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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Filmmaker David Fincher is set to direct and executive produce a U.S. adaptation of British TV series Utopia. The Fight Club director is re-teaming with author Gillian Flynn - the woman behind his latest film Gone Girl - to recreate the show for American audiences.
Utopia aired in the U.K. last year (13) and stars Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Alexandra Roach and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. The second season is set to premiere later this year (14).
The American version of the show will follow the fortunes of the "die-hard fans of an iconic, underground graphic novel (who) are suddenly launched into their own pop-culture thriller when they learn that the author has secretly written a sequel," according to America's HBO network.
This isn't Fincher's first foray into U.S. TV - he is also the executive producer of Netflix political drama House of Cards.
When E4’s Misfits premiered in 2009, it was an amazing show. The premise was cool: a lightning storm in England gave a bunch of people super powers. The cast was fantastic: Robert Sheehan, Iwan Rheon, Antonia Thomas, Lauren Socha, and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. And the humor was on point — Sheehan and Socha were hilarious. Misfits was the perfect mix of hilarious teen high jinks with people dying all over the place. (There was even a running joke about how often the gang had to bury bodies.)
However, now in its fifth season, Misfits has lost a lot of its magic, as well as the entirety of its original cast. Sheehan left after the second season, Rheon and Thomas after season three, and Socha and Stewart-Jarrett by the end of season four. As each original cast member left Misfits, the fans began to lose interest in the show, us included. New characters have been introduced — Rudy (Joseph Gilgun), Finn (Nathan McMullen), and Jess (Karla Crome) — but the show just isn’t the same.
Sure, Rudy’s vile jokes are similar to Nathan’s humor (though still not as funny) and Finn is arguably as weird and awkward as Simon once was (remember when Simon only had Internet friends?) But, unfortunately, the new cast doesn’t hold a candle to the original gang.
After the departure of Stewart-Jarrett, the last remaining original cast member, we don’t see the point of sticking it out. If everyone else has jumped ship, why shouldn’t we?
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
It’s not enough for a show to include all of the best aspects from a vast array of genres; it’s important that they all be balanced appropriately to best complement one another. This is Misfits’ true victory: on the surface, it’s a science-fiction superhero series, using comedy to humanize its characters and situations. But beneath all that, the foundation of the show is its strong layer of character-driven drama. This is what hooked me in the first place.
Misfits opened its first series by setting its five main characters, a collection of ne’er-do-well young adults in a London borough, in community service together. The pilot saw them struck by lightning during a bizarre storm. Over the course of the first series, we’d come to understand that each of them had developed a power - but not before learning about each of them as human beings.
Over the course of the second series, the show began to evolve. With the introduction of the “masked avenger” figure, the science-fiction aspect began to take a stronger role. The idea of the group’s destiny to become heroes earned a larger presence. Where the show was once examining these people on an individual, introspective basis, it was now examining much larger things, like the world around them and how they might find their places in it.
This was a healthy progression for the show. But I’ll admit, I missed the personal stuff. I loved meeting these characters, learning about what makes them tick and the psychological rationale behind the development of their powers. And this analytical and dramatic look at these five aimless, narcissistic young criminals—people who, despite their overwhelmingly flawed personas, we have come to really, really care for—is what made the show so addictive. And the return to that with a new main character, Rudy, is what reinvests my attachment to the series.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I was nervous about the arrival of a new character. First, I was afraid that the third series’ replacement of Nathan with Rudy would prove an unsuccessful attempt to keep us engrossed. After all, replacing the group’s token goofball with a carbon copy would just seem hack. But Rudy is nothing of the sort. From the minute we meet the character in the opening scene of the third series’ premiere, we understand that he’s not genuinely the crass, loudmouthed fool he illustrates himself to be. As demonstrated by his “power” (the ability—rather, the compulsion—to split into two identical bodies), Rudy is a disjointed, deeply troubled individual. And a truly fascinating one.
That said, the third series kicks off in a fairly risky way, focusing on the new rather than the old. The majority of the episode is dedicated to the introduction Rudy, who is played by Joseph Gilgun of the long-running British drama Emmerdale (formerly Emmerdale Farm). Unlike the way in which the rest of the main cast was introduced, we learn about Rudy and his power almost simultaneously—which actually helps a great deal in identifying his character. Rudy opens the episode at the door of the mysterious businessman we met in the Christmas special who can give and take powers to and from the inflicted peoples. Apparently, Rudy is on a quest to rid himself of his troubling ability—the problem is, his ability won't be removed. Rudy can (and does, involuntarily) split into two identical bodies: from within Rudy springs a second Rudy that embodies the painfully insecure and chronically depressed interior that has plagued him since childhood.
Rudy's delivery might not be done with the same tact and artistic flow that was attached to that of the rest of the main cast, but this is understandable. We’re already invested in the rest of the group. The premiere has the responsibility of getting us to accept that we like and want to learn more about Rudy, while still paying ample attention to the returning players. The premiere even infuses Rudy into the group through a shared backstory between he and Alisha—not an entirely necessary move, but an economical one. This helps us to understand further why this new character is relevant, all the while developing Alicia's ever-growing character.
And for the sake of both fun and urgency, we do get a self-contained villain: a fellow community service worker who feels duped by Rudy when his unhappy interior expresses affection for her moments before she catches the other Rudy locking lips with a different girl. Like many of the villains on the show, this one is not entirely unsympathetic, just emotionally damaged and graced with a particularly harmful outlet for her pain. There’s another great thing about the show: what separates the heroes and villains is such a thin, human line. The villains aren’t really worse people (one might recall all the horrible things Alisha did with her power). We just meet them at very inopportune times—and mostly, these wraths are provoked by one of the “heroes.”
And also, presumably, in the name of fun: each of our heroes now has a new superpower, thanks to the aforementioned businessman. They’re interesting powers—Alisha’s especially (I believe she is going to be the breakout star of the third series) reflects a growth in the character and what the show plans to do with her. As her old power represented her manipulative behavior and her investment in her own sexuality, her new power—the ability to see through other people’s eyes—shows that she is growing more empathetic and considerate. There are some interesting connotations attached to Curtis’ gender-swapping ability and Kelly’s new genius-level intelligence. And of course, Simon is still on a mission to become his masked avenger self of the future.
The episode is not entirely without flaw. Curtis seems to have recovered far too quickly from the death of his beloved girlfriend that we witnessed in the Christmas special. Kelly is, so far, attached to no discernible story arc (hopefully they have something meaty in store for her, as she has proven to be one of the most fascinating characters). But all in all, Misfits retains its addictive, multifaceted charm in the face of new cast members, new powers, and new storylines. Things may change and evolve, but the show clearly still understands where its real victory comes from: the dedicated exploration of its characters.
Click here to watch Misfits' Series Three premiere on Hulu now!
The United Kingdom has given America a lot of fantastic things: language, cornmeal-dusted muffins, and Misfits. Let's focus on the latter.
For those unfamiliar with the series, it surrounds a group of five "at risk" young adults doing community service for committing various crimes. On their first day of cleaning up graffiti and picking up litter, the five become victims of a strange storm which gives them each superhuman abilities. American audiences have been graced with the British sci-fi dramedy series thanks to the good graces of Hulu. The first two seasons, each containing six episodes (plus a Christmas special attached to the second season) have been available for free streaming and October saw the beginning of the third season on television over in England. Come December, viewers in the states will be able to enjoy Misfits Season 3 episodes via Hulu.
Season 3 episodes will begin streaming on Hulu on Monday, Dec. 19 and the site will release one episode every Monday until the season concludes.
Now, here's a small bit of bad news for those of us here in America who might not have heard yet: Season 3 sees the absence of star Robert Sheehan, who plays the fan-favorite and loudmouth Nathan Young. Rumor has it that Sheehan's de facto replacement, Joseph Gilgun, fills the void adequately. However, Nathan's quintessentially charming obnoxiousness will definitely be missed.
The series also stars (this description contains spoilers) Alicia (Antonia Thomas), a promiscuous party girl arrested for drunk driving who develops the power to completely consume anyone who touches her with an uncontrollable physical desire for her; Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), an up-and-coming Olympian runner caught purchasing cocaine who develops the ability to travel back in time (but only when he has a panic attack); Kelly (Lauren Socha), a hot-tempered "punk" arrested for a fistfight with another girl who develops the ability to read people's minds; and Simon (Iwan Rheon), a socially inept recluse who attempted to burn down a neighbor's house who develops the ability to turn invisible at will.
Misfits is at once exciting, sincerely emotional and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Even with the absence of Sheehan, I am looking forward eagerly to Hulu's streaming of Season 3, and highly recommend the series to fans of science fiction, young adult drama, or black comedy.