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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True Blood prides itself on one very important factor: The ability to leave us stunned. Sometimes that stunner is a big reveal like learning that the nice old boy from New Orleans is actually a murderous villain or that the nice lady who helped Tara get back on her feet is actually turning the whole town into sex-demons. Then there are the stunners that are a little more character-based, like Jason realizing that sleeping with every pair of breasts with legs isn’t going to fill the hole in his heart or Pam realizing that she actually does care about Tara, the “stupid b**ch.” Even when the series has been giving us hints for two episodes, seeing our favorite one-dimensional characters grow into full-fledged, feeling people never ceases to elicit at least a little awe. And if the character growth didn’t really amaze you, you’ll have to be satisfied with Tara’s Original Recipe suicide plan.
First, let’s deal with the continual mess that is Tara. After withstanding the silver spray at Sookie’s house, Tara has escaped, and she’s quickly figuring out how to drive her new vampire body. She heals quickly after the silver spray (plus!), but she can barely hear this young woman speak over the beating of her blood-filled heart (gosh-darn!). Tara attacks a stranded young woman until she sees her vicious reflection and immediately regrets her actions. She actually sees herself become the thing she hates and it’s killing her.
Sam later finds her in the bushes, crying tears of blood and begging him to help her. The good guy bartender winds up serving her cases of Tru Blood and demanding to know what happened to her while insisting she call Lafayette and Sookie — the last two people she wants anything to do with. She’s looking like a pretty hopeless case until Sam puts in the walk-in freezer for her daytime safety nap.
The next day, Lafayette and Sookie walk into Merlott’s looking for her and Sam shows them the way just after Sookie admits she was the one who turned Tara. And because Sam is the most reasonable, understanding person on the planet (he even came around on Tommy eventually), Sam says he understands that Sookie did it to give Tara another chance and that someday she’ll understand that. (How many great men is this little telepathic pixie going to reject and keep around? The lucky, fickle lady.) Even with Sam’s knowing grin, Lafayette notes that keeping Tara in the freezer is no better than “keeping a gator in the bathtub.” This won’t end well. They need to find her maker, a.k.a. Pam, the absentee mother.
NEXT: Barbecue!Unfortunately, Pam doesn’t answer the call in time and Tara practically rips Laf’s arm off before exposing her new form to the whole town and escaping off to fulfill her new master plan: Death. She breaks into a beauty salon, and instead of fixing the hairstyle she’s been rocking since Season 1, she tries to barbecue herself to death in the tanning bed. And I must say, of all the vampire deaths, she really chose the most inefficient one. She could have walked into a pointed broom stick: Boom, splat. But no. She picked something that would give someone the chance to stop her. Maybe she didn’t want to die after all.
Laying the foundation for the final scene of the episode, Sookie seeks Pam at Fangtasia, but the lady vamp is more concerned with finding Eric and she’s busy texting faster than a 13-year-old with a crush. Sookie asks her to find Tara, but Pam is too distraught, her worry combines with her seasons old jealousy of Eric and Sookie’s relationship (foreshadowing!) and she throws the fairy across the room. But Sookie’s gone rogue (heh, heh. Get it?) and she uses her light force to retaliate against Pam and further embarrass her in front of all her customers.
Her distress (and we’ll assume a little embarrassment) sends Pam into more bouts of reminiscence. She thinks back to her second meeting with Eric. He sought her at the brothel and saved one of her prostitutes from Bill and Lorena, who were on a ripper rampage. Bill is a baby vampire at the time, and it’s clear that Lorena has not done right by her progeny — she hasn’t taught him “the rules.” Eric stops them from killing yet another prostitute and we witness the beginning of Bill’s rivalry with Eric, and then, the beginning of Pam’s relationship with Eric. They “Settle her debt” for his alleyway protection the only way people that sexy can: with sex.
We skip the good part and jump to the aftermath in which Pam asks Eric to turn her into a vampire and he refuses to do it because of the immense responsibility of being a maker. “Would you toss a newborn baby in the gutter? Abandoning a new vampire’s no different,” he says. (Just look at Bill and Lorena — she’s practically dragging her newborn in the gutter.) Eric says becoming a maker is a deeper bond than any marriage. But before he can leave her so unsatisfied, she gives him an ultimatum by slitting her wrists. “Let me walk the world with you... or watch me die.” Obviously, he turned her. And thus, the psuedo-sexual relationship between maker and progeny makes sense, and we learn that Pam has been the reacher in the Pam-Eric relationship since Day One.
All this reflection on Eric’s actions towards her and their usually tight relationship saddens her since they’re still on such uncertain terms, but it also awakens a responsibility in Pam that she wasn’t willing to absorb in the immediate wake of the Wal-Mart sweatsuit incident. When Tara starts to rotisserie herself, Pam senses it and with every tiny inflection in her three-word response, we know she’s going to pick up the maker torch: “You stupid bitch.”
NEXT: "He's their Osama Bin Laden."At the Authority, the chancellors are descending into more nonstop arguing. Ah, the essence of politics. We learn more about Sanguinistas and their “poster boy” Russell Edgington. After ripping a man’s heart out on television, “He’s their Osama Bin Laden.” (Yes, we get it. There are political parallels.) And it’s this celebrity status that has Roman so concerned. Starving him for a year has exacerbated his hunger and his mission. Roman demands that Eric and Bill make good on their promise and bring him in or die trying because Russell threatens everything they stand for.
And he’s serious about the “die trying” part. He has Tina Marjorino, TV tech expert of choice, strap the two dashing vampires with instant kill devices to deter them from escaping the death star compound or straying from the anti-Russell plan.
To make matters worse, Steve Newland is the new Nan Flanagan. But his sudden disregard for human intelligence infuriates Roman. It’s too close to the views that Sanguinistas, who want to farm humans like cattle, hold. Roman believes the Authority is the only thing keeping the civil war between humans and vampires from erupting. Newland keeps his job under the pretense that he wait to gloss things over until after Russell does something, instead of up lying to prevent panic now.
Of course, they’re hoping to catch Russell before he does anything Newland would need to gloss over, but Bill and Eric’s kill harnesses aren’t enough. Roman’s favorite chancellor and bedtime buddy, Salome, seduced both vamps to see if they are being truthful. In case we were wondering, she is the Salome and she thinks the Bible’s rendition of her history is “little better than Us Weekly.” Clever. Now the writers can make her whoever they want. She seduces Bill by praising his two remaining prized possessions: His flailing political career and his ability to let his heart rule him. “We’ve become so jaded. We celebrate our own cynicism.” She finds his emotional core refreshing. She seduces him and asks him to prove he’s trustworthy by taking her life into his hands. Boom, vampire jackhammer sex in the basement. Apparently, this means he’s trustworthy.
Next, Salome takes her turn on Eric. She summons him to her chambers, but he’s not buying her seduction. Then, she finds the right chord: His heart has recently been broken by Sookie. But that still doesn’t quite work. So she takes off all of her clothes. Yep, that’ll do.
NEXT: Debbie's death can't stay hidden forever.And while Eric is having his fun, the southern chancellor is torturing Nora, and when she threatens to use the kill devices on Eric and Bill, Nora finally admits she’s a staunch believer in the Sanguinista moment. Roman is understandably crushed, but Christopher Meloni’s portrayal exposes his character’s deep-rooted issue with getting his way. It starts to be unclear whether or not he’s upset about the fundamentals of the Mainstreaming movement being threatened or if he’s just upset that his plans aren’t going the way he envisioned them. This point is strengthened when Salome asks Roman to change course because he immediately turns down her plea. He wants to continue his path, even if it’s not working. His way, or no way.
Meanwhile, Sookie is getting herself into trouble. Debbie’s death can’t stay hidden forever. Debbie’s parents find Alcide and ask him what happened to her, but Sookie’s okay for the moment because she lied to Alcide about Debbie’s whereabouts. Her tells her parents he abjured her, or gave up his wolf claim on her, because she was back on V and cheating on him. They said the sheriff found all her belongings and they know something terrible happened to her, which means all roads will soon point to Sookie.
Sheriff Andy questions Sookie about it, but she plays dumb and unfortunately Andy starts asking the right questions: Was Debbie jealous of Sookie’s relationship with Alcide? She skirts the question and says unless it’s illegal to dislike someone, she’s innocent. Lafayette can’t handle her bold approach because he’s paranoid and concerned that Andy’s onto something and that he’ll catch them in their giant lie. Luckily, Sookie hears his thoughts and he’s more concerned about the Facebook picture Holly’s horrible sons posted to truly put any pieces together. Meanwhile, Sookie throws that good fortune away. She tells Alcide the truth about Debbie and he’s furious. He had her back. He was protecting her and she was going to let him go searching for a ghost. He storms off without speaking another word. And as angry as he is, who wants to bet he lets it go and comes back for some good old fashioned fairy lovin’?
While Sookie is risking her life as she knows it, Jason is pulling his 180. He runs into his old teacher, who he used to sleep with. Mary Kay Letourneau alert! Due to Jason’s insistence, he and his former corruptor (who you may recognize as the former Mrs. Don Draper) knock boots and he immediately realizes that his encounters with this woman is what created the sex monster we all know as Jason Stackhouse.
Jessica comes galloping over to his house after encountering a man whose blood had her frolicking after him like a lost boy to Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island. (His blood smells like cotton candy? Isn't that how we've heard vamps describe Sookie's blood? Faries, ahoy!) She pushes Jason up against a wall and prepares for some serious sexy time, but he stops it. He’s finally realized sex can’t be all there is. He just wants to be friends with Jessica. But he can’t. She’s like a sexy bug-zapping lamp and he’s a mosquito. But she insists they can do it because they already are friends. It’s a sweet moment, but it seems our potential Jason-Jessica romance has cooled. For now (fingers crossed!).
Meanwhile, the rest of Bon Temps is keeping it complicated. After finding the naked Facebook picture, Andy takes it to Holly, who informs him their potential relationship is just too complicated. Still, they decide to try it anyway. Terry is still wrestling his demons, only this time, Arlene isn’t taking it. The only information he’ll give her is that he’s going with Patrick to an undisclosed location for an undisclosed purpose for an undisclosed amount of time. Arlene is prepping for another few years of the single life after an unacceptable response like that.
Finally, things get nice and weird when Hoyt walks into Fangtasia dressed like a goth gimp because he’s feeling self-destructive and Lafayette is possessed by the spirit of Jesus’ former voodoo powers. The inner demon apparently convinces him to do things like pour bleach into the gumbo because Arlene is being obnoxious. Suddenly, Lafayette is just a magical catchall. This definitely won’t end terribly.
Do you think Pam is about to turn the corner on her maker duties? Do you think a Pam and Eric coupling is possible in the future? Is Roman more concerned with victory than his actual mission? Let us know in the comments!
[Image Credit: HBO]
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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.