The Shelf: THE LONE RANGER, KICK-ASS 2, ELYSIUM
By Kyle Anderson on December 17, 2013
It’s nearly present-giving time, and the Blu-ray companies don’t want you to forget about a whole slew of Summer movies in your holiday preparations. This week, it’s mainly movies that sort of came and went but might be worth a look on the ol’ home video market.
Before we get into any sort of movie-specific talk, I’m going to say that I love a good adventure movie. The more bombastic and physics-defying, the better. Gore Verbinski is really championing this kind of thing, and puts a whole lot of detail and attention into them, which is why films like Rango and at least the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies were so fun. Honestly, who gave a crap about swashbucklers before that movie? Certainly not the American populace, who probably hadn’t really taken to pirate movies since Errol Flynn swung around on conveniently-placed ropes.
Rango is nominally a cartoon about animals, but is actually a very spot-on salute to Westerns of both the John Ford school and the Sergio Leone one. It seemed sort of fitting, then, that Verbinski would take his eye for the grandiose and his clear love for horse opera to the live action film for an update of the classic serial The Lone Ranger. Again, who cared about the masked man and his Native American sidekick in this day and age? And for his part, Verbinski doesn’t skimp on the huge action sequences, the beautifully-shot vistas, and the raucous gunfire. The problem, however, is that the movie can’t decide on a tone, a main character, a mission statement, or, unfortunately, a message.
The film changes things up from the original in that it makes Tonto, the sidekick, the main character and also makes him much more capable of action than his counterpart. That Tonto is played by Johnny Depp is likely a big factor in making him the lead character. The titular “hero” is played by Armie Hammer, who certainly looks the part, and is actually quite good at the comedic scenes, but John Reid is a very milquetoast kind of guy who doesn’t want to fight, and even when he dons the mask that makes him famous, he’s whiny and pushover-y.
So, here’s the long and short of it: the movie is too long, it can’t decide what story it wants to tell, it can’t decide what kind of tone it should have (over-the-top comedy in some parts, machine-gunning of Native Americans in others), both of the leads are quirky to the point of absurdity, the Lone Ranger himself doesn’t do a whole lot, and the racial politics are highly questionable. That being said, it has a great villainous performance by William Fichtner, two very impressive action sequences involving a train, and it ends up being much more fun than you’d expect. Worth a watch for the “William Tell Overture” finale alone.
Director Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated debut, District 9, Elysium is another sci-fi riff on classism and poverty. Matt Damon plays a dying man on the poor Earth who gets the opportunity to live if he agrees to travel to the man-made adjacent world of Elysium, on which lives the wealthiest humans in absolute luxury. Jodie Foster plays one of the higher-ups on Elysium, and Sharlto Copley plays another bionic human who fights against Damon. The movie was released in August and didn’t have the best of box office returns, but does continue the trend of non-franchise sci-fi actioners that have been a staple of the year.
For Brian Walton’s interview with Sharlto Copley from San Diego Comic-Con, click here.
The sequel to 2010’s sleeper hit, Kick-Ass 2 follows the continuing adventures of the world’s luckiest superhero (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), as a group of new heroes throw their hats into the ring, played by Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, and others. Meanwhile, Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) tries to adjust to life away from killing people very effectively.
We have a whole slew of interviews from people involved in the making of Kick-Ass 2, including comic writer Mark Millar, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Faison, John Leguizamo, and Clark Duke, all of which you can find by clicking here.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – Another sequel to a movie I didn’t realize was popular enough to warrant a sequel in a world where everybody wants to be Harry Potter.
Prisoners – A father takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads in the disappearance of his daughter. Starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Named as one of the National Board of Review’s top 10 films of the year.
Predator 3D – The classic action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but for a 3D Blu-ray player, for some reason.
Crawlspace – Klaus Kinski creeps around the insides of an apartment building and leers at all his lady tenants in this horror movie. Check out my Schlock & Awe review of it. (SPOILER: There’s Nazi stuff in it, too.)
The Beast Within – High school letterman turns into a werewolf, but not to play basketball. Stiles is nowhere to be found.
Justified Season 4 – U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens doles out more punishment in the old west tradition. Patton Oswalt has a recurring role this season also.
Burn Notice Season 7 – The final season of USA’s hip domestic spy series.