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Why the world needs another Will Ferrell-Adam McKay collaboration

FILM | It's been four years since the beloved duo has teamed up on a film and that's far too long for us

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While Will Ferrell is set to return to theaters this Friday in his first leading role since 2015, many still miss his work with his creative partner.

Will Ferrell's new movie The House opens this Friday. This shouldn't be much of a surprised to anyone who's seen one of Ferrell's countless talk show and late night appearances the past few weeks, bringing his trademark absurdist humor along with him on every stop of the press tour. Game for anything, his achievements have run the gamut from insulting Seth Meyers in a "clearing the air" session to giving a straight-faced interview in full tiger face-paint on Conan and "confessing" to fathering an illegitimate child. To put it plainly, Ferrell's fearless comic sensibilities are perfectly utilized in these environments normally reserved for cookie-cutter spiels from artists on their latest projects. The Ferrell that can play off these late night comedians is the same one at the center of his most successful projects, unmoored and free to embrace his anarchic comedy sensibilities. It's the exact kind of Ferrell performance that has been all too rare on the big screen in recent years.

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Ferrell's comedic filmography can generally be divided into two different camps, the projects directed by Ferrell's longtime creative partner Adam McKay and the ones helmed by less accomplished comedy directors. The films in the former category include almost all of Ferrell's most celebrated films including Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, while the latter features far more generic comedies like The Campaign,Daddy's Home and Get Hard. And while Ferrell is capable in any project of enlivening the blandest of characters, there are few director-star pairings with as cohesive a dynamic as his with McKay. The two have created some of the most memorable comic set pieces of the 2000's from Talladega Night's extended family dinner scene to Step Brother's operatic finale, thanks in part to these projects' free-wheeling (and often improvised) style. Yet concealed by jokes on Sex Panther cologne and forbidden drum sets are stories that function as wry commentaries on sexism to the 2008 economic collapse. While other directors may have managed to guide Ferrell to laughs, McKay has collaborated with him to create endearing and memorable examinations of our national culture.

Dan MacMedan- Getty Images

It's the success of the McKay-Ferrell duo that has unfortunately cost fan from getting more collaborations from them in recent years. Since

Anchorman: The Legend Continues arrived to generally positive notices in 2013, McKay has gotten the opportunity to stretch his legs as a dramatic filmmaker with his acclaimed work writing and directing 2015's The Big Short, netting himself an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. And just like that McKay has found himself an in-demand director, leaving Ferrell to find new collaborators, while the two remain partners in their production company, Gary Sanchez Productions. And while it's hard to fault McKay for finding deserved success, it's hard not to miss the way he and Ferrell could deliver belly laughs in the most unexpected of settings. Only time can tell when we'll next get the chance to see these comedic masters combine forces again, but in a world whose political landscape continues to move further into the absurd, I'll be hoping it happens sooner than later.

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With Han Solo stand-alone directors fired, what's next for the film?

SONY facing backlash for releasing edited streaming versions of films

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With Han Solo stand-alone directors fired, what's next for the film?

FILM | Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are leaving the project, but where does the film currently stand?

In a shocking development, Lucasfilm has parted ways with the 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie directors during filming.

To anyone who felt a disturbance in the force last night, you're not going crazy. In a shocking development Lucasfilm announced that next year's Han Solo spinoff film has lost it's directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The news was announced in a joint statement on reading:

The Untitled Han Solo film will move forward with a directorial change.
"Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it's become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we've decided to part ways. A new director will be announced soon," said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm.
"Unfortunately, our vision and process weren't aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren't fans of the phrase 'creative differences' but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew," stated Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
The untitled Han Solo film remains scheduled for a May 2018 release.

Lord and MillerFrazer Harrison/BAFTA LA- Getty Images

Now Lord and Miller's exit has left several questions as to what's next for this latest chapter in the mega-franchise. While directors sign on and drop blockbuster films all the time (DC's Flash movie has already lost it's director twice), the uniqueness of the situation is no limited to being a part of the juggernaut that is the Star Wars Universe. While directors typically depart early in a film's production or shooting process, the film has been fully cast with Alden Ehrenreich taking over for Harrison Ford and big names like Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover in the ensemble, and has been filming in London since February. With Lucasfilm insistent the movie will still be finished in time to arrive in theaters 11 months from now, its unlikely the project will start over from scratch, but what direction might the project go in finding new directors?

EhrenreichBen A Pruchnie- Getty Images

Rumors currently suggest Lucasfilm's top choice to take the reins on the project is Ron Howard, the Oscar winning veteran behind Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and some of the best deadpan narration in TV history. The expectation would be that Howard's experience and leadership could help prevent the project from spiraling into chaos, though no one currently knows the director's interest level in the project. Another name that's been mentioned is the film's prolific co-writer Lawrence Kasdan who's also directed films including The Big Chill and Silverado, but has not been behind the helm of a project of this stature in many years.

Still, despite the unusualness of the situation this is not the first time in recent years the series has found itself forced to adjust itself on the fly. Last year's smash Rogue One underwent extensive reshoots, with writer Tony Gilroy taking over duties for the film's credited director Gareth Edwards. Still it's hard not to mourn Lord and Miller's vision for the film, especially given their reputations as two of the most inventive and irreverent filmmakers currently at work. All we can do now is hope whoever is brought on will take the work they've left behind and turn it into the best film possible.

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SONY facing backlash for releasing edited streaming versions of films

MOVIES | The company's "Clean Version" debuted last week to much controversy from directors

Hollywood directors are up in arms over Sony's attempts to release edited versions without their consent.

Sony has unveiled a new strategy to release its films and many in the film industry are forking pissed about it. The studio has found itself at the center of controversy for a new plan to offer edited "clean" versions of its films on platforms like iTunes and Fandango Now. The thought behind the idea, simply called Clean Version, seems pretty understandable from the company's perspective, specifically creating versions of these films capable of appealing to more family oriented customers who wouldn't risk exposing younger viewers to mature material, including profanity, violence, and sexual references or content. Included on this initial list of films receiving the clean treatment are Sony's previously released Spider-Man films, the original Ghostbusters films, Easy A, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Despite the clever idea, the proposed plan has gotten Sony in hot water over their attempt to seemingly bypass the films director's in this strategy .The Directors Guild of America (or DGA) quickly released a statement saying: "Directors have the right to edit their feature films for every non-theatrical platform, plain and simple. Taking a director's edit for one platform, and then releasing it on another — without giving the director the opportunity to edit — violates our Agreement." While edited versions of films already for formats including airplane viewing and on broadcast television, the statement explains Sony cannot simply use these versions for home video release without first getting the director's consent.

Beyond the Guild itself, artists have been vocal against the decision with Judd Apatow (a producer on Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, also featured on Sony's list) tweeting out, "This is absolute bullshit and @sony and @SonyPictures is gonna get hell for FUCKING with our movies.Shove the clean versions up your asses!" While less graphic, Apatow collaborator Seth Rogen shared similar sentiments tweeting, "Holy shit please don't do this to our movies. Thanks."

Michael Buckner- Getty Images

So what does this all mean exactly? Well as Salon writer Gabriel Bell points out, while the move may appear initially to be about censoring artist's work, it's more about a home video market that's moving more towards streaming. With cord cutting becoming more and more normalized, Sony is trying to adjust for an entertainment landscape where families no longer tune in for the existing sanitized TV versions of these movies. Yet, while Sony's intentions may not be strictly rooted in moral arguments, it is vital that artists' work is protected from being altered or manipulated without their consent. Just because the film industry continues to shift in the streaming landscape, directors should not be forced to relinquish the rights they've earned thanks to the efforts of The DGA.

With Sony's Clean Version launching just last week, it will be important to see both whether streaming families actually choose to seek these versions out over movies originally designed for families, as well as whether The DGA will take legal action against Sony. If the latter course of action comes to pass, don't be surprised if the battle over Clean Version gets pretty dirty.

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Why the Shakespeare in the Park controversy sets a terrifying precedent for art

THEATRE | The Public Theater lost two major sponsors because of their production of Julius Caesar

One of New York's most storied artistic institutions is under attack due to a Trump-inspired production of Julius Caesar

As this Sunday's Tony Awards were celebrating a season of innovative and daring new works, a beloved New York theater institution was under attack. Yesterday saw controversy bombard The Public Theater over their new production of Julius Caesar as part of the company's famous Shakespeare in the Park program. The impetus of the controversy is the decision to offer a contemporary vision of the play, including Trump-ian version of the title character. And while seeking modern relevance from Shakespeare's texts is far from unusual, many on the Internet are expressing outrage at the production's staging of the play's famous assassination scene, interpreting it as a threat against the President. And while this may have started out as the latest tantrum from the right, the consequences have been severe as Public sponsors Delta Airlines and Bank of America pulled its support from the company Sunday night.

While many hold The Public as something of a juggernaut in the New York theater world, having developed and debuted major shows including A Chorus Line, Fun Home, and Hamilton, losing these sponsors is a bigger deal than you may think. The not-for-profit theater company relies on donors to support its productions, especially the Shakespeare in the Park offerings, which offers free admission to every performance. Without this type of financial support, New York City risks losing a beloved institution designed to offer world-class productions to citizens who might not be able to afford Broadway prices. While Delta and Bank of America may think they are punishing The Public, it's New Yorkers who are put at risk because of their fear.

The Public Theater Official Facebook Page

This is all ignoring the grand irony that no one seems to be taking into consideration the context from which this controversy started. Anyone with the faintest familiarity to Julius Caesarshould know the title character is not a villain whose slaying is a triumph, but one that has tragic consequences, and ultimately proposes violence cannot solve democratic issues (Delta themselves should know this having reportedly sponsored a 2012 production of the play featuring an Obama-modeled Caesar, with zero qualms). And having seen this production in previews I can confirm that the production does grapple with these issues in challenging and thought provoking ways. Even if the production imperfectly translates the Roman tragedy to our modern political climate, it's doing what theater is supposed to by asking questions of its audience. How do we feel watching this leader face horrific violence? What happens when we examine the images of our culture's heroes and villains against icons of history? And how will history look at this tumultuous moment when all is said and done?

Timothy A. Clary- Getty Images

Now more than ever we need theaters like The Public to take creative risks and continue its inclusive mission to bring art to the masses. We don't yet know what impact Delta and Bank of America's withdrawal will have on The Public or its upcoming Shakespeare in the park productions of A Midsummer Night's Dreamand a musical version of As You Like It, but thankfully The Public is refusing to shy away from it's artistic mission as a result of the controversy. Without this freedom to explore meaning in our culture, we're dooming an entire future generation of artists. For those wondering how that might play out, well you might want to get a ticket to Broadway's new production of 1984 to see exactly what's at risk.

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What to expect from this Sunday's Tony Awards

THEATRE | Our predictions for the biggest categories at the 71st Tonys

After a season filled to the brim with new theatrical productions, Broadway's best will finally be rewarded at this Sunday's Tony Awards. Unlike last year's ceremony Hamilton dominated ceremony, the race for Best Play and Musical are unusually tight this year. Here's a look at our predictions for some of the most exciting races heading into Tony Night.

Featured Performances in a Play goes to familiar faces

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This year's featured performance categories are filled with remarkable supporting performances from some of the top productions of the season, but two names have dominated many of the precursor awards. Danny DeVito earned raves for his Broadway debut as an elderly furniture dealer in The Price, while Cynthia Nixon similarly astounded tackling two different roles in The Little Foxes. Expect the Tonys to reward these veterans come Sunday.

Featured Performances in a Musical rewards the big shows

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This season has seen to mega-hit musical productions emerge, new musical Dear Evan Hansen and the revival of the Broadway classic Hello Dolly. Because of their prominence this season look for two of those shows supporting players to get rewarded as Gavin Creel brings the award home for Dolly and Rachel Bay Jones does the same for Hansen.

Will the Tony’s remember closed Revivals?

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The Tony voters face a surprisingly similar dilemma with this year's revival categories as their forced to choose between closed productions from earlier in the year and those still running. While Best Revival of a Musical is a highly likely to opt for Hello Dolly, this fall's much loved production of Falsettos could be a dark horse despite closing in January. The Best Revival of a Play is also torn between the now closed Jitney and the currently running Little Foxes, both produced by The Manhattan Theatre Club. Expect the awards to the split the difference and give Dolly and Jitney the hardware.

Big name theater vets take Best Lead Performances in a Play

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While Kevin Kline is something of a lock to bring home his third Tony as the lead in Noel Coward's Present Laughter, Best Actress finds itself in a far tighter race. In a category stacked with Oscar winners like Cate Blanchett and Sally Field, look for long time theater veteran Laurie Metcalf to grab her first Tony for A Doll's House, Part 2, though Jennifer Ehle could play spoiler for her turn in Oslo.

Musical Lead Awards avoid the upset

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If there have been two locks this season, it's been Bette Midler and Ben Platt claiming trophies for their work as the titular characters in Hello Dolly and Dear Evan Hansen respectively. While upsets have become more plausible with Midler facing controversy for potentially refusing to perform at the ceremony and Groundhog Day's Andy Karl overcoming injury in his star-making performance, Platt and Midler still are safe bets to walk away as winners this Sunday.

The diplomacy epic Oslo brings home Best Play

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While the race is likely to go down to the wire between the three-hour Oslo and the 90-minute marriage drama A Doll's House, Part 2, the former has emerged as one of the most rewarded productions of the season. While Doll's House may be the only show to have its entire cast nominated in the acting categories, Oslo is likely to garner more prizes including Best Director and a few technical awards. Expect the Oslo love shower to continue with the production snagging Best Play before concluding its limited run at Lincoln Center.

Tight Best Musical race could yield a surprising victor

Bruce Gilkas- Getty

While Hansen has seemed like a safe bet because of it success, just a few days out from the awards the contest has become far closer than anyone expected. Hansen may be the most popular, but Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 is the most ambitious, and Come From Awaythe most emotionally and politically relevant. Though Comet is likely to win big technical categories as well as Best Director, it seems the longest shot to claim the awards. Still, based on the current momentum look for Come From Away to pull off a Tony shocker as voters opt to honor the little heart warmer that could.

Come back this coming Monday for Popdust's full recap of what actually went down at the awards this weekend.

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The Spongebob Musical is confirmed, but is Broadway becoming too safe?

ARTS | The musical joins Frozen, Mean Girls, and Harry Potter in a potential juggernaut season

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The Spongebob Broadway Musical is set to open this fall, joining several other major stage adaptations to debut.

Early yesterday it was officially announced that a certain iconic resident of an undersea pineapple would be moving to Broadway next fall.That's right The Spongebob Musical has officially secured a theater and will be starting performances on November 6th. Being one of the most beloved cartoons in recent memory you'd assume this show is destined to face massive attention in this upcoming Broadway theater season. But Spongebob is far from the only familiar property aiming for Broadway supremacy this next year. Among the shows expected to arrive this year along with Spongebob are stage versions of Mean Girls and Frozen, a jukebox musical based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett, and the American premiere of the Harry Potter continuation play The Cursed Child. Staring down this murderer's row of familiar properties, it's hard not to wonder whether Broadway has finally become too safe?

Spongebob Squarepants Facebook page

Now of course these types of blockbuster adaptations are certainly nothing uncommon to the theater world as Broadway has had a long infatuation with movie adaptations and jukebox musicals. Everything from Aladdin to American Psycho has been reinterpreted for the stage, with talented theater artists managing to (in the best cases) reinvent the stories for its new medium. Yet, while these adaptations are designed to convert their built in audiences into ticket purchases, it's important to remember that often Broadway's most successful shows are the ones that emerge out of nowhere. As recent years have seen mega-hits like Book of Mormon, Dear Evan Hansen, and of course Hamilton arrive on Broadway without recognizable source material, its hard not to worry that Broadway producers will continue to play it safe as more and more Hollywood blockbusters to transition to New York.

Spongebob Squarepants Facebook Page

But at the same time, as concerning as it is to see a season so dominated by adaptations, it's important to remember the often-cyclical nature of theater. While next year may be dominated by family-targeting properties, this comes after a season that featured innovative new works including Hansen, Come From Away, and Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, all three of which spent several years developing at regional and off-Broadway theaters. Because a play or musical often requires several years of work, just because there aren't many original musicals currently set to debut next season, doesn't mean they aren't on their way.

And despite how easy it is to become cynical, it's important to remember that each of these shows features a stacked creative team with zero intention of making a bad show. Spongebob in particular has chosen to invest heavily in established pop artists, with accomplished artists like The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry, and even David Bowie contributing either music to the show. Beyond just the music, whether it's the original writers like Mean Girl's Tina Fey returning to their material to help shepherd it towards its new form or accomplished and respected theatrical veterans like Spongebob director Tina Landau whose made a career of turning people's expectations on their heads, there is reason for optimism in these familiar productions. Still, hopefully it won't be too long before a new show arrives on Broadway capable of taking audiences somewhere they've never been before.

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