One of the joys of the original Anchorman was seeing Will Ferrell wrangle the best comedic talent in the business into one absurdist fable. Not only was the core team one of funniest of ensembles of all time, but the movie was littered with cameos. And they worked — the news anchor rumble is sublime comedy cinema.
Judging from casting reports arriving from the set of the long-awaited sequel Anchorman 2, Ferrell may have been able to work his contacts yet again to fill the follow-up with an all-star cameo cast. Is there some sort of Hollywood Linkedin that makes this all possible?
The latest addition to Anchorman 2 is one of Ferrell's former costars, but not one of the overtly funny ones — adding charm to her inclusion. Who is it?
Possible spoiler of Anchorman 2 coming at you.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nicole Kidman has shot a cameo for Anchorman: The Legend Continues, reuniting with Ferrell, her Bewitched costar, for a secret role. There's also no word if she'll be wearing her fake nose from The Hours for an arbitrary reason.
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Along with Kidman, Harrison Ford has also filmed a brief role for the sequel, and anchorman deathwatch combatant Vince Vaughn is rumored to be returning as well. As was the case with Anchorman, there may even be cameos the Internet isn't able to hunt down before the movie hits theaters December 20, 2013 (implausible, but possible). With so much star power being primed for the sequel, Ferrell and his Anchorman director Adam McKay make a gamble. An array of cameos worked for the first movie, which had a cool opening in theaters before catching on as a cult hit. People discovered the movie, and in turn, the random actor appearances that flurry the film. Replicating the recipe for Anchorman 2, and with bigger stars, is tricky. There's an event horizon for the tactic — one too many cameos and suddenly, the movie is limping with a crutch.
The cameo is the trickiest gag to pull off. The goal of a celebrity's inclusion into the fictional world is essentially to pull the viewer out of the movie. A famous face walk-on raises awareness that what you're watching is completely fake and that recognizable people are in on the joke. A well-timed cameo can be hilarious — "Oh my gosh, they got that guy!" They can also be… less effective. While basketball star Patrick Ewing showing up as an Angel in The Exorcist III was likely meant to pull the rug from under us, adding a mind-bending element to the movie, it plays as goofy. The same fumbling can occur in comedy with significantly less laughter.
Ewing's The Exorcist III appearances may have been palatable (emphasis on "may") had it not been for a clutter of other cameos around it, including Samuel L. Jackson, Larry King, and Fabio. It entered gimmick territory. That works for some movies: it was a selling point for 1956's Around the World in Eighty Days (Frank Sinatra! Peter Lorre! Cesar Romero!), and became a point of world building for Robert Altman's showbiz-driven The Player and political comedy Dave. Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich took the "realism" aspect to the next level with: The movie required cameos just to make it believable that John Malkovich felt like a real character. Seeing Brad Pitt vouch for the thespian and Charlie Sheen appear as an old friend added gravity to the drama.
Inversely, cameos don't have to make sense to work. Anchorman is a prime example, along with every Saturday Night Live movie ever made, and another non sequiter classic, Zoolander. But these movies weren't building off the success of a similarly patterned predecessors. The "lighting doesn't strike twice" fear of Anchorman comes from 10 years worth of investment on the parts of fans. Anchorman 2 requires cameos — it's a defining part of the original — but risks having too many, being too random, feeing disingenuous to the frat house feel of the first movie.
If there is any franchise that gives us blind hope for Anchorman 2's delicate use of cameos, it's the Muppet movies. Jim Henson and his crack team of filmmakers worked magic with big name talent, their appearances always complimenting the Muppets rather than stealing the spotlight. Rounding up Steve Martin, Bob Hope, James Coburn, Madeline Kahn, and Orson Welles could be a lame attempt at earning cred, but by lowering their status (the celebs always played second fiddle to the puppet stars), it lampooned what we knew about them. Anchorman 2 has the heightened world to play like the Muppets. If you're going to put Kidman in your movie, push her further than Hollywood has allowed her to go.
Maybe bringing back The Hours nose isn't a bad idea.
So how many cameos is too many cameos? What cameos work and which ones fall flat? Name the best and worst in the comments.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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You don't know that The Dark Knight Rises comes out on Friday? Wait, you don't know who Batman is? What kind of cave have you been living in? Not a bat cave, obviously. Wow, you really need some help — not just psychologically, but knowing just what the heck the caped crusader is all about. We're going to answer all your questions below.
Who is Batman?
Are you kidding me with this? Honestly?
No, I really have no clue who he is.
Fine, but we're not doing this for Harry Potter, Santa Claus, and the Beatles. It's not my fault you are culturally illiterate. Okay, so Batman is a comic book super hero who made his debut in 1939 in DC Comics.
What are his super powers?
Well, he doesn't have any powers. He's a billionaire named Bruce Wayne who is a skilled fighter and has all these cool gadgets and stuff that he keeps on a utility belt.
So his power is basically that he's really rich. Where did he get his money?
From his parents who are usually classified as "industrialists," but it seems like they run some sort of defense company.
Yes, Bruce Wayne is basically just Dick Cheney with a worse attitude and a mask. But the parents aren't around anymore because when he was a young boy, Bruce watched them be murdered by muggers. Right in front of him. That's why he learned how to be a super awesome kung fu expert who fights crime at night while being a billionaire playboy by day.
Aren't playboy activities like going to parties, getting drunk in night clubs, and sleeping with hookers usually nighttime activities as well?
Hey, no one said it was easy.
If Batman is only in comics, why should I know who he is?
Are you kidding me with this? Seriously? Okay, there was a TV show in the '60s where Adam West—
You mean the mayor of Quahog?
So, you watch Family Guy but you have no idea who Batman is? You're crazy. Yes, Adam West played Batman in the '60s and it was an incredibly popular if campy show in which Batman and his sidekick, Robin, faced off against a bunch of different villains. Then Tim Burton made a Batman movie in 1989 and a few sequels. And then Christopher Nolan started the whole thing over again in 2005.
Who is this Robin lady?
He's not a lady. Robin is Batman's sidekick and partner-in-crime. Originally he was Dick Grayson, Batman's "ward" who was a circus acrobat whose parents died in an accident. Batman took him under his wing (har har) and made him into a high-flying crime fighter. Since then, in the comics at least, there have been a few different Robins.
Are they gay?
Some people kind of think so, but ostensibly, they are not. But, you know, they also kind of are.
So, why is everyone talking about Batman now?
Because on Friday the final movie in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises comes out.
These are different from the '90s movies?
God, yes. Are you even listening? Tim Burton made two, Batman and Batman Returns both starring Michael Keaton as Batman. Then Joel Schumacher made two, Batman Forever with Val Kilmer and Batman & Robin with George Clooney. There were nipples on the Batsuit.
God, that sounds awful.
They were. The sequels got put on ice until Christopher Nolan took over. He rebooted the series.
Batman wears boots?
No, that means they restarted the movie's mythology from the beginning. Gosh, you really are a simpleton, aren't you? So, in the first movie, Batman Begins, Batman is played by Christian Bale and after he sees his parents killed he's all moody and sad and emo and listens to The Smiths a lot and goes off on a quest to become the ultimate ninja badass. Then he comes back and has to kill Ra's al Ghul, one of the men who trained him in super secret ninja arts. He also defeats the Scarecrow, who uses a drug to make people very afraid. Katie Holmes was in it.
The one who divorced Tom Cruise?
The very same.
Wow, she's very famous. So this movie must have been popular?
Oh god yes, but not as popular as the second movie The Dark Knight, which made exactly $17 bazillion (okay, actually $533 million domestically) and is the third highest-grossing U.S. movie of all time. In this sequel, Batman takes on his traditional archenemy The Joker, who is a psychopath with a white face and grin plastered on it.
He sounds like a clown.
Exactly. He's like a clown with a really warped sense of humor. He was played by Cesar Romero on TV and Jack Nicholson in the 1989 movie. Heath Ledger, who died after filming the movie but before it came out, won a posthumous Oscar for his role in the film. He was really quite awesome.
Are there any other characters that I should know about?
Well, there is Alfred, who plays Batman's tireless and humorous butler. In the Nolan movies he's played by Michael Caine. There is also Catwoman, who is a feline-inspired baddy who has been in lots of Batman stories and is in The Dark Knight Rises, played by Anne Hathaway.
I don't like her.
What are you talking about? You don't even know who Batman is. How are you gonna talk smack about Anne Hathaway?
I just don't. I'm sorry.
That's stupid. Then you probably hate Tom Hardy, who plays Bane, the other baddie in Dark Knight Rises, who is like a 'roided out strong man with ties to Occupy Wall Street or something.
What does OWS have to do with any of this?
I don't know, I haven't seen the movie yet!
Then why are you the one teaching me all about Batman if you don't even know how it ends?
Well, I kind of do, because David Letterman ruined it for everyone.
Maybe you should go see the movie and then tell me what happens.
Please, you're not going to go see the movie anyway. You don't even know who Batman is. What is wrong with you?
Wait, wait. Is Batman the one with the cape and the pointy ears and the yellow belt?
Oh, I totally know who that is. Nevermind.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.