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 Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
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.
Top Story: Madonna's Label Tagged Unprofitable
As part of an ongoing feud between Madonna and Warner Music Group, unsealed court documents revealed that the singer's record label, Maverick Records--which handles not only the Material Girl but Alanis Morissette and Michelle Branch as well--has lost $66 million since 1999, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Last month, Maverick sued Warner Music for $200 million, claiming breach of contract and fraud, but Warner retaliated by filing a preemptive claim asking a judge to find that the company had fulfilled its commitment to Maverick. The latest documents show that in order for Maverick to get out of its joint venture with Warner Music, which is up at the end of the year, Maverick will have to pay $92.5 million, in addition to the value of Warner's interest in the label. The price tag includes the $66 million in losses, a $20 million loan and $6.5 million in unrecouped fees, the trade paper reports.
AIDS Scare Fuels Calif. Porn Film Probe
The recent HIV infection of two porn stars has prompted local health authorities to seek unprecedented inspections of California's multibillion-dollar adult film industry and press for mandatory condom use during sex scenes, officials told Reuters on Tuesday. A crackdown of this nature, however, will not necessarily lead to safer sex, industry representatives told Reuters. More than likely, it will drive away many of the adult film production houses that flourish in Southern California and employ some 6,000 people, including about 1,200 performers, and/or force them to go underground and away from mandatory HIV testing. "If there is a mandatory condom law put in place, these people will scatter and go underground and we will not be able to test them," Sharon Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare (AIM) Foundation told Reuters. "If you want to see an influx of disease that may affect the general population, then you put a mandatory condom law into effect…I've very concerned about government intervention in this respect."
Basinger Auctions Off Engagement Ring
Cha-ching! Actress Kim Basinger sold a 3.7-carat diamond engagement ring given to her by ex-husband Alec Baldwin to a Beverly Hills jewelry dealer for a hefty $59,750 at a benefit auction, Reuters reports. The Oscar-winning actress, a noted animal rights activist, auctioned the modern Tiffany & Co. ring and some other jewelry at Christie's to raise money for The Performing Animal Welfare Society.
Cannes Film Festival Announces Slate
The Coen brothers' comedy The Ladykillers will be among the 18 films competing for the Cannes Film Festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, The Associated Press reports. Others on the list include the Thai film Tropical Malady, the animated Shrek 2 and The Motorcycle Diaries by Brazilian Walter Salles. Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 2 will be among films shown outside of competition, and Tarantino will preside over the jury at this year's festival, which runs May 12-23.
Ex-Pogues Singer Attacked in London Pub
Shane MacGowan, the former lead singer of Irish rockers the Pogues, suffered facial injuries Monday after being assaulted by two men at a London pub, Reuters reports. London's The Evening Standard reported that MacGowan suffered a fractured cheekbone after being kicked, punched and hit with a metal bar. Police told Reuters they were not aware of any motive for the attack.
Scandal Strikes USA Today
One of USA Today's senior editors, Karen Jurgensen, handed in her resignation Tuesday in the wake of an investigation in which a former star reporter allegedly fabricated portions of major international stories, Reuters reports. Foreign correspondent Jack Kelley, who resigned from the paper Jan. 6, was found to have made up substantial portions of eight major stories from around the world, lifted material from other publications, lied in speeches given for the paper and conspired to mislead the team of senior journalists investigating his work, USA Today said.
Disney Tries To Jump-Start Struggling Network
In an effort to boost ABC's dismal numbers, parent company Walt Disney Co. has replaced the network's primetime programming chiefs and reorganized the television operations, Reuters reports. ABC cable networks group president Anne Sweeney and ESPN sports cable network president George Bodenheimer were named to newly created positions as co-chairs of the media networks unit that includes ESPN, ABC and Disney's cable operations. Disney president Bob Iger hopes the promotions will help ABC rise in the ranks, since falling to No. 4 in 2000 when Who Wants to be a Millionaire failed.
Kwame Is Sitting Pretty
Even though he may not have been chosen by Donald Trump as his Apprentice, that hasn't stopped The Apprentice runner-up Kwame Jackson from getting a rush of offers, AP reports. In a phone interview with AP, Jackson said he is weighing offers from another famous billionaire, Mark Cuban, as well as the KFC fast-food chain. He's also starting his own company. "[The Apprentice] was basically a chance to have NBC pay for a 15-episode Kwame commercial in a business environment," Jackson said. The ambitious businessman is starting an entertainment company, Legacy Communications Group, to produce films, video games and live events with a focus on concert series.
Starship Song Tops Worst Songs List
Blender magazine has named Starship's '80s rock song "We Built This City" as the worst song ever, AP reports. The magazine's "50 Worst Songs Ever!" list were were selected for their melodies, others "are wretchedly performed" and "quite a few don't make sense whatsoever," the magazine said. The list, which appears in the May issue, includes songs by New Kids on the Block, Meat Loaf, The Doors, Lionel Richie, Hammer and The Beach Boys, among others.
Role Call: Sonnenfeld's Heartbreak
Director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) is in negotiations to direct a remake of the 1972 comedy The Heartbreak Kid, which starred Charles Grodin and Cybill Shepherd, written by Neil Simon and directed by Elaine May. The story follows a man who hastily weds a local girl whom he thinks is perfect--until he falls in love with another girl during the honeymoon.
Mel Gibson's got a new movie in town and its called The Captain and the Shark. No, it's not a film about a wacky sea captain and his pet shark. It's the very real account of the USS Indianapolis, the WWII cruiser that covertly transported the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The ship was hit in 1945 by Japanese torpedoes and sank in the Pacific, but because the operation was so secretive, a rescue was delayed and many men died by shark attacks while waiting for one. We all remember the chilling account Robert Shaw's character Quint gave in Jaws about this very thing. Honestly, who thinks up these titles? Is there a collective hat somewhere? Gibson is in negotiations to star as Capt. Charles McVay, whom the Navy made a scapegoat for its mistakes, including ignoring distress signals. McVay was court-martialed and eventually committed suicide in 1968 but was recently exonerated by the Navy. Barry Levinson will direct the film for Warner Bros. So, you can see, this is serious stuff and has the makings of a great movie. But somehow, somewhere, a studio development exec will have to realize that this title has got to go.
Winona has a "Secret"
Lovely Winona Ryder will don a British accent once again in the British romantic comedy Lily and The Secret Planting, a follow-up feature for director Hettie Macdonald, who brought us Beautiful Thing in 1996. Ryder will play a young woman taking care of her mother who falls in love with an Australian working at the local plant nursery. There could be some interesting possibilities as far as leading men are concerned--there's Aussies Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger...maybe Russell Crowe. Yeah, right. Well, whoever stars opposite the actress, let's hope there's at least a little chemistry between them because Ryder hasn't shown much with her leading men lately. Autumn in New York with Richard Gere? Enough said. Production starts in London at the end of the month.
Soderbergh's "sex" lives on
Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh has decided to return to his roots. He will re-team with Miramax Films to bring us How to Survive a Hotel Room Fire, a sequel of sorts to his brilliant sex, lies and videotape. Yes, it's true. Soderbergh wants to revisit those dark, sexy and funny characters who fumble about, trying to figure out what to do with themselves--and I can't wait. There's not much yet on what the film is about or whether Graham (James Spader), Ann (Andie MacDowell), Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo) or John (Peter Gallagher) will return. But Soderbergh said in a statement, "I'm extremely happy to be working with Miramax on How to Survive a Hotel Room Fire because Harvey Weinstein and I have been apart too long and the film was always envisioned as the unofficial sequel to sex, lies and videotape." sex, you'll remember, basically started the American independent movement in 1989, putting the Sundance Film Festival and Miramax Films on the map and winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes. No pressure or anything, Steven. Promise. Soderbergh is currently in post-production on his eagerly awaited remake of Ocean's 11 and will most likely start on this soon after.
Actor Paul Walker is indeed Fast and Furious. Hot off his hit racing film, the young hunk seems to be sought after. First, there's the mob drama Wanna-Be I mentioned last week and now--SWAT. Forgive me for rolling my eyes once again, but do any of the studio development execs have a clue? It's apparent that whatever amount of action they can shove on the screen, the better, and a film about the Special Weapons and Tactics team seems just about right. This project, based on the 1970s cop series, has been long in development. The premise centers on a grizzled vet SWAT officer who is given a second chance to assemble a new SWAT team to protect a high-profile criminal. OK, now I get why it's taken so long. The project was originally an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, but has turned into a youth-oriented action movie. Don't feel too bad, Arnold, you really don't need another bad action movie under your belt.
Beam us up--again and again
Star Trek live and breathes once again--now in its 10th installment. The film, as yet untitled, will be directed by Stuart Baird (U.S. Marshals, Executive Decision) and will re-team Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and Brent Spiner as Data, for now. No word on whether any of the other cast members will join them. Veteran Rick Berman will produce for Paramount Pictures once again but the film has yet to be greenlighted. Wow, this is one franchise that certainly has enough legs to never get boring. Considered one of the most successful series in entertainment history, the Star Trek movies have grossed more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide and more than $5 billion from ancillaries such as merchandising and home video. Make it so, No. 1.
Banderas and Liu--the new Terminators?
How does a movie about two Terminator-like undercover agents who look like Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu sound? OK, I like both of them...I'm going with it. The good-looking stars are in negotiations to star in Ecks vs. Sever (another title for the annals), a futuristic tale about two undercover agents, Ecks (Banderas) and Sever (Liu), who apparently have robotic attributes. They think they are enemies but in reality share the same common enemy. What's that? A rusting agent? This one definitely sounds promising, all kidding aside, as its being described as Bad Boys meets The Professional. And Banderas and Liu have been together before in the 1999 Playing It to the Bone-but most of you won't remember that fact. I certainly didn't. Ecks vs. Sever is being produced by Chris Lee (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within) and marks the North American feature directorial debut of Thai filmmaker Kaos.
Ah, the blaxploitation craze rears its ugly head again. First there was John Singleton's Shaft, an updated version of the Richard Roundtree cult classic with Samuel L. Jackson and now, Dolemite, revamped for rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J and Dimension Films. In this modernized version, LL Cool J plays a hip entrepreneur who is sent to jail when drugs are found at his swinging nightclub. When released on parole, he finds out that his rival planted those drugs and has now taken over his club. Dolemite goes into revenge mode with the help of his three female friends, who manage to wipe the place up with their butt-kicking skills. Hmmm, a Charlie's Angels-esque quality. Maybe they could get the gals from Destiny's Child to do it. The original Dolemite, Rudy Ray Moore, who is now doing standup, will advise and play a role.