‘Nebraska’ gold rush

Woody Grant’s (Bruce Dern) days are numbered — each one drawing him closer to that plot of land next to his parents and siblings’ graves in the Hawthorne, Neb., cemetery. His adult sons, Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and Davey (Will Forte), are spending the better part of their days tracking him down, searching for his misplaced possessions and bailing him out of jail.

His wife, Kate (June Squibb), says she’ll put him in a nursing home.

It’s hard to tell if she’s serious.

Woody Grant’s the latest somber Everyman to star in one of director Alexander Payne’s movies. Other characters included retired Warren Schmidt of “About Schmidt” (2002), divorced best man Miles of “Sideways” (2004) and about-to-be-widowed parent Matt King of “Descendants” (2011).

Like Payne’s award-winning canon, “Nebraska” shows you the tenderness tucked beneath a stubborn and aging drunk, absent for most of his children’s lives.

It takes a letter that says he’d been awarded a million dollars in a magazine sweepstakes to wake him up.

Armed with a piece of paper, Woody’s determined to walk 850 miles from his home in Billings, Mont., to Lincoln, Neb. — just to collect his winnings.

“I’m running out of time,” he says.

That may be true, but faced with his own mortality, Woody hides under his wide, owlish eyes and childlike naivety. “What?” seems to be his go-to response.

We’ve all seen those scams, designed to target the elderly. His wife and sons warn him.

But Woody’s trusting and gullible. So David reluctantly drives his old man across the Midwest, for a fortune that may not exist.

Bob Nelson’s script succeeds in holding a mirror against our humanity, showing us the role reversals as we age.

“Hey, wake up,” Woody pleads like an impatient child, leaning over his son and shaking him awake. “Are we going to Lincoln today?”

His son enunciates his words slowing, repeating them often as if talking to a child (or an animal). But like us, Davey’s also leaning closer, listening closely and looking for some profound nugget of wisdom (or history). Old men are supposed to be wise, aren’t they?

As we ride along the dusty roads, touring Mount Rushmore, aging mid-American towns once filled with children, and Memory Lane, we’re reminded of better times — like when a million dollars was worth more than a day in the hospital or the living expenses of a nursing home.

Filmed in black and white, “Nebraska” could have taken place in the past, future or the day after yesterday. It’s a timeless story — like those of the migrant workers, chasing after California gold in 1848. It’s a trip full of disappointment, but every once in a while, the streets still sparkle with gold.

“Nebraska” was directed by Nebraska native Alexander Payne and written by Bob Nelson.


‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ both on and off the air

You can’t turn on the T.V., listen to the news or go on the Internet without seeing, hearing or reading about anchorman Ron Burgundy and his latest gimmicks. If you haven’t caught his Dodge Durango endorsements, you’ve probably seen him on Conan, ESPN, CNN or even your local news. Or perhaps he was named dean for the day at your college, answering questions and giving advice to future journalism grads.

All this publicity to who WBC’s Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) calls “the worst anchorman I have ever seen.”

But in case you’ve somehow escaped the Ron Burgundy media blitz promoting his second film, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” you probably know his alter ego, comedian Will Ferrell, who co-created the character and the 2004 cult classic, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” with former SNL writer Adam McKay.

The sequel begins after San Diego co-anchors Ron (Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), were promoted to network news in New York. Veronica becomes the Katie Couric of this fictional storyline (she broke ground as the Jessica Savitch in the previous film); and Ron loses his job at the station, starting a depressing career emceeing for dolphins at Seaworld.

His lifeline comes in the form of GNN, a new global news network looking for enough talent to fill 24-hour of news. So Ron and his San Diego news team, including reporter Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and sports anchor Champ Kind (David Koechner), return to the television business, creating the dysfunctional format we see satirized nightly on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

What this means is gimmicky feel good stories about America, play-by-play disaster coverage, rampant speculation from talking heads and endless cute animal videos — which is not so different from the news today. This also means more jazz flute, animal attacks, news team fights and all the pageantry that made the first “Anchorman” film so memorable.

Funny or Die founders Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (whose collaboration has produced half a dozen films including “Step Brothers,” “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,” and “The Campaign”) perfected a formula for comedy: put Will Ferrell in front of a camera and we’ll die laughing. Yes, his laughter is still infectious, but the jokes have gone a little stale from repetition.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is directed by Adam McKay and written by McKay and Will Ferrell.