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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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.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Did Hollywood have anything to do with the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement? The whole thing seems a little bit convenient. Last month saw the behind-the-meltdown docudrama Margin Call and the sci-fi metaphor In Time. Now we have Tower Heist a comedy that pits the blue collar staff of the Trump Tower against a thieving Bernie Madoff-esque tenant. The movie's an Ocean's 11 for the 99% with a sense of timeliness that makes the simple plotting and wisecracking that much more effective.
Ben Stiller stars as Josh Kovacs overseer of all the goings-on at the Tower. He wakes up before dawn and heads home after sunset spending his day catering to the occupants of the ritzy apartment complex and managing his eclectic crew—including former Burger King cook Enrique (Michael Peña) Jamaican maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) and his slacker brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck). The crew's greatest concern is multi-billionaire Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) the penthouse resident Tower board member and thanks to attention paid trusted friend of Josh.
Trusted...until the FBI busts Shaw for stealing millions including the Tower employees' pensions.
Like all good tower heists Josh's titular harebrained scheme is prompted by a drunken night out with lead investigator Claire (Téa Leoni) who tips the irked manager off to Shaw's hidden stash: a possible eight-figure sum hidden somewhere in his apartment. In pursuing the American dream of revenge Josh recruits his slighted co-workers along with distraught former-millionaire Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and Josh's childhood friend-turned-thief Slide (Eddie Murphy). Together the motley crew concocts a plan to retrieve what's rightfully theirs—all while sinking Shaw in the process.
Tower Heist isn't as slick or intricate as the Ocean movies but its straightforward take on the crime genre is strengthened by Stiller Murphy and the rest of the cast's ability to inject ridiculous humor into sympathetic characters. When Josh realizes his decade spent commanding the operations of the Tower were for naught he wigs out marching up to the top floor to beat the crap out of Shaw's priceless convertible (it was owned by Steve McQueen in case you were wondering why anyone would keep an antique car on the top floor of a building). Not entirely realistic but relatable which sums up every over-the-top satisfying scenario these characters find themselves throughout the film.
Most importantly Tower Heist delivers on the funny. Playing the straight man is an art and Stiller's one of the masters (although you'd never know it from his Night at the Museum shtick or wackier roles like Zoolander) riffing off his co-stars while giving them ample time to be complete weirdos. The movie is being touted as a comeback for Murphy but he wisely steps into a supporting role delivering on his character's manic charm while never trying to steal the spotlight. The one who really steals the show is Broderick whose clueless neurotic Fitzhugh can't help relapsing mid-heist into memories of luxurious trips to Greece.
Credit goes to director Brett Ratner who cranked out three Rush Hour movies and an X-Men threequel while never really nailing down what it takes to make a group dynamic work. Here he pulls it off finding the right beats to make Tower Heist funny and thrilling. There are moments during the actual heist scene set during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade that cause quite a stir—a rarity in today's run-of-the-mill thrill rides.
Tower Heist is the definition of a cinematic softball avoiding risky choices and utilizing each actor to their previously known (and successful) traits without feeling lazy. As the holidays roll in and families look for something they all can enjoy Tower Heist delivers a little something for everyone. Except maybe Bernie Madoff.
Smart witty and genuinely human comedies with wonderfully observed characters don’t come along ever day but if you have a chance to catch this limited release by all means go. Set in the world of baseball-card memorabilia the story revolves around a Chicago newspaper editor Cooper (Matthew Broderick) who suffers a concussion that severely affects his career and lands him working for the comics section. Confused by his twist of fate he goes to rural Missouri for a visit with his once-wise Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda) who is about to lose his home and his memory due to what is medically known as “diminished capacity.” With Cooper his high school sweetheart Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) and her son Dillon (Jimmy Bennett) tagging along the not-all-there aging Uncle decides to take an incredibly valuable 1918 Cubs trading card his own grandfather had given him to an expo where he hopes to make a deal. But not being of sound mind he gets sucked into the shady world of dealers--including a shyster salesman (Bobby Cannavale) and a well-meaning collector (Dylan Baker) who also happens to be a maniacal Cubs freak. Both vie for the card as Cooper tries to keep his doddering old Uncle from falling victim to scam artists. After last week’s Broderick debacle Finding Amanda it’s nice to report this week the actor is back on track with his most engaging film in a while. It’s kind of like Little Miss Sunshine in which several disparate characters are thrown together in search of an end goal: In this case a baseball card sale rather than a child beauty pageant. Broderick plays the mixed up Cooper with just the right sense of befuddlement and dry wit he’s displayed in some of his better films. His efforts to keep Alda’s Uncle Rollie from losing the card or making a bad deal are hilarious. If there were any justice Alda at his best would be remembered come Oscar time for his funny and touching portrait of a man trying to hang on to his memories. Madsen is warm as the small town girl who tries to keep the “boys” focused on the goal at hand while there are wonderful comic bits from both Baker driven to a near-nervous breakdown by every Cubs loss and Cannavale as a shifty baseball card dealer out to take an aging man for all he’s worth. Actor/director and Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder Terry Kinney has mostly worked for the stage but proves he has a deft touch for character comedy in Diminished Capacity. The film smartly uses the backdrop of baseball card trading to tell a larger story about family life love aging and the need to keep our dignity through it all. Although Kinney keeps the laughs coming effortlessly the film is also quite poignant beautifully balanced and never forced. He milks every possible bit from his simple yet so American premise explored in Sherwood Kiraly’s superb screenplay--which is also based on his own novel of the same name. The fact Kinney is an actor himself and has had such extensive experience directing others for Steppenwolf it should come as no surprise that this ‘little film that could’ contains some of the year’s best and most subtle comic turns. This Sundance Film Festival success is not getting the kind of wide release it deserves but wherever you find it check it out. It’s a little gem.
Top Story: Media Lawyers Petition for Jackson Papers
Lawyers for news organizations, including The Associated Press, are desperate to get their hands on the grand jury's indictment against Michael Jackson, petitioning the judge to release the unsealed transcripts of 13 days of testimony, AP reports. At the grand jury hearing April 30, Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville disclosed that Jackson had been indicted on child molestation charges as well as a conspiracy count involving allegations of child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion but ordered only edited portions of the indictment to be released. Citing decades of court precedent, attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. argued that indictments can be sealed only under extraordinary circumstances, which he claims has not been part of the Jackson case. "This case does not raise any of the issues that have traditionally been invoked to seal or partially seal indictments, such as the need to protect the lives of witnesses, to ensure the defendant or other potential targets did not flee, or the need to protect innocent persons from injury," said Boutrous' motion, filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, AP reports. Melville said he sealed the material to protect the identify of the minor child who is accusing Jackson as well as insulate prospective jurors from publicity that might prejudice them.
Idol Goes Double-Time for Finale
Fox TV and American Idol producers have announced they will give callers four hours instead of the usual two to vote for their choices in the show's finale next week, Reuters reports. Idol has come under fire recently regarding their voting process after two of the more talented performers were voted off due to jammed phone lines. The producers have defended the system, saying that "power dialers" who set up repeat calls for one contestant "can be identified and discounted," but Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported the technology isn't sophisticated enough to handle the overtaxed phone lines. "This is not a quiz show scandal," Broadcasting & Cable editor in chief Max Robins told Reuters. "They're getting the votes the best they can given the system they've got, but technology is thwarting democracy on American Idol."
Martha Stewart's TV Show Put on Hiatus
Martha Stewart's home decorating and cooking show, which wraps up its 11th season this fall, has been put on hiatus because the homemaking maven is awaiting sentencing after being convicted in March for lying to investigators about a personal stock sale. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Estroff told Reuters nearly 40 jobs will be eliminated in the TV division, leaving 35 positions. "I am deeply sorry that it has become necessary for the show to go on hiatus until my personal legal situation is resolved," Stewart said in a statement. "I hope to resume our close collaboration just as soon as I am able to do so." Stewart faces possible jail time when sentenced on June 17.
Frasier Tops Nielsens
NBC's Frasier series finale top the Nielsens with a whopping 25.2 million this week, but it wasn't quite enough to give the network the No. 1 spot. CBS won in total viewership with 11.8 million viewers, narrowly beating NBC, which took in 11.2 million. Fox came in third with 9.2 million, followed by ABC with 8.3 million, the WB with 4.1 million and UPN with 3.3 million. For the week of May 10-16, the top 10 shows included: Frasier finale, NBC; ER, NBC; American Idol (Tuesday), Fox; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS; American Idol (Wednesday), Fox; CSI: Miami, CBS; Survivor All-Stars, CBS; Frasier clip show special, NBC; Without a Trace, CBS; Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS.
The Office Doesn't Qualify for Emmys
Although winning Golden Globes for lead actor and comedy series, BBC America's hit series The Office will not be getting an Emmy nomination. Variety reports the British laffer felt short of the six episodes requirement for consideration, with only five segments available for submission. There's always next year.
Sarah Jessica Parker Reveals Secrets of Marital Bliss
Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker told Charlie Rose in an interview to air Wednesday night on CBS' 60 Minutes II that the key to her long-lasting marriage to Matthew Broderick is servitude. "I take care of him," Parker said in excerpts released in advance. "I pack for him, I shop for him, I get his groceries. He's taken care of. That's who Matthew is--people take care of him. It's practically involuntary." And if there were one thing Parker could change about Broderick, it would be … his gait. "He walks too slowly. I walk really quickly. He never hails the cab--never. I've been doing it forever, so I guess he just thinks, 'Well, she does it so well.'" Parker and Broderick were married in 1997 and have an 18-month-old son.
Elfman Eyed for CBS Comedy
Sources tell Reuters that one of the new series CBS is set to unveil to advertisers Wednesday in New York is a comedy starring Jenna Elfman. The network is reportedly finalizing a deal with Jenna Elfman to develop a midseason comedy to be co-written by Two and a Half Men showrunner and executive producer Chuck Lorre. It would reunite Elfman and Lorre, who worked together on the 1997-2002 ABC sitcom Dharma & Greg. Elfman also did a two-episode guest stint on Men in February. According to Reuters, Lorre would co-write the comedy's pilot and help supervise the pilot production, but sources stressed he has no intention of giving up his current duties as showrunner on the freshman hit Men.
Drew Carey Gets Improv Comedy on WB
Drew Carey and his pals, meanwhile, are flying the ABC coop and heading over to the youth-oriented WB network with a new improvisational comedy show. Reuters reports Drew Carey's Green Screen Show is one of six new shows the WB plans to introduce this fall as part of the primetime slate. Green Screen will co-star several of Carey's Whose Line Is It Anyway? buddies, including Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Chip Esten, Brad Sherwood, Greg Proops, and Jeff Davis, along with