Picks of the Week
The Legend Continues’
(PG-13, 116 minutes, Paramount): This sequel to the 2004 comedy that introduced Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), the fatuous, substance-free news reader, possesses all of the boneheaded gags and inspired lunacy of the original, as well as swaths of dull, frankly unfunny material.
But buried inside this grab bag of hits and misses is a pretty good point about the descent of television news into a miasma of 24/7 speculation, fluff and, most of all, hype. Ron’s old team of Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) show every sign of being as bumbling and arrogantly vapid as they were back in San Diego on their new graveyard shift at GNN. Considering the improvisatory talents – even genius – of Ferrell and his co-stars, it’s no surprise that laughs abound.
Contains crude and sexual content, drug use, profanity and comic violence.
No DVD extras. On Blu-ray: longer R-rated movie version and unrated version; commentary with director Adam McKay, producer Judd Apatow, Ferrell and his news team co-stars; five making-of featurettes, including a tongue-in-cheek look at the musical sequel that almost was; more than 90 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes; gag reels and outtakes and some cast members’ original script read-throughs.
The Bag Man
(R, 110 minutes, Universal): The simple-minded premise places mob henchman Jack (John Cusack) in Room 13 of a motel, where he must await the arrival of his boss, Dragna (Robert De Niro), who has ordered Jack to bring him a mysterious black satchel that Jack has been sworn, on pain of death, not to open.
Most of what happens in “The Bag Man” is a setup, courtesy of Dragna, but that doesn’t let filmmaker David Grovic off the hook for a story that feels like it’s being related inside ironic air quotes. Even the film’s justification for Jack’s reliance on phone booths and motel landlines – the result of his cellphone being shot out of his hand before the film even starts – feels forced. It’s as if Grovic is trying to explain away the atmosphere of stale cliche as an aesthetic decision. It may well be one. But “The Bag Man” has more attitude than panache.
Contains violence, obscenity and torture.
Extras: a behind-the-scenes featurette.
(PG-13, 118 minutes, Universal): One of the defining fables of pre-modern Japan, the tale of the 47 ronin has been filmed many times in that country. Yet somehow no previous director thought to include rampaging supernatural beasts, a shape-shifting witch or Keanu Reeves.
Those last three are prominent in “47 Ronin,” Hollywood’s first stab at the samurai tale. It’s big and brawling yet often dull, with about as much genuine Japanese character as a food-court teriyaki stand. The cast is mostly Japanese, but chosen from the small list of actors with recent credits in mainstream American movies.
Despite the references to Japanese legend, the film’s principal influence is all those recent mash-ups of fairy tales, horror flicks and action pictures. (Co-scriptwriter Hossein Amini helped write one of them, “Snow White and the Huntsman.”)
Ultimately, the movie just doesn’t justify its outrageous bid to turn a solemn tale of self-sacrifice into swaggering global-marketplace entertainment.
Contains intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic elements.
Extras: deleted scene and a “Re-Forging the Legend” featurette in which filmmakers talk about how they brought “47 Ronin” to the big screen, from script to costumes, visual design and culture. On Blu-ray: “Keanu & Kai” martial arts featurette, and action sequence choreography and special effects featurettes.