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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 5, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 27
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Hot flashes - SGN's 2013 summer movie preview (pt. 2)
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

The second half of the Summer Movie silly season begins this week with the release of Disney's fantastically expensive The Lone Ranger and Universal's animated sequel Despicable Me 2, both studios hopeful that their respective flicks will inch them one step closer to box office dominance. But while these films are born from beloved properties and characters that are near and dear to many potential viewers' hearts, the truth of the matter is that both July and August are shockingly short on reboots, reimaginings, or sequels. For the most part, the studios actually are taking a little bit of risk, bringing a bunch of original projects to the screen during a time of year when originality and imagination are typically frowned upon.

Not that sequels have vanished completely. Not only is there the aforementioned Despicable Me 2, but Grown Ups 2, Red 2, The Wolverine, The Smurfs 2, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and Kick-Ass 2 are all set for release over the coming months. But there are quite a few risky propositions all the same, including Guillermo del Toro's monsters-vs.-robots epic Pacific Rim, Neill Blomkamp's dystopian sci-fi spectacular Elysium, Lee Daniels' ambitious, politically epic presidential drama The Butler, and Robert Luketic's star-studded corporate espionage thriller Paranoia.

On the indie and foreign front there are a number of titles worthy of keeping an eye on, including returning Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) favorites The Way, Way Back; Blackfish; Prince Avalanche; and Drinking Buddies. Also expected to make an appearance (but sadly still without a set date) is Short Term 12, the excellent, emotionally complex drama set inside a Los Angeles foster-care facility, writer/director Destin Cretton's debut one of the finest films I've seen in all of 2013.

The following is a list of films and events scheduled to hit the Seattle market during July and August. As usual, release dates are subject to change, so check with your local theater.

JULY 3
Despicable Me 2 - Solid sequel to the 2010 hit is basically more of the same, with the minions stealing the show. Some of the shtick is growing a little tired this time around, it must be said, and I wish Gru's trio of inventive and amusing foster daughters would have been given more to do. Still, family audiences should be satisfied, while younger viewers will walk out of the theatre giddily euphoric.

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain - Concert film featuring the titular comedian. Unscreened for press, barely advertised - I can only assume the worst.

The Lone Ranger - A disaster, plain and simple, Disney's expensive reimagining of the iconic Western character a muddled, unfocused mess that is a complete and utter tonal misfire right from the start. Just plain sad. (See review in this issue.)

JULY 5
A Hijacking - One of SIFF 2013's stronger offerings, this Danish drama of a tanker ship being taken over by Somali pirates is as shocking, thrilling, and devastating as they come. A must-see.

Unfinished Song - Terence Stamp as an aging widower who joins a choir to honor his dead wife's spirit and to grow closer to his estranged son. Poorly received in Toronto last September, the movie is getting a cursory release by The Weinstein Company before being shuffled off to the DVD dustbins.

JULY 12
Grown Ups 2 - Wait & was anyone actually asking for a sequel to the 2010 Adam Sandler/Kevin James/Chris Rock hit? Anyone at all? Yeah, didn't think so. That said, you're getting one all the same.

Hannah Arendt - Fantastic German drama about the famed political theorist who commented and reported on the trail of Nazi Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker. A solid effort anchored by an astonishing central performance by the magnetic Barbara Sukowa.

Pacific Rim - Guillermo del Toro's massive and extremely expensive man-vs.-monsters adventure takes center stage and one can't help but wonder if all the trailers, leaked footage, and behind-the-scenes featurettes have already revealed way too many of the film's secrets and surprises.

The Way, Way Back - Another SIFF 2013 standout, this star-studded dramatic coming-of-age comedy set at a seaside water park is a fun, honest, and emotionally pure effort that left me grinning ear-to-ear. Sam Rockwell and Steve Carell have never been better, while young Liam James proves himself to be a talented relative newcomer worthy of keeping an eye on.

JULY 17
Turbo - Dreamworks animated adventure about a super-powered snail (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who suddenly finds himself racing on the NASCAR circuit. The trailers are terrible, but I'll happily reserve judgment until after I get a chance to watch the film for myself.

JULY 19
The Conjuring - Inspired by real events, this James Wan (Insidious) directed shocker is currently getting rave notices during festival screenings and by all accounts is a genre entry worthy of attention. A film I'm excited to get a look at.

I'm So Excited - Pedro Almodóvar's latest is a slight, off-the-cuff comedic effort about an airline trip gone horrifically wrong. Not a bad film, just an instantly forgettable one - which, considering the director, has to be considered something of a minor surprise.

Only God Forgives - Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn returns with a violence-heavy existential drama about a Bangkok drug smuggler (Ryan Gosling) urged by his vindictive mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) to hunt down and kill his brother's killer.

R.I.P.D. - A Men in Black-style action-comedy about two undead detectives (Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds) charged with making sure the underworld stays down below where it belongs and our world remains free from demonic influence. It has a cute trailer, but I'm reserving judgment until I actually see it.

Red 2 - Sequel to the surprise 2010 hit finds Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich returning to wreak more old-school spy-vs.-spy havoc, with Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones along for the ride.

JULY 26
Crystal Fairy - Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann in a drama about a nebbish American traveling in Chile who manages unintentionally to create some sort of chaos with every step he takes. A nice change of pace for Cera, the movie has an engagingly acerbic edge I was quite taken by.

Fruitvale Station - Critically lauded drama about a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who met with tragedy while attempting to ride the subway. Could be the year's first Oscar frontrunner.

The To Do List - Very, very funny female coming-of-age sex comedy starring Aubrey Plaza as an outgoing, booksmart teen who decides it is time to broaden her sexual horizons. Potentially a breakout hit, writer/director Maggie Carey's debut is easily one of the summer's more surprising small-scale gems.

The Wolverine - The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) goes to Japan. I don't have anything more to say than that.

AUGUST 2
2 Guns - Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg team up in the adaptation of the graphic novel about two feuding federal officers forced to team up to find out who framed each of their respective agencies for stealing a large cache of mob money.

Blackfish - Fantastic documentary chronicling the tragic events surrounding the notorious SeaWorld killer whale Tillicum and the tragic deaths that have been linked to him over the past two-plus decades. A searing indictment, the movie is a journalistic exposé that will hopefully open eyes and have people rethinking what it means to have these animals not just in captivity, but working in showcases that put their trainers' lives in jeopardy every time they slip into the water.

Cockneys vs. Zombies - This SIFF 2013 Midnight Adrenaline favorite had me pleasantly captivated the moment Pussy Galore herself (that's 86-year-old Honor Blackman to the majority of the world) picked up a sledgehammer and started smacking a pack of zombies upside the head with carnal ferocity. Seriously, this movie is a hoot, totally deserving of being seen by as wide an audience as possible.

The Smurfs 2 - La la la-la la la, Sing a Happy Song. La la la-la la la, Smurf Your Whole Day Long &

AUGUST 7
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - Huh. Here's a sequel nobody anywhere saw coming, the Son of Poseidon returning for another adventure sending him to the Sea of Monsters to find the fabled Golden Fleece.

AUGUST 9
Elysium - Maybe the most anticipated sci-film of the year. District 9 director Neill Blomkamp returns with this dystopian tale of an elite Earth soldier (Matt Damon) who takes it upon himself to try and bring about equality between the poor lower classes living on the planet and the wealthy elite who reside in a lavish space station above it. Jodie Foster co-stars as the bureaucrat intent on stopping him.

The Hunt - Another SIFF 2013 sensation, Cannes Best Actor winner Mads Mikkelsen stars as a man wrongly accused of a terrible, unthinkable crime and the repercussions this has upon both him and those nearest and dearest to him. Stunning.

Planes - Disney, not Pixar, returns to the world of Cars to show what happens above the clouds. Originally made for direct-to-DVD, the studio decided to give the film a theatrical release. Guess we'll see how that turns out for them.

The Spectacular Now - And one more SIFF 2013 favorite, a coming-of-age comedy about a hard-partying teen whose life is forever changed when he meets a not-so-nice 'nice girl.'

We're the Millers - Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in an R-rated comedy about a big-time pot dealer who constructs the perfect (fake) family in order to pull off the biggest score of his life. Trailer is admittedly funny, but at the same time a part of me can't help but think 110 minutes of this stuff might get tiresome.

AUGUST 16
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen's latest boasts another all-star cast all in service to a story revolving around a San Francisco woman facing a midlife crisis as she tries to reconnect with her estranged sister. Oscar talk revolves around both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins right now - here's hoping that buzz turns out to be true.

The Butler - Sprawling generational epic chronicling the life and times of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a man who served eight presidents including John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. Film is currently in a title dispute with Warner Bros. and might end up having to change its release date.

Jobs - Ashton Kutcher as the Apple founder? & Yeah, that was my initial reaction, too.

Kick-Ass 2 - Hit-Girl returns to wreak more havoc, which might be the only reason anyone is even passingly interested in this sequel. In other news, star Jim Carrey won't do press for the film because he now feels the violence depicted in it is much too extreme. (That said, he still cashed his paycheck.)

Paranoia - Corporate espionage thriller with Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman facing off as rival CEOs, Liam Hemsworth the entry-level pawn being shuffled back and forth between them.

Prince Avalanche - Yet another SIFF returnee, writer/director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) returns to his independent roots with this moving, thought-provoking, deeply personal drama about two highway road painters (Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch) navigating complex interpersonal waters in the midst of a fire-devastated nowhere. A wonderful film, here's hoping it finds an audience.

AUGUST 21
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Yet another attempt to mine the young-adult literary market, this adaptation of the Cassandra Clare novel posits that there is a shadow world of magic, demons, vampires, and werewolves that mirrors our own, and it's suddenly up to teenager Clary Fray (Lily Collins) to bring some sort of order to it.

AUGUST 23
Ain't Them Bodies Saints - Writer/director David Lowery's ambitious, expressionistic retro-thriller about an escaped convict (Casey Affleck) attempting to return home to his wife (Rooney Mara) is an enthralling, at times rapturous affair stunningly acted by its entire cast (Ben Foster and Keith Carradine are also terrific), building to a powerful conclusion that had me drowning well-deserved tears. Magnificent stuff.

The Grandmaster - Acclaimed auteur Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love) turns his eye toward legendary martial artist Ip Man (Bruce Lee's teacher); without a doubt one of the summer's most intriguing curiosities.

The World's End - Director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite for a third time, bringing forth the story of a group of former friends reuniting after 20 years for a night on the town only to discover they might be humanity's only hope for survival. Fans of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are going positively mad in anticipation.

You're Next - Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett's acclaimed and much-buzzed-about horror-thriller finally sees a theatrical release, and genre fans couldn't be happier. This story of a family under attack by a group of mysterious invaders has been playing to enthusiastic and packed festival audiences for what feels like years now.

AUGUST 30
Closed Circuit - Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as former lovers reunited to assist in the defense in a trail of an accused terrorist who discover the truth isn't all it appears to be, and that just because every move can be tracked doesn't mean the surveillance footage being showcased is even close to accurate.

Drinking Buddies - The final SIFF 2013 returnee of the summer, Joe Swanberg's excellent comedy-drama hybrid features standout performances from Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson as Chicago brewery workers whose friendship is continually tested, especially after their respective significant others (Mark Duplass, Anna Kendrick) enter the picture.

Getaway - Ethan Hawke is an expert driver forced to follow the orders of a mysterious, faceless voice claiming to be holding his wife captive. Selena Gomez is a carjacker who attempts to steal the wrong man's car. In other words, a remake of the Steve McQueen/Ali MacGraw classic this is not.

One Direction: This Is Us - I have nothing to say here. Absolutely nothing.


Ranger danger - Disney's Lone Ranger reinvention is big-budget disaster
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE LONE RANGER
Now showing


It's hard to come up with a film that's more of a tonal misfire than director Gore Verbinski's attempted reinvention of Western favorite The Lone Ranger. A television icon immortalized by Clayton Moore in the 1950s and a staple of countless comic strips, cartoons, and a handful of books, the movie, reuniting the core creative team behind The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (including writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and star Johnny Depp), has no idea what it wants to be and what sort of audience it has been engineered for. Too violent for kids, too stupid for adults, too plodding and, putting it plainly, too boring for just about everyone else, the movie is a megabudget calamity (a reported $200-plus million, excluding marketing) that I'm not sure anyone, anywhere could possibly come close to enjoying.

The basic scenario hasn't changed all that much. After an ambush leaves the rest of his posse - including his older brother Dan (James Badge Dale) - dead, a wounded John Reid (Armie Hammer) rises from the grave thanks to the assistance of wise native warrior Tonto (Depp). Choosing to keep his identity hidden to protect those he loves as well as ferret out the evildoers who did him wrong, this Texas Ranger wears a mask and is subsequently renamed The Lone Ranger, a dedicated fighter for law and justice.

GUARD YOUR HEART
The changes? Here Tonto is a slightly out-of-his-gourd warrior who nonetheless understands the ways of the world and those who live in it much better than his somewhat wimpy partner. Reid is a bookish bore not exactly ready to be thrust in the middle of chaos. As for the man they're after, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) isn't just a bloodthirsty hellion, he's a bloodthirsty hellion who likes to rip the hearts out of his prey and eat them right in front of any potential survivors. Throw in a bunch of additional pointless hogwash, including Dan's widowed wife, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), and their easily astonished son, Danny (Bryant Prince), and it's doubtful things could get any more convoluted.

Wait. Scratch that. They can. The majority of the narrative revolves around a long-winded scheme to take over ownership of a railroad line being shepherded to completion by company man Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), using a rich vein of silver that just so happens to be hidden in the same hills and mountains Tonto's massacred people once called home. There's also a sideplot involving a thriving madam, Red Harrington (Helena Bonham Carter), but it isn't exactly of import save to make sure she's around to lend long-legged assistance during the climactic railyard showdown. Throw in the appearance of the U.S. Cavalry, led by the easily influenced Captain Fuller (Barry Pepper, in full George S. Custer drag), and there's a lot of stuff going on, all of it sort of connected even if why it is and what makes it worthy of keeping an eye on never comes into focus.

It's a muddled mess - some bits are played with an eye for comedy while others are treated with a ferocious sincerity that make you feel you are watching an entirely different movie. There are times when the filmmakers give crystal clarity to the brutality of the period, Verbinski pulling no punches where it comes to the Cavalry's decimation of native tribes. But many of these sequences are juxtaposed against Tonto and Reid acting like total fools, running from massive fireballs or acting as if they just stepped onto the set of some Buster Keaton-style silent comedy while scenes of countless hundreds being slowly massacred plays solemnly next to their cartoonish antics.

VISUAL SPLENDOR
You can tell money has been spent, that goes without saying. Penny Rose's (Unstoppable) costumes are suitably lavish, as is Jess Gonchor's (True Grit) impressively lived-in and grittily authentic production design. The art direction and set direction are equally stunning, and from a technical standpoint one must step back and admit this version of The Lone Ranger looks pretty darn impressive. Additionally, the CG employed during the climax - old-school locomotives running with unabated abandon while Reid, Tonto, and a whole slew of villains run roughshod over, through, and under them - is fairly incredible, and while not entirely photorealistic it must be stated the film at times does come astonishingly close to being so. Even the William Tell Overture makes a welcome appearance, its insertion making my inner six-year-old stand up and cheer (if only, sadly, for a second or two).

But so what? The characters are consistently one-dimensional and unappealing, and the framing device used to tell the story feels like nothing more than an excuse to let Depp showcase his flair for physical comedy, while the plot itself is so padded the filler used to stuff it out to its abhorrent 149-minute length ends up being more substantive than any of the important bits. Verbinski and his team have taken this treasured, still-vibrant character and transformed both him and his compatriot into shells of what they could have, probably should have, been. This incarnation of The Lone Ranger is so misbegotten it makes one long for the days of Klinton Spilsbury, and if you understand that reference than you fully comprehend just how gigantic a disaster this failed reinvention truly is.






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Hot flashes - SGN's 2013 summer movie preview (pt. 2)
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Ranger danger - Disney's Lone Ranger reinvention is big-budget disaster
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