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Movie Review: Anchorman 2 - The Legend Continues


Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was Will Ferrell at his best. The comedian's larger-than-life attitude, the character's over-the-top ego and the chauvinistic news room of the '70s made Anchorman an instant cult hit. Catchphrases, big hair and bigger facial hair made way for an almost inevitable sequel for the ridiculous newsman and his cohorts. Well, the day has arrived and after much speculation, delays and cloying for publicity, Anchorman 2 has crash landed like a falcon wearing too much bling.

Instead of rehashing the haze that was the '70s, San Diego's newsman has gone national with Veronica Corningstone. After a difference of opinions, Ron finds himself on his own, struggling to make a living on low grade celebrity appearances. After a friend interests him in the idea of a 24 hour news channel, Ron's forced to assemble his news team once again to take the news to new highs and lows.

Sequels are always problematic, trying to live up to the original without relying too heavily on the blueprint. While it's been a decade since the first movie, strictly-speaking Anchorman 2 isn't the first sequel. Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie was an Anchorman 1.5, taking an abandoned terrorist organisation story line from the original and splicing a number of good scenes that didn't make the final cut. While it stop-started a bit, it functioned as a funny spin-off and a must-see for Anchorman fans.

The Anchorman series is really a Saturday Night Live character kind of sketch film. The first film's underlying macho theme, fiercely competitive man vs. woman relations and over-the-top sense of humour carried the cat-and-mouse story through its paces. The strength of the related sketches was what made the film truly legendary, taking Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's broad comedy through its paces with a swooning attention-grabbing, Ron Burgundy, in the spotlight.

Anchorman 2 tries to capture this spirit, lacing a string of bit pieces together with a similar story line to the original in a bigger pond. The fun in assembling the news team could have been given more focus as the movie slips into the Anchormangroove after the team reunite. The biggest differences are that the odds are stacked against them and they're living life in the '80s.

While there are some good laughs reliving Anchorman through this sequel, it's much more uneven in terms of comedic quality and Ron's bipolar characterisation. The scatter-shot story seems more unsure of itself, trying to keep things fresh yet leaning on jokes from the original. As a result, it's a mixed bag of entertainment... missing the novelty and simply ratcheting up comedy stunts from the first one with an almost "told you this would happen" attitude.

A first-class comedy cast, surprising cameos, off-the-wall lines and Steve Carrell's Coneheads-silly take on Brick, go a long way to redeeming Anchorman 2's flaws. It's a fun and silly movie that doesn't take itself at all seriously. If you're in the right frame of mind and need some mild escapism, Anchorman 2 will do the trick... however, it's not a movie that you're going to be rushing to see again.

The bottom line: Fun

 
Movie Review: Her


We're living in an age when being without our phone makes us feel disconnected from society. No social media, no messaging services, no Internet and no fast track to our list of contacts makes us feel insecure and out of touch. These mobile devices have become more than our personal assistants, they've become an integral part of our lives, accompanying us as if surgically attached.

iPhone, Blackberry, Samsung, Nokia... these aren't technology brands, they're lifestyles waiting to be adopted, distinguishing us along fixed lines. Our phones are our friends, simultaneously keeping us in touch with the digital world and keeping us out of touch with the real world. They help us feel less alone in a society that prides itself on getting us stuck on ourselves, and they do what we tell them to do.

With the advent of products like Siri, and speech recognition's continuous improvements, Her wasn't so much of an original idea as an extension of a societal trend. Spike Jonze is an out-of-the-box writer-director, the sort of creative spirit, whose playful film ideas would probably be deemed over-ambitious and crazy by 9-out-of-10 film-makers. He's latched onto and expanded on an idea that is so timely that its futuristic environment is more of a comfort than a necessity.

Her takes the concept of a digital personal assistant to the next level. The natural language interface Siri, which means "beautiful woman who leads you to victory", gives us a chance to interact with an intelligent application's personality. Jonze takes this digital-human relationship a step further, by allowing an OS the ability to interact with a user on a much more personal level based on a number of preferences.

Jonze casts a lonely writer into the mix as he develops an unconventional relationship with the OS1 interface. The twist of science fiction gives him a buffer to make a startling commentary on society from a distance to avoid alienating his audience. To convey the complexity of the character and the situation, he's placed his confidence in the talented and consistent, Joaquin Phoenix, who essentially carries the film.

Phoenix is a one-man-show, delivering a nuanced performance that relies on an off-screen voice, brought to life by Scarlett Johansson. The portrait of Theodore Twombly is beautifully realised, set against a familiar yet futuristic world, where devices respond to voice recognition commands and operating systems are viral - synchronising between your desktop screen to your cellular earpiece. This allows Twombly's operating system, named Samantha, to literally become a voice in his head accompanying him anywhere and everywhere.

Scarlett Johansson's voice is easy on the ear and she manages to deliver a wonderfully measured and affected performance without having any on-screen visualisation at all. We experience her voice just like Theodore, making it much easier for us to journey with the suspended reality of the relationship. It plays out like a long distance relationship that becomes more and more intimate as Samantha reaches out for real human experiences and Theodore develops an unlikely romance with an OS.

While Her's all about Theodore and Samantha's relationship, the cast is enhanced by a solid contrasting performance from Amy Adams as an old friend and Rooney Mara as Theodore's estranged soon-to-be ex-wife. Adams makes a great character counterpoint and Mara helps establish Theodore's romantic history, while making great examples of real world women in Theodore's life.

Spike Jonze has tapped into humanity's basic need for love in a society so ravaged by self-sufficiency that every man like an island with a radio transmitter. It's profoundly sad, deeply moving and tempered by a non-judgmental sense of humour that keeps us amused, fascinated and entertained. This is an intricate and beautifully written romance drama and comedy for the modern age that entrenches itself in universal themes. Jonze has created a colourful, clinical, creative and aesthetically-pleasing playground for this unusual love story to take place.

Her isn't as off-the-wall as Lars and the Real Girl, as down-the-line as Robot & Frank or as obvious as S1mone. It's much better, giving us a fly-on-the-wall perspective that enters another level of consciousness. Her is emotionally voyeuristic and Jonze handles this provocative love story with a delicate touch, steering clear of broad comedy by keeping Theodore a gentle and likable every man. This idea is helped by Theodore's comical glasses and moustache, which match that classic novelty store disguise and the film's nerdy costume design.

Her's authentic, playful and creative perspective is all thanks to the mind of Spike Jonze. He brings us a slice-of-life from the future, presenting a very possible trajectory and examining it from the inside out. It's a wonderful, thought-provoking and smart film that connects with us in all the disconnectedness and frailty of life, examining what it means to be human and serving up an original film experience, powered home by a typically strong performance from Phoenix.

The bottom line: Intimate

 
Top 5 Heist Films of All-Time...

Inception


Instead of robbing a bank or a museum, Christopher Nolan decided to break into the mind with his heist film, Inception. This star-studded and mesmerising crime epic blends three climaxes into one as the team fights to maintain control of three suspended environments. Persuasive mind games play out with clockwork precision as the team unlock the deepest reaches of their target's consciousness. Inception’s revolutionary heist concept was beautifully executed with a monumental soundtrack, clinical cinematography, surreal visuals and strong performances from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page.

Best bit: The closing shot of the spinning top at the end of the film.

Heat


Heat is probably most revered for the long-awaited match up of Hollywood screen legends, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. These guy movie stalwarts didn't disappoint, offering quintessential Pacino and De Niro performances to crank up the heat in this aptly titled cops-and-robbers heist film. The titanic head-to-head showdown met all expectations, making this nearly three hour Los Angeles crime saga a gripping must-see. This is Michael Mann at his very best, delivering a well-balanced mix of great character drama and pulsating action. It’s not surprising that Heat inspired the co-lead dynamic of The Dark Knight.

Best bit: The armoured vehicle shoot out, or the first meeting of De Niro and Pacino.

Rififi


Often referred to as the ‘grandfather’ and ‘pinnacle’ of heist films, Rififi is a French crime drama that set the benchmark for the heist subgenre in 1955. American director Jules Dassin agreed to direct the low budget Rififi in France, several years after Hollywood blacklisted him, and despite hating the novel. The French heist film didn’t have any stars, yet brought a sincerity and humanity to its characters that broke the rules of the crime genre. Rififi’s far-reaching influence can be seen in films from Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

Best bit: The intricate 30 minute long heist scene, which is shot in near silence.

Dog Day Afternoon


Al Pacino stars in Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, a crime drama based on that “weird bank heist that really happened” or the story of bank robbers John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturale. Their failed 1972 bank job in Brooklyn inspired a Life article and Dog Day Afternoon three years later. The anti-establishment heist movie came at a time of heavy opposition to the Vietnam war and captures the spirit of the times. It was nominated for several Academy Awards including: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay for which it won.

Best bit: “Attica!”

The Killing


Crooks plan and stage a daring racetrack robbery. The premise may sound simple, but the execution is anything but simple in the hands of master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. The hold up is told from different participants just like Reservoir Dogs, moving from a documentary style narrative to an engrossing and suspenseful twist-and-turns thrill ride. Even in his early days as a writer-director, Kubrick was able to serve up a film noir crime thriller that still feels contemporary, even if it was "one last heist". No wonder he considered The Killing to be his first mature film.

Best bit: The clown mask worn by Sterling Hayden must have inspired the one worn by Heath Ledger as The Joker.

Close, but no cigar... heist films that didn't quite make the cut.

The Usual Suspects

If you check the underside of this film, you'll find "Property of Kevin Spacey".

Reservoir Dogs

Tarantino's breakthrough film has one of the greatest bank heist and restaurant scenes of all-time.

Ocean's Eleven

George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon... the boys are back in town and you won't meet smoother criminals.

Office Space

While it's not the first heist film that springs to mind, it's definitely the funniest...

Inside Man

Spike Lee's heist film is slick, smart and features a bank job so cunning... you'd expect the thief to write a book about it.

Originally published in February 2014 issue of Techsmart Magazine.

 
Top Ten Movies with... Luke Tyler


Luke Tyler is an up-and-coming South African actor, whose string of supporting roles and appearances in international films over the last few years, make him one of South Africa's hottest new talents. While he's got a name you can easily imagine in lights, the actor's got the right look and the talent to break into Hollywood. While he's only at the beginning of what seems poised to be a very promising film career.

Tyler studied acting for film at the Screen Actors Studio in Cape Town under the direction of award-winning, veteran actress Aletta Bezuidenhoudt. He went on to appear in a number of international commercials and Sky TV's hit series, The Runaway. His first notable role saw him playing opposite Oscar-winning actress, Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), in the thriller Dark Tide, directed by John Stockwell (Blue Crush, Into the Blue). Tyler's sincere performance as 'Luke Brady' helped him secure roles in other films including: the superhero found footage thriller Chronicle, the comic book reboot Dredd 3D with Karl Urban and Sleeper's Wake - a screen adaptation of Alistair Morgan's acclaimed crime novel.

Tyler recently finished shooting on the much anticipated Spud: Learning to Fly, an adaptation of the beloved Spud series starring John Cleese, which is set for release later this year. While Tyler continues to attract a following, it seems like it's only a matter of time before he gets his big break. We thought we'd catch up with the rising star to find out what movies have inspired and influenced him.

"Yep, I've been there before..."

I can't watch movies without...

- ...a cherry slush-puppy. Ever since I was a kid, it was that one thing you could only get at the cinema so it just became part of the experience.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I have some strange ones, like John Edwards the self professed psychic, Trey Parker – 1 of the 2 creators of South Park and then some cool ones like John Favreau, John Lithgow, and Michael Gambon. (19 October)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- It was Disney's Bambi. I was probably about 4 years old and my older sister had chosen to watch it for her birthday – I remember feeling overwhelmed at how big and exciting it all was.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Oh man, there have been more than a few along the way, but off the top of my head From Justin to Kelly – the American Idols Season 1 spin-off movie, was one of the worst I've ever seen! Why oh why would they take the two finalists in a SINGING competition and try get them to ACT???

Which movies have made you tearful?

- I think everyone cries watching The Lion King but more recently I found Never Let Me Go to be heart-wrenching and strangely beautiful at the same time. I feel like a good film always has that element of duality.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- I hate this question. How do you answer it without sounding like you're name-dropping? I've met John Malkovich, Meg Ryan and Kylie Minogue to name (drop) a few but had the pleasure of working with Halle Berry for two months on a film called Dark Tide. She truly set the bar for what a "famous" person should be – professional, gracious and intelligent with a wicked sense of humour.

What's your favourite movie line?

"I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad,
when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's
too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and
stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for 
every single moment of my stupid little life..." - Lester Burnham, American Beauty.

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Hmmm… at this age I don't think my biopic would be very long – any great child actors out there? Haha, I'd love Michael Angarano to play the adult me though. He's a strong actor who doesn't shy away from vulnerability and always manages to get a laugh in somewhere.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- I would tell the story of my parents. They've both lived such incredibly interesting lives with stories that sound like they're straight out of a movie anyway. It would be epic and span most of the globe… maybe Baz Luhrmann could direct?

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

American Beauty ...watching this film was the first time that I realised every "perfect" family is dysfunctional in some way or another.

- Donnie Darko ...still to this day I can't quite put my finger on what it is this film does for me, but it haunted me for months. Macabre and surreal. It's also set in the month and year I was born.

- Tank Girl ...Laurie Petty made this film for me. Outrageous, funny, with a driving sense of justice. It's just fun to watch!

- E.T. ...Spielberg managed to terrify me with this film, but I quickly became obsessed with it as a kid. I even read the sequel book that explained life after E.T went home!

- Pineapple Express ...Seth Rogen and James Franco on an unbelievable adventure all the while unbelievably high? What's not to love!?

- South Pacific ...I think it's more the era I love here and less the actual film, but either way I could watch it over and over. I'm also a sucker for a good musical.

- Death Becomes Her ...this movie never gets old (laughs) excuse the pun! Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis have a melody and rhythm about their comedy that I loved.

- Never Let Me Go ...thought provoking to say the least. Tragic, poignant and blunt.

- Bridesmaids ...this movie brought with it an entirely new genre of comedy for me. The heightened realism has this undeniably tragic undertone and you can't help but think with a chuckle, "yep, I've been there before…"

- The Prince of Egypt ...it's a story we all know, Moses frees the slaves, but with a soundtrack as majestic as the story itself. And an all-star voice cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum and Steve Martin.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

 
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