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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You're probably watching the Grammys to see Rihanna strut around in a sequined bustier or Mumford & Sons strum along in their flannel shirts — and fans of one don't necessarily know who the heck the other is. So don't sound like a jerk who hates fun (or fun.) by yelling, "Who the hell is that? I don't even know who that person is!" when some band you don't recognizecomes on stage; I'm here to tell you who is who and why you should care. You're welcome.
Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert
Who They Are: Dierks Bentley is a sort of hot blond guy who has won a bunch of CMA awards but has never won a Grammy. Miranda Lambert is a sort of hot blonde lady who was first on the reality show Nashville Star but now has become an actual a Nashville star. She has an album called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that is somehow not about Taylor Swift. She is married to Blake Shelton, a revolving chair salesman who works on NBC's The Voice. Bentley and Lambert are currently on tour together, so their joint performance is something of a commecial.
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The Black Keys
Who They Are: After years of working the indie circuit harder than Lindsay Lohan works her assistants, the Black Keys produced a breakthrough album in 2010 and won three Grammys. The two core members, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, look like they're from Brooklyn, but they're really from Akron. Go figure. Their 2011 album El Camino was also a big smash thanks to the band's hard-driving but easily accessible sound.
Who Is She: You might remember her from winning the first season of American Idol or from, you know, the 7 quadrillion hits she has had since then, like "Since U Been Gone," "My Life Would Suck Without You," and "Stronger." She sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at Obama's inauguration last month and definitely did not lip sync.
Who They Are: One hit wonder or the next big thing? Who knows. We're going to have to figure that out once we get "We Are Young" out of our heads — it's been lodged somewhere near our cerebellum for like a year, ever since hearing it in every single bar in the whole universe. But FunPeriod will not be singing it at the Grammys (hello, that's what a one-hit wonder does). Maybe they should do a duet with Carly Rae Jepson. Haha. Just kidding. Oh and Lena Dunham dates fun.'s guitarist.
Elton John and Ed Sheeran
Who They Are: If I have to tell you who Elton John is, I'm going to get Benny and the Jetts to come crocodile rock your ass and they will not be feeling the love tonight. Hell no. John has been a huge champion of Sheeran, another British singer/songwriter who has been getting tons of attention lately. He did a song with Taylor Swift and is opening for her on her current tour. He wrote a bunch of songs for teen dreams One Direction. He is a ginger and does charity work to get hookers off the street, so he's gotta be kinda cool.
Who He Is: This 22-year-old dream machine is like the Justin Bieber of the torch and twang set. This is his first album and he's had a few hits and is up for the Milli Vanilli Best New Artist Grammy. He likes planes and is from Louisiana. If there is a teenage girl in your home, there will be lots of screeching when he comes on stage. You have been warned.
Who They Are: You know how all the hip music these days sounds like a bunch of guys wearing faux-vintage work clothes sitting in a Cracker Barrel churning out tunes on washboards like it's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas or something? Well, that's The Lumineers. They have a cello. They might win Best New Artist and then everyone in American will be like, "Huh?" and the folks at The Jim Henson Company will get that otter muppet out of storage and that will be the end of it all.
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Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys
Genre: Rock and Piano
Who They Are: Maroon 5 is fronted by Adam Levine, the reanimated ghost of Mick Jagger who recently attempted to break into acting, as they say, by appearking on American Horror Story. Alicia Keys is from a concrete jungle where dreams are made of and no one teaches grammer. She was in cinematic classics The Secret Life of Bees and Smokin' Aces. Do these people even make music? Why are they at the Grammys?
Bruno Mars, Rihanna, and Sting
Genre: Crazy, Pop, and Things Your Mom Listens to While Drinking Wine
Who They Are: OK, this is sort of like having a bacon and banana burrito. These things just do not seem to go together at all, which is either totally stupid or totally genius. We'll have to see. Bruno Mars sings that "Just the Way You Are" song you've heard in the CVS and on Glee, Rihanna is the best pop diva next to Beyoncé (even though she dates the loathesome Chris Brown), and Sting used to be in a band called The Police which sang the most popular song of all time but now just has tantric sex and sings songs that sound like glasses of chablis.
Miguel and Wiz Khalifa
Genre: R&B, Hip-Hop
Who They Are: Miguel, a difficult name to have in the Google age, is an R&B singer whose first album was a bit of a sleeper hit but whose recent eclectic croony album is doing much better. Wiz Khalifa is a rapper. You've probably heard his song "Black and Yellow" but attributed it to Kanye West instead. They're going to be performing together on Miguel's single "Adorned," which is below.
Mumford & Sons
Who They Are: No, this is not where you get your car repaired. Mumford & Sons is a band with a mandolin that sounds like it's from the deepest darkest mountains of Missouri (but they're really from England). Or maybe they sound more like the language of Zooey Deschanel's dreams. They lost six Grammys in 2011 and 2012 and they are nominated for as many this year for their second album Babel, which everyone you probably know already owns. Where have you been?!
Who He Is: A member of the buzzy (and crazy) hip-hop collective Odd Future, Frank Ocean ghost wrote songs for a bunch of artist (like Justin Bieber) before launching his own album. Right before it dropped, he came out of the closet on his website and was launched into at torrent of media coverage. All the critics love his album even though his songs have fewer hooks than a desolated brothel. He has since been punched in the face by Chris Brown. He's up for six Grammys, including Best New Artist.
Who She Is: Taylor Swift is America's premiere author of blind items masquerading as songs. She's a young pop-country princess who writes her own music (commendable) mostly about her failed love life (not so commendable) with a string of famous boyfriends that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner, and one of the Kennedy clan. At the time, she bought a summer home across the street from the Kennedys so she could be close to them. Yeah, she's a little bit nuts, but the kids love her.
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Who He Is: He brought sexy back. Then got a movie career.
Who She Is: After Kelly Clarkson, she is the second American Idol winner on this list (and one of only four female winners on the show). She is now a gigantic superstar and if you haven't heard of her, you need to go to Wal-Mart more often (please pick me up some place mats). She might even be bigger than Clarkson for songs like "Inside Your Heaven." She has been nominated for five Grammys and never won one.
Who He Is: Jack White has been in more rock bands than apples have been in pies. He started with the White Stripes and moved on to The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. He also has released solo albums and produced records for everyone from Beck and Bob Dylan to Insane Klown Posse and Loretta Lynn. He is nominated for a Grammy for Most Going On in the Whole World.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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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.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
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.
Jacoby passed away in New York last month (Oct10) after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Initially an artist, he began writing jokes after moving to the Big Apple and went on to pen comedy for Bob Hope and Fred Allen.
He worked extensively for Jackie Gleason and Art Carney with writing partner Arnie Rosen. He also contributed to The Phil Silvers Show.
Jacoby, who married twice, is survived by one daughter.