The Lone Ranger- The Review

Being on holiday in Canada, I had the opportunity to see The Lone Ranger a few months earlier than I normally would have, and I considered myself lucky for having this opportunity. After seeing the film and walking out of the stuffy and dirty cinema, I considered myself a sacrifice for my friends, and the many cinema lovers in Britain. I had to get back; I had to warn them not to ever see this film. Between its bizarre tonal changes, confused and maddeningly stupid plot, or its downright ludicrous performance by Johnny Depp as a Captain Jack Sparrow/Indian hybrid, The Lone Ranger stakes a claim for the worst film of the year.

Ten years in the making, with a budget of around $250 million, The Lone Ranger is an adaptation of the much-loved radio and television show of the same name, which followed two vigilantes of the Wild West, the Lone Ranger and the Indian Tonto, who fought for justice in a villainous land. In comparison to the new adaptation, the original television show took eight years to make two hundred and twenty-one episodes, which is two years less than this steaming pile of spirit- horse turd took to get out of production and onto the big screen. They may as well not have bothered and saved the losses; as it stands Disney is set to lose over $100 million over The Lone Ranger, and with good reason too. The film is a mess of astronomical proportions; it attempts to be both a slapstick comedy while also using gratuitous violence to shock the audience, and even the film itself appears to be confused about which genre it is tackling, and what audience it is being aimed at. This is a problem The Lone Ranger shares with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and it is no surprise to see that they also share a director, Mr Gore Virbinski. Here lies the problem; while the first Pirates of the Caribbean was a brilliantly entertaining kid’s movie, the later films greatly suffered from problems in tone and catastrofically misjudged scenes. If Disney wants to make The Lone Ranger a franchise, they are in big trouble, because this has already developed the huge problems the later Pirates films suffered from. It has none of the charm or wit that the original Pirates film did, and the advertising campaign that is endlessly comparing them is a huge mistake from Disney. Ironically, what exactly what the Lone Ranger needed was to be less like Pirates, and get rid of the inclusion of a ‘Jack Sparrow’ type character. Herein lies the second problem: Johnny Depp.

The decision to make the Lone Ranger an anti-hero is a huge mistake, leading to the audience never once getting behind him.

Depicting Johnny Depp’s ‘Tonto’ as a stereotypical crazy cryptic Indian is one thing, but to then ask Johnny Depp to play Captain Jack Sparrow with a crazily bad Indian accent is an extraordinary act of stupidity by the director and the writers. Forget about shooting themselves in the foot, Gore Virbinski and Disney have committed Hari-Kari with this incredibly distasteful representation of an Indian. “Look!” we are supposed to laugh. “The Indian speaks nonsense that sounds wise, and sometimes doesn’t have very good grammar! How hilarious and accurate!” Unsurprisingly, some people around me in the cinema were laughing at the character even when Tonto didn’t say or do anything that was supposed to be funny. I am getting fed up of Johnny Depp playing the same character again and again; in his early films, such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, he displayed a good range of acting skills and emotions. Since the original Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp has decided to stick with the pretty naff Keith Richards impression, and it is unbearably grating and tedious to watch.  His only saving grace is that his fellow actors are as tragically miscast as he is, with the exception of William Fichtner who plays a more than adequate villain. Armie Hammer is the man studios are desperately trying to force down our throat, but he wasn’t ready for this kind of role. He certainly has comic timing, but during the more emotional scenes he has all the appeal of road kill. The most tragic and saddening casting is the incredibly talented Ruth Wilson as the stereotypical damsel in distress, who is underwritten and underdeveloped, screaming a lot and constantly needing a heroic and charming man to swoop in and chuckle at her idiocy before sweeping her off her feet. It is such a bland and almost pathetic performance from her; her superb performance as Alice Morgan from crime series Luther is nowhere to be found here, and it is a shame to see a woman with so much talent play such an insulting role in such an insulting movie. Hopefully she can bounce back from this misstep, and really shine in cinema.

I cannot deny The Lone Ranger has a certain element of fun towards the end, with the original show’s theme tune getting blasted out for a good ten minutes while a well choreographed and well-directed final battle gets underway, but the problem is this reasonably entertaining scene takes a full 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to.  The Lone Ranger has a moment when it feels like an ideal and natural point to end, and then half an hour later it has another moment where the film should naturally end. Then we have another hour until it finally ends. What fun could and should have been taken from that final scene grates slightly, because the film has overstayed its welcome to the point of absurdity. What doesn’t help the length is a bizarre and entirely unnecessary narrative device in which a very old Tonto is telling a young kid about his adventures with the Lone Ranger. This adds at least fifteen to twenty minutes to an already long movie, and that is even more of a drag when you consider this narrative device doesn’t even work (Tonto tells the kid about a lot of events that he wasn’t present at; a highlight of the writers’ laziness). When you then consider some of the more unnecessary characters that are written in so that the actor can make a quick buck (Helena Bonham Carter, I’m looking at you), the film could easily have had an hour taken off it without making it any less enjoyable.

Best Bit

The final battle is reasonably enjoyable, largely thanks to the theme of the original show playing over the top, and this at least gives the previous two and a quarter hours some kind of meaning. However, it is far little too late to save the film.

Worst Bit

Surprisingly, Johnny Depp’s horrendous performance as Tonto is actually overshadowed by the director’s inability to balance and stabilize a tone throughout the film. We have a scene where jokes about crazy horses and Indians are being tossed around, and a few minutes later the baddie is eating the heart of a human corpse. In doing this it is far too adult for children, but far too childish for adults.

Overall

The Lone Ranger is the ‘John Carter’ of 2013, and Disney’s latest financial disaster. It deserves to be a flop too: not only does it steal your money by recycling Pirates of the Caribbean (this time, in the wild west!), it is also lazy and sloppy filmmaking, miscasting nearly every actor and totally misunderstanding the intended target audience. It is messy, it is pretty offensive, and it is the worst film of the year so far. Mind-bogglingly dreadful.

1/5

The Place Beyond the Pines- The Review

The Place Beyond the Pines is a film about morals. The key figure in this crime drama, Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a quiet and troubled man, who robs banks to care for a son he didn’t know he had. He doesn’t know his son, who is being raised by his ex-girlfriend, and her new boyfriend. He doesn’t care: he wants to help in any way he can. So he robs banks. He does immoral things for good reasons. Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is different. He is a low ranking cop, and is treated like a hero when he shoots a criminal in cold blood. Everyone slaps him on the back, everyone congratulates him for an act of murder; he is no better than the man he has shot. The Place Beyond the Pines blurs the boundaries between cop and crook, good and bad, and displays these titles, these names, as a bad joke. It is different from so many crime films by portraying an intense and fascinating character study of these two men, until the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ become irrelevant, until they are both trapped by their own mistakes. It is wonderful cinema.

The beauty of The Place Beyond the Pines is not only in its brilliant handling of complex themes, but also in its direction. The director, Derek Cianfrance, has a habit of focussing on a character’s face, their expression, letting the actor present the emotions in ways which words cannot do justice. There is one scene with Ryan Gosling in a Church, watching his son getting baptised without being a part of it, and the camera holds steady on Gosling’s face throughout the Lord’s Prayer, as he slowly breaks into tears. It reminded me of a particular shot in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, an almost eerie, uncomfortable and personal linger into the characters mind through a long gaze at their expression. Gosling seems to take a pride in not ever receiving much dialogue, preferring to show us his emotions through his facial expressions, and it is both mesmerising and haunting. You feel a great sympathy for his character in The Place Beyond the Pines, but also a fear for him that is impossible to ignore. He is too calm, too quiet, and when he does explode with emotion you hardly recognise him. Bradley Cooper is his opposite, a talky, nervous, and morally confused police-man who isn’t entirely comfortable with being treated like a hero for a three second shooting, but takes the praise and the rewards anyway, slowly becoming no better than the people he vowed to stop. Cooper’s acting is superb; a solid performance that presents a man who is totally lost in the murky and corrupt world of the police force he occupies, and is caught between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, often doing nothing at all.

The film asks the audience uncomfortable questions about Gosling; is he doing the wrong things for the right reasons?

The latter stages of The Place Beyond the Pines explore both Gosling and Cooper’s children, fifteen years after the events their fathers, as they are greatly affected by the lies and events that the past has handed down to them. It makes The Place Beyond the Pines a much longer film then it could have been, and perhaps should have been; the early stages with Gosling and Cooper are the best, and towards the end section of the film it loses some of its originality, some of its charm. That said, the two actors who play the now teenage sons, Dane DeHann and Emory Cohen, do a very impressive job with the quite challenging roles of two very troubled children, who are getting punished for events neither of them truly understand, and probably never will. The film becomes not only a story about morals, but also a generation piece, and it is not until the very end of the movie where I felt the theme of morals and blurred lines get pulled back out, and that gave the teenage boys’ story added meaning, and becomes possibly the most important section of the movie. Despite the slip ups on the final few hurdles for the movie, it ends so strongly, and with such confidence and beauty, it becomes nothing short of a triumph. We are left to linger on the beauty the director has presented us, while the song ‘the Wolves’ by Bon Iver plays over the credits. It is haunting, it is thought provoking, and it is beautiful.

Best Bit

The early stages, with Gosling robbing banks for his infant son, are thrilling and wonderfully directed. As he screams at the workers to get down on the ground, Gosling’s voice breaks several times, making him sound like a scared child, and this displays the humanity of the man. He is lost in the love of his son, and these moments provide the real tragedy of the story.

Worst Bit

Although the teenage actors both do very well, the story gets a little confused and muddy when the attention gets diverted to fifteen years later, and we experience the consequences of the past alongside the members of the present. The ending gives the film real heart and real morning, but The Place Beyond the Pines will be felt as overstaying its welcome for many. It begs us to stick with it, and the rewards are enormous.

Overall

The Place Beyond the Pines is one of the smartest and haunting indie films to be released this year, and perhaps one of the best in any kind of categorization. It’s daring switches of tempo and character focus leads to a truly arresting and deeply interesting crime saga, one that the director assures is not only grimy and nasty, but also strangely beautiful, thanks to his appreciation of nature, and a wonderful soundtrack. Although it is over-long and loses control, it recaptures the haunting and effective mood just in time for the ending sequence, that is poetic and beautiful in every way. Cinema needs more films like The Place Beyond the Pines; it dares to be different.

5/5

This Is The End- The Review

I wrote an article lately called Horror: Cinema’s Greatest Embarrassment, but really I could have chosen to write about the downfall of any modern genre in cinema, including comedy. It’s a shame that not that much comedy is very appealing or funny to me any more, and only occasionally does a movie present itself like This is the End. Co-written and co-directed by Seth Rogen, with his friend Evan Goldberg, you obviously expect a level of vulgarity and obscene jokes from the people that brought you Superbad and Pineapple Express. You can see how they have developed as writers; Superbad had brilliant lines, but relied heavily on very uncomfortable situations, and wasn’t as funny as the later Pineapple Express, which was in turn dumber then Superbad. Now we have This is the End, and it is possibly the best of both worlds; it appeals to people wanting obscenity and penis jokes, and yet it has more brains then a comedy this silly has any right to. In short, This is the End is the funniest comedy of the year, and suggests that Rogen and Goldberg are maturing (but not too much) as writers, and have potential after a fine showing with their directorial débuts too.

The movie’s premise is instantly memorable and entirely brilliant. James Franco is having a house party, and he invites Seth Rogen and his buddy Jay Baruchel (who doesn’t want to go because Jonah Hill is there). Soon after they get there, the apocalypse starts. Celebrities die, people scream, and at the end of the chaos we are left with James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson barricaded in James Franco’s house trying to figure out how to survive the events prophesied in the Book of Revelations. Water is running low, food is sparse, and all they have to keep them sane is the video camera from 127 Hours. 

The premise of This is the End is funny in itself, even more so when you consider that all the actors play exaggerated forms of themselves, either from their own opinion or how the media and the public sees them. This is the real highlight of the movie, watching the actors dare to make fun of themselves, and exaggerate their well documented characteristics in endlessly entertaining ways. The as-always brilliant James Franco is known through the American media as being a huge fan of art, and therefore possibly gay; and so the first joke James Franco has includes art, and a suggestion he is in love with Seth Rogen. There is an early joke about how Seth Rogen plays the same character in all of his movies, and as a cheeky counter joke, he plays himself as exactly the same character. None of that is quite as brilliant as some of the cameos, including Michael Cera in a role so brilliant I would hate to spoil it, and Emma Watson in a wonderfully funny five minute scene. This film is brought alive by its references to the actors’ past work, and the actors’ willingness to make fun of themselves and their bad movies. As a cinema lover, I got all of the references, and all of them made me laugh near hysterically. That is where This is the End succeeds so well; the clever jokes and performances bring it above the average immature comedy; it has brains, it has emotion, and it has more laughs then every comedy of 2013 so far put together.

There are some moments of extreme gore in the film, which surprisingly allows Rogen and Goldberg to direct impressively.

As mentioned previously, the movie has to appeal to a more mainstream audience, one that is content to laugh at jokes about flatulence, sperm and penises, and obviously the film’s IQ suffers as a result. Some of these jokes made me laugh, but around half of them made me wait for the next time the characters sat down and talked, because the quality of these sections was always head and shoulders above the rest. I understand the need for the more obscene jokes, because Rogen and Goldberg have made this a sort of trademark, a speciality, that perhaps will take a few more movie making efforts to shake off. These jokes don’t seem that out of place, and every time there is a stupid and pretty tedious joke about body parts, there are five clever and hysterically funny jokes around the corner. Of course it is obscene, of course it is vile. Anyone who is even a remote fan of Rogen and Goldberg’s previous work will not care a bit.

Best Bit

Jonah Hill’s performance as himself may rank as his best performance of his career to date, everything he said was absolutely hilarious. He has a reputation as a good guy of cinema, so the writers exaggerate this to such an extent that even in dangerous and life threatening situations Hill acts sickeningly nice to everyone, and it never failed to make me laugh.

Worst Bit

There is one scene, which I can’t reveal because of spoilers, where someone gets possessed, which involves an ‘alternative’ version of how the Devil possesses people. Yes, it’s sexual. And yes, it’s feels out of place and didn’t even raise a smile. I looked on, as the cinema was rolling around the aisles.

Overall

This is the End is the funniest film of 2013, and after 3 attempts is a near perfect mix of clever comedy and vulgar jokes by Rogen and Goldberg, cultivating in their best film to date. Although there are pretty obscene jokes at times, that don’t always mix well with the clever premise, for a film that is aimed at such a mainstream and immature audience, This is the End is one of the smartest and sharpest comedies in recent years. Plus, it has the best use of Whitney Houston’s song ‘I Will Always Love You’ ever. I’m calling it six months early: comedy of the year.

4/5