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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Did you catch that episode of Modern Family where Cameron did something outrageous, Claire was shrill, and you couldn't understand what Gloria was saying? Yep, you and everyone else who has watched any episode of the Emmy-winning comedy. The series, which remains an awards show darling and critical favorite, has started to experience a decline in its ratings.
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According to Entertainment Weekly, Modern Family, which was the highest-rated comedy on television earlier this season, only to be toppled by The Big Bang Theory for that bragging right, has also lost the top spot in its time slot. The ABC show, which airs at 9 PM on Wednesday, fell to no. 2 last week, and Fox's American Idol moved to the top. Last night's Modern Family experienced a 10 percent drop, bringing in 10.1 million viewers (and a 3.8 in the 18-49 demo.)
And while it's fair to point the finger at its timeslot competitor American Idol for taking away a chunk of viewers, it's just as fair to point the finger back at the show itself. (However, it is noted that this tends to be a time of year when the show experiences lower than usual ratings.) Despite the many fans that stick with the family-friendly sitcom, there were also a portion of viewers that jumped ship in Season 2 or Season 3 when they figured out that, while it has its moments, it's perhaps the most predictable show on television.
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So what can Modern Family to do rebuild its viewership, especially by winning over viewers who have since flown watching people live in its very expensive California coops? We have ten ideas of how Modern Family can get back on track in the ratings:
1. Add a little real drama: For better or worse, How I Met Your Mother got more popular the more dramatic it got (read: Robin and Barney's off-and-on courtship), and it constantly keeps fans guessing. On Modern Family, whenever a couple has a fight, it's pretty much a given that it will be resolved by the end of the half hour. We're not saying Gloria and Jay need to go through an ugly divorce, but a little extra added drama never hurt an already emotional sitcom.
2. A musical episode: Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. With American Idol as a major threat, Modern Family can do what so many comedies before it have tried (including HIMYM) — recruit a great songwriter, and have a musical episode. Cam would have a ball.
3. Harness the power of Julie Bowen... off the show. Whether you love or hate Claire, you have to admit that Emmy winner Julie Bowen is a spectacular talk show guest. From sharing hilarious stories about her kids putting each other in the dryer on Conan to letting Jimmy Kimmel take over her Twitter, she could be the face and personality of the ensemble effort. (Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson are viable candidates, too.) Have her do something with Funny or Die (Happy Gilmore reunion, anyone?) or hit the talk show circuit way more, because Claire might be obnoxious, but Bowen is anything but.
RELATED: Julie Bowen Finally Got To Kiss Rob Lowe
4. Expand to the big screen: No, we don't mean start planning a Modern Family movie. (We're still absorbing the Entourage news!) Instead, the cast should start branching off into projects that aren't ubiquitous Pepsi commercials. The cast wisely didn't jump the gun and use their fame to star in anything and everything that came their way (the Friends cast fell victim to that early in their run), so they haven't outstayed their welcome with the public. Burrell has starred in the terrible, delayed Butter and Rico Rodriguez had a cameo in The Muppets, but why hasn't Nolan Gould had a role in a comedy (with, say, Chris Pratt), and why hasn't Sarah Hyland played Mila Kunis' sister in literally anything?
5. Just less Lily and Manny: Everybody wins!
[Photo credit: Peter Stone/ABC]
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
Who will wear the ring in Green Lantern?
Warner Bros. has narrowed it down to three: Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds and Justin Timberlake, each of whom has completed screen tests for the role.
At least that's what the Hollywood Reporter says, and just about every movie blog that's paying any attention has picked it up and run with it.
In certain quarters, the emergence of Timberlake has caused a fair amount of grumbling, from bloggers and commenters alike, but JT also has his defenders, among them Russ Fischer of /Film, who complimented Timberlake on his work in Black Snake Moan and the unfortunate Richard Kelly misfire Southland Tales and pointed out that casting Timberlake might actually make people who otherwise don't know or care who-the-hell-is-Hal-Jordan sit up and pay attention.
Some of us think Timberlake was OK in Alpha Dog, too, and he holds his own on Saturday Night Live as well.
Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News doesn't think Timberlake is "man enough to play the silver-age Emerald Gladiator," but he may have been more peeved that the Reporter didn't give him credit for breaking the Timberlake news earlier Thursday. Maybe that's because whoever leaked the tidbit to the chubby bearded one either wasn't interested in promoting Cooper and Reynolds and was hoping for better treatment for Timberlake, or simply didn't have the whole picture.
In any case, the Reporter notes that director Martin Campbell, producers Donald De Line and Greg Berlanti, and Warner Bros. execs have narrowed down their choices to the aforementioned trio.
Complicating matters is the fact that the deciders all have different ideas about who should play Jordan, whom the Reporter describes as "the hot-shot Air Force pilot who is chosen by a dying alien to be his successor in an intergalactic police force known as the Green Lanterns."
Meanwhile, the holding deal on those three guys expired Monday, meaning they're free to accept other offers.
All three guys are sufficiently hunky in different ways -- and with recent hit movies Cooper and Reynolds are not getting any cheaper -- so the studio, director and producers need to hurry up and get on the same page if they want this movie to be ready to open in December 2010.
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A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.