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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After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
S11E9: Gather ‘round ye ladies and gentleman for the tale of Idol’s giant tease of an episode. After we find out what happened to the girl who fell on last night’s episode, we’re onto the most agonizing part of the process: forming groups for group night. But of course, after we wade through the sea of power struggles and sleep-deprived rationale, we think we’re about to get to the goods: the group performances. But there are only two minutes left! Just as one of the most contentious groups takes that final inward breath before starting their song, the episode cuts to Ryan Seacrest announcing a preview for next week. Well, damnit. And they had as all riled up and everything.
“So does that mean I get a yes?” –Symone
Before we could get into group drama, we had to take care of the unnecessary cliffhanger from last night’s episode. (You could have let us know she was okay, Nigel Lythgoe.) It turns out that Symone was suffering from dehydration and she blacked out while talking to the judges. They send her to the hospital while they finish the eliminations. After replaying their auditions in a haunting echo that made me hate just about everyone’s voice – the echo thing is just creepy, guys. On the chopping block are Ethan Jones (the contestant whose dad is in rehab, but honestly he sounded like an overgrown Backstreet Boy) and Lauren Mink (who helps disabled people for a living and changed keys in the middle of her “Alone” rendition last night). Nico Star (who I don’t really remember) and Jeremy Rosado get the green light. And with that, it’s group time.
“Nobody likes cops. Nobody wants to be in my group.” –Alisha Berhardt
Here’s a quick refresher: every contestant must find a group. Groups are four to five people and must have a combination of Day 1 and Day 2 contestants. Without fail, contestants start making groups with people from their own day group. Seriously, they do this EVERY YEAR. It would seem that no one who auditions for the show actually watches it.
And on to the usual set of group-less contestants. First up is Amy Brumfield, the girl who lives in a tent. Ryan keeps emphasizing how she’s homeless on group night, which is just a little insensitive, but hey this is Idol and they get away with that stuff. Amy has the flu so no one wants her because they’re afraid they’ll get sick – little do they know that it’s too late. By the end of the episode, everyone other contestant seems to be retching over a trashcan.
As everyone scrambles around, Alisha the singing cop can’t find anyone to sing “Joy to the World” with her until she finds two rejected contestants, including Amy. They join forces, but they need more people. They meet a duo who’s set on singing “More Than a Feeling” which is a much better choice for a group performance, but Alisha is hell-bent on getting to sing “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.” Though you think she’d have enough of it after singing it in people’s faces. She gets nasty to bully her group into doing her song and waiting for another group, but it’s getting late, so Amy and the other guy join the “More Than a Feeling” duo. And Alisha is left to find another group. She does, but not without terrifying them by asking “Do you like cops?” until they’re too scared to keep her out of the group.
“I’m soon to be a famous mentor.” –George Black
Symone comes back to the competition late and everyone has already formed groups, while she worries about securing her future, her dad brags to the camera that he’s a great stage dad and that he’ll be a famous mentor when Symone wins. Note to future famous mentor: if you can’t get your daughter to drink water, you shouldn’t brag about your leadership skills just yet.
Then we have Brielle von Hugel, a returning contestant who sang in a group with Pia Toscano last year. She’s taking charge of her group, much to group member Kyle Crews’ dismay. Luckily for Brielle, her stage mom is being a stage mom, waiting in the wings and bad-mouthing Kyle. She’s convinced that Kyle is a bad singer and he’s ruining it for the other kids – dear Brielle’s mom, he’s actually really good. You can shut up now.
“He wants to play hardball, okay. Guess who’s on my team? Jesus.” –Amy
Amy’s group is having issues because she’s too sick, but she’s not the only one. Already two other contestants are sick, including Phil Phillips. (Though Phil is suffering from a previous condition.) Why is everyone sick? Did they weaponize bird flu just so Hollywood week could get a whole lot more exciting? It’s just so outlandish. We later learn that Alisha’s teammate Christian also caught the “Idol Bug,” but she’s still being a complete and total control freak. Eventually the rest of the group acknowledges that Christian is holding them back, but Alisha is just a little too quick to want to kick the sick kid to the curb. And this is why group week is great – we learn who the truly awful people are.
“Phil had a kidney stone, and Cowboy had a brain stone or I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” –Heejun
Heejun, you are my favorite Idol contestant. Please never leave us. Heejun and Phil Phillips are together in a group with an obnoxious cowboy. That sounds like a nightmare I just made up, doesn’t it? Cowboy, as Heejun calls him (so it’s good enough for us), keeps hijacking the group and after nine hours, they haven’t gotten very far. Still Cowboy Richie decides he’s fed up and he eventually throws in the towel. You know, you can usually tell who the mediocre singers are by the fact that they turn into such controlling jerks during the forming of group night groups.
“I think a little sleep deprivation brings the best out of everybody.” –Steven
Finally, we have the Betties. This group is all girls and so when the hours get wee, they all go nuts. Half the group is ready to call it quits, saying their voices will give out if they stay up any later (which is pretty wise). One girl – let’s call her Jennifer Yellowshit because I couldn’t catch her last name in all the madness – sits alone after the other girls go home to sleep. She’s bawling and trying to practice even though it’s a ridiculous hour. Her teammate Rihanna comes back and like Rose said to Jack in that really romantic Titanic scene “I’m not leaving you!” They proceed to rehearse until 5 a.m.
And of course, they’re the first performers in the morning. Surely nothing will go wrong when we finally resume this first group performance next Wednesday. Those poor girls are going to have to hold their breaths all weekend.
Were you a little miffed at this giant tease? Or were just happy to soak up all the insanity? Plus, isn’t Heejun just the best? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler