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.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
Friedlander was hosting a party at Sarandon's Manhattan club SPiN to mark the release of his literary satire How To Beat Up Anybody, and he convinced comedian pal Ken Burmeister to play dead on the floor covered in fake blood for a promotional gag.
But a concerned guest didn't realise it was all a hoax, and called 911.
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and firefighters rushed to the scene, only to discover Bernstein was still breathing. But Friedlander has laughed off the elaborate stunt.
He tells the New York Post, "It was pretty obvious it was a joke, but I appreciate that they are looking out. Ken stayed in character, and I had to tell him they were real paramedics."
Oprah's jury delivers guilty verdict
Talk show maven Oprah Winfrey, who was one of 12 jurors who convicted a Chicago man of murder Wednesday, said her three days in the jury box was an eye-opening experience. "It's a huge reality check; there's a whole other world going on out there," Winfrey, surrounded by other jurors, said in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building lobby. "When your life intersects with others in this way, it is forever changed." The Associated Press reports the jury deliberated for less than three hours before convicting 27-year-old Dion Coleman of first-degree murder in the February 2002 shooting death of Walter Holley, 23. Coleman is scheduled to be sentenced next month and could face 45 years to life in prison. The otherwise routine trial received more intense interest because of Winfrey's involvement, something the media mogul tried to downplay. "This is not good for the victim's family, " she said of the media hype. "This is not about Oprah Winfrey. The fact is, a man has been murdered." Winfrey, who was paid the standard $17.20 a day for her jury duty, said she plans to bring her experience as a juror on a murder trial to her TV show next week.
Trump board game hits stores
Donald Trump has unveiled his newest business venture: a new Parker Brothers board game. According to the AP, Trump, the Game can be played by up to four players who bid on real estate, buy big ticket items, including islands and office buildings, and make billion-dollar business deals. Players can also terminate their opponents using The Donald's trademark words "You're fired" from his hit TV reality show The Apprentice. Mark Blecher, senior vice president of marketing at Hasbro Games (the parent company of Parker Brothers), said the game "allows players to feel the power and make the deals." Trump, the Game retails for $24.99.
Moore to publish book of soldiers' letters
Publisher Simon & Schuster announced Wednesday that Michael Moore has two new books coming out this fall. The first book, The Official 'Fahrenheit 9-11' Reader, is a companion book to the scheduled DVD release of Moore's controversial documentary about President Bush, the terrorist attacks and the Iraq war. The other release, Will They Ever Trust Us Again?, is a collection of letters written to Moore from U.S. troops in Iraq. "Our goal is to have both books out before Election Day," Simon & Schuster spokeswoman Victoria Meyer told the AP. His previous books include Stupid White Men and Dude, Where's My Country?
The Contender loses round one in court
A California judge yesterday denied DreamWorks TV and Mark Burnett's first bid to stop Fox Broadcasting Co. from premiering it's boxing skein The Next Great Champ on Sept. 10. DreamWorks and Burnett claim Fox ripped off their own boxing reality show, The Contender, and tried to stop Champ from debuting as scheduled by arguing the show's producers violated state boxing laws in a bid to beat them to the airwaves. But according to court papers, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz did leave open the possibility of blocking the Champ in the near future by setting a Sept. 8 hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction against the show. The judge also ordered an expedite exchange of documents between the parties to the lawsuit, Reuters reports.
Celebs gearing up for fall sitcom appearances
Joan Rivers, who openly jokes about her own cosmetic surgery, will guest star as herself on the season finale of the FX drama series Nip/Tuck, set to air Oct. 5. In the episode, Rivers meets with the show's plastic surgeons for an unusual cosmetic consultation. Newlyweds star and singer Nick Lachey, meanwhile, is set to play Alyssa Milano's love interest in an upcoming six-episode arc on the WB's Charmed, which kicks off its new season Sept. 12. And last but not least, Jennifer Lopez will return to guest star as herself on the season premiere of NBC's Will & Grace, set to air Sept. 16. In the episode, Lopez, who was recruited by Megan Mullally's character to sing at her Vegas marriage last season, returns to New York after her summer tour, where Sean Hayes' character served as a backup dancer.
Howard Stern gets animated series on Spike TV
Radio host Howard Stern will be appearing as a teenage cartoon character of himself in a new animated series tentatively titled Howard Stern: The High School Years. Reuters reports the male-oriented cable channel Spike TV has ordered 13 episodes of the show, which is based on Stern's teenage years growing up on New York's Long Island. The network said Wednesday it has not yet determined whether Stern will lend his voice to his own character. A Spike TV spokesman said Stern is serving as executive producer of the series, and added the shock jock's parents be major characters on the cartoon series. As of this week, episodes are still being written, with producers conducting animation tests. Howard Stern: The High School Years is aimed for launch in the summer of 2005.
Are the Black Crowes reuniting?
Singer Chris Robinson, who is married to actress Kate Hudson, has canceled plans for a fall tour with his band New Earth Mud, amid rumors he may reteam with younger brother Rich under the Black Crowes moniker. Billboard.com reports the warring siblings have recently met with former manager Pete Angelus to discuss a potential reunion. Fueling the reunion speculations is the recent reactivation of the Black Crowes' Web site (http://www.blackcrowes.com), which had been largely dormant since the group announced a hiatus in 2002. Robinson and Hudson, who were married on December 31, 2000 in Colorado and have a 7-month-old son, have recently denied reports their three-year marriage is on the rocks.
Film composer Elmer Bernstein dies
Film composer Elmer Bernstein, who created themes for The Magnificent Seven, The Man With The Golden Arm and To Kill a Mockingbird, died in his sleep at his Ojai, Calif., home Wednesday at age 82, the AP reports. Bernstein, who earned 14 Academy Award nominations, an Oscar and an Emmy Award in his 70-year career, is survived by his wife, Eve, sons Peter and Gregory, daughters Emilie and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren. Among Bernstein's more notable efforts were the scores for Some Came Running, Birdman of Alcatraz, The Great Escape, Hawaii, The Great Santini, My Left Foot, A River Runs Through It, Devil in a Blue Dress and The Age of Innocence. He also composed several works for symphony orchestras, some 200 movies and 80 television shows. He won an Emmy Award in 1964 for The Making of The President: 1960 and an Oscar only once for the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie. A memorial service is pending.
Actress Tara Reid has been asked to meet with Long Island police to answer a few questions in connection with publicist Lizzie Grubman vehicular foray into a crowd of people on July 7, The New York Post reports.
The American Pie 2 star is currently out of the country on vacation, but Judd Bernstein, Reid's lawyer, said she would cooperate with the police once she returns to the United States.
"She's going to give them truthful information, but I don't think it's going to be very helpful to them," Bernstein said.
Grubman allegedly plowed her Mercedes SUV into a throng of bystanders outside Conscience Point Inn in Southampton, a popular nightclub among the cognoscenti, injuring 16 people.
Police are trying to interview anyone and everyone who may have spent time with Grubman that night. Reid and Grubman supposedly partied together at a beach house owned by financier Alex Von Furstenburg mere hours before the crash.