The Big Short

January 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale
Directed by: Adam McKay (“Talladega Nights”)
Written by: Adam McKay (“Ant-Man”) and Charles Randolph (“Love & Other Drugs”)

Filmmaker Adam McKay, best known for directing and writing broad and silly comedies like “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” takes a swing at something a little more serious than Will Ferrell running butt-naked on a racetrack. Set a few years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, the self-important drama places audiences at the center of a three-ring circus where a group of stock market experts (Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and pals) find out the housing market is about to implode and that they can make a lot of money on the misfortune of others. What McKay creates here is his version of an exaggerated “The Wolf of Wall Street” that registers as phony and too shallow for its own good. Maybe that’s the point, but when the script spews out confusing financial jargon and then backtracks to explain economics by breaking down the fourth wall, it’s about as entertaining as listening to a comedian do a stand-up routine on predatory lending.

Ant Man

July 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily
Directed by: Peyton Reed (“Bring It On”)
Written by:  Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) & Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”) and Adam McKay (“Anchorman”) & Paul Rudd (debut)

“Ant-Man” will likely remain the biggest “what if?” in the lifetime of the Marvel cinematic universe (unless they actually produce a movie based on the alternate-reality comic book series “What If?”) due to one big giant reason: the departure of original director and screenwriter Edgar Wright. The fanboy-favorite “Scott Pilgrim” filmmaker famously left the film last year—after nearly a decade of development—due to creative differences. With a cast in place and a release date looming, Marvel quickly brought in director Peyton Reed and punched up the script with contributions from star Paul Rudd and “Anchorman” writer/director Adam McKay—all clear signs this movie would be leaning further toward comedy than any Marvel movie released so far. And yeah, the movie is fun and funny at times, but the lumpiness of the rewrites, clashes of tone, and the general tamping down of Rudd’s easy charisma rob the film of what could have been an energetic “Guardians of the Galaxy”-style offbeat excitement.

The movie opens with good-hearted criminal Scott Lang (Rudd) being released from prison. Lang was locked up for stealing money back from scamming corporations, but a criminal record is a criminal record, and he can’t land a job outside of Baskin Robbins. When he loses that job thanks to his background, Lang’s loveable criminal friend Luis (Michael Peña) offers him an easy score: break into a safe at some old hermit’s house and steal the loot inside. Lang agrees, but all he finds in the vault is some strange body suit and helmet, which he steals anyway. Out of curiosity, Scott puts the suit on and presses a mysterious button that instantly shrinks him down to the size of an insect. The suit he stole belongs to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, and he needs Scott’s help to stop a madman from using the shrinking technology for nefarious purposes.

“Ant-Man” feels like a smaller Marvel movie, likely by design. It’s a welcome respite from the end of the world scenario that the Avengers, et al, typically deal with, but the light-hearted, goofy adventure side of the film is undone by the dour, cliché-ridden parallel father/daughter redemption stories and some leaps of logic in the plot, like why does Lang steal the suit at all, other than to move the plot forward? Rudd’s natural likeability is neutered in the movie, his quick sarcasm and mischievous grin smushed under the weight of having to prove he’s a good guy to not just his daughter, but his ex-wife (Judy Greer, in another thankless role) and his wife’s new cop husband (Bobby Cannavale, apparently one of the two cops in San Francisco). The futile question gets asked, of course, because it must be asked: what would an Edgar Wright “Ant-Man” have looked like? Many fanboys will be wondering about this for many a Comic Con to come.

Anchorman 2

December 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd
Directed by: Adam McKay (“Step Brothers,” “Anchorman”)
Written by: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (“Anchorman,” “Step Brothers”)

My day job puts me in a bonafide local TV newsroom every day, wherein 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” is held sacred. Hardly a day goes by that doesn’t feature some anchor or reporter or producer throwing out one of the many absurdist quotes that turned the comedy into a true cult classic. Will Ferrell’s mustachioed, buffoonish newsman has become his most endearing creation, yet it still took nine years of studio wrangling to get a sequel up and running. After months of Ferrell doing in-character talk show appearances, SUV commercials, and genuine local newscasts, Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 News Team has finally reassembled on the big screen in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”

Picking up several years after the first film, “Anchorman 2” opens with Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) anchoring the network news as the first-ever husband and wife duo. When veteran anchor Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) decides to step down, he taps Corningstone as his replacement and fires Ron. When Ron’s jealously toward Veronica boils over, the couple splits, sending a drunken Ron back to San Diego, where he hosts dolphin shows at Sea World in between sexually harassing the trainers. Burgundy is offered a second chance, though, when Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) shows up offering Ron a new job in broadcasting: reading the news on the world’s first 24-hour news network.

Moreso than the first go-round, “Anchorman 2” has a definite satirical edge. All the affronts to real journalism that 24-hour cable news showcases—wall-to-wall coverage of car chases, rampant speculation in place of facts, mindless jingoism—are the creation of Ron Burgundy in this universe. Thankfully, though, Ferrell and co-writer/director Adam McKay understand that the audience isn’t there just for a “Daily Show”-style takedown of the news media. The duo (and the rest of the cast, by virtue of on-set improv) have packed the movie to the rafters with jokes which, of course, are hit and miss. As can be expected, jokes that became cultural touchstones in the first film, like the epic battle featuring rival news teams and tridents, are rehashed here with the absurdity turned up to 11, and Ron Burgundy belts out even more quotes that will dance around in your brain for years to come. “By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!” is a early personal favorite.

While Ferrell and McKay could have coasted on pure goodwill generated by the original movie, its clear they shot for the moon with the sequel which, after one initial viewing, is extremely funny…but short of legendary. But, as with the first film, more viewings are likely to change that.

Grade: B

The Other Guys

August 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton
Directed by: Adam McKay (“Step Brothers”)
Written by: Adam McKay (“Step Brothers”) and Chris Henchy (“Land of the Lost”)
 
While it’s not as dismal as the Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis vehicle “Cop Out” from earlier this year, the convoluted plot and countless misfires and clichés in “The Other Guys” definitely make for a subpar ride-a-long in the buddy-cop action sub-genre. A better name for it might’ve been “Policing for Schmucks.”

In “The Other Guys,” Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as a pair of NYPD cops whose embarrassing reputation among their fellow officers precedes them both. Allen Gamble (Ferrell), who has been transferred from accounting, would rather spend his time on the force sitting at a desk doing paperwork than be out in the field. His partner Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg), who was involved in an accidental shooting of a beloved sports star, is itching for a big case and is tired of watching the department’s hot shot cops (played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) get all the glory for their death-defying car chases and shoot outs.

It’s when Allen and Terry finally get the chance to prove they can handle a high-profile case (Steve Coogan plays a shady investment banker involved in a white-collar crime) when the film decelerates and lets Ferrell and Wahlberg riff off each other without much direction or substance to their ranting and raving.

Jokes include making fun of Allen for driving a Prius, arguing about what music they should listen to on the radio, a smut-talking old lady, and a scene where Allen has to talk down a suicidal man from a ledge with no formal training. It’s all be done before and done a lot funnier. When the jokes start repeating themselves (on more than one occasion Terry compares himself to an eager-to-fly peacock), it is evident “The Other Guys” has run out of things to say and do.

The only running joke that is fairly humorous is when Allen introduces Terry to his drop-dead gorgeous wife Sheila (Eva Mendes) and proceeds to underrate just how attractive she is. Terry wonders how a woman like Shelia could be interested in a man as maniacal and irksome as Allen.

Thin on character and hilarious moments and overwritten on plot, “The Other Guys” will probably please the biggest of Ferrell’s fans, but these are the same moviegoers that were rolling in the aisles for “Land of the Lost,” “Semi-Pro,” and “Blades of Glory.” Others who like him in smaller, more controlled doses just might need to take a pass on this one.

Step Brothers

July 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen
Directed by: Adam McKay (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy”)
Written by: Adam McKay (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”) and Will Ferrell (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”)

They’ve only been in two movies together, but watching Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in their new film “Step Brothers” will make you wonder if they were created in the same agar-filled Petri dish or once connected at the hip.

It’s not only the fact that they have the same dollish, curly hair or that they both look like identical geeks in argyle sweaters on the movie poster. Ferrell and Reilly have the same offbeat comedic timing and when put together makes for one eccentric metronome of humor.

In “Step Brothers,” 30-something-year-old Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) is not too thrilled when his mother (Mary Steenburgen) falls in love with Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins) and decides to marry and move in with him and his 30-something-year-old son Dale (John C. Reilly).

The boys, er, men quickly butt heads as they invade each other’s personal space. Basically, they hate each other from the get-go. Not only is their respect parent stealing the other away from them, both their mother and father are beginning to recognize that if they don’t make Brennan and Dale grow up, get jobs, and move out, they are going to be stuck with them for the rest of their lives.

Although the sibling rivalry/blood feud lasts for a good portion of the film (there are some great one-liners like, “I’m Dale, but you have to call me dragon” and “It’s like masturbating in a time machine”), the boys find out they have more in common then they first thought. Similarities in their personality take shape when both realize they share the same dislike for Brennan’s younger, douchebag-of-a-brother Derek (Adam Scott), whose seemingly perfect life is actually quite creepy.

While Ferrell and Reilly manage to keep the laughs coming for the first half of the film, Ferrell as a screenwriter once again proves that he can’t stop a joke from going on too long before it loses steam. At points, Ferrell’s humor is like the awkward silence or poorly extended scenes during parts of “The Family Guy.” You know there is a great comedic moment buried somewhere in the clutter, but its layers are far too thick to claw out.

“Step Brothers” is as juvenile as a film can get, even more so since the juveniles here are played by grown men. Once you get past all the horseplay and back to the short and offensive dialogue, there is some fun to be had with Ferrell and Reilly rampaging through the film like a fat kid through a candy store.