Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “The Lone Ranger”



It all seemed like such a no-brainer, didn’t it?

Disney snaps up the cinematic rights to the most famous Western hero of them all — one that hasn’t been “rebooted” since 1981’s disastrous Legend Of The Lone Ranger — and turns it over, naturally enough, to Jerry Bruckheimer, who “gets the band back together,” so to speak, by hiring Gore Verbinski to direct and Johnny Depp to star as Tonto. Pirates Of The Caribbean Goes West, anyone?

It goes without saying that budget wouldn’t be a concern here — special effects, production values, sets and costumes — all would be state-of-the-state-of-the-art. Turn it loose on the public over the extended July 4th holiday weekend, sit back, and collect all that cold, hard cash. What could possibly go wrong? This was fool-proof.

Except for the fact that, well, it hasn’t been. The Lone Ranger has landed at the box office with a thud — not as big a thud as it did back in ’81, but a thud nonetheless. The critics seem to despise it, and while audiences have been considerably kinder in their appraisal of the film, they haven’t been large enough for Disney to come anywhere close to recouping their considerable investment in this rapidly-unfurling boondoggle.

All of which is kind of a shame because, as with last year’s panned (but considerably more successful at the box office) Men In Black 3, I honestly can’t figure out where all the hate is coming from. Simply put, The Lone Ranger is a damn fun movie, full of exactly the kind of kick-ass, jaw-dropping CGI, solid “out for justice” storytelling, tight, pacy plotting, and charismatic acting that makes for a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Even if the crowds aren’t proving to be all that big.

Not exactly a “revisionist” take on the legend of John Reid (confidently played by Armie Hammer), a Texas Ranger who, when his life is turned tragically upside-down, dons a mask and adopts a new persona. this flick nevertheless provides a different spin on things by telling the tale from the point of view of an older, wiser, and maybe even somewhat broken-down Tonto (Johnny Depp in, quite honestly, one of the finest performances of his career), who earlier in life threw his lot in with Reid to bring to justice the source of all our hero’s troubles, renegade quasi-militia leader Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner, who makes for a terrific bad guy) and ,more generally, to put a stop to all the various shenanigans this good-for-nothing had a hand in.

If this sounds like your idea of a simple-minded, non-stop thrill ride full of all the excitement, adventure, humor, and yes, even human drama that you want in summertime popcorn fare, rest assured — it is. Good supporting turns from the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, and Ruth Wilson don’t hurt matters any, either.

Yeah, there are some gaping plot holes large enough for an entire herd of cattle to stampede through, but has that stopped folks from liking, say, World War Z or Man Of Steel, both of which are at least as guilty of counting on you to put your suspension of disbelief completely on hold for a couple of hours? If you can do it for them, surely you can do it for this, right?

Look, I won’t kid you — some small, petty, vengeful little corner of my dark and twisted soul is always happy to see a mega-budget Disney project end up costing the studio untold millions in losses. They’re bastards and they deserve it. But truth be told, if you join the legions of people who have already evidently decided to take a pass on The Lone Ranger, you’re not hurting the evil empire much — they’ve already got Monsters University to more than compensate for any bite this takes from their corporate balance sheet. The only thing you’re really doing by skipping it, then,  is robbing yourself of a good time.

It’s summer! Get out there and have some fun — by sitting on your ass in a cool, air-conditioned mega-plex and catching what’s most likely the best action-adventure film of the year so far.

AMV of the Day: Danger Zone (Macross Plus)

So, another day of resting up after a wickedly long weekend of doing nothing but working I came across this little video that brought back memories of not just my youth during the 80’s but also fond ones of discovering one of my favorite anime of all-time.

The latest “AMV of the Day” comes courtesy of TrepidationsFall and it’s combines that 80’s blockbuster of blockbusters in Top Gun and one of the best anime of all-time in Macross Plus. The video is simply called “Danger Zone” and the use of the iconic Kenny Loggins track for the Bruckheimer fighter-jock extravaganza fits the mecha anime to a “T”.

Anime: Macross Plus

Song: “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins

Creator: TrepidationsFall

Past AMVs of the Day

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

This post is going to end with some spoilers, which will have warnings behind it. Just so you know.

Confession: I fell asleep during Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides. It was only for a few minutes during the jungle sequences, but nothing special was happening, so I figured I could get away with it. I can see, though why Gore Verbinski saddled up with Rango instead of this one. As Lisa Marie mentioned via Twitter, she zoned out about 10 minutes in and really only followed it for the awesomeness that is Johnny Depp. He, Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane are the only real reasons to see this, but know that the film is muddled with a bit of lazy writing covered in explosions and chases. This is one Jack Sparrow story you can really wait for on DVD. It’s literally the Pirates of the Caribbean Edition of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.

Every writer goes though a bad time now and then. Even though Paul Haggis won an Oscar for Crash, he was also responsible for Quantum of Solace, which could have been a tighter story than what it was. I have to remind myself that even though Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot gave us a cool character in Captain Jack Sparrow (which was made more concrete through Johnny Depp’s performance), they were also responsible for Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla some years back. It happens. Of course, they could both write me under the table while blindfolded, this I get, and they have my respect.

That said, I didn’t outright hate Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. It was a fun popcorn ride in some areas, with as much flair as the Disney / Bruckheimer collaborations can offer, but it also felt like it was a production just made for the money, like The Wolfman. The only ones who seemed to really enjoy themselves here were Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, and to both their credits they carried the film for me. Johnny Depp was great as always (he has moment where he clearly shines), but I get the feeling like he’s almost tired of the character. Again, that’s just my viewpoint here.

What about the Kids?

Well, being a film under the Disney banner, the easiest rule of thumb to use here is this: If you’ve taken your kids to any of the other Pirates movies, this is pretty much more of the same. Granted, people die and there may be a nearly naked mermaid, but it’s done well.  It should be okay for teens and pre-teens, but that’s up to families to decide.

Previously on Pirates, we found Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, great as always) in the possession of the map from At World’s End, who is in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth. Jack finds that there is someone impersonating him who also happens to be looking for the same thing, and seeks out the imposter. This eventually leads him to the dreaded pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) who also seeks the Fountain to block a prophecy that will lead to his death. So, it’s something of a race to see who will get there first. Even his old friend/enemy Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is part of the adventure, but doesn’t quite have the same presence here as he did the other films.

Depp on his own does justice to Sparrow and he still manages to bring some fun to the character.  That’s really not a surprise, but after 3 of these films, I had the feeling that part of his performance was just repetition of what he did before. I imagine him wishing for Verbinski or sighing after every take. Well, every take that didn’t involve Penelope Cruz, I guess.

I felt Penelope’s Angelica really matched well against Depp’s Sparrow, and it opened up a lot of doors for characterization between the two. Depp and Cruz’s scenes together really worked for me and were definitely a highlight as their chemistry is amazing. Between she and McShane – who quite frankly hasn’t had a bad role since Deadwood – really help to carry the movie. Blackbeard’s ruthlessness is clearly conveyed through McShane’s acting and  if there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s to play the villain well. There are also some notable cameos near the start of the film, which was nice to see.

One other major plus is the music. Even though Hans Zimmer uses some of the themes from the other films, he’s had some great help in guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. If you’ve never heard these two before, open up another tab on your browser and look them up online. This post will be waiting for you when you get back.

Done? Good. Didn’t I say they were cool? The duo adds a lot of flavor to the music of the movie, which really does help things (as much as they can).

Rob Marshall’s direction of the film isn’t terrible as some might say. It actually feels a lot like Gore Verbinski’s (to me, anyway), and if you weren’t told who was making the film, there’s a slight possibility you wouldn’t recognize it wasn’t Verbinski. He does capture the action scenes well and truthfully, there was something cool with the lighting in the Sparrow sword fights that occurs early on. I’m under the impression that this is due to the Bruckheimer touch on things.

The writing on this film felt lazy. Here’s what I mean, and the following might be spoilers:

*** Here lie Spoilers, Ladies and Gents, be warned! ***

*** Here lie Spoilers, Ladies and Gents, be warned! ***

*** Here lie Spoilers, Ladies and Gents, be warned! ***

There is a part in the film where Barbossa explains his stake in the chase for the Fountain of Youth. In a few lines, Geoffrey Rush nails it like an old man telling stories by a campfire. The only problem is that you’ve been told what happened in a visual medium. One of the first rules of writing is to show, and not tell. With a budget of over $400 million, I find it shocking that they couldn’t have just taken a few minutes to visually give us that explanation. It’s possible that Rossio and Elliot wanted to avoid reusing some of the same Pirates elements from the earlier films, but sometimes Pirate life does have a few struggles on the water. Why not show how he lost the Black Pearl?

Another example of the writing problem is the quasi-love story between the ship’s cleric (who’s name I can’t even recall) and the mermaid they encounter. It felt forced to me, and I’m convinced that when the Cleric finally tells the Mermaid he wants her to save his life, she pulled him down into deep waters only to feed upon him like those other poor pirate souls. And you know why? Because Marshall and the writers never bothered to show the audience a hint of what became of them. I doubt they cared about them any more than the audience could have. I even stayed after the credits, figuring that the final shot would maybe show me something of their fate, but no. Nothing of the sort.

*** Spoilers are done, you can keep reading now. ***

*** Spoilers are done, you can keep reading now. ***

*** Spoilers are done, you can keep reading now. ***

Oh, and there’s nothing to read after this, because I’m writing like Rossio and Elliot. Feel that sense of emptiness? That gap, like there should be something here? That’s what this Pirates may do to you.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Super Bowl TV Spot)

The more I read about and see stuff on this fourth film on the Disney action-adventure franchise the more I’m really looking forward to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

This Super Bowl tv spot shows some new scenes that wasn’t in the official trailer released a little over a month ago. One thing I am glad to see is more Ian McShane as Blackbeard. I’m also glad that there’s still no Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to be seen in this film. Yes, I know that they declined to be in it (that or Bruckheimer finally got the hint that it was these two who bogged down the first two sequels).

In the end, this third sequel will live or die on the performance of Depp returning as Capt. Jack Sparrow. I’d bet on Captain Jack returning to his roguish self and making this fourth film a fun ride the way the first two sequels weren’t.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is set for a May 20, 2011 release.