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 Pictures via Everett Collection
Seventeen years ago, Harrison Ford grumbled four simple words that defined a genre, a demographic, and a country: "Get off my plane." In a pre-9/11 world, there was no shortage of jingoistic glee in a movie like Air Force One, in which a man's man American president doled out justice to a militia of Russian loyalist terrorists who made the silly mistake of attempting to hijack his flight home from Moscow. In 2014, we don't have the luxury of facing a plotline like this with reckless merriment. There's a damp gravity to the premise behind movies like Non-Stop, which in another time would have been nothing more than Taken on a Plane. But rigidly conscious of the connotations that attach to a story about a hijacking of a civilian international flight into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, Non-Stop doesn't play too fast and loose. It still plays, and has some good fun doing so, but carefully.
From the getgo, we're anchored into the grim narrative of Liam Neeson's U.S. Air Marshall Bill Marks, who settles his demons with a healthy spoonful of whiskey. A dutiful officer even when liquored up, Marks eyeballs every nameless face in London's Heathrow Airport, silently introducing the bevvy of characters who'll come into play later on. After takeoff, Marks finds himself on the unwitting prowl for the anonymous party who's attempting to take down the red-eye through a series of manipulative text messages, well-timed threats, and clandestine killings. Chatty passenger Julianne Moore and flight attendant Michelle Dockery join Marks in his efforts to identify the mysterious criminal before the entire aircraft falls to his or her whims. So less Taken, more Murder, She Wrote.
Our roundup of suspects challenges our (and their) preconceived notions, and quite laughably — most vocal among Neeson's fellow passengers are a white beta-male school teacher (Scoot McNairy), a black computer engineer with an attitude of entitlement (Nate Parker), a softspoken Middle Eastern surgeon whose headwear gets more than a few focal shots (Omar Metwally), a middle-aged white businessman whose latest account landed him more than your house is worth (Frank Deal), an irate black youngster draped in irreverence (Corey Hawkins), and a white, bald, machismo-howling New York cop who secretly accepts his gay brother (Corey Stoll). Just a few talking heads short of Do the Right Thing, Non-Stop manages to goof on each man's (notice that they're all men — Moore, Dockery, and a barely-in-the-movie Lupita Nyong’o are kept shy of the action for most of the film) distaste for and distrust of one another as they each try to sidle up to, or undermine the harried Marks.
Non-Stop plays an interesting game with its characters and its audience, simultaneously painting the ignorance of its characters with a thick coat of comedy while pointing its finger straight out at us with accusations that we, too, thought it was whoever we just learned it wasn't, and for all the wrong reasons. "Shame on you!" Non-Stop chides, adding, "But let's keep going, this is fun!"
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It is fun — that's the miraculous thing. Without any "Get off my plane"s or "Yippee ki yay"s, Non-Stop keeps its action genre silliness in check (okay, there is a moment involving an airborne gun that'll institute some serious laugh-cheers), investing all of its good time in the game of claustrophobic Clue that we can't help but enjoy. It sacrifices some of its charm in a heavy-handed third act, tipping to one side of what was a pretty impressive balancing act up until that point. But its falter is not one that drags down the movie entirely. Fun and excitement are restored, sincerity is maintained, and even a few moments of sensitivity creep their way through. We might not live in a world of President Harrison Fords any longer, but Air Marshall Liam Neesons could actually be a step up.
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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.
“Our human spirits are immortal... I have matched my human spirit agains their emptiness, and I have won!” - Marnie
Tonight on True Blood, Antonia decided to let the sunshine in. Which is great- I was expecting them to drag the “meet the sun” plot out until the season finale. Three cheers for well-paced plotting! It makes sense that in the face of certainish death, our vampires would choose to stay close to those they love. Bill and Jessica hunker down for some sweet maker bonding before chaining themselves up in the basement (which sounds WAY dirtier than I meant, sorry.) Sookie and Eric do the same, endulging in another one of those sappy conversations assembled entirely from Livejournal icons.
Unfortunately, Tara isn’t feeling the love, as she must soldier on without her new girlfriend. She teams up with Marnie/Antonia, who may be a better replacement for “vampire hunting”, but not the “hotness” category which is so vital in a relationship. Tara seems to be falling for Mantonia’s female empowerment/wanton murder spiel, helping her assemble a crack team of idiots to power her spell circle. Tara says that vampires have killed every person that she’s loved, but to be honest readers, I’m drawing a blank. Jason and Sam are both (relatively) fine. Her only boyfriend who died (that I remember) is Eggs, and he got shot by Jason, not the undead. Undoubtedly, her relationship with Franklin was disturbing and awful, but I don’t remember him going after anyone but her. Is there someone obvious I’m forgetting? Or is Tara being a tad melodramatic?
Ep. 43 - Recap
“We’re seriously having this conversation? Now?” - Alcide
To be fair, it was a melodramatic episode on all counts, with all of the vampires chaining themselves up in the basement and crying and stuff. The newly-cuddly Eric is enjoyable, but his dialogue is getting embarrassingly sappy. Maybe for next week, I’ll compile a list of his quotes and mix them in with some of Edward’s from Twilight, and we’ll see who can tell them apart. But he also gets the funniest moment of the episode, having sex with Sookie all the way to the door of their house. Odds are there are some very confused boy scouts out in the woods getting a “birds and the vampire bees” talk. Maybe a “birds and mosquitos” talk. Who knows what wanton damage their love life will cause?
For instance, Eric and Sookie’s sexcapades puts a dent in Alcide and Debbie’s still-fragile relationship. After their werewolf bar-mitzvah, they go back into the conveniently small woods to make sure that Sookie isn’t getting murdered. Instead, they stumble into her glowey sex scene, which leads to some performance anxiety later on. It’s okay, Alcide, not everyone can have soft-focus sex scenes with a Neko Case-soundtrack. You’ve just got to make due.
“I wish I could forget every fucking thing about you.” - Sam. Also, the audience.
Sam gets an unpleasant surprise when his advances towards Luna are rebuffed, on account of Tommy’s shapeshifting sexytimes. Fortunately, the crack team figures it out, and while Luna runs off to take a whole lot of showers, Sam heads back to beat up Tommy. Tommy claims that the shapeshifting was an accident, which it was, but it’s not like his penis accidentally fell into Luna’s vagina.
Lafayette and Jesus finally left the brujo grampa behind, but not before establishing that Lafayette’s a medium- a witch who can speak to, and channel, spirits of the dead. Including the ghost lady who’s been following Arlene’s kid around, singing to him in french, and generally being disturbing.
“I am going to eat that fucking witch, starting with her face.” - Jessica
Ep. 44 - Preview
Despite Lala’s witchy prowess, he doesn’t get involved in Mantonia’s kind of crazy vampire murder plan. I have to assume that Tara, and the other people involved in the circle, don’t know exactly what’s going on, since they seem fairly cavalier about the whole thing. And Marnie’s speech, while dramatic, was vague on specifics. Tara’s been a bit of a jerk this season (for warranted reasons, sure), but it’s hard to imagine that she’d actually try to murder Jessica, and even Bill, in cold blood. I get that she’s afraid of Pam, but at this point, couldn’t Sookie ask Eric to order her not to kill Tara? I don’t know if Pam would listen, but Pam is honestly not the most intimidating vampire right now. She has no skin! Kudos to the makeup department for that incredibly cringe-worthy scene.
And it is Jessica who ends up in the most danger from Mantonia’s spell. Well, Jessica and that one vampire with the curlers who Hoyt’s mom knows. She has a sweet conversation with Bill, where she thanks him for being a good vampire dad, but he goes easy on her with the silver, out of sympathy. It ends up costing him, as Jessica breaks free, kills Bucky (not Bucky!) and walks out into the sun. Jason’s currently running to her rescue, and Bill spent something like half an hour in the sun that one time in the first season without any long-term damage, so I’m not too worried. I think for the first time, Russell Edgington might actually be happy that he’s trapped in concrete underground.
Looks like next week we’ll finally be getting that shower scene everyone’s been talking about.
“Holy crap, now there’s zombies?”
Sookie spends most of the episode in a sheer white shirt and a very pink bra. Someone call the fashion police!
“I’m going to shove my fist up your cunt and wear you like a hand warmer.”
“I swear to God I will burn this fucking taco stand to the ground!” You can’t blame Lafayette for being pissy, he still doesn’t speak Spanish, and must have no idea what’s going on half the time.
Good callback to the last time Eric got silvered, in season 2.
This week’s Eggs Benedict Memorial Award For The Biggest Waste Of Screen-Time goes to Andy’s date with Holly, which ended quickly and accomplished nothing. We get it, Andy’s addicted to V. Either come up with a better plot, or let poor Chris Bauer go. The man was on The Wire, for chrissake.