Anchorman

The Big Sick (2017)

Having Judd Apatow’s name appear next to a comedy, the likelihood is that it’s going to be quite good. His name features against some of the better comedies in recent memory, including Anchorman, Superbad and Step Brothers to name a few. Some of these films are a hive for intriguing, but genuine characters.

The Big Sick is the latest film to be attached with the Apatow name, but what I did not anticipate was the true story that revolved about the leading mans love life. Kumail Nanjiana wrote the romantic comedy story and told the story about him and his wife.

Kumail is a stand up comic, but survives day-to-day by being an Über driver around Chicago. As I mentioned, Apatow films often have genuine characters and that what Kumail is. As usual with this sort of comedy, it’s more wit than situation or slapstick comedy, and Kumail is the perfect vehicle for this as he is incredibly deadpan throughout the film.

Regardless of the situation he finds himself in, Kumail remains incredibly deadpan. His first meeting with Emily (Zoe Kazan) is brilliant as they have instant chemistry, which just emits from the screen. Of course, in true romantic comedic style, the newly-formed couple manage to enchant the screen and fill us with the joy of Kumail and Emily enjoying each others company.

But further to a classic romantic comedy trope, what goes up, must come down. They become infuriated with each other and break up, citing that they cannot do it anymore. They both abide, until Emily is placed in a medically induced coma to try and fight a strange infection and Kumail never leaves her side after learning this.

It’s not often that I am caught watching Romantic Comedies, truthfully because they are not my cup of tea, but The Big Sick has proved that there are still new avenues that can be explored in romantic comedies. Michael Showalter chose to explore the culture clash between Pakistani culture and a modern westernised culture that Kumail finds himself being pulled to and from.

Kumail consistently defies his parents wishes, from not praying to playing coy with the meetings with potential brides to appease his parents. This is all the whilst he keeps falling for Emily and their chemistry continues to light up the screen. The believability of this situation comes down to the acting that is on display from Kumail, Zoe and the rest of the cast.

And The Big Sick is incredibly honest for a romantic comedy, majority of the romantic comedies I have seen often fall into a certain farfetched approach to the story, but this one doesn’t. It has Emily acting skittish because she’s got to take a shit and doesn’t want to in Kumail’s house in an incredibly funny scene. But not only this, but the approach to Pakistani culture and recognising that there are people within those families that do not necessarily want to live that way.

On top of this, the film is incredibly funny. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents are excellent with their brashness toward Kumail, but also Kumail’s deadpan jokes. (his response to the 9/11 question had me in stitches I must admit). Showalter was very unapologetic it seemed as the film progressed, but that’s great because it’s opened up fresher avenues for the film to explore through the genre.

For a fresh approach to the romantic comedy genre, you’ll not find a better film than The Big Sick. It’s use of comedy throughout is brilliant, because it relies on wit, rather than situational/slapstick comedy, but the characters at the heart of this film are the winners. It’s because you genuinely want these characters to get together by the end of the film and as always with Apatow films they are genuine characters.

The Big Sick is probably not going to be the best film I have seen this year, but it’ll be the best romantic comedy for sure. It’ll probably include some of the best laughs and characters from films this year and it just shows that Apatow knows his comedies and characters. I still find myself chuckling occasionally at the jokes.

School of Rock (2003)

If you know me on a personal level, you’ll understand just how much I enjoy School of Rock. It’s one of my personal favourites and I could watch it for a very long time, without getting bored.

Jack Black seems to be a marmite character and very divisive even before he appears on screen. I know this from personal experience and the mention of Jack Black instantly switching people off. If anything School of Rock emphasises what people don’t like about Jack Black, and that is hyperactive screen presence.

In the opening scene, we see Jack Black as Dewey Finn playing on stage with his band No Vacancy, before he abruptly stops the performance with an audacious stage dive after ‘shredding’ on guitar. Its clear Jack Black was given some creative space throughout this film as he can indulge his musical side and engage with his hyperactivity.

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Mike White wrote School of Rock a year after Orange County, which also had Jack Black starring in, but in a much smaller role. White wrote School of Rock wanting a lead role for Jack Black and it seems as White actively chose to engage Jack Black’s musical side as Dewey Finn’s backstory is that he is down-on-his-luck intent on hitting the big time, with his music.

Dewey goes as far as to state that No Vacancy will become “an footnote on his epic ass”, clearly showing his intentions to become a self proclaimed rockstar. Under Richard Linklater’s direction, Jack Black brings the story of Dewey Finn to life, whilst excellently selling that his is struggling as he sleeps on the floor of his friends apartment.

The only questionable side of School of Rock is the story of how Dewey Finn easily becomes a substitute teacher at Horace Green Prep. His flatmate Ned Schneebly (Mike White – yes, the same one that wrote the film) and Patty (Sarah Silverman) demand his share of the rent, otherwise they’ll kick him out. The resentment between Dewey and Patty immediately lifts off the screen, as Ned slowly cowers away from the verbal battle that ensues in front of him. Because of his allegiance to Ned, he promises that he will make rent.

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Whilst trying to sell a guitar, he receives a call from Horace Green Prep looking for Ned Schneebly to substitute at the school. (Wait, here comes the questionable part to the story) Dewey has a great idea and decides to impersonate Ned so he can make rent. This is pretty much the set-up for School of Rock and that happens within the first half hour.

What White and Linklater managed to do was make Dewey genuinely seem at rock bottom, which is also helped by Jack Black. Within that first half hour, Black uses his comedic whit to begin verbal jousts with everyone that disagrees with him and this continues as he begins to ‘teach’ at Horace Green. (When I say teach, I mean lean back on his chair and sleeps, whilst the class has recess)

Linklater cleverly glosses over the act of Dewey becoming the teacher, as he leaves a few questions about how easily he can do it and quickly rolls into the music that becomes infectious throughout School of Rock. Dewey overhears his class take a music class, and decides to enter the Battle of the Bands with the band to try and hit the big time.

School of Rock does stand at a perfect length of just a touch over an hour and a half, but it could easily be longer and not have any enjoyment levels altered with such a change. What the latter hour is filled with is Dewey teaching the children the origins of Rock and fine-tuning their band, before the big show. Although there is questionable glossed over part of the story, the film becomes rather sweet as the children find a way to start expressing themselves with the help of Mr S. (As Dewey seemingly can’t spell Schneebly, the children call him Mr. S)

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If anything School of Rock becomes insanely quotable amongst the likes of Anchorman, Airplane! and Zoolander. For me, Jack Black is insanely energetic throughout the film and it works every step of the way, from his verbal jousts with people, to inspiring the children to express themselves such as Freddy (Kevin Clark), Zach (Joey Gaydos) and to some extent Summer. (Miranda Cosgrove)

Everything about School of Rock clicks for me. The characters are inventive and work, the comedic elements of Jack Black and his verbal jousts continue to provide laughs. And as I mentioned, I don’t think I can tire of this film just yet, especially as it remains immensely quotable and laugh inducing tied together with it’s fantastic use of the soundtrack.

The Big Short (2015)

The Big Short and Spotlight were two of the main frontrunners into last years Oscar season. I have watched The Big Short twice recently and I am still flabbergasted at the terminology and trying to wrap my head around the premise. The Big Short is based around the housing crisis that caused an economic meltdown in America.

I originally thought it was going to be Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt working in unison to make money off the back of this crash. In short, it actually involves three different groups making their millions and billions through this crash.

With the nature of the story and this housing crisis being in quiet recent memory, the storyline was marketed quite freely with regards to the ending. Instead of focusing on this storyline and trying to make the film full of twists and turns, the film rather focuses on it’s leading cast throughout the 130 minute runtime and their execution of this disaster.

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Christian Bale’s Michael J. Burry first notices the unstable condition of the housing market in 2005 and begins the process of “credit-swapping” so in effect he’s ‘betting’ that the housing market is going to collapse. Michael begins this process and Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) catches wind and misplaces a call to a bank, which leads Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team to investigate whether there is any truth in this.

In the guise of breaking the fourth wall, Ryan Gosling’s tongue-in-cheek character of Jared Vennett, drives the narrative forward. Breaking the fourth wall is rife throughout this film to explain some of the terminology, using some rather strange techniques such as Margot Robbie explaining a ‘Subprimes’ in the bath whilst drinking champagne. The cameo appearances are really strange, in their tongue-in-cheek way, but could’ve worked all the same if the character did the cutaway themselves.

Adam McKay, who is associated with the comedic hits such as Step Brothers and Anchorman, has moved away from this framework, but it’s clear to see the smatterings of comedy throughout the film. Ryan Gosling’s Jared Vennett leads the comedy through the cutaways, but the also appearing in the forms of cameos.

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But McKay’s investigation into the housing crisis becomes interesting when Mark Baum’s team go to Florida and seek out property tenant who are 90 days delinquent. A human element comes into play, as we see people paying their bills to landlords that in turn aren’t paying for the houses. Mark upon this realisation exclaims that there is a ‘bubble’ in the housing market and expresses his distrust in the banking system. Brad Pitt’s Ben Rickert also states the very alarming fact that every 1% of the unemployment accounts for 40,000 deaths, as his partners do a happy jig after striking in lucky in their ‘bets’ against the market.

Mark even goes as far as to meet some of the people responsible for this ‘bubble’ and becomes increasingly frustrating when he realises that they are simply idiots. This repulsiveness extracts from the screen to the viewer, as I personally became flabbergasted as the blasé approach the bankers took to this impending doom.

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Whilst the acting on display is excellent with very interesting roles for Christian Bale and Steve Carell particularly, the cutaways to the random cameos to explain subprimes and CDOs is strange and sticks out like a sore thumb. It makes for entertaining viewing regardless of the terminology that goes right over my head. But it’s a strong outing on the casting (especially Carell in his angry, world-hating boss of a hedge fund) as they carry the film through the runtime and over the confusing terms.

It’s a strong, solid entertaining film. I imagine it would’ve been more interesting had I known more about the housing crisis in 2008 and understood terms, as I’m not the most savvy in this area. I really enjoyed Adam McKay’s comedic outings, but The Big Short has entertained me on a different level rather than laughing at inane comedy. Rickert’s stance on Wall Street and disgust for how it operates is really interesting, but the included humanisation of the story by McKay and actually seeing the implications on a couple of people added another level to this film.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and there I was watching the sequel to the first Anchorman that became a cult classic, with it’s quotable fashion and hilarious originality. Adam McKay directed the original project and what became an excellent partnership between Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Fast forward to 2012, when the news of the sequel gained traction and it soon became a reality when we first saw the trailer.

Needless to say I was very excited. Anchorman 2 picks up a little way after where the first left out, with Ron (Will Ferrell) and Veronica (Christina Applegate) both are still presenting the news as co-anchors but they now have a child together and are married. Ron is fired and Veronica is promoted to the top bill, Ron is then reduced to insulting dolphins, until he recruited for the first of it’s kind 24 hour news channel.

Of course, there are new characters introduced throughout the film, as the sequel takes place in the big apple of New York and not the familiar landscape of San Diego. Of course, the old Channel 4 news team is re-recruited as Ron left for the big time. So of course, the originals are there Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and the seemingly overused Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell). A portion is spent summing up what happened to them and what they are doing now, Brian being the most successful, and Brick reading a eulogy at his own funeral. (Hmm.)

“You know what they call bats? The chickens of the cave”

The new cast introduced include Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), who is the African American running the show at GNN and seems intent on getting the point across she is a strong independent woman, much like Veronica in the first one, but more “full-on”. Jack Lime (James Marsden) the chiseled featured rival of Ron’s for the top spot in the news room. And of course, Brick’s love interest Chani (Kristen Wiig) in the overplayed scenes that just seem to drag on in awkwardness in times.

Brick with Chani in one of those awkward scenes.

Brick with Chani in one of those awkward scenes.

Standing at just under two hours, the film feels longer than that, especially with some of the long drawn out sequences, it doesn’t feel like we’ve seen, or what we used to in the first film. Most of the comedy is overused or reused from the first, like “by the beard of Zeus” is taken and reshaped many, many, many times.

That being said, some of the comedy is excellent in places, but this mainly brought on by Ron Burgundy’s on-screen presence, like his encounter with Veronica’s lover after they’ve split up. Some of the comedy I found came from the elements from the first one, but twisted, not simply reused. This film has a lot, and I mean a lot, of cameos, but it’s excellent. It works. My favouite has to be Drake’s cameo at the start of the film, for some reason it is rather enjoyable.

I started to dislike this film before it even had appeared in the cinemas, simply for the amount of press that was used. Anchorman 2 invaded the sports networks, websites (Even IMDb was changed to IMDburgundy), this amounted to the extent of not being able to escape the actual film. The extraordinary lengths they went to publicise this film, even Will Ferrell being in character to announce the official news of the sequel, to them doing interviews in character. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for this kind of stuff, but to when I can’t escape it, I’m not.

But I’ll end on a good note.

The Channel 4 news team are back together.. With perms.

The Channel 4 news team are back together.. With perms.

What’s an Anchorman film without the news team fights? This is where the majority of the cameos are introduced, which I won’t ruin as some are simply brilliant. As far as it goes, this film would get the King of Cameo’s award for this year, beating This Is The End. All in all, as far it goes this film is very, average. As much as I hate to say that, the reused jokes and the length, doesn’t seem to fit and doesn’t feel like the first. But that was always going to be difficult to contend with, right? It’s a bold sequel, because at times it is enjoyable, but I doubt I’ll be running out to buy this on DVD.

3/5

This post is my 50th on my blog, so thanks for reading and staying with me all this time!

Also, I’ve attempted to change my writing style, for those who are regular readers, do you prefer it this way, or the old way? 

Thank for reading, and if you’ve seen this film, did you feel the same way? Or did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments!