Ron Burgundy – how’s the legend holding up?

anchorman2Sequels. Comedy sequels no less. The hardest of all in the sequel kingdom. Do they ever work? Hmm… more often than not they don’t; at least not to the extent of the original. Casting your mind back for a second: it’s been almost ten years since the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy came out; a film which took many by surprise.

At the time Will Ferrell was on the rise. Most notably he’d done Old School and Elf, so you could argue that Anchorman – and character of Ron Burgundy – cemented his place in the modern-day comedy hall of legends. Also, now he’s a big star, it’s hard to imagine Steve Carell who, at the time, was even less well known. He had a part as, believe it or not, a co-anchor in Bruce Almighty, a year before Anchorman. Paul Rudd had been hard at work as a jobbing actor until his most notable role, a two-year stint in Friends. Similar to Carell, Rudd has gone from strength to strength in the years since becoming part of the San Diego news team.

So, in that respect, most of the cast were relative unknowns on the rise which lent to the comedy, in much the way The Hangover did a few years later. There was no pressure on the cast. We didn’t really know who these guys were as actors, or the characters they’d created.

Uneasy lies the crown

Perhaps that’s why it’s taken almost a decade for the legend of Ron Burgundy to continue – once you’ve captured lightning in a bottle, how do you manage it a second time? ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUESThis is especially hard with comedy. Audiences want more of the same, yet something new too. And critics are sitting, poised to pounce on the slightest whiff of a stale rehashed joke.

With that in mind I’m pleased to say, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is… not bad at all. They’ve tried to take the characters to places new. Indeed, the news team have all left the game when we pick the story up, with Ron living the good life with loving wife and co-anchor Veronica Corningstone. As you’d expect, things go quickly awry – largely Ron’s own doing of course.

So he looks to reform the old team as part of a groundbreaking new 24-hour news channel. This takes the characters into new territory and, compared to the original, it has something to say in terms of social commentary; how those in power should not be allowed to control the media and the nature of what constitutes well-researched news versus mere speculation.

Brick finds love

Before you panic, there’s still laughs aplenty. Ferrell, along with writer/director Adam McKay, tread a precarious but largely successful line in terms of running jokes from the first film and new material. In particular, Brick gets a bit of a love story with a female counterpart (brilliantly played by Kristen Wiig) that works well. On the flipside, some of the jokes – and scenes – feel forced, like Ferrell and McKay are trying too hard.

anchorman-blog-jpg_165129There’s also one or two moments where jokes grate, more in poor taste than anything else – high on the cringe scale. Happily, the zingers carry you through. Once you’ve seen this film, chances are the first thing you’ll be asked is, ‘Is it better than the original?’… well, no. But then, often, originals are favoured by most. Simply the fact they were original wins them points. But people do look back with a certain rose-tinted nostalgia; so judging a comedy sequel can be skewed in that sense.

So… in a roundabout way I’d say, whilst this isn’t as good as the original, it’s darn close. And that’s as much as any of us could hope for – which should mean, in Ron Burgundy’s world, his legend is still intact.

Looper review: Bruce Willis and Blunderbuses!

Initially I had read various reviews before seeing Looper – a bad idea, but there you go. So I went to see this film with relatively high hopes for a high-concept time travel film, which is what you get. Except it isn’t, not exactly.

To explain, just before seeing it I was having dinner near the cinema and got talking to the waiter. I mentioned I was going to see a film, ‘Oh, what are you going to see?’ he asked. “Looper” I replied. ‘I’ve seen it’ he said, ‘it’s not what I expected’.

gordon-levitt bruce willisWith that I left the restaurant a little puzzled. It was not the first time someone had said something similar. So I made my way to the cinema a little apprehensive, but still open-minded and ready for a good film. I was hoping for time travel, big guns, assassins, explosions, double crossing, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis facing off against each other and ultimately teaming up to defeat a common enemy.

Now you do get a lot of these elements, but not in the way you might think. Remember this is from the same Director that gave us Brick, so I should have been prepared for something a little left-field, not your obvious tone and style. I think, like a lot of high-concept films, this will require a second viewing to fully appreciate it.

In terms of the film’s big draw, the marketing types would like you to focus on Willis (established actor) facing off against his younger self, Gordon-Levitt (up and coming actor). However I felt the Director was slightly playing a trick on the audience and this film was really about a character called the Rainmaker.

Let’s set the scene. Gordon-Levitt is a ‘looper’, an assassin who kills people sent back in time, as it’s somewhat hard to commit murder in the future. Easier to send bodies back and have loopers dispose of them. As this is highly illegal loopers have a short life span, in that their employers look to send them back to be killed by their younger selves when they’ve outlived their usefulness. This is called ‘closing your loop’.

Where it all begins..
Now the story kicks off when Bruce is sent back for his loop to be closed, but evades assassination as he’s got his own agenda. He plans to whack his future boss – the mysterious Rainmaker – who happens to be a child in Gordon-Levitt’s time.

looper farmHis younger self feels killing children who may or may not become future crime lords is a little excessive, so sets out to stop him and protect the kid. Now, for me, that’s what this film is about, however it takes a while to get there.

All the high-concept time travel stuff has to be set up first, Gordon-Levitt’s world, how he goes about his job, his older self and his motivation for coming back in time. As a result, I felt all the key stuff comes in the third act – with a slightly sagging middle in terms of pace, when Gordon-Levitt meets Emily Blunt’s character. No reflection on Ms Blunt, I think she’s great.

That said, the ‘sagging’ section is just slower in pace but does contain a lot of plot revelations and key scenes. To be honest, I’ve found writing this piece quite hard without giving too much away. Much like a scene in the film in a diner where Willis and Gordon-Levitt face off against each – reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat – and Willis remarks on how too much discussion of time travel will only end with them making straw diagrams and getting a headache.

Let’s just sum up. I did like this film and want to see it again – if only to get my head around it. I feel maybe Bruce’s character could have had more back-story, so we sympathise more with his reasons for coming back to the past. Perhaps Rian Johnson’s script could have been more brutal in early scenes to save time and move things along quicker.

All in all though, a really interesting film and concept and worth seeing. Just don’t expect your average high-octane, pump the action up to 10 and keep it there, type film. It’s more considered and ultimately better for it.

To finish, here’s some artwork by an illustrator from Uruguay I’d like to share. Until next time…