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DreamWorks' favorite zoo escapees are back on the big screen in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."
DreamWorks' favorite zoo escapees are back on the big screen in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."

Third "Madagascar" a light, energetic trip

With last year's "Cars 2," Pixar proved the unthinkable: they can make a mediocre movie. For the first time in the company's existence, its reign as the king of animated films is in question.

The good news for Pixar is that DreamWorks' "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" isn't going to change the status quo. It never reaches any depth whatsoever, and the story gets predictably familiar as it goes along. However, "Madagascar 3" isn't trying to reach those levels; it's attempting to be bouncy, jubilant fun, and by those standards, the film succeeds.

Haunted by nightmares of old age and a gray mane, Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) and his friends (Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer) decide to hightail it back to the zoo they once desired to escape. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a film if they just hopped on a boat and politely walked through customs. Instead, the posse must go to Monte Carlo, find their wily penguin friends and use their monkey-powered plane to fly back home.

Along the way, they encounter Madame Dubois (Frances McDormand), a murderously obsessive animal-control agent with a lion-shaped hole on her dead animal wall of fame she'd like to fill.

In order to escape Dubois' wrath, the crew hide with a struggling circus troupe, featuring a bitter, hoop-jumping tiger ("Breaking Bad"'s
Bryan Cranston) and Gia (Jessica Chastain, who I believe starred in every major release last year), an alluring jaguar that captures Alex's attention.

After the DreamWorks Animation logo fades off the screen, "Madagascar 3" bombards the audience with a frenetic onslaught of jokes and gags. Barely a minute goes by without a character's face stretching toward the camera, probably to take advantage of the 3D (my screening was 2D, so I can't comment on the added third dimension). The energetic pace is jarring at first, jumping from joke to joke without pausing for air or allowing the audience to take anything in.

Luckily, its daffy sense of humor fits…

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was all smiles in talking about the team drafting his son, Lance.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was all smiles in talking about the team drafting his son, Lance.

One proud papa

Ron Roenicke allowed himself to smile, at least for a little bit, prior to tonight's game against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park.

The 55-year-old manager of the Brewers was able to take off that hat briefly, and put on his father's cap in talking about his son Lance, whom the Brewers selected earlier in the 25th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Lance was the 785th selection overall out of the University of California-Santa Barbara. As a senior, the outfielder hit .310 with four home runs and 35 RBI.

"It's nice," Ron said, grinning. "I think any good news now is nice. He's worked hard, had a good year, and obviously he's going to get a chance to play."

It's an early birthday present for the younger Roenicke, who will turn 24 on Friday.

"He's fired up," Ron said. "He was happy when he got the call."

Ron said his son plays a similar game to him in that he can handle the glove and make contact, but admitted Lance has more power.

Lance is the latest in a long line of Roenicke men to play professional baseball, and his father said it has always been his dream to follow in those footsteps.

"He's worked hard at it," Ron said. "He's talked about and is certainly athletic enough to do it. Just hopefully all the tools come together and he's able to play for a while.

"He knows what it takes. He's got three cousins that played professionally, one (Josh) is with the major leagues now with Colorado. He has the experience of talking to them when he doesn't want to talk to dad about things. So I think all that helps. He understands what it's all about, playing every day and the bus travels, so he'll get to experience some of that."

UPDATE: As the day goes on here at Miller Park, I'm feeling a little bit older. I grew up watching and have bad Topps baseball cards of Dale Sveum, Ron Roenicke, Cal Ripken, Jr., Mike Matheny and Jose Oquendo ... and all of their sons were drafted this week.

I'm happy for all of these guys and their kids, but it's ye…

"Prometheus" hopes to join the ranks of great space movies this Friday.
"Prometheus" hopes to join the ranks of great space movies this Friday.

Top five movies ... IN SPAAAAACE

Though the Space Race has long since come and gone, people are still fascinated by what lies beyond the sky. We gaze in wonder at the stars, admire beautiful photos of distant planets and galaxies, and dream up alien creatures (and hope they're of the "E.T." variety). It's amazing that a vacuum of empty space can so vividly fill our imaginations.

Of course, movies play a huge role in creating memorable images of space. Now, Ridley Scott's "Prometheus," the mysterious "Alien" semi-prequel, hopes to enter the pantheon of iconic intergalactic adventures, which includes these five classics.

"2001: A Space Odyssey"

To spend only a small paragraph talking about Stanley Kubrick's iconic space epic seems almost like an insult. What do I talk about? Should I talk time to discuss the strangely hypnotic opening third featuring ape-men discovering an ominous black monolith, and perhaps the first signs of evolution? Or perhaps the famous middle section, the haunting astronaut thriller that would still be considered intelligent beyond its years if it was released tomorrow? The fact that "2001: A Space Odyssey" offers all of those elements (and I haven't even mentioned HAL, the space baby or the legendary music) should speak to how incredible this masterpiece is.


Popping in a DVD of Ridley Scott's "Alien" today, it's kind of amazing to think that the film was made over 30 years ago. The sets still look grandiose, especially the discovery of a dead alien in a massive chair, and H.R. Giger's design of the title character is easily one of the most memorable and terrifying images of extraterrestrial life. But as audiences learned in "Snow White and the Huntsman," looking good can only get a movie so far. Luckily, "Alien" is still packed with surprises, enduring characters and truly horrifying sequences. Three words: John Hurt chestburster. It's scenes like those that explain why people are so excited about Scott's return to the series.

"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire …

Jack Black stars in "Bernie," onscreen at the Oriental Theatre.
Jack Black stars in "Bernie," onscreen at the Oriental Theatre.

"Monsieur Lazhar" and "Bernie" cure blockbuster blues

I hate "The Avengers."

Well, that's not exactly fair – I loved "The Avengers," but it gave me such hope for the rest of this year's summer movies. A hope that was then, several weeks later, taken out behind the proverbial shed by culprits like "Dark Shadows" and "Battleship" and shot.

Even when the big budget Hollywood spectacles temper my love of cinema, however, I always remind myself that there are always good movies out. You just need to look for them. Luckily, there are two excellent films, "Monsieur Lazhar" and "Bernie," that are hiding in plain sight at the Oriental Theatre.

"Monsieur Lazhar," one of last year's nominees for Best Foreign Film, follows an Algerian refugee (Mohamed Fellag) hired to teach at a Montreal grade school. His predecessor, a popular young teacher, killed herself in her classroom, a moment that still quietly haunts the young students, especially Alice and Simon (Sophie Nélisse and Émelien Néron), who discovered the tragedy. Lazhar attempts to teach the children and help them understand the event, while also coping with his own sad past.

If that plot summary makes the movie sound like a typical Hallmark Channel movie, don't be fooled. Instead of rehashing inspirational teacher drama and other "Dead Poets Society"-esque clichés, the film dives into grief and how children, as well as adults, learn to cope with the often unexplainable. In one scene, a psychiatrist comes in to talk to the kids, and Lazhar is asked to leave the classroom. He does so out of the respect, but his hesitancy shows he needs just as much help coming to terms with his loss as the kids.

The heavy elements of the story don't stop the film from having some funny and charming moments, such as Lazhar's awkwardly cute date with a fellow teacher and the students' playful teasing during class. It's those scenes, combined with phenomenal performances by Fellag, Nélisse and Néron, that effectively create a natural and emotional experience for the audience. From its …