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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The cast of YA's newest hot movie adaptation, Divergent, is almost in place. After confirming Kate Winslet's villainous and Theo James' heartthrob-worthy roles, Summit Entertainment announced that Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Ben Lamb, and Christian Madsen have just joined highly anticipated sci-fi movie as Dauntless transfers Will, Edward, and Al, respectively.
Based on Veronica Roth's best-selling YA novel, the movie is set in a dystopian future where society divides people into five factions based on personality. Shailene Woodley plays the young protagonist Beatrice "Tris" Prior, who is classified a "divergent," a rare, dangerous classification, and is told she will never fit into any specific group. She leaves her family back in the Abnegation (selfless) faction to join the Dauntless (bravery) faction, and uncovers a conspiracy to destroy all "divergents" and start a war between factions. She must find out why she and others like her are considered so dangerous before it's too late.
RELATED: Kate Winslet Officially Playing 'Divergent' Villain
Will (Lloyd-Hughes, pictured above) becomes one of Tris' closest friends during their Dauntless initiation, and was a transfer from the Erudite (knowledge) faction. His friendship and later his actions affect Tris in major ways. Edward (Lamb) has a tough time going through the Dauntless initiation and his situation introduces the audience to a different and secret part of society. Al (Madsen) is a Candor (honesty) transfer, and has an unrequited crush on Tris.
Starring Woodley and James, these three new faces join already confirmed cast members Winslet, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort and Maggie Q. Directed by Neil Burger, the film commences principal photography this April in Chicago.
Divergent hits theaters March 21, 2014.
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[Photo Credit: WENN]
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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.
Top Story: Suge Knight Back in the Hoosegow
Rap mogul and founder of Death Row Records Marion "Suge" Knight was sent back to prison for 10 months Thursday for punching a parking attendant at a Hollywood nightclub, Reuters reports. The Compton-born record executive was arrested after the incident, which happened last month outside the White Lotus Club, a celebrity hangout frequented by the likes of Hugh Hefner, Jennifer Garner, Jewel and Jessica Simpson. The arrest was the second parole violation for Knight. He was paroled from prison in 2001 for an earlier assault conviction and arrested in December 2002 for associating with reputed gang members, but was cleared of most of the allegations against him and ordered to perform community service plus 61 days in jail. In fact, jail may be the safest place for the music exec. According to a Los Angeles Times report, Knight may be the ultimate target of a series of gang slayings that killed four people close to him: "Word on the street is there's a hit out on Suge Knight," said Det. Michael Caouette of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Queen Latifah Gets Breast Reduction
It's not your imagination. Rapper turned actress Queen Latifah tells USA Today that she had breast reduction surgery in April and went from "well over an E cup" to a double D. The 33-year-old Oscar nominee says she also lost 25 to 30 pounds in the past year through exercise and eating right. But Latifah said back pain forced her to consider surgery. "It took a year and a half to make that decision. It wasn't for confidence or image. I'm the anti-Hollywood girl." Latifah has become a spokeswoman for a new line of undergarments called Curvation.
Jam Master Jay Reportedly Feared for His Life
Ronald Washington, a lifelong friend of Jason Mizell, who was shot and killed at a recording studio in Queens, N.Y., last year, told police the Run-DMC rapper was carrying a .45-caliber handgun and feared for his life the night of his murder, CNN reports. Washington, who is currently detained on armed robbery charges in New York, did not disclose why Mizell, also known as Jam Master Jay, feared for his life that night, but his lawyer, Dana Grossblatt, said he has shared the reason with police. She also said Washington described to police and named the two men he claims he saw heading inside the studio minutes before he says he heard the gunshots that killed the rapper. Neither police nor prosecutors have named any suspects in the case or have stated a motive for the killing.
French Actress Marie Trintignant Dies
French actress Marie Trintignant died Friday in a French hospital, a day after she was flown back from Lithuania in a coma after sustaining severe head injuries following a violent incident with her boyfriend, Reuters reports. Trintignant's family has filed a complaint in a Paris court against her partner, Bertrand Cantat, the frontman for the French rock band Noir Desir, alleging premeditated grievous bodily harm and failure to help a person at risk. The 39-year-old singer was admitted early Sunday for alcohol poisoning and a suspected overdose of medicine or drugs soon after Trintignant was rushed to the same hospital in a coma with severe cerebral hemorrhaging. He appeared in court in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius Thursday and was placed under formal arrest for two weeks while police investigate.
Garner Stays With Alias Through 2008
Actress Jennifer Garner is finalizing a new deal that will keep her on the ABC drama Alias through the 2007-08 season. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Garner, who won her second straight Emmy nomination for her role as undercover agent Sydney Bristow, is expected to receive a substantial raise. Under the new pact, Garner's salary will go from about $40,000 an episode to about $150,000 an episode. Alias is returning for a third season in the fall on ABC.
Dave Matthews, Mos Def Named for Shortlist Music Prize
Dave Matthews, Mos Def, Tom Waits, Tori Amos, Perry Farrell and the Neptunes will serve as judges for the 2003 Shortlist Music Prize, which honors the year's most creative and adventurous albums. According to The Associated Press, other judges include Chris Martin, Flea, Pete Yorn, Erykah Badu, Spike Jonze and Cameron Crowe. Music industry veterans Greg Spotts and Tom Sarig created the prize in 2001; past winners include N*E*R*D and Sigur Ros. The Shortlist Organization said this week a list of about 100 nominees will be released in late August with 10 finalists named in mid-September. The prize will end with a multi-artist Los Angeles concert in October with the winner receiving a $5,000 cash prize.
Ringling Bros. Accused of Animal Cruelty
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the nation's largest circus, will have to defend itself against charges that it mistreats elephants that perform under the big tent, the AP reports. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals and Tom Rider, a former Ringling Bros. elephant trainer filed the suit in 2000, claiming circus employees routinely beat the elephants with sharp bull hooks, keep elephants in chains for long periods of time and forcibly remove baby elephants from their mothers before they are properly weaned. A federal judge Wednesday declined to dismiss a lawsuit because Asian elephants are considered an endangered species under federal law.
Role Call: Verbinski and Cage in Weather, Dead of Night Gets Remade
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl director Gore Verbinski and actor Nicolas Cage are in negotiations to star in and direct, respectively, The Weather Man for Sony Pictures Entertainment. The project is about a divorced Chicago weatherman up for a new job on a network morning show in New York who must first make peace with his e