Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Cult status. It’s a bit of a ‘buzz term’. Typically, it means a film that came out at the cinema, didn’t do too well / attract too much buzz, but went on to become a hit in the home market thanks to DVDs and TV showings. These types of films then become quotable, and quotes permeate into daily discourse. These start off being quite cool – “oh yeah! I saw that movie too! Great line!”, but typically descend into overuse in no time at all. Several of these films have emerged and spring to mind for The Phage. Oddly, quite a few of them seem to feature Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, or a combination of the two. Funnily enough, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is the sequel to what I would regard as the most over-quoted and over-referenced film in recent memory… So can this long-gestating sequel add more quotes to the library or are we… Well…

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Let’s get one thing clear from the get go: I’m not a fan of the original Anchorman, nor am I the greatest fan of Will Ferrell‘s schtick. It all comes off as too staid, too low brow and down-right too unfunny. It just grates. I saw the original Anchorman, found it mildly amusing in places, but never felt the urge to return to it over and over again, like so many others. Plus, what has Will Ferrell produced in subsequent years that has been of note at all? You’ll struggle. He’s had cameos here and there, but none of it has been remotely funny. It just consists of him shouting combinations of words. That’s not humour. Or maybe it is, and I’m just too old for it?

Regardless, Anchorman 2 “picks up” where the first film left off: Ron Bergundy (Will Ferrell) and his new wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are San Diego’s top news anchors, but it all falls apart when Ron is fired. He’s subsequently asked to join GNN – the first 24 hour news network over in New York City; thus leading him to reunite the gang (Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carrell) to make TV history. Add in a few random plot twists (read: random, not clever) and you’ve essentially got the premise of the film right there.

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Now, it’s not the basic nature of the plot that bothers me. Dumb & Dumber, which is another “cult” film that’s highly quoted (that I truly love) had a plot revolve around delivering a briefcase. It wasn’t big, nor was it clever, but it was funny. This is something that Anchorman 2 fails to be on all levels. The jokes either wear out their welcome very fast (see the image earlier), miss their mark entirely or are just copy and pastes from the original. Really, I shouldn’t have expected any less from Will Ferrell, as he’s not a gifted comedian given recent evidence.

The humour quickly resorts to trying to “shock” the audience with race jokes, which miss their mark entirely, or focus (and then come to rely upon) Steve Carrell‘s Brick character. You remember the “I love lamp” jokes from the first Anchorman? That was funny, right? Well, imagine that same type of humour on repeat, but becoming more stupid and more infantile every time to the point that it just becomes awkward to watch. It eventually turns into “oh no… here comes another Brick joke”. Yes, we get it, he’s mentally challenged, or slow, or whatever angle you’re gunning for…

Anchorman 2 (2013)

It’s quite telling that the most memorable moments were the cameos. It had people gasping and nigh-on applauding to see some of them. Although I won’t ruin the fun for anyone here, it’s easily the best bit of the film: seeing who else is in here! It’s ruining nothing to say that the film of course has walk ons from some of Will Ferrell‘s acting buddies that he’s appeared in numerous films with. Plus, within the first two minutes of the film you have a walk-on from Drake (who won’t be the only hip-hop star to grace the screen). What’s more interesting is the calibre of some of the actors that appear in the closing 15 minutes. You’ve got some true A listers of comedy, film and musuic, and some true movie whores too; ones that’ll seemingly appear in anything nowadays. The fact that the “ooo, who’s next?” was the best bit of the film is rather telling… as it didn’t actually feature Will Ferrell all that much.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is a legend that is hopefully now concluded. Surely this cannot be stretched into a trilogy?! But I guess if the money pours in at the box office, then we may inevitably see Anchorman 3: The Legend Concludes. Ultimately, if you enjoyed Anchorman and could laugh over and over again at those jokes, then this film will probably appease you. If, like me, you found the first film a bit “too” stupid, then this will do nothing to change your mind.

We’re just hoping that Dumb & Dumber To doesn’t fall into the same bin as Anchorman 2. Surely Jeff Daniels & Jim Carrey can pull out another classic as Harry and Lloyd? But that’s the risk… if you produce a “cult” classic then return to it several (or nigh-on 20 years later for Dumb & Dumber) you’re running a huge risk. I’ve yet to see it work for a comedy if I’m honest, as the temptation’s there to just repeat past jokes. Here’s hoping Harry and Lloyd had done wonders with that worm farm… and it’s not just that Petey’s head’s fallen off. Again.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

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This Is The End (2013)

This Is The End (2013)

You know what I like? When films are meta and self-referential. When they’re not afraid to mock themselves or even parody themselves to some extent. I like it even more when actors are willing to poke fun at themselves on-screen. I mean, they must all be aware of their public persona and the way they’re depicted in the media. That’s why it’s great when they get involved with roles / pieces that poke fun at themselves, no matter how subtly. From Zach Galiafanakis‘ Between Two Ferns webisode series of interviews through to Bill Murray in Zombieland, where he answers “do you have any regrets?” with “Garfield, maybe”. I like it. So, how do you make a film about the rapture and the end of days a bit comical? Well, how about getting some of the industry’s current comedic frat-pack and throwing them into the film… as themselves…

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, This Is The End tells the tale of how the world will end – all fire and brimstone whilst the good are raptured into heaven and the rest of us are abandoned here as the Earth becomes engulfed in flames and is dominated by demonic entities. So where does our film decide to position itself for this apocalyptic event? James Franco‘s house warming party of course. And who else is there? Let’s throw in Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. Not enough for you? Then how about Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and a whole heap of others. Yes, this is one star-studded film. But don’t for a second think back to the appalling Movie 43 as a reference point here. Thankfully, This Is The End is a far better movie… and is actually rather funny!

This Is The End (2013)

What’s most pleasing about the film is the rapport and on-screen dialogue between the stars. Some are really sending up their characters and acting in a totally atypical way, such as Michael Cera, whilst others embrace how the public perceives them, such as Seth Rogan and James Franco. Rogan has jokes thrown at him about his wooden acting, jarring laugh and inability to play a different character, whilst Franco embraces this artsy, higher-than-thou attitude he’s sometimes painted as having owing to his personal dalliances with trying to acquire every degree under the sun in his spare time. It is simply very, very funny to watch. All of the actors work brilliantly as an ensemble – quite how much is ad-lib and how much is scripted, I’m not entirely sure, but it all works seamlessly.

But what of the plotting? What starts out as a somewhat loose and meandering premise: “oh it’s the end of the world”, suddenly becomes quite compelling and I genuinely found myself enrapt in the world of the rapture. I wanted to know how Franco et al. were going to get out of this situation! Things also got a little crazy when the film started to actually spend money on special effects… you see, This Is The End is quite low tech for the most part; relying heavily on the rapport between the characters and their humorous dialogue. This is great, and thankfully works… but the film turns on its head in its final act. You see, what started out as a humorous little romp about the end of the world turns into something rapidly approaching horror.

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, you read that right… This Is The End actually brings in some effective scares and beautifully animated demons and nasties into the mix. I liked this. Even if it did make me think I was watching the dog-demons from Ghostbusters at one point. I found this change of pace and tone to be quite refreshing and really kept me entertained until the bitter end. The movie doesn’t market itself this way, which is a bit perplexing, but nevertheless – I enjoyed it!

This Is The End (2013)

That brings us to the humour… what of it? As I’ve alluded to until now, the humour works and had me laughing. For the most part. Maybe I’m getting a little too long in the tooth nowadays, but drug jokes / gore jokes / dick jokes don’t make me laugh as much as they used to. And there are a lot of those jokes in here. If you’re not a fan of Superbad, Pineapple Express or any other of the films associated with Seth Rogan and chums, you’re probably not going to be too impressed. Thankfully, for the movie, I am for the most part. But this is probably the film’s biggest weakness, because if you’re not a fan of this humour, you’re going to strongly dislike the movie itself. This is a shame as I genuinely think you should nip out and see this whilst you can.

This Is The End can stand proud: it’s a movie that lives up to the sum of its parts. It doesn’t collapse under its own star power and doesn’t bill itself as the “greatest ensemble cast ever assembled” like that Movie 43 abomination. What you have here is a sharp, funny and mildly horrifying take on the end of the world. It won’t be to everybody’s tastes, that’s for sure, but if you’re at least a fan of some of the stars in this movie then it’ll definitely appeal to you. I can quite confidently state that this may be the best comedy of 2013 so far… but unless the end of the world comes tomorrow, this may yet change… stay tuned!

“It’s the end of the world as we know it”… Well, that’s what REM sang a good while ago. Sure, the rapture looks horrific in This Is The End and I wouldn’t fancy squaring up to any of those demons. But I’m trying to wonder what I’d rather be faced with… a lifetime of fire and brimstone, being tracked down by fierce looking demons, or being forced to watch and re-watch Movie 43 over and over again… Hmmm… just how hot are those coals again??

Phage Factor:

4 Star

This Is 40 (2013)

This Is 40 (2013)

Getting old. It’ll happen to us all at some point or other. But what about that in-between period… and hitting 40? It’s a time when you sit back and re-evaluate your life. Did you honestly think you’d be with him / her / alone? How about those kids or lack thereof? We’re always filled with ambition and drive when we’re young: so many hopes, so many dreams. But unfortunately, not all of them are realised for every one of us. That’s where This Is 40 steps in… so you’ve turned 40, you’re married and have two kids… is this it? Is it the bliss you expected back when you were 22?

Bliss?

Bliss?

This Is 40 is the “spiritual successor” to Judd Apatow‘s Knocked Up. This time however, instead of focusing on the pregnancy part of a relationship, it hones in on that tipping point: a good few years into a relationship, when you’ve planted your roots, have a couple of kids, and have to contend with the trials and tribulations of real life. The film focuses in on the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) and their two kids, Sadie and Charlotte (Maude & Iris Apatow, respectively), as Pete and Debbie approach their respective 40th birthdays. But all isn’t well in the household. The arrival of the big 4-0 scares Debbie and really highlights all the short-givings they have in their relationship.

Now, This Is 40 bills itself as a romantic comedy. It’s from Judd Apatow and was released on Valentine’s Day in the UK so all indications would point to yes, it’s a rom-com. But this film has a very serious undertone to it and it’s not a laugh-a-minute ride to the end. This isn’t Superbad. Now, I’m not nearing 40, in fact I won’t see that until the mid-2020’s, but I can still relate to all of their issues. If anything, this film succeeds at capturing a lot of the insecurities many of us has about life more than it succeeds at making us laugh about them. That’s not to say the film’s not funny and carrying some genuinely humorous moments, but you can’t get around the issues it raises.

This is 40 (2013)

I’m a fan of Paul Rudd. Some aren’t, but I am. And I thought he really played Pete with passion here. It wasn’t his normal “deadpan, aloof, cool man” performance. I’ve no doubts that Judd Apatow wrote the part for Rudd in particular, because it all just blends so seamlessly – he and the character are one. The reason the performance works is because of the counterbalance of Leslie Mann as Debbie. She too really brings the goods – maybe a little too much cheer and not enough sorrow, but she really conveys the emotions to the audience. The fact that I left the screening feeling somewhat saddened and deeply pessimistic about the future really shows that something worked here. I really believe it’s a combination of the protagonists’ writing and acting.

But then again, this isn’t the perfect movie. For a start, I just felt that it’s run time was just a bit too long. The film felt a bit bloated with so many other sub-plots woven into it. Whilst I’m glad they were there to add complexity to the film, some of them could have probably been left on the cutting room floor, or at least parts of them should have. After all, we all needed a bikini scene AND a bra and panties scene for Megan Fox didn’t we? Both of those certainly had to be in the final film.

Megan Fox in a bra also had to make the final cut here too...

Megan Fox in a bra also had to make the final cut here too…

So, who is this film for? I don’t know if I’d recommend it to budding couples or those that are newly heartbroken as it’ll just make you despair for your own life and all the trials that are flying your way in the coming decades. Younger audiences won’t get the resonance of what’s going on on-screen and won’t feel those emotions. This film is probably best viewed by those in those “This Is 40” style relationships, or those who’ve battled through it. Actually, especially the latter group, as you’re surely the ones that won’t leave the screening feeling glum, like The Phage. I’m not sure what I was truly expecting from This Is 40, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this strange sense of sorrow after I left…

This Is 40 is an interesting take on a “romantic comedy”. Sure, it has the romance and it has the comedy, but both aren’t always at the forefronf of your mind. Be especially wary if you plan on taking your new boy / girlfriend to this. Similarly, if you’re newly single, and in your 20’s or 30’s, I’d avoid this too, as it’ll probably make you question your life. Then again, maybe you’re one of those carefree singletons and this movie will leave you feeling empowered that you’re not going to be shackled down, or as Jason Segel‘s character calls it, “doing a Clooney“.

This film, much like life, can throw a lot of curveballs at you over its run time. But also just like life, sometimes you need to sit through these curveballs and stay par for the course, because ultimately there’s something pretty darn good here. It may not be the “bliss” you were expecting when you bought your ticket (to the film, not life… I think that had something to do with your parents having one hell of a fun night after watching a far more romantic movie), but stick with it. It’s not the picture-perfect marriage / film, but it works.

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star