‘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.

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‘The Words’ tell a captivating story

The story behind “The Words” is not new. Earlier this month, Jade Bonacolta, a Columbia University student and the Columbia Spectator’s former associate arts and entertainment editor, plagiarized Robin Pogrebin’s New York Times article. Earlier this summer, Time Magazine’s Fareed Zakaria was caught plagiarizing Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article in his column on gun control. Although adopting another writer’s work as one’s own isn’t new, directors and screenwriters Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal film adds an original spin to an unoriginal concept.

The film begins as author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is reading his fiction novel, “The Words,” on an author visit in a New York university. He is telling the story of Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a young man who moved into a New York City apartment with his girlfriend, Dora (Zoe Saldana), in hopes of becoming a writer. When Rory and Dora get married, the couple spends their honeymoon in Paris, where Rory inherits a briefcase containing a finished script. Spurred by his ambition to publish his first novel, Rory makes a Faustian deal with himself — marketing the script as his own, and becoming a bestselling author.

Although the plot may seem trite and cliché at first, the movie becomes more interesting with the appearance of Jeremy Irons, who plays the old man who wrote the original script. Irons provides some of the most captivating scenes in the film, such as when he confronts Cooper about his book with an excellent mix of sarcasm and bitterness. Irons’ narration of his past life also comes at a pivotal point of the film, holding the audience’s interest, just when the film starts to become boring and chalk full of clichés.

Ben Barnes, who plays Irons’ younger self, also gives an excellent performance. Not only does the English actor give a solid American accent, but Barnes also brings sincerity to the writer role that Cooper seems to lack. For example, in the scenes where Barnes is writing his novel, he is seen typing furiously into his typewriter, or reading his script, or scratching things out. Meanwhile, parallel scenes when Cooper is staring blankly at his laptop screen feel flat.

Although Cooper did a decent job in his role, he sometimes comes across as more of a petulant child rather than a writer. For example, in one scene, he abandons his writing in favor of hooking up with his wife. In another scene, he begs his father for money. Cooper is mostly believable as a writer who would plagiarize, but Barnes’ performance and story resonates more with the viewer.

“The Words” is very artistic, from Klugman and Sternthal’s multi-layered script to Marcelo Zarvos’ music, which provides a beautiful and haunting atmospheric background to most of the movie. The imagery, including the picturesque cobblestone sidewalks in Paris and the lush green parks in New York City’s Central Park, is also vibrant and visually stunning.

Like a good novel, “The Words” transports the viewer on a journey through time. The pages of this book jump to life, and Klugman and Sternthal are wonderful storytellers who weave together a charming and romantic drama.

“The Words” is directed and written by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.

To see this post published in The Ithacan, click here.

Federal lies inspire audience suspicion

Everyone knows that two people cannot build a marriage out of lies, so when it comes to the marriage between the United States federal government and the American citizens, the public better hope the government upholds the values of truth and transparency.

The film “Fair Game” presents how truth and transparency took the backseat concerning the Iraq War during George W. Bush’s presidency. Based on two memoirs by Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson, the movie tells how Plame’s (Naomi Watts) identity as a Central Intelligence Agent was leaked to the press after her husband (Sean Penn) wrote an editorial presenting the lies in Bush’s State of the Union address.

Directed by Doug Liman, who also produced series like “The Bourne Identity” and “The O.C.,” the film does a superb job in recreating the intensity of real-life events and highlights the eeriness and secrecy surrounding a job in the CIA, especially Plame’s withholding of information on her whereabouts from loved ones. When traveling in the Middle East, it was unsettling to see Plame approach interview subjects with detailed profiles of their backgrounds, which she had gathered prior to questioning them.

Meanwhile, Liman’s direction and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth’s screenplay shed insight on the effects of a career based on lying. Plame’s job put a strain on her marriage and friendships after her true identity as an agent was leaked in the press. In an Academy Award-worthy scene between Plame and Wilson, Plame complains about changing her phone number multiple times after getting death threats from neighbors and anonymous callers while Wilson argues he cannot let this injustice pass without a fight. Through Watts’ reluctance and Penn’s stubbornness, viewers get a deep sense of how secrets can dissemble a vow of “in sickness and health.” The scene evokes strong pathos, pulling at the audience’s heartstrings.

For Watts, who is known for starring in roles such as “The Ring” and “King Kong,” “Fair Game” holds a tougher challenge, which Watts confronts with poise. As Watts’ character relays her love for the CIA and faces her rejection from the force, viewers sympathize with her plight. She maintains the perfect balance of strength and emotion. In one scene she breaks down crying in front of a mirror and in another scene she tries to hold her marriage with Wilson together.

While both the plot and the acting are strong and compelling, the true stars of the film are Liman’s cinematography and Christopher Tellefsen’s editing. Every cut shows movement, including pans, rack focuses and sequencing. The fast cuts set the tone of the movie, brewing uneasiness among viewers in the drama of an unethical move by a few powerful men controlling the White House.

Real clips from news outlets such as CNN and C-Span add to the mass fear and paranoia created when discussing nuclear energy obtained in Iraq. Bush and the real Valerie Plame Wilson make cameos in the film through news clips, grounding this drama in reality.

“Fair Game” succeeded in leaving a message of democracy: It’s up to the people to take a part in government and demand truth and answers.

“Fair Game” was written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and directed by Doug Liman.

To see this posted in The Ithacan, click here.

James Carville tells public to get out and vote

James Carville gives a speech at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 at Ithaca College. Photograph taken by Qina Liu.

With bank bailouts, wars and health care on everyone’s mind, political consultant James Carville said people cannot complain about the current political climate without participating in the polls.

Carville, who is a best-selling author and CNN producer, talk-show host and contributor, presented his points at 7:30 p.m. yesterday on the eve of election night in Emerson Suites at Ithaca College. With his background as an influential political pundit, Carville said despite corrupt dealings within government, he values his work in politics, and that the American public should care too.

“I’m 66 years old, and after everything I’ve done, I’m proud to have worked in politics,” Carville said. “Because you can say all you want about politics and it may be true — they may be crooks, they may just say things to get elected, they may run negative ads, they may, in fact, market to interest groups — to some extent, but one thing you can’t say is what they do is unimportant.”

He stressed the importance of involvement, saying that people will not have control over government decisions without first controlling the ballot.

“The ability to communicate is the ability to influence,” he said. “The ability to influence is the ability to have an impact on the direction of the country.”

By impacting the direction of one’s country, one affects whether a country goes to war. One decides whether one will pay for a banking system that ruins the economy. By engaging in politics, he said the American people are making a choice.

“If you want to make the wars that you don’t have any say by people that you don’t know, that is your choice. But I don’t think that that’s the choice that you want to make,” Carville said.

Carville preaches that students should play an active voice in politics.

“I tell my students that there are two ways you can go through life: you can make rain or you can get rained on,” he said. “And I think it’s just an unthrilling way to go through life with an umbrella on your head.”

While the founder of the independent nonprofit polling organization Democracy Corps admitted that the Democrats may be the first to lose the elections tonight, the New Orleans, La., resident said votes are needed to stabilize the left-winged agenda, or to even support the right-winged platform.

“If you’re a Democrat, there’s a hurricane coming tomorrow, and the best you can hope for is somehow it decreases its intensity to a category four — which is bad, but at least you will still have some construction left standing,” Carville said.

Ultimately, Carville leaves the fate of the polls in to the people’s hands.

“Don’t get rained on,” he said. “Make your rain. Be involved. If you don’t like the course, change the course. It’s up to you.”