In the world of movie catchphrases, only time will tell if 'Olivia Newton-John's Hymen' can really compete with 'Great Odin's Raven', but still, rest easy, Anchorman 2 is a worthy sequel.
It opens with Ron (Will Ferrell) and Veronica's (Christina Applegate) idyll being shattered when Ron is fired by none other than Harrison Ford (Mack Harken), leaving Veronica sole anchor in San Di-ah-go.
Ron is a puddle of self-pity and vomit-spattered sports jacket when his faithful producer (Dylan Baker) comes to offer him a newsreading position in New York in the 24/7 news station GNN.
Although he thinks this round-the-clock news lark will never take off, Burgundy heads off with his entire team -- still-in-the-closet Champ Kind (David Koechner), kitten connoisseur Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and resurrected weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).
In NY, they languish in the shadow of orange-skinned primetime newscaster Jack Lime (James Marsden) and struggle with innovations like racial and sexual equality, especially under a black, female boss (Meagan Good). Yet somehow Ron and the boys prevail.
Adam McKay directs the script he co-wrote with Ferrell in what must have been a nerve-wracking endeavour, the first Anchorman was a cult film that became all the more beloved for its slow burn. That first film is referenced, for example condoms replace aftershave in Brian's special cupboard, and the spirit is retained. It strays more frequently into Pythonesque absurdity, especially in the star-studded finale, but they do it well.
Where Anchorman pilloried the seventies in which it was set, the sequel, although set in the eighties, actually pillories what news has become now. But there are many wonderful Eighties moments, "perms for everyone!" and outfits. It sags in the middle and is a little too long, but overall it works and there are a lot of laughs. The Legend, mercifully, does continue.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
The BBC's 1999 TV series was groundbreaking in many ways and carved itself a little niche in TV and cinema history. A children's film is the latest spin-off, in 3D naturally, and with attendant high hopes.
Uncle Zack (Karl Urban) takes his niece and nephew to an excavation site and from this live action sequence the CGI story of the past emerges, via Patchi (Justin Long), the runt of a Pachyrhinosaurus litter. Patchi has a distinctive hole in his collar and is doomed to a life as weak outsider whilst his not-so-lovely older brother Scowler (Skyler Stone) is destined to triumph by inheritance. But the love of a good woman, Juniper (Tiya Sircar) and the tutelage of Alex (John Leguizamo) can move a Pachyrhinosaurus to all kinds of greatness.
To our eternal shame it was just me and someone of at least my vintage who snickered when Patchi shouted "She loves me and she loves my hole!"
Screenwriter John Collee wrote Happy Feet and co-director Barry Cook also co-directed Arthur Christmas. So quite why they settled on this weird cliché of a plot is baffling. Visually the film couldn't be much better. The definition both of dinosaurs and surrounding landscape is amazing but the strange hybrid feels odd to adult eyes. However, kids seemed to enjoy it -- they didn't laugh much although the comedy intent was there but while younger kids enjoyed the story, older ones seemed very impressed by the visuals.
So despite being very weak on story, visually Walking With Dinosaurs has great appeal for children.
ALL IS LOST
Robert Redford has already generated a degree of well-merited Oscar buzz for his starring role in lost-at-sea saga All Is Lost. It remains to be seen whether Redford picks up a gong next March but what can be said with certainty about this JC Chandor-directed feature is that it won't be receiving any nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category. Er ... that's because there aren't any. Other actors that is.
There isn't much to interest those movie-goers who place a premium on snappy dialogue either. Not since that era when Charlie Chaplin was twirling his cane for laughs has a big screen release relied less on verbals to draw in its audience. Redford's character, enigmatically titled "Our Man", is a man of few words and all but one of them are used in the first couple of minutes courtesy of a voiceover that stoically conveys the perilous nature of his predicament. Shipwrecked, adrift in the Indian Ocean and with only a half-day's rations left to sustain him, it's fair to say that he's on his last sea-legs.
A seamless switch brings us back to the situation eight days earlier when Redford's character awakens on his 37ft sailing yacht, the Virginia Jean, to find the living quarters flooded, the power out and the radio down. Some nifty running repairs allow him to overcome this initial crisis but it's a precursor to many more.
Faster than you can say batten down the hatches, he's battening down the hatches as a devastating storm hits hard. A bad situation is made worse when he is compelled to abandon the Virginia Jean for a life raft.
Imagine a cross between The Old Man and the Sea 2 and Life of Pi without the tiger and you're well on the way to knowing what to expect. It's not exactly memorable but Redford brings his considerable acting smarts and star power to the spectacle and the overall package is surprisingly powerful.
Showing from Thursday
THE SECRET LIFE
OF WALTER MITTY
James Thurber's classic short story gets its first major reboot of the new millennium courtesy of Ben Stiller's accomplished comedy-drama, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
The name Mitty has developed into a synonym for saddo fantasists over the years but, in this engaging piece, all creepy connotations are left behind, with Stiller playing Mitty as the patron saint of loveable losers.
Featuring an impressive ensemble cast that includes Sean Penn, Bridesmaids's stalwart Kristen Wiig and Shirley MacLaine, the story begins in contemporary New York where we encounter Mitty in hero-waiting-to-happen mode. His online dating profile tells us all we need to know about the adventure flatline that has been his life to date.
It's blank in the "been there done that" section and while he's got a crush on a co-worker, Cheryl (the excellent Wiig) his risk-averse nature means any alteration to his single status seems unlikely. Everything changes for Mitty when the number crunchers at the magazine where he works as a "photo-negative manager" decide the entire operation is to be downsized into an online entity. Mitty has responsibility for the negative from celebrated extreme photographer (Penn) that is supposed to grace the magazine's final issue but he mislays it.
To cut a convoluted story short, if the day is to be saved, Mitty must depart on a global odyssey that includes climbing in the Himalayas, death-defying dives into the Atlantic ocean and dodging erupting volcanoes. Can this zero find his inner hero? No prizes for guessing the answer to that one.
So the ending is a little telegraphed and a tad on the twee side but Stiller has managed to infuse the spectacle with sufficient pathos and humour to render it an understated delight. Anchorman 2 is likely to be generating the major buzz at the box-office this Christmas but those who prefer their levity more subtle and slow-burning are unlikely to be disappointed.
Showing from Thursday
Being a celebrated children's illustrator with a penchant for bizarre erotic art makes anything Tomi Ungerer touches a curiosity. The Alsatian's idiosyncrasies are currently on show in Far Out Isn't Far Enough, a wild documentary which sees the now Cork-based recluse lay waste to the idea of the sugary children's book author.
Moon Man is part of this current reacquainting with Ungerer and his singular brilliance. His 1967 classic is remoulded by the talents at Kilkenny's Cartoon Saloon (The Secret Of Kells) who do a fine job of keeping an old-school vintage on Ungerer's caricatures as they shuffle off the pages and on to the screen.
Not so much an animated tale as a lullaby to drift along with, this Irish/French/German co-production spins its fable gently, allowing time and space for Ungerer's playful and cheeky imagery to sidle up. The narrative follows the eponymous lunar sprite (a mix of ET and Peter Lorre), who hitches a ride to Earth on "the fiery tail" of a comet. Unfortunately Earth's dastardly President (who bears a striking resemblance to Vincent Cassel) is convinced Moon Man is an alien invader out to undermine his rule. Helping evade capture and return home are a mad scientist and a little girl.
Ungerer's darker elements -- his commentary on fascism and the elite -- recall the grotesque imagery of Gerald Scarfe. This is tempered by the Moon Man's nocturnal wonderland, a paradise of rivers, starlight and smidges of Edward Hopper. There mightn't be enough happening to grip children but it makes a great decompression chamber for adults.
Showing from Friday
Moshi Monsters began as an online community in which children could adopt one of six pets. Some 80 million worldwide have signed up and not surprisingly the merchandising has been extensive -- cards, toys, music and now a film.
Three of the principal characters -- Katsuma, Poppet and Zommer (voiced by Keith Wickham, Emma Tate and Tom Clarke Hill) -- are in the process of making a film when real(ish) life events take over and they follow that adventure instead.
Evil Doctor Strangeglove and his dopey sidekick Fishlips are holding the Great Moshling Egg to ransom and our heroes must find and bring him three treasures before the handover on Mount Sillymanjaro.
The characters are simple but complete -- Katsuma is a narcissist, Poppet the voice of reason and Zommer kind of like Shaggy out of Scooby Doo. Dr Strangeglove is alliteration prone and uses clever words so despite the very simple Japanese style animation the film does not talk down to children.
It's got some dinky little musical numbers and all in all should please both existing Moshi fans and children who know nothing about them -- and at 81 minutes long it doesn't overstay its welcome.