Desperate to recapture and recapitalise on the magic and money of his rollicking high seas franchise, Director Gore Verbinski has choreographed a film almost identical in style and energy.
Swapping the smell of salty spray and feel of heaving waves for the grittiness of desert dust and ever expanding arid emptiness, The Lone Ranger is a massively expensive adaption with all the elements of a grand adventure but without the box office or viewer acclaim.
Jarringly jumping between frenetic and tedious, modern (without even being set in today) and traditional, plastic and parody, odd couple and action heroes, comedy and drama, this film simply doesn't know what it wants to be and would have benefited greatly overall from a generous dose of editing.
For those of you who do remember the source material, I would advise not to compare, this is definitely a case of different courses for different horses. Stunts are massive and the vistas are stunning, even if they are noticeable geographically incorrect (location scouts take note - 2010's Utah does not equal 1870's wild-west Texas).
Wandering through a carnival in 1933 chewing on fresh peanuts, a young boy stops in front of a display reading "The Noble Savage". When an old man who should be a statue comes to life, the elderly fellow recounts a 60 year old yarn of unbelievable derring-do.
On train route home to Texas, straight laced Prosecutor John Reid (Armie Hammer) meets off-beat native Tonto (Johnny Depp) when they are shackled together by gun-toting hi-jacker's and left for dead on a runaway locomotive. Surviving the accident only to join a band of Rangers and play into a murderous plot, Reid is once again left of dead but can that actually work in his favour?
With the aid of tonto and his trusty white steed, Reid transforms from a man of the law, into The Lone Ranger, a legend of justice.
The epitome of chisel-jawed decency, Hammer has a likeable air but lacks screen presence, especially in contrast to his centre-kick of a side-kick, Johnny Depp. Like his most bankable character Jack Sparrow, Depp inhabits Tonoto in his usual magically eccentric part fruitcake, part genius and all crazy style.
There is glimmer of chemistry between the leads, but Depp seems to get more in reply from Reid's stunning personality ridden horse that his second-fiddle leading man.
Thankfully, the overtly colourful Helena Bonham Carter's role is rather small and her unique brand of odd is somewhat controlled even as a lethal prosthetic legged House of Sin Madam. Much like the aforementioned, the supports are all caricatures of the much-neglected western genre.
With modern influences guiding the project, there are some glaring tonal inconsistences between light-hearted humour and racially sensitive violence.
Besides being somewhat offensive to certain audiences, it highlights just how for the wrong way film making is on the political correctness scale. Backstory, historical and geographical accuracy be dammed.
The verdict: With all the negatives being said, the hi-ho silver speed of this movie is somewhat endearing and with the infectious anticipation of will they -wont they rendition of Rossini's William Tell Overture and other classic elements right there on the brink, the reluctant charm of this film seeps through into an enjoyable cinematic experience.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 12/07/2013
Proving once a b-movie, always a b-movie; director Zack Snyder's 20teens big-budget superman revamp Man of Steel comes with all the CGI bells and whistles that today's digital masterminds can deliver, but like its supposedly indestructible hero, the screenplay's DNA is flawed.
Crumpling under the kryptonite of an ill-conceived self-indulgent story, a cliché ridden script, cartoonish baddies, stereotyped hard-nosed militaria and an overt need for metaphors with not-so-hidden meanings polarising modern society values; no amount of adrenalin riddled murky visual effects can bring this juvenile escapist-fantasy in line with the inflated magnitude of expectations it shatters.
Unless you have been living under a rock since the mid-70's, the basic elements of the superman story is something we all know. A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this world which sets him on an outsider's journey of self-discovery. Compelled by his nature, he risks exposure and persecution to help those in need. Overcoming his demons and allowing the hero within to emerge, superman is tasked with saving the world from annihilation and becoming a symbol of hope for all mankind.
The mythology is intact, with an initial jaunt on the planet krypton, the circumstances leading up to why baby Kal-El is jettisoned off to Earth carrying the hopes and dreams of his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) enraging the traitorous General Zod (Michael Shannon) are rather over explained.
Upon arrival in Kansas (which has no explanation) the child is raised by adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Coster, Diane Lane). Named Clark, he is taught not only to harness his abilities but the value of keeping then quite until exposure is truly necessary - for a woman, Lois Lane (Amy Adams)
Explaining the story any further is rather fruitless as not only is it widely known, but if you have seen even one trailer there is little mystery. As the first money-grabbing instalment of a new franchise, Man of Steel is basically a coming of age story laden with values and emphasis on relationships.
The issue with putting a serious slant on a comic book superhero is they tend to look somewhat ridiculous. Screenwriter David Goyer (attempting to follow the genetic sequence of Christopher Nolan's Batman series) uses a hap-hazard flow of flashbacks in an attempt to establish empathy with our lead. Forced and disingenuous it fails to the point where even the naturally earnest decency oozing out of Cavill's chiselled stare can't overcome.
Although I personally didn't see Adams as Lois, the leads had great chemistry and she brought a wonderfully calculated strength to the determined and far less naive character. Surprised to say, Crowe is actually appealing in one of his best recent roles while his human paternal counterpart Kevin Costner tries far too hard for gravitas. Shannon chillingly evil edge is overacted but his angular features hide it relatively well.
The verdict: Wishing during the screening that I could just propel myself up, up and away, I settled for a little nap during the seemingly eternal final battle sequence. I admit I wasn't exactly sure what was happening but it was something along the lines of superman vs. skyscrapers, superman vs. helicopters, superman vs. spaceships, superman vs. intergalactic mercenaries, superman vs.... well you get the idea. One thing did vex me however during all this carnage, like his nemesis, superman had no regard for the safety of by standing humans.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 05/07/2013
When it comes to shameless product placement in filmmaking, I never thought anything would be more blatant than Tom Hank's feature length commercials of 1998's You've Got Mail for AOL and 2001's Castaway for Fed Ex, however somehow Google now seems to have taken the campaign throne, I do hope there product share doesn't disintegrate after the film's release as quickly as the aforementioned.
Cleverly marketed to target facebook addicted Y-gens who are attracted to the films plot and technological foundations as well as life savvy X-gens with its casting choice and comic sensibilities, The Internship attempts to capitalise on the sum of its disjointed parts as non-demanding escapist entertainment.
Deriving humour not only from its goofy yet infectiously witty leading men; Vince Vaughn (also one of the writers) and Owen Wilson, with their palpable camaraderie and out-dated 80's film references but the juxtaposition of modern societies disassociation with the 'real world' and 'old fashioned skills', things such as basic human interaction and communication come under a the proverbial microscope in a the cyber world where Googliness is holier than Godliness.
Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are gift-of-the-gab salesmen in the truest sense, employed to sell high end watches, their life experiences of wheeling and dealing bring new meaning to the term selling-ice-to-the-eskimos.
But when one of their favourite clients (not their boss) informs them that the digital revolution has seen their jobs go the way of the dinosaur, they are determined to prove their skills are not extinct just yet.
Getting "on-the-line" in a library, the duo exemplify old school but still manage to fast-talk their way into a coveted internship at San Francisco's fun park-cum-HQ Google, but gaining entrance into the child-like utopia is only the beginning.
Proving that necessity really is the mother of re-invention and their skills are worth just as much as book smarts, Billy and Nick mingle among a battalion of half-their-age ivy-league educated tech-savvy geniuses in hopes of securing two of five full-time positions that may offer a new career.
Their self-perception shattered from the get-go when relegated to the rejected 'left-overs' team; comprising of mama's boy Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael), socially disinterested Stuart (Dylan O'Brien), life-experience lacking Neha (Tiya Sircar) and wanttabe cool dude instructor Lyle (Josh Brener), old dogs Billy and Nick learn new tricks whilst teaching team mates some old ones they would have simply missed in a life lived in cyberspace.
As in a lot of Vaughn's bromances, the themes of championing hope and self-belief is a driving plot force, add to that generation based culture clash and the idea of retribution for cocky brownnosers and you would assume a winning mix, but sadly it doesn't come together all that well. Padded thin and feeling all too much like hard comedic work, the trailer really does use up all the films best pieces to get you in leaving the full product lacking any extra texture, imagination or layers to really satisfy.
The verdict: There are some funny ideas and the concept is nothing short of perfect, but if people are looking down at smart technology no amount of pole dancers and red suspenders will grab their attention (perhaps one of the most apt scenes in describing the widening generation gap).
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 28/06/2013
As Baz Luhrman's pulsating hyper reality visions of style is to want, The Great Gatsby is one of pure excess, ablaze with breathless visual splendour and zinging cinematic tricks in a dazzling production - all topped off in 3D.
In the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks, would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) chases his American Dream by leaving the innocently quiet Midwest for the bright lights of big city New York City.
In early summer, Nick rents a house in Long Island, across the bay from his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her philandering blue-blooded husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton). Adjacent is a mansion owned by the mysterious, party-giving millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Promptly joining the islands prominent social-circle, Nick is captivated by and drawn into the lavish lifestyle of the super-rich, bearing witness to their extremes of illusion, love and deceit. Through the cracks of Gatsby's nouveau riche existence, Nick is inspired to pen a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams, obsessive madness and high-octane tragedy.
An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, The Great Gatsby as relevant now as it was originally in 1926, holding the proverbial mirror to our own modern times and struggles. Visually a fantastical spectacle of beauty, from people to costumes, settings and locations, these cinematic tools hold viewers at arm- length, never allowing you to be profoundly moved or even feel the beat of films heart
DiCaprio is perfect as Gatsby, always striking the right balance between showy and disturbed but seems at times somewhat denied his own dramatic choices. Mulligan doesn't find the mark between vulnerable and overt as easily, and lacks passion with her leading man. Maguire's role although rather wimpy and insipid is carried off by his sheer belief in the character.
The Verdict: Sadly, the press' foreplay of hype was to the films detriment. Whilst listening to the departing crowds, there was an obvious sense of disappointment, a longing for an emotional movement that never came and a general sense of disconnect as the director hid behind the excess that threatened to overwhelm.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 31/05/2013
The wolf pack is back and with no wedding or bachelor party, what could possibly go wrong?
In the wake of Alan's (Zach Galifianakis) father's death, his ever 'supportive' friends Doug (Justin Bartha), Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) stage an 'intervention', prompting Alan to spend a short stint in a mental health facility to work through the emotions associated and his mental health issues.
But even before they reach the hospital, things begin to go array. Assaulted by a masked gang, Doug is kidnapped by heavy-weight thug Marshall (John Goodman) who demands they must find miscreant Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and surrender him and the stolen gold bullion or else he will kill Doug.
Let the angst filled shenanigans begin.
Spinning the roulette wheel one last time, this official final chapter to the Hangover series promises only mild redemption from the misguided second instalment. Breaking out of Thai prison, the wolf pack returns to the scene their original crime, Sin City.
Where the initial instalments success lay in its concept reliability of four guys out to celebrate, and the theory, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. As an ex-pat of the gambling capital of the world myself, this statement not only allows, but somehow drives peoples to do the craziest of things on the excuse that whatever their secret, it is safe.
Part II attempted to recreate the theory in a seedier locale to avoid claims of regurgitation and failed so in Part III the misconceived scriptwriters opted for a watered down dreg of its original self with about as much success. With a mish mash of over-the-top skits that don't quite fit together and the misplaced plot being driven by minor characters; viewers are left scratching their head and pondering why for all the wrong reasons.
Although the addition of Goodman was a wise choice, Galifianakis and Jeong work far too in their attempt to conjure laughter. Cooper and Helms seem somehow neglected whilst the always sidelined Bartha is literally forgotten. It is fun to see Heather Graham back, even in its minimalist capacity.
The Verdict: When it comes to comedy franchises, sometimes drinking the spiked cool aide is not worth headache.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 24/05/2013