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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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.
Summer 2010 TV Preview: What to Watch
All right people, pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. “Lost” is over, and it’s never coming back. Ever. You’re all going to happy lives without “Lost.” The best part is – you’re never going to get as “Lost” as they did! Hooray for you! And even if you did, you have six seasons of knowledge under your belt on how to purify water and kill genetically engineered polar bears. You’re set.
You’re also set because there’s a bunch of other good shows you can start watching this summer. We've rounded up a few series we think are emblematic of the season, based on their addictive and dramatic qualities. Some are new shows that are fresher and cleaner than a poolside Mojito, while others are the oldies we know we'd gladly sacrifice a day on the beach to stay inside and catch up on what we've missed. Let's put it this way -- summer is cause for outdoor celebration. But when that inevitably rainy day (or twister) comes, you'll be good to go if you set your DVR to record any one of these bad boys.
The Bachelorette (ABC, May 24th, 9PM)
This year, “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka-reject and Facebook employee Ali Fedotowsky will fight her way through swarms of eligible suitors on horseback and in hot tubs to find her one true love in the show’s sixth season. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s often so blissfully entertaining because at home, you immediately recognize the concrete flaws in the personalities of these people, yet the Bachelor (or in this case Ali) seems reluctant to name the flaws and eliminate the person with them. It’s a lot of screaming, stupidly romantic phrases, and unnaturally pretty lighting. If you’re looking to make friends with your lady coworkers, watch this show and you’ll have loads to talk about. But if you don’t have a job, your mother’s right in telling you you have better things to do than wait to see which set of washboard abs Ali chooses.
Losing it with Jillian (NBC, June 1st, 10PM)
One of the hard-bodied trainers from “The Biggest Loser,” Jillian Michaels, will be traveling the country and shacking up with families in an attempt to get them to clean out their peanut butter-stocked pantries, improve their health and lose weight. If you’ve seen her on “The Biggest Loser,” you know she’s been branded as a firm believer in “tough love” by making contestants pull her across the floor of the gym or use her in place of a barbell. Usually the contestants lose the weight (because they’re afraid of her), but it’ll be interesting to see how well Jillian’s hard-bodied mantras will hold up when she becomes attached to the families she’ll be working with.
Hell’s Kitchen (FOX, June 1st)
Almost everyone loves a cooking show, for one of two reasons: they’re hungry, or because they’re amazed with how the chefs can withstand the pressure of a dining room consisting of 100+ hungry/angry/cheap people. Chefs teach us lessons in assessing demands and managing them, which is terribly exciting for those of us who aren’t day traders. But by the standards of food show aficionados, Gordon Ramsey is not a “chef.” He’s a killer on steroids who can wake up one random morning and realize he wants to run in a triathlon. He can also make grown, educated, and muscular men weep with embarrassment and insecurity, which makes him the most badass food professional on TV. And in his kitchen (aptly called “Hell’s Kitchen”), two teams compete in different cooking challenges in hopes of winning their own restaurant. It’s a battle of sliced fingers, undercooked pasta, a perpetually dissatisfied cook each week, and very few intact egos. Which, let’s face it, makes us feel better about ourselves.
True Blood (HBO, June 13th, 9PM)
Like vampires, but want to go without the teen angst and transforming werewolves of “Twilight”? You’re not alone. For two seasons now, many of us have been enjoying this vampire-crazed world we’re living in by watching this bloody, sexy, magnet of a show. Based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries novel series by Charlaine Harris, the show follows the relationships between vampires and humans in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. More specifically, the show explores the often push-and-pull, “Romeo and Juliet”-esque of a relationship between human Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Since this will be the show’s third season, you should consider watching the first two seasons in the next month or so but even if you don’t get around to that, tune in on June 13th to see what’s with all the hype about fangs.
Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami (E!, June 13th, 10PM)
I know what you’re thinking: didn’t Kourtney and Khloe already "take" Miami? Indeed they did, but apparently they didn’t do it right because they’ve gone back to the home of the beaches and bodies to film a second season of the show. I don’t care who you are (a graduate student in physics, a tax lawyer, or Donald Trump’s personal architect), watching these two Kardashians eat a mundane meal on a Sunday night is addicting and joyfully entertaining. Last season, they covered so much ground (with Khloe bringing a vial of cocaine to her radio personality job and getting married to Lamar Odom, and Kourtney dabbling in lesbianism and having a baby boy with her unfortunate boyfriend, Scott) that it’s hard to imagine where their long dark tresses will go during this stint in Miami. But this season of "Kourtney and Khloe" will undoubtedly have even more family drama. It remains to be seen, however, if the new men in the girls’ lives will make them realize that Miami isn’t necessarily theirs for the taking.
The Real L Word (Showtime, June 20th, 10PM)
“The Real L Word” (based on the idea of Showtime’s scripted show, “The L Word”) follows six high-profile lesbians living on the west coast as they live playful, yet hardworking lives. The preview makes it seem a little “Discovery Channel” from the way it peeks into the world of women who date women with such caution, like a camera crew would observe a pack of lions in an African plain. But that doesn’t mean people won’t watch it. In fact, people will watch it because it takes two great things and mashes them together: reality shows and lesbianism. Though not entirely new to reality tv (“Work Out” followed fitness trainer Jackie Warner as she ran her own gym and struggled to make things work with her girlfriend), the idea of a show about lesbians being lesbians is intriguing, and viewers are sure to get hooked after just one episode of gay bar hopping, shopping, and getting tattoos. Of course there isn’t much difference between how lesbians and non-lesbians live their lives, and the producers will have done their job if they can recognize that while still keeping the show’s premise intact.
(HBO, June 27th, 9PM)
Entourage has been hitting the mark for years now (six, to be exact), and again, if you’re not watching it, you might as well be living in the Mesozoic era, without any of your most expensive and enjoyable possessions. The show is the brainchild of Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson, with the premise of a young A-list celeb making it in Hollywood and bringing his childhood friends from Queens along on the journey. Entourage is big with the guys of the universe because it nails that “male camaraderie” thing that women hear a lot about but don’t seem to understand. So grab your summer girlfriend, plop her down on the couch with some Mallomars and in combination with a Venn diagram, explain to her the art of living by the “bros before hoes” mantra.
(HBO, July 25th, 10PM)
If you’re not watching “Mad Men,” you’re spitting on your mother’s history, not to mention all the time and effort your 8th grade history teacher spent teaching you about the 60s. This is one of the best shows on television right now, and I command you to stop thinking you’re too good for it, because you’re not. Revolving around an advertising agency on Madison Avenue, the show’s packed with tension, extramarital affairs, 10 AM glasses of rum and so many suits with handkerchiefs that you’ll wake up one morning at your local AT&T, demanding someone help you trade in your iPhone for a pack of Lucky Strikes. Of course, the good people at AT&T won’t help you on your quest, but it just proves how life changing this Matthew Weiner-created gem is. So grow a backbone and give this show a shot. I promise you won’t regret it. (That’s right! I INTERNET promised! Those are the most serious kind!)
(MTV, July 29th, 10PM)
You can’t enjoy summer without fist-pumps to house music and artificial tans, y’all! This reality show/documentary, about eight “people” living in a house on the Jersey shore nestled its way into our hearts and altered our existences last year when it premiered, like a fungus or a mutant strain of TB – but it’s like a form of TB that makes you stronger by killing you. This year, “The Situation,” Snooki, J-Woww, Sammi, Vinny, Pauly D, Angelina and Ronnie start wreaking their havoc on the beaches of Miami, but then they triumphantly return to their old stomping grounds in Seaside Heights. So even if you haven’t got any great trips lined up this summer and you’ll spend most of your time trying to cope with your boss’ outrageous opera playlists, you can still have a great summer if you check out the situation down at the shore. It only takes one episode to feel like you’ve got sand in your cracks and tequila in your eyes -- and it’ll sting so much you won’t even feel the need to go to the Hamptons for a weekend.
The Big C
(Showtime, August 16th, 10:30PM)
“The Big C” captured our interest a few months ago when we saw the trailer starring Laura Linney, Oliver Platt, and Gabourey Sidibe, and we found ourselves convinced this would be the show that dared to make cancer seem a little bit funny. Linney plays a suburban mom whose diagnosis of cancer makes her start living a life of excitement, humor, and doing exactly what she feels like doing. It looks like a very “grab life by the horns” type of show, which is nice because up until now our TV guides have largely been absent of them. But our intrigue with this show rests on the fact it seems to perfectly balance life’s comedy with life’s tragedy…which is why we have high hopes this first season is well received, and leads to a second, third, fourth and fifth.
Weeds (Showtime, August 16th, 10PM)
Even if your life is complicated, it’s not an iota as complicated as that of suburban pot dealer Nancy Botwin (sorry, but anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you to get in your pants). In the past five seasons of the show, we’ve seen her get tangled up with gangsters, mobsters, drive-bys, wildfires and nudie pictures hidden in old books -- not to mention crossing the Mexican border numerous times. It’s hard to imagine what other trouble she can get herself into because it seems like everything’s been done before, but once we dive head-on into the sixth season, we’re sure to watch in awe -- but not surprise -- as Nancy fearlessly continues to break laws and let her children find work for themselves in what has become the “family business.”
Major television stations around the globe continue to broadcast statements from Osama bin Laden despite White House warnings that they may contain encoded messages, Reuters reported. The U.S. administration has pointed out that bin Laden's message, which was channeled through the Arab satellite news station Al Jazeera, might be trying to tell his followers to launch new attacks in America. For now, stations such as ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC will make editorial judgments if more material comes their way, and will not broadcast them live.
A man sprayed a substance that police later said was a cleaning agent in a suburban Washington subway station Wednesday--this four days after ABC's Nightline aired a report on biological terrorism, The Associated Press reported. The report, which aired on Oct. 5, examined what might happen if terrorists released anthrax spores into a subway system. Since the show aired, viewers have sent in varied feedback: some are glad the issue was brought up, others worry that the show could provide a blueprint for terrorists.
Fox will run a special edition of I>America's Most Wanted: A Special Edition: Terrorists on Friday night, at President Bush's request. The White House and the FBI hope that the show will expose alleged global terrorists, Reuters reported. Fox's Television Entertainment Group chairman, Sandy Gurshow, was handed the daunting task of producing the episode within 48 hours. The show will feature a list of 22 "most wanted terrorists"; among them is Osama bin Laden.
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been diagnosed with auto-immune inner ear disease (AIED), which causes less than one percent of all cases of hearing loss, Reuters reported. He is being treated with medication and might undergo surgical treatment if needed. Physicians at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles believe the ailment is caused by the body's immune system attacking the inner ear and damaging the hearing nerve, but they are confident that with proper treatment Limbaugh will be able to retain some of his hearing.
After months of haggling over child support payments, rapper Eminem is now officially divorced. In the divorce decree issued on Friday, Macomb County Circuit Judge Donald G. Miller ordered Eminem to pay $1,000 a week in child support to his ex-wife Kim Mathers, the Detroit Free Press reported. Eminem, 28, and Mathers, 26, will share custody of their 5-year-old daughter Hailie.
British Star Wars devotees have claimed the fictional faith Jedi as their religion and forced it onto the 2002 national census, London's Daily Express reported. More than 10,000 fans sent out an e-mail campaign convincing the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to give Jedi its own code. In the films, the Jedi Knights are a noble order of protectors unified by their ability to tap into a universal power called "The Force."
Film directors Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Raising Arizona), are in negotiations to bring George Clooney and Julia Roberts together in the brothers' next black comedy, Intolerable Cruelty, Reuters reported. Clooney is in talks to play a Hollywood divorce lawyer who finds himself falling in love with his client's ex-wife. The Coen brothers are were brought into the project to rewrite the original script by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone; Ron Howard is attached to direct.
A federal judge has deferred a request made by record giants for a summary judgement regarding their lawsuit against Napster's copyright infringement, Reuters reported. Some of the issues addressed were the song-swapping service's ownership, misuse and misconduct under copyright law. In addition, the Recording Industry Association of America has urged companies similar to Napster, such as Music City's Morpheus, Kazaa and Aimster, to shut down.
A letter written from John Lennon to Paul and Linda McCartney about the breakup of the Beatles fell short of its $95,700 reserve asking price at Christie's, the British auction house. The six-page draft, filled with spelling mistakes, deletions and expletives, was finally sold for $88,330 on Oct. 10 after it failed to sell last week. "There was a lot of interest in the letter but you can never guarantee it will sell,'' a spokeswoman for the auction house told Reuters.
Christopher Reeve has accepted $2 million in federal funds to establish The Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center in Short Hills, N.J., according to AP. The center will include a library, a Web site and referral services for the more than 2 million Americans who are paralyzed.
The Walt Disney Company said Wednesday that its new Platinum Collection DVD of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sold 1 million units in its first day on retail shelves, Reuters reported. Disney has decided to keep its most 10 lucrative movies, including Snow White, Cinderella and The Lion King, off video shelves, saving them for limited-time re-release as special DVDs.