Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Tag Archives: Will Ferrell

ANCC: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Kevin Smith Month continues with 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and listen as Jennifer slowly dies from watching this film!  But beyond talking about Smith’s then-capstone to his View Askewniverse, the trio eventually wander into Smith’s merits as a filmmaker and overlord of his media empire!  It’s a fun-filled episode, so check it out!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

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ANCC: Things We Don’t Like

Nick and the Gorehound take a step back and discuss some trends, genres, styles, etc that they are not particularly fond of and/or simply loath for various reasons.  They are not begrudging anyone who likes such things, but they wanted to take some time and air their dislikes out. Some of which may surprise you!

They are prepared for your hate mail, so give them a listen!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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The Lego Movie Podcast

This time, Zack and Nick discuss the early 2014 mega-hit film The Lego Movie, written for the screen and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller and featuring the voice talents of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Arnett. What will they have to say about this well-received animated film? Listen and find out!

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

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And as always click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

-Z-

I saw The Lego Movie

Children’s entertainment can pretty much go either way for adults. Generally speaking, it can be either entertaining and a solid waste of time for both children and adults, or it can be insipid, mind-numbing crap so bad that it makes you wonder how anyone could watch it, small children or otherwise. Thankfully, the last ten years or so has been filled with amusing children’s entertainment suitable for adults as well, mostly thanks to the efforts of studios like Pixar. Disney has caught on as well, releasing Wreck-It Ralph and then Frozen in simultaneous years. Even Dreamworks has gotten in on this, with last year’s The Croods being a fairly pleasant diversion. The latest in this trend is The Lego Movie, stemming from an unlikely source in Warner Bros. Animation.

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Warner’s biggest hits in the field of animation include both Happy Feet films, and the second one was a pretty notable flop back in 2011. So when The Lego Movie was announced, you could be forgiven for not being all that interested. Fortunately, the film stems mainly from the minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the creative pair responsible for MTV’s cult hit Clone High as well as 2012’s well-liked 21 Jump Street feature film adaptation/remake. With Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt as the main character Emmet, The Hunger Games’ Elizabeth Banks voicing the rebellious Wyldstyle, and comedy stalwart Will Ferrell bringing life to the big bad Lord Business (president of the dubious Octan Corporation as well as the city of Bricksburg), The Lego Movie boasts considerable acting talent. And while it doesn’t always hit its mark, it is an admirable and entertaining effort well worth the time.

When President Business steals the mysterious Kragle (a Macguffin I won’t spoil in this review), it is up to regular, everyday Lego minifigure/construction worker Emmet to fulfill the prophecy foretold by ancient wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and save the world with the help of Wyldstyle, Batman (voice of Will Arnett), the dread pirate Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), Uni-Kitty (Alison Brie), and 1980s spaceman Benny (Charlie Day). Together they must unite to stop President Business as well as his henchman Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) from their nefarious plot and save the day for the Lego universe (which includes, in addition to Bricksburg, a pirate land, wild west land, and “Middle Zealand” – an obvious reference to Lord of the Rings as well as the popular knight-themed Lego sets of the 1980s).

While the film is light on plot, it is fast, energetic, colorful, frenetically paced, fairly funny, and often incredibly charming. The script is filled with decent quips and jokes throughout its running time, many of which are based on the Lego characters’ limited movements (doing “jumping jacks” side to side for example) or their ability to tear down an entire city and construct the same thing again every single day as a viable job. The voice talent is considerably strong throughout, with Arnett’s performance as Batman being a notable highlight. Arnett portrays him as a spoiled, snotty jerk type of character, which is a total 180 from how you might expect Batman to act. Ferrell is also great as Lord Business – perfectly cast I would say. Chris Pratt’s energy and dumb optimism makes for a great blank slate character as well. Oh, and the music – done by Mark Mothersbaugh – is fantastic.

The Lego Movie is a trifle for sure, however. There’s not that much dept there, certainly not as much found in something like Ratatouille or Toy Story 3. The script is fast and well paced, but it can also be shallow in areas and relies on a lot of character cameos and a few dumb gags. There’s a bit of sentimentality towards the end that isn’t entirely earned, but it is fairly well done – I won’t spoil it here, but I was not expecting where it took the story. I’m not sure if I liked it, but it was different and I will at least give it credit for that. There’s still a ton of creativity to be found in this movie. I imagine it will appeal more to adults than kids, but I still had a good time throughout its thankfully average 100-minute running time (any more time spent in this film would have just been superfluous). Check it out for a fun, if not particularly deep, time at the movies.

-Z-

Nick saw “Anchorman 2”

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.

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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.

~N

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.

The Anchorman Podcast

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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As always, click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

25 Days of Christmas: ‘Elf’

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After Old School proved that Will Ferrell could make it as a movie lead, he was awarded with his first solo film in Elf, the 2003 holiday film.  In it, we see Ferrell as Buddy, a man raised by Santa’s elves, believing he was one.  After being told the truth, Buddy ventures to New York City in order to connect with the family he never knew he had.  Of course his somewhat cold father (James Cann) is dubious about Buddy’s identity, Buddy’s boundless enthusiasm nevertheless makes an impression on his younger step-brother and, inexplicably, local shop girl Jovi (Zooey Deschanel).

I do not think that it is too far for me to say that Buddy the Elf is a career-defining role for Ferrell.  From here on out, he largely plays this kind of character again and again to the point that it is now obnoxious.  The whole man-boy shtick makes Ferrell one-note.  In 2003, it was largely brand-new (your mileage may vary depending on how you view Old School).

More importantly, this kind of character works in this context.  For a holiday movie meant to be silly and fun, having this over-the-top goofiness is the glue that makes the movie stick together.  If Buddy was portrayed as a “regular guy” or (worse) some emo type, the Elf would have been terrible.

Of course, the movie has all the gimmicks of your traditional Christmas flick where Santa plays a crucial role.  The most ridiculous one being that no one believes Santa is real despite the fact that Santa has been delivering presents since forever.  The film also suffers from the idea that all the problems are resolved due to an eleventh hour change of heart, and that it is incredibly easy for a giant crowd in New York to buy into what a seemingly crazy person is saying.

All of that does not really matter.  It is a fun, charming movie.  The stupid and/or clichéd stuff can easily be overlooked.  Obviously it is designed for younger families, but it has that crossover ability that I think pretty much anyone can enjoy.  And history has told us that Elf did just that.  It is considered a holiday classic, a title it rightfully earned.

What Went Wrong? Vol. 20

In last week’s installment of our regular What Went Wrong? feature here at the Culture Cast blog, I wrote on two wildly different movies on the opposite end of the critical spectrum. Red Dawn, it seems, will follow the trajectory I laid out for it at the box office, while Silver Linings Playbook may end up overcoming the odds against it (odds stacked by its own distribution company no less) and wind up a modest commercial success just yet. The film I’m going to document today is more like Red Dawn, in that it was a fairly established box office disaster remade from an earlier product. Let’s get to it!

Land of the Lost (2009)

Even the post screams "obnoxious."

Even the post screams “obnoxious.”

The summer of 2009 seemed kind to comedies on the surface, but that’s only because The Hangover did massive box office numbers when it was released in June of that year. Pretty much every other summer comedy film (Year One, Funny People, Land of the Lost) ended up being a box office loser. Even modest hits like Night at the Museum 2 (a good companion piece to Land of the Lost actually) saw diminishing critical and commercial success that year. Despite these misfires, the summer of 2009 was fairly strong over all, and will be remembered for films like Up, Star Trek, and District 13 which were all massive hits for their respective studios. I like each of those films just fine, but since this is a column about failure, I’m contractually obligated to write about Land of the Lost, which was perhaps the biggest money-loser of the summer.

Land of the Lost was based on the kitschy children’s television show of the early 1970s (which was then re-made into a Saturday morning children’s program starring Timothy Bottoms in the early 90s). Developed by Sid and Marty Krofft, the Canadian duo responsible for such terrors as H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost is the story of Dr. Rick Marshall and company, who are exiled to a land resembling prehistoric times on earth (complete with dinosaurs and such). The big budget Hollywood film adaptation largely keeps the surface stuff in while simultaneously eschewing the cheapness and kitsch factor of the original. Featuring a well-cast Will Ferrell as Marshall, the movie version sees our hero, joined by a British doctoral student played by Anna Friel and a back-country tour guide played by the always welcomed Danny McBride, whisked away to an alternate dimension courtesy of a “tachyon” device (which Ferrell constructed and which is never adequately explained) where the three must face off against the villainous Sleestaks as well as dinosaurs and various other sinister creatures roaming the alternate prehistoric countryside.

Universal seemingly spared no expense in the production. Poised as a big summer event film, Land of the Lost was directed by Brad Silberling with a script from frequent Ferrell collaborator Chris Henchy. Budgeted at a ludicrous 100 million dollars (approximately five billion times what the 70s TV series cost, I imagine), Land of the Lost opened to absolutely disastrous reviews and extraordinarily weak box office numbers, particularly for a summer Ferrell movie. Ferrell had seen success the past few years with hits like Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, and Anchorman. He had also fared well in family comedies like Elf, which was a smash hit for New Line Cinema and essentially Ferrell’s first big commercial hit. Land of the Lost wound up grossing a scant 69 million dollars worldwide. So, what exactly went wrong?

Despite character similarities, Land of the Lost is a remake almost in name only. Yes, Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a paleontologist who winds up in an alternate dimension populated by dinosaurs; that much is true. However, the film itself definitely doesn’t fit the mold for what a remake entails. The film uses the Land of the Lost name as merely a reference point for a series of increasingly dumb jokes, riffing on the cheesiness of the 70s original while delivering rapid-fire quips (some of which actually land hilariously), gross sight-gags (most of which do not land hilariously), and the occasional reference to some form of outdated pop culture (A Chorus Line, Hummer-brand vehicles, etc). Land of the Lost isn’t like Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Karate Kid (2010), Footloose (2011), or even Red Dawn (2012). The film could still conceivably exist without the existence of the property it is based on. Sid and Marty Krofft’s “beloved” children’s television show is merely a vessel for crude jokes and one-liners – not that there’s anything wrong with that (if the jokes work, that is). Unfortunately for Land of the Lost, audiences soundly rejected this.

It doesn’t help that nearly every advertisement I ever saw for this movie made it seem like a kid’s film. Surprisingly, however, Land of the Lost is rated PG-13, and gets good mileage out of its more ribald rating. Danny McBride is particularly raunchy, making lewd comments and gestures throughout the film. There are even a few gross-out scenes which stretch the PG-13 limit considerably, many of which include the film’s version of Jar Jar Binks, the ape-like Cha-Ka (a creepy Jorma Taccone). Cha-Ka may have conceptually been a fine character (though probably not) but on screen he just doesn’t work. Children’s films aren’t immune to coarse potty humor and gross-out gags (see: the Shrek film series). They just don’t usually contain them in the way that Land of the Lost does. A gigantic mosquito sucking blood from Will Ferrell’s back is a good sight gag, just probably not for what many thought would be a fairly neutered children’s comedy. Additionally, Ferrell burn-out hit around the time Land of the Lost debuted. His previous summer film, Step Brothers, while a hundred million dollar grosser, did not seemed to be as beloved as some of his earlier, more commercial properties. Like Seth Rogen during the same time period, Ferrell just kind of wore out his welcome for about a year or so.

Land of the Lost is certainly an odd film. What’s ultimately funny to me is that it seems like Ferrell and company are just basically screwing around with a hundred million dollar summer tent-pole film. It is almost as if they’re making it this way on purpose. The constant references to A Chorus Line, for example, have to be almost deliberate. Chris Henchy’s writing in particular feels as if it’s coming out of a different Ferrell vehicle altogether (in a good way). It should be noted that director Brad Silberling hasn’t made a film since Land of the Lost, so someone at least paid career-wise for the disaster this movie turned out to be. I can’t imagine Universal giving the keys to the car to this group ever again. Thing is, I don’t really think that the end product is that bad of a movie. It definitely wasn’t my intention to damn Land of the Lost with faint praise when I decided to write about it for this column, but I found a lot of its stupid comedy to be actually quite smart. Again, critics and audiences vastly and obviously disagree. In the end, Land of the Lost ended up as one of the biggest flops of 2009 – unfairly so says I.

-Z-

The Friday Five: Late-Summer Films

In an attempt to bring back the Friday Five for the first time in a long time, I’ve decided that today I will discuss the upcoming late-summer films I am looking forward to. This list is by no means comprehensive, and films shall be listed by their opening release dates chronologically.

The Dark Knight Rises (Opens July 20th)

There is honestly little left to say about the third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Expectations are sky-high, people have been all in for years, and anything short of the most amazing, greatest film of all time might just cause riots opening weekend. Starring Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, and Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises looks to break box office records when it opens in domestic theaters next week. Film companies were wary enough to not open much before this film, nor schedule anything alongside it or even the week after it. It’s pretty safe to say that The Dark Knight Rises is the most anticipated film of the year. I have tempered my own expectations by intentionally foregoing standard trailers and tv commercials, but the internet being what it is, it was hard to escape the bevy of Dark Knight Rises newsbits and casting rumors over the past four (FOUR!) years. Opens July 20th … and you might wanna buy advance tickets.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (Opens August 3rd)

The past few years has seen the exponential growth of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. In the latest film chapter, Dog Days, main character Greg Heffley must suffer through the humiliation that is the middle school years during a long summer break. The change in scenery from the primary setting of the middle school environment will be welcomed for this installment, and opening a film about summer during the summer was probably a good idea. The first two movies captured the spirit and the feel of the book series exceedingly well. Zachary Gordon as lead character Greg Heffley has turned out to be pretty inspired casting and the supporting cast, anchored by a subdued, funny Steve Zahn as his father and a manic, frightening Devin Bostick as his brother is also pretty great. There is no reason to expect the third film, perhaps the logical conclusion for the film adaptations barring any direct-to-DVD nonsense with a new cast, won’t be more of the same, which will be perfectly fine as far as I am concerned. A Nick-style Franchise Fracas may result from this Culture Cast contributor when the third film opens in theaters on August 3rd.

The Campaign (Opens Friday August 10th)

Starring two of comedy’s biggest current superstars (Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis), The Campaign is the story of two competing politicians on the trail of competing local government election campaigns. Ferrell has done some great political comedy in the past (his George Bush impression became nigh legendary on Saturday Night Live), and Galifianakis is known for being an abstract comedy chameleon, whose performance in The Hangover movies has grown a worthy cult of its own. Also boasting a fantastic supporting cast (made up of actors like Dan Akroyd, Dylan McDermott, Jason Sudeikis, and John Lithgow), The Campaign is directed by Jay Roach, who has previously helmed big-budget comedy films like the Austin Powers series and the first two Meet the Parents films. Adam McKay, director of Anchorman and Talladega Nights amongst others, also shares producing credit. With all the talent behind The Campaign, my hopes are pretty high it will turn out to be hilarious. Opens August 10th.

The Expendables 2 (Opens August 17th)

It’s no secret that I have little love for the original Expendables film. It’s just a bit too generic and boring for my tastes and the action, despite the presence of some great action movie heroes, just didn’t do it for me. The sequel however looks to address the issues with the first film. Upping the Schwarzenegger/Willis factor and throwing in Jean Claude Van Damme as well as a Hemsworth brother was probably a great idea, as was replacing Stallone (who directed the first film) with director Simon West and thus unburdening Stallone somewhat, letting him focus on the writing and acting aspects of the film instead. The plot is incredibly simple (the group takes on a seemingly easy task – and are double-crossed or something) but will more than likely be effective for this type of film. Here’s to hoping The Expendables 2 turns out better than the first! I will be there opening day, August 17th.

Dredd (Opens Friday, September 21st)

By far the least commercial film on this list, Dredd has nonetheless piqued my interest. I may be one of the few supporters the original 1995 Judge Dredd film, but this new “reboot” of the franchise may very well turn out to be actually good. Starring Karl Urban (Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Dredd is the story of legendary comic book character and anti-hero Judge Dredd, as he squares off against a ruthless drug dealer in a murderous, brutal post-apocalyptic city. The film wisely restricts the scale to one building, giving it a claustrophobic feeling while also keeping the budget low and thus tempering expectations that this film is going to be some kind of The Avengers-like comic book epic. Dredd appears to be somewhat similar in tone and scope to Punisher: War Zone and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, two under-appreciated comic book movie gems of the past few years, which is fantastic for my tastes. Also starring Lena Heady (300, Game of Thrones), and Olivia Thirlby, Dredd is directed by Pete Travis and produced in part by Alex Garland (writer of Sunshine and other Danny Boyle films). Opens September 21st, far later than any other film on this list.

What late-summer films are you looking forward to?

-Z-

I Saw ‘Everything Must Go’

I have a love/hate relationship Will Ferrell. He can be very, very funny, but his shtick of the man-child has gotten really, really old by now. This is what irritates me about him. However, Will Ferrell can also be a very good dramatic actor when he chooses to be (and I wish he chose this more often). Everything Must Go is proof of that. He steps out of his comfort zone demonstrates his range with subtly and nuance by playing an alcoholic who has hit rock bottom.

Unfortunately (and perhaps surprisingly), Ferrell’s performance is really the only positive thing I can say about the movie. Everything Must Go isn’t necessary a bad movie. It is competently made and well acted (particularly Ferrell and his child co-star Christopher C.J. Wallace). It also happens to be incredibly dull.

The characters are interesting and developed well, but they are not given anything all that interesting to do. The struggles of Ferrell’s character are set-up very well, but there really isn’t any follow-through nor credible resolution. While things resolve themselves as one would likely expect, we never see any definitive that break-through that I could buy into given what is revealed about his past attempts to turn things around.

Part of the dullness of the film is that the pacing is very slow. Honestly, the film almost feels like a mainstream film tried to appeal to the independent market or an indi-film trying to go mainstream. Either way, it doesn’t work.

Critics seemed to really favor Everything Must Go when it was released last May. I can understand that as the film has some fantastic performances. If you look beyond the performances, however, you’ll find that there really isn’t all that much there.

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