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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Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.
It's very hard to top Michael Jackson, but Lisa Marie Presley seems to think she's done it.
Elvis' daughter, who married Jackson in May 1994 (and divorced him 20 months later), will marry again -- this time to rock singer John Oszajea, her spokesman, Paul Bloch, said Tuesday. The happy couple met in May and became engaged just before Christmas.
The story goes that Oszajea, 25, first went to Presley's mother, Priscilla Presley, to ask for her daughter's hand in marriage. After receiving her blessing, Oszajea formally proposed to Presley, 32.
For those of you keeping track, this will be Lisa's third go with a musician -- first husband Danny Keough, then the Gloved One, now Oszajea (due to release his first album this year).
All this rocker influence is finally rubbing off on her: Lisa Marie's currently recording her first album, as well.
QUICK TAKES: Jim Carrey, who won the best comedy-musical actor Golden Globe for "Man on the Moon", apparently left out a lot of people in his acceptance speech, so he made up for it with an ad in today's Hollywood Reporter. This time, he made sure to thank Andy Kaufman, the late comedian he portrayed, as well as the comic's family. Better late than never ...
...Christian Slater will wed girlfriend Ryan Haddon on Feb. 12, USA Today reports. The two have a 9-month-old son, Jaden Christopher ...
... Ralph Fiennes is angry over the rating slapped on his latest film, "The End of the Affair," by British censors. London's Daily Express quotes Fiennes as expressing concern that the rating (the U.K. equivalent of the NC-17) will scare off older audiences concerned by the (relative) threat of the sex scenes. "It is absurd. ... I don't think the sex in the film is sadistic, abusive or violent. I cannot understand the decision," Fiennes says ...
... Supermodel Naomi Campbell will no longer be strutting her stuff on the catwalk, specifically the ones in New York and London. The 29-year-old British beauty finds her schedule "very stressful" and says she would like to cut back. But rest assured: Campbell says she hasn't decided what to do about the Milan catwalk. We wait with baited breath ...
AILING: "Ally McBeal" star Lisa Nicole Carson, who plays Ally's feisty roommate Renée Radick, is recovering at home after a two-week hospital stay for treatment of an undisclosed medical condition, reps for the hit Fox show say. Carson, 30, was discharged earlier this week, but at the request of the actress' family, details of her medical condition are being kept private. Her character had been absent from "Ally McBeal" the past few weeks, but Carson plans to return once she's recovered ...
... Rocker Jerry Lee Lewis, 64, was hospitalized for an allergic reaction to a drug administered after cutting his finger, his father said Tuesday. The singer, best known for the song "Great Balls of Fire," cut his finger with a knife at his home in Nesbitt, Miss., and was taken to an unidentified Memphis hospital. Lewis' reaction was a result of shots given to kill his pain and treat infection, and he was then taken to Methodist Central Hospital in Memphis, where officials refused to release information on his condition. ...
"GREEN" SMILE: Michael Clarke Duncan, the Golden Globe-nominated actor from "The Green Mile," has been named ShoWest's Male Star of Tomorrow. The National Association of Theater Owners will hand Duncan the honors during its convention March 6-9 in Las Vegas. Previous winners include Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Johnny Depp.
Of course, the honor also has gone to the likes of football player-turned-actor-turned-sportscaster Howie Long, whose first headlining film, "Firestorm," went up in smoke.
In other ShoWest news, composer John Williams is set to be honored with the convention's first Maestro Award. Williams, if you don't know, recently composed "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" and "Angela's Ashes."
PUDDING HEADS: Billy Crystal and Jamie Lee Curtis have been named this year's recipients of Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Man and Woman of the Year awards. No, they won't be sampling Jell-O for the masses. Rather, Curtis, 41, will lead a parade through Harvard Square on Feb. 10, and Crystal, 52, will wear a bra and wig at a roast in his honor Feb. 17. The awards are a tradition of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals Organization, which counts male students dressed in drag among its members. Previous winners include Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan.
OSCAR WATCH: Defending Oscar champs Steven Spielberg and Gwyneth Paltrow have been confirmed as presenters for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards on March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium. "Double Jeopardy" heroine Ashley Judd and "Anna and the King" star Chow Yun-Fat are also set to present.
But, frankly, we're more excited about the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Awards on March 12 because award-show ham Roberto Benigni will be presenting the statue for Outstanding Female Lead Film Performance. Look for Benigni to make an Oscar appearance, too. Like Spielberg and Paltrow, he, too, is a defending champ. Albeit, a more effusive one.