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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Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
“My dick is going to get so wet tonight ” declares Costa the foul-mouthed ringleader of a trio of sex-starved teens in the opening moments of Project X the new “found-footage” comedy from director Nima Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Believe it or not this qualifies as one of his more charming moments in the film. All of 17 but blessed with an obnoxiousness lesser men would take decades to cultivate Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the perfect mascot for a film that makes no bones of its mostly prurient intentions proffering what is essentially a succession of debaucherous montages intermingled with uneven attempts at comedy and held together by the slimmest pretense of a plot.
Caustic as he is Costa at least exhibits something of a recognizable personality; the same cannot be said of his two cohorts the tubby dweeb J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and the earnest blank Thomas (Thomas Mann). None of them seem to enjoy much in the way of popularity at their high school located in the fictional suburb of North Pasadena but Costa has a plan to fix that. On the occasion of his 17th birthday Thomas whose parents have conveniently departed for the weekend reluctantly agrees to host a party that Costa promises will be a “game-changer” for their lowly social status.
Hardly a game-changer is Project X’s script co-written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall which mostly treads a predictable teen-comedy path. At its outset the party appears to be a bust. Soon however hordes of eager revelers descend upon Thomas’ house and the event swiftly devolves into a festival of wanton hedonism that would impress Charlie Sheen. The orgy of booze drugs and sex is captured by Nourizadeh in one impressively slick sequence after another set to a vibrant soundtrack.
To maintain the guise of an actual movie – and to occupy us between shots of topless beauties downing tequila and frolicking in the pool – Project X tosses in a few familiar tropes to push its story along: an unstable drug-dealer bent on revenge a buzzkilling neighbor seeking to end the night’s festivities prematurely a budding but hesitant attraction between Thomas and his childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But the scenes are so hollow and contrived that you get the sense even the filmmakers don’t buy them and only added them to the film in a transparent ploy to forestall allegations of complete and utter vapidity. The efforts serve only to add a dash of the banal to the proceedings.
Project X’s natural forebears – R-rated teen comedies Superbad and American Pie – tempered their crudity and outrageousness with a surprising degree of depth and sincerity. Moreover they were actually funny. Project X is a shallow affair to be sure but a dearth of laughs is what ultimately dooms it. A belligerent little person who goes on a crotch-kicking spree after being tossed in an oven amounts to the film’s most sophisticated attempt at humor. More often it relies on recycled gags from previous films (including Phillips’ own library from Road Trip to The Hangover Part II) and Jackass-inspired mishaps.
The found-footage approach has proven to be a potent (if overused) tool in horror films but its utility in the service of comedy at least in the hands of Nourizadeh is limited. It mostly comes across as a needless gimmick good for marketing purposes but little else. Perhaps acknowledging as much Project X’s backup plan calls for an incessant raising of the stakes. As the once-innocuous gathering metastasizes into a fully-fledged riot one so dangerous that even the police dare not intervene the specter of parental disapproval gives way to the threat of incarceration and finally to the potential incineration of the entire neighborhood. The scale of the destruction is impressive – especially for such a (presumably) low-budget film – but like much of what precedes it almost entirely pointless.
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S2E11: Like a lot of shows, Hawaii Five-0 was on a post-Thanksgiving break last week, but it returned tonight -- in a big way.
The episode kicks off with a school bus full of children and a few adult chaperones, which is ominous since we know they're gonna be involved in this episode's crime, but it's also always safe to assume that a network TV show isn't going to let any children characters die! (At least not violently.)
But I digress ...
Five-0, fresh off a pat-on-the-back press conference with the governor after they intercepted and seized $80 million in cocaine that was being smuggled into Honolulu, is immediately called to save the schoolchildren who, by the way, have been kidnapped by a pair of gun-wielding maniacs who just so happen to be requesting the swift return of said seized cocaine in two hours' time, or the kids get it.
At first, it seems that there are no leads. The man they have in custody from the coke deal, who goes by the last name Vargas, claims to know nothing other than the name of the drug cartel's head honcho: Hugo Castillo.
Meanwhile, as the clock ticks (very slowly, quite conveniently), McGarrett know that the kidnappers, having demanded the return of the cocaine, are not in it for a hefty ransom or anything of the sort. It leaves the governor no other choice than to essentially meet their demands and drop off the coke in exchange for the kids, but it backfires, quite literally: Upon dropping off the drugs, McGarrett barely escapes an explosion in the van in which they are left. It's a setup!
Back to Square One. Only, not really ...
When word gets out that one of the kids on the bus, Jason Schaffer, recognized one of the hijackers as an acquaintance of his father's, they at least know who to seek out. Turns out, the elder Schaffer was essentially this Hugo Castillo guy's "landlord" and days earlier ratted out the smuggling attempt, sabotaging the whole operation and leading Castillo to seek revenge -- AND the drugs. Greedy!
Unfortunately, Schaffer has decided to try and take matters into his own hands and end the kidnapping without police assistance, per the kidnappers' orders, which is why Five-0 can't seem to find him when they need to most. It leads to the typical shootout climax and, naturally, the just-in-the-nick-of-time rescue of the children (they were about to be buried alive!).
It doesn't quite end there, though: After everyone is safe and sound, the elder Schaffer is escorted by Five-0 back to headquarters, where he spots a recently exonerated Hugo Castillo, who Steve and Danny previously knew as Vargas.
But wait, there's more: Joe White, who was discharged by the Navy following his dangerous actions in Korea in the previous episode, embarks on a vigilante manhunt of his own for whatever "Shelburne" is and discovers that it "is not a thing or a place; it's a person" -- more specifically, the only person Wo Fat fears.
TOP FIVE MOMENTS FROM TONIGHT'S EPISODE
1. Opening sequence: When the driver of a school bus full of kids gets out to investigate what seems to be a bad car accident, one of those involved pulls a gun out, shoots him and heads toward the waiting, screaming bus. And cut to the opening credits!
2. When asked for proof by McGarrett that the kids are OK, the kidnapper orders one of the adult chaperones off the bus and promptly shoots him in the thigh – with Five-0 watching as well as the kids on the bus, who immediately start shrieking in unison. It’s a rather chilling, real-looking scene for a show that’s usually more cinematic.
3. It becomes all too clear to the viewer long before it actually happens, but the setup and execution for the scene in which Steve drops off the drugs and narrowly escapes the resulting explosion is pretty exciting.
4. This quote from an incredulous Danny to the seemingly unimportant Vargas (aka Castillo, as we soon learn) after the drug-explosion setup: “Listen to me, nobody blows $80 million worth of cocaine to save the schmuck that sits in the back of the van.”
5. The climactic “rescue” scene, featuring the usual shootout and chases, but this time Lori finds herself in grave danger – that is, before McGarrett and his gun come to her aid at the last second.
The National Guard is called out for a routine desert exercise in Yuma Flats where nuclear experiments once took place. The team of young and often naïve recruits set out in the heat and they all have nicknames such as Crank (Jacob Vargas) Stump (Ben Crowley) Spitter (Eric Edelstein) Mickey (Reshad Strik)—and the resident hunk Napoleon (Michael McMillian). There are some chick soldiers too including Amber (Jessica Stroup) and Missy (Daniella Alonso). When they run into traps among the rocks and rattlesnakes they find the dregs of humanity who have been left there after the nuclear experiments. The mutant family living in the buildings left standing from the testing as well as the caves under the ground also have their own share of nicknames: Hades (Michael Bailey Smith) Stabber (Tyrell Kemlo) Letch (Jason Oettle) Grabber (Gaspar Szabo) and Chameleon (Derek Mears). Meanwhile roughshod Sgt. Millstone (Flex Alexander) leads the battle against them. Sometimes the actors in these horror flicks are only judged by how well they scream and die—and a few of these soldiers have some good lungs. The problem is the vain attempts the film makes in trying to create characters the audience care about because frankly we don't no matter how many glimpses of life at home or pictures saved on the cell phone. The first victim in the beginning seems a sympathetic captive but is subjected to a brutal rape and then a quick and graphic decapitation which is highly unnecessary. The monster family is a bit more evil and even somewhat familiar (Michael Bailey Smith was in last year's The Hills Have Eyes). Images of dead soldiers even though portrayed in an unrealistic way may seem too real with the recent news of the day and the family-in-peril anxiety of the first classic is lost in this sequel. Horror guru Wes Craven always said he hated the 1985 sequel he did to his 1977 classic which continued on with the Carter family and their mutant woes so this time—co-writing with his son Jonathan Craven—he went a different way. Unfortunately it still doesn’t work as well. Hills Have Eyes 2 lacks the creativity French director Alexandre Aja instilled in last year’s scare fest which truly highlighted how the 1950s nuclear testing in the desert could have created these mutant people. This time we have director Martin Weisz who is known more for his music videos. Maybe that's why the scenes come across too quick too choppy and too in your face. The requisite amount of gore is going to keep some sickos in the audience happy but it's not the creative stuff we've seen before from this team.