A strong argument can be made that Anchorman (2004) is the biggest cult classic of the last 20 years. A film so popular it can cannot be considered just a fringe cult classic anymore. But I think it definitely has to be considered a cult film though, because it fits in perfectly with two of the criteria for that vague term. Firstly, it was not particularly successful upon initial release. I can’t recall the exact numbers, but the box office was around $90 million. Not particularly dire, but pretty underwhelming, especially when you consider the place in pop-culture the film now holds. Secondly, people just don’t like Anchorman, they are obsessed with it. People watch it every time they have a hangover (ok that’s just me). But people have a seemingly insatiable ability to re-watch the film ad-nauseam. I think that speaks to the brilliance inherent in the film. The mixture of script and ad-lib never gets old (if you liked it in the first place that is). As my film tastes continued to refine, as I began to study film, I kept assuming that I would grow out of my love for Anchorman. Nope, it still works exceedingly well for me. Many others too, as the Anchorman love is so vociferous that those who don’t like the film (and these people do exist) are almost scared, timidly decaling they just don’t get the hype.
All this adds up to what I see as an almost impossible task for Anchorman 2 (2013) which opens next week in many parts of the world. From the very beginning, an in-character announcement by Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy on the Conan show that the sequel had been green lit, the hype train has been a runaway one. This, coupled with existing expectations that could not possibly met, will most likely see a somewhat anticlimactic reception for the film. I am pretty confident in saying that Anchorman 2 will be a really well made film and probably a hilarious one too. It will most likely equal the first film in both of those aspects. Unfortunately though, that won’t be enough to win over critics (who didn’t particularly like the first one at the time) or indeed fans, who will opine that everything is better the first time.
It is not possible for a film to be as beloved as the original Anchorman straight away upon release. More than love, that film is an object of such endearment to too many people as it has slowly seeped into our lives. Anchorman 2 may do that eventually, but it will take years. I fear that people won’t be able to see the impossible expectations that have been put on the film, by themselves and by their mates who they have watched it dozens of times with. Hopefully we can see the film for what it is. No film is iconic instantly, so don’t expect Anchorman 2 to achieve that. Do expect it to be one of the better films of the year though and a hilarious, quotable ride.
- J. Edgar (2011), Clint Eastwood – Concerns a very complicated man and the way history remembers him, and by extension all men. DiCaprio is very good in the lead role and the old man makeup does not annoy as much as usual. The ending features a twist of sorts, which features a really clever way of addressing memory and how one recalls their own achievements. A fantastic film.
- Young Adult (2011), Jason Reitman – This is a very dark film, almost like a black comedy sans comedy. A great script sees Diablo Cody showcasing the writing chops that gained her so much recognition for Juno. Charlize Theron is very good as a troubled woman looking to recapture something from her past. Patton Oswald is equally exceptional, their relationship is like no other you will see onscreen this year.
- Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012), Timur Bekmambetov – My expectations for this were so low as to be non-existent. But it impressed, well at least for the first hour or so. Sorta ran out of steam after that. It looks cool, I thought the 3D really popped in this one. The whole film is built on some pretty solid characterisation which helps too. Despite the unimpressive looking vampires and battles, this is still a pleasant surprise.
- Headhunters (2011), Morten Tyldum – The latest off the Scandinavian thriller production line comes courtesy of author Jo Nesbo. This was really interesting, truly unique in terms of both tone and character motivation. There is no hero, barely even an antihero, at least until the final quarter where these crystallise. A very interesting thriller with an extremely satisfying community.
- Haywire (2011), Steven Soderbergh – A cracking action flick, set in beautifully shot locales by Soderbergh. Looks awesomely slick, and has some really nice pacing. More artistic than is standard, with cool use of music and black & white. There are some really effective looking MMA inspired action sequences to balance things out. Despite a not entirely satisfying storyline, the awesome cast ensures this is worth checking out.
- Cosmopolis (2012), David Cronenberg – An examination of the capitalist ails of society presented in an original and episodic way. The film only falls down when it lingers in the last half hour, but an incredible final scene makes up for that. Robert Pattinson is brilliant as a young, isolated multi-billionaire in search of a haircut whilst Cronenberg shoots most of the film in surrealist close-ups. A real adaptation with much of Don DeLillo’s source novel present. Many found this too oblique dialogue heavy, but I think this is a clever, engaging examination of the film’s chosen themes.
- V For Vendetta (2006), James McTeigue – A singularly original, very British graphic novel adaptation. An awesome cast of British performers support the excellent lead turns from Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. The story is in the classical dystopian mould, concerning manipulation, the repression of minorities and role of the police in society. There is also a cool structural countdown, making this a film which knows how to build to a crescendo perfectly.
- The Sapphires (2012), Wayne Blair – The best thing about this is how it subtly weaves in issues such as the stolen generation, Aboriginal purity and the Vietnam War into the storyline, without beating you over the head with them. The film’s storyline is inspired by a forgotten piece of Australia History. Chris O’Dowd is utterly magnificent and the four band members are all really well brought to life, with Jessica Mauboy proving she has acting chops to go along with her singing ones. A rousing and well made tale.
- The King is Dead (2012), Rolf de Heer – Man this is a dark film. Reminds me of a British era Hitchcock thriller… but you know, made 80 years later in Adelaide. A very suburban nightmare, a young couple buy a home next to the neighbours from hell. In what follows they attempt, not always successfully, to do what most would only ever think in order to solve the problem.
- Ted (2012), Seth McFarlane – It is turning out to be a good year for comedy. This is a simple narrative, delivered through a firecracker script. Crass, extremely so at times, but even those parts make you laugh because of the charm with which it is all brought to life. The character of Ted looks phenomenal, he is a remarkable technical achievement. Jeff Winger in a smarmy supporting role and a wonderful teddy bear vs Mark Wahlberg fight scene round out the awesomeness.
- The Campaign (2012), Jay Roach – This is pretty standard Will Ferrell fare. I’m a fan of his and this got me to laugh a fair bit. Despite being concerned with politics, there is nothing particularly cutting here. It’s all standard sex and Will Ferrell being bitten by a rattle snake jokes (the latter I found hilarious for some reason). Despite a short running time, it lags toward the end. If you have seen any Will Ferrell film, you will probably know what to expect with this.
- Bernie (2011), Richard Linklater – I haven’t seen a film like this all year. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film like this. Tale of an assistant undertaker in a small town who befriends a widow and what happens when he feels increasingly imprisoned by her. Jack Black is in career best form with an awards-worthy turn. Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine offer sterling support. The true genius here is the usually tired mockumentary being reinvigorated by using real townsfolk. Their raw, real interviews add a real layer of depth to this darkly comic film which leaves you thinking long after it has finished. Make sure you stay for the credits.
- Community: Season 1 (2009), Dan Harmon – I’ve generally avoided TV comedy. But this is a fantastic, clever show. A brilliant cast of comedy characters and scripting that gets more consistently hilarious as the season wears on. Some side splitting moments – Troy and Abed’s Spanish rap for example. Abed’s constant stream of self knowing pop-culture references also help to make this extremely fun viewing.
- The Bourne Identity (2001), Doug Liman – Damon’s man who has lost his identity really made for a very different action hero. Cool, quick and realistic hand to hand combat scenes are fantastic to watch. The emotional and psychological depth that is here is a real point of difference to standard action fare.
Not Worth Watching:
Absolutely Nothing. A good month then.
If you only have time to watch one Bernie
Avoid at all costs Nothing – go and see it all.