The Summer of Meh

I love summer blockbuster season. I am marginally a film critic and I do enjoy good, prestige movies. I watch innumerable independent films as well but I love a big action movie and summer is the season for those. I had high hopes this year but it has not panned out very well.

Iron Man 3: The Disneyfication of Marvel. Forget Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, the Black Widow, and War Machine, let’s give Tony Stark a cute kid sidekick. Can we call him Short Round?

The Great Gatsby: A film adaptation of a book where the director honestly didn’t understand what the book was about.

Star Trek: Into Darkness: The plot is utter nonsense but this was a lot of fun just the same. I mean really just the same.

Fast & Furious 6: The World’s Longest Runway. I’m just saying.

Epic: Generic

After Earth: Hmm I already used Afterbirth for Asylum’s take on this film so maybe Crash & Burn. Sorry Will – people like you but are apparently not so keen on your forcing your son on us. Another nail in Shyamalan’s career.

Man of Steel: The Anti-Superman movie – way to Kryptonite the franchise yet many people enjoyed it and the sequel will feature a non-Bale Batman.

World War Z: IF you can forgive it for not having anything to do with the book (hope you enjoyed the payout Mr. Brooks) and don’t mind a PG-13 zombie movie, it was pretty intense and intelligent.

Monsters University

Monsters University: Fun but not the classic that Monsters, Inc was.

White House Down: White House Dumb, Olympus Has Fallen part Deux

The Lone Ranger: Actually Tonto – the movie would have been a lot shorter if Tonto had let him die.

Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2: Fun but not as good as the first PLUS I had to endure innumerable McDonald’s Happy Meals to get the toys for umm my granddaughter – yes my granddaughter wanted them.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim: Godzilla Meets Transformers but I still love monster movies. This could have been a lot better but was a bright spot this summer.

Red 2: More nonsense from folks who did not really understand what made the first one kind of, sort of, work. Still I love watching Helen Mirren kick butt.

R.I.P.D.: Men in Black 4, only supernatural instead of science fiction and poor CGI.

Turbo: Generic Cartoon 2: Electric Boogaloo

The Wolverine:X-Men 6 minus all the X-Men save two, and one of those is dead for the whole movie. The saving grace is the post-credits scene.

This was pretty much a summer with no new ideas. Of course the twelve-year-old boy inside of me enjoyed going to all of these movies even if the half-century old man knew most of them were duds.

The Long Ranger – Oh, the Humanity!

Thanks to purchasing Oz the Great and Powerful (Blu-Ray combo pack) for my daughter and granddaughter, I had a FREE ticket for The Lone Ranger.

One-line Review: Depp has lots of fun in The Tonto Show, movie just meh.

The Lone RangerThe Lone Ranger (2013) – Rated PG-13

Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.”

The Lone Ranger is such a shame.

My wife’s major complaint with the film is that Johnny Depp essentially plays the entire film in ‘redface’. There would certainly have been outrage if Johnny Depp had played a quirky African-American in blackface but apparently it is still okay for Caucasians to take leading roles as Native Americans away from actual Native Americans. My wife chose not to attend.

Admittedly this is a century old problem for Hollywood. Jeff Chandler (born Ira Gossell) practically made a career out of playing Cochise, assaying the role three times in four years (1950-4). 1962’s Geronimo cast Chuck Connors (aka The Rifleman) in the titular role. A decade later, Charles Bronson went native in Chato’s Land. Sitting Bull has been portrayed by actors as varied as African-American Noble Johnson (1926), J. Carrol Naish (1950, 1954), and Michael Pate (1965). Later films ‘solved’ the racism issue by casting a leading Caucasian as a white man among the Indians (“Little Big Man”, “Dances with Wolves”).

Leaving that aside, there are still more opportunities for outrage. The new movie is clearly an affront to anyone who values the old Clayton Moore series (1949-1957). I doubt anyone even remembers the Klinton Spilsbury outing (1981). In our latest outing, Armie Hammer plays John Reid aka The Lone Ranger as a cross between a gibbering idiot and a total git. Honestly, the film would only have been a half hour long except that every time someone else was going to be a hero, Reid stepped in and bungled everything. This skewering of a pop culture hero can be done as farce (a la The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu) but here it is just a given that Reid is absolutely hopeless (albeit with phenomenal luck).

If you aren’t outraged yet, how about releasing a big budget Disney film during the summer (with all the cachet and family members that brings) and finding out that the villain is not only sadistic but a cannibal as well. Butch Cavendish pulls out and eats the heart of a still living (okay, not for long) heroic sheriff. Some of this is offscreen to preserve the PG-13 rating but they show as much as they can and then you can hear more. If you still missed it, don’t worry they will explain it in detail later.

Still not outraged? The wholesale slaughter of Comanches is perpetrated but it is so insignificant as to be relegated to an almost missed sideplot save for a key dialogue exchange during a standoff. Not being a subtle movie, our dashing cavalryman Fuller is made up to look like George Armstrong Custer. Christianity takes a beating throughout the movie as well.

Okay, I give up. If I can’t outrage you, let me tell you that The Lone Ranger clocks in at an excruciating two hours and twenty-nine minutes. I love epics and some movies need over two hours to develop their plot and/or characters. The Lone Ranger could easily have chopped half an hour, probably an hour without losing much.

Having typed all of that, there is much to like about The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp’s performance is as wonderfully quirky as ever, though it will remind you of Jack Sparrow from time to time. It is to the film’s credit that it realizes that Depp is the star and the film should be titled Tonto. Helena Bonham Carter is her usual eccentric self but the role is rather a one-trick pony.

Sadly none of the other actors are given much to do. Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, and Barry Pepper are all very capable character actors but strangely don’t make much of an impression here. James Badge Dale is suitably scruffy and heroic but isn’t in much of the movie. Armie Hammer comes across as rather bland, when he isn’t being a prig.

There are elements of the unreliable narrator here that are very amusing. The outrageous stunts and setpieces are entertaining. The Lone Ranger borrows a lot from other better films, particularly Little Big Man, so if you haven’t seen the films Lone Ranger references, then you might think it quite imaginative. There is a particularly wonderful dialogue exchange during a standoff.

Mild spoiler ahead:

The climactic setpiece is cleverly set to the tune of the William Tell overture. Of course, because this is an overblown blockbuster, director Verbinski has to have Hans Zimmer add to the classic tune as well as recycle it. The climax just goes on forever.

Oh, and Verbinski, we get it – Indians trade.