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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Death is a natural part of life. Without one, the other cannot exist. And in 2012, many heavyweights of the entertainment world were lost. Sometimes death can be a moment to mourn those we've lost, but also celebrate their achievements.
Perhaps the most notable death of 2012 was that of Whitney Houston. Houston passed away at age 48 in February of this year, and with her the world mourned. Houston was a true icon in every sense of the word: her voice was like none other in the world, and her death served as a wake-up call to the real dangers of narcotics. It is said that "despite her past personal troubles, she still became one of the most successful and award-winning female artists of all time." Whether on-screen in The Bodyguard and Sparkle, or on-stage at the Grammy Awards, Houston made every moment shine with her golden vocal chords, and her loss will be felt far beyond her 48 years of life.
In August we lost iconic and barrier-breaking female comedian Phyllis Diller. Diller was "often cited as a pioneer of comedy, helping establish women in Hollywood as legitimate stand-up talent." Her work as a female comedian started "in radio in the 50s, before leveraging the appearances into television spots and a full touring career." A feat, no doubt, impressive at any time, but especially while Diller was doing it. During the 60s, Diller starred alongside Bob Hope in 23 television specials and three films.
Another female icon gone too soon was Nora Ephron, a woman who wore many hats, including director, writer, journalist, and more in her impressive career. In our obituary for Ephron, we discussed the "surprisingly diverse and fantastic career," of hers, one "with nary a creative miss on her IMDb page." She wrote and directed some of the most classic romantic comedies out there, including Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and Julie & Julia, Heartburn, and When Harry Met Sally. "What separated Ephron from her counterparts was not only her distinct sense of humor, but the way that she could create original, complex female characters and put them in traditional movies without making them seem simple or pandering." It is a universal truth that the name Nora Ephron "was a hallmark of the quality that she brought to all of her work."
Hero to space nerds and humans everywhere was Neil Armstrong, who lost a battle with complications from a heart bypass surgery in August. His first steps on the moon were "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" even though, in the end, Armstrong fancied himself "a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."
A shocking loss was the unexpected death of Green Mile actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who was especially known for his booming voice and hulking stature. But not only that, Duncan was a comedy man. "Duncan's comedic timing coupled with his action-star prowess made him a staple in other films," including Daredevil, a remake of Planet of the Apes, Sin City and animated kids' film Kung-Fu Panda.
One of the longest-running careers in Hollywood was cut short in July when Ernest Borgnine passed away. The charismatic 95-year-old had a career that spanned decades. Six, in fact, "making him an icon of the business, beloved and respected by many." He was mostly-known for his work as a character actor, where "Borgnine made the Hollywood scene his playground, making a name for himself with generally villainous roles. His career-bucking role as a lovelorn butcher in 1955’s Marty won him an Oscar for Best Actor." Other highlights of his career included 1953's From Here to Eternity, and his long-standing run on TV's McHale’s Navy as the title character Quinton McHale.
Author and political and gay activist Gore Vidal left us in July, and with him an iconic voice of truth-telling and honesty in writing. From the plays (and screenplays) of Paris is Burning to his work on Ben-Hur, "Vidal was considered many things outside of his writerly pursuits" and one of his most famous works, The City and the Pillar, is said to be one of the first mainstream American novels to feature overtly gay characters at its center." It was so controversial at the time that The New York Times refused to review it in 1948. His passion for Hollywood and his interests never wained.
Another author, Ray Bradbury lost his life in 2012. Best known for works like Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man, "Bradbury gained notoriety around the world as one the 20th century's most important voices in science fiction."
In May, the children's literature world lost the iconic creator of Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, the wildly imaginative voice of growing up everywhere. He was considered "a defining voice in children's literature as both an author and illustrator."
This December, we lost Jenni Rivera, the world-renowned Mexican-American singer and reality star. Rivera had "a wildly popular career as a singer and reality-television star and has sold over 20 million albums worldwide in addition to her mun2 reality series I Love Jenni." Millions of fans the world over mourned her untimely passing in a plane crash. Other iconic musicians to leave too soon included the and-you-don't-stop, intergalatic party-rights-fighter Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys lost his battle with cancer in May. Fans the world over mourned the shocking loss of such a huge player in music and movies, as his Oscilloscope Laboratories is "now one of the most important distributors in the film landscape."
These two heavyweights weren't the only losses in music, which also included such big names as "sitar master and Oscar winner" Ravi Shankar, The Monkees' own lead dreamboat and television star Davy Jones, The BeeGees' founding member Robin Gibb, and At Last crooner Etta James. All of whom made huge marks within their respective genres. The loss of disco diva Donna Summer after a battle with cancer also shook the music world to its core.
In a tragic turn of events, director Tony Scott took his own life in August. Scott "rose to prominence in the 80s with Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II," He had recently co-produced the summer's alien blockbuster Prometheus with his brother," as well as several TV production credits including The Good Wife and NUMB3RS.
Others, including television actors Jack Klugman and William Windom of The Odd Couple and Murder, She Wrote also passed on in the past year. The men were 90 and 88, respectively. Dallas star Larry Hagman died of cancer complications in November, leaving behind a career that included I Dream of Jeannie, numerous stage productions, and several films like 1972's The Blob, and Oliver Stone's Nixon and Primary Colors. The comedian and actor Sherman Hemsley — star of movin' on up The Jeffersons passed away in July.
Sesame Street also lost two of its performers, director Emily Squires and puppeteer Jerry Nelson. Tom Cruise's mother in Risky Business, Janet Carroll also lost a lengthy battle with illness in May.
In the end, death will always be what comes after life, but the contributions of those we lost this year will reverberate within the industry for years and years to come. May they all rest in peace.
[Photo Credit: CHP/FameFlynet Pictures; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Carrie Devorah/WENN; Joseph Marzullo/WENN; WENN]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me" Singer, Dies at 72
Charles Durning, Veteran Character Actor, Dead at 89
Jack Klugman, 'The Odd Couple' Star, Dead at 90
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The actor sported long hair and bushy facial fuzz for his role in 1970s-set film Argo, about an American secret agent who helped free U.S. hostages in Iran by disguising them as a Canadian film crew.
Affleck is convinced he looked like Bee Gees star Gibb after his makeover and reveals his kids hated his new look.
He tells the Boston Herald, "You show real courage as an actor when you don't mind doing Barry Gibb... My kids hated it. They wanted me to shave the beard, cut the hair. I told them 50 times, 'This is for work,' but I don't think they believed me. They're like, 'What work wants your hair on your face?'"
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.
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.
An autopsy has shown Bee Gees brother Maurice Gibb died because his bowel and small intestine were so severely twisted it caused a restriction of blood flow, The Associated Press reports. Gibb, 53, died Sunday three days after suffering cardiac arrest prior to undergoing emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner told AP Gibb suffered from a condition known as ischemic enteropathy, which can be severe enough to cause cardiac arrest because of the restricted flow of blood. Dr. Jeffrey Raskin, interim chief of gastroenterology at the University of Miami, also told AP, "People (with his condition) can live to middle age with no symptoms. They can have minor problems off and on. Or, they can present on the first time with a catastrophic event, as it seems in this case." Gibb's brothers, Barry and Robin, have questioned the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami about the decision to operate after their brother's cardiac arrest.
Singer Bobby Brown was sentenced to eight days in jail Friday after pleading guilty to a 1996 drunken driving charge in Georgia, AP reports. He is also to perform 240 hours of community service, pay $2,000 in fines and $800 in court costs, as well as getting couseling. Brown will be on probation for two years.
Variety reports the Directors Guild of America will award Martin Scorsese its lifetime achievement award at the 55th annual DGA Awards March 1. In its 67-year history, the union's highest achievement has been given out to only 29 directors. Steven Spielberg was the DGA's last recipient, winning the honors in 2000.
DreamWorks has joined Paramount Pictures to co-finance the Ben Affleck sci-fi thriller Paycheck, Variety reports, making it the third deal the two studios have set up together lately. The other two include Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Killing Pablo. Paycheck is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick about a guy whose memory is erased by his employer but who tries to collect his paycheck anyway.
Samuel L. Jackson will join Juliette Binoche in the indie drama Country of My Skull for director John Boorman. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the story is based on the book Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa and chronicles the account of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated human rights abuses during apartheid.
The Simpsons are sticking around for another two seasons, Variety reports. The animated show has been renewed by Fox through May 2005, which will make 16 seasons and 360 episodes total. This will surpass the classic The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, television's longest running show in history.
Cybill Shepherd will don the apron and play Martha Stewart in an upcoming NBC telefilm, tentatively titled Martha Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart. Seems fitting, no? The project is based on Christopher Byron's biography Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which was released in bookstores last spring, just as Stewart became embroiled in the insider trading scandal with the biotechnology firm ImClone.
Rocker Jackson Browne is calling for the removal of some scenes from the TBS telepic America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story, which suggest the singer assaulted a former girlfriend, actress Daryl Hannah, who also dated John Jr. Reuters reports Browne's attorney, Lawrence Iser, demanded in a letter to TBS that it "cease and desist" airing the program again "until false and defamatory scenes accusing Mr. Browne of assaulting actress Daryl Hannah are removed." The film aired Sunday on TBS.
The William Morris Agency will be opening a branch in Miami, Fla., to accommodate their Spanish-speaking clients, including Luis Miguel and Enrique Iglesias. The office will open in April.
Further shaking up the record industry, Jay Boberg, president of Vivendi Universal's MCA Records, resigned his post Thursday, Reuters reports. This follows the resignation of Sony Music Entertainment head Tommy Mottola last week. Boberg will be replaced in the interim by Craig Lambert, MCA's senior vice president of promotion.