January 17, 2014

Fly Over: ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’, and ‘The Legend of Hercules’


In theaters:

‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’

I loved 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” so much so that when I heard one of my friends had yet to see it I went out and bought it on Blu-Ray (why comedy needs to be high-def, I have no idea, but that’s beside the point) with a college student’s meager salary just so he could watch it that night. However, I was not overjoyed to hear that they were making a sequel. To me, “Anchorman” should’ve simply stayed put to preserve its brilliance, because there was no way a sequel could be anything less than inferior to the original. I was right, but to my relief, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” avoided being a failure.
After getting fired from a news station while his wife and co-anchor (Christina Applegate) gets a promotion to a superior network, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) falls on hard times. He soon finds hope in the advent of the first 24-hour news network, GNN, which wants him and his old crew to sign up. The new environment and talent that Ron and his friends face proves particularly challenging, however, and the old-school reporters must try to find new ways to keep up with the competition.
Really, this plot isn’t bad for a sequel, since it brings the legendary characters back down to being the underdogs in a believable (enough) way. I was also pleased to find that it does not really contradict the epilogue at the end of the first “Anchorman,” and this sequel seems like it could fit as just another chapter in the “saga.” The plot could’ve used a little bit more cohesion, though. Yes the first “Anchorman” had some pointless scenes as well (like the big news team rumble), but there were too many times when I thought they could’ve cut a plotline entirely and no one would have noticed. Ironically, there were some plotlines that did seem to be cut down that were noticeable, like Brian Fantana’s big news story that was supposed to serve as a big turning point in the story.
Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner are awesome in reprising their characters, but that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. In particular, I liked how Applegate and Rudd served as the more straight-faced, sensible characters to counter the wackiness going on while still adding their own bit of said wackiness. Nothing is really bad about the newcomers such as James Marsden (who, while no replacement for Vince Vaughn as the rival, leaves a decent enough impression) and Kristin Wiig, though I didn’t care much for Meagan Good as the new tough, female role. In fact, as I write this, I realize quite a few of the new characters are just slight variations on the old ones; that’s kind of lazy. There are also quite a few cameos in this film, which range from “neat” to “awesome” to “man, really?”
Maybe I’m just being a pretentious college graduate, but I noticed quite a few editing mistakes that would’ve dropped me by a letter grade. For example, in one shot, Brick Tamland is crying hysterically, and in the next he just looks a little upset. Someone would probably argue that that’s part of the joke, but it just seemed to me that some points in the movie were hastily slapped together.
The humor, without a doubt the most important part, is hit and miss. There were quite a few scenes that had me laughing throughout, but there were others where I only laughed because I felt I was supposed to. Still, one could do worse with a comedy, and no matter the scene the cast makes up for the script well enough.
No, “Anchorman 2” is in no way, shape or form better than the original. Those who go into it simply expecting Will Ferrell and his friends acting weird should find it moderately satisfying at least. I’m Jayson Burns, and you aim high, Luke AFB.
“Anchorman 2” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence.


Also in theaters:

‘The Legend of Hercules’

My expectations for “The Legend of Hercules” was lower than any film screening I’ve been to in years, with of course the exception of the final “Twilight” debacle, and not surprisingly those expectations were pretty much spot on. When a film’s lead (Kellan Lutz) was the sixth most important actor in the Twilight series you know you’re in for a real winner. Don’t believe me? Check out Rotten Tomatoes and the film’s venerable 4-percent favorability rating – a solid 34 percent lower than the fifth iteration of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise.
The first of two films about the legendary Greek hero to appear on the big screen this year is supposed to be an origin tale, but outside of Hercules’ conception it doesn’t really touch on any of the aspects that have made the half-god a hero for millennia such as his famous “Twelve Labours.”
It feels like the film was rushed into theaters in an attempt to take away some of the thunder from the more highly anticipated “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” starring Dwayne Johnson coming out this summer. The effort has worked in the past with two similar films appearing in the same year – think “Olympus has Fallen,” and “White House Down,” but my crystal ball doesn’t foresee the same fate for movie numero dos.
In this film, the son of Zeus is betrayed by his father King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) who sends him to Egypt to die. The King knows Hercules isn’t his real son and wants to prevent him from defiling Hebe (Gaia Weiss) the princess of Crete who is being married off to Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), Hercules’ older, cowardly brother. But, after being ambushed by Egyptian mercenaries, Hercules and Sotiris (Liam McIntyre) survive a full-on slaughter and are sold into slavery.
At this point Hercules is in his 20s, and still hasn’t discovered his strength, but he’s able along with Sotiris to fight his way back to Greece by participating in gladiatorial events in shady, ancient dive bars. Eventually, he wins his freedom and begins to amass a following of farmers and unhappy legionnaires who are fed up with the tyrant king and his sissy heir. Finally, while watching his friends being slaughtered, Hercules discovers his strength while chained to some giant pillars. Apparently, he had to accept Jesus or Zeus, whatever, into his life before he was able to obtain his superhuman strength – dumb.
Somehow, however, as he and his band of dysfunctional misfits make their way to the palace to challenge the king, Hercules gains additional help from Zeus while simultaneously losing his power in a ridiculous final battle with the king. You’d assume he’d keep his strength, but that would only make sense.
This film is pretty awful. The acting is ridiculous, and it’s unbearably boring for an action movie. It’s an absurd mishmash of a poor man’s “Gladiator” and “300.” Furthermore, it doesn’t follow the Greek myth or any of the many iterations through the years, making it a film about the son of Zeus in name only. However, if you’re into a bunch of men running around shirtless in their underwear then you might be entertained for a minute, but what this film really needed was an R rating. A little blood and guts along with steamier romantic sequences might have raised the film a half a star, but ultimately it fits right where it should in the abyss of January film releases that only the loneliest of film reviewers might happen upon.
This film is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense combat action and violence, and for some sensuality.

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