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

After Earth (2013)

After Earth (2013)

Some actors and directors are just so friggin’ bankable. You put them in front / behind the camera and you KNOW you’re going to make big money. Why? Because they have a rabid fan base and you know they’re going to deliver one hell of a memorable film. And if they don’t? Well, you know it’s going to be a fun ride nevertheless. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule; sometimes things go wrong. Normally I’d be one to say that Samuel L. Jackson is in great movies, and they’re generally enjoyable, so combining that with a Sin City esque noir backdrop should work… but you’ve seen The Spirit right? That’s only off the top of my head, and there are a ton of examples of such missteps. So, what about Big Willy, Will Smith? He’s had hit after hit for years now – they really have gone BOOM and SHOOK SHOOK THE ROOM. From the “lows”: (but stupidly successful) wikke-wikke Wild Wild West, to the highs: essentially every other film he’s put his name to, Will Smith has been one of, if not the, most bankable actors internationally. So how does After Earth fair? Are we Gettin’ Jiggy With It? Are we Just Cruisin’? Or is it time to call the Men In Black to cart him away?

After Earth (2013)

Ok, I think I’m about all out of shoe-horning in Will Smith song titles into sentences, but you get the point. The guy’s a legend. After Earth sees him re-teamed with his son, Jaden Smith (seemingly he’s lost his mother’s name in there), in a “future sci-fi epic” wherein Will and Jaden crash land on Earth years after its been abandoned to pursue a life elsewhere in the universe. The aim? To retrieve a beacon that’s some way away so they can get off the planet… and that’s it. That’s the entire premise. Oh, did I mention that Will Smith basically sits down for 2/3 of the film too? I didn’t? Does that add to the excitement for you?

As you can probably tell, I wasn’t enamoured with After Earth. It’s quite honestly one of the dullest movies I’ve seen in recent memory; mercifully it’s kept at a 100 minute run time, as I couldn’t endure any more. This is NOT a Will Smith movie. You will see no humour, you will see no wit. Sure, we’ve seen Will play the serious roles before (Ali, Seven Pounds etc.), but this role is just dry and one dimensional: an elite solider who can “ghost” and avoid aliens owing to his lack of fear (oh yeah, there’s aliens, but they’re not exciting) – he’s also devoid of character. Also, as I mentioned, he spends the vast majority of his time sat down because of a leg injury. There’s very little demanded of Will Smith here, which is a shame as we all know what a talent he is. So, what of Jaden? Well, it’s essentially a Jaden Smith film featuring Will Smith. The trouble? The plot.

Get used to this scene...

Get used to this scene…

The film consists of Jaden Smith just running around a forest avoiding CGI animals. Not crazy, alien animals, no. Mainly baboons and bizarrely man-hungry eagles. And also cutting himself on bushes. This is is. This is your film. Following Jaden in a lycra suit that occasionally changes colour. I wish I was simplifying the movie for you, but I’m really not; it’s simply that dull. The scripting is weak, the plotting is dull and the action is scant on the ground. All with Will Smith uttering some monotonous spiel about fear and danger every five minutes. THEN, when you do finally have the alien section… well, it fails to up the excitement at all. Dull.

After Earth (2013)

This brings me to my next point… the director. We finally see the return of M. Night Shyamalan here. The guy that ruled the world with The Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable, before commencing a steady decrease in quality that eventually led to The Last Airbender. So, we see his return, but you couldn’t tell. Having him here seems like a mercenary move to try and bolster some interest in the movie. It has none of his flair and crucially none of his twists. I don’t want this. If he’s going to come back I want him to hit hard with a “classic” Shyamalan, or at least try and attain those same heights again. I don’t want this formulaic, plot-dry attempt at a sci-fi epic. It’s not welcome!

Does After Earth have anything going for it then? Erm… I couldn’t actually tell you. There’s nothing in my mind that I thought “ooo good concept, just poor execution”. It’s just a poor concept with a fantastic lead actor that then proceeds to not use him in the slightest. It perplexes me. Thankfully, Will Smith has an arsenal of films lined up for the next two years, so he’s obviously going to redeem himself for this “blip”, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I’m not really sure why he took the project, considering he’s a guy that can pick and choose roles nowadays. Let’s be fair… it’s not like he needs the money.

So… to sum up this film with another song? Just The Two Of Us. It pretty much epitomises this movie, as there’s very little else to talk about. In fact, you could argue that you don’t really need to mention Will, as he doesn’t serve that much of a purpose here either. Maybe After Earth just needed a catchy Will Smith song to sell it actually? With some “huh”, “yeah” and “jiggy” in the chorus. That’d have had me dancing down the aisles, as opposed to walking out and fearing giant eagles that are CLEARLY man hungry predators on Earth…

Phage Factor:

1.5 Stars

Django Unchained (2013)

Django Unchained (2013)

Everyone has their favourites. Whether it’s their favourite actor, director or brand of cereal. Life’s eclectic like that. Me? Well, I’d struggle to pick out a single actor; I’ve got way too many favourites. Cereal? Well, I’m not really a cereal fan, but I’d go with something containing almonds and is crunchy enough to break at least five teeth per serving. As for director? Well, that’s quite easy: Quentin Tarantino. The guy has had his hand in some of my all time favourite movies and has also propelled certain actors into the ranks of my favourites too, owing to his screenplays. So when a new Tarantino movie rolls into town, I sit up and take notice, as they nearly always guarantee a slice of cinematic gold. Can Django Unchained continue the trend?

Bad Boys... Texan style.

Bad Boys… Texan style.

Before I get down to brass tacks, let’s discuss the premise of this particular movie… as if you don’t already know! The film follows the life of the titular Django (Jamie Foxx) – a slave who is liberated by a dentist-come-bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), in order to track down three targets. But what does Django want to do when the task is accomplished? Well, he wants to go off and find his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) – a fellow slave of the pre-Civil War United States. It just happens to be that Broomhilda is the property of a Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio): owner of the appropriately named Candie-Land plantation. Can the dynamic duo rescue her from his clutches? Or will Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) the loyal house slave, figure out their game?

Quite simply, Django Unchained is a formidable work of cinema. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I loved every last moment of it. It had the perfect storm of great plot and fantastic casting, complete with Tarantino‘s brilliant scripting flourishes. So let’s kick off with the acting skills on show here. Much was made of the casting of Django himself, with Will Smith apparently in the running for the part in the early days. This made a lot of people sit up and take notice; owing to Smith‘s established fan base and ability to make massive returns at the box office. But for whatever reason, he never tried out for the part. This led to the hiring of Jamie Foxx for the role. Whilst Foxx isn’t the brightest star in the film, he fits the role perfectly. He’s just “right” for the part – he’s a fit, both physically and vocally. For me, his portrayal of Django was spot on. But as I say, he’s not the eclipsing star here. That accolade in fact belongs to three supporting actors: Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. Waltz is bankable. He was sublime in Inglorious Basterds and put on a great show in Carnage. He’s a talent to be reckoned with. Whilst I found the role of King Schultz to be compelling, I never felt the same “wow” as I did with Inglorious Basterds‘ Hans Lander. Still, you can’t fault his performance here.

Django Unchained (2013)

I think I was most impressed with Leonardo DiCaprio, though I’m not surprised. For too long this guy was seen as a flash in the pan – only famous because of Titanic and how much the ladies loved him. But nothing could be further from the truth. He’s shown us countless times how he can step up to any role, so it was great to see him as a detestable character. Candie is sinister, intelligent and at the same time, incredibly naive. DiCaprio pulls it all off with aplomb. Finally, it’s brilliant to see Samuel L. Jackson in another defining role. As I’ve mentioned previously, it seems the guy picks films out of a hat, as opposed to scrutinising a script, as some of his films have been less than palatable. But Tarantino again brings the best out of Jackson. Just like Joss Whedon has his favourite rotating cast, I’m glad that Tarantino has the same. It’s familiar, but it’s always different… if you understand me.

Django Unchained (2013)

Plot / script-wise… it’s Tarantino. Come on – you know what you’re getting here. Ultra-violence, a heap of beautifully crafted dialogue and some great music choices. Some have derided the choice to include Rick Ross‘ 1000 Black Coffins (a modern hip hop song) in the middle of a film smattered with oldie-worldie sounding tunes. But it works! Come on, you can’t say you weren’t surprised to hear “Stuck in the Middle With You” during Reservoir Dogs can you? It was a massive juxtaposition – a guy’s ear being cut off with a cut throat razor with such a jolly song over the top. The same is true here, I’d argue.

The one thing that is definitely very “un-Tarantino” is the fact that he opts for a chronological story. We’re all well accustomed to his flair for Chapters in his films – ones that switch back and forth in time. They’re oddly absent here – something that must have been a deliberate choice on his behalf, of that I’m certain.

Oh, and anyone spot the massive tie in to the rest of the Tarantino universe? You know – where he makes a nod to a certain character / event in another of his films? No? Yes? It’s three points for a correct answer… OK, here’s a clue: King Schultz. Now go back and watch Kill Bill Vol. 2 with that in mind. All should become apparent.

Now, my verdict was never going to be an obvious choice based solely on the fact that Tarantino is the man writing the script, but it certainly raises expectations. Expectations can either be met, exceeded or never met. But Django Unchained never wanes and never bores over its lengthy run time. If anything, I’d have loved more time with those characters in their world. As I say, it’ll have its detractors, but what film doesn’t?

Thankfully, the Tarantino brand is still a mark of quality. Django Unchained is one of the best movies he’s ever put his name to. I’m not going to declare it “the” best, because his catalogue is too strong and it’s ultimately like picking between your favourite children… But we all do have a favourite don’t we? Cute little P. Fiction is mine…

Phage Factor:

5 Star

Film Phage's Quarantine Award

Thirteen of the Best for 2013

Gaze into the Phage's Ball...

Gaze into the Phage’s Ball…

Happy New Year one and all! We’ve all managed to survive the armageddon and hopefully survived the welcoming in of 2013 last night. So now you have just one question on your lips about the year ahead right? What are the best films of 2013! No? You’re telling me you want to know if you’ll get that promotion / girl / boy / revenge? Well, I’m afraid I’m just going to answer the query about some of the biggest films to come in 2013. Last week we had a retrospective look back at 2012 with the 1st Annual Phagee Awards and now, like Janus – the namesake of January, we’re going to look forward to what’s to come. So I’ve picked thirteen films for 2013 that should be on your radar. Whilst I hope they’re all going to be hits… I can guarantee they’ll be an interesting watch, for better – or worse.

1) 14th February: A Good Day To Die Hard

2013 Die Hard 5

Yes, Bruce Willis will once again be donning a dirty vest and reprising his role as the unluckiest man in the world: John McClane. We cannot wait for this film. Film Phage are massive fans of the others in the franchise, so we’re eager to see what happens in the fifth. Sure, Die Hard 4 can’t hold a candle to Die Hard: With A Vengeance, but it was still great fun and we’re hoping for more of the same. The only worry? Having John McClane Jr. (aka Jack McClane, aka Jai Courtney) running around with him. Whilst we’re sure Courtney will do an admirable job… we still wish it was Tom Hardy in that role. We can dream right?

2) 27th March: Trance

2013 Trance

This one’s coming in low and hard, because I don’t think many people even know that Danny Boyle‘s latest film will be hitting cinemas in the Spring. This is the guy that brought you Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours to name but four of his eclectic movies. Whilst he’s not released too many details, we know it has James McAvoy at its lead and deals with art, ripping off gangsters and hypnosis, which leads to a reality-bending story where you don’t know what’s real from what’s resulting from the trance. It all sounds ludicrously trippy and we’re looking forward to having our minds warped.

3) 12th April: Oblivion

2013 Oblivion

Whilst nerdy gamers worldwide may be rejoicing in the premise of a live action retelling of the Oblivion video game, that’s not the case. No, this is a post-apocalyptic film starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. Whilst Cruise has been known to produce a dud once every so often, he’s a pretty bankable actor and only commits to promising films. This film puts Cruise as an engineer who returns to a war-ravaged Earth (we’ve been at war with aliens) and discovers a secret that turns the whole war on its head. Sure, Cruise has dabbled with aliens in the less-than-well-received War of the Worlds, but we’re excited by this. It has great potential.

4) 26th April: Iron Man 3

2013 Iron Man 3

Don’t tell me you couldn’t see this making my list? We’re massive Marvel fans at Film Phage and can’t wait for Robert Downey Jr. to don the red and yellow suit once more. Whilst it’s great to have Sir Ben Kingsley as a menacing Mandarin, we’re also very curious about Guy Pearce‘s role. If it’s true to the Extremis comic-book storyline then his character should have a nice meaty role. Pearce has impressed us in 2012 with his slimey performance in Lawless and we couldn’t help but like him in Lockout too. This could potentially be Downey Jr.‘s last outing as Iron Man in his own dedicated film, so we’re hoping that if it is – he goes out with a bang! We also get this a week before the US… which makes it even better.

5) 24th May: The Hangover Part III

2013 Hangover Part 3

The Hangover was a breath of fresh air for the comedy film world. It was rude, bombastic and totally absurd… it was great. So when Part II reared its head in 2011… well, we were all a bit disappointed. It was near enough a copy-and-paste of its predecessor. However, The Hangover Part III is promising to turn the concept on its head, with the guys (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) coming to the aid of Zach Galifianakis‘ Alan. At least, that’s what the rumours are indicating… we’ll see for sure come May.

6) 7th June: After Earth

2013 After Earth

When Will Smith releases a film, the world raises its head and takes notice. He, like Cruise, has released some dud movies, but he’s another incredibly bankable actor and generally has a fantastic number of releases under his belt. In After Earth we see him reunited on-screen with his son Jaden Smith, which is great… but isn’t the reason we’re excited about this. The film also marks the return of M. Night Shyamalan to the director’s chair some 3 years after the disaster that was The Last Airbender. All we really know is that it sees Big Willy crash land on a planet that’s not been inhabited by humans for 1000 years. We just hope that “the twist” isn’t that he’s time travelled and this IS Earth… A bit like Planet of the Apes, but without the damn dirty apes.

7) 14th June: Man of Steel

2013 Man of Steel

Although Batman’s done and dusted, Christopher Nolan‘s dabbling with the DC superheroes isn’t over. With Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, and Nolan as producer, we see the return of Superman. Whilst the trailers have been suitably vague, we’re excited to see what they’ll do with this franchise. Could it be the next Green Lantern, or will he be the new Dark Knight… or a Light Knight. With laser eyes, who can fly… and spin the world backwards. How they manage to ground such a ludicrously powerful hero will be interesting. Because as we know, all Hollywood cares about nowadays is making heroes “gritty” and “realistic”. We’ve high hopes for Henry Cavill though – he certainly looks the part, and with the main villain touted as Zod (another superpowered guy), we’re expecting fireworks.

8) 21st June: World War Z

2013 World War Z

This could be fantastic… but it could also be awful… This film worries us and excites us in equal measures. I’m a massive fan of Max Brooks’ original book by the same name. It’s utterly fantastic. But the Brad Pitt-led film deviates heavily from the concept of the book (an oral retelling of a war against a plague that turns people into zombies – told by the survivors). Instead, this film opts to follow Pitt -who works for the UN, during an onslaught in Pittsburgh. The trailer looks a bit of a mess, with the zombies somehow forming a tidal wave – they move like a liquid. An odd choice. I’d rather we saw the runners from 28 Days Later… but we’ll see how this turns out. We’re curious, to say the least.

9) 12th July: Monsters University

2013 Monsters University

Finally we get the follow up to 2001’s Monsters Inc., which is one of my favourite animated movies. We’re hoping that Monsters University goes beyond what was done back then and creates a truly funny and imaginative film. The original gang is back, so we can look forward to seeing Sully (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) in their University of Fear days. We know that they weren’t necessarily friends back then, so it’ll be an interesting plot. Let’s just hope the sequel / prequel is at least as good as the original so that it doesn’t sully (ha – that’s his name!) what was a great original film.

10) 26th July: The Wolverine

2013 The Wolverine

The most popular X-Man reappears on-screen this year – once again courtesy of Hugh Jackman. This one should be interesting. Apparently it’s going to skip over X-Men Origins: Wolverine and actually pick up from where X-Men: The Last Stand left off. Very interesting. Incidentally, it’s set in Japan and sees Logan coping with his losses and dealing with his life. Naturally, he’s going to have to pop those claws too to deal with some samurais. We’re also intrigued to see whether this somehow links in with 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which should feature Wolverine quite prominently. Hugh Jackman‘s signed on for it, so we shall see…

11) 20th September: Elysium

2013 Elysium

This is probably our most anticipated film on the list. Why? Because we’re seeing Neil Blomkamp returning as the writer and director. Who’s he? Only the guy behind District 9 – one of our favourite films. We’re still waiting on District 10 though – get on it Neil – we want to know what happened to Wikus! Why else should this be great? 1) the actors: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley, 2) the story: rich folks live on a spacecraft, poor folks live on the wrecked Earth… and Matt Damon‘s going to equalise it! We’re very, very excited.

12) ??th October: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

2013 Sin City 2 A Dame To Kill For

2005’s Sin City was a beautiful piece of cinema. In every sense. It was pulpy, gritty and looked sublime. It was Robert Rodriguez at his best, adapting a great Max Miller story. Can he do it twice? Well we’ve got a hell of a lot of the cast back for events that are set just before the original film. That means Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Michael Madsen, Clive Owen etc. It’s a shame Bruce Willis doesn’t figure in this story, as his character was great. But hey – if we’ve got more of Mickey Rourke‘s Marv back up there smashing things, then we’re happy. It also features some bizarre cameos… Lady Gaga anyone?

13) 30th October: Thor: The Dark World

2013 Thor The Dark World

Rounding out our list of the thirteen most anticipated films is everyone’s favourite Norse God: Thor. Yes, Chris Hemsworth will be back at his ripped best and fighting a new evil… one that isn’t just Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki again! Hurrah! This time we’ll see him squaring off against Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith in what should be a refreshing new angle – not all God vs. God again, or Thor landing on Earth in the middle of nowhere doing his best impression of Crocodile Dundee… minus “y’call that a knife?” routine. Oh, and again… UK beats the US release by one week. We may have lost the battle for Wreck-It Ralph, but we’ve not lost the war yet my friends.

And that’s it – just a selection of thirteen of our picks of films to watch in 2013. We’ve not even touched on the new Fast & The Furious movie, which again has Dwayne Johnson in it, so it should be pretty good. Then there’s Gangster Squad, the eventual release of Wreck-It Ralph, and Spielberg‘s Robopocalypse. But hey – it’s thirteen films for 2013… I’ll do more films next year. Probably fourteen. If the world doesn’t end this year either.