Blu Tuesday: Anchorman 2, 47 Ronin and Knights of Badassdom

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

WHAT: After he’s fired from his gig co-anchoring the national news with his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate), Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is given a chance to become part of the first-ever 24-hour news channel. But when Ron butts heads with star anchorman Jack Lime (James Marsden) upon his arrival, he makes a bet with him that he’ll get bigger ratings, despite the fact that his news team has been saddled with the graveyard shift.

WHY: For years, Will Ferrell has resisted the urge to make a sequel to any of his films, but if there’s one character from his repertoire deserving of a second helping, it’s Ron Burgundy. Unfortunately, while “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” aims to match the original’s absurdist tone, it just doesn’t compare. The movie is at times funnier than its predecessor, but it’s also wildly inconsistent, bouncing aimlessly between gut-busting hilarity and entire sequences that miss their mark. Part of the reason is the movie’s nearly two-hour runtime, which is plagued by several long stretches where nothing funny happens, including a bizarre third act twist that comes across as being ridiculous purely for the sake of it. Even more troubling is how poorly the supporting cast is utilized this time around. While Ferrell is excellent once again as the mustachioed anchorman, Paul Rudd and David Koechner are pushed to the sidelines for much of the film, while Steve Carell’s simple-minded weatherman is given a romantic subplot with Kristen Wiig’s similarly awkward secretary that isn’t as funny as intended. Still, while it’s not as quotable as the first movie, “Anchorman 2” has more than enough laughs that it’s an enjoyable, albeit uneven and incredibly gonzo, comedy.

EXTRAS: Paramount really went above and beyond with this Blu-ray release, which includes three different versions of the film: the original theatrical cut, an unrated cut and a super-sized R-rated cut that runs a whopping 143 minutes and contains 763 new jokes, among other new material. Additionally, there’s an audio commentary with director Adam McKay and the cast, a making-of featurette, four more production featurettes, a lengthy gag reel, deleted, extended and alternate scenes, clips from the table read, and if you can believe it, much more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“47 Ronin”

WHAT: Following the death of their master, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek revenge on the treacherous warlord (Tadanobu Asano) and evil witch (Rinko Kikuchi) responsible with the help of an enslaved half-breed (Keanu Reeves) who was raised by demons.

WHY: For a director packing as much style as Carl Rinsch, it seemed only natural that “47 Ronin” would at least be pretty to look at, even if it lacked the necessary substance to be any good. But unfortunately, Rinsch’s feature film debut fails in both departments, resulting in a disappointingly dull samurai flick that ranks among one of the most forgettable big-budget movies of last year. You’d think that co-writers Chris Morgan (the “Fast & Furious” franchise) and Hossein Amini (“Drive”) could squeeze a little fun out of the premise, but it’s an incredibly somber affair that takes things far too seriously considering the fantasy elements involved in the story. Though Rinsch deserves some credit for convincing a major studio to green light a Keanu Reeves vehicle with Japanese screen veteran Hiroyuki Sanada, and not Reeves, playing the main lead, the actor’s presence ultimately proves to be more of a distraction than an advantage. History buffs will appreciate the story of the 47 ronin getting the Hollywood treatment, but instead of wasting time on this movie, do yourself a favor and check out Rinsch’s commercial and short film work instead.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray includes a brief making-of featurette, a pair of additional featurettes on the fight choreography and visual FX, and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Knights of Badassdom”

WHAT: After getting dumped by his longtime girlfriend, aspiring musician Joe (Ryan Kwanten) is persuaded by his two best friends (Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage) to join them at their weekend live-action role-playing event. But when they accidentally conjure up a demon from Hell, the players must band together to stop it.

WHY: When “Knights of Badassdom” was first announced a few years ago, it sounded like it could be a fun little movie, especially with the talent involved. Ryan Kwanten was starring on one of the hottest shows on television (“True Blood”), Peter Dinklage had just won an Emmy for his outstanding work on “Game of Thrones,” and Summer Glau already had plenty of geek cred to her name between “Firefly” and “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” But as the years passed, so did any hope that the film would ever see the light of day, mainly due to some messy behind-the-scenes drama between director Joe Lynch and the original financiers. And it’s easy to see why, because “Knights of Badassdom” is downright terrible – a clunky, half-baked horror-comedy that doesn’t even come close to fulfilling its potential. There are very few laughs throughout the movie’s brisk 86-minute runtime, and the visual effects look unfinished in most cases, particularly the main creature, which is just a man in a really shoddy rubber suit. It’s hard to imagine how stoned someone would need to be to enjoy “Knights of Badassdom,” because with the exception of some amusing performances by Dinklage and Jimmi Simpson, it’s a pretty joyless experience.

EXTRAS: There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage and Summer Glau, and footage from the San Diego Comic-Con panel.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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Movie Review: “Cheap Thrills”

Starring
Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, David Koechner, Sara Paxton, Amanda Fuller
Director
E.L. Katz

While SXSW captured headlines recently for a rapper getting arrested for starting a riot and a pop icon being voluntarily puked on, one of the fruits of last year’s festival is hitting theaters this week with the appropriately named “Cheap Thrills.”

The cult classic in the making by first-time director E.L Katz starts off innocently enough, just like a crime drama or an episode of “Dr. Drew.” Loving husband and new father Craig (Pat Healy) is about to have one of the worst mornings ever as he rips an eviction letter off his door on the way to work. That’s not the only eviction he’s treated to, though, as he’s also fired from his job as a low-end auto mechanic. Instead of going home, he drowns his sorrows in the nearest dive bar he can find.

Of course, bars in the morning are filled with nasty drinks and even nastier characters, one of which is Craig’s old high school buddy, Vince (Ethan Embry), a collection agent who brags that he once broke a guy’s arm in front of his daughter for $80. And you thought collection calls were bad.

The two are approached by Colin (David Koechner), the type of guy that screams “I make good money in sales and can prove it.” He’s quick to hand out a handshake and, more importantly, free drinks alongside his trophy wife Violet (Sara Paxton), who has ten times the sex appeal and one tenth the need to talk. Before you can say “Fear Factor,” Colin is daring the pair to do crazy things for money. It starts out tame enough, like seeing who can down Tequila shots the quickest or get slapped by a cocktail waitress, but things take a turn at a nearby strip club where Craig takes the worst kind of dare by punching a bouncer. Our hero awakens in Colin’s home with a bloody nose and the introduction of Phase 2 of their night of Dollars for Dares. This time, the stakes are in the thousands and get as dangerous and seductive as their hosts.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Tools to Up Your Fashion Game in 2014

wingtip

The dawn of a New Year has a habit of shedding light on those parts of ourselves that we’d like to tweak and change. “A New Year, a new you:” a common mantra in support of creating and going after attainable New Year’s resolutions. Are you looking to dress the part of a new and improved version of yourself?

I am going to give you some tips on developing your style for the workplace without radically altering your look that will make keeping your New Year’s Resolution simple. The name of the game is accessorizing. Most men balk at the term, but accessories are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to really polish off your style, and I know of a few essentials that you’ll be glad to have stowed in your arsenal.

Shoes

Surprisingly enough, shoes tend to be one of the first things women notice about a man. If you’re shuffling around in a beat up or scuffed pair of department store kickers, you’re drawing far too much negative attention to yourself. When it comes to dress shoes, stick to natural colors and patterns – you can’t go wrong with plain, laced up leather shoes in black, brown, or cordovan (burgundy). I prefer shoes without buckles, because I feel buckles limit the versatility of the shoe. To add some flare I like wing tips: think Mad Men style. High quality shoes do not necessarily have to be expensive. Consider shopping at places like Nordstrom Rack for great deals on designer shoes such as Johnston and Murphy Wingtip Oxfords for around $150.

Watches

The style of a man’s timepiece gives a brief but in-depth look at his personality, and a good watch makes a fine first impression. Trust me; watches are the one subtle accessory that will always get noticed. Not to mention, whereas other accessories will wear out and require replacing over time, a real high quality wristwatch will serve dutifully for a lifetime, after which it can be passed on as an heirloom. Even if you can’t afford to drop a few G’s on a timepiece, a watch at an entry level price will still make a great statement in the workplace.

A professional-looking watch should be understated and classic. I like watches where the dial matches the wrist band, but have seen many beautiful pieces with a leather strap and silver/stainless dial. It all comes down to personal preference. As a rule of thumb, stay away from brightly colored faces and straps – unless they are refined, elegant, and match your suit well. And unless you are in a high up executive position with a large company, a wristwatch in solid gold will make you look ridiculous. Stick to stainless steel and silver; rose gold for more casual work environments, and classic leathers.

While it is true that some entry-level watches from brands like Omega can cost upwards of $2,000, a good quality watch like Stuhrling from ShopHQ, will suit your purposes well and set you back only a few hundred dollars. A price frame between $300 and $1,000 usually implies that the pieces are mass-produced, but that’s not to say that they aren’t well made. In general, a watch made in Switzerland, Japan, or the USA can be trusted to be of higher quality and good value.

Tie

There are many distinct ways to wear a tie – numerous tie variations, knots, sizes, and diverse situations in which a tie could be worn – that giving general tie advice is the best course of action here. First, make sure you are able to tie multiple knots, from half Windsor to Full Windsor to a Shelby knot. The best way to learn is have someone who knows teach you, or watch YouTube videos and practice. A few general guidelines for dressing with a tie at the office:

1) Do not wear loud colored ties to work or, more importantly, a job interview, and stay away from bright reds exclusively.
a. Bright, obnoxious ties in general are just annoying; it is better to wear a subtle tie that will get you taken seriously.
2) Do not wear novelty ties. Ever.
3) Ties should fall to just above the beltline, no shorter or further.
4) The tie should not match the shirt’s color exactly. Experiment with contrasting colors that go well together, like black and white, or patterned button-up where the tie’s color can be found in the shirt’s details.

As with other accessories, creating a stylish wardrobe shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. In reality, a $200 Armani tie will not function better than a $50 Donald Trump tie from Macy’s. I have had great luck in scoring some really nice ties from thrift stores for under $5!

Pocket Squares

Pocket squares aren’t for everyone, but maybe that is because not everyone is capable of pulling them off. Your pocket square should carry a color from either your shirt or tie, but not both. As with a neck tie, there are multiple ways to fold the fabric, including the Straight Fold, One Corner Fold, and Puff Fold, all of which are incredibly straightforward and can be demonstrated on Youtube. Again, cost hardly depicts the quality of a pocket square; go for one that is a stunning match to your suit, not one that boasts a designer label. If you really want to save money, you can even try making your own. This way, you get to select the fabric that best complements your suit shirt or tie.

Fountain Pen

My personal favorite accessory is one that can really set you apart from the crowd: a good fountain pen. Nearly every time I bust out my pen to sign a receipt or write a note, I get compliments and questions. It is a great conversation starter, especially as most people have never even seen a fountain pen! Like watches, fountain pens can be very pricey – some Mont Blanc fountain pens cost over $3,000, and fine heirloom quality pens are abundant around a price point of $500-1,000. Most pens in the $500 and up price range will have at least a 14K gold nib; that being said, an impressive-looking pen with a stainless steel nib, like the Cross brand at Office Depot, can be had for as low as $50 at most office supply stores. Though stainless steel nibs do not write as well as gold nibs, the stainless steel nib does write much better than an everyday roller ball or gel pen.

Take your look to a new level this year by adding some subtle accessories that will set you apart in the workforce and show a little bit more of your personality. Use these guidelines as a starting point as you develop your own tastes and preferences. If you have suggestions on where to get high quality pieces or if you know of lesser known brands, leave a comment!

  

Movie Review: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Starring
Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, Meagan Good, James Marsden
Director
Adam McKay

For years, Will Ferrell has resisted the urge to make a sequel to any of his films, but if there’s one character from his repertoire deserving of a second helping, it’s Ron Burgundy. Though a sequel had been rumored for years after the original attained cult status on DVD, it’s easy to see now why Paramount was so gunshy. The first “Anchorman” was lightning in a bottle; a comedy so goofy and over the top that it took people completely by surprise. And while the sequel aims to match (and exceeds) that level of silliness, it just doesn’t compare. “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is at times funnier than its predecessor, but it’s also wildly inconsistent, bouncing aimlessly between gut-busting hilarity and entire sequences that miss their mark.

“The Legend Continues” picks up several years after the first film, with Ron (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) now living with their son in New York City and co-anchoring on a national news station. But when Veronica is suddenly promoted and Ron is fired, the pair splits up and Ron heads back to San Diego. Six months later, he’s tracked down by producer Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) with an opportunity to return to NYC as part of the first-ever 24-hour news channel, GNN. After reassembling his former news team – Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and Champ Kind (David Koechner) – in time for the official launch, Ron makes fast enemies with star anchorman Jack Lime (James Marsden), who’s been given the primetime slot. But despite getting saddled with the graveyard shift, Ron makes a bet with Jack that he’ll still get bigger ratings, leading him to take a vastly different approach to the news that changes the course of broadcast journalism forever.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to December

december

Winter has officially arrived, and with it comes the final wave of award contenders hoping to leave an impression on critics and Oscar voters. Though 2013 hasn’t exactly been the best year for movies, there’s plenty of quality on display in December, including the second installment of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy, new films from David O. Russell and the Coen brothers, and the latest collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. And for those looking for lighter fare, there’s also the long-awaited sequel to “Anchorman.”

“OUT OF THE FURNACE”

Who: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana
What: When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement fails to follow through, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.
When: December 4th
Why: Writer/director Scott Cooper burst onto the scene in 2009 with “Crazy Heart,” netting Jeff Bridges the Oscar for Best Actor in the process, so it’s not surprising to see that he’s managed to land some equally impressive talent for his sophomore effort. Though early word for this one has been pretty mixed, the trailers have me intrigued, particularly with such an amazing ensemble cast, which also includes screen veterans like Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard. Plus, I’ll watch just about anything starring Christian Bale, because he’s one of this generation’s finest actors with his chameleon-like ability to completely inhabit any role. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t made a dud every now and again, but his résumé speaks for itself, and “Out of the Furnace” looks like another solid addition to an already remarkable career.

“INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS”

Who: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman
What: A week in the life of a young musician as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
When: December 6th
Why: There aren’t many directors that can boast a track record as impressive as the one that Joel and Ethan Coen have enjoyed throughout their 30-year careers, and “Inside Llewyn Davis” is just another notch on that cinematic belt. Markedly different from a lot of their films in that it’s a much more intimate, character-driven piece, “Inside Llewyn Davis” most closely resembles “A Serious Man” in both tone and execution. But although the movie is a fairly bittersweet portrait of personal failure (a running theme in the Coens’ repertoire), it’s not without their trademark wit and humor. The comedy may not be as pronounced as in their other films, but it’s yet another fine period drama that boasts a superb lead performance from Oscar Isaac and one of the best (and most addictive) soundtracks since “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

“THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG”

Who: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage and Orlando Bloom
What: The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug.
When: December 13th
Why: It’s a little ironic that the villain of this story is an avaricious reptile, because Warner Bros. could be accused of similar behavior following the decision to split “The Hobbit” into three movies. Of course, fans are hardly complaining about spending more time in Middle-earth, and now that the stage has been set with “An Unexpected Journey,” the second installment promises to be even better. Along with introducing important characters like Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), The Necromancer and Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch pulling double duty), the movie also marks the return of fan favorite Legolas and newly created female elf Tauriel, neither of whom actually appear in Tolkien’s novel. It wouldn’t be the first time that Peter Jackson has tinkered with the source material, but he hasn’t let us down yet, and that’s more than enough reason to get excited about Part Two.

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