Rental Picks: Get the Gringo & The Lone Ranger

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Get The Gringo

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Remember when Mel Gibson was the king of the box office? Back in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s, seems like every film he starred in were box office hits. After he starred in the big hit Signs back in 2002, he actually agreed to return as Max in George Miller’s Fury Road (it’s been renamed to Mad Max: Fury Road); if I remember correctly the film was scheduled to come out in the summer of 2004 but when the second Iraq War happened, the film was cancelled. They wanted to shoot the film in the middle east and of course with the war, it’s not possible. Then we all know what happened to his career after he directed The Passion of the Christ, even though I don’t agree with what he said in his personal life, I still think he’s a great talent.

A car chase opens the movie, a getaway driver (Mel Gibson) and a wounded accomplice are fleeing the American police and heading towards the Mexican border. The car crashes through the border fence and Gibson’s character was taken into the custody of the Mexican police, his accomplice died after the clash. Gibson’s character name was never mentioned throughout the movie, he’s only been called by everyone in the movie as The Gringo. After a night in a jail cell, The Gringo was transferred to El Pueblito prison under false charges, there he found out that the prison actually looks like a ghetto town rather than a real prison. Males, females and even young children are all being kept in this so called prison. Being that he’s the only Caucasian in the prison, he realized he has to figured out how to stay alive and escape the place. He was able to study the ins and outs of the prison and later met a kid (Kevin Hernandez) who’s living with his incarcerated mother. The Gringo and the kid formed an unlikely friendship and he also found out that the prison is being run by a powerful crime lord Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho). He then came up with a plan that will get him, the kid and his mom out of prison.

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This being a low budget production, most of the movie took place in the prison setting. First-time director Adrian Grunberg was able to keep the pace moving and staged some cool shootout sequences. Being that he was a second unit director on some of Gibson’s previous work and other well know films, he didn’t really established the look of his first gig as a director. That’s not a knock on Grunberg though, the look and feel of this movie reminded me of Michael Mann’s recent flicks such as Collateral and Miami Vice, as typical with a lot of action movies in the last few years, this one was shot in digital and there were too many scenes that looked like home video to me. Sometime it takes me out of the story when I see scenes that looked like someone used a consumer camcorder to record the scene, I wish some director would use some kind of effects in post production to give the movie a more cinematic look to it. Both Gibson and Grunberg co-wrote the script along with Stacy Perskie, they didn’t really come up with anything new for this kind of genre. It tends to get predictable but kept my interest and I was entertained, the movie kind of reminded me of Payback, a very good thriller from 1999.

Gibson is pretty much the star of the movie and I thought he’s terrific in the role. Again, I don’t agree on what he said in his personal life but I think he’s one of the few aging movie stars who’s still giving 100% in his performance, Tom Cruise being the other one. I can’t say the same for some other brand name stars, yes I’m referring to Bruce Willis and Robert De Niro, those two seems to just take whatever role the studio offered them.

Despite it being predictable and has that home video look to it, Get The Gringo was a good action thriller that will satisfy both fans of Gibson and the genre. It’s on sale for cheap on DVD/Bluray or you can stream it on Netflix. I think if you’re in the mood for a good thriller, this one will be worth your time.


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The Lone Ranger

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After reading negative reviews after another I didn’t intend to see this movie but my girlfriend and I couldn’t figure out what to do one Friday night, so we decided to check it out. We saw it at one of the most popular movie theaters in MN and there were only 5 people in the seats, including us and this was a Friday night! Apparently the negative reviews scared off a lot of people. Fortunately, the movie wasn’t as bad as most people made it out to be.

The film starts out with a prologue, took place at a San Francisco sideshow in 1933. A young boy who adores The Lone Ranger radio series ran into an old Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp), Tonto sees the boy and start calling him Kemosabe, seeing the boy with the mask on, Tonto thought the boy was his old pal The Lone Ranger. The boy was curious as to why this old man started calling him by that name and so Tonto decided to tell him the story about the masked man and his sidekick. The film then flashes back years later when we meet a lawyer named John Reid (Armie Hammer), he’s on a train and going to visit his brother who’s a lawman Dan Reid (James Badge Dale). However his train ended up being hijacked by a few outlaws who are trying to free their leader Butch Cavendish (William Fitchtner). Here we’re also introduced to a young Tonto, when chaos ensued, both Tonto and Reid tried to stop Cavendish from escaping but were unsuccessful.

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Shortly after, Dan deputizes his brother, allowing him to join in the hunt to bring Cavendish back to justice, but tragedy strikes as their group is ambushed and left for dead. Tonto comes to the scene and saw bodies everywhere, he decided to bury all the lawmen but then John woke up, so Tonto believed he’s been brought back to life by the higher power. John swears to take revenge on Butch for the murder of his brother and decides to team up with Tonto, who is trying to take his own revenge for another tragic event from several years ago. Their adventure will put them up against not only the violent gang of outlaws, but also against a scheming railroad man, Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who is attempting to amass a great fortune with his plan. There’s also a subplot about the romance between John and his widowed sister-in-law Rebecca Reid (Ruth Wilson) that didn’t really pan out that well.

What worked for me were the great visual effects and action scenes, especially the big climax sequence involving trains was pretty well thought out and exciting, you can tell where all those millions of dollars went to. Director Gore Verbinski and his cinematographer really wanted to capture the look of Sergio Leone’s western films of the 60s and I thought they were quite successful at it. As mentioned earlier, the action scenes were pretty great to watch, you can tell Verbinski and his crew probably spent weeks or months prepping each sequence. Wish they spent more time on the actual plot of the film though.

A few things that I thought didn’t work. First the film tonal shift just felt out of place, it didn’t know if it wants to be a comedy action or dark and edgy action/western. There would be one scene where you’ll laugh and then another where you see people getting slaughtered. By combining all these elements into a film, it just didn’t blend well for me. Also, by trying to tell origin stories of both of the leads didn’t really work either. I mean the film’s called The Lone Ranger and they should’ve just focus the story on him, Tonto’s a sidekick so why not leave his origin for later films? I understand when you have a big star like Depp in that role, you have to make him the main lead. They should’ve just called the film Tonto and The Lone Ranger. Lastly, the bloated run-time was just inexcusable, about 20 to 30 minutes of the film could’ve been edited out.

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Performances wise, I thought Johnny Depp was good as Tonto, he’s basically playing Jack Sparrow again here. I was bit disappointed with Armie Hammer though, I always liked him as an actor but I found him to be lackluster here. I wonder it’s because he’s second fiddle to Depp, he’s been told not to over shadow the bigger star? Whatever it was I just thought he didn’t really sell me as the action hero. Both Fictner and Wilkinson were great as usual since they’ve played villains in other films before. I’m still not sure why Helena Bonham Carter agreed to appear in this movie, her role was so small and didn’t really have much to do, maybe she did it as a favor to Depp since they’re good friends. Ruth Wilson was pretty decent as the damsel in distress.

Even though I thought the plot didn’t work and the film was way too long, I didn’t hate it. I actually enjoyed it for the most part but I’m a sucker for western so it’s an easy sell for me. With a better script that focuses more on The Lone Ranger and shorter run-time, the film could’ve been a fun summer ride. Since the film is officially a massive flop for Disney, we probably won’t see any more adventures of The Lone Ranger and Tonto.

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What do you think of Get the Gringo and The Lone Ranger? 

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What I’ve Watched in my First Week on 2013

Happy Monday all! This the first FULL work week I have for a while now, I’m definitely gonna miss the partial work week from the Holiday season, ahah.

In lieu of a weekend roundup, I thought I’d share how my movie watching has been in its first week of the new year. Actually it’s been rather slow and I haven’t been to the movie theater since The Hobbit over a week ago. Not that I miss going to the cinema, though some things are definitely meant to see on the big screen, which is why we’d go see Life of Pi next weekend.

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I miss the movie-going experience, though not the waiting-in-line part

I’ll be going to a couple of advanced screenings this week, but due to the embargo, I can’t talk about ‘em yet. Let’s just say one of them is likely going to be in the running for Academy Awards nominations and the other one is a period action film starring a few very popular actors. So anyways, I’ve only seen about three movies so far and three of them were new to me.

  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
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    The inspiration for You’ve Got Mail starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart is lovely. I didn’t know it was set in Hungary. Though the mail correspondent part wasn’t as prominent a plot as the remake, but the scene at the cafe were pretty much identical.

    I need to watch more James Stewart movies, I think The Philadelphia Story is next! Oh, I also like Frank Morgan as the store owner Mr. Matuschek!

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  • Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

    SafetyNotGuaranteedPosterI’m so glad I finally saw this. I’ve been seeing a ton of great reviews on this one, glad it was available on iTunes. All of the actors were unknown to me, but I was impressed by Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. The story is wonderfully bizarre and it was full of quirky characters as well. Duplass (who reminds me a bit of Sean Bean) plays Kenneth, a supermarket employee who put a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel, and Plaza plays Darius, one of the three magazine employees who head out on assignment to write a story on it.

    The premise makes for off-the-wall and hilarious scenarios, but yet the story ends up being quite heartfelt, especially when it’s between Kenneth and Darius. It keeps you guessing throughout up until that whoa! ending. It’s the kind of ending that makes you stand up and cheer despite how preposterous it is, definitely one of the most original time-travel stories I’ve ever watched. If you’re looking for great, memorable characters and emotional gratification, this movie is not to be missed. I quite like the music too, my favorite part was when Kenneth sang The Big Machine with a Zither!
  • The Wings of the Dove (1997)
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    WingsoftheDovePosterI’ve been wanting to see this movie for quite a while, especially when someone mentioned about the memorable scene at the London Tube. Well, there’s that and a boat load of memorable rainy scenes in Venice too!

    It’s based on a 1902 novel by Henry James. The tagline says it all: A couple with everything but money. An heiress with everything but love. A temptation no one could resist. Helena Bonham Carter in one of her plethora of period dramas was quite bewitching as a young woman, Kate, who’s torn between love and her privileged life. She’s basically an impoverished girl who’s taken up by her wealthy aunt (Charlotte Rampling), but she’s in love with a penniless journalist Merton (Linus Roache). When she befriends a dying American heiress Millie (Alison Elliot), she concocts a plot to enable her to have her cake and eat it too, but things don’t exactly go according to plan.

    Oh, the things people in the name of love… the chemistry between Helena and Linus was scorching, but man, it’s awful and sad how far Kate is willing to do to get what she wants. It’s really a dark, twisted and poignant love story. It certainly makes for a passionate and ravishing period drama. Both HBC and Linus were captivating, Linus was quite mesmerizing, he’s got such an uncanny resemblance to Christian Bale, no wonder he was cast as Bruce Wayne Sr! Bonham-Carter was nominated for an Oscar for this role. I pretty much love all the performances, down to the supporting roles with thespians like Michael Gambon and Charlotte Rampling.

    It’s the kind of story that lingers long after the end credits. In fact, I kept thinking about it all night all the way until this morning. I feel like this film deserves a full write-up, which I still may do in the future. The cinematography alone is breathtaking… all in all a bewitching adaptation.
  • Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (re-watch)
    It never fails to entertain. Sean Connery + Harrison Ford pairing is just brilliant, plus there River Phoenix in the beginning as the young Indy. I wish he were still alive today, I’d rather see him than Shia in the fourth installment! Anyway, we also watched the making-of documentary which was pretty cool as Spielberg went almost scene-by-scene on various locations.


Well, glad to report that the three new ones were all very enjoyable. So what movies did you watch in the first week of the New Year?

Weekend Roundup: Musings on A Room with a View

It’s Monday again! Did you all have a nice weekend? Well, it’s a nice one weather-wise here in the Twin Cities, in fact, it could very well be one of the best Halloween weather ever. We usually get snow or unusually chilly temps, but yesterday there wasn’t a cloud in the gorgeous blue sky and it was warm enough to forgo your jacket!

Friday was Girls Movie Night for October, where my girlfriends and I take turn hosting dinner and a movie. A Room with a View had been on our to-watch list for some time, but due to a couple of snafus on my part, we haven’t been able to get the movie until now. It’s a Merchant-Ivory period drama starring a then 19-year-old Helena Bonham Carter set in Edwardian England at the turn of the 20th century. I suggested this movie after reading all the accolades this movie got (winning 3 Oscars, and a slew of other awards), and the story of illicit romance appeals to me.

The movie opens with a gorgeous view of Florence where Lucy Honeychurch (Bonham Carter) and her chaperon Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) are vacationing. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the view from the room they were promised to get, and they complain about it over dinner (I suppose I’d be too given the view is of the Ponte Vecchio bridge over Arno river!). Upon learning about the situation, fellow guests Mr. Emerson and his son George gladly give up their room-with-a-view to Lucy and Charlotte. Before long, sparks fly between George and Lucy, and George makes sure Lucy knows it. But Charlotte reminds Lucy that George isn’t the perfect suitor, as the Emersons aren’t as socially acceptable (basically for being too ‘open’ for such a stifled society), and so she must let her go and marry someone her family would approve. To complicate matters, the Emersons end up becoming their neighbors and not only disrupts her nuptial plans but also challenge her way of thinking, as well as those closest to her.

Perhaps I should give this movie another go, but upon initial viewing, it didn’t wow me as much as I thought it would. I like the premise of the movie, but I thought the movie is kind of all over the place and boring at times. I actually dozed off the last 15 minutes of the movie, I did wake up just before the closing credits when George & Lucy sit by the window exactly like in the movie poster. It’s quite obvious the plot is predictable, but I don’t mind that so much if I can just get into characters. Aside from their first unexpected but passionate kiss in the fields, I never quite get into the main love story. The baby-faced Bonham Carter captured the sweet innocence of her character, yet she just wasn’t captivating enough for me to root for her. But the worst part is Julian Sands’ stilted performance, which pretty much drew jeers from my girlfriends for his unconvincing delivery. He just wasn’t compelling enough in the ‘romeo’ role, in fact, there’s a lack of emotion from the romance the entire plot is built on, which is a pity as it would’ve been a far more engaging movie. There are strong performances from Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, but the scene stealer here is the unrecognizable Daniel Day-Lewis as Cecil, Lucy’s bookish and pretentious fiance. His character is a stark contrast to the free-spirited, fun-loving George, and we’re supposed to dislike him, but his amusing portrayal truly is one of the highlights of the movie. No wonder Daniel’s career is light years ahead of the actor in the lead role.

Photo courtesy of Pixelcrave.net

Oh, one thing I didn’t quite expect from this period drama is the scene of male frontal nudity in the skinny dipping scene. I’m not talking about a brief glimpse but an extensive scene of the three male characters being shown clowning around freely in and out of water, there’s even a chase scene that lead to the women discovering George and Lucy’s brother Freddy in their birthday suit. I suppose it’s meant to show the stark contrast between the openness of the modern sensibilities and the repressed culture of the day, which seems to suggest that modesty equals ‘uptight.’ Well, call us old fashioned but we we were as taken aback as the female characters in the movie and we certainly won’t be comfortable running into guys skinny dipping in real life. The scene itself is pretty hilarious, it wasn’t scandalous or obscene, but it did take us away from the movie for a little bit.

Overall, it’s a decent movie and I’m glad I watched it, but I can’t say I love it. It’s a gorgeous movie for sure, what with the Florentine art and architecture, the melodious Beethoven music and the picturesque scenes of Italy and English countryside, if only the romance is equally bewitching. If anything though, it made me want to go back to Firenze pronto!

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Anybody has seen this film? Well, what did you think?