Check out the latest movie reviews as seen in The Grizzly Detail Newspaper.
The Lone Ranger: A fun summer western
THREE AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE STARS
This movie is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material
The Pirates of the Caribbean films became so big that they took on a life of their own. Their brand of over the top action, great special effects, silliness, and Johnny Depp acting goofy carried the franchise to billions of dollars. The director of those films, Gore Verbinski, developed this distinct “Pirates” style of filmmaking, and as he re-teams with Depp he brings that same style to The Lone Ranger. That’s not saying that The Lone Ranger is as successful as the original Pirates, as it is lacking in a few departments, but it’s still an over the top action movie with great special effects, silliness, and plenty of Johnny Depp acting goofy.
Expectations are a funny thing when it comes to movies. Being too excited about a movie can cause it to fall short of what you thought it should be. Being barely excited about a movie can cause something lackluster to become enjoyable because it outperforms your expectations. It’s rare that a movie perfectly meets your expectations, but that’s exactly what The Lone Ranger did for me.
Here’s the thing, this is not a brilliant movie. Why anyone would think it might be is beyond me. It’s a slick, high budget take on an old concept. It’s got everything we’ve seen before, from death defying stunts, one liners, gun fights, and Johnny Depp wearing a weird costume and prancing around the screen. And as they usually are, these things are enough to make for an enjoyable two hours in the theater.
From an action standpoint, this is a fantastic film. There’s no shortage of gunfights, chases, brawls and narrow escapes as the film’s two main characters get in bad situation after bad situation in their pursuit of some good old-fashioned wild west justice.
Johnny Depp gets a lot of attention any time he’s in a movie, but for once he takes a backseat in The Lone Ranger. The man behind the mask in the film, Armie Hammer, is a relative unknown, but he does a fantastic job in this movie. Best known by most as the guy who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, Hammer looks and feels like a full fledged leading man as The Lone Ranger. He’s got the look, a great voice, and the acting chops to give a mindless summer blockbuster a little much needed depth.
That’s not to say that Depp isn’t good here, as he really is. I’m not much of a Johnny Depp fan, as he has a tendency to overact in his movies, but he’s refreshingly reserved as oddball Comanche Indian Tonto in this film. Depp is still responsible for most of the comedy, but he plays it quiet and doesn’t make every scene all about him. It helps that his character ends up having a fantastic back story that really draws you in and makes you care.
In the end, this is pretty much exactly what I wanted out of this movie. Gunfights, explosions, vengeance, trains, chases, and some humor tossed in for good measure. There are plenty of interesting characters, a ton of action sequences, and ultimately just a good time to be had. That’s all I need in a summer blockbuster.
White House Down:
The definition of a dumb blockbuster
ONE OUT OF FIVE STARS
This movie is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image
If you’re going to see a movie directed by Roland Emmerich, you usually know what you’re in for. He’s known for his ridiculous special effects scenes of destruction, from the White House blowing up in Independence Day to most of the world getting destroyed in 2012. I’m always up for a little brainless fun, but there’s a limit to how dumb a movie can be and still remain enjoyable. White House Down goes far beyond this limit. It’s filled with awful acting, indecipherable plots, bad special effects, and terrible action.
For about five minutes I had high hopes for this movie. Channing Tatum is a decent action star, Jamie Foxx has moments of brilliance, and with some all star supporting actors like James Woods and Maggie Gylennhaal, this looked like something that might be pretty good. Then the film got started, and all that went out the window.
It’s hard to pinpoint all the ways this movie fails. Let’s start with Emmerich’s calling card, amazing special effects. Even when his movies are lackluster (2012, The Day After Tomorrow), you’re always treated to some eye popping special effects. With that in mind, it’s baffling as to why the special effects are so terrible in White House Down. From early on you’re treated to fake looking helicopters, hokey explosions, and even painfully bad superimposed backgrounds where they’re absolutely not needed.
With the special effects failing, I thought that maybe there would be some great action. That hope was gone pretty quickly too. This is some of the most generic, weakest action I’ve seen in a film in some time. The punches land with little impact, the guns sound wimpy, and everything feels fake. It’s like Emmerich filmed the slow moving rehearsals and decided to leave them in the movie.
With special effects and action failing, the only hope the movie has is the acting and the story. To say the movie is horrible in these categories is an understatement. Every actor takes their role to melodramatic levels of overacting. It feels more like watching a soap opera than a Hollywood summer blockbuster.
Then there’s the super strange comedy, which is shoved in at the most awkward times. As the film tries so hard to present itself as serious, it takes constant breaks to add in really flat comedy. One liners, spoof characters, there’s goofiness shoved into every place where it shouldn’t be. All it adds is more unevenness to a terribly uneven movie. Toss in the unbelievable dumbness of the comic book style villains and their senseless plots and you’ve got a toxic mix.
I don’t have many nice things to say about White House Down. James Woods was pretty muscled up and looked to be in pretty great shape for a 66-year-old. That’s pretty much the only positive I have for this film. It’s just bad moviemaking on every level.
THREE OUT OF FIVE STARS
This movie is rated PG-13 for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language – all involving teens
It’s a little embarrassing to be a movie critic that’s scared of horror movies, but thus is my life. Lately I’ve been trying to get over some of my lifelong fears of horror movies and give them more of a chance, and so I checked out Dark Skies. This alien themed horror film was a nice surprise, as it slowly but surely ramps up the creepiness and tension en route to a pretty insane final act.
Let me start off with a warning. Enjoying this movie requires you to buy into the plot fully. I can easily see how some people will dismiss this movie as dumb, as it’s definitely an over the top scenario. However, if you can really let go and get into the plot, there’s a ton of super creepy moments that will keep your skin crawling.
The film revolves around a nice suburban family who finds themselves the unwilling recipients of strange occurrences. Things start out odd and slowly morph into all out insanity. There are a lot of similarities to the popular Paranormal Activity series of films, only replace the ghosts and evil spirits with aliens.
The acting is decent in Dark Skies, with Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton doing a good job as the parents of the family. Russell has always been a favorite actor of mine, and she’s definitely the star here. Still, the characters fall into a fair bit of that horror genre mentality that always gets ridiculed. Your house is being repeatedly broken into at night by supernatural forces, so of course you stay there and sleep there night after night. A noise is heard downstairs in the middle of the night, so of course you run towards it. Dark Skies definitely has its share of these eye rolling moments that make you want to yell at the screen.
One thing this film does have is creepiness, especially in the first half. I watched with a friend, and both of us were tense and nervous for a good fifty minutes as the movie got underway.
As horror movies almost always do, things fall apart a bit in the end. Why this genre of films has never learned how to do a proper ending is beyond me, but suffice to say that things go from creepy to all out nuts in the end of this one. Even so, if you can buy into the movie then this is a fun and creepy horror movie that is definitely worth renting.