Author Archives: Ned Martin
Anchorman 2: The Super-Sized R-Rated Cut (2014)
Directed by Adam McKay
Written by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
143 min. (24 min. longer than the original cut)
We’ve all read Greg’s great review of Anchorman 2. He breaks the film down on a mechanical level, getting to the heart of it by working through its raw material: its jokes.
It’s this raw material which has been replaced in this new version.
This isn’t the first time an alternate version of a film has seen theatrical release. Exorcist II and Heaven’s Gate were notoriously pulled from theaters and recut. I remember seeing The New World in New York in 2005, and when it got a wide release a few weeks later, it was about 10 minutes shorter. But unlike these films, the reason for Anchorman 2’s recutting is not because there was something ‘wrong’ with the original—the filmmakers here simply wanted to experiment with the possibilities of cinema.
This isn’t the first recut of an Anchorman movie. Wake Up, Ron Burgundy is an alternate cut of the first Anchorman, which Greg touched on in his review (and which we saw together after acquiring it from the wonderful and unfortunately long gone Kim’s Video of Bleecker Street). It was a direct-to-DVD release, and featured many different jokes, but the main difference was its integration of a completely discarded plot that revolved around a revolutionary terrorist cell robbing banks in San Diego (which was clearly deemed unsatisfactory, and reshot as the Panda Watch section of the original film). The film tries to weave a half-assed narrative out of these scraps, using some leftover jokes as the glue.
The new version of Anchorman 2, however, is not at all different in terms of plot. In fact, beat by beat, it’s the same. If you’re someone who only half-watches movies, you’d be forgiven by some for not thinking anything was different—but you wouldn’t be forgiven by me. The fabric of Anchorman is its jokes, and now, for once, the emperor really does have new clothes.
We may lose a couple great jokes from the original cut, replaced by weaker ones, but these weaker ones often serve as necessary setup for three great new ones that couldn’t have fit in otherwise. In any case though, it’s futile to compare and rate the jokes. Instead what is important and worthy of discussion is the space these jokes occupy. By this I mean the entire philosophical concept of switching one joke for another.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Written and Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Some spoilers ahead.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a frustrating movie. It’s difficult to know how to approach it. Going in, you either know something about the folk music scene of NYC in the early 1960’s, or you don’t—and either way seems to handicap a viewer looking to make sense out of the film. Those who have a familiarity with the subject will be running through their head for facts, looking for characters who correspond to real people, wondering ‘Will Dylan be in this?’ They will be distracted, and in the end, it will not be a very rewarding experience. On the other hand, those who go in blind will probably get lazy and blame their misunderstanding of the film on their ignorance of the subject, thinking it to be full of inside jokes.
If you can somehow make it past that built-in obstacle course, you’ll be able to view the film for what it is—another Coen Brothers film about a cosmic circle. A man, standing still (a la Ray from Blood Simple, H.I. McDunnough from Raising Arizona, Jerry Lundegaard from Fargo, Barton Fink, The Dude) while at the same time, going on an adventure (Tom Regan from Miller’s Crossing, Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, Llewelyn Moss—practically sharing the first name of our main character—from No Country For Old Men, Ulysses Everett McGill from O Brother, Where Art Thou?—literally sharing the first name as our other main character, a cat).
This time of year always gets me thinking about horror flicks, and there certainly are a lot of them to think about. They’ve been around as long as film itself, and despite evidence to the contrary, they still make horror films today! Whether the ones of today are actually any worse than they used to be is hard to say through the haze of nostalgia, but it is inevitably the American horror films of the 70’s and 80’s that I gravitate to—the films of my childhood. And none fascinate me more so than the Halloween series.
Whether or not we can learn a thing or two about the current state of cinema by examining the 1980 film Maniac by William Lustig and its 2012 remake by Franck Khalfoun is difficult to say—both films were not made for mainstream audiences. And both have leading men that wouldn’t ordinarily be considered leading men: starring in the 1980 film is Joe Spinell (the extremely prolific character actor who had bit roles in such films as The Godfather 1 & 2, Taxi Driver, Rocky 1 & 2, and Cruising) and in the remake, Elijah Wood, star of the immensely successful Lord of the Rings saga (as well as many other films that aren’t necessarily known as Elijah Wood vehicles). The original Maniac was shot in the very seedy New York City, with Spinell stalking about the grimy 42nd St theaters that would soon be playing the very film he’s acting in. When it was released, it caught some of the backlash that all “slasher” films were experiencing at the time—namely, accusations of being merely an exercise in violence for its own sake. (Gene Siskel took pride in claiming he walked out of Maniac after 30 minutes.) The remake was shot in sunny Los Angeles, mostly in the downtown area. It has yet to have a wide release here in the US.
Grown Ups 2 (2013)
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Written by Fred Wolf & Adam Sandler & Tim Herlihy
In 2010, Adam Sandler and his band of merry men released Grown Ups, a film that I felt, at the time, wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination. I couldn’t understand why they chose the jokes they did, why they acted as if their actions had no real consequence from one scene to the next, and why the characters, when they weren’t at their absolute broadest, began to meld into one another to form just one character. I chalked it up to a case of bad movie syndrome.
Catching up with it on television, coming into the film at various points, it slowly began appealing to me. And then one day, while splitting my time between watching it with the sound down and reading, I realized why. The film is like a silent comedy, not like those told through space like in Buster Keaton pictures, or through pathos and character like Charlie Chaplin, but those told through time, like that of the great Mack Sennett and his band of merry men (namely the Keystone Cops). If you watch Grown Ups with the sound turned off while reading a book of jokes, it amounts to the same thing as with sound, except you can always refresh the jokes.
Its sequel, the imaginatively titled Grown Ups 2, is without a doubt obsessed with the idea of space (progressing from Sennett to Keaton). For instance, the film opens with a moose running amuck in Sandler’s mansion, which seems to happen only to give us a remarkable (for this day in age) view of the layout of the Sandler’s home and personal space.