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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Taken 2 has one of the most glorious moments of ends-justify-the-means logic ever committed to film (beware if you're worried about minor spoilers): after being "taken" by a group of baddies (as we see happen in the film's adrenaline-pumping trailer), Liam Neeson's character Bryan Mills manages to phone his daughter — his last hope for survival. Since he has "a certain set of skills," Mills is able to track his location while blindfolded. All he needs to do is get his daughter there. To do that, he has her throw grenades out the city's hotel window so he sense the distance based on sound.
Throw grenades. Out her window.
The dangerous solution results in a fair share of collateral damage (and we won't dare divulge how the plan works out), but it does stand as at truly reckless act of action heroism. That's pretty much the norm when you're a badass trying to save the day. Not every plan is perfect — it just has to work.
Here are a few destructive moments that, when you think about it, don't seem entirely conscientious.
Die Hard with a Vengeance: Driving Through Central Park
With only half an hour to stop a subway bomb from going off and 90 blocks to travel, John McClane (Bruce Willis) takes an off-road approach to traversing the busy streets of New York. As in, he opts not to use them. Traveling through Central Park in a taxi cab isn't a bad plan for jetting downtown, but it's important to note there are roads that run through the park. McClane decides to avoid those too, remembering that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Even if people are standing on that straight line.
Mission: Impossible: Red Light, Green Light
A casual dinner turns into an intimate game of cat and mouse when Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) confronts IMF director Eugene Kittridge after a botched mission to retrieve a NOC list. Kittridge believes Hunt orchestrated the death of his teammates. Hunt knows he's innocent, and needs to escape incarceration in order to prove it. To get out of the sticky situation, Hunt blows his way out of the situation with an explosive stick of chewing gum and an enormous fish tank. The indoor wave works, wiping out Kittridge… and everyone else in the room.
Commando: Cindy Frees John with Rocket Launcher
In a hope of saving the imprisoned John (Arnold Schwarzenegger), flight attendant Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) unloads a round from a rocket launcher. One would think that a rocket launcher would still kill a massive guy like John, but that's not even the biggest problem: Cindy picks up the weapon and fires it in the wrong direction, accidentally blowing up a building behind her.
Independence Day: The Destruction of the Final Ship
"We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on, we're going to survive. Today we celebrate our independence day!" President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) delivers this rousing speech before the final battle of Independence Day, which thankfully leads to the outright destruction of the alien invaders. What they don't really think through: what happens when you shoot down city-size alien vessels? They come crashing down! Into you!
Casino Royale: The Construction Yard Chase
James Bond has found himself in plenty of set piece-friendly scenarios, but not as catastrophic to unsuspecting pedestrians as his foot chase across an industrial compound in Madagascar. Actually, if it was just a foot chase, it might not have a problem, but in order to stop the fleeing parkour enthusiast Mollaka from escaping, Bond (Daniel Craig) drives a loader straight into the incomplete high rise, sending a cloud of smoke and shrapnel flying every which way.
The Bourne Franchise: Everything
Over the three-film journey to discover his identity and uncover the mystery of Treadstone, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) runs and guns his way through hordes of modern G-men. He also destroys plenty of commoner possessions, ranging from cars, to apartments (thanks for bursting through my window, Jason!), to commercial properties. What happened to the good old days when super spies were beating the crap out of each other in secret island lairs where regular joes remained unaffected? With Bourne, it's all about the human shield.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Last night, the 21st Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards aired, celebrating 2011's greatest achievements in the world of indie cinema.
Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick) / Beginners (dir. Mike Mills)
Nominees: The Descendants (dir. Alexander Payne), Meek's Cutoff (dir. Kelly Reichardt), Take Shelter (dir. Jeff Nichols)
Winner: Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)
Nominees: Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Harmony Santana (Gun Hill Road), Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Jacob Wysocki (Terri)
Winner: Dee Rees (Pariah)
Nominees: Mike Cahill (Another Earth), Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground), Evan Glodell (Bellflower)
BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
Nominees: The Descendants, Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Take Shelter
Girlfriend (dir. Justin Lerner)
Nominees: Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey (dir. Constance Marks), Buck (dir. Cindy Meehl), The First Grader (dir. Justin Chadwick), Wild Horse, Wild Ride (dir. Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus)
Better This World (dir. Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega)
Nominees: Bill Cunningham New York (dir. Richard Press), Hell and Back Again (dir. Danfung Dennis), The Interrupters (dir. Steve James), The Woodmans (dir. C. Scott Willis)
BEST FILM NOT PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU
Scenes of a Crime (dir. Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock)
Nominees: Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (dir. Madeleine Olnek), Green (dir. Sophia Takal), The Redemption of General Butt Naked (Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion), Without (dir. Mark Jackson)
Comedian Robin Williams is going back to his roots--and HBO has got him. He will be taking the stage for the first time in 15 years with a live comedy special, Robin Williams: Live on Broadway. It will air July 14 at 9 p.m.
Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton will soon be able to bring home their adoptive Cambodian son. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has cleared 18 Cambodian children for American families, including the star couple's 9-month-old son, Maddox.
Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton is all grown up--and sexier than ever, according to Vanity Fair. In its June issue, the magazine calls Clinton the "new J.F.K. Jr.," Reuters reports, as she continues her studies at England's Oxford University and flaunts a new boyfriend, Ian Klaus, a fellow U.S. student at Oxford.
Bruce Willis is such a nice dad. He decided to buy 12,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies on the advice of his youngest daughter, Tallulah, 8, and sent them to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, his publicist told Reuters. He paid the full price of $36,000. That's a lot of Thin Mints.
Lucy Lawless, the former Xena: Warrior Princess, had a real-life adventure of her own Tuesday. She gave birth to a son, Judah Miro Tapert, in her home in New Zealand. The baby weighed in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces, The Associated Press reported. She and husband Robert G. Tapert, executive producer of the now defunct Xena, also have a 2-year-old son, and Lawless has a 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
Handsome rocker Jon Bon Jovi is a dad again, as well. His wife, Dorothea, gave birth to a son, Jacob, Tuesday in New Jersey, bringing the count in the Bon Jovi household to five. The couple also has a daughter, 9, and a son, 7.
Ethan Hawke's second novel, Ash Wednesday, will be released in September. The book revolves around a soldier who bolts from the Army to be with his pregnant lover. Hawke's first novel, The Hottest State, was released in 1997.
In the Biz
Wanna see Leatherface again? Sure you do. Well, you'll get to because New Line Cinema and music video director Marcus Nispel have decided to reconceptualize the Tobe Hooper classic horror flick The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for a brand-new feature film release. Shooting starts in July.
Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have bought the rights to make movies based on the archival material published in Playboy over the last 48 years. Since the magazine's first issue in 1953, it has printed short stories from such authors as Ray Bradbury, John Irving and Larry McMurtry. Sure, that's why guys buy the magazine--for the articles.
Jamie Foxx will be portraying Ray Charles in the feature film Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film will follow the musician's life from growing up in Georgia to his rise in the music industry.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Sylvester Stallone has created and produced a TV series about a hip Catholic priest, Father Lefty, which is currently being considered by CBS for its fall lineup. With the current rash of sexual misconduct allegations against Catholic priests, Stallone's timing is perfect.
Boy George is back--and better than ever! He made his stage debut in the musical Taboo, a tale about George's own group, Culture Club, and its short reign during the '80s. George plays performance artist Leigh Bowery in the musical.
The New York Drama Critics' Circle named Edward Albee's provocative play The Goat the best of the year. The group also gave Elaine Stritch a special award for her autobiographical one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty.
Makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin, who worked on such famous faces as Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears and Julia Roberts, died Tuesday from complications of a metabolic disorder. He was 40.