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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Pretty people just don’t understand—you’re not safe anywhere and all the sadists are after YOU! As the two geniuses in The Hitcher Grace (Sophia Bush) and her boyfriend Jim (Zachary Knighton) learn real quickly a cross-country trek to New Mexico in a beat-up car is especially risky. During their first night out on the open road it’s raining cats and dogs when they almost run over a man (Sean Bean) who’s standing aimlessly in the middle of the street his car apparently broken down. The young couple decides against lending him a helping hand with it pouring down rain and all. Bad move. When they stop for gas later Jim and Grace cross paths with the man who goes by the name of John Ryder. He asks the couple if he might hitch a short ride with them to a local motel. This time they oblige. Bad move. One aspect the studio must’ve loved about The Hitcher: Being shot primarily in a car the cast cannot feasibly be more than three deep—four tops. That also means that said cast must wear the tension well if the camera is to be on them throughout. Bush (TV’s One Tree Hill) the movie’s biggest asset as far as its target audience is concerned shrieks well and most importantly is smokin'. And when it comes time to fight back she doesn’t look so bad doing it even if there’s scant giggling in the theater at the now clichéd image of a weapon-wielding hot chick. As the hugely sadistic villain Bean (GoldenEye the LOTR movies et al) is more than adequately creepy. There’s something to be said with most of The Hitcher’s viewers’ inability to recognize him because an A-list movie star just wouldn’t work in this role. Obscurity aside Bean his face lurking around every corner will simply creep the crap out of the young audience. As for Knighton he seems and looks like the garden-variety up-and-comer and try as I might there’s nothing wrong with his biggest role to date—except a scene of um tug-of-war that is tough to watch or look away from. Veteran actor Neal McDonough also pops in with a brief role as a sheriff caught in the proverbial crosshairs. These days it’s tough to come up with anything new in a horror film—so directors just don’t bother. Save for neo-horror maestro Eli Roth there’s no originality to be seen especially when seemingly 99 percent of horror movies are remakes and when they’re not remakes they’re Primeval or Turistas. The Hitcher is much better than those two but director Dave Meyers truly eliminates most of the psychological aspect of the original 1986 Hitcher in exchange for a polished contemporary feel. Of course Meyers is one the most renowned music video directors of the past several years so it's no surprise when he mistakes volume for thrills; in fact the decibels will be the chief reason for almost all of the audience’s screaming. Not that there aren’t scary moments however. The writers Jake Wade Wall (When a Stranger Calls) and Eric Bernt (Romeo Must Die) actually get the film off to a brisk smooth start but they ultimately turn John Ryder into more of a Terminator-like character and ask for too many leaps of faith and suspensions of disbelief—again not that their intended audience won’t indulge them. At least the studio had the guts to retain the intended 'R' rating!
Set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1940s—a favorite area of exploration for writer-director Guillermo del Toro—the story follows dreamy 11-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) as she’s uprooted and relocated to a remote military outpost when her sickly mother (Ariadna Gil) marries the wantonly cruel camp commander Captain Vidal (Sergei Lopez). With the compassionate but secretive housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) as the closest thing to a friend she has in the oppressive environment Ofelia escapes into a richly textured fantasy world. She follows a dragonfly she believes is a fairy into a landscaped but neglected garden maze she recasts as the lair of the goatish godling Pan (Doug Jones). He tells her she’s the last heir to a magical otherworldly kingdom and charges her with several tasks to help her reclaim her birthright. As her personal world grows more and more grim—the impending birth of her half-brother threatens her mother’s health her step-father grows colder and colder in his bid to crush the resistance and Mercedes’ hidden agenda places her in jeopardy as well—Ofelia soon finds herself tangling with hideous monsters both imagined and all too real often having difficulty distinguishing which is the more dangerous. The astonishingly real performance of the amazing young Spanish actress Baquero as Ofelia anchors the film firmly in both its real world and fantasy environments as only the convincing imagination of a child could. Lopez is an equally compelling discovery as the callous Vidal pitiless vicious and malevolent while still remaining believably human throughout. He’s unblinking in his depiction of a thoroughly vile and cruel man but avoids any aspect of cartoonish evil. And Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien) as Mercedes is a wonder as well with her remarkably expressive face unlimited by the film’s Spanish language barriers. Kudos too to Doug Jones a whisper-thin actor who specializes in “creature” roles (he’s played Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy and will be the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four sequel) who somehow magically delivers fully-formed performances as both the faun Pan and the freakish Pale Man through layers and layers of latex. Pan's Labyrinth is unquestionably Guillermo del Toro’s finest film work to date as pure an artistic vision as is likely to be committed to celluloid. He wisely worked outside the Hollywood system in his native Spain to bring his dark tale to life. The story exists in that shadowy netherworld between childhood and adulthood innocence and awareness of the world’s more sinister nature and its characters and themes are explored in ways that no mainstream film would ever allow. On the surface the trappings are Tim Burton-esque but the dark corners Pan's Labyrinth peers into are grim and gloomy indeed; del Toro is never afraid to delve into the murkiest of directions that to audiences used to more conventional movies are heart-wrenching even gut-churning but ultimately emotionally honest and in unexpected ways as immensely satisfying as they are haunting. The film is the announcement of the complete arrival of a major filmmaker and we can only hope that the qualities del Toro brings to this work do not get lost in the maze of Hollywood for future films.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name Fast Food Nation has three intertwined stories revolving around the fast food industry. Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear) is a corporate marketing guy assigned to put a positive spin on the bad news that fecal traces has been found in the meat. He goes to the meat factory to investigate and doesn’t like what he sees but no one offers him a viable solution. Then there’s Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) Mexican immigrants who cross the border illegally. The only job they can get is in the meat factory. She bears with demeaning sexual advances while he faces the unhealthy and dangerous conditions to try for the American Dream. Finally we meet Amber (Ashley Johnson) who works in a local franchise. She’s just a high school girl trying to pay for her car insurance. This isn’t her future but it dominates her present. The corporate story is a comedy about ineffective management and media spin. The immigrants’ story is a hard drama about a bad life. Amber’s story straddles both lines--a slacker teen comedy but also introspective about what the job is doing to her soul. It may be no secret these days but it’s still fascinating. There is plenty of juicy dialogue for actors to sink their teeth into (pun intended). Kinnear plays the corporate suit as lovably as possible. He’s the put-upon business cog similar to his characters in The Matador and Little Miss Sunshine but funnier because it’s the system that’s futile not his own dreams. Valderrama has a smaller part just supporting his wife going through a horrible life with noble determination. Moreno is as heartbreaking as she was in her Oscar-nominated performance in Maria Full of Grace. You sense so much potential in her and she’s stuck in the factory demeaned by sexual harassment and unable to save her sister from succumbing to it. She adds new colors of despair to the immigrant experience. Johnson is careful not to make her character too wise beyond her years. She really is just a normal kid. High school sucks so do counter jobs. It’s not about being unique just relatable. Cameos stand out too. Ethan Hawke plays the coolest uncle ever. He comes to town for two scenes spouts off his cool-uncle advice and then leaves. Even though he’s a self-confessed loser he’s convincing. And he buys her beer. Bruce Willis gives a speech on the meat industry with his David Addison smirk while chomping into a burger. We’re sold. Director Richard Linklater does a good job keeping the comedy and drama balanced. He cuts back and forth between stories at sensible intervals. Towards the end Greg Kinnear disappears for a long time but Ashley Johnson’s story beefs up to compensate. Showing the inner workings of the meat factory is pretty powerful. Cow guts falling out and bodies mangled by machinery are not fun things to watch but they are important to remember. It’s all up there on the screen but not gratuitous—and doesn’t have to ruin meat forever. Just think how all foods have processes that we don’t see and still taste good. There are plenty of scenes in which the characters are talking a real Linklater specialty (Before Sunset Before Sunrise for example). Whether they’re talking about meat or minimum wage jobs or life ambitions the conversations have a catchy flow. The satire of corporate America and slacker lifestyles juxtaposed against the drama of immigrant life makes Fast Food Nation both ridiculously funny and appropriately uncomfortable.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.