackey; Eighth Blackbird
Best Classical Instrument Solo
“Schwantner: Concerto For Percussion & Orchestra” by Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Christopher Lamb (Nashville Symphony)
Best Classical Vocal Solo
“Diva Divo” by Joyce DiDonato (Kazushi Ono; Orchestre De L’Opéra National De Lyon; Choeur De L’Opéra National De Lyon)
Best Contemporary Classical Composition
“Aldridge, Robert: Elmer Gantry” by Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein
Best Short Form Music Video
“Rolling In The Deep” by Adele; Sam Brown, video director; Hannah Chandler, video producer
Best Long Form Music Video
“Foo Fighters: Back And Forth” by Foo Fighters; James Moll, video director; James Moll & Nigel Sinclair, video producers Grammy Trustees Award Dave Bartholomew, Steve Jobs, and Rudy Van Gelder
In the cinematic desert that is the January-February movie-release schedule one gains a greater appreciation for mere competence. And that’s precisely what you’ll get with Man on a Ledge a mid-budget thriller with modest aspirations and genuine popcorn appeal. Sam Worthington (Avatar Clash of the Titans) stars as Nick Cassidy a former New York City cop wrongly convicted for the theft of a prized diamond. After exhausting all judicial avenues for exoneration he takes the unusual and seemingly desperate next step of planting himself on a ledge outside the penthouse of midtown’s Roosevelt Hotel and threatening to jump. An NYPD psychologist (Elizabeth Banks) is summoned to talk him down unaware that Nick harbors an ulterior motive. From his perch above midtown he is secretly orchestrating a scheme to take revenge against the corrupt corporate chieftain (Ed Harris) who engineered his demise and prove his innocence once and for all.
Director Asger Leth making his U.S. feature-film debut with Man on a Ledge keeps the pace brisk and never allows the tone to stray into self-seriousness which is crucial for a movie whose premise is so devoutly ridiculous. The script from Pablo F. Fenjves provides enough feints and twists to keep us engaged. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez aren’t the most believable of couples but there’s a screwball charm to their comic routine as amateur thieves charged with aiding Nick’s scheme. (Leth can’t resist inserting an entirely superfluous – but nonetheless greatly appreciated – scene of the criminally gorgeous Rodriguez stripping down to a thong in the middle of a heist.) Worthington makes for a likable populist protagonist even if his Australian accent betrays him on copious occasions and Harris’ disturbingly emaciated frame lends an added menace to his devious plutocrat villain.
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.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
The age-old debate over fate vs. free will has been and always will be a tough theme to crack in any medium but with the benefits of modern filmmaking technology the theory can be explored in ways that Philip K. Dick never imagined. However when one relies too heavily on spectacle to tell a story a piece of cerebral science fiction can quickly become just another action extravaganza. In this day and age there’s a fine line between the two; The Matrix walked that tightrope with style and grace while Next never found its footing in the first place. Fortunately the precious work of novelist Dick has for the most part been treated with respect by Hollywood (the aforementioned Nic Cage dud notwithstanding) but that doesn’t necessarily mean movies based on his stories are completely faithful to his vision.
Case in point: George Nolfi’s directorial debut The Adjustment Bureau an adaptation of Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team.” The film stars Matt Damon as David Norris a successful businessman and rising political candidate who after a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams (Emily Blunt) loses a crucial election. He happens to run into her on a Manhattan bus the following week before finding his office swarming with masked men who are “adjusting” everyone inside. Richardson (John Slattery) the man in charge captures Norris who unsuccessfully flees the scene after seeing behind “a curtain he wasn’t even supposed to know existed” as the enigmatic figure puts it. From that point on Norris must live with the knowledge that he (and we for that matter) is not in control of his own life. Rather the choices he makes fit perfectly into “The Plan” that’s been written by “the Chairman”.
In relation to my earlier statement I have to say that Nolfi’s picture looks stunning but his natural urban aesthetic doesn’t overpower the story. Sleek contemporary production design and elegant costumes characterize the high-concept story and the wraithlike agents who shape our destinies. Topically we’re dealing with some heavy material but Nolfi and editor Jay Rabinowitz move the action along at a brisk pace that keeps you engaged and entertained without having to try. The film is properly proportioned as a chase thriller romantic adventure and sci-fi fantasy and thankfully no component overshadows another.
Setting the film in the world of politics and big business helps make its larger-than-life revelations a bit more accessible (as do appearances from Michael Bloomberg Jon Stewart and Chuck Scarborough) while providing sub-text about the corruption involved in elections and campaigns (there are conspicuous shades of The Manchurian Candidate in the movie) but the writer-director often tries too hard for broad appeal. For a film with existential implications as severe as they are here the dialogue is at times hokey and superficial. Dick’s source material is far more abstract and Nolfi for the sake of commercial success panders to the palette of soccer moms and mallrats.
What’s worse is his unwarranted exposition of the Bureau a shadowy organization whose major allure is anonymity. Some secrets are best kept and less can be so much more when crafting a mysterious atmosphere; Nolfi reaches that level of magnetic curiosity but squanders it as he reveals the truth about the Bureau and its grand scheme. On the other hand he brushes over the technical lingo between agents Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) McCrady (Anthony Ruivivar) and others without explanation perhaps hoping that the ambiguous terminology will fool you into thinking that his script is smarter than it really is.
Even though Nolfi’s allegorical conclusions are uncomfortably ham-fisted the chemistry between Damon and Blunt alone is enough to enchant you; this is one highly watchable cinematic pairing that should be revisited as soon as possible. Their innocent relationship blossoms organically and together they make it seem as natural on screen as it is for their star-crossed characters. Even if you have a hard time believing in higher powers or manipulative Orwellian forces you’ll have faith in David and Elise’s fated relationship one of the most captivating couplings I’ve seen on the big-screen in some time.