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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If you caught the midseason finale of How I Met Your Mother, then you're all up to speed on the show's latest gambit: Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) took up with his beloved Robin Scherbatsky's (Cobie Smulders) sweet and peppy, albeit inscrutably detested, coworker Patrice (recurring player Ellen D. Williams) in an effort to make Robin jealous and win her over once and for all. Setting aside the devious, manipulative, colossally childish nature of this ploy, there is something wholly detestable about the series' use of the Patrice character in its machinations.
See, the tryst brewed between Barney and Patrice was at first presented to fans as a genuine romantic relationship. Of course, we knew it wouldn't last. Something had to bring Barney and Robin together, per the time-jump in the season premiere that recognized them as an eventual bride and groom. But we were never sure how exactly that course of action would go: would Barney leave Patrice upon acknowledging his true feelings for Robin? Would Patrice leave Barney upon reconnecting with a lost love of her own? Would there be any semblance of authentic affection confirmed to exist between the reliably shallow Barney and this new woman, a far cry from his usual "type"?
If only How I Met Your Mother was that mature. See, the show led us down the road of believing that Barney might actually be interested in Patrice. Why had he pursued her? Because she was the opposite of everything he had gone for in the past: sweet, innocent, wholesome, and most notably (although never earnestly acknowledged by the show) heavyset. Throughout the show, Barney's libido has targeted exclusively on thin, morally ambiguous, borderline brain dead women. But the tormented, lonely, brokenhearted Barney seemed to be discovering new desires within himself: the want and need for someone with an outstanding spirit and the ability to provide compassion and stability. In this, he appeared to have found Patrice. A character more deserving of love and devotion than any of the self-involved, ethically barren main characters. A character perhaps capable of deriving the good buried deep below Barney's perpetual antics and setting him on the path of a more healthy and happy lifestyle.
It was interesting to see Barney adjust his ways for a few episodes in his involvement with Patrice. Even if we knew he'd be taking up with Robin ultimately, the ability to abandon his fixation on the supermodel figure was a welcome exhibition of growth for the character. But no such luck, no such growth — Barney adheres just as vehemently to his adolescent ideals about women and how to trick them into being with him. Unfortunately, Barney isn't made out to be a villain here: How I Met Your Mother celebrates these elements of the role, rewarding him with a union with Robin that is meant to feel touching and triumphant.
And you can argue that maybe he really does love Robin, flawed and callous as she is. The flawed and callous are worthy of love, too. But that hasn't made him insusceptible to divergences from his path to her in the past. Barney has fallen for women before: notably, Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) and Quinn (Becki Newton). Ill-fated though they might have been, these were in fact real, substantial relationships. So why was it so much easier to accept that he might have a real relationship with women who look like Nora and Quinn? A better question: why is How I Met Your Mother unafraid of involving Barney in romance with such women, when it won't touch the legitimate possibility of Barney fostering a real interest in Patrice?
Why is that out of the question? Why can it only be optioned as a joke or a trick? Why do the people behind How I Met Your Mother have the same attitude on Barney dating Patrice as Barney himself, or his equally shallow friends Ted, Marshall, and Lily? "Of course Barney would never date Patrice," How I Met Your Mother assures us. "Of course he can only see her as a cog in his process to win the prize that is Robin." And what's worse than the show's insistence on this as the certainty is how unapologetic it is about the ordeal. How little an explanation it seems to feel is warranted for Patrice's sole purpose as a means to an end.
When Patrice was accelerated to the forefront of the action, her one-dimensionality became an issue. Why, in her days past just being a one-note joke, is the highest honor Patrice can hope for that of being an accomplice in getting Robin engaged? Why is the idea of her own love story handled with such flippancy? It even nullifies the forgivability in Patrice's cooperation with Barney's ploy; why are we okay letting a character as great as her be happy just to be used? She deserves better.
It's unfortunate that How I Met Your Mother, a show that prides itself on being a celebration of love, is so restrictive with not only the achievement but the very pursuit of love. So disingenuous with its attitude on the idea of love. "It can only exist between people who look like this," the show insists. "Everyone else in our universe is here to make sure those people get their love." It's not only Patrice who suffers here. The mentality propagated by this idea, and all of the multitudes of TV shows and movies that uphold the same themes, is dangerous. We can't be left to forgive Barney and How I Met Your Mother, to subjugate and marginalize Patrice. The fact that we're asked to do this so cavalierly is frightening. And the fact that many of us comply with this request is horrifying.
[Photo Credit: CBS]
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Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
Just the other day, my young nephew Jake* and I were perusing the Internet for upcoming Blu-ray releases that he might enjoy. We happened upon a particular title that sparked his interest—a 1974 crime-drama starring a prime Jack Nicholson and a dynamic Faye Dunaway. However, I quickly took note of the R-rating. Thus, despite my young nephew's countless pleas to order the new release, I was forced to say, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
The main thing to take away from this is the fact that Chinatown is, in fact, releasing on Blu-ray. Roman Polanski's scathing illustration at a mysterious murder case is a celebrated classic, and will now be available with a pretty ample set of special features, which you can check out below.
The Blu-ray will be available Apr. 3.
Commentary with Robert Towne and David Fincher— Towne and Fincher offer unique insights into this classic film. No matter how many times you’ve watched Chinatown, this commentary will open your eyes to a whole new experience.
Water and Power (HD)— In this three-part documentary, Robert Towne visits sites along the original Los Angeles Aqueduct for the first time. He is informed of the social and environmental impacts and given insight into the major issues around the creation and ongoing operation of the aqueduct.
The Aqueduct (HD)— The City of Los Angeles completed the 233-mile gravity-fed aqueduct from the Owens Valley in 1913, under the leadership of a self-taught engineer named William Mulholland. L.A. Department of Water and Power representatives along with Catherine Mulholland, granddaughter of the engineer, discuss the development of the aqueduct and its contribution to the growth of the nation’s second-largest city.
The Aftermath (HD)— For decades a large rural community was desiccated under the management of water rights by the City of Los Angeles over a vast area of the Owens Valley. Legal victories beginning in the 1970’s lead to successful reductions in environmental damages and the restoration of some natural habitats. Historians, local ranchers and activists discuss the up-to-date impacts of the aqueduct and struggle to maintain a stable environment and community.
The River & Beyond (HD)— Prior to the building of the first aqueduct a century ago Los Angeles relied solely on its own local water supply: the Los Angeles River and its aquifer. Today the river as a water resource is largely forgotten. Currently there are plans to re-develop the river to reduce L.A.’s dependence on imported water, reducing the environmental impact on distant communities, while creating parks and open spaces for the city.
Chinatown: An Appreciation— Chinatown has been hailed as a perfect film.
Robert Towne’s cynical labyrinth of secrets and sin, Roman Polanski at the top of his form, Jack Nicholson in all his glory, Faye Dunaway at her sexiest and most mysterious, John Huston as one of the creepiest and most unrepentant villains of all time, the great cinematography, the wonderful score, the bandage on the nose…
In this featurette, prominent filmmakers express their personal admiration for the film:
Steven Soderbergh – Director – Traffic
James Newton Howard – Composer – The Dark Knight
Kimberly Peirce – Writer/Director – Boys Don’t Cry
Roger Deakins – Cinematographer – No Country For Old Men
Chinatown: The Beginning and the End
Chinatown: The Legacy
Theatrical Trailer (HD)
*Actual person...although the rest of the story is completely fabricated for the sake of a completely not-worth-it joke.