This is David...
....Appleford. A buddy from sister station KEZ in Phoenix. He's a pro when it comes to movies...here's his take on The Lone Ranger and Despicable Me 2
Hoping to repeat the success of the Pirates franchise, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, original Pirates director Gore Verbinsi and star Johnny Depp have teamed together to bring us The Lone Ranger, and even though it’s not necessarily a series that audiences have been begging for, it’s here all the same, and the end result is mixed at best.
Told in a series of flashbacks, the film begins in
Tonto tells the boy of his days with a man called John Reid and how Reid became a Ranger, then eventually donned the famous black mask and went on to become the legendary Lone Ranger, with Tonto riding by his side. It’s actually not a particularly great story, but at the very least it establishes the characters for a potential franchise, which I’m sure is the general point. Whether it’ll become one is another matter. I’m not convinced audiences will be clamoring for more, but the weekend’s box-office return will eventually dictate such matters.
The film is an action, comedy western, and it does have some laughs. “What’s with the mask?” asks a bank customer when the Ranger and Tonto burst in to rob the place for emergency funds. The phrase is repeated. When Reid is captured, a Comanche Chief looks at the man with some puzzlement, then suddenly asks the same thing, “What’s with the mask?”
Reid is played by Arnie Hammer, and the simple truth is you won’t remember him. It’s not exactly Hammer’s fault; the way the character is written is not particularly memorable. Reid is portrayed as a man who shouldn’t be there. He’s out of his depth in the Wild West. If he does anything heroic it’s by accident, and the last thing he wants to do is fire a gun. Perhaps in one respect, Hammer is actually right for the role – the Ranger is supposed to be dead; he’s a ghost – so maybe the fact that when the film is over, by design there’s little you remember about him, though somehow I doubt that was ever a real intention. In the end, the character is a well meaning but incompetent fool with Tonto as the clever one by his side, and that’s not saying much.
Johnny Depp’s Tonto is the film’s equivalent of his pirate captain. With eccentric and excessive white makeup that appears dried and cracked over his cheeks, Depp approaches the role straight-faced while doing funny things.. He doesn’t appear to particularly like the Lone Ranger, occasionally calling him a “Half wit” or a “Wet brain,” but he does have some of the better lines. When he notices the Ranger’s horse drinking beer out of a bottle, he murmurs, “Nature is indeed out of balance.”
The action is exciting and well shot. The climax on the train is a nail-biter and quite spectacular, and the demise of the bad guys is satisfying enough to have a young, matinee audience cheering, plus the use of the Ranger’s famous TV theme, Rossini’s William Tell Overture – something of which I’d completely forgotten – is used to surprisingly fun effect. The opening fanfare actually gave me goose bumps, though I have to wonder if most audiences today new to the Ranger are even aware as to why the overture is there. I fear that a whole generation equates it as the music played during the brief orgy scene in A Clockwork Orange rather than the theme of a masked man riding a white horse with an odd looking Comanche by his side.
The real problem with The Lone Ranger is that it’s way too long. For some reason, many recent action films can’t seem to tell their story in under two hours any more, and The Lone Ranger is the perfect example. When you think of it, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey spanned the dawn of man, the present and on to an infinite future, all in less time than it takes The Lone Ranger to team up with Tonto and ride off into the sunset. This is no epic, yet it takes almost two and a half hours to complete. The length is nothing but excessive overkill, and while there’s a certain amount of playful good humor throughout, like most action films of late, it’s really brevity that’s so desperately needed.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 149 minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)
Despicable Me is currently the tenth most successful animated feature ever. Considering just how unexpectedly huge the original became at the box-office it is no surprise that there’s already a sequel. It doesn’t have the story of the first, and its lead character, Gru, is no longer particularly despicable, but it is laugh-out-loud funny, and for that alone it does its job.
Gru is no longer a super-villain. He still looks like Uncle Fester with a pointy nose and a strange European accent (Steve Carell) but he devotes his time to being a father to those three incredibly cute girls he acquired in the first film. Then an over-eager agent for the good guys, Lucy Wilde (an outstanding Kristen Wiig) tries to tempt Gru back into the business by getting him to spy for her in an attempt to track down a new super-villain.
The drawback to the sequel is that the story isn’t half as much fun as the first. It reintroduces
us to almost everyone we should remember, but it’s merely a forgettable adventure that serves as a platform to have characters we already know do and say fun things. Introducing us to all these colorful oddballs was part of the first story, but here they should already be established, so all we have is the adventure itself with the assumption that we should already know who everyone is and what their roles are.
What makes Despicable Me 2 so amusing are the little yellow henchmen, the Minions. Whatever they are or whatever they’re supposed to represent I have no clue – there’s a prequel in the works, so we should soon know all about their history – but they’re funny. And what makes them funny is how they’re consistently amused by everything that happens around them. It’s as though they’re the original party animals who can’t stop giggling at their own actions. Everything makes them laugh. When a pompous new character introduces himself as Ramsbottom, the Minions chuckle. “He said ‘Bottom,’” one of them repeats, which sets off another fit of giggles.
Most of the celebrity voices buried under thick accents are back, with the notable absence of Julie Andrews who voiced Gru’s mother in the original. The character is seen in a family photo shoot at the end but she’s a no-show throughout the film. Steve Carell is recognizable as the lead, while Kristen Wiig returns not as Miss Hattie as she was in the first but as new character Lucy Wilde, an over-enthusiastic good-girl spy. Wiig’s Chatty-Cathy approach is both playful and lively, and just like her approach to any character she played on SNL, she gives the part one hundred percent.
Other voices are less recognizable. Russell Brand returns as Dr. Nefario, the gadget man, Steve Coogan is Silas Ramsbottom, the pompous head of the Anti-Villain League and Benjamin Bratt is El Macho, the suspicious owner of the Mexican restaurant. Without the credits, you would never know that any of these famous names voiced the characters that they do, which makes the idea of celebrity voices somewhat redundant, other than their advertising marquee-value. Interestingly enough, Al Pacino was the original voice of El Macho, but pulled out with Bratt stepping in during the eleventh hour timing his voice to a character already animated.
As previously noted, 3D appears to work best and certainly the most effective in a computer animated feature. Despicable Me 2 plays with the gimmick; objects pop out of the screen, characters lean closer to the lens, and during the final credits three Minions blow bubbles and party favors out into the audience – the illusion of a bubble floating out may have you reaching to touch, just in case. If the
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 98 minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)