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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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
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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Forget actors for once. Sunday night marked the night of awards season when we got to focus on the best musical artists of the year. That's right — it was the 55th annual Grammy Awards! And it was one hell of a show. From Adele to Mumford & Sons to Frank Ocean, the best of the best in the industry walked away with awards.
Check out the full list of winners below!
RELATED: Kim Kashkashian Wins A Grammy?!
Winners Announced Live:
1. Best Pop Solo Performance: "Set Fire To The Rain [Live]," Track from: Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Adele
2. Best Country Solo Performance: "Blown Away," Track from: Blown Away, Carrie Underwood
3. Song Of The Year: "We Are Young," Track from: Some Nights, Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost, and Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe)
4. Best Urban Contemporary Album: Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
5. Best Rock Performance: "Lonely Boy," Track from: El Camino, The Black Keys
6. Best Pop Vocal Album: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
7. Best Rap/Sung Collabortion: "No Church In The Wild," Track from: Watch The Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West Featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream
8. Best Country Album: Uncaged, Zac Brown Band
9. Best New Artist: fun.
10. Record Of The Year: "Somebody That I Used To Know," Track from: Making Mirrors, Gotye Featuring Kimbra
11. Album Of The Year: Babel, Mumford & Sons
1. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Gotye Featuring Kimbra, Track from: Making Mirrors
2. Best Pop Instrumental Album: Impressions, Chris Botti
3. Best Dance Recording: "Bangarang," Track from: Bangarang, Skrillrex Featuring Sirah
4. Best Dance/Electric Album: Bangarang, Skrillex
5. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Kisses On The Bottom, Paul McCartney
6. Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance: "Love Bites (So Do I)," Track from: The Strange Case Of..., Halestorm
7. Best Rock Song: "Lonely Boy," Track from: El Camino, Dan Auerbach, Brian Burton, and Patrick Carney, songwriters (The Black Keys)
8. Best Rock Album: El Camino, The Black Keys
9. Best Alternative Music Album: Making Mirrors, Gotye
10. Best R&B Performance: "Climax," Track from: Looking 4 Myself, Usher
11. Best Traditional R&B Performance: "Love On Top," Track from: 4, Beyonce
12. Best R&B Song: "Adorn," Miguel Pimentel
13. Best R&B Album: Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment
14. Best Rap Performance: "N****s In Paris," Track from: Watch The Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West
15. Best Rap Song: "N****s In Paris," Track from: Watch The Throne, Shawn Carter, Mike Dean, Chauncey Hollis, and Kanye West, songwriters (W.A. Donaldson, songwriter) (Jay-Z & Kanye West)
16. Best Rap Album: Take Care, Drake
17. Best Country Duo/Group Performance: "Pontoon," Little Big Town
18. Best Country Song: "Blown Away," Blown Away, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins, songwriters (Carrie Underwood)
19. Best New Age Album: Echoes Of Love, Omar Akram
20. Best Improvised Jazz Solo: "Hot House," Track from: Hot House, Gary Burton and Chick Corea
21. Best Jazz Vocal Album: Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding
22. Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Unity Band, Pat Metheny Unity Band
23. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Dear Diz (Everyday I Think Of You), Arturo Sandoval
24. Best Latin Jazz Album: ¡Ritmo!, The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band
25. Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance: "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord," Track from: 10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman
26. Best Gospel Song: "Go Get It," Erica Campbell, Tina Campbell, and Warryn Campbell, songwriters (Mary Mary)
27. Best Contemporary Christian Music Song: "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)," Track from: 10,000 Reasons, Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman, songwriters (Matt Redman)
28. Best Gospel Album: Gravity, Lecrae
29. Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: Eye On It, TobyMac
30. Best Latin Pop Album: MTV Unplugged Deluxe Edition, Juanes
31. Best Latin Album, Urban Or Alternative Album: Imaginaries, Quetzal
32. Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano): Pecados Y Milagros, Lila Downs
33. Best Tropical Latin Album: Retro, Marlow Rosado Y La Riquena
34. Best Americana Album: Slipstream, Bonnie Raitt
35. Best Bluegrass Album: Nobody Knows You, Steep Canyon Rangers
36. Best Blues Album: Locked Down, Dr. John
37. Best Folk Album: The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile
38. Best Regional Roots Music Album: The Band Courtbouillon, Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, and Wilson Savoy
39. Best Reggae Album: Rebirth, Jimmy Cliff
40. Best World Music Album: The Living Room Sessions Part 1, Ravi Shankar
41. Best Children's Album: Can You Canoe?, The Okee Dokee Brothers
42. Best Spoken World Album: Society's Child: My Autobiography, Janis Ian
43. Best Comedy Album: Blow Your Pants Off, Jimmy Fallon
44. Best Musical Theater Album: Once: A New Musical, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, principal soloists; Steven Epstein and Martin Lowe, producers (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, composers/lyricists) (Original Broadway Cast With Steve Kazee, Cristin Milioti, and Others)
45. Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media: Midnight In Paris, Various Artists
46. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, composers
47. Best Song Written For Visual Media: Safe & Sound (From The Hunger Games), T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, John Paul White, and Joy Williams, songwriters (Taylor Swift Featuring The Civil Wars)
48. Best Instrumental Composition: "Mozart Goes Dancing," Track from: Hot House, Chick Corea
49. Best Instrumental Arrangement: "How About You," Track from: Centennial - Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans, Gil Evans, arranger (Gil Evans Project)
50. Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): "City Of Roses," Track from: Radio Music Society, Thara Memory and Esperanza Spalding, arrangers (Esperanza Spalding)
51. Best Recording Package: Biophilia, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak, art directors (Björk)
52. Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package: Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, Fritz Klaetke, art director (Woody Guthrie)
53. Best Album Notes: Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, Billy Vera, album notes writer (Ray Charles)
54. Best Historical Album: The Smile Sessions (Deluxe Box Set), Alan Boyd, Mark Linett, Brian Wilson, and Dennis Wolfe, compilation producers; Mark Linett, mastering engineer (The Beach Boys)
55. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical: The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Richard King, engineer; Richard King, mastering engineer (Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile)
56. Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical: Dan Auerbach, El Camino (The Black Keys), Locked Down (Dr. John), Savage (Hacienda), Shakedown (Hacienda)
57. Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "Promises (Skrillex & Nero Remix)," Skrillex, remixer (Nero), Joseph Ray, Skrillex, and Daniel Stephens, remixers
58. Best Surround Soung Album: Modern Cool, Jim Anderson, surround mix engineer; Darcy Proper, surround mastering engineer; Michael Friedman, surround producer (Patricia Barber)
59. Best Engineered Album, Classical: Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen, Tom Caulfield and John Newton, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Charles Bruffy and Kansas City Chorale)
60. Producer Of The Year: Blanton Alspaugh, Chamber Symphonies (Gregory Wolynec & Gateway Chamber Orchestra), Davis: Río De Sangre (Joseph Rescigno, Vale Rideout, Ava Pine, John Duykers, Kerry Walsh, Guido LeBron, The Florentine Opera Company & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra), Gjeilo: Northern Lights (Charles Bruffy & Phoenix Chorale), In Paradisum (Brian A. Schmidt & South Dakota Chorale), Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen (Charles Bruffy & Kansas City Chorale), Music For A Time Of War (Carlos Kalmar & The Oregon Symphony, Musto: The Inspector (Glen Cortese & Wolf Trap Opera Company)
61. Best Orchestral Performance: "Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine," Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
62. Best Opera Recording: "Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen," James Levine and Fabio Luisi, conductors; Hans-Peter König, Jay Hunter Morris, Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
63. Best Choral Performance: "Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen," Charles Bruffy, conductor (Matthew Gladden, Lindsey Lang, Rebecca Lloyd, Sarah Tannehill, and Pamela Williamson; Kansas City Chorale)
64. Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: "Meanwhile," Eighth Blackbird
65. Best Classical Instrumental Solo: "Kurtág & Ligeti: Music For Viola," Kim Kashkashian
66. Best Classical Vocal Solo: "Poèmes," Renée Fleming (Alan Gilbert and Seiji Ozawa; Orchestre National De France & Orchestre Philharmonique De Radio France)
67. Best Classical Compendium: "Penderecki: Fonogrammi; Horn Concerto; Partita; The Awakening Of Jacob; Anaklasis," Antoni Wit, conductor; Aleksandra Nagórko and Andrzej Sasin, producers
68. Best Contemporary Classical Composition: "Hartke, Stephen: Meanwhile - Incidental Music To Imaginary Puppet Plays," Track from: Meanwhile, Stephen Hartke, composer (Eighth Blackbird)
69. Best Short Form Music Video: "We Found Love," Rihanna Featuring Calvin Harris
70. Best Long Form Music Video: "Big Easy Express," Mumford & Sons
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]
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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.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.