Tag Archives: 3 stars

Quickie: The Lone Ranger

the-lone-ranger-posterNative American Tonto (Johnny Depp) stumbles upon outlaw John Reid (Armie Hammer) at Death’s door and together they try to track down the villainous fugitive Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and bring him to justice.

When Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp gave us Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003, it was a lot of fun but deteriorated in quality with each subsequent sequel. Verbinski and Depp have teamed up again for this big screen adaptation of the much-loved TV show and are clearly hoping a familiar formula will be enough to draw in the crowds.

See, Johnny Depp’s Tonto is essentially Captain Jack Sparrow of the Wild West, which does give the film a slightly too familiar feel to it. Having said that. Depp’s performance is brilliant and probably the best thing about the film, which itself is fun but bloated and drawn out. Armie Hammer also never seems comfortable in the titular role, often playing second fiddle to his Native American partner.

We’re treated to impressive action sequences at the beginning and end of the film, but these bookend a rather dull middle section that tries to add more depth to the story, only to succeed in losing any focus it had. It’s difficult to see where The Lone Ranger will find its target audience – too long for most children (and probably most others) but too silly for many adults.

For all its foibles, The Lone Ranger isn’t a complete write off, despite what many critics have said. There is some fun to be had in the set pieces and Depp’s Tonto should raise a few giggles, even if the inconsistent pacing and bloated run time stop it being any more than your average summer blockbuster.

3 pigeons

3/5 pigeons

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Quickie: Now You See Me

A group of four magicians known as The Four Horsemen (Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco) are enlisted by a mysterious fifth party to undertake a serious of impressive, and illegal, illusions that begin attracting the attention of the authorities, and in particular FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo).

Now You See Me starts off on the right foot. We’re treated to a bit of close-up magic that actually involves the audience, immediately inviting us to buy into what’s on screen. Even up until about half way in, we’re still in a world of mystery and illusion. However, it all suddenly starts to fall away. Gone are any trace of nuance or intricacy and in comes a paint-by-numbers action film complete with car chases, fight scenes and a ridiculously unnecessary romance.

Most of the cast do reasonably well with what they’re given, but none are particularly stand out. Woody Harrelson probably provides the most personality of the four leads, with Dave Franco and Isla Fisher being really rather nondescript. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are also fleetingly entertaining but never do more than hover around the periphery.

Jesse Eisenberg’s character comments at one point that with magic “the more you look, the less you see”, and the same could be said of Now You See Me. Look too closely and the whole thing starts to unravel – some rather sizeable plot holes and laughable exposition prevents you from ever fully engaging with the film. However, there is some fun to be had. Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige this most definitely isn’t, but take it at face value and the various twists, turns and red herrings should provide just enough to provide some popcorn entertainment.

3 pigeons3/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Oblivion

oblivion

The year is 2077 and Earth has been attacked by aliens known as Scavs who have blown up the Moon. In retaliation, world leaders decided to release nuclear weapons, defeating the Scavs but effectively destroying much of the planet. Humans have since left for a giant space station known as the Tet and the Saturn moon of Titan, although Technicians remain to oversee mining of the Earth’s remaining resources. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one such Technician, living with his communications officer and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). However, when Jack is captured by the Scavs, everything he thought he knew is turned upside down.

The scale of Oblivion is vast, and despite an apocalyptic setting, much of the film doesn’t feel beyond the realms of possibility. The scenes based on Earth, which is most of the film, feel real enough to buy into the story, creating a setting that feels alien but at the same time familiar. This is helped by the film’s unbelievable visual effects. There are few individual instances that stand out but the whole minimalist aesthetic is just impeccably realised.

Oblivion is most certainly not short of ambition, but ambition isn’t enough; it needs to be backed up with substance, which is perhaps it’s biggest failing. A handful of scenes have no importance whatsoever (see scene in the swimming pool for an example) and the motivations of the characters are seemingly non-existent. The film’s set pieces, big reveals and final climax feel just a little hollow and don’t hit home as perhaps they should.

The characters and their relationships are also paper-thin, particularly Olga Kurylenko’s Julia, a survivor from a crashed spaceship somehow linked to Jack’s past. Andrea Riseborough does an admirable job with what she’s given, whilst Cruise, well, he just plays Tom Cruise. Morgan Freeman’s role here is also entertaining enough but his very limited screen time gives little room to work in. It could be argued that there’s a narrative reason these characters and relationships don’t feel fully developed, but it only really succeeds at keeping you at arm’s length rather than pulling you in.

Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) has stated that Oblivion pays homage to the science fiction films of the 1970s, but it’s evident that inspiration has come from films spanning more than just the one decade. You don’t have to look too closely to see nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Planet of the Apes, Alien, Star Wars, and various others. Some are so blatantly referenced that it’s difficult to know where to draw the line between homage and a simple dearth of originality. However, that’s not to say Oblivion doesn’t have at least some identity of its own. Its setting feels unique enough to work well, even if some of the aspects within it do not.

Oblivion feels like somewhat of a missed opportunity; there was the potential here to create something dark and mysterious rather than something that feels slightly ‘Disneyfied’. However, it’s a little unfair to judge it on what it could have been rather than what it is, which is a solid sci-fi film that doesn’t have anything that truly spoils it, but equally nothing that truly makes it stand out. It could easily have been a great, memorable sci-fi adventure. Conversely, it could just as easily have been just a generic vehicle for Cruise. As it stands, Oblivion sits somewhere in between.

3 pigeons

3/5 pigeons

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Quickie: Friends With Benefits

Friends with BenefitsWhen Dylan (Justin Timberlake) moves to New York for a big job, he and his new best friend Jamie (Mila Kunis) attempt to have a purely sexual relationship without any emotional involvement whatsoever. Can they manage it?

Everyone already knows the answer to this question whether they’ve seen the film or not, which is its biggest downfall. Whilst the horrendous amount of product placement is annoying enough, it’s nowhere near as annoying as the fact that Friends With Benefits very nearly managed to escape from the clutches of the middle of the road rom-com that the characters themselves are so keen to avoid, but ultimately ends ups decaying into mediocrity.

There are some genuinely funny moments here and much of the dialogue is witty and delivered snappily by the two leads. There is also a sobering and interesting story arc with Dylan and his dementia-suffering father that probably warranted more screen-time. However, just when you think this could break the mould or even ignore the mould altogether, it delivers exactly what you expect it to with a dulling inevitability. It also ends up feeling like little more than a vehicle for Timberlake, as many an eye is sure to be rolled at him flexing his muscles (vocal and actual) on more than one occasion. Of course, Kunis also manages to forget her clothes occasionally too. All of this doesn’t mean that Friends With Benefits is a bad film, just one that could have been so much more.

3 pigeons

3/5 pigeons

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