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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Hollywood lost another of its hardworking, lifelong actors Friday, July 27. Norman Alden, who enjoyed various film and television roles from 1957 to 2006, passed away from natural causes at the age 87, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Alden was living in an assisted living facility at the time.
In addition to providing the voice of Aquaman in the TV series Super Friends, you may recognize Alden as Lou, the diner owner from Back to the Future and as the color-blind camera man in Ed Wood. His most recognizable role is likely as Coach Leroy Fedder in the '70s series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Alden had a rich career, with roles spanning from the classics like Back to the Future and Disney's Sword in the Stone, to TV series like Silver Spoons, Rugrats, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
Alden was born in Fort Worth, Tex. on Sept. 13, 1924 and attended Texas Christian University on the G.I. Bill. He was not just a veteran actor, but a veteran of World War II as well. When he returned from war to TCU, he discovered the on-campus theater and began his life of character acting. In 2006, Alden retired from acting at the age of 82.
He is survived by his wife Sharon Hayden, his two children, and his grandson.
[Photo Credit: ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images]
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Alden passed away due to natural causes at an assisted living facility in Los Angeles on Friday (27Jul12).
Starring in hundreds of TV shows and movies, he regularly played tough guys in series including Charlie's Angels, JAG and Batman.
His film credits include Back to the Future, Ed Wood, K-Pax and Patch Adams, and he also voiced superhero Aquaman in two Super Friends animated series in the 1970s.
Alden is survived by his children Brent and Ashley, a grandson and his longtime partner, Linda Thieben.
S02E04: Tonight's episode of Boardwalk Empire does make some headway in the realm of plot forwarding, but where it really wins is the look at three of its best characters: Gillian, Chalky and Richard. I'll quickly recount the steps the storyline took before I focus on the awesome character development.
Nucky's lawyer figures out that Nucky has illegally transported prostitutes across state lines. This makes the case a federal issue, which means Nucky can seek the help of the Attorney General, who owes him many a favor.Nucky makes a deal with Rothstein for a port in Philadelphia so that he may import alcohol (Jersey is more or less closed off to him).Jimmy makes a deal with Philly indepdenent criminal Manny Horvitz, who is both lovable and threatening.Owen Slater builds a bomb for Nucky to plant beneath Mickey Doyle's storage shed; the bomb goes off when two FBI agents investigate the shed, having spied on Van Alden, who they think is a crooked cop.
"You could have married me." - Gillian
"I had a city to run." - The Commodore
Gillian uses her exotic dancing to entertain the Commodore...and, unwittingly, to give him a stroke. The Commodore becomes immobile and unable to speak, which frustrates Eli and worries him about the retention of power. Gillian chastises Eli for his coldness, and reassures Jimmy that things will be all right. She then kisses Jimmy daintily, laying another pebble in the foundation of their strange relationship.
The very end of the episode sees Gillian tending to the bedridden Commodore. She begins to reminisce about their first night together. Initially, the memory is sweet and poetic; she calmly recalls the waves crashing on the beach that morning, and the Commodore carrying her to bed. But then, the mood shifts abruptly. She begins descibing their first act of sex as a horrifying, tragic attack on her by the Commodore. She recounts the details of him holding her mouth shut and manhandling her, and then asks him if he remembers that night. When he cannot answer, she slaps him, demanding he do so. She slaps him over and over, eventually graduating to beating him violently until the episode closes.
Perhaps it is his reduced power that allows Gillian to be honest (she must realize that while Eli is cold, he's is correct that the Commodore will no longer be viewed as the pinnacle of strength and power). Now that he is no longer valuable to her and her son, she can attack him with the feelings she has had all along. It is the first time we see real humanity and pain in Gillian, and it is very refreshing, although chilling.
"I've been sitting tight. My ass is sore." - Chalky Chalky is out of jail, but his troubles are not over. In fact, he finds solace no place: not in his community, not in Nucky's office, not even in his own home. Chalky visits with the black community, to whom he has considered himself a hero and leader, but receives a good deal of anger from those who have lost family members to the KKK as a result of Chalky's alcohol business. He promises to take care of the issue, but no one is satisfied, and no one thinks of him as much of a hero anymore. He takes this issue to Nucky, but Nucky will hear nothing of it. He tells Chalky he needs to wait longer for justice, but Chalky and his community are frustrated by this. But of course, the most interesting part about Chalky is the man behind the community figure. The man who holds a secret shame for his illiteracy and (suggested) humble upbringings. He's wealthy now, and his children are very educated, but this makes him feel inferior. When his daughter brings a young medical student to dinner, Chalky (drunkenly) asserts that the man thinks he is superior. His anger with the boy escalates quickly, earning tears from his daughter and scorn from his wife. Chalky heads out to his shed to carve wood, while the others stay inside enjoying music together. Last time we got a look at him, he came out the victor. In jail, he was looked at by his antagonist as a pompous, elitist man. But he then proved he was a man of the people. This situation is an interesting twist on the matter: Chalky learns he is no longer the people's man, and in turn feels "lower" and "inferior," and thinks everyone views him as such.
"I'm never sure what's going on inside of [Richard]." - Jimmy Richard is far and beyond the most interesting character on Boardwalk Empire. That's sort of an easy claim: he's the mysterious, faceless man drenched in pain. He's almost literally the Phantom of the Opera. But who cares? He pulls it off well. Tonight's episode puts Richard with the only other character who is nearly as lonely as he is: Angela, Jimmy's wife. As we know, Angela is a painter. She askes Richard, who she seems to sense is on her wavelength, to pose for one of her paintings. He does. And it might be my favorite scene that I can remember in all of Boardwalk Empire. Richard professes to Angela that Jimmy loves her. I'm not even certain that he believes it as much as he just wants it to be true. He wants the idea of a perfect, loving family to exist in his presence. When she asks him if he has ever loved anyone, he recounts a happy, very close childhood with his twin sister. However, after the war, he was unable to feel any love for her, even though she treated him no different (despite his disfigurement). Richard removes his mask, prompting Angela to paint a picture of Richard's whole exposed face. He asks to buy the painting, but she gives it to him. Each of the characers' storylines are dark, sad and revealing of inner turmoil we hadn't entirely seen before. While Gillian's is the most surprising, Richard's is the most haunting and painful (it comes with the territory of his character). Not all episodes of this sort BE can be like this, but the ones that are turn out to be the real reasons to keep on watching.
I Am Number Four a sci-fi action drama from D.J. Caruso (Disturbia Eagle Eye) about a teenage alien’s earthly travails has the look and feel of a CW series – i.e. lots of attractive young people some of whom possess supernatural abilities and superhuman amounts of angst and alienation. This is not a coincidence: Two of its screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar happen to be the creators and executive producers of Smallville a series chronicling Superman’s youthful pre-Metropolis years that’s now in its tenth and final season on the CW. (The script is adapted from a novel by Pittacus Lore.)
Unlike Smallville’s solitary Kryptonian I Am Number Four’s hero is not alone. Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) is one of nine gifted residents (each branded with a number for reasons not sufficiently explained in the film) from the planet Lorien who fled to Earth after their civilization was annihilated by the Mogadorians a race of mumbly trenchcoat-clad goons with tattooed scalps hell-bent on ridding the universe of its water polo players. (Indeed Pettyfer’s hair in the film perpetually bears that fresh-out-of-the-water look common also to surfers and lifeguards.) Together with his anointed guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) he travels from small town to small town adopting assumed names and trying to keep a low profile so as to avoid detection by the Mogadorians who have followed the Loriens to earth to finish the job.
I Am Number Four skillfully mines much of the same emotional territory of the Twilight saga and its variants albeit from a slightly geekier less melodramatic more male-oriented angle. (Michael Bay produced the film.) Four’s itinerant lifestyle and otherworldly heritage make the adolescent struggle to fit in all the more difficult; he’s anti-social broods a lot and acts out toward Henri telekinetically. (Kudos to Caruso for the unorthodox but effective choice of Olyphant a guy who always looks to me as if he’s about to stab someone as the father-figure). This is likely because Four is in the middle of that awkward alien superhero stage: special powers like hands that glow brightly and emit beams of energy spontaneously reveal themselves at inopportune times causing him to flee from physics class mortified. Pettyfer's really got the tormented bit down; if he can master a few more expressions he's really gonna go places.
Despite these difficult public moments and despite Henri’s repeated warnings to avoid earthly relationships Four manages to strike up an inter-species romance with fellow attractive outcast Sarah (Glee's Dianna Agron) Bella Swan’s blonde equivalent a former cheerleader who has since disavowed her popular-girl past. This in turn invites the fury of Sarah’s former boyfriend and current stalker a bullying jock named Mark (Jake Abel).
Soon however Four’s rites of adolescence must take a backseat to the more pressing matter of defending his species – and his adopted planet – from the Mogadorians who’ve tracked him to his Paradise Ohio location via that advanced alien technology known as YouTube. An apocalyptic battle set at Four’s high school ensues during which he is joined by a fellow Lorien Number Six (Teresa Palmer) a hot-blooded Aussie biker chick whose powers include the ability to communicate exclusively in double entendres. Four is also aided by Sarah a UFO-obsessed sidekick (Callan McAuliffe) and a shape-shifting puppy.
I Am Number Four’s climax largely abandons its appealing Smallville ethos for something more suitable of a film bearing the name of Michael Bay but made with a fraction of the effects budget. The orgy of destruction involving CGI beasts and laser guns and explosions and tons of acrobatic stuntwork comes off a tad cheap if not a little tacky. Hopefully the filmmakers will get a bit more cash to make the sequel which I Am Number Four's ending rather blatantly labors to set up.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Pixar makes it ten gems in a row with this enchanting animated story of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen a recent widower who decides to fulfill his (plus his late wife’s) lifelong dream of tying thousands of balloons to their house and floating off to a mountaintop in South America. But he soon discovers a stowaway in the form of Russell a precocious eight-year-old “Wilderness Explorer” who he reluctantly allows to accompany him on his journey. Together the unlikely pair embark on the adventure of a lifetime encountering Kevin a rare 13-foot tall-flightless bird; Dug an overly-friendly talking pooch; and Charles Muntz a once-famous adventurer who now lives alone in a massive airship surrounded by a pack of attack dogs.
WHO’S IN IT?
Sticking to their general custom of casting actors not big stars in key voice roles Pixar assembled a superb cast for Up led by veteran TV star Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as the aged Carl who takes flight in his house and finds there is a lot to learn about life even as you near death. Asner’s grumpy delivery provides the perfect counterpoint to nine-year-old Jordan Nagai’s Russell a bright and optimistic kid who proves an invaluable assistant to Carl throughout their journey. Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) is authoritative and intriguing as the obsessed Muntz and John Ratzenberger (Cheers) extends his streak of Pixar films to 10 as a construction engineer who tries to convince Carl to sell his house. Bob Peterson does delightful double duty as two of the key dog voices lovable Dug and the menacing Alpha head of the pack.
Like Pixar’s previous Oscar-winning masterpiece Wall-E Up is a ‘toon that is not content to explore the same places we’ve seen in previous animated blockbusters. Centering an action comedy around a 78-year-old man isn’t a strategy you’ll find in the youth-obsessed Hollywood recipe book but it pays great dividends here with a moral that life’s greatest adventure is the one you share with someone you love. The non-humans — particularly Kevin and Dug — are hilarious and unique and a silent sequence detailing the courtship and marriage of the Fredricksens is a sweet touch that could have come straight out of a Charlie Chaplin movie.
With a string of critically-acclaimed hits that includes Toy Story Finding Nemo The Incredibles Ratatouille Wall-E and now Up Pixar is ruining it for everyone else. There is simply no way they can be topped when it comes to pushing the boundaries of animated movies. Bad for other studios. Good for us.
Could Up which just became the first animated film to open the Cannes Film Festival also become the first to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar since Beauty and the Beast in 1991 (before the Animation category was even established)? At this point in the year it’s actually a good bet. Whatever the case expect Up to earn several nominations come Oscar time.
A swashbuckling swordfight across the skies between two near-octogenarians? It’s the best action scene in a summer full of ‘em.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Oh pleeeeeease! Get to a theater fast. Up is also available in 3-D at select locations. Either way it’s a must-see.