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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
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.
I stared at this poster for Rise of the Planet of the Apes for a few solid minutes to really try and figure out what was going on with this monkey. What's he all about? What's his angle? What will come of this rise? The trailer for the upcoming movie actually makes it look like a pretty interesting and cerebral film. And if you like James Franco, John Lithgow and Brian Cox—and really, what kind of person would you be if you didn't?—then you're in for what seems to be a good movie.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Top Story: Downey Jr. Ends Marriage
Actor Robert Downey Jr. and his estranged wife, actress-model Deborah Falconer, have officially called it quits after 12 years, Reuters reports. The couple, who have been separated for eight years, filed divorce papers this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, publicist Alan Nierob said. "This is more or less just a formality," he told Reuters. Downey, 39, and Falconer were wed in 1992 after a 42-day courtship. Their 10-year-old son, Indio, will continue to live with his mother, but Downey "remains very involved in the upbringing of his son," Nierob said.
Gay Harden Gives Birth to Twins
Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden and her husband, Thaddaeus Scheel, welcomed twins--a boy, Hudson Harden Scheel, and a girl, Julitta Dee Harden Scheel--last Thursday in Los Angeles, The Associated Press reports. "Everyone is doing fine," Harden's publicist Carri McClure told AP. "They're not getting a lot of sleep, but everyone is doing well." The couple also have a 5-year-old daughter, Eulala Grace.
Joel Expected To Pay for Damages
A 93-year-old woman whose house singer Billy Joel slammed into over the weekend expects the singer/songwriter to pay for repairs, AP reports. Maria Dono of Bayville, New York, returned from a shopping trip Sunday afternoon to discover the accident and told the New York Post, "He hit my bushes and the wall. He'd better come fix it. I'm sure he has money." Claire Mercuri, a spokeswoman for Joel, said the Joel's "main concern" was to repair the damage. "He's taken immediate steps to make sure it's repaired as quickly as possible," Mercuri told the Post. Joel apparently skidded on the wet road and hit Dono's house, with no evidence of alcohol or drug involvement.
Elton John Calls Idol Racist
Elton John thinks American Idol's voting system by the national viewing audience may be "incredibly racist," Reuters reports. John, who was a guest judge on the hit show a few weeks ago, was among the many who voiced their shock at the dismissal of talented contestant Jennifer Hudson last week. "The three people I was really impressed with, and they just happened to be black, young female singers, and they all seem to be landing in the bottom three," said John, commenting on the tally in which the lowest vote-getter is eliminated. "They have great voices. The fact that they're constantly in the bottom three--and I don't want to set myself up here--but I find it incredibly racist," John said at a news conference promoting his Radio City Music Hall concert. The other two singers grouped in the bottom three of the seven remaining American Idol finalists last week were divas La Toya London and Fantasia Barrino. Black singer Ruben Studdard won the title last year.
Crowe Helps Out Fire-Bombed School
Upon learning of a Jewish elementary school bombing earlier this month in Montreal, Russell Crowe immediately offered aid to the school, Reuters reports. "He said he was very upset about what had happened that a place of learning should be attacked that way," Shelley Paris, a spokeswoman for the United Talmud Torahs elementary school told Reuters. The Oscar-winning actor, on location in Toronto filming Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, made a donation to help rebuild the school's library. Police said a note with anti-Semitic comments was found on the outside wall of the gutted library after the bombing.
Mohamed Al Fayed Rails Against CBS
Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed, who was killed with Princess Diana in the fateful 1997 car crash, has filed suit against CBS for emotional distress, Reuters reports, citing the network's broadcast last week which showed a photo of Diana as she lay dying. Fayed's lawyer Fred Gaines said on Tuesday that a lawsuit claiming invasion of privacy and emotional distress was filed in Los Angeles late last week. Although no pictures of Dodi were shown, Fayed had been concerned that CBS also planned to show pictures of his son dying. The CBS program examined the number of conspiracy theories in the princess' death, put forward principally by Fayed, including his belief Diana and Dodi were murdered because their relationship was an embarrassment to the British royal family.
Comcast Isn't Buying Disney Out
Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company, withdrew its unsolicited $48.4 billion to buy Walt Disney Co. Wednesday, after the Mouse House refused to open negotiations, Reuters reports. "Unfortunately it has become abundantly clear that Disney does not share our interests," Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts told Reuters on a conference call. "I am very comfortable with our decision to withdraw even though it is not the outcome I had hoped for." Speculating where Comcast may set its sights on next, Reuters reports Roberts gave investors a hint when he said he expected Comcast to take a serious look at Adelphia, the bankrupt cable company that recently announced it was seeking a buyer.
CBS Continues to Lead the Pack
Despite some strong showings from NBC's Friends and Fox's American Idol, CBS still came out on top in total viewership as the television season winds to an end, AP reports. CBS had 11.7 million viewers followed by NBC (11 million), Fox (8.8 million), ABC (7.1 million), the WB (3.4 million) and UPN (2.8 million). For the week of April 18-25, the top 10 shows included: American Idol (Tuesday), Fox; Friends, NBC; American Idol (Wednesday) Fox; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS; CSI: Miami, CBS; Survivor: All-Stars, CBS; Friends, NBC; ER, NBC; Law & Order, NBC; Will & Grace, NBC.
Role Call: Theron's Jinxed
Charlize Theron is in negotiations to star in and produce Jinx, a film based on the comic book of the same name. The comic book centers on a bounty hunter who must learn to trust a wanted criminal so they can team up to find millions of dollars of abandoned mob money in order to start a new life together. Brian Michael Bendis, who spent two and half years writing and illustrating the comic, will adapt his own work for Universal Pictures. "This is not the traditional comic book movie, which tends to be more about concept," Bendis told the Hollywood Reporter. "This is a crime novel that is illustrated so you're more interested in the voice of it."