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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Somehow, there are only six guys left competing for Ashley on The Bachelorette. It’s hard to believe, right? I mean I feel like three days ago, Ashley was in the comedy club crying in the corner because all 25 guys were making fun of her strawberry-sized (and not the big farmer’s market kind) breasts. But last night, it seemed that there really are only six guys remaining. And so with that, we watched as they traveled to Taiwan to meet Ashley, who in the beginning of the episode, stared off into the mountains while shifting her little Jabbawockeez-approved dancer’s legs, told us that home visits are coming up soon and the only way she’ll go home with a guy is if she feels like he’s the whole package. Which seems reasonable, you know – you don’t want to go home with a guy who’s totally great, with a great job and a great face and a great understanding of what kind of pink shirts are okay for him to wear, but just has this weird thing about using guitar picks to eat his food. So Ashley’s coming from a good place, everyone.
“I think there’s something romantic about a train ride. He’s holding my hand, touching my leg…I think we’re off to a really great start.” – Ashley
Okay, never mind. Ashley’s an idiot. Who thinks train rides are romantic? Chances are you’re on a train with your boyfriend because you’re going to one of your families’ houses, and because it’s a holiday, you can’t sit next to your loved one and instead, have to sit next to a guy eating an egg salad who’s too busy playing chess on his Kindle to let you out into the aisle so you can go to the bathroom. Trains BLOW harder than a purple college rape whistle that freshman get from their RAs. The only way they’re romantic is if you and your boyfriend decide to stand for the whole ride (because there are no seats together), and stay in the little dark closets where people can put their wide-ass luggage and grope each other. That’s the only way a train ride can be romantic. Anyway, Ashley chose the first one-on-one date to be with Constantine, and she explained that she was taking him deep into some village (don’t you love how Ashley continues to take credit for the dates that someone else orchestrates for her? I do. It’s amazing how she can sit there, in some recording room, and say, “I’m taking Constantine to a beautiful village.” As if she knew about this “beautiful village” before the resident tour guide at the hotel told her about it! It’s just a funny). But so it turned out that they went to this village, where there’s a lantern ceremony every year and all the people come out into the streets and write their wishes on lanterns and then at night, they set the lanterns free and into the sky and their wishes come true. As they were painting their wishes onto their lantern, Ashley said she was surprised with how seriously Constantine was taking the task because he was all like, “what do we wish for in our lives? We wish for everlasting love, family, prosperity, luck, health blah blah blah” and so Ashley didn’t really have any time to wish for her degree in dentistry without seeming like an independent woman who doesn’t NEED a man. Then they had dinner, and Constantine asked Ashley how comfortable she’d be if when she went home to Atlanta to meet his family, if she’d be uncomfortable if his grandfather were to corner her and ask her all sorts of questions. Ashley said she’d be down with that, and then she asked him if things continued to go well between them, did he think that they could work as a couple? Constantine replied that if he fell in love with her, he thought they would work, because as “long as we have love, we have just as good a chance to make this work as anybody else” or something. And, you know, that’s just pretty funny because as we’re all well aware, nobody who goes on this show finds what they’re looking for. In fact, the people who end up getting married after the season is done are the people that the bachelor or the bachelorette eliminate! Also, it’s just pretty amusing that Constantine believes he has a chance with Ashley, CONSIDERING PART OF THIS EPISODE IS DEDICATED TO HOW EMILY’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BRAD IS OVER. Sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking, letting my logic out of the titanium birdcage that I lock it up in while I’m watching this show.
“What if we get there, and your family is apprehensive about things?” – Ashley
Ashley’s date with Ben, the winemaker, was pretty lame. She took him to a park, where they explored it via mo-ped. Then they stood on a bridge and kissed as the mist from the many waterfalls that surrounded them made them feel like they were in a can of ginger ale. Then they had dinner next to a pool, and Ashley asked Ben what would happen if she went back to his hometown to meet his family and they didn’t care for her too much (clearly she’s never watched the show because in all of its years, there have never been any parents who met the bachelor or the bachelorette and questioned the success of their child’s relationship with them). Ben responded that his family’s opinions matter a lot to him, but he believed that his family would be fine once they saw how they interacted together. The next morning, back in the guys’ suite, JP was pretty pissed off that Ben hadn’t come back from his date with Ashley yet. He was basically just sitting in on the couch with his eyes closed and his arms folded and his running shoes knotted in three knots, and the other guys explained that when JP is angry, he doesn’t say anything. Then all of a sudden, Ben walks in and sits down on the couch and all the guys start the onslaught of questions, like what he did with Ashley and if they stayed in the same room wherever they stayed. Ben revealed that he did not sleep in the same hotel room as Ashley, and with that, JP got off the couch and stormed out.
Taking wedding photos kind of makes this whole experience so much more real.” – Ashley
The next date was the group date, and Lucas, Ames and JP were the lucky ones chosen to go on it. Once they met up with Ashley at a bridal store, she explained that weddings are really big in Taiwan and she thought it would be funny if they took wedding portraits together, and to the viewers at home, she revealed that the wedding portraits would make her experience with the guys so much more real. But here’s the thing: everyone at home knows she’s not going to end up with any of these guys. Sure, she might get engaged to one of them, but they won’t stay engaged. They’ll ultimately break up, and then Ashley will have no choice but to go back to pursuing her dental degree and practicing extractions on that crocodile toy that has all the extractible teeth. So this experience really isn’t “real.” There’s nothing “real” about this entire show, and it’s particularly humorous that Ashley thinks taking wedding portraits when she’s not even engaged to any of them is “real.” Anyway, so all the guys go get changed into their outfits. Lucas is wearing the traditional floor-length onesie, Ames has a blue and rhinestone encrusted tux, and JP got the regular and always dashing black tuxedo. When it was time for the photo shoots, JP got really pissed off because he had to watch Ashley get kissed by Ames and Lucas, and then when it was time for his turn, the photographer and Ashley had a really hard time getting him to smile. During the shoot, Ashley blurted out that her pictures with JP were probably going to be the worst of the entire shoot, and then when JP sat down on the couch after the whole thing was over, he said posing with Ashley felt terrible. Then they all went back to the hotel to have dinner in some private room, and when Ashley pulled JP aside, he admitted that he had a really hard time watching her go out with three other guys this week. And so because she felt bad JP spent the whole week feeling miserable, she gave him the only rose of the week.
“I’ve never felt anything like it in my life.” – Ryan
All of a sudden, Ryan has become a loser. The guy that was charming Ashley in the beginning of the show has surprisingly become the guy whose touch makes her wince. He’s also become one of those guys who does that weird thing of getting so excited that he forgets how to use adjectives to convey his excitement, and so he has no choice but to cup her hand and squeeze it as a means of conveying his feelings. In other words, Ashley chose to go on the third one-on-one date with Ryan, and she took him to a temple that looked like a flea market where hundreds of people were walking around and chanting. Then they sat on the stairs and watched as some people did tai chi way below them, and Ashley in an aside said she didn’t feel that strong of a connection with Ryan as she did to the other guys and she said that at this point in time, she felt uncomfortable meeting Ryan’s family. Then it got weird. Ashley took Ryan to a picnic in the park, and him, being a solar something executive, asked her what she thought of the environment and how dedicated she was to preserving it. Ashley said she wasn’t one of those people who recycled, like a loser, but then admitted that she was appreciative of people like Ryan, who dedicate themselves towards making sure that the quality of the environment is good. And since Ashley admitted that she didn’t know a lot about living green, she asked Ryan to teach her something, and he then proceeded to talk to her about water heaters and how wasteful it is to heat your water when you’re away and not at home. At the end of his spiel, Ashley told Ryan that she didn’t feel any passion for him. A look of genuine shock passed over Ryan’s face, and then he kind of begged her to meet his family. And then it was really sad because as he walked away, he started to cry. At the rose ceremony, Ashley told the remaining FIVE guys that she saw her husband among the group and then she chose the guys whose families she wanted to meet. She ended up keeping Constantine, Ben, JP (because he got the rose on the group date), and Ames, meaning she eliminated Lucas, probably because he’d been married once before and didn’t want to take the risk that his family would reject her upon meeting her. Then she took a camera guy and had a meltdown about how much pressure she was under.