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Mr. Peabody and Sherman
Let’s hope the third time’s the charm. Twice before, attempts were made to transfer the scattershot goofiness of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show to a feature film, with unhappy results both times. There was the Dudley Do-Right film and the Rocky and Bullwinkle film, both of which foundered for the simple fact that the original cartoon characters’ appeal was their sheer stupidity—which is funny, but only in small doses. Stretching it out to 90 minutes left even the kids feeling pretty bored. The latest attempt, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, on the other hand, holds the promise of success, because Mr. Peabody, while a dog, is supposed to be very smart (he’s the obvious antecedent to Nick Park’s beloved Gromit, although Mr. Peabody can talk) and isn’t just the “straight man.” Of course, the famous WABAC machine figures prominently in the plot.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel, the latest from Wes Anderson, has received glowing advance praise. Starring a cavalcade of Wes Anderson’s stable of all-star regulars, among them Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and East Ender Bob Balaban, the film displays Anderson’s predilection for exotic, fantasy-world settings and for perversely mannered performances and camerawork. To these familiar elements it adds a taste of 60s-style, Richard Lester-like chaos. You remember, the whole thing where there’s a huge cast of characters all running around at counter-purposes—the film, with its flat lighting and saturated colors, even looks 60s-ish. Certainly that’s on purpose, as the film involves a kind of double flashback: a late-60s recounting of a story set in the 30s, but revisited in the present.
Director Brian De Palma returns with a thriller that, while it might strain credulity to the breaking point, may yet give people the shivers. In Grand Piano, a brilliant concert pianist who suffers from crippling stage fright is making a triumphant return to the stage. The film’s scenes of the preparation for this moment display absolutely no familiarity with how classical music is rehearsed and staged, but that’s only to be expected. Then, when the pianist sits down to play with the orchestra, he finds a message scrawled onto his score: “Play one wrong note and you die.” A laser beam projected from a gun sight onto his hands reveal to him that a sniper has indeed targeted him. The thing is, if the sniper has good enough ears to pick out every wrong note (skipped notes are also “wrong notes,” of course) then he would know that there are no flawless performances and he would just shoot the pianist right away.