Tag Archives: helena bonham carter

The Lone Ranger (2013)

the lone ranger

Watching the trailers for this film, I was completely uninterested. While I enjoyed Armie Hammer in the 2010 film The Social Network, I had no desire to see more of Johnny Depp strutting around playing a quirky character again. I have no previous experience with these characters (aside from being familiar with “Hi-ho, Silver, away!” and Rossini’s William Tell Overture), so there was no sense of nostalgia to spark my interest, so I very nearly didn’t see this film. However, I did, and, although The Lone Ranger wasn’t spectacular, it was better than I had anticipated.

Here is Disney’s official synopsis of the film:

“Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice-taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.”

They make it sound a heck of a lot simpler than it is actually presented in the film. The film uses a framing device to set up the story as a flashback; we first meet Tonto in 1933 when a young boy named Will (Mason Cook) meets the ancient warrior at a fair in San Francisco before taking us back with his story, which takes place in Texas in 1869. The framing device does nothing for the film aside from give Depp the opportunity to play the elderly Tonto for the amusement of the audience (which, I’ll admit, did make me chuckle once or twice) and to say “never take off the mask” a couple more times than necessary. Aside from the framing device, the plot is overly convoluted and filled with plenty of “unnecessaries”: a weird love triangle between John Reid, his brother Dan (James Badge Dale), and Dan’s wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), a backstory for Tonto that never really pays off, and Helena Bonham Carter’s useless role, Red Harrington, who, as a brothel madam outfitted with a gun disguised as a prosthetic leg, is appropriately eccentric for the actress.

I did like the film, though, and was particularly surprised by how much I enjoyed Depp’s Tonto. Though the strangeness of the character is familiar and typical of Depp, it doesn’t feel like a copy of anything he’s done before, so I enjoyed the freshness of what I brought to the role. Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger was lots of fun, with the naivety of his character and his interactions with Tonto bringing plenty of laughs. William Fichtner as the main villain, Butch Cavendish, is appropriately menacing, with his face alone making you grimace. The overall color of the film was what could best be described as “muted,” giving it a western feel reminiscent of older, more traditional westerns.

The action of the film was particularly well-done for the most part, with the ending train sequence standing out as the absolute best part of the film; I LOVED the train chase/fight/shenanigans. It was fast-paced, it resolved the conflict with the villain quite well, and, most importantly, it was lots of fun, especially with the original theme song for the character, the finale to Rossini’s William Tell Overture, interjected into composer Hans Zimmer’s score. Speaking of Zimmer, he’s done it again with his score to this film. It’s not as fantastic as his recent score to Man of Steel (my review), but it’s still pretty great, despite a couple of moments that sound like bits of his scores to Sherlock Holmes or Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (my review).

There is one moment at the end of the film, after the story is done and over with, when the Lone Ranger (finally) says the character’s long-time catchphrase, “Hi-ho, Silver, away!,” in homage to the original serials and radio programs that made him famous. However, Tonto immediately responds with an incredulous look, saying, “Never do that again!,” which was done perfectly. I agree that films like this need to acknowledge previous iterations of the character, but this film did it in a way that was non-intrusive to the film as a whole and in a way that says, “okay, we did it, there you go, now let’s make this our own.” Very well-done and quite amusing, too.

Maybe I didn’t enjoy this film as much because of my lack of familiarity with the character, but, even if that’s part of it, the film’s confusing plot problems, unnecessary elements, and lack of a compelling story are difficult to forgive. Yes, it’s certainly more enjoyable than Disney’s awful trailers made it look, and Hammer and Depp both bring admirable performances to the table, but The Lone Ranger is still an overall forgettable summer blockbuster.

-Chad

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material


Les Misérables (2012)

I enjoy musicals. I have attended several performances of various musicals, and I have also participated in several musicals. That being said, Les Misérables is not a musical that I was familiar with at all aside from the iconic “I Dreamed a Dream” (thank you, Susan Boyle). With all of the positive hype that the movie version was getting, I was prepared to dislike it…not that I wanted to or expected to, but I just embraced the possibility of really not enjoying this film. Thankfully, just the opposite occurred…Les Misérables is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen.

Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 French novel, this film tells the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man who just finished serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to provide for his sister and her children. Upon release, the homeless ex-convict seeks shelter at a local church, where he is taken care of by the bishop (played by Colm Wilkinson, the originator of the role of Jean Valjean in the original Broadway production). Despite the bishop’s kindness, Valjean steals silver with the intent of selling it for money, but he’s caught and returned to the church. The bishop, however, tells the authorities that the silver was a gift, even giving Valjean more than he initially stole. It is this act of kindness that turns Valjean’s life around. The rest of the film follows him as he avoids his past and strives to live an honest life and to help others. This is the basis of the story, but there is much more that I’ll leave to you to discover when you watch the film for yourself.

Though Valjean is the main character and Hugh Jackman does a brilliant job with the role, there are other characters of note: Anne Hathaway as Fantine, a woman who struggles to provide for her child, gives an incredible performance and sings a beautiful rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” that will leave you in tears. I was also impressed with Samantha Barks as Éponine, the daughter of two mischievous inn owners (played amusingly by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), who managed to pull at my heartstrings from the very first moment she appeared on screen. Also worth mentioning are Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.

The film as a whole is simultaneously gorgeous and grungy; it switches back and forth between the two when appropriate. The period setting of the film is well-done and quite believable. The most fantastic part of this film, though, is the live singing. In case you weren’t aware, the actors in this film did all of the singing that you hear in the film live on-set…the first film to ever do so, and it’s amazing. As a performer myself, I can attest to the fact that a live performance of a song carries much more raw emotion and feeling than a recording ever could, and it certainly shows in this film. We see everything from the anguish felt by Fantine as she struggles to understand why her life has become so miserable, to the despair that Valjean feels as he considers the possibility of losing Cosette to someone else, to the conflict felt by Javert as he struggles to justify the difference between his morals and his civil responsibility (though, I’ll admit, Crowe’s singing leaves much to be desired). If this film hadn’t been recorded in this way, not even half of the emotion would have been present because only so much can be expressed when lip-syncing.

It was the combination of the emotional live singing and the themes of forgiveness, the love of God, the love of others, and social injustice that made this film so powerful. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film, despite the fact that it was getting rave reviews from most of my friends, but I walked away extremely satisfied…this may just be my favorite musical film of all time. The direction is fantastic, the acting is spot-on, the cinematography is beautiful, and (most of) the singing is top-notch. Les Misérables has set a new standard for the musical film.

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements


The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech is another of those films that I never saw in theaters, which I regret because of how much I enjoyed it.

Featuring an all-star cast, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter in the lead roles, The King’s Speech succeeds in its simplicity. The film’s score by Alexandre Desplat is light and simple, there are no explosions or CGI special effects, or any action scenes/car chases, but it still manages to be completely enthralling. Colin Firth’s performance as the stuttering King George VI is what makes the film so fantastic, but it’s not just his flawlessly consistent stutter that makes him so good; it’s everything outside of the stutter that he brings to the table that makes his performance so memorable. We see the common human troubles that this monarch fights with, from everything to bullying, food deprivation, to disappointment from his father, but Firth doesn’t just tell us all of these things – we’re able to see it in how he moves, how he behaves, and how he talks.

Though Firth is the one who carries the movie, Rush as Lionel Logue is great as well, but, then again, when isn’t Geoffrey Rush great? Through his performance, we see a man who believes in other people’s potential to the fullest, and in Carter’s performance as George VI’s husband we see one hundred percent emotional support, but, again, these aren’t things that we have to be told to understand – all of this is clearly displayed in the way the actors present their characters. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s obvious when you watch the movie yourself.

A movie definitely worthy of its Academy Award for Best Picture, The King’s Speech is more than I expected from a subject matter that seems bland at first glance (and, to be honest, it is), with Colin Firth’s outstanding performance carries the film above and beyond what it might have been without him. It’s fun at times, it’s incredibly dramatic at times, and there are even moments that could break your heart, but it never stops being entertaining and a pleasure to watch.

Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for some language

Note – This movie is rated “R” for language by the MPAA, but it is a ridiculous rating. The only bad language found in this film is limited to two separate scenes in which it is used quite extensively but in a completely non-offensive way. Feel free to be your own judge, but I say that this is a film perfectly suitable for teenagers.

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, here!