ABC Television Network
Something is off about ABC’s new drama Black Box. By day, Dr. Katherine Black (Kelly Reilly) is an accomplished neuroscientist. But by night she rides the high of her manic-depressive episodes and goes on hypersexual binges or dances to music only she can hear. This honestly sounds like a pitch meeting in an episode of Family Guy or an after-hours movie on Cinemax. Mental illness is a serious issue, and the way the show is handling it so far does not bode too well. Filling the void left by Scandal, this series could portray a strong woman and her heartfelt and gut-wrenching journey in and out of psychosis. Instead, it feels like a lost television show inspired by the artistic masterpiece that is Showgirls.
The story is wrought with plot holes. We see Katherine in the middle of a session with her therapist, played by Vanessa Redgrave. They handle all the exposition and we learn she’s top of her field, has a fiancé, and is also prone to hypersexuality, mania, delusions of grandeur, and hallucinations when not on her meds. In one episode, she delivers a sloppy speech to colleagues, goes home with a cab driver, gets robbed, and nearly falls to her death. Not only is she a medical professional with an illness that could cause her to hurt others, but her therapist, is legally obligated to report her if she is at risk of hurting herself or others. All this happens in the first 15 minutes. The rest of the series degrades into part medical drama — she corrects an erroneous schizophrenia diagnosis and schedules surgery… in the middle of the night… at a private practice — and part soap opera, as she reveals a daughter/niece and a sexual tension with a douchey neurosurgeon.
One challenge the show has is Reilly. Although she gave a great performance in Flight, resting a series that explores the good, the bad, the sexy, and the icky about mental illness on this actress might be a tall order. The series calls to mind Eli Stone and Ally McBeal by showing the protagonist's auditory and visual hallucinations. Reilly’s accent is a challenge. She’s chosen a sexy baby voice rather than one of an authoritative doctor. Being able to sound cogent and together while in the throes of a mental health meltdown seem to be a prerequisite. She doesn’t deliver the range of wide personality shifts associated with true manic-depressive episodes. Costar Laura Fraser, for example, does a much better job at portraying an American and having sides to her personality… and she’s only in a few minutes of the show.
But it’s not all Reilly’s fault. Her character isn’t the strong woman you’d expect to be a neuroscience wunderkind that would inspire a therapist to risk her job. She calls herself a “b**ch,” spends more time focused on her relationship than her health, and stops taking her meds for the hell of it. It doesn’t have the same take on self destructive behavior as a show like Nurse Jackie that captures both sides of the coin.
The show deserves some props for making the attempt to explore mental illness, though. People are familiar with the manic-depression but rarely see the reality of it. This series tries to cinematically manufacture mania with frenetic sexy moments, show her hallucinations through special effects, and even provides the jazzy soundtrack for the music in her head. It’s a tough sell. Mental, a failed Fox drama, tried to replicate House but with psychological issues. Shameless has two main characters, Ian and Monica, who are manic-depressive. Both of those series succeeded in provided the proper brevity and reverence for mental illnesses. A manic episode may send someone into an erotic episode but the gratuitous sex seems to trivialize the disease in the way that cursing and tic jokes do to Tourette’s syndrome.
Puns aside, Black Box deserves at least a second glance but it does have an uphill battle. Riding the line between series medical drama and campy sex opera is a tough sell. Luckily, if it goes the way of mid-season replacements Scandal will be back in a few months.
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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There is something about The Nut Job that will appeal to the old school cartoon lover — the Bugs Bunny aficionado who revels in the ne'er-do-well antics of scrappy anti-heroes, who appreciates the comic sensibilities of bumbling crooks, who likes watching woodland creatures and doofy humans get konked in the head time after time after time. But where Bugs Bunny cartoons always succeeded was in their wit, a department in which The Nut Job is severely lacking. Just under an hour and a half long, The Nut Job has a minute's worth of genuine laughs, favoring the ostensible charms of goofiness over actual funniness.
Usually, when a children's cartoon lacks good humor, it makes up for it (or tries to) with warmth. Here, The Nut Job is also lacking... not entirely devoid, but lacking. The story follows the lazily, albeit appropriately, named Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett, affecting an occasional New York accent to drill home that his character is a jag), who is a self-serving survivalist who hordes as many nuts as he can find for his own safekeeping without concern for his fellow park-dwelling animals — all of whom subscribe to a strange socialistic society led by a solemn raccoon (Liam Neeson). The only animals who sympathize with Surly are his mute pal Buddy, a rat, and his diplomatic fellow squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl), the latter of whom endures a constant battle to convince Surly to employ his superior food heist skills to help the other rodents. But he won't... and we're never quite sure why.
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On the one hand, it could be that he's just a Darwinian individualist. On the other, he drops lines disparaging the aforementioned raccoon for never accepting him, and laments his banishment from the parkgrounds after an unfortunate incident with an inflamed tree. There isn't much work done with the Surly character, so there isn't much of a payoff for his inevitable emotional turnaround. We don't quite understand if he wants to be accepted for who he is, welcomed lovingly into the park community, or adorned with the kind of praise that thick-headed hero squirrel Grayson (Brendan Fraser, giving the funniest performance in the film as a cocky but affectionate dolt) regularly receives.
When it comes to films directed at young kids, there's usually the hope that there will be something learned, or some semblance of an emotional lesson carried forth. You can pick from the usual grab bag to piece together whatever it is that The Nut Job wants you to feel: accept other people, it's better to help others than help yourself, friendship is important, never trust a raccoon. But more than any of these, the primary takeaway is screwball cartoon mania that you don't often get to see in Disney, or even DreamWorks. And yes, it'll remind you of Loony Tunes in function, but you'll wonder then just why you aren't laughing.
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In animated 3D, The Nut Job is an action-packed comedy that takes place in fictional Oakton that follows the travails of Surly, a mischievous squirrel and his rat friend Buddy. They plan a nut store heist of outrageous proportions and unwittingly find themselves involved in a much more complicated and hilarious adventure. Staring Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Will Arnett and Brendan Fraser, this animated flick is not one to miss. In honor of it's release, we're doing a giveaway!
2 lucky winners will receive:-A Nut Job coloring puzzle with crayons-Peanut shaped adhesive notepad-Foldable lunch tote-Purple acorn shaped pen-Character sticker set-Poster-T Shirt The Nut Job opens in theaters nationwide on January 17th, 2014! Good Luck!
It's SUPER easy to enter, all you have to do is...
1. Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter at @Hollywood_com starting Wednesday, January 8th, at 12 PM ET.2. Retweet: "RT and FOLLOW to win 'A Nut Job' prize pack in our #ANutJobGiveaway http://hllywd.co/1iho9dA" The contest runs from 12 PM ET Wednesday, January 8 until 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, January 17.
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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.
Two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (The Shipping News) says he won't be in front of the camera "for a while." The hardworking actor is also a producer, and Spacey says he'd like to commit more time and attention to his production company, Trigger St. Productions, The Associated Press reports. "I've been acting nonstop for four or five years and taking a break is a healthy thing," the 42-year-old actor said. We can't believe he waited so long: we've only been working for a couple of hours this morning, and we're ready for a break.
Brendan Fraser (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns) apparently has no fear of bandages. The big-screen star is set to be a guest on NBC's new hit medical comedy, Scrubs, during May sweeps. Of course, Fraser won't be playing a doctor...
Fore! Producer Jerry Weintraub (Ocean's Eleven) was struck in the eye by a golf ball he hit, causing a wound that took 16 stitches to close, The AP reports. The ball caromed off a rock and hit Weintraub over the right eye. Maybe there's a part for Paul Bloch, Weintraub's publicist, in Weintraub's next film: Bloch amazingly kept a straight face when he insisted to reporters that Weintraub is a "good golfer."
Supermodel Naomi Campbell, who is suing British tabloid The Mirror over invasion of privacy, appeared in a London court and testified that she has used illegal drugs and has had her share of tantrums. (Which drew a shocked gasp from the gallery. Not.) Campbell also admitted that she had no regrets over being photographed with her clothes off. We admit that we had no regrets over looking at those photographs.
In a move no doubt to help Regis Philbin curtail his already immense dry-cleaning bill, ABC is removing Who Wants to be a Millionaire? from its Monday night slot. Millionaire, which will be replaced Monday nights with a comedy block, will still air on Thursday nights opposite NBC's and CBS's ratings juggernauts. Good thing Regis never quit his day job.
Sony is reportedly putting up its Culver Studios for sale. The Hollywood Reporter says the 17-acre parcel of land where Citizen Kane and Gone With the Wind were filmed will go to the highest bidder. Sony, which purchased the lot for $80 million in 1991, will probably have to lower its asking price once potential buyers learn that TV's most annoying show, The Nanny was also shot on the Culver lot.
Peter Fonda (Easy Rider) is interested in playing the president of the United States in ABC's new pilot set on Capitol Hill, to be helmed by Rod Lurie (The Last Castle), The Hollywood Reporter reports. (West Wing rip-off, anyone?) Hollywood.com surmises that the only thing that can save this show (other than moving off of ABC) is the addition of Dennis Hopper to the cast.
Oops, they did it again: SAG has once more messed up their elections. This time an e-mail sent by a senior exec to all members endorsing Melissa Gilbert's candidacy for president puts in jeopardy the current rerun election, the results of which will be released March 8. Embattled Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has confirmed she had nothing to do with botching this presidential election.
New York Fashion Week started off with a wave of patriotism. Tommy Hilfiger, known for his red, white and blue logo, sent models down the runway in red, white and blue clothing. Hilfiger said of his "weekend" clothing, "The intention is you put them on Friday night and don't take them off until Sunday." Hygiene notwithstanding, such clothing will save us all time and effort, as we won't have to get undressed before going to bed Friday and Saturday night.