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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Will Ferrell

CinemaCon: Jay Roach's 'The Campaign' skewers American politics

April 25, 2012 | 10:30 am


Last year, George Clooney presented his rather cynical perspective on the state of American politics with the drama "The Ides of March." This year, director Jay Roach will offer up a film that arguably has an equally jaded viewpoint, but one which aims to express that acrimony through humor.

"The Campaign," due out in August, stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians campaigning for a seat in Congress from North Carolina. Roach was inspired to work on the film after recent campaigns which featured negative advertising and over-the-top debates.

"Truth is even stranger than fiction right now, because the political system is pushing people to such extremes to make a splash," said Roach, who was in Las Vegas this week to promote the comedy at CinemaCon. "It's about who can do the most expensive series of campaign ads to crush your opponent with damning, scandalous facts."

To gather material for the screenplay, Roach and writer Chris Henchy have been steadfast about keeping up with the news -- checking the headlines each day to make sure their script "was still as funny as the real life stuff." 

"A lot of what's going on that gets the most media attention right now is designed to be outrageous. It's almost like being Sacha Baron Cohen; to be noticed, you have to do something so ridiculous," said Roach, who also directed the recent HBO movie about Sarah Palin, "Game Change." " Our thing is to raise questions through comedy like, 'Really? Is this where we're all heading?' Politics is so entertainment-oriented now, and so reality show-like. A movie with two hilarious guys is actually the perfect arena."

Fans of Ferrell may immediately draw comparisons between the actor's performance in the film and his "Saturday Night Live" impression of George W. Bush. But Henchy insists Ferrell is doing something different in "The Campaign" -- more of a Bush-John Edwards hybrid.

"It does take place in North Carolina, so he's got a Southern accent, but he's also got good hair," the writer said. 


CinemaCon: Footage of 'The Hobbit' draws mixed reaction

CinemaCon: 'The Dictator' rips Jeffrey Katzenberg, Rich Ross

CinemaCon: Chris Pine, talking 'Guardians,' nods to J.J. Abrams

-- Amy Kaufman in Las Vegas


Photo: Zach Galifianakis, left, and Will Ferrell star in "The Campaign." Credit: Warner Bros.

Will Ferrell's ‘Anchorman’ sequel: Can it work?

March 29, 2012 |  1:56 pm


The announcement from a burgundy-suited, white-shoed Will Ferrell on “Conan” last night that an  “Anchorman” sequel was on its way prompted cheers from fans who have followed the project’s ups-and-downs for years.

What exactly changed at studio Paramount, which had long flouted the flutist and balked at a Ron Burgundy follow-up  (and, more to the point, the price thereof) remains a discussed question in Hollywood.

Certainly the cast had become pricier as the stock of Ferrell and Steve Carell rose after the 2004 film. Studios will resist paying a lot for a sequel of anything that isn’t a blockbuster.  “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” took in $85 million, which isn’t bad for a comedy with emerging stars but well behind of a lot of other comedies that never got a second go-round.

But the principals may have softened as they took a look at their positions. Outside of “The Other Guys,” Ferrell is coming off a string of disappointments in recent years, including the current "Casa de Mi Padre,” which makes him and his agents a lot less likely to stand on ceremony.

And Paramount had reason to warm up to the idea: It currently has only four movies scheduled for all of 2013, and no comedy franchises scheduled at any point.

One question now is how director Adam McKay and Ferrell (who will likely write together) will take aim at the new story. Will it be set in the present (and would that require changing the 70's hallmarks of the Burgundy character)? And if it remains set in a previous decade, how will the new movie figure in the "Ridgemont High"-ish postscript that had Burgundy landing at a national cable-news channel, Carell’s mentally challenged Brick Tamland becoming a presidential adviser and Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana finding a gig as host of a libidinous reality show called “Intercourse Island”?

But the biggest question may be Ferrell himself. His deluded blowhard seemed reasonably fresh when we saw it eight years ago. Will it seem that way now? The actor has trotted it out a number of times since (“Semi-Pro,” “Talladega Nights,” “Blades of Glory"), retaining the character and simply changing the costume. 

At least a lot of anchormen still seem clueless.


'Anchorman 2' is off the air

Will Ferrell sends up spaghetti westerns

'Anchorman 2:' will Ferrell drops sequel news on 'Conan'

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Will Ferrell in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Credit: Paramount Pictures

Word of Mouth: Will Ferrell's Spanish-language gamble [video]

March 15, 2012 |  5:11 pm

Will Ferrell might do pretty much anything for a laugh. But the "Saturday Night Live" alumnus faces an unusual test this weekend, with the premiere of his "Casa de Mi Padre."

The $6-million spoof of Mexican soap operas, which costars Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, is almost completely in Spanish. Ferrell learned his lines phonetically and all of the dialogue is subtitled. The parody, produced by Nala Films and distributed into about 350 theaters by Pantelion Films, is courting two distinct audiences: the English-speaking ticket buyers who attend Ferrell's big-studio comedies like "Anchorman" and Latinos who have broad moviegoing interest.

The marketing opportunities, as well as the challenges, are the topic of this week's Word of Mouth column. Above is a video preview.  


Mexican culture in a sweaty headlock

Mexican stars chase the Hollywood dream

Will Ferrell to star in Spanish-language film 'Casa de Mi Padre'

— John Horn

Will Ferrell's 'Casa de Mi Padre' crosses language borders

March 14, 2012 |  4:06 pm

"Casa de Mi Padre"

One of the most-publicized scenes from Will Ferrell’s new film “Casa de Mi Padre” shows the comedian with a couple of ranch hands at a campfire, singing the song “Yo No Se.” Translated into English, the chorus means “I Don’t Know,” which might describe how hard it is categorize the movie itself.

Opening Friday in limited national release of about 380 theaters, “Casa de Mi Padre” is a $6-million Spanish-language parody that its makers hope will play equally well to fans of Ferrell’s comedies and Latino moviegoers. Ferrell has made a number of promotional appearances on TV prgrams such as CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NBC’s “Today,” but you’re far more likely to find “Casa de Mi Padre” commercials on variety shows like Univisión’s “Sábado Gigante” and “El Gordo y La Flaca.”

“It’s a tough film to put in a marketing box,” said Darlene Caamano Loquet, whose Nala Films financed the movie that Ferrell’s company, Gary Sanchez Productions, developed. “But it’s one of those movies that can bring those two audiences together.”

Latinos make up more than 16% of the U.S. population, but can often account for a larger proportion of ticket buyers, particularly for family and genre films. At the same time, any number of movies that have tried to target the Spanish-speaking audience — including “A Better Life,” “Selena” and “The Perez Family” — have failed to sell many tickets.

“Casa de Mi Padre” is an R-rated spoof not only of telenovelas, or Spanish-language soap operas, but also spaghetti Westerns and 1970s B movies. Ferrell plays the not-too-bright Armando Alvarez, a member of a Mexican ranch family drawn into a drug war. The cast includes Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez. Early reviews have been mixed to negative.

“It gives us a chance to laugh at ourselves, which Hispanic Americans are not given a chance to do,” Loquet said.

Continue reading »

Sundance 2012: Tim and Eric walk into a film festival

January 28, 2012 |  2:57 pm

Comedians Tim Heidecker, left, and Eric Wareheim in Park City, Utah.
Nobody does absurdity quite like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, better known by their personas of Tim and Eric:  hapless bunglers with a mean streak, part lovable friends, part total jerks. So it somehow makes sense they should have two very different projects this year at Sundance, a place where absurdity often reigns, a weird mix of glitz and grunge, scrounging and branding, swag in the snow.

The duo premiered their own debut feature film, "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" here as part of the Midnight section, playing to crowds beyond their usual fans. They also both appear as actors in the Narrative Competition film "The Comedy," directed by Rick Alverson. One film is a ridiculous tour of their comedic world and the other a quietly crushing look at coming to the stark realization of what a mess you are.

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Will Ferrell to star in Spanish-language film 'Casa de mi Padre'

November 3, 2011 |  1:21 pm

Will Ferrell

In the culturally open-minded tradition of Steve Martin and Chevy Chase in "¡Three Amigos!" and Jack Black in "Nacho Libre," Will Ferrell looks to become the latest Hollywood comic star to take a swipe at the Spanish language.

Variety reports Thursday that Ferrell will star in "Casa de mi Padre" as a ranch owner's son who's trying to settle his father's debts while struggling with a feared narco overlord played by Mexican actor Gael García Bernal. According to Variety, rights to the film have been obtained by Lionsgate's Latino label, Pantelion Films.

Diego Luna, who played opposite Bernal in Alfonso Cuarón's coming-of-age drama "Y Tu Mamá También" (2001), a landmark of modern Mexican cinema, as well as the dark comedy "Rudo y Cursi" (2008), also will appear in "Casa."

Matt Piedmont, who'll direct, wisecracks to Variety that his and Ferrell's "collective knowledge of the Spanish language amounts to what we learned during a half-hour Learning Annex class taken the night before production of the film began."

But the project has promise. Spanish-language comedies with cross-border casting could play well with Latinos, who are among the fast-growing segment of U.S. theater audiences. Not to mention the marketing possibilities throughout Latin America, a part of the world where many movie theater chains are compelled to show disproportionate numbers of Hollywood films.

So who will laugh last? Vamos a ver.


Mexican culture in a sweaty headlock

Mexican stars chase the Hollywood dream

Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal reunite for 'Rudo y Cursi' 

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Will Ferrell in "Old School." Credit: DreamWorks


Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'Everything Must Go'

June 1, 2011 |  4:00 pm


Try to make time for “Everything Must Go” before it’s gone, gone, gone ...

Comedy kingpin Will Ferrell takes a walk on the darker side of the street as a down-on-his-luck guy having a very bad day. It begins when Nick Halsey’s boss fires him for a binge-drinking incident and goes downhill from there when he finds his wife has literally thrown him out -– all of his belongings are on the front lawn and the locks have been changed.

This cleverly constructed indie film from writer-director Dan Rush was inspired by a Raymond Carver short story that Rush has expanded into a just-the-right size slice of life. In doing so, the filmmaker gives Ferrell plenty of room to move his character through a series of lows and highs with a healthy sense of irony that allows for humor and keeps the movie's drama from getting too depressing.

There are very nice turns by Rebecca Hall as the new neighbor moving in across the street and young Christopher Jordan Wallace as a latch-key kid who latches on to Nick, helping him sort out his belongings -- and his life.

The film is like a glass of homemade lemonade –- a little bitter, a little sweet, and perfect for a long hot summer day.


'Everything Must Go' review

Hollywood Backlot: Photos from the set of 'Everything Must Go'

Will Ferrell to get the Mark Twain Prize. Where's his book?

-- Betsy Sharkey. Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Will Ferrell, left, as Nick Halsey making a new friend in Kenny, played by Christopher Jordan Wallace, in Dan Rush's "Everything Must Go." Credit: John Estes / Roadside Attractions

Sundance 2011: 'Fight for Your Right Revisited' brings the Beastie revolution

January 20, 2011 | 11:45 pm


The Sundance Film Festival’s "Short Program I" had no shortage of visceral kidney punches and visual shockers for the jam-packed audience at the Library Theater in Park City, Utah, on Thursday night.

Director Ariel Kleiman’s “Deeper Than Yesterday” provoked deep unease depicting the rage that lurks beneath man’s civility –- or at least the simmering hostility manifest in pasty-faced mariners deep beneath the ocean’s surface in a Russian submarine. “The Terrys” (directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Warheim) presents an extreme slice of White Trash excess (“ice” gets smoked, Zubaz pants are worn, a surprise pregnancy results in a not-quite normal baby). And “The External World” (directed by David O’Reilly) shows us a video game universe where Japanimation characters find themselves in disquieting –- but nonetheless hilarious -- predicaments that play up an almost shockingly complete list of comedic taboos: pedophilia, genocide, spontaneous combustion and gratuitous pooping.

But the short movie that a large contingent of the opening night showing had come specifically to see was “Fight for Your Right Revisited,” directed by an individual named Adam Yauch. That would be the guy better known as MCA from the seminal hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys.

Yauch’s aliases are myriad. He sometimes goes by an alter ego named Nathaniel Hornblower to direct short films and movies such as “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot” and “Awesome I … Shot That.” And at the Indie movie distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories, he goes by the title chief executive.

Yauch directed the 20-minute movie as a kind of bizarro companion piece to the Beasties’ smash 1986 frat boy anthem “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).”  The film follows actors impersonating the group in period-perfect costumes in the denouement to the wild party (where pies are thrown, Spanish Fly is dumped in punch and a TV is famously sledge-hammered) depicted in the video.

But not just any actors. Seth Rogen portrays the Beasties’ Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Elijah Wood embodies Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and a trash-talking Danny McBride channels '80s-era Yauch via four-day growth of beard and sleazy leather jacket.

The trio rob a bodega, spray beer all over passersby on a New York-esque (read: Hollywood movie studio backlot) street and generally raise havoc wherever they go, terrorizing a Who’s Who of movie bigshots in the process: Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Will Arnett among them -- but also Kirsten Dunst, Rashida Jones and Orlando Bloom (wearing a vintage Def Jam jacket in homage to the group's former record label). But the Beastie party mayhem doesn’t stop there. The “Beasties” are picked up by “metal chicks” portrayed by Chloe Sevigny and Maya Rudolph with whom they ingest whippets and drop liquid acid.

Continue reading »

Critical Mass: 'Megamind'

November 5, 2010 |  3:25 pm


Forbes just named Will Ferrell Hollywood's most overpaid actor, but the star has a chance to make those editors immediately eat their words with the release this weekend of his animated film, "Megamind." DreamWorks Animation scored a major critical and box office hit earlier this year with "How to Train Your Dragon"; will "Megamind" follow the same path?

The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey seems to think so. She treats the crowd-pleasing family comedy with surprising seriousness in her positive review, writing "the larger question the filmmakers are soon onto is what happens to the bad guy when the good guy is out of the picture. What is the price of media adulation? Why do we always expect someone else to solve our problems? Well, it's complicated but so au courant."

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Toronto 2010: Rainn Wilson, cinephile favorite (and other sales notes from a festival soon ending)

September 18, 2010 | 11:00 pm

So much for festival obscurities.

The Toronto International Film Festival may be wrapping up this weekend, but it turns out that it won't be the end of the road for many of the films that played here. An eye-popping number of movies have been sold in the last 10 days; roughly a dozen (give or take one or two, depending on how you date a couple of  the acquisitions).

The last 24 hours have brought a trio of deals. "Conspirator" conspirators Lionsgate and Roadside again teamed up, this time to buy the Will Ferrell drama "Everything Must Go." Given how both companies seem to like those actorly pieces -- Lionsgate will try to retail Nicole Kidman and "Rabbit Hole" this fall, and Roadside has this year's art-house best actress favorite with Jennifer Lawrence and "Winter's Bone" -- it's a snug fit.

Meanwhile, Oscilloscope continues to earn its reputation as an aesthete's label. The company run by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch picked up the Western-flavored, art-house atmospherics of Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff," a movie that's been well-received but that's also so aggressively minimalist that it makes the director's previous "Wendy & Lucy" (also with Michelle Williams, and also bought by O-scope) seem like "Transformers."

IFC, for its part, continues its snap-happy ways, taking rights to the star-heavy "Peep World." This one's a particular eye-catcher; the dysfunctional-family comedy with Rainn Wilson, Michael C. Hall and Sarah Silverman is about as far from IFC's art-house wheelhouse as you can get. But clearly the company likes the names involved, and, given the relative paucity of buyers at the fest, no doubt the price.

It's not the first time at this festival that the New York firm has made an uncharacteristic purchase,. The company got things going by buying another Rainn Wilson movie, the "Kick-Ass"-esque  "Super."

All of these sales -- along with Dave Matthews' ATO Pictures buying "Casino Jack," the Weinstein Co. going for "Dirty Girl" and "Submarine," and onward -- point to a bit of a paradox in the indie film world.

The reduction in the number of buyers was supposed to, on its face, lead to a reduction in the amount of sales (and thus movies the rest of us will be able to see in theaters).

But a funny thing happened on the way to the doldrums. A lot of these movies continued to get made, and needed to get distribution. The companies left standing suddenly found themselves with some potentially sweet deals on their hands, so they moved quickly. Three or four years ago, it's not a stretch to say that producers of some of these films would have held out for more money than a Roadside or IFC typically pays, and the films would have sat untouched. Not this year. Fewer distributors, it turns out, doesn't mean fewer distributed movies.

The general strategic wisdom may yet be in question : Does IFC have the infrastructure or marketing chops to make a movie similar to "Kick-Ass" work, when the far larger Lionsgate struggled to do so?

But for the rest of us, this is good news. In the last few years, many movies that didn't have distribution coming in to a festival lacked it on the way out. This year they do, which means we will be able to see them.  Get ready for Redford, Rainn and Reichardt's "Red River."

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Peep World. Credit: Occupant Films


Toronto 2010: Indie movies continue to find homes

Toronto 2010: The Northwest wagon train of Meek's Cutoff

Toronto 2010: Lionsgate goes down the Rabbit Hole


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