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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Universal via Everett Collection
Adapting plays into movies has always been standard, but these days we're seeing more and more of the opposite. Case in point? A staged version of a Harry Potter prequel is reportedly in the works. The Bring It On musical was also a wild success – it was nominated for a Tony for Best Musical, and it won one for Best Choreography. So what other YA favorites do we want need to see on stage?
*Insert Clueless reference here* Come on, this is long, long, overdue. How much would you pay to see Cher makeover Tai, live? A lot; that's how much. Oh, and Cher's long voice-over monologue where she finally admits to herself that she's "totally butt-crazy in love with Josh?" An excellent soliloquy with which to break the fourth wall.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
So, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may not technically count as a YA movie, but I think it could be adapted into a pretty kick-ass (literally) campy, genre-bending musical ... and it would have fabulous dance sequences. I mean, it did already feature a slightly Bollywood number with the help of evil ex number 1, Matthew Patel. Ooh, and Knives Chau could have a quippy and hilarious love ballad to Scott!
Okay, so this one is ripe for the stage, right? It would be pure camp, that's for sure. But can't you just picture it now? It would kind of be like the Rocky Horror Picture Show: most people can already quote most of the film from memory.
I hate to say it, but this movie might actually be improved by a stage adaptation. Think how much better it would be if we got to experience all of those crazy acapella numbers live! The riff-off alone would make for a fun theater experience.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Let me start off by saying I am huge New Girl fan and I have seen 500 Days of Summer, oh, probably about 500 times. (Or, at least, more times than I'm comfortable admitting in public.) So you can imagine my squeals of delight upon learning I would be going to the 200th episode of So You Think You Can Dance, in which the lovely Zooey Deschanel would be guest judging the new Top 20.
Surely the self-proclaimed “adorkable” Fox actress would be predictably cute and quirky,armed with plenty of wit and insight, right? “Oh my gosh, you guys are all so great. It’s hard for me to think of anything to say!” Deschanel exclaimed after the first routine. Fair enough. It was the first performance on stage — she’s still probably getting her seat warm. Plus, who wouldn't be distracted by Mary Murphy's patented deafening screams?
But I wasn't the only one who noticed Deschanel's initial discomfort. Executive Producer/Judge Nigel Lythgoe told me backstage that the actress “started nervously” and had a hard time deciding on which performance she liked best. Says Lythgoe, “Every single routine that happened was her favorite routine. ‘That was my favorite!’ and then the next routine, ‘That was my favorite!’”
Unfortunately, as the show progressed, it was clear to everyone in the audience that Deschanel's knowledge of dance was frustratingly limited. (And while her cute smiles helped, they didn't quite hide her lack of dance knowledge.) Luckily, this was one of the few pre-taped SYTYCD shows, so Fox was able to take full advantage and edit out some of the longer awkward pauses, word stumbling, and frequent proclamations of “I’m speechless!” Where's Jesse Tyler Ferguson when you need him?
Some of my favorite, yes, "adorkable" (if uninformed) Deschanel critiques that didn't make the cut:
“It must be difficult to lift each other right?”
"Your teamwork was, like, incredible.”
"Were you rehearsing that for days?"
“That dance looked like it required a lot of [long pause] coordination.”
In the end, the big-eyed beauty decided to take the safe sugar-laced route and put extra sweetness into her words to make up their lack of flavor. “What a beautiful routine for such beautiful girls. You’re all so lovely and to work together must be so much fun. I think you should all enjoy it and you’re all just wonderful.” Former Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres, how did you get into Deschanel's body?
Still, despite its not-so-impressive guest judge, Wednesday's So You Think You Can Dance episode had plenty to celebrate. The series, which is now in its ninth season, aired its 200th episode with the Top 20 announcement. Though So You Think You Can Dance has found success — and dancers who have moved on to fruitful careers on TV (Dancing With the Stars' Chelsie Hightower) and on tour (Lady Gaga backup dancer Mark Kanemura) — I found out the series was almost a no-go. “I didn’t even think we’d be successful with one episode!” Lythgoe said backstage. “When Simon Fuller suggested it, we were so successful back then with American Idol, and he said, ‘We should do this sort of similar show for dancing!’ And I said, ‘Well, that will never work.’” And apparently, it didn't. Nigel revealed that there is a long-lost SYTYCD pilot that will never see the light of day. “The first show that we did was horrific, I mean, like, really bad. No one has ever seen it and no one ever will. It was terrible and I thought this is not going to work … So to be here 200 episodes after is wonderful.” It seemed like Judge Mary Murphy may have been drinking the same rainbow-and-lollipop Kool-Aid as Deschanel. When I asked her why So You Think You Can Dance has lasted for nine seasons, she said, “This country still has a lot of diamonds out there, and if we give them the chance and give them the opportunity they’re going to grow.” I don’t know about you ladies, but I would just love to plant some diamonds and watch ‘em grow. I’m thinking a bracelet bush and a tiara tree to for starts in my garden.
Although the series has been a successful one, Lythgoe decided to implement some big changes this season. First off — and most notably — America and the judges are crowning not one but two So You Think You Can Dance winners this year. And while we can say hello to two winners, we can wave goodbye to the dreaded results show. Said Lythgoe with a laugh when I asked how Season 9 will be different: “What’s going to make the difference? One f**kin show! One show is going to make it very different.” Some have expressed confusion on the new elimination process, but, luckily, British beauty Cat Deeley broke it down for you. “America votes on the three people who are in danger and then at the end, the judges will choose who goes home. I think is going to make it more exciting for the viewer because it will add a layer of jeopardy to the performances.” So what dancers will viewers have to get behind during Season 9? The full Top 20 list includes Alexa Anderson, Amber Jackson, Amelia Lowe, Audrey Case, Eliana Girard, Janaya French, Janelle Issis, Lindsay Arnold, Tiffany Maher, Whitney Carson, Brandon Mitchell, Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer, Daniel Baker, Dareian Kujawa, George Lawrence, Jr., Matthew Kazmierczak, Nick Bloxsom-Carter, and Will Thomas. But, below, check out the five finalists that looked best at the live taping: Eliana Girard: Obsessed. She reminds me so much of Tai from Clueless (it’s all in the quirky facial expressions!), I want her futuristic tutu, and damn her legs are fierce! Matthew Kazmierczak: I was definitely impressed by this talented fella. Not only is he easy on the eyes, but he didn’t even roll his eyes when Mary Murphy made him do that stupid “opening the door to the Top 20” move. Bravo Matthew, bravo. Whitney Carson & Lindsay Arnold: Yes I am aware that I listed two names, but I put these baby bombshells together because I loved their fiery threesome routine. I also didn’t feel like figuring out exactly who’s who just yet. Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer: I have absolutely no idea how this animation dancer gets his body to move like that. A suspicion in me thinks that he’s some kind of robot, so if the apocalypse does happen this year, I want to make sure I’m in his good graces. Janelle Issis: She’s clumsy. I’m clumsy. We’re kindred spirits. And thanks to the wonderment of DVR, I watched her head smack into that door at least 11 times, so I feel like I kind of owe it to her. So You Think You Can Dance returns live Wednesday, July 11 at 8 p.m. on Fox. Follow Leanne Aguilera on Twitter @LeanneAguilera [PHOTO CREDIT: FOX] MORE: 'Real Housewives of OC' Recap: The Party's Overa> 'Pretty Little Liars' Recap: Roger That: The Hanna Show Louis C.K. Discusses New Season of 'Louie', Including Jerry Seinfeld's Cameo
At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.