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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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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Hugh Jackman is set to be honoured with the Golden Icon Award at the 2013 Zurich Film Festival and the Donostia Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival next month (Sep13). The X-Men star will receive the Global Icon Award at a ceremony on 28 September (13) and will also present his new film Prisoners in the Gala Premieres section of the Swiss festival.
A statement from Zurich Film Festival Director Karl Spoerri reads, "Hugh Jackman is in a class by himself as a multi-talented entertainer with a global following. There is nothing he can't do and he proves this time and time again with every project he's involved in. We're honoured to recognise his brilliant career at the Zurich Film Festival."
Past honourees include Sean Penn, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman.
Jackman will also be feted with the Basque festival's Donostia Award for lifetime achievement on 27 September (13), along with Spanish actress Carmen Maura, at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Past recipients include Oliver Stone, Ewan McGregor, Tommy Lee Jones, John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman.
Late Woodstock icon Richie Havens' ashes are to be scattered over the fabled 1969 festival site on the anniversary of the event's last day. Havens famously kicked off the festival with a marathon performance that transformed him from folk performer to legend and he will be remembered on what will be the 44th anniversary of the event at New York state's Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on 18 August (13).
The music venue has been built on what was Max Yasgur's farm in Sullivan County, where 400,000 music fans celebrated three days of peace, love and bad weather in 1969.
Havens suffered a heart attack and died in April (13), aged 72.
Friends like actors Danny Glover and Louis Gossett, Jr, and musicians including Jose Feliciano and John Sebastian, will celebrate his life and music at a concert at the arts centre.
Woodstock organiser Michael Lang is also expected to take part.
His ashes will be spread over the site by plane.
Rockers Baroness will return to the U.K. later this year (13) for their first tour of the country since their frontman almost died in a terrifying tour bus crash. The American group cancelled all its remaining 2012 dates following the horrific accident last August (12), when the coach they were travelling in plunged from a viaduct near Bath, England.
All four bandmembers were hospitalised and singer John Baizley underwent an eight-hour operation to put his shattered arm back together. He also broke his left leg and endured months of painful physiotherapy as he recovered from his injuries.
The group was dealt a further blow when drummer Allen Bickle and bass player Matt Maggioni quit in the aftermath of the crash, but Baroness are bouncing back with a new line-up and a new U.K. tour to put the traumatic experience firmly behind them.
The rockers, including new members Nick Jost and Sebastian Thomson, will return to the U.K. in the autumn (13) for a series of shows which conclude in London on 24 October (13).
Pop star Debbie Gibson is heading to TV as a judge on new U.S. reality show Sing Your Face Off. Network bosses at ABC recently snapped up the American rights to hit Spanish talent series Your Face Sounds Familiar, where celebrities take on the identity of a legendary singer each week, and now Foolish Beat hitmaker Gibson is set to rate their performances alongside Scary Movie 3 funnyman Darrell Hammond.
Among those slated to compete on the programme are soap star Lisa Rinna, former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, comedian Jon Lovitz and teenage Disney Channel singer/actress China Anne McClain.
An air date for the show, to be hosted by actor John Barrowman, has not yet been set.
A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth entry in Bruce Willis' John McClane franchise, is 90 minutes of wall-to-wall action. To fans of the genre, that might sound like bliss. Yet even with Willis back in the saddle, director John Moore and writer Skip Woods have found a way to suck every ounce of soul out of McClane's everyman escapades. Willis is 57 years old, but Moore's car chases, shootouts, and explosion-dodging sequences are slow and stagnant enough to be fit for a McClane in his 90s. Adding to the misery is a incomprehensible narrative where nothing happens. Even when menacing Russians are prepping nuclear bombs, nothing is happening. It may have been a Good Day to Die Hard, but the latest sequel is the definition of a soft ball.
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This time around, John McClane is on the hunt for his son Jack (Jai Courtney), who is in deep doo doo after connecting himself to the murder of a crony working for corrupt government official Chagarin. Turns out, Jack is actually a CIA agent, with a mission to protect the incarcerated whistleblower Komarov, who currently sits at the top of Chagarin's hit list. Hoping to lift his son out of trouble, McClane shows up at the exact wrong time, witnessing a gang of henchmen blowing up a courthouse to kidnap Komarov and Jack. Everyone escapes and from there on; it's set piece after set piece until McClane shoots his way to the grand finale.
The one thing A Good Day to Die Hard gets right is the casting of Courtney as the son of McClane. He's just gruff enough, just charming enough, and just adept enough at rolling around with a shotgun blowing away enemies. He can spar with Willis, who has really become the quipping, overworked cop he plays in the movies. The two could make a watchable pair, if they were actually given action to perform.
Many complained 2007's Live Free or Die Hard lost the spirit of Die Hard when it opened up the world and turned McClane into a superhero capable of battling a fighter jet. A Good Day to Die Hard has you begging for anything geographically coherent. The film attempts to contain the action once again, but not by finding a single location or pushing its leading man to his limits. Instead, Moore takes his camera straight up the noses of actors, shaky cam and aggressive editing making up for the complete lack of energy or ingenuity in the set pieces.
REALTED: What Makes a 'Die Hard' Movie a 'Die Hard' Movie?
A highway truck chase — which comprises nearly a third of the movie's run time — is lifeless and lost in its barrage of crashing cars. Willis feels distant from it all, even when he's in the driver's seat. When McClane's unleashing hell to the faceless baddie — and really, if there's anything a Die Hard movie needs, it's a solid, maniacally laughing villain — he barely moves an inch. Thanks to the magic of cutting, Willis never exerts energy while decimating large crowds of people. Attempts to inject Die Hard with thrills flop — no exploding helicopter barreling down the side of a building, composed with flashy slow-motion and noticeable green screen, can top the sight of Willis going mano a mano with a killer twice his size. A Good Day to Die Hard even teases a good ol' fashioned fight, but never pays it off.
By the eighth time John McClane reminds us that he's on vacation (this movie's version of "I'm too old for this s**t!"), the brain will have bid A Good Day to Die Hard a good day. The film is insipid in the worst way, throwing stunts at the screen when Willis and Courtney seem ripe with action hero potential. Willis has hinted that a sixth Die Hard movie is already in the works — the good news is, the series can only go up from here. Right?
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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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.
It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
The Trainspotting star follows in the footsteps of actors including Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Richard Gere by landing the prize, and he spoke of his pride after accepting the honour.
He said, "It was amazing arriving and feeling the wave of love from Spanish filmgoers. Thank you."
John Travolta, Oliver Stone, Tommy Lee Jones and Dustin Hoffman were also honoured with the Donostia Award at this year's (12) film festival, picking up their prizes on Sunday (23Sep12).