Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

We hope everyone had a great Christmas and we want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. This week we’ll be tackling Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, sequel to 2004’s Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy. Directed by Adam McKay and starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Christina Applegate, it  is rated PG-13 for  sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence.

After leaving San Diego for New York, Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Applegate), lead great lives with their son Walter. However, when the boss (cameo by Harrison Ford) of the WBC decides to fire Ron and promote Veronica, Ron leaves his family and moves back to San Diego. He struggles for months on end until he is offered a job at the new 24 hours  a day news channel. After accepting the job and getting his news crew, Brian Fantanta (Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner), and Brick Tamland (Carell), back together, Ron changes broadcasting history forever, gaining immortal fame with this new job in New York. However, Ron encounters various problems he must overcome: his new rival Jack Lime (James Mardsen), a burning desire to beat Veronica, and his inability to connect with his son.

7 out of 10

Rating comedy movies such as this one is slightly different than rating a regular film. Judging it as a regular film is different than judging it as a comedy film. The rating I gave above is a rating of this film as a movie. However, in terms of a comedy, I would give this film a 9 or so. I did exactly what I wanted to do: laugh my ass off.

Whether or not you liked this movie may be heavily based on what you expected. If you expected a witty, smartly written movie, you may be slightly disappointed. If you were expecting a movie similar to the first one, you also may have been slightly disappointed. But if you just expected to laugh, then you’d definitely be pleased. Anchorman 2 is distinctly different than it’s predecessor. It is (somehow) more over the top, goofier, and stupider. It’s hard to hit it exactly the nose, but the tone felt different. The story and the characters  all had a different feel to them. This wasn’t a problem for me, but if you are someone who loved the first movie for that tone, then the change might be a bit of a bummer for you.

But as I said earlier, I laughed my ass off. This movie was so funny because of few things. 1) The acting and 2) The ridiculousness. You may ask how I can call this necessarily good acting, and that’s completely understandable. The cast won’t be winning any awards for their performances. Not to be cliched, but all these actors really become their character. Ferrell, Carell, Rudd, and Koechner really are a team and their actions and personalities are so whacky and really freaking hilarious.

The over-the-topness of it all also contributes to the hilarity of it all. The dialogue and the actions all tend to be… just weird, really. My favorite character is Brick Tamland, just because of how odd he is. The stuff that he says is so random, and so stupid, and as a result, it’s just so funny. I hope most of you remember “I love lamp” from the first film… Golden. Brick’s character is used even more prominently in this film, and it really works.

Another over the top, ridiculous scene is the fight scene towards the very end, when many A-List actors (Tina Fey, Sacha Baron Cohen, Liam Neeson) make cameos and at that point, it’s hard to figure out what is going on (but it’s still hilarious!!!). During this scene, I remembered asking myself what the hell I was watching. After digesting it, I’m still not sure, but all I know is that it was definitely one of the more entertaining films I’ve seen.

In the end, I’m giving it a 7 based on how it is as a film. It’s hardly a film that appeals to everyone, and it’s a style of comedy that you really have to be okay with in order to like the film. If you don’t like random humor, then this is not the film for you. Personally, I found it to be one of the funnier movies of the year and something that I really enjoyed watching.

8 out of 10

Comedy’s a pretty tough thing to do.

So far, I think this blog has really gone over drama and action. When making both of these types of these films, you’re usually playing one note (That’s certainly not terribly easy either). Comedy, however, has about a billion subtypes you can go into, each of which have their own fans and haters.

Anchorman, thankfully, played to a lot of those types. It’s a random, witty, and satirical masterpiece that eased its way from one-liner to one-liner thus weaving the entire movie into one ball of comedic quotables. In middle school, I couldn’t go a couple of months without hearing somebody, beaming with originality, saying “Stay classy ______” on the morning show. Aside from that, Anchorman doesn’t really have a plot. In fact, I don’t think I could give you a completely accurate summary whatsoever. And that’s what makes it so great.

burgundy

Comedy sequels, to say the least, do not have that hot of a track record. Typically, they turn out to be a re-tread of old jokes (That may have not been that funny in the first place) that the writers think are original just because more money was injected into them and they were “cranked up to eleven”.

Anchorman 2, however, takes a different direction than its predecessor in that it has a bit more of a plot (Emphasis on the “a bit” here) and it extentuates some of its characters. It sacrifices some of its talent with one-liners for some more broad and generally direct jokes (To be honest, I can’t quite quote that much off-hand).

But, to me, it was really worth it. It was an extremely satisfying tackle of 24-hour news (Without spoiling, Burgundy has some ideas which resemble the strategies of a few certain networks) coupled with a barrage of randomness and visual gags that I really appreciated.

If you are not into that type of humor in the first place (This seems like a poor choice for you then, doesn’t it?) then its going to be a long, tortuous ride for you. Thankfully, there may be enough zingers to keep you interested.

But whether you like it or you don’t, you must admire that it is trying something new. Anchorman barely references or echoes any of the jokes from the first and, if anything, that helps raise it to the level of the original. It had enough material from its predecessor that it could have Hangover 2’d this entire film but this was in no way lazy endeavor.

IMDB: 6.4
Metacritic: 61
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
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The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

This week, we’ll be looking at the newest sequence in The Hobbit series, the Desolation of Smaug. The Lord of The Rings trilogy is perhaps the greatest trilogy of all time, so the hype for The Hobbit, both the first one and this new one, has been pretty substantial. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, and Benedict Cumberbatch, Desolation of Smaug is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence.

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug continues the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), Gandalf (McKellan) and the gang of dwarves after successfully crossing through the Misty Mountains on their way to reclaim the dwarves’ treasure from the Lonely Mountain, guarded by the dangerous fire breathing dragon, Smaug (Cumberbatch). However, the quest becomes a lot more challenging for Bilbo and the gang once Gandalf leaves to fight a greater evil that threatens the safety of humanity as they know it. Without their powerful friend, Bilbo must help Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) lead the dwarves through the forest of Mirkwood, past the dangerous elves, and into the Lonely Mountain to recover the treasure that rightfully belongs to the Dwarf Kingdom. Obviously, Bilbo faces many challenges along the way, in the form of his own will and other creatures in the world of Middle Earth.

8.5 out of 10

Like pretty much everyone else in the world, I’m a fan of the Lord of the Rings. Not a LOTR maniac, but a fan. They are tremendously entertaining to watch, due to various things, including the huge world that has been created around itself. Duplicating this, visually and emotionally, was crucial to The Hobbit’s success as a film. Thankfully, Peter Jackson and Co. were able to pull it off.

There are a few major things that contribute to the success of the old series. This includes the aforementioned realism of the world, the fantastic effects, and the well-executed story. Desolation of Smaug was able to touch on all of these, more so than the first film, An Unexpected Journey, but not nearly as much as the original trilogy (Basically, it’s an improvement over the previous film, but not nearly as good as the original Lord of the Rings). The entire universe is still on full display throughout the movie, from the elves to the dragon, all sorts of different creatures are seen, each one of them great in their own individual way. What’s also unique is that each of these characters also have personality, instead of being boring filler characters. This was seen specifically with the dwarves, and how each one is actually interesting. The writers clearly took their time with each character, instead of just throwing them out there.

Next on the agenda are the effects, and not only the visual effects. Those are always a point of emphasis in a Peter Jackson project. It is no different here. My personal favorite part was the dragon Smaug. Using motion capture with Benedict Cumberbatch in order to capture the dragon’s movements was done excellently, and looked great. It looked as realistic as a dragon can possible be. Additionally, the makeup and costumes were phenomenal, as always. With all these different creatures, the costumes and makeup departments are extremely crucial and are a huge part in creating the world. A friend pointed out to me how makeup artists are among the most under-appreciated people in the film industry, and he’s right. Their work is so important and amazing to see in action, especially in a film such as this one.

The last point I want to discuss is the execution of the story. In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I felt that one of the main problems is that it took an EXTREMELY long time to get to the point, and was dragging. Desolation of Smaug did fix this problem, but it was assisted by the fact that it hit the ground running, starting off where the first movie left off.

I honestly don’t have too much criticism for the movie. There was a romantic relationship dealing with one of the dwarves, Kili, (Aidan Turner) and one of the elves, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). I thought this was initially unnecessary and contributed to the length of the movie, though it was executed well. All the original movies are almost three hours long because they are each based off of a book each, but The Hobbit is one book, so breaking it up into three movies is really just a cash grab. It’s pretty remarkable that they’ve been able to make these movies so long… But also kind of annoying.

Is this The Return of the King? No, no it’s not, but it was still a really entertaining movie. It’s one of those films that is great-but-not-perfect in most categories, so it’s hard to pinpoint criticism. Nonetheless, I was really entertained by Peter Jackson’s masterpiece. Sure, it was a little long, but I can never get enough Bilbo Baggins. I would highly recommend checking this out if you have the opportunity (but please, see the other four films first).
~Vig

9 out of 10

Lord of the Rings is one of the toughest adaptations you can do.

You can take a journey. Throw in some good characters, some great effects, and heck off a lot of tracking shots of New Zealand and still have not quite enough to be equipped to make an honest depiction of it.

But Peter Jackson came as close as any body ever did or will. He built a really stable franchise using the tools above and his own vast knowledge of filmmaking to his advantage. If you ever seen any of the behind the scenes materials for any of Jackson’s films (King Kong, Lovely Bones) his love for the medium he works in is palpable.

What I’m getting at is that The Lord of the Rings franchise was in great hands for a long amount of time until it reached a roadblock with the polarizing Hobbit. In honesty, its not really fair to call it a roadblock since it does have a lot of great elements to it. Ultimately, I think its faults came from a few factors:

New characters. I remember, the week that The Hobbit premiered, Conan O’Brien did a sketch about the long casting list for the movie that described it pretty perfectly. I can’t find a link but I’ll make this the choose-your-own adventure part of the review.

Pacing. This has always been a problem (Even in the source material which tends to get lost in its own world and imagery) but was exacerbated by the rippling problems of undeveloped characters.

Villains (Or lack thereof). Orcs seemed like a bit of a downgrade if we must be brutally honest. They’re entertaining, just not the usual focus that made viewers love the original antagonists of the trilogy so much.

Now let me explain how this movie pretty much took care of all of that.

You can tell that Jackson used An Unexpected Journey as his rough draft. The mark of a good filmmaker is that he or she learns from any mistakes and I will ultimately assumes that that is exactly what Jackson did.

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Maybe its because I love my middle chapters but I felt like this one was briskly paced (Especially compared to Lord of the Rings movies) and had a remote idea on which characters were interesting. We can certainly thank An Unexpected Journey for introducing us to the Dwarf Company in a way that it’s all laid out and ready for us here. The exposition just wasn’t fun while we were in it.

Mostly, however, is its real sense of adventure that harkens way back to what the first movie in the entire franchise had. Its very challenging to suck the viewer into a long ride and keep it perpetually entertaining but this one absolutely did it in a way that kind of made me feel like a kid, watching the entire series over again (And thats the best way possible).

On a final note, I don’t think I like Legolas as much as everybody else but it was good seeing the elves in this. Were they necessary? Nope. Were they a good addition? Absolutely.

Even if you thought the franchise ended at The Hobbit, I strongly suggest you give it a second chance.
~Zach

IMDB: 8.0
Metacritic: 66
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

The Wolverine

Hope everyone has enjoyed the beginning of the final month of 2013 (We’re closing in on Oscar season!!!) This week, we’ll look at the latest sequence in the X-Men series, The Wolverine, which just released on DVD. Directed  by James Mangold and starring Hugh Jackman,  it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.

The Wolverine continues the saga of one of X-Men’s greatest heroes, Wolverine, as he travels to Japan to say goodbye to a man from his past that he saved during the attack on Japan in Nagasaki during World War II. Wolverine, aka Logan, is struggling with his immortality at this point, and is forced to face the fact that he loses his loves one and continues to survive. However, in Japan, Logan is pushed to the edge emotionally and physically when he faces a enemy who puts his immortality– and his life– at risk.

6 out of 10

As I’ve already established, I’m a fan of superhero movies. A big fan. However, the consistent mediocrity in the X-Men series really kills me. X2 and First Class are the only ones I have been (somewhat) satisfied with. The Wolverine is not any different. It is extremely ‘meh’. There’s really no other way to put it.

To be honest, I’m struggling to write about this, partially because it’s not too memorable. I don’t remember anything specific about this movie except for Hugh Jackman. It felt  separated from the world of X-Men, and even from the world of Wolverine himself. I missed the Easter eggs, the references, everything. I guess part of it is that he’s going by his real name, Logan, instead of Wolverine (unfortunately). X-Men Origins: Wolverine, while mediocre in its own sense, still showcased other mutants, whereas this film had one other… whose name I can’t quite remember (shocker!). I guess this is really a matter of personal preference, but I know I couldn’t have been the only one who was extremely disappointed in this.

None of the other characters were interesting either. The two Japanese girls, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who traveled with Logan/ Wolverine during the movie would have been fine as filler characters… Which is a bummer considering they were so big in the story. It’s unfortunate this movie didn’t have much of a supporting cast in terms of star power. Again, another matter of personal opinion, but to me superhero films should have star power, just because it’s so much better for audience enjoyment. The previous X-Men movies had famous actors such as Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Jennifer Lawrence, along with the aforementioned Jackman. To emphasize, I’m not saying movies without recognizable actors are bad, but The Wolverine definitely might have wanted some more support for Jackman (who does do a great job, by the way).

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

Overall, the movie lacked a point. This would have been excusable if it was an action movie… but it only had like three fight scenes, one of which was just mundanely executed (final battle scene). Otherwise, it was too generic and predictable to be interesting. Basically, this is how it went:

Boy and girl run away.
They fall for each other.
Girl gets kidnapped.
Boy saves girl, but not before he faces extreme challenges.
Everyone lives happily ever after.

Sounds familiar? Thought so.

Regardless of how memorable it was– or wasn’t– there were a few scenes I did enjoy. The first 15-20 minutes were actually really good. The scene where Wolver– I mean Logan– went crazy on the guys in the bar was really enjoyable. It had the right energy and intensity the rest of the movie needed. However, it all went downhill from there once he went to Japan… Yikes. The rest of the movie didn’t have the same raw emotion and energy we saw from Logan in the opening of the movie, except one other scene; I felt that intensity in the fight scene on the train. That was excellently done and probably my favorite scene in the entire film. To quickly touch upon the graphics and editing, those were really good as well. It’s one of the only things you can confidently expect from a movie of this nature.

Overall, I guess I would label this movie a disappointment. It lacked a point and failed to keep my interest. Of course, X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn’t much better, so I guess I have my expectations too high. Oh well. I’ll try my best to keep my expectations fair for X-Men: Days of Future Past.

~Vig

5 out of 10

Yeah, here comes the first truly negative review I give. Also, if you don’t know your Marvel franchise history, take a quick look or else this may be confusing:

This week, the trailer for the next  Amazing Spiderman was released. Both Sony and Fox (Who own Spiderman and X-Men respectively) have made it clear that they’re plan of attack is to copy Marvel before Marvel can do anything. It’s no shock. It’s all a side-effect of The Avengers. Hell, Marvel’s copying its own patterns at times.

marvel

I bring this up because, at times, it feels like we’re running the clock. The original series of Marvel films actually eased into each other believably whereas Sony and Fox’s attempts have felt kind of like blocks clumsily placed in order to try and build a coherent universe.

The Wolverine is a perfect model for this. The movies tries with all of its might to build a world around a character who has kind of worn his welcome. It’s tiring to see the same things. Wolverine owns people with his claws…except this time he has no one to work off of.

Does the movie do those repetitive scenes well? Sure. And if you know that its a fairly brainless endeavor, you’ll probably do fine. I, for one, can usually do that. It doesn’t take a lot for me to shut off my brain for an action film. But so much of this is so outright ridiculous that I laughed. I audibly giggled so much that I pity whoever was in front of me in the theatre. (SPOILERS: For example, the robot samurai was just too much).

But the attempts to be a hit Marvel film are bountiful and close together. It feels like a checklist at times:

“We need a post-credits scene ‘cause that’s what Disney did.”

“We need some angst. That’s what all those other Marvel movies did.”

“Let’s try and put some comedy in there. People liked that about The Avengers didn’t they?”

The movie has a great cast. Hugh Jackman is pretty synonymous with Wolverine and I have no complaints about him for the most part. I’m sure it was a daunting task putting your character into a new environment and he keeps Wolverine pretty un-corrupted.

And I’m not going to lie, they’re still able to make some excellent action scenarios. There is a fight on a train which works very well and it’s always easy to follow. The main problem, though, is that I lost investment after a while.At this point, we know what Wolverine is going to do. He’s Wolverine! Isn’t he? It’s just that “Will he get out of this?” point is moving a greater distance away from us.
But I have to be merciful. I have high expectations of hero movies because I have been exposed to so many great ones. This one gets an A for being a popcorn movie but otherwise it’s a placeholder for (Hopefully) better projects to come. The stakes are lowered and taken away.

wolverine on train

As somewhat disappointed I was with this, I’m still very excited for the next X-Men which will have a whole slew of characters that Logan can work off of which is when he’s at his best. Here’s to hoping its not a carbon copy of the Disney stuff though.
~Zach

IMDB: 6.8
Metacritic: 60
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%