Heaven is for Real

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DIR: Randall Wallace • WRI: Randall Wallace, Chris Parker • PRO: T.D. Jakes, Sam Mercer, Joe Roth • ED: John Wright • DOP: Dean Semler • DES: Arvinder Grewal • MUS: Nick Glennie-Smith • CAST: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Lane Styles

 

Cynics Beware!! We’re about to have an onslaught of “feel good” Christian movies. Why?? Heaven is For real has made a staggering 90 million dollars in the US Box Office from a 12-million-dollar budget. That kind of profit doesn’t go unnoticed. Heaven is for Real is a true story based on the bestselling book written by Todd Burpa, a Christian Minister from a small town in Nebraska. The film is based around the near death of Burpas’ son and the aftermath that ensues. His son is a 4 year old, named Colton, and his escape from death is attributed to the communal praying of Burpas’ congregation. Colton claims to have gone to Heaven while he was being operated on. Amazingly, Burpa believes his son as Colton is able to recall things that he couldn’t possibly have seen. His belief in his son’s story is the main source of conflict in the film. It causes friction between him and his wife and throws his own beliefs into question and also causes a lot of concern among his congregation, including his friends Jay and Nancy. As the story of Colton’s experience in Heaven starts to gain media coverage there is a feeling among the members of the Church that perhaps Minister Burpa is taking the church in the wrong direction, after which point the film attempts to resolve itself with as little complexity and nuance as possible.

I am in no way exaggerating when I say that this is an awful film. Even the film’s well known cast can’t make anything of this appalling script. The always reliable Greg Kinnear does his best in the leading role as Todd Burpa, while newcomer Conor Corrum does a competent job of being cute as his son Colton. The stellar supporting cast includes Nancy Reilly, Margo Martindale and Thomas Haden Church none of whom get sufficient material to develop their characters in any meaningful way. This film is so clichéd, cheesy and sentimental at every turn that one could be forgiven for mistaking it as a parody. Unfortunately though the film takes itself incredibly seriously and at no point was the audience in the cinema compelled to as much as a chuckle.

As I mentioned before, this script is very poor and as a result we don’t really believe in the actions or emotions of any of the characters due mainly to the fact that the source of conflict itself just isn’t believable. The film is so uninhibitedly pro-Christian and pro-faith in a time in Western Culture where it couldn’t be less cool, it’s almost admirable. Almost being the pivotal word here, as it doesn’t work on any level as a movie. As a piece of Christian propaganda it fails on the level of emotional manipulation because you couldn’t care less about the characters. The film’s overtly positive religious sentiment of the film has saved it from the complete critical annihilation that it deserved in the U.S. as it’s often not wise to offend the powerful Christian Lobby. I am absolutely certain that this movie will fail to replicate its U.S. success with more cynical European audiences and as I’m sure it has become clear I couldn’t honestly recommend this film to anyone without an insult being implied.

For Kinnear, Church and co. it’s hard to believe that they will look back on this project with anything other than sheepish embarrassment. Save yourself an hour and a half of dreary sentimental rubbish, don’t watch this movie.

Michael Rice

PG (See IFCO for details)
99 mins

Heaven is for Real is released on 13th June 2014

Heaven is for Real – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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DIR: Adam McKay  WRI: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell  PRO: Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell  DOP: Oliver Wood  ED: Melissa Bretherton, Brent White  DES: Clayton Hartley  Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, James Marsden, Meagan Good, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Wiig

 

 

Following its release back in 2004, Anchorman: The Legendary of Ron Burgundy became an unexpected comedy smash, grossing just under $91 million at the worldwide box office off a budget of $26 million. It brought the creative team of director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (who had previously worked together on TV’s Saturday Night Live) a platform to develop the projects that were closest to their hearts, and also opened up several doors for co-star Steve Carell, who was best known at that time for his work alongside Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show, as well as a small-role in the Jim Carrey-starring Bruce Almighty.
With producer Judd Apatow also about to kick-start his directorial career, it is clear to see that Anchorman represented a pivotal point in the lives of much of the cast and crew. Indeed, many of them have enjoyed terrific commercial success since the original was released, but the idea of a follow-up to the ’70s-set satire has always been an enticing one for the main players.

 

The prospects of a second outing for Ron, Brick, Brian and Champ seemed bleak when Paramount Pictures decided against making a sequel in 2011, but a deal was finally brokered last year to make Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues a reality. The story picks up in the ’80s, where Ron and now-wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are co-anchors at GNN, and now have a six-year-old son named Walter. However, Ron’s life is turned upside down when legendary newsreader Mack Harken (a growling Harrison Ford) decides to make Corningstone the station’s new weekend anchor, and relieve Burgundy of his position.

 

Although Ron’s career eventually plummets, he is given a second chance when he is approached about a new 24-hour news channel that is being established in Manhattan. Along with his trusted team of Brick Tamland, Brian Fantana and Champ Kind, he embarks on the Big Apple, where they shake the very foundations of broadcast news.

 

Nine years is certainly not the biggest gap between films in a series (the recent sequels in the Indiana Jones and Tron franchises took a lifetime to come to fruition), but it is nevertheless a long time since Ferrell & Co. brought their off-the-wall characters to the silver screen. While there was little pre-release hype for the original, the publicity for Anchorman 2 has been cranked up significantly, to the point that everyone who has even a passing interest in the film industry will be aware of its existence.

 

With all this in mind, it would have been easy for the various participants to rest on their laurels, but the good news for the many fans of the originals is that it maintains the spirit of the first outing, and registers a high laughter rate throughout.

 

The five principle returning stars (Ferrell, Rudd, Carell, Koechner and Applegate) clearly have too much affection for their characters to simply go through the motions, and they are all given their moments to shine. There are also some welcome additions to the cast in the form of Dylan Baker, James Marsden (as sharp-suited rival anchor Jack Lime) and Meagan Good as Ron’s new boss/love interest.

 

Witnessing the parameters of Ron’s romantic life suddenly shifting (Greg Kinnear also comes into the equation as a new partner for Applegate) provides much comic inspiration for the film, as does a dark third-act plot development for our eponymous hero.

 

Though lovers of the original will undoubtedly garner immense enjoyment from this second-parter, comparisons will inevitably be made with its predecessor. Only time will tell if the sequel will become as quotable as The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, but there is no doubt that its successor is lacking that certain element of surprise.

 

Also, at 119 minutes, it does over-stretch itself, and there are certain segments in the drama that could have been completely exorcised from the final cut. Aside from Brick (who finds his true soul mate in Kristen Wiig’s oddball secretary Channi), Ron’s fellow anchors are not given a great deal to work with, and when the celebrity cameos eventually arrive (in a heightened version of the first film’s Battle of the Anchors), they are thrown at the audience at a most extraordinary pace).

 

However, there are certain aspects to the film that are an improvement on the 2004 offering, namely the more coherent narrative structure, which indicates a desire on the part of Ferrell and McKay to properly develop the trajectory of their numerous creations.

 

Should the box-office receipts reveal healthy returns, then we can expect that a third film will follow in the not-too-distant future. On the basis of this film, there is no reason why the projected target audience wouldn’t be interested in another helping, because although the likes of Ferrell, Carell and Rudd have enjoyed great success away from Anchorman, it is clear that they are appreciative of what these characters have done for their careers.

Daire Walsh

15A (See IFCO for details)

118  mins

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is released on 20th December 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – Official Website

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Green Zone

Green Zone

DIR: Paul Greengrass • WRI: Brian Helgeland • PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin • DOP: Barry Ackroyd • ED: Christopher Rouse • DES: Dominic Watkins • CAST: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson

You’ve seen the Green Zone trailer? Sadly, then, you have seen Green Zone. God knows what possessed the marketing campaign to congregate the major revelations of Paul Greengrass’ new project into the two-minute trailer. However, there you have it – expect no big surprises when watching the finished product.

Unless of course you were expected it to be pants. Green Zone is not pants. It’s mature, intelligent, relevant, well researched and well executed. But you probably already knew that from the trailer too. Regardless, you’re in for a treat when you sidle into your seat for a suspense filled 115 minutes.

Green Zone is riddled with more plot-points than bullets. Despite its premise as a war-film, it’s in its element when fairly depicting the intricacies of a crumbling nation and its bumbling liberator. Matt Damon depicts the frustrated Chief Roy Miller, who investigates the seedy underbelly of political motivations surrounding the Iraq War. Greengrass makes a supreme effort, depicting parties openly, allowing, nay, challenging the viewers to make up their own minds about who fits the archetypal ‘Good Guy/Bad Guy’ roles.

The threat of a gung-ho, pro-American, anti-Iraq feature disperses as readily as the presence of WMDs. Despite the Damon/Greengrass lineage with the latter Bourne movies, the action takes a back seat here, making way for a taught, gripping narrative. That’s comparatively speaking – there are still healthy doses of gunfire and violence. The warfare is tight, efficient, realistic and adds to the immersive atmosphere.

But, alas, it wouldn’t be a Greengrass production without the notorious ‘shaky-cam’ covering the action unintelligibly at preposterous angles. Preferred by filmmakers, yet detested by fans, Greengrass makes no attempt to undo the damage his signature technique has caused action scenes, since 2004’s Bourne Supremacy. Thankfully, considering Green Zone is story-driven, not action orientated, this is easily forgiven.

Green Zone labours one point particularly – honesty. Honesty between soldiers, citizens and administrations. Deception prompts the bulk of the story’s strife. Refreshingly, despite its base in convoluted politics, the message prevails that honesty is the best policy; foreign or otherwise.

Green Zone attacks the audience’s recent memory, their biases regarding the Middle East, their apathy for war-torn nations and forces them to consider other viewpoints. It does so without pretension, and offers almost two hours of fine visuals and solid storytelling as reward.

Jack McGlynn
(See biog here)


Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Green Zone is released12 March 2010
Green Zone – Official Website

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