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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Sony Pictures Classics via Everett Collection
Wait, what? Bill Murray is heading to the small screen? According to Deadline, Murray has joined the cast of HBO's Olive Kitteridge, the miniseries based on Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a small New England town (with an Old England title).
The miniseries, adapted by Jane Anderson and directed by Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), will follow the tough and moral titular Olive (Frances McDormand) and "a seemingly placid New England town fraught with illicit affairs, crime and tragedy." Murray is set to play Jack Kinnison, a widower and member of the town whom Olive befriends.
Other cast members include the likes of Richard Jenkins (Olive's husband), the recently added Rosemarie DeWitt, John Gallagher Jr., Zoe Kazan, Jesse Plemons, and Cory Michael Smith. And to add even more names to the list, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are executive producing with McDormand and Anderson.
The casting news comes as a pleasant suprise considering that Murray already has a full plate of upcoming projects. (The usually elusive actor is starring in Monuments Men, The Grand Budapest Hotel, St. Vincent De Van Nuys, and Cameron Crowe's untitled film.) By the looks of it, Murray has dived head first back into his acting career, and we're definitely not complaining. In fact, we're hoping that he'll swim over to a little project called Ghostbusters III. We all know Dan Aykroyd would jump up and down in excitement (as would we).
Don Keefer is not a douchebag — he's just misunderstood! At least that's what we're starting to believe, a conviction aided by the fact that the actor who plays him couldn't be further from the abrasive personality of his character. Theatre veteran Thomas Sadoski (last seen on Broadway opposite Stockard Channing in Other Desert Cities) knows that his character on HBO's media brawl The Newsroom is a little rough on the edges, but after all, what can you expect? Don is a creation of character master Aaron Sorkin, who himself has offered Sadoski plenty of creative challenges when it comes to playing the gruff, discourteous Don.
We went straight to the source to grill Sadoski on what goes into making a character like Don, who presently finds himself at the center of a love triangle with Maggie (Alison Pill) and Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.). Hollywood.com spoke with Sadoski on the show's romantic entanglements, his inspiration for Don (hint: it's a chef!), and what comes next for ACN's grumpiest producer.
HOLLYWOOD.COM: Just last year, you were on Broadway with Alison Pill in The House of Blue Leaves. How did you react when you found out you were both cast in The Newsroom? THOMAS SADOSKI: We actually auditioned on the same day! The waiting room that we were in, to meet with Aaron [Sorkin] and Greg [Mottola], was me and Alison, Sam [Waterston], and Olivia Munn. We were all in the waiting room together, and all of us ended up getting hired. But Alison and I both found out that we were getting this appointment [and] going in roughly at the same time, and then over the next couple of weeks, as they made up their minds and decided who they were going to cast, we were simultaneously trying to check in with each other and not talk about it at all, because we were both so excited and so nervous. When Alison found out that she got hired, of course we were jumping up and down, and then a couple of days later they called up and told me I had gotten cast. Alison has been a friend and a colleague of mine a number of times. I have all the love and respect in the world for her as a human being and as an actor, and it was a really great moment to share with a really great friend.A lot of people are rooting for Maggie and Jim, obviously. What do your family and friends think? Are they rooting for Maggie and Jim, or are they loyal to Don? [laughs] It’s funny because there are some family members who desperately want Don to come around and work it out, and then there are other friends who are totally hedging on me. They’re like, ‘Yeah, you know, it’s great, I think you guys would be really good for each other if you could figure it out….’ They really don’t want to answer the question. They’re so evasive. And look, I get it. Right now I’m the guy who’s standing in the way of the thing that everybody wants to happen in the show. There was a moment when I thought we might see Don and Sloan get together. Could a Don-Sloan hook-up happen down the line? You’d have to talk to Aaron about that. I think that there is something really interesting about the struggle to make this relationship work that Don and Maggie are both engaged in, and I think that as he becomes more and more aware of the fact that his girlfriend is in fact having an emotional affair, things are going to shift and things are going to change.Tell me about Don's bromance with Elliot. I think the best description for that relationship is a complete and total bromance. I think that these are two guys who know exactly who the other is. Elliot even says to Don at one point, “Please get back together with Maggie so you can go back to being the prick that I am used to, rather than the bonus prick that I get when you guys are broken up.” They know exactly who each other is, and they care immensely about each other, and they want the best from and for each other, and I think [that makes it] a great bromance.Every week we sort of peel back another layer to Don, and he becomes more sympathetic. What other parts of Don have yet to be discovered? I wish I knew! One of the exciting things about working with Aaron is that he holds his cards really close to his chest in terms of who he thinks these characters are and where they’ve come from, and you sort of get to find out as he does. I’m excited to see what more there is to Don Keefer. There’s some more stuff that’s revealed as the season goes on. You’ll see some more, hopefully, growth.What inspiration goes into Don? Are there people or producers you’ve worked with in the past whom you've put into the character? It’s tricky because there’s such a negative perception towards Don that I don’t want to mention any names and injure the innocent. [laughs] I think that Don carries himself with this sort of old school swagger of not being the person who’s going to be overly panicked by anything that happens around him, who’s going to remain cool even in the midst of everything that’s going down. I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain, and I pulled some of that “no bulls**t,” calm-in-the-middle-of-the-hurricane swagger, from him. But that being said, two weeks ago you have Don attempting to dive through a door, so perhaps he’s not as calm and centered and focused as he likes to tell himself he is.What kind of notes did Aaron give you for the character? Was there anything he said specifically about Don that continues to resonate with you? The thing with the character of Don is that it was originally three different parts. After the table read we did in New York, Aaron combined them to make this one character of Don. Originally, the character of Don was Will’s old executive producer, and that’s all he was, and then there was another character who was Maggie’s boyfriend, and that’s all he was… so Don kind of became this amalgam of like three different people. Aaron has been very clear to me all along in terms of his belief of who the character is. I expressed some concerns to Aaron, 'Am I being too much of a prick?' And I think Aaron’s response was right on. It was that these people are obsessed and myopically focused on their work, and they are utter failures in terms of social convention. He’s not a bad guy. You need to take into perspective all of the things that are going on around him, and he’s trying to do the best that he can do. Aaron was very clear that he didn’t want Don to become dismissible, and so I worked really, really hard at trying to find those moments of humanity early on and grow them so that he can’t just be easily, off-handedly dismissed as, “Oh, he’s just the dick.”Do you think it'd be valid to say that Don is a young Will? I think that’s really smart. I frankly think that Charlie, Will and Don are three generations of the same character. They’re all three of them unrepentant, and as Don and Will continue to grow up, they will sort of grow more towards Charlie, and I think that there’s something really interesting about watching that. Here are these three guys with three very different struggles who are cut from the same cloth in terms of their beliefs about what news is and how it can be, but are hamstrung in three various different ways. Do you have a favorite line of Don's? There’s one that I remember from a couple episodes ago, where Don’s standing in the newsroom and it’s just sort of tangential — I think the camera’s going past me as I’m saying it — but I say, “I’m gonna put somebody’s head through a f**king pyramid,” which I really loved. That was literally at the last second. Aaron came up to me as we were getting ready to shoot that shot [and said], “Uhhh, you're gonna put somebody’s head through a f**king pyramid. Go with that." I got a kick out of that. There's some fun stuff coming up in a couple episodes when we get into the Casey Anthony thing. Spoiler alert.Looking forward, is there anything you want to see Don do? Would he ever be on the air? That thought terrifies me as an actor. I can’t even imagine what that would do to the character! There’s a lot of things I would love to see Don do, but I’m going to trust in my writer and trust that Aaron is going to lead me to the best places.If you were an employee in that newsroom, how would you do? Me? Oh, I wouldn’t last a day!
Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker
[Photo Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO]
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The latest movie in the Step Up franchise aims for a politicized message behind all the flashy moves but it could do with a lot less plot and a lot more dancing. In Step Up Revolution the Miami dance group "The Mob" takes to the streets (and other random locations) to perform intricately choreographed routines with their own DJ a camera guy who uploads their videos to YouTube and a graffiti artist who leaves their signature behind. It takes at least that much effort just to get hipster New Yorkers to ride the subways without any pants on once a year; it's hard to believe that The Mob could pull off their elaborate schemes without getting caught but that's the magic of movies.
The Mob represents the more diverse working class side of Miami a young multiracial group of friends who create incredible works of art that disappear before they get shut down. One of the Mob's leaders Sean (Ryan Guzman) earnestly explains to newcomer Emily (Kathryn McCormick) that the group's reason is to give a voice to the voiceless or to be happy or to dance or something. It's not really clear but they have a lot of fun and look amazing doing it.
Once Sean and his friends find out that a greedy developer plans to raze their neighborhood to make way for another South Beach-style hotel monstrosity they have a reason to rally but until then they're just trying to win a cash prize by getting clicks on YouTube. The typical Step Up twist is that Emily is the developer's daughter. Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher) doesn't approve of Emily's love of dancing or other frippery and he certainly wouldn't approve of her hanging out with the people causing such mayhem in the streets of Miami.
Step Up Revolution biggest misstep is trying to give the movie more of a hook than the franchise's typical Romeo and Juliet-style love story and tap into "the Zeitgeist" (I swear that's from the studio-provided press notes) of flash mobs. The film could have cut out most of the plot and characters and still have a completely intact film insofar as the point of the film is its multimedia dance routines. The sort of productions The Mob pulls off are more akin to carefully planned art installations or music videos in terms of scope; it would have been better to at least make that somehow feasible in terms of the storyline. Yes we are here for a spectacle and we surely get a spectacle but it needs to have some roots in reality.
The dance scenes are fun sexy and occasionally a little sappy but overall quite enjoyable for people who enjoy "So You Think You Can Dance" type of shows. Kathryn McCormick and Stephen "tWitch" Boss both appeared on "SYTYCD" and their costar Misha Gabriel is a classically trained ballet dancer turned pro back-up dancer for folks like Beyoncé and Michael Jackson. Guzman doesn't have a dance background but he is an MMA fighter who obviously took his training very seriously. The entire outfit is pretty damn entertaining to be honest.
As far as the 3D goes it makes most of Miami look overcast and grey. The extra zings added in to make sure we get our money's worth like sand flicking out at us or a breakdancer whose foot seems to be aiming for our face only serves to distract from the real show at hand. There is also an awful lot of ramping and generally spazzy editing tricks that look cheap. The screenplay by Amanda Brody is definitely not its strong suit.
Step Up Revolution is the cinematic equivalent of a trashy beach novel. It's embarrassing to be caught actually enjoying it and you'll forget about it almost immediately but it's a decent way to spend a summer afternoon.
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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.