Review: Jurassic World

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson

Review: Entourage

Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon

Review: San Andreas

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino

Review: Ex Machina

Starring Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, and Domhnall Gleeson

Review: Pitch Perfect 2

The Pitch is Back!

Friday, July 26, 2013

August 2013 Movie Guide

AUGUST 2, 2013

Starring: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton
Why You Should See It: Because Denzel almost always delivers.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because Mark Wahlberg in a serious role is a hit-or-miss proposition.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says: Flip a coin.

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miles Teller, Brie Larson
Why You Should See It: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Why You Should Avoid It: Shailene Woodley.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says: Rental.

Other theatrical releases:
  Cockneys vs. Zombies, Drift, Europa Report

AUGUST 7, 2013

Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Nathan Fillion, Sean Bean
Why You Should See It: Lerman was good in Perks of Being a Wallflower and Daddario was easy on the eyes in Texas Chainsaw 3D.
Why You Should Avoid It: The first Percy Jackson movie was brutal.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  TNT, TBS, FX movie all the way.

AUGUST 9, 2013

Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, William Fichtner
Why You Should See It: Because Matt Damon is almost always really really good.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because it's hard to recall the last  Jodie Foster movie that was actually good.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  The only must see movie for the mont of August.

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter
Why You Should See It: When I think of a reason I will let you know.
Why You Should Avoid It: Jennifer Aniston's movies always stink.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Not even a rental.

Other theatrical releases: Planes, Lovelace, I Give It a Year, Jug Face.

AUGUST 16, 2013

Starring: Aaron Taylor Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Why You Should See It: Because the first one was a hyper-violent homage to the comic book superhero genre.  And to spite Jim Carrey.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because you don’t like over-the-top violence.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  See it.

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams, Alan Rickman
Why You Should See It: Good source material, great cast, and distributed by the Weinstein Company.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because it wreaks of a slow narrative.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Game time decision.

Starring: Amber Heard, Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman
Why You Should See It: Amber Heard
Why You Should Avoid It: Liam Hemsworth.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Take it or leave it, but really...leave it.

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, James Woods, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad
Why You Should See It: Because Steve Jobs was one of the most interesting figures in the technology space in the last fifty years.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because Ashton Kutcher can't act.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Cable TV movie at best.

Other theatrical releases:  Austenland, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Prince Avalanche

AUGUST 23, 2013

Starring: Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg, Bill Nighy, Pierce Brosnan
Why You Should See It: Because it has a great cast.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because that British sensibility doesn't always resonate outside the UK.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  A good rental.

Starring: Lily Collins, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jamie Campbell Bower
Why You Should See It: Decent cast.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because it looks like just another tween movie.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Never.

Other theatrical releases:  You’re Next, The Grandmaster, Drinking Buddies, The Colony

AUGUST 30, 2013

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight
Why You Should See It: Because it's the last major release of the summer.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because Selena Gomez is getting second billing in this movie.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Netflix, Red Box, iTunes, et al.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: The Way Way Back

It’s been an interesting year at the theater and not necessarily in a good way.  To say that the slate has been pretty lean would be an understatement.  There have been some big blockbusters that I’ve really enjoyed (Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness) and a few pleasant surprises (The Conjuring, Warm Bodies), but I had yet to find something that I thought would receive awards season recognition.  That is, until I saw The Way Way Back, a small in budget and scale, but large in scope coming-of-age story that masterfully tells a coming-of-age story set against a jumbled mass of complex relationships.

The plot of the movie focuses on Duncan (Liam James), an awkward teen who is forced to take a summer trip with his single mother (Toni Collette) and her douche bag boyfriend (Steve Carell).  Thrust into a beach community that more closely resembles a camp for 40-somethings engaging in social debauchery, Duncan befriends Owen (Sam Rockwell) - a local who works at a nearby water park, and with his help ventures outside his comfort zone to learn more about himself and about those in his life.

Any discussion of this film must begin and end with Sam Rockwell.  He is that good in this movie.  In a lot of ways, his performance is set up by the dour oppressive atmosphere established by James’ timid and awkward Duncan and Steve Carell’s spot on portrayal of a man who can best be described as miserable and selfish.  The strength of those two performances allows Rockwell to absolutely deliver as the sarcastic but affable manager of the Water Wizz.  Every moment that he is onscreen feels like a breath of fresh air and the snappy delivery with which he speaks his comedic lines picks up the pace of the film immediately.  The contrast between his character and Carell’s is one of the key elements that makes this movie really pop.

Still, the success of this movie ultimately rests on the shoulders of one of the youngest cast members - Liam James.  I have no idea what kind of actor James is, as I’ve never seen him in anything else, but he marvelously captures the intense timidity and suffocating awkwardness of Duncan.  His character is a most sympathetic figure that puts himself in cringe-inducing moments and it’s this quality that draws you in emotionally and makes the payoff feel so cathartic. 

Toni Collette plays off of this character well as Duncan’s mother Pam.  Collette plays a good-natured but damaged single mother – a role that she is quite familiar with and quite adept at playing.  She’s both maddening and endearing, adding a significant layer to this coming-of-age narrative.  The other woman in Duncan’s life, AnnaSophia Robb (as love interest Susana) also shows well in this film, because her character acts as a great contrast to James’ as one who is dynamic, outgoing, and expressive.

As for the rest of the cast, the work is truly top solid from top to bottom.  The crew at the Water Wizz led by Maya Rudolph and Nat Faxon represent the heart of the film and their scenes represent some of the most joyous in the film.  The group of adults that revolve around Carell’s Trent – including Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and Allison Janney – while not as impressive as Rudolph and Faxon, do a nice job of portraying manic, morally decayed, forty-somethings lost in a sea of their respective mid-life crises.  And in doing so, they close the loop on the recurring theme of contrasts that permeates this film.

With the way this film is treated and the quality of the finished product, it comes as no surprise that writer and director are one in the same.  Nat Faxon and Jim Rash collectively wear both hats and it’s immediately evident that the creative team is invested in this intensely personal narrative that addresses universal themes.  Any film that gets you to care about its characters tends to be a good one.  While any film that gets you to not only care but also to relate to the characters almost always is a great one.  The Way Way Back is definitely closer to the latter bucket.

In a sea of movies loaded with big explosions, wild gunplay, and fisticuffs, The Way Way Back is that rare summer movie that feels intimate, authentic, and personal.  The nature of the film suggests that it does not need to be seen on the big screen, but it is a very good movie that deserves to be seen in a big-feel setting.  Good for a date night or just hanging with friend, I would highly recommend this movie to one and all; even those whose taste skew towards pure action.  There is a little something for everyone in this movie and will leave you feeling like you got your money’s worth.  Without a doubt, The Way Way Back is one of my favorite movies of the year.

Standout Performance:  Sam Rockwell - by a landslide.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: The Conjuring

If you’ve never heard of director James Wan, then you are probably not a fan of horror movies.  He, of Saw and Insidious fame, is slated to direct the seventh installment of the Fast & Furious franchise where he is sure to gain a lot more mainstream notoriety.  But before departing the genre in which he made his mark, he has delivered yet another an edge-of-your-seat narrative in The Conjuring – a movie whose slick trailers have promised tense storytelling and scream inducing visuals.  In a time when most movie trailers prove more entertaining than the actual feature film, I am happy to say that Wan’s film delivers on most of its promises.

The plot of The Conjuring focuses on Ed and Lorraine Warren – two paranormal investigators, whose real-life exploits and questions about their legitimacy can be found via a quick Google search.  The events of this film find the Warrens investigating a series of paranormal occurrences that are plaguing the Perrons,  a family of seven who have recently moved into a new home.  As they work to discover the mystery behind the hauntings, the Warrens find that all involved may be in great peril. 

The plot of the film is based on a true story albeit a highly contested one.  Coupled with the creative license that Hollywood tends to employ in such circumstances, it seems the “true story” tagline is more a marketing tool than anything else – especially considering some of the over-the-top sensational visuals.  And truth be told, there are times where the film wreaks of cheese, but none of this in any way detracts from the entertainment value of the movie.  It is quite thrilling.  That is no small compliment given that the saturation of the horror genre has rendered most suspense inducing plot mechanisms tired and contrived.  Still Wan manages to do a good job of pacing the film and bringing the terror to a slow boil.

What really helps here is the presence of Patrick Wilson.  Wan and Wilson worked together on the surprising Insidious and its apparent that director and actor have chemistry.  Wilson brings depth and layers to the role of Ed Warren that most protagonists in horror films seem to lack.  His Warren is a believer and a family man with a mix of resolve and doubt that makes him feel authentic.  Vera Farmiga, as his wife Lorraine, is not quite as impressive.  In some of the slower scenes reserved for character development, she overplays her hand and hams up Lorraine’s clairvoyant abilities.  She does however faire better during action sequences immersing herself more naturally into character.

As for the rest of the cast, collectively they do a nice job. Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor are good as the Perrons – portraying the sheer sense of terror and claustrophobia associated with the paranormal attack on their home.  As the victims of many of the paranormal assaults, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, and Kyla Deaver likewise do a solid job adding to the film’s tension by portraying raw unbridled fear.  Lastly, Shannon Kook (Drew) and John Brotherton (Brad) balance out the proceedings by providing a bit of comic relief to the tense emotional pressure that permeates this film.

So yes, The Conjuring is not cinematic art and at times feels a bit cheesey, but the narrative is taut, suspenseful, and punctuated by a strong sense of isolationism and creepy 70’s décor.  It is so rare that I enjoy horror films these days and even more rare when I recommend one, but I absolutely recommend seeing The Conjuring and seeing it in the cinema.  The crowd that I watched it with was engaged, terrified, and very expressive and this wholly enhanced the viewing experience.  And if the post-movie chatter is any indication, every person who walked out of their room felt as though they had gotten their money’s worth.  What more could anyone ask for from a film?

Standout Performance:  Patrick Wilson.  Amongst a bevy of capable performances, his was the most compelling.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rental Rewind: 2001

It was the year 2001, when Time Magazine named Rudolph Giuliani the Man of the Year for his post 9/11 presence in New York City.  Beyonce was still fronting Destiny’s Child and Janet Jackson’s All for You dominated the summer music charts.  It was a very difficult year in sports as the Baltimore Ravens won the most uneventful Super Bowl in recent memory and the Los Angeles Lakers and Duke Blue Devils ruled the basketball landscape.  Still, the year was not a complete loss as there were some really good movies that debuted in cinemas.   Here’s a look at ten movies (not necessarily the ten best) from 2001 that you may want to go back and take a look at:

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez

Starring: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Bridget Moynihan, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Christine Johnson

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom

Starring: Kevin Kline, Hayden Christensen, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jena Malone

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Eva Mendes

Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle

Starring: Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee

Starring: Eric Bana, Josh Hartnett, Jeremy Piven, Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: The Heat

The formula works.  The mismatched partners / buddy comedy routine is as tried and true as any cinematic paradigm.  You could dedicate a whole blog with hundreds of posts to waxing poetic about the countless films that have successfully worked this theme.  And while this brand of narrative has occasionally featured women, this sphere has for the most part been dominated by male protagonists.  In a lot of ways, Bridesmaids has come to represent a bit of game changer for these types of buddy films as it not only proved that female driven buddy romps could win big at the box office, but also that you could do it with a bit of raunchy flair.  The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy definitely falls into this bucket of filmmaking, but whether the creative team pulls it off well is highly debatable.

The plot of the movie thrusts an arrogant know-it-all of an FBI agent in Sandra Bullock into a rocky partnership with a hate-it-all police detective (Melissa McCarthy) to track down a mysterious crime lord who is taking over the streets of Boston.  As the two work the case, they find that their contrasting styles complement one another both personally and professionally and help them to realize their respective faults and shortcomings.

If you are thinking that maybe you’ve seen Sandra Bullock play this kind of character before (Miss Congeniality 2), then you are right.  And if the trailer has you thinking that Melissa McCarthy has played this exact role in pretty much every movie she’s ever been in, then you would definitely not be wrong. Therein lies one of the main issues plaguing this film; director Paul Feig has put together a film featuring two actors who are essentially reprising characters they’ve done before in a kind of narrative that has been done to death.  Simply put, nothing feels new about this movie. 

If that were the only issue with the movie, then it would still be fairly entertaining, but unfortunately the editing ensures that film simply will not come together as it should. On far too many occasions, scenes run far too long only to  accommodate some self-indulgent rambling ad lib, rather than focus on storytelling and pacing.  Sure, there are some dead-on huge laugh-out-loud moments in this movie, but the space between these gags are far too long and feel extremely flat.  That little attention is paid to the details of the film's nonsensical plots twists normally would feel incredibly damaging,, but ultimately is relegated to an afterthought because of the dull uneven nature of ninety-percent of the movie.

Like most out there, I thought Bridesmaids was entertaining and a good chunk of that is attributed to Melissa McCarthy.  However, her more recent work left me convinced that her five minutes had expired.  I have to admit though that in The Heat, she proves that perhaps the expiration date on her brand of humor has not yet come to pass.  Sure, the editing does her no favors as she is guilty of some flat jokes, but she offsets those misses by delivering the bulk of the laugh out loud moments.   That she can also turn a scene from obscene to heart-felt on the turn of the dime is purely a bonus.  McCarthy for so many reasons is the only redeeming element in this movie.

As for her partner in crime fighting, Sandra Bullock, she is bland and uninteresting in this film from star to finish.  There is never a moment where I feel like Bullock wants to be in this any scene or that she cares about the finished product.  Cruise control, mailing it in, laying down, paycheck project – whatever cliché, analogy, or idiom you can think of to project utter apathy absolutely applies to her performance.  This is always inexcusable but especially egregious when you get top billing.

As for the work of the rest of the cast, it’s the typical collective performance you would expect to find in an action/comedy of this ilk.  Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Thomas Wilson, and Michael McDonald are seasoned actors and hit all their marks in unremarkable but satisfactory fashion.  Ditto for Marlon Wayans, who is affable enough in a supporting role, but contributes little-to-none in the comedy department.  Ultimately though, the work of the supporting players is rendered inconsequential by the missteps of both director and star.  Nothing any supporting player could lend to a film could overcome such obstacles.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you love Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, buddy comedies, cop comedies, or movies set in Boston.  Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you are related to anyone in the cast.  There is no reason to see this in the cinema.  It’s not worth the money, the cost of concessions, the gas used to drive to the cinema, et al.  At best, it’s a week night rental.  The movie will make you laugh heartily during the most random of scenes, but the mediocrity of the rest of the film will ensure that those comedic moments will quickly be forgotten.

Standout Performance:  Joey McIntyre.  For all the New Kids on the Block fans out there!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rental Rewind: 2000

It was the year 2000, when computers worldwide were supposed to crash, but never did, and George W. Bush was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.  Santana featuring Rob Thomas rocked the airwaves and JT was still the front man for N’SYNC.  It was a rough year in sports as the New York Yankees won the World Series, the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Championship, and Tiger Woods was still winning majors.  But it wasn’t all bad in the sphere of pop culture as a number of fantastic movies made their way onto the big screen.  Here’s a look at ten movies (not necessarily the ten best) from the year 2000 that you may want to put on your rental queue.

Starring: John Cusack, Jack Black, Iben Hjejle, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tim Robbins

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, Rena Sofer, Albert Finney

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Virginie Ledoyen, Tilda Swinton, Guillaume Canet

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union

Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi

Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Gosling, Kate Bosworth, Donald Faison.

Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Richard Harris, Djimon Hounsou

Starring: Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: 42

As a kid, I was a huge fan of baseball – the type of fan who could recite statistics and imitate batting stances.  When I was in the fourth grade, I found a book in the school library that told the Jackie Robinson story and I immediately fell in love with it.  The book was hardcover bound with colorful albeit simplistic illustrations to accompany the large print.  That the book was written for kids, should give you some idea as to how sterilized a version of Robinson’s trials and tribulations the narrative depicted.  Having watched 42, I can’t help but feel like Warner Bros.’ attempt to bring this story to the big screen is not all that different from that book I read so many years ago.

I think we all know to some degree what the plot of the movie is about.  The story picks up at the juncture of Robinson’s life at around the same time Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is looking to bring a player from the Negro Leagues into the Brooklyn Dodgers organization to effectively break the color barrier.  The movie focuses on Robinson’s relationship with his wife Rachel, his teammates, reporter Wendell Smith, and Brach Rickey against the backdrop of the 1946 and 1947 baseball seasons.

I am not going to get into some of the creative licenses employed with this film as these type of Hollywood productions should never be considered as factual historical pieces.  Still, the blurring of facts aside, the one issue I can’t ignore about this film is how muted the racial angst seems.  Rarely is that captured outside of the appearance of a handful of outspoken bigots and general boos and jeers from disapproving fans in the stands.  While this may be the result of a choice on the part of writer/director Brian Helgeland to make the film more family friendly, it seems to me a missed opportunity to properly depict a gritty time in the U.S. when cultural norms were being challenged and change was on the horizon.  And because of this, the enormity of Robinson’s 1947 season with the Brooklyn Dodgers feels like something less than what it really was.

Another issue I had with this film was the production value.  Again, some of this is due to specific choices by Helgeland, but the visuals consistently feel second rate, even in those instances when the opportunity to capture a historic stadium like Ebbets Field presents itself.  I consistently felt as though I were watching a film more suited for a basic cable channel than one worthy of a theatrical release.  The best comparison I can make for this film is 61* - the Mantle/Maris film that Billy Crystal directed for HBO, only that film far exceeds 42.

As for the work of the cast, at times I felt as though I were watching the work of a subpar off-off-Broadway cast “playing down” to the level of the direction.  Harrison Ford hams it up as Rickey and plays into every cliché in the bag and Chadwick Boseman lacks the charisma that so many have come to associate with Robinson.  To say that he is not quite ready for prime time would be a spot on assessment as his is perhaps the least dynamic performance of the entire principle cast. 

On a more positive note, Nicole Beharie (Rachel Robinson), Andre Holland (Wendell Smith) and Lucas Black (Pee Wee Reese) represent their characters well, infusing some depth to the weight and gravitas generated by the various plot elements in play.  Their respective performances help redeem the film to a degree and bring back that sense of significance that is compromised by Helgeland’s sterile approach.

When I look at 42 in its totality, I don’t see it as a terrible movie but rather a missed opportunity to truly capture what is a great story.  While one can debate the merits of the writing, directing, and acting, there is no denying that when the final credits broll, you will walk away from the film feeling good.  And for many that is an attractive quality.  For the most part, I am ambivalent about 42 – a damning statement considering that I am a huge fan of baseball and its history, but I think that it makes for a satisfactory rental for those in search of family fare.  For those desiring more truth or more sizzle from a film, you will definitely want to look elsewhere.

Standout Performance:  Nicole Beharie.  She does a nice job of bringing Rachel Robinson’s character to the big screen despite the sub stellar work surrounding her.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: The Lone Ranger

If you took the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, exchanged the ocean for the desert, swapped ships for railroads, and put cowboys and Indians wardrobe on the pirates and British naval men, then what you would be left with is Disney’s The Lone Ranger.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise as The Lone Ranger reunites director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, the duo that served as the driving force behind Disney’s original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.  What is a bit a surprise though is how this film sorely lacks fun, the one quality that was the indisputable defining trait of the Pirates franchise; and one of the main reasons for its box office success.

The plot of The Lone Ranger places John Reid (Armie Hammer) in the cross hairs of a battle between his Texas Ranger brother Dan Reid (James Badge Dale) and the outlaw Butch Cavendish.  When Dan Reid and his band of rangers are ambushed and left for dead, John takes up the mantle as the Lone Ranger and forms an uneasy alliance with Tonto (Johnny Depp); his goal to exact revenge upon Cavendish and to prevent war between the native Americans and the armed forces protecting the transcontinental railroad.

As the synopsis suggests, there is a lot going on in this movie and thus no shortage of elements in play to create entertainment value.  And it only takes a few frames to be reminded that Gore Verbinski knows how to frame a good shot.  So how then does this film fail to capture the imagination and breath life into the American icon? 

For starters, it’s just not that fun.  The tongue-in-cheek witty banter that no doubt dotted each page of the script really falls flat when brought to screen.  More often than not, the dialogue between characters plays like a bad set at the local improv and without those laughs to lighten up the narrative, the fun factor of this film erodes exponentially.  This brings the focus of the film solely onto the gravitas and action-oriented elements of the plot, leading directly into the second issue with this film.

No action film can succeed without a strong actor cast in the role of the hero and unfortunately, that responsibility falls upon the all-too-narrow shoulders of Armie Hammer.  Having seen Hammer in The Social Network, J. Edgar, Mirror Mirror, and now The Lone Ranger, I am convinced that he is best suited to play those over-privileged male characters who give off a more metrosexual vibe.  Because of this, he falters as the man behind the mask when the situations grow dire and the physicality escalates.  If Hammer has greater range or another gear as an actor, he does not display it and thus the film suffers greatly.

The third issue with this film is its length, which feels a good thirty some odd minutes too long.  Like Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies, The Lone Ranger is loaded with a bevy of key characters – each with their own respective agendas, and about ten too many twists and turns.  Thus, as Verbinski plays these threads out to their ultimate conclusions with unbridled abandon, the central focus of the film gets lost and the general sense of tension and drama associated with the plot gets tossed out the window.  The bloated running time coupled with the lack of weighted gravitas and plucky comic relief makes the film’s pace feel plodding at best.

As for the biggest name in the cast, Johnny Depp, he turns in an uneven performance that is more good than bad.  Eccentric, awkward, and borderline incoherent, Depp’s Tonto is one of the few characters that stands out against the bland background of the unsettled west.  Sure, Depp makes some odd choices (even by his standards) and at times it feels like he is playing an alternate universe version of Jack Sparrow, but clearly he is invested and committed to the roll and that makes his work stand out; especially so since some of his cast mates seemed barley to register a heartbeat in this film.

Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, and Barry Pepper are four such culprits.  Normally, supporting players sleepwalking through their perofrmances might not drastically diminish the entertainment value of a movie, but when two of those actors represent the female love interest and the chief antagonist, then almost nothing can be done to rescucitate the production.  Still, the supporting cast is not a complete miss as James Badge Dale and William Fichter (Butch Cavendish) do a fantastic job disappearing completely into their respective roles and delivering their lines with conviction.  Ultimately though, it’s mostly for naught as too many things go awry in this film to appreciate any kind of silver lining.

On paper, The Lone Ranger looks like a solid summer flick given the composition of the cast and the presence of a proven director in the big chair.  Still, the movie feels like just another action movie – a very expensive one ($225M) that was made just for the sake of getting made.  Little is demanded from films of this ilk – well-framed action, excitement, and a sense of joy, so when a film misses on two of the three tennets, it can only be viewed as a colossal disappointment.  I would definitely not recommend you watch this movie in the cinema as it is worth neither the time nor money.  Your best bet is to put this in the take-it-or-leave-it bucket and let the chips fall where they may.  Should the film ultimately find its way into your hands then give it a look, a nd if it never does, then life will just go on and you’re life will in no way be adversely affected.

Standout Performance:  James Badge Dale.  In limited screen time, Dale manages to display great depth with his character in ways other than straight narration.