Thursday, December 26, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Anchorman 2, American Hustle

My quest to find a 5-panda movie before the end of the year continues and I have to tell you I’m starting to get pretty frustrated. I’m basically going to the movies every other day now and it’s getting kind of ridiculous. On the bright side no one can ever accuse me of not supporting my local movie theater. Well, not my local move theater since I don’t have an address. But someone’s local theater, surely.

Today we’re doing Mini-Reviews and will be looking at to movies set in the past: American Hustle and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Two new reviews after the jump.



Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Director: Adam McKay 

Screenwriter(s): Will Ferrell; Adam McKay

Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell; Paul Rudd; David Koechner; Christina Applegate 

Some years following the events of the first film Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Applegate) are co-anchors for a New York City based network news show. When the legendary nightly news anchor Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) decides to retire he names Veronica as his successor and promptly fires Ron for incompetence. Within the next few months Ron hits rock bottom, having left his family and the city in disgrace, but his fortune turns when he’s approached about anchoring for the world’s first 24-Hour news network GNN. Accepting the job he sets off to reunite with his old news team Brick Tamland (Carell), Brian Fantana (Rudd), and Champ Kind (Koechner).

Sequels are tough especially when they are comedies and especially when there’s a nine year gap. However I believe that this film manages to be at least just as good as the original film without just repeating the same beats and formula of its predecessor (this was my major problem with The Hangover Part II). So if nothing else I have to give this film high praise for managing to be entertaining on its own merit and not simply because the first one was funny (though some jokes are reused or revisited the film as a whole is still different).

The old team back together again
God help anyone trying to be PC
The characters in this flick are the main attraction as all the outrageous folks from the first film are just as fun as before. Actually I could have used a lot more of Brian and Champ as they are considerably underused after their reintroduction. Of course I guess the idea is that people are here to see Ron and Brick and if that’s the case you’ll be happy. The new characters? Meh. The important ones from the first one are back and that’s really all we care about.

It might shock you to learn that I don’t really have a lot of fondness for the original Anchorman, which I watched a few days before this one to refresh my memory. It’s okay; I do think it has its moments and is not a bad film but I find so many other comedies to be significantly more hilarious. I mention this because that’s exactly how I feel about Anchorman 2. When it’s on this film is goddamn hysterical and I did laugh out loud however when the humor doesn’t quite hit its mark the movie drags. At some points the film took a turn and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even chuckle for something like thirty minutes. A great example of this is the scene where various news teams do battle, one of the clear re-used gags from the first film. Now I was pretty annoyed with the scene when it started but certain parts had me on the floor laughing. Then again other points I was groaning. This was pretty much how I reacted through the entire film.

Well I guess I'm not going to eat fast food chicken ever again!
 This flick is an amazing example of a 3-Panda Movie: it’s okay but I know there are people who are going to love it way more than me and therefore one should probably see it themselves to make a final judgment. Personally I found some parts to be very funny but other parts felt superfluous frankly seemed like the writers were trying way too hard to make a joke. I don’t regret watching Anchorman 2 or anything like that but I didn’t gain a whole lot by doing so either.

I give Anchorman 2 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5.



 Pros 

-Has some legitimately hilarious jokes and scenes

-Manages to be entertaining despite being having a very different plot form the original

Con 

-Drags a lot when the jokes miss

-Could use more Brian and Champ


American Hustle 
Director: David O. Russell

Screenwriter(s): Eric Warren Singer; David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale; Bradley Cooper; Amy Adams; Jeremy Renner; Jennifer Lawrence

Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is a lifelong con artist who deals in several shady operations but his main business comes from his loan business which is actually an extortion racket. He runs this business with his girlfriend and love of his life Sydney Prosser (Adams). Things go very well for the two until Sydney is arrested for fraud by undercover FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper). DiMaso offers the couple a way to avoid prison: help him make five white collar crime busts using their skills as con artists. The couple reluctantly agrees to this however DiMaso is very ambitious and things quickly began snowballing out of control.

This is going to be a weird one, I suspect. This film is done by the same director of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, both of which won and were nominated for tons of awards. I expect this movie will be no different. So this movie is pretty much upper tier down the line. I found myself really into the costume design. The movie takes place in the late 70s which is not my favorite era for fashion but I somehow loved what they did with it. The script is pretty damn awesome; the dialogue is great and the plot is tension filled while being both funny and awkward when it needs to be.

[Insert Sexist/Superficial Comment Here]
The acting is good. The entire cast goes above and beyond the call of duty with their performances. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of it…however I don’t think any of the performances here were game changing. I’m sure Oscar nods will come from it but I’m not sure if I’d be super comfortable hearing about any wins in this category. Still things were good and I especially enjoyed Bale and Renner, who were the highlights for me.

My favorite aspect of the film was the contrast of Irving Rosenfeld's antihero role versus a traditional protagonist. On paper everything about Irving should paint him as a scumbag but having watched the film it’s pretty clear he’s more than decent. His only crime (aside from, you know, all the felonies) was loving his adoptive son too much to abandon him. I felt a great deal of empathy for the character but it occurs to me that I don’t feel that strong of connection to the other characters. This isn’t exactly a terrible flaw but I was thinking very hard about this and I’ve realized that the major difference between this film and, say, Moonrise Kingdom is that I was very enthralled by that film’s main characters and supporting cast. While I do feel that way with Irving the other two leads, Sydney and Richie, didn’t connect with me nearly as much.

The strange thing about this movie is that there’s not really anything to dislike about it and even now I’m having a hard time coming up with any real flaw in the film. And yet I walked out of the theater lacking that same sense of admiration for it that I had with movies such as Looper, Wreck-It Ralph and True Grit from past years. I think I know intellectually this is a flawless film but in my head I don’t think I enjoyed it the way they wanted me to. That said this may well be the best movie I’ve seen all year (off the top of my head with no detailed analysis). I implore anyone who enjoys things like good scripts and good acting to check this film out. If you’re the type of person who prefers gun fights over talking this movie won’t hold your interest but everyone else should at least give it a shot.

As a black man with naturally curly hair I find this scene to be confusing
I give American Hustle 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


Pros 

-Great script 

-Great acting 

-Great costumes 

-Great direction 

Cons 

-I had difficulty connection with most of the lead characters 

-I’m told this is a comedy but it doesn’t feel like a comedy

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