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It’s Jen’s birthday month, so that means Jen gets to pick all the topics this month! We start off with the classic 1995 film, Clueless, starring Alicia “Batgirl” Silverstone, Paul “Ant Man” Rudd, and a bunch of other people I can’t be bothered to list. You know you will want to check out this episode. As if!
To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.
The long-awaited Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues hit theaters last week, and I got a chance to see it today. I have to say that, overall, the film wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The laughs were there, but I don’t think they were as belly-filled as the first Anchorman. If anything, the film was on-par with the first in terms of humor, but it does suffer from several perplexing missteps.
In Anchorman 2, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), who is separated from his wife Veronica (a severely underused Christina Applegate), takes an anchor job at GNN, a 24 hour cable news network (the first of its kind). He recruits his old news team, and they, quite by accident, slowly begin to revolutionize the way news is presented (telling the people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear).
I liked a lot of elements of this story. In particular, I loved how they placed Ron as the historical catalyst the change on how news is reported with sensationalism and nonsensical stories a (and non-stories). In many ways, there is a slight satirical bite on what Anchorman 2 has to say about cable news today. And, they do it just enough without getting preachy and in-your-face about it.
I also have to give some love to James Marsden who is absolutely brilliant as Jake Lime, Ron’s main rival at GNN. Marsden is always great in anything he is ever in, and he thrives in supporting roles such as these. I honestly wish he was given more to do in the movie, but as is, he’s great especially in one sequence where he sarcastically uses Ron’s signature line of “stay classy” (which is the only time in the film it is uttered).
Where the film faults is that it really feels as if Farrell and director Adam McKay were just trying too hard at times. This movie is just so overstuffed with material that one can’t really get a handle of what this movie is truly about. Is it about Ron’s ignorance with race relations? About his deteriorating relationship with his wife and son? About his rivalry with Lime? About letting fame get to him? Anchorman 2 deals with all of these things, but it really comes off feeling unfocused. While the first film had a ton of zany jokes, it also had a narrative through-line which kept everything together.
Not helping matters is that there is an extended subplot for Steve Carell’s Brick in which he falls in love with a receptionist (Kristen Wiig). I know Carell’s star is risen significantly since the first Anchorman, but his character is so one-joke, that he really can’t support a storyline. Brick works great as part of the group, but not really on his own. I am really not convinced this was needed.
The thing I liked with the original Anchorman was that it was such a cartoon in the sense of how zany it was. Anchorman 2 really loses that factor, which really disappointed me. Honestly, it doesn’t get really crazy until the last fifteen minutes or so, and then they crank the insanity up to eleven. The movie reuses a gag from the original, but in a new way. It works wonderfully. I would highly encourage you to avoid any spoilers solely for this sequence.
Would I recommend Anchorman 2? I’m not sure. I wasn’t disappointed by it. I do wish it was a little better. The film never strives to be more than it is, which I suppose is a good thing. However, I am not really sure that the film totally works on its own. If you are a fan of the original, go check it out. It is more of the same, even if some of the energy from the original isn’t quite there.
Edited to Add: Definitely avoid spoilers on the cameos in the film. They work so well and knowing who is appearing would likely ruin the impact of the gags.
Zack and Nick stay classy this week as they look back on the modern comedy classic, Anchorman, starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and David Koechner. The Culty-Duo will also take a look at Anchorman‘s reception in the following years after its release and will preview the upcoming sequel.
This is a good episode, so don’t miss out!
Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.
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For this week’s installment of our regular feature What Went Wrong?, I will take a look at the recently released Tina Fey/Paul Rudd collaboration Admission, which has set a low point in Fey’s film career (she had never headlined a box office disappointment up until this point) and stands as the latest in a fairly decent-sized string of flops for Rudd (which have also included recent disappointments Wanderlust and This is 40).
Tina Fey has built a large fanbase over the better part of the past decade through hard work, superlative comedic writing, and some pretty darn good television, book, and movie projects (30 Rock, Bossy Pants, Mean Girls, Date Night). Fey’s work is, generally speaking, of the highest critical acclaim, and I consider her one of the best comic talents currently working in America. Paul Rudd is also a highly critically acclaimed actor, having appeared in movies for over two decades. Rudd gets continual exposure in some big comedy hits, including Clueless, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Role Models, and I Love You, Man. Rudd is a charming, affable, highly charismatic comedy actor. Placed together, Fey and Rudd should have been able to light up the screen in perhaps the best comedic romantic pairing in years. When it was released into theaters over the past weekend however, their film Admission flopped, grossing just over six million dollars in domestic receipts. So, what exactly went wrong?
Admission seemed almost doomed from the start. Despite the likable, strong leads, the film’s initial trailer wasn’t very funny, highlighting many various quick sight-gags and non-sequiturs (such as Lily Tomlin with a shotgun or Fey and Rudd in a barn shower of some type). The film seemed to generate almost zero buzz in the weeks leading up to its opening release despite it being the first project for Fey since the high profile series finale of her beloved sitcom 30 Rock (which ended on a high note). Fey’s audiences probably pay attention to critical acclaim as well, and Admission received decidedly mixed reviews from critics (the film stands at 46% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes). Director Paul Weitz and screenwriter Karen Croner received negative critical marks for their work on the film as well.
Admission certainly wasn’t done any favors opening up against The Croods, Olympus Has Fallen, and only a few weeks after Oz: The Great and Powerful either. Each of these films had a better marketing effort and more buzz leading into their opening weekends. Admission is certainly helped in one way: its budget was only 13 million dollars, meaning it may be able to eventually break even or post a tiny profit after DVD sales and rentals figure in. The month of March is now considered a good time to open a high profile, big budget feature, and each of the previously mentioned films had a lot more at stake and more reason to succeed at the box office than Admission. Focus, the studio behind the film, just seemed content to let their little film not do so well in theaters and maybe hope for the best in ancillary markets. Fey and Rudd probably deserved better all around.
It’s been a few weeks since the last edition of this feature, but I am back and ready to write about failures once again (my favorite topic to write about!). For this installment of What Went Wrong? I will once again take a look at two films I have recently watched, perhaps giving me insight into why these films either struggled mightily or outright failed at the domestic box office.
From writer/director David Wain, Wanderlust is the story of middle-aged couple George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) as they struggle with losing their jobs in New York City, forcing them to move into a posh Atlanta suburb with George’s boorish older brother (Ken Marino, in an hilarious supporting role). When this doesn’t work out, the couple joins a commune in rural Georgia, eschewing modern conveniences and attempting to get back to nature. Featuring a lively cast that also includes Alan Alda, Malin Akerman, and Justin Theroux, Wanderlust is extremely funny, combining the type of humor prevalent in director Wain’s previous films (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models) with the type of humor one might find on NBC’s Thursday night comedy block (e.g., shows like Parks and Recreation and Community). Wanderlust was also positively reviewed, garnering a ‘Fresh’ rating on the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. So, what exactly went wrong?
First things first, with the exception of Role Models, nothing in Wain’s filmography suggests any kind of mainstream success (and even Role Models is fairly forgettable in an I Love You, Man or Forgetting Sarah Marshall kind of way). Wain and his typical crew (Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, Ken Marino) of writers and contributors are the very definition of alternative comedy. Wain’s films and oeuvre in general appeal solely to a narrow subset of the population, most of whom would probably be more apt to catch this movie during its home release (just as they did with Wet Hot American Summer). Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, on the other hand, are mainstream names and have appeared in bonafide box office hits consistently over the past half-decade (Aniston is one of the highest-earning actresses in Hollywood, for example). The two of them should have been at least able to open a film with more than the measly eight million dollars Wanderlust took in during its first weekend. Opening in a fairly small amount of theaters (2,002) and up against the Tyler Perry machine, the recently released Journey 2, and the action hit Act of Valor, the film probably never had a shot at a big opening weekend gross. Also in theaters during that same month were hits like The Vow, Safe House, and Chronicle. I recommend checking out Wanderlust on DVD, especially if you’re a fan of Rudd, Wain, and crew.
I have previously reviewed Sanctum for this blog. It was one of the first film reviews we ever did for the site, and as such it might be a bit poor. I recently re-watched Sanctum in 3D on my home set-up. I remember liking it somewhat initially, and wanted to go back and check it out again. Sanctum is the story of a father and son (Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield) who are often at odds with each other, but bond during an accident on an underwater cave dive. Filmed with 3D cameras (apparently the same technology used to film Avatar – James Cameron is a producer here), Sanctum looks absolutely amazing. The story is solid and the main performances are good (the less said about Ioan Gruffudd, who is awful, the better). The film seemed primed to take some of that big 3D money to the bank, but failed domestically. So what exactly went wrong?
Sanctum met with mixed-to-low reviews when it hit American theaters in February 2011. The advertising made it seem like some kind of underwater monster/horror movie rather than a disaster movie (no monsters appear in Sanctum, unless you count man as a monster – hey, that’s deep stuff!). Advertising should have played up the Cameron connection more, emphasizing the fantastic 3D effects (which were praised in the reviews). The claustrophobic setting as well as the brooding paranoia and sense of dread could have been better advertised as well. Indeed, in other parts of the world Sanctum received much better critical notice (and it also did much better in theaters overseas as well). Sanctum also features no major stars, and thus there is no one single actor to build a campaign around. Additionally, this film was also released during the whole “3D burnout” thing (when many movies – such as The Last Airbender, Clash of the Titans, etc – were crappily post-converted to 3D and people began to tire of the gimmick). I would be hesitant to recommend catching Sanctum unless you have the means to see it in 3D, but it is a pretty glorious experience to behold in the third dimension, especially if you’re a fan of great camera work.