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REVIEW – THE LONE RANGER

The Lone Ranger

1.5 out of 5

 

I may not have been a big fan of the Western genre growing up but there is one character in that genre that always struck a chord with me, that was The Lone Ranger.  I remember growing up and watching old re-runs of Clayton Moore riding to the rescue of John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger.  Growing up I was always a fan of the show and the movies, even the 1981 move Legend of the Lone Ranger.

Here we are in 2013 and Hollywood seems it would be a good time to dust off the hat and the mask an revamp The Lone Ranger for a new generation.  Was this a good idea?  Not by a long shot.  If you have no clue who The Lone Ranger was and/or haven’t seen the show or read the stories, this incarnation is not the place to start.

John Reid was a strong character in the original tales and made a strong hero in the character of The Lone Ranger.  In the 2013 movie this character is reduced to a bumbling fool.  Tonto, his partner in crime takes on more of a bigger role than companion or sidekick, but is mainly used for comedic purposes.

The story for this re-telling goes as follows.  John Reid takes on the tole of a Texas Ranger to help his brother Dan and his troop to hunt down and bring Butch Cavendish to justice.  They are betrayed and Butch kills the lot, along with John.  Death doesn’t keep a good man down and a spirit horse directs Tonto who to bring back from the dead.  At least this time it worked better than it did in Pet Semetary.

Tonto resurrects Reid and thus The Lone Ranger is born.  Both of them want Cavendish stopped and so they form a bond and go out in search of this flesh eating man.  Yes the villain has a taste for human flesh.

Sounds for like an interesting story that should be fun to watch.  One would think so.

Gore Verbinski, director of the Pirate of the Caribbean movies, comes back to direct The Lone Ranger.  The strange thing it, this movie feels and acts just like Pirates.  The directing style is the same, the story telling is the same.  At some points some of the action feels lifted right from those movies.  The comedy thrown in kills the feeling of seriousness that should have been there and the fun of the action as well.  Verbinski really is feeling like a one trick pony with his movies lately and this one is no better.

Armi Hammer would have been great as John Reid, if he wasn’t playing the bumbling idiot.  There were times near the end that felt like The Lone Ranger should, only if they kept the whole movie with that feeling.  I do like Hammer’s acting ability but outside of The Social Network, he seems to be typecast of the bumbling fool.  This is not how The Lone Ranger is and shouldn’t have been portrayed that way.  I have a feeling there will be sequels, and if they are I hope they put a more seriousness, adventure to it and lessen the comedic side of things.

Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack…or sorry I mean Tonto.  Tonto you could say is Jack Sparrow toned down.  He does a good job though as The Lone Ranger’s partner and is rather comical at times.  It seems though as of late, Depp only seems to be channeling Sparrow, which is sad in a way, because he has been an open slate actor, one who seemed to be able to play anyone.  Now it’s just the same ol, same ol.

The pacing of the film is all over the place.  The editing is so up and down that the movie almost becomes a chore to watch.  It is a long one too, clocking in at two and a half hours.  It actually feels though longer than that.  The film at times seems to have an identity crisis, not really knowing what type of movie it should be.  Nothing is ever consistent in it.

The ending battle sequence seems to go on and on and who’s idea was it play The William Tell Overture on a loop throughout the entire ending battle scene.  Yes it’s The Lone Ranger’s theme, but man, what feels like 20 minutes of music, that doesn’t even go along with the scenes just was too much to handle.  The music felt shoehorned in at the end, almost as if to say, ‘gee I think we forgot to fully use the overture’.  A funny way to put it in, a tip of the hat so to speak, would have been to have the band start up theme before they come crashing down.  A missed opportunity I think.

Overall I can not recommend this movie at all.  If you desperately want to see it, wait for a second run theatre or Netflix it when it gets up on there.  This movie was a horrible mess, and it was one of the summer blockbusters I was looking forward to.

I give this movie 1.5 stars out of 5.  Only because Depp was fun to watch as Tonto, even if the comedic scenes went on for way too long at times.  The Lone Ranger should have been a serious, romantic adventure, not a road trip comedy with some action filler.  ‘Till next time my friends.

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REVIEW – AFTER EARTH

AFTER EARTH POSTER

0 out of 5.0

I don’t what it is that gravitates me to go to the latest M. Night Shyamalan but I always end up in the dimly lit room watching what unfolds on that gigantic white screen.  I loved Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and even saw promise with Lady in the Water.  Since then it has just been a downward spiral.  With his latest incarnation, After Earth, could this be his comeback.  One word will describe that…NO.

The story behind After Earth is that from disasters, to wars, Earth has become uninhabitable and people now live on Nova Prime.  This is not a story of the destruction of Earth, but the bonding between a father and his son after they crash land on the planet and must work together to light the beacon which will bring in the rescue party to save them.

This should be a touching sci-fi, which is something we haven’t seen in some time and don’t get me wrong the story as promise but what brings it down is the execution of the sum of all parts.

Will Smith stars as Cypher Raige, the hero of the war, he has the ability to ghost in battle meaning that by controlling his fear, he almost becomes invisible to the enemy giving him the upper hand in battle.  Cypher is as stern as they come and definitely is a military man first and a father second.  It’s a different role for Will Smith.  Smith plays it very close to the chest and turns off his natural charisma which he is know for in his roles.  This, along with the direction makes him come off very wooden in this approach and almost seems robotic at times with his dialogue delivery.  I normally like Smith in his various roles, even dating back to Fresh Prince and we seen him in very dramatic roles before, Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds, and was tremendous in those. But in After Earth his performance just wasn’t compelling enough to make you care for his character.  Yes you can see he loves his son and his family but there was just no emotion to be seen and almost makes the character Cypher Raige seem heartless and cold.

Smith’s real life son Jaden Smith plays his son Kitai Raige, an up and coming military boy who did not make the rank of Rangers this season.  He wants to feel like he fits in with his father and was hoping to make him proud that he be a Ranger like his dad, but has the hardship of letting him know he didn’t make it.  Jaden really is the one who needs to carry this movie through out almost the entire running time.  This is can be a difficult task for someone with little experience and is one of the downfalls of the picture.

Was he good?  There were points in the film that showed Jaden may have the talent if he works on it.  Most of the time he just falls flat and again comes off wooden and stiff during deliveries that should be echoing a sense of emotion and power behind them.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot also falls on the directing and terrible screenplay, and at times it felt as if George Lucas himself wrote and directed this.

Kitai is a character that is battling emotion of a boy who really doesn’t want to be military but wants to do well and succeed to get the approval he is looking for from his father.  Kitai is somewhat of a lost soul and Jaden just doesn’t have the chops yet to fully convey this to the audience.

M. Night Shyamalan directed After Earth and was one of the writers of the screenplay.  Shyamalan does try to do right in the movie business but just can’t seem to make it work.  Some call him a flash in the pan director and film maker and maybe he is, but some think one day he will come back to form.  After Earth isn’t it.  He was brought on to direct the movie through and idea Will Smith came up with about the story.  Will had a big scope of what this story could be, and don’t get me wrong it is a good story, a very good story, but poor directing and writing crumble what could have been something big.

One of the problems with his directing in After Earth is holding onto shots.  There are many strings of shots that are just held onto for seconds too long and it makes you want the pacing to quicken a little.  This ends up hurting the high end action sequences which should be pulse racing, heart  thumping big scenes, but instead these fall flat because of the very slow pacing that leads up to them.

By the time these action sequences hit you are so tired out from the pacing that these scenes just don’t have the bang needed to carry you through to the next long, dragged out sequence.  Also to note that some of these action scenes are short and seem to be over before they start, another hitch to the pacing of the movie.  It seems that Shyamalan fault with his films isn’t necessarily with his ability to tell a story but his ability to properly pace one out on screen and put emotion and heart into what we are watching.  Maybe his next movie should be a smaller budget film with smaller scope to get his creative juices flowing again.

The effects in the movie are a mixed bag.  Some things look brilliant, like the giant bird creature and the monkies.  Other things like the dead pilots in the trees looked terrible and very CG.  It’s too bad because the cinematography was well done for the most part giving us a very different looking Earth but most scenes end up falling flat because of poor CG that takes you out of the moment.  One of the tricks of CG is to add to the experience of being transported to a place that doesn’t exist or to add to the environment you are witnessing.  When it pulls you out of that moment it’s not utilized properly and there are many cases where the CG looked deliberate and fake.

Can I wholeheartedly recommend this movie?  No.  This is a movie best not to waste money to see.  Should you wait until it’s out to rent?  If you have Netflix and really want to see this movie, wait until then, no need to throw away money on another Shyamalan failure.

I think this may be a first in my reviews but I am giving this movie 0 stars out of 5.  After running it over and over in my mind I couldn’t find anything at all redeeming about it and giving it at least 1 start would have meant I liked something about it.  Maybe I did, but not enough to warrant that.  ‘Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – THE LORDS OF SALEM

Image

1.0 out of 5.0

I’ve seen many horror films come and go through my years of watching them and over the last almost 10 years I have come to like the movies of one Rob Zombie.  In case if you don’t know who Rob Zombie is, he is the front man of the group White Zombie and now is a celebrated film maker in the horror/shock genre.

His films include two Halloween remakes, Devil Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses.  All of those I have come to like over the years, his best I think being The Devil Rejects.  We now have his latest foray into the mix, The Lords of Salem.  I won’t mince words about this one.  It sucked.  Probably one of the worst I’ve seen in a while.  This has been flagged as Zombie’s swan song as he will not be doing horror anymore, to most fans, because of this film is a good thing.

Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob Zombie’s wife, who appears in all of his films, stars as Heidi Hawthorne, a radio DJ who is enjoying life and having a successful career on the radio.  A record is left for her at the station one night from a group called The Lords.  She takes it home and gives it a listen and decides to make it part of their radio show Smash or Trash.

The content on the record is played for all over the air waves as to be sending out a calling.  The main focus of the movie is about the Witches of Salem and about what happened to them during the Salem Witch Trials of the late 1600’s.  The music on the records seems to be calling these spirits back to the land of the living to bring the devil into the world through Heidi.

The cast I do have to say is good through out the movie.  The acting is believable and we see from great performances from Bruce Davison and Sheri Moon Zombie.  Horror fans will be happy to see Dee Wallace in there as well.  Jeffrey Daniel Phillips as Whitey, Heidi’s friend and co-worker at the station does a great job as the concerned friend as Heidi’s life starts to spiral out of control.

Director Rob Zombie decided to slow things down and shoot this as a relatively straight picture, meaning that there isn’t any high octane action scenes, no fast cut editing, slow methodical camera movements.  At the beginning this starts to work, though as the movie progresses it becomes a tired mess and makes the hour and a half movie seem to drag on and on.  Not a lot really happens in the movie until the last 20 or so minutes and then you are bombarded with very bizarre images and scenes, a lot of which don’t really make any sense.  I think the movie could have been good if he stuck to his normal style which worked for him, this movie however just falls flat.

Don’t get me wrong Zombie does have a wonderful eye for shot composition and camera work, but the sluggish pace of Salem just makes it feel like a chore to get to the end of the movie, which really doesn’t have a big pay off for all the tension this slow burn of a film is trying to build to.  A lot of the  mystery of the story can be easily solved while watching it and the twists that should have been big are easily seen coming a mile a way.

This was a movie I was anxiously awaiting to see and was thoroughly disappointed when it finally arrived.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I can not recommend this movie, but ultimately you the movie goer are the ultimate judge of what you like or dislike.  If it is a movie you have been waiting or dying to see then give it a whirl.  It is a movie that started out to have so much potential but falls flat quickly.

Overall I give this movie 1 star out of 5.  I would have given it a 0 but the acting was decent enough to warrant 1 star.  Every director makes a bad movie here and there, it’s just sad that this director’s worst film comes in the genre he is best known for.  ‘Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – NIGHT IN THE WOODS

Night In The Woods Poster

2.5 out of 5

I have been hearing some good buzz about this movie, since it is from the makers of  “Bronson” and “Monsters”, two movies that I absolutely loved, but after watching the movie I was left with a disappointing feeling.

This movie is another found footage horror film.  This time we have a couple and the girlfriend’s cousin exploring the Dartmoor’s Wistman’s Woods.  Legend tells of a mysterious figure who steals witches and hangs them from a tree in the woods.  Brody, the boyfriend starts to get a jealous feeling seeing how his girlfriend Kerry is acting around her cousin Leo.  Once in the woods and camp is set, night befalls the group sending them, and the viewer into a night full of terror.

The beginning of the movie has a note stating this was the footage that was found from this camping trip and was edited together to tell the groups story.  What starts off as a good tale eventually turns into a boring mess with a few scares near the end.  Like most feature length found footage film, there is so much footage used that really could have been either omitted or trimmed down to save time and tighten the movie better.  I thought there were many scenes that either went no where or just dragged the movie down and didn’t let it become the movie it was trying to be.  One thing the movie has going for it is the acting.  The performances are strong pretty much through out the movie, especially with the female lead.

Directed by Richard Parry who is mainly know for documentaries brings to life these characters and shows that he knows how to shoot stunning landscapes and is able to convey a realism with what is being showed on screen.  The film gives us a sense that this could very well be actual found footage of a band of explorers who got lost in these woods and were never heard from again.  Though there is one scene that really bothered me and that was when Kerry was all by herself and looking around for Leo and Brody.  There is a camera following her and shooting footage but we never know who that was.  It wasn’t Brody or Leo because at that time they were lost in the woods.  I thought that may add a little confusion near the end of the movie.

What Richard needed to work on was the pacing.  It started out good with the pacing, keeping things moving a long nicely at a good clip but once we get into the woods I felt that the pacing slowed to a point where the viewer is left waiting and waiting for something to happen.  This worked a little bit to the movies advantage when the scares came because it allows the viewer to let their guard down and then POW something happens and freaks you out.  The problem with that is that it takes a long while before anything like that happens.

Scoot McNairy, who was in “Monsters” and the upcoming “Argo” plays Brody, the boyfriend who loves to capture everything on camera.  McNairy gives a great performance of the nice guy who becomes obsessed with capturing everything on film and later on turns to the creepy side of life.  I really liked McNairy in “Monsters” and enjoyed seeing him in this film.  There is something honest in his acting on screen and this helps gives a genuine feeling to the characters he plays.  I can’t wait to see him in “Argo” as I’m sure he will give a spot on performance in that as well.

Anna Skellern from the TV series “Outnumbered” and “The Decent 2” plays Brody’s girlfriend Kerry.  Anna gives a very emotional performance especially near the end of the movie.  Anna’s character Kerry has a secret that she has bee keeping from Brody and it has to do with Leo.  Anna also gives a very honest performance and gives Kerry the realism needed to make the character and what is going on with the character believable.  Another strong performance from a great cast.

Andrew Hawley, recently seen in “Snow White and the Huntsman” plays Leo, the catalyst to what starts to happen between Brody and Kerry.  Andrew also brings the realism needed to make this character believable on screen and gives an honest performance.  The whole cast gives us their all and it really shows on screen and is definitely the movies strongest point.

This isn’t the worst found footage movie out there but it also doesn’t rank up there with the best of them.  It’s just below middle of the road for me and that really has to do with how the last act of the movie was handled.  The beginning really sets up something big and works well, but the last part just fell apart and I think really brought down the movie.  Yes I have to admit there were a few scares during the end but the question that remains is ‘will the viewer be able to stay with the movie long enough to get there?’  I really wanted to like this movie and like it a lot but I just walked away feeling more disappointment that enjoyment.

I give this movie 2.5 stars out of 5.  The strong acting and the decent directing keeps this movie afloat but not by much.  If you have a chance to see it and found footage is your thing then give it a shot, you might like.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – RESIDENT EVIL RETRIBUTION

Resident Evil Retribution Poster

1.5 Out of 5

Another year another “Resident Evil” movie.  Not just another RE movie but another RE 3D movie.  I’m a huge fan of the game series, even though the series has been declining over the years, I always found the movies to be at the least a little fun and something that one can watch and escape while seeing the world get devoured by virus infected people.  The latest incarnation should have at least done that and not put me to sleep.

If you haven’t seen any of the previous films there is a nice little opening where the main character Alice tells you step by step what has been happening and how we ended up where we are now.  I thought that was a nice touch, and is good for the people that didn’t waste there time sitting through the last 4 movies.  Then I started to wonder, if you haven’t seen any of these movies before why start with number 5.  My wife has seen 1 of them and it was good for a laugh.

This time Alice is still trying to bring down Umbrella corporation as well as trying to find out why all the people she knew before that have died are coming back.  She soon learns what is going on and needs to enlist their help in stopping Umbrella before the world is totally dominated.  That is pretty much the short and the long of it because story wise it’s pretty much just running and shooting, and running and shooting.  Oh did I mention about the running and shooting.  The movie had a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes and it seemed to go on forever.  It got to the point where I just didn’t care anymore and wanted to get out and get something to eat.  Story aside for a moment let’s jump to the acting.

I can usually forgive the acting a little in movies like this because it’s not supposed to be Shakespeare, but come on, at least give it some effort.  The acting in Retribution is horrendous and very laughable at best.  I do have to say though, it’s not all the actors and actresses fault, a lot of the fault lies in the script…or lack thereof.  The dialogue feels like it was written but an elementary school’s English class.  I’m sure an infinite number of monkies with a typewriter could have turned out a better screenplay than Paul W.S. Anderson did.  The whole thing was just atrocious, and this is coming from someone who at one time found the series fun and went into this one with such low expectation that I thought I was going to walk away thinking that was at least better than I was expecting.  No, definitely not this time.

This brings me to Paul W.S. Anderson.  How does this guy still work in Hollywood.  I understand that the series is a bad film series but somehow the cash cow keeps mooing and the money keeps coming in.  Seriously enough is enough.  At least my wife and I used movie passes and didn’t have to pay to see it.  Take that Mr. Anderson you didn’t get our money this time.  On a serious note, this guy tries to be all style and no substance.  He does seem to have some good ideas but just can’t properly execute them.  One word of advice Mr. Anderson, now I’m starting to sound like the Matrix, work on your story, flesh it out better.  I think that is one of the BIG problems is that the story is not fleshed out at all and everyone just runs around willy nilly and shoots at anything that moves.  Stylized violence in this movie is so over the top it becomes very boring.  Something that should have been a fun scary action movie did nothing more but bore me into an early sleep.

His wife Mila Jovovich is back as Alice.  She is great in action scenes in this and makes the fights frantic and believable but the dialogue she has to say, as sparse as it is has to be some of the worst I have heard in a long while.  I really like Mila and I thought one of her best roles was as Joan of Arc and I wish she would go back to doing movies like those that show off her acting talents.  I was hoping that this would have been the last one for her but the way it ends I’m pretty sure it’s not.

All of the other actors and actresses did either mediocre to lousy jobs as their respected characters.  I won’t bother going into detail, they were just that bad.

The effects were decent and fit well into the movie.  Nothing seemed too green screened or digital until the very end of the picture.  I do have to say the final shot in the movie is epic and if the last movie is made properly could become epic in content.  Though if Paul W.S.Anderson has his way it probably won’t.

The music is another thing that bothered me about the movie.  I felt it was always in your ear, booming through the speakers.  Come on guys, know how to level a soundtrack.  Seriously it was always there and became very distracting in scenes.

Overall I give this movie a 1.5 out of 5 because one early action sequence really caught my eye and the effects weren’t half bad in this.  Other than that stay away from this one until it comes to one of the streaming services out there or Redbox.  This won’t be worth the price of admission.  If you have free movie passes like we did, I urge you to save them….seriously.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2

Grave Encounters 2 Poster

2.5 Out of 5

The first “Grave Encounters” movie was okay.  It wasn’t great but was a decent watch.  We now have a sequel to the original expertly entitled “Grave Encounters 2”.  The story behind this movie is that a budding film student becomes engrossed with the first movie that he thinks everything was real and starts to make a documentary about  how the makers of “Grave Encounters” are covering up what really happened to the actors and the people associated with the first movie.

It is a unique way to approach the sequel to the movie and in some ways works to it’s advantage.  The acting for the main character Alex Wright(Richard Harmon) is strong and works well as we see this fun loving college film student start to spiral down a dark path while making this documentary.  He has become totally obsessed with the first movie and nothing will stop him to get the story of what he thinks really happened out there.

The movie starts out with video clips of fans of the movie telling the audience what they thought of the first one, of course they are staged quips from these people and was a little strange to open the movie with but it kind of sets the tone of the movie.  We are then bombarded with quick cuts and short clips of the film students partying it up and their off and on again working on a student horror film.  This worked to a point until it became a little tiring waiting for to back to the asylum.  During this time Alex gets messages from a strange message board poster to meet them at the asylum in Canada and the reality of the situation will be given to the film student and he will have the proof he needs to give to the public the real story of what happened that fateful night.

This is where I think the movie kind of works and fails at the same time.  It was cool and fun for the first bit to see this footage but also I felt it dragged the movie down in pacing.  They could have cut out a lot of the partying scenes and get a quicker to the meat of the story, the haunted asylum, that’s why the audience is watching, to see scary things happen.  They do happen, just not quick enough for the style of movie..found footage.  I think this is the failing point of most found footage movie is the pacing and all the fluff footage that gets thrown in.  If the writers and directors could keep the movie quick, concise and to the point it would make for a better experience.

The acting overall is a mixed bag.  Richard Harmon was the strongest of the group while Dylan Playfair was the weakest, mostly because of his over acting.  I found Dylan’s character Trevor, best friend to Alex, was a tad on the annoying side and brought the movie down a bit as well. Stephanie Bennett did a good job as Tess, Alex’s girlfriend and star of Alex’s movie.  The rest of the cast overall were okay, just nothing too memorable.  This time around acting was not the stronger suit.

The Vicious Brothers were back again as writers and did a decent job with the script though the dialogue at times was corny.  What they need to work on is pacing of the story.  It was a unique try on the found footage genre with the sequel that worked in some places and flopped in others.  They added in some nice scares through out the asylum scenes but like the first one there was too much fluff between waiting.

The ending worked to a degree though the acting at times with the ending character who shows up was laughable at times, and for the frame of mind of this character you shouldn’t be laughing at things they were saying.  I won’t go into details of who this character is but fans of the first movie should be able to recognize them.

Overall it wasn’t bad movie but I felt it didn’t live up to the first one.  A unique take on the genre with subpar story telling and a mixed bag of acting thrown together with a few good scares will only work I think for people who have seen and liked the first movie.  If this was the only scary movie you had the choice to watch come this Halloween then your night won’t be totally wasted.

I give this movie 2.5 stars out of 5.  It’s not great but what keeps it a float are the couple good scares and the good performance from Richard Harmon keep this from totally bombing.  I recommend this one only if there isn’t anything scary out there you haven’t seen or if you want to see where they go with this sequel.  Till next time my friends.