Star Wars Revisited: The Great Adventure begins again!

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A long time ago… I discovered Star Wars. It would define my life. It’s time to rediscover it.

Hello! This is the first installment of a new feature here at “The Skinny”. A facebook friend posted an interesting article tonight. He has found a chronological listing of all the episodes of “The Clone Wars”. For those of you unaware, CW was an animated series on the Cartoon Network. it chronicled the adventures of Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi as the battled the forces of the evil Separatists. It ran for 5 full seasons and a 13 episode final season, which just became available. The series did not air in order. The episodes were not created in order, but jumped around in a period of about 3 years. Having only seen the first 4 seasons (I dropped cable), this list presented a terrific opportunity to rewatch the series- in order this time. Being Superponte though, I had to make it into a big production that will suck up what little free time I have like a Hoover on coke.

The Plan:.

  1. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  2. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  3. Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars 1
  4. The Clone Wars
  5. Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars 2
  6. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  7. Episode IV: A New Hope
  8. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  9. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Yes, I have lost my goddamn mind, but this is a good thing. I wanted to provide new outlets to write, as well as present content to you- the readers. This allows me to revisit this incredible piece of my life as we prepare for the arrival of Star Wars: Rebels, the new animated series set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. It also leads into a much more important event.

Just before Halloween 2012, I sat down at my computer and saw that the internet had exploded. Disney had bought Lucasfilm and Star Wars Episode VII was being released in 2015. I literally sat there for 2 hours, scouring the web for as much information as I could. Rumors ran rampant, and continue to do so. As I remarked in an earlier post, I have no idea what this third phase of Star Wars will bring for me, but I cannot wait to experience it. I hope you follow me here as I begin the great adventure all over again.

Tomorrow, the saga begins…

1: The Phantom Menace

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CtW: 03/05/2014

Behold my readers! The great tradition returns!
In the late 90’s, a group of friends were avid comic book readers. Every Wednesday, we would pick up our comics, read them, and share quick reviews with each other. It was fun and we did it pretty much every week from 1996 to 2005. Eventually, we tapered off, some stopped reading, some of us lost touch with one another. As this blog has grown over the last 4 years, I feel a need to write more things for all of you to read. So, Comix this week is reborn. As with my movie reviews, this is not comprehensive. I cannot afford to read every comic, nor will I illegally download them, I respect the artists and writers too much for that. Every week there will be a “pick of the week”. At the end of the year, we will have a retrospective and choose the best comic of 2014.

I use the cover images of these comics, and they are owned by the various comic companies- Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image in today’s case. They own this stuff, I do this for fun, not money. Enjoy.

03/05/2014

Green Lantern 28

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Writer Robert Vendetti, Pencillers Billy Tan and Martin Coccolo

After the classic run on this title by Geoff Johns, we find ourselves in the midst of a new era for Green Lantern, and I am sorry to say that it seems to be a lesser era. Johns set up an expanded GL Universe where there are many power ring corps, each based on a color (roy g biv). This new storyline bases itself on the idea that the spectrum of light that the Lanterns tap into is actually a finite resource, and every time a power ring is used, the universe steps closer to oblivion. It is an interesting idea, but once enacted it creates a big problem- the magic, the power of these rings is diminished. The GL Power Ring was the coolest thing about this character. Johns embraced and Vendetti, for better or worse, has chosen to break that magic down.

This issue is naturally weak as it is a reactive issue, rather than proactive. Recently, Hal gave control of a space sector to the Red Lantern Corps, unfortunately they chose 2814- where Earth is located. The Blue Lanterns were destroyed with Saint Walker being the only one left- and he has lost his hope and descended into despondency. An Alien race called the Durlan, shapeshifters, are leading a rebellion against the GL Corps. This issue follows up on these events. Hal returns to Earth to say goodbye to his family as war looms, Saint Walker mopes in the jungle, and Hal sits down to talk about a plan of action with his advisers.

Overall, a subpar issue, but it could really only get “so” good with this set up. The art was ok, but I’ve never been a fan of this multiple artists sharing a comic due to deadline issues, but its pretty good.

Forever Evil 6

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Writer Geoff Johns, Penciller David Finch, Inker Richard Friend

This incredibly strong event nears conclusion. An alternate universe Justice League has taken over the Earth, banished the JLA from existance, kidnapped and unmasked Nightwing/Dick Grayson in public. Now, Batman, Catwoman, and a series of “villains”- led by Lex Luthor, are working together to take down the Injustice Society and free Nightwing. Of course, Nightwing is hooked up to a “murder machine”. In 5 minutes a nuclear bomb explodes. The only way to disarm it is to stop Nightwing’s heart. Luthor, of course, kills him. It all ends in chaos as Batman tries to kill Lex and an alternate universe Lex Luthor is Mazahs! The Alternate version of Shazam!

This is a good comic. It is allowing the villainous characters the opportunity to stand forward and be the heroes. I just wish the rest of the DC Comics line, save Batman, wasn’t such a mess.

Captain America 18

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Writer Rick Remender, Artist Nic Klein, Colorist Dean White

The awesome “out there” version of Captain America that kicked off with the Dimension Z storyline continues as Dr. Mindbubble brainwashes S.H.I.E.L.D. and causes them to unleash a doomsday weapon version of the Helicarrier. Cap and Falcon race to the scene and have a fight with the Agents. A fairly straightforward story, and decent artwork. What is kinda cool is Dr. Mindbubble- a 1960’s scientist that tried to mix the supersoldier serum with LSD. Having no volunteers, the Doctor injects himself and gains crazy PSI powers. Insane, but fun.

Veil #1

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Writer Greg Rucka, Art Toni Fejzula

A woman awakens in the subway, covered in rats. She seems disoriented and rambles a lot, while being naked. She wanders the streets and runs into a rough crowd that wants to have their way with her. A man named Dante takes her, clothes her, and wants to get her helped. She names herself Veil. While in his apartment, the guys from the street arrive with guns to force their way with her. She then uses some sort of mind powers to make them shoot themselves. Dante leads her out of the apartment as the cops are enroute.

An okay first issue, but the art is the real star here. So stylized, and very distinctive. The above cover is how the art appears throughout the book. I will probably give it a couple of issues, but the story needs to actually…develop beyond a woman ranting gibberish and using mind powers. It’s a first issue though, and I thought it worked very well. Check out Fejzula’s blog for some more great art.

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Starlight #1

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Writer Mark Millar, Art Goran Parlov

The “Millarworld” expands with this newest take on a “Flash Gordon” style character. We are introduced to Duke McQueen, the classic space hero of the Golden Age of comics. He is a test pilot that gets sucked through a wormhole and ends up on the planet Tantalus. he beats the evil dictator and frees the universe. He takes the wormhole home before it closes and returns to Earth. Where this get cool is that when he returns, Duke tells everyone what happened to him, and no one believes him. He gets married, has children, and lives his life. Then, his wife dies and he loses touch with his children. He is alone, and old. One rainy night, he hears something outside and sees an Alien Spaceship decloak. He past has returned!

This is an ideal first issue. The story is easy to jump into, and the art was terrific, evocative of those classic comics. Millar has a habit of taking comic book tropes and twisting them into something new. I strongly recommend this one to any lover of comics, or classic pulp comics.

Academy Award 2014: The Skinny!

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The show has been subdued, no gigantic Ellen DeGeneres dance numbers, but it has some good jokes. She’s a decent, if safe, choice for host.

The results are in, lets see how my predictions and choices panned out! Winner pictured, my choice in bold.

Best supporting actor

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Barkhad Abdi — “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper — “American Hustle”
Jonah Hill — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Michael Fassbender — “12 Years a Slave”

I picked this one correctly. Jared Leto turned out an AMAZING performance as Rayon, the gay man dying of Aids who teams up with a homophobic straight Aids victim to sell banned HIV drugs to patients in 1985. Damn well deserved.

Best costume design

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“The Great Gatsby” — Catherine Martin
“12 Years a Slave” — Patricia Norris
“The Grandmaster” — William Chang Suk Ping
“American Hustle” — Michael Wilkinson
“The Invisible Woman” — Michael O’Connor

Alas, the dazzling design of Baz Luhrman’s 1920’s Long Island beat out the magic of Amy Adams boobage. Is there no justice in this world?

Best makeup and hairstyling

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“The Lone Ranger” — Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” — Stephen Prouty
“Dallas Buyers Club” — Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

I picked this one as well. There is no way that Johnny Knoxville in old man make-up or Johnny Depp with a bird on his head going to beat the AIDS patients. Not gonna happen.

Best animated feature

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“The Wind Rises”
“Frozen”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“The Croods”

I did not have a horse in this race really, but I am surprised that Miyazaki did not win in his last film.

Best visual effects

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“Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Star Trek Into Darkness”
“Iron Man 3”
“The Lone Ranger”

I thought Hobbit would win this afternoon…then I saw Gravity. Holy crap. Not only was it a great movie, but the effects work truly was outstanding.

Best documentary feature

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“The Act of Killing”
“20 Feet From Stardom”
“The Square”
“Cutie and the Boxer”
“Dirty Wars”

The winner is about back up singers. I would have, and did, pick the movie about the 2011 Egyptian revolution, but what do I know. Either way, Blackfish was robbed.

Best supporting actress

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Jennifer Lawrence — “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o — “12 Years a Slave”
June Squibb — “Nebraska”
Julia Roberts — “August: Osage County”
Sally Hawkins — “Blue Jasmine”

I was hoping Squibb would win, especially for the graveside scene, but Lupita Nyong’o definitely earned it. Very moving.

Best cinematography

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“Gravity” — Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis” — Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska” — Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners” — Roger Deakins
“The Grandmaster” — Phillippe Le Sourd

I REALLY should have watched Gravity before making my pics. hehe. That’s what I get for a last minute rental.

Best production design

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“12 Years a Slave” — Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker
“The Great Gatsby” — Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn
“American Hustle” — Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler
“Gravity” — Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
“Her” — K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena

I figured this one as well. So much effort went into the design on this movie. I actually started following the production design news on the film about a year before it was released. Beautiful.

Best adapted screenplay

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“12 Years a Slave” — John Ridley
“Before Midnight” — Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater
“The Wolf of Wall Street” — Terence Winter
“Captain Phillips” — Billy Ray
“Philomena” — Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Another right choice for the Academy. Amazing movie.

Best original screenplay

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“American Hustle” — David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer
“Blue Jasmine” — Woody Allen
“Her” — Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” — Bob Nelson
“Dallas Buyers Club” — Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

This is another situation where I am handicapped by never seeing the film. I will correct this at the earliest opportunity.

Best director

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Steve McQueen — “12 Years a Slave”
David O. Russell — “American Hustle”
Alfonso Cuaron — “Gravity”
Alexander Payne — “Nebraska”
Martin Scorsese — “The Wolf of Wall Street”

It was Cuaron’s year it seems. I have no objections. All the films were very good.

Best actress

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Amy Adams — “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett — “Blue Jasmine”
Judi Dench — “Philomena”
Sandra Bullock — “Gravity”
Meryl Streep — “August: Osage County”

Well, my initial prediction from the summer came true! Always go with your first instincts. hehe. Seriously, I figured the Woody drama would wipe her out of contention. I am happy to see her rise above it.

Best actor

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Bruce Dern — “Nebraska”
Chiwetel Ejiofor — “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Christian Bale — “American Hustle”

My friend Kelsey took to twitter over this, being a die hard DiCaprio fan, but he did not have a realistic shot this year. I saw Eijofor and McConaughey at the top, Dern in the middle, with DiCaprio and Bale bringing up the rear. I thought they would go with the slavery actor, but times have changed. 10 years ago Eijofor would have won. Today’s battle is over homosexual rights. This film tackles that, while exploring what it was like for those early AIDS victims. McConaughey stole the show. I called it wrong, but I am overjoyed to see him win.

Best picture

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“12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”
“Captain Phillips”
“Her”
“American Hustle”
“Gravity”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”

As expected, this amazing story won the day. Leaving the theater, the wife and I knew that we had just seen the best picture winner.

All in all, a decent Oscars. With so many strong films in 2013, this was one of the more difficult to predict. I got 5/15.

See you next year!

Academy Awards 2014- Ponte’s Picks

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Here we are! Another year has passed and the 2014 Academy Awards are tonight! In about 7 hours the ceremony will begin and I will see how my predictions play out. As usual, I have not seen everything. There could be a great film on these lists that I just never had a chance to see- to my detriment. While I am sneaking 4 of the best picture nominees in this weekend (Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Gravity, Captain Phillips) I did not get to see Her or Philomena. I think missing Her will not effect my predictions all that much, but I think Judi Dench might be a major contender for Philomena. We’ll see tonight. I am going to be a bit unorthodox in that I am only listing the categories I care about about, hence the ones that 95% of people care about.

Listed are all nominees in these categories with my pick in bold.

Best picture

“12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”
“Captain Phillips”
“Her”
“American Hustle”
“Gravity”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”

American Hustle might have a shot, it was my personal favorite of 2013, but 12 years a slave would have taken that spot if I had seen it before new years. The movie is one of the most powerful I have seen in years.

Best director

Steve McQueen — “12 Years a Slave”
David O. Russell — “American Hustle”
Alfonso Cuaron — “Gravity”
Alexander Payne — “Nebraska”
Martin Scorsese — “The Wolf of Wall Street”

It could go to either McQueen or Scorsese honestly, but I think Scorsese takes it. Despite the controversy, it was an amazingly well directed film.

Best actor

Bruce Dern — “Nebraska”
Chiwetel Ejiofor — “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Christian Bale — “American Hustle”

This is a tough category. All of these performances were outstanding. Taking it all into consideration, I have to go with Eijofor based on how I think the Academy will vote. I would be extremely happy to see McConaughey win this though.

Best actress

Amy Adams — “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett — “Blue Jasmine”
Judi Dench — “Philomena”
Sandra Bullock — “Gravity”
Meryl Streep — “August: Osage County”

If you had asked me a few months ago who the winner would be, I would have said Blanchett- for sure. Now, I really think Amy Adams has it won. Her performance was the best in American Hustle, and I think she has momentum with her.

Best supporting actor

Barkhad Abdi — “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper — “American Hustle”
Jonah Hill — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Michael Fassbender — “12 Years a Slave”

Another insanely difficult field. Any one of these men could win. having seen all but DBC, I though the edge was with Fassbender. having now seen it, Jared Leto is going to win. 100% positive. He will win. Powerful and moving performance.

Best supporting actress

Jennifer Lawrence — “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o — “12 Years a Slave”
June Squibb — “Nebraska”
Julia Roberts — “August: Osage County”
Sally Hawkins — “Blue Jasmine”

I am going with the dark horse candidate and picking June Squibb for the win. I know Nyong’o will likely win, deservedly, but Squibb was awesome.

Best original screenplay

“American Hustle” — David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer
“Blue Jasmine” — Woody Allen
“Her” — Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” — Bob Nelson
“Dallas Buyers Club” — Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

A great script, should win.

Best adapted screenplay

“12 Years a Slave” — John Ridley
“Before Midnight” — Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater
“The Wolf of Wall Street” — Terence Winter
“Captain Phillips” — Billy Ray
“Philomena” — Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Should win, probably will.

Best animated feature

“The Wind Rises”
“Frozen”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“The Croods”

I saw none of these, but I see them giving Miyazaki the award for his final film.

Best cinematography

“Gravity” — Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis” — Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska” — Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners” — Roger Deakins
“The Grandmaster” — Phillippe Le Sourd

Nebraska was amazingly shot. Having recently driven through that part of the country, it immediately evoked the world of Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Gravity will likely win, but how much of that is CGI?

Best costume design

“The Great Gatsby” — Catherine Martin
“12 Years a Slave” — Patricia Norris
“The Grandmaster” — William Chang Suk Ping
“American Hustle” — Michael Wilkinson
“The Invisible Woman” — Michael O’Connor

I think American Hustle wins just for Amy Adam’s boob dresses. I am probably wrong, but what the hell.

Best documentary feature

“The Act of Killing”
“20 Feet From Stardom”
“The Square”
“Cutie and the Boxer”
“Dirty Wars”

I think “The Square” will win, but the real shame is that Blackfish was not nominated. What a fucking shame. Blackfish is the best Documentary I have seen in years.

Best makeup and hairstyling

“The Lone Ranger” — Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” — Stephen Prouty
“Dallas Buyers Club” — Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

Dallas Buyers club had terrific work on the Aids patients. The other two are kind of a joke really.

Best production design

“12 Years a Slave” — Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker
“The Great Gatsby” — Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn
“American Hustle” — Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler
“Gravity” — Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
“Her” — K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena

Great Gatsby all the way. Amazing aesthetics on display.

Best visual effects

“Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Star Trek Into Darkness”
“Iron Man 3”
“The Lone Ranger”

Hobbit. Smaug deserves this. Incredible. will probably go to gravity though.

No documentary or shorts listed here- I saw none of them. No sound either. The best songs were forgettable, as usual, and no single score really stood out for me. Look for the follow up post later tonight!

Razzies 2014

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Last night, the 34th annual Golden Raspberry awards were presented. This was created as an Oscar after party joke in 1980, and it has ballooned into the premiere gag awards ceremony in America. Here are the “winners”.

Worst Screenplay

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Ah yes. My personal pick for worst movie of 2013 rears it’s ugly head once again. This film had 19 screenwriters. NINETEEN! Deserved win.

Worst remake, rip-off, or sequel

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This one I disagree with. I found Lone Ranger to be okay. It’s not gonna ever be on a best picture list, but it is unfairly maligned. There were over 20 sequels released last year, including Hangover 3. No one will ever convince me that Lone Ranger is worse than Hangover 3, or Grown ups 2.

Worst Director

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The 13 directors of Movie 43 collectively share this award. Deserved.

Worst screen Combo

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Will and Jaden Smith share the award for this turkey. I admit to not seeing it, but I supposed I will have no choice but to check it out now.

Worst Supporting Actress

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Tyler Perry makes movies for adult black women. That is his primary audience. His first few films were very good, but as he writes more films, they are beyond repetitive and have marked a significant decrease in quality. A woman is cheated on by her man, faces adversity, meets a new man just as the old one comes groveling back to her. There is usually a scene in a church with copious gospel music which leads to her either reforming her old man or going with the new one. Plug and chug, only this time with Kim Kardashian. Probably well deserved.

Worst supporting actor

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Will Smith. How bad is this firggin movie? lol.

Worst Actress

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Tyler Perry wins worst actress. He needs to stop.

Worst Actor

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The One-two punch is complete. Jaden snags worst actor.

Worst Picture

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The journey is now complete. Movie 43 has been christened the worst of 2013, in line with my own list of January 1st. This movie is on a whole different level of bad.

I was beginning to think that this was the last time my path would cross with this piece of shit, but I somehow know that we shall meet again. I keep a list of worst movies each decade. Like Battlefield Earth before it, this one may very well be crowned the winner on December 31st 2019 when I make my final list. See you in 5 years Movie 43.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues…again

The 387th film I have seen in theaters…

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Last December, we had a return visit with everyone’s favorite news team. Amazingly, Anchorman 2 has been re-released this week in an alternate cut. They did a similar thing with the original film when it was released on DVD. It was called “Wake up Ron Burgundy”, and it used alternate takes and abandoned material to create a new film. The original film played out as the San Diego Zoo saw the birth of a baby panda. There was an alternate plot filmed that involved a “weather underground” style terrorist group. It is this story that was used in the DVD re-cut. It played more like a rough cut of a movie rather than a complete film. This new version of Anchorman 2 was different in that there was no alternate plot to use.

This films follows the same plot of the first release, just using the alternate takes, as well as a few new or extended scenes. Most of the jokes are funny, but the material in the original release is clearly superior. What does work marvelously are the extended scenes and material that was not alternate. In the first release, some of the scenes were only a fraction of the scene as scripted. This film shows us these extended sequences, to great effect. The other clear winner is the musical number. A song about diversity is sung in the newsroom, and it is awesome.

I don’t think this works as a film, but it was worth seeing, Still a good movie.

Entertainment Analysis by Superponte