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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Robert De Niro and his longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese were among the stars honoured for their humanitarian work in Los Angeles on Thursday (27Feb14). The inaugural Unite4:Humanity event was created by bosses at charity Unite4:good and Variety magazine and was hosted by former Saturday Night Live comedian Andy Samberg.
De Niro received the Creative Commitment to Film award, Scorsese was given the Variety Creative Conscience gong and Samberg was handed the Keep Walking Award for his accomplishments.
Pop stars were also recognised for their charity work - Selena Gomez was named Young Humanitarian and Demi Lovato a Young Luminary, while Alicia Keys picked up a Music Visionary award. Both Keys and Lovato performed at the show.
Gomez took to Twitter.com after receiving the trophy, to write, "By far the coolest award I've received - Young Humanitarian award! Beyond proud to represent (charity) UNICEF since I was 17."
Meanwhile, Lovato posted a picture of herself posing with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was the recipient of the Unity Recognition Award.
She tweeted: "Too excited to filter this... No big deal - selfies with the prez (president).... Bill Clinton - so nice to meet you!!!!"
Other attendees included Eva Longoria, Katherine Heigl, Dionne Warwick, Forest Whitaker and Philomena Lee, the woman whose story inspired acclaimed movie Philomena. She picked up an Everyday Hero award.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already?
To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from.
But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper.
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In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so.
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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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Sofia Vergara won't be the only woman making her Saturday Night Live debut on April 7. Deadline reports that Kate McKinnon of the Upright Citizen's Brigade will appear in the episode, and it's possible we'll be seeing a few more female faces in studio 8H in the coming weeks. Kristen Wiig's contract is up at the end of the season, which means the show is poised to lose it's main female star (or rather, biggest star, period) — and Lorne Michaels has started searching for a woman who can fill her shoes.
Of course, there are plenty of other women on SNL right now, but despite the fact that some have been on the show for several seasons, they've failed to become household names. Even if viewers recognize the faces of Abby Elliott, Nasim Pedrad, and Vanessa Bayer, their impersonations of Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, and Miley Cyrus haven't made a cultural impact. If anyone's still talking about a lady-helmed SNL skit when you get to work on Monday, it probably features one of Wiig's characters, such as Gilly, the Target Lady, Suze Orman, Kathie Lee Gifford, or Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, just to name a few.
SNL's dearth of female talent seems even more pronounced because the show is coming off an unprecedented 15-year period of strong female performers. Cheri Oteri, Ana Gasteyer, and Molly Shannon joined the cast in 1995 and 1996 and went on to create some of the program's most unforgettable characters, including the NPR Ladies, half of the Spartan Cheerleaders, and Mary Katherine Ghallagher. (They're also remembered for spot-on impressions of Martha Stewart, Monica Lewinsky, and Judge Judy.) Just as these were retiring from SNL in the early 2000s, the show entered a golden age for female performers. Tina Fey was named SNL's first female head writer and became a Weekend Update anchor, then unleashed a Sarah Palin impression so good that some have wondered if it influenced the 2008 election. Amy Poehler created several memorable characters, and joined Fey at the Weekend Update desk and in political sketches as Hillary Clinton. During this time Rachel Dratch was part of some of the show's best-loved skits, including the Lovers, Denise and Scully, and Debbie Downer. Plus, Maya Rudolph could morph into nearly any female celebrity, including Donatella Versace, Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey.
In the mid-2000s, these SNL heavyweights left the show and went on to find success in projects like Baby Mama, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation. This left only Rudolph's Bridesmaids co-star Kristen Wiig to take up the mantle of TV's funniest lady. Thankfully, Wiig has suggested that she'd like to do a few more seasons, saying, "I love the cast ... We're like Melrose Place without the murder." However, her film career is taking off with roles in Friends With Kids and Imogene, and it's unlikely that she'll stay for long. That means Lorne Michaels has the unenviable task of finding a woman who can both impersonate female cultural figures like Taylor Swift, and create original characters that can make us laugh with just a twitch of their baby hands.
Katherine Quinn is determined to resolve the 50-year legal battle over the actor's two-acre plot on Rhodes, which he purchased to create a centre for filmmakers and artists.
Greek officials allegedly agreed to sell the isolated bay to the Zorba The Greek star, but the purchase was reportedly annulled and he never obtained the deeds.
Now Katherine is taking charge of the matter, and has recruited U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise the issue on a visit to Athens next week (begs07Feb11).
Family lawyer Stefanos Stratis tells Britain's Daily Express, "Katherine is determined to at least get compensation. Quinn was very bitter about it."
Quinn, who died aged 86 in 2001, fell in love with the seaside plot while filming The Guns of Navarone there, but eventually boycotted the island after the feud over the title deeds escalated.
Top Story: Jackson's Parents Offer To Adopt Children
In an interview airing today at 10 p.m. EST on ABC's 20/20, Michael Jackson's parents said he is innocent and have offered to adopt his children if they're taken away from him. "Some people are trying to accuse him of being a pedophile, and that is not true," Katherine Jackson. "Hhe said, 'Mother, don't worry, it's not the truth.' But I told him you don't know these wicked people, the people are just mean and wicked." Jackson, who was arrested Nov. 20 on suspicion of molesting a boy at his Neverland Ranch outside Santa Barbara, Calif., has denied the allegations. He was released on $3 million bail the same day and has not yet been charged. When asked whether they would try to adopt the two boys and a girl if that happens, Jackson's father Joe answered, "Well ... they're my grandkids. I have to."
George Clinton Files Innocent Plea
Funk musician George Clinton, who was arrested in Tallahassee, Fla., over the weekend and charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, filed an innocent plea to drug charges Thursday, The Associated Press reports. No trial date has been set. Police said Clinton was sitting in the passenger side of a car at a gas station when they approached him and told them he had cocaine in his pocket. He was arrested, charged and later released on $2,650 bail. Clinton headed the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic in the 1970s and 1980s and his 1983 solo album, Atomic Dog, rose to the top of the R&B charts.
It's "Sir" Mick Jagger Now
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger received Britain's ultimate accolade Friday when he was knighted by heir to the throne Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Reuters reports. Jagger, 60, rejected suggestions that he had sold out to the same establishment that he had scoffed at for so long: "I don't really think the establishment as we knew it exists any more," he said, tossing his head slightly. Jagger, who attended the ceremony with his 92-year-old father Joe and two of his daughters, showed his rebellious streak by shunning the traditional top hat and tails and opting instead for a long black leather coat, purple scarf and sports shoes.
Deschanel and Gyllenhaal Host Sundance Awards
Zooey Deschanel and Jake Gyllenhaal, who played discontented discount store employees in last year's The Good Girl, will team up again to co-host the Sundance Film Festival Awards on Jan. 24. Playing at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, which is scheduled for Jan. 15-25, are The Woodsman, starring husband-and-wife team Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, and We Don't Live Here Anymore with Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts. Another film selection is The Clearing, starring Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe and Robert Redford, the festival's founder.
Will & Grace Creators Sue NBC Companies
David Kohan and Jason "Max" Mutchnick, creators of the hit NBC comedy Will & Grace, sued the network and its in-house production company, NBC Studios, Thursday, claiming the companies conspired to keep them from their fair share of the show's earnings. According to Reuters, the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty by the NBC companies. Kohan and Mutchnick say the licensing terms for the show were "insufficient even to cover a reasonable percentage of the series' production costs" and accuse companies of deliberately undervaluing the sitcom in the deal by which the production company licensed the show to its sister network.
Pharrell To Launch Clothing Line
Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes announced Thursday the launch of two new apparel ventures in partnership with Reebok: Ice Cream, a collection of men's and women's footwear, and Billionaire Boys Club, a men's clothing collection. According to MTV.com, the lines will launch next summer and feature a select run of five or six items available only in high-end boutiques and better department stores. Pharrell's Billionaire Boys Club T-shirts made brief appearances his Frontin' video and onstage during recent shows by his band N.E.R.D. The line will offer T-shirts, athletic clothing, jeans and button-down shirts.
Luciano Pavarotti To Wed Longtime Girlfriend
Opera star Luciano Pavarotti will marry longtime partner Nicoletta Mantovani in his hometown Saturday, the AP reports. Guests will include U2 frontman Bono, Sting, fashion designer Donatella Versace and soccer star Alessandro Del Piero. Giorgio Armani is providing the wedding gowns for Mantovani and the couple's year-old daughter Alice. Pavarotti, 68, has three children from his marriage to former manager Adua Veroni.
Sting Honored by MusicCares
Tony Bennett, the Black Eyed Peas, Elvis Costello, Dido, Elton John, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Rufus Wainwright will perform at the 2004 MusiCares Person of the Year gala in honor of Sting, the AP reports. Sting, 52, is set to receive the honor at a special tribute dinner, concert and silent auction Feb. 6 in Los Angeles. The gala is part of a weeklong festival leading up to the Grammy Awards, which will be presented Feb. 8. He was selected for his accomplishments as a musician, humanitarian and environmental activist by MusiCares, which provides assistance to music people in times of need.
Role Call: Haven Draws Bruckner and Cannavale
Blue Car's Agnes Bruckner and