The Lone Ranger

Guardians of the Galaxy Groot

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Visual Effects

The horse race! The great question! The draw of history! Is there anything more exciting than the uncertainty of not knowing who will take home gold on Oscars’ big night? Of course there is. Lots of things are more exciting, and there’s no uncertainty here because Gravity is going to win the crap out of this award. So instead, let’s talk briefly about magic. Because that’s what visual effects are. Ever since the first days when a train scared people by pulling into the station, film itself was magic. The idea that you can capture the world around you and preserve it on a chemical strip has an air of sorcery to it, as it should, but we’ve had a century to get used to the mechanism, so visual effects have taken on the hefty mantle of casting spells. Like making us believe we’re in space, or fighting a dragon, or fighting an exploding foe, or fist-fighting on top of a train, or returning to space. Here’s a look at all five nominees with behind-the-scenes VFX videos to make up for my totally unsurprising predicted winner (which is in red)…

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2013.moviedoppelgangers

Every year, there seem to be unintended themes emerging from movie releases. It’s almost as if the studios called each other to coordinate projects like friends in high school planning to wear matching outfits on a Friday. Sometimes this effect is unintentional, like when an emerging movie star manages to have multiple films comes out the same year (see Melissa McCarthy below); other times, it’s a result of executives switching studios and developing similar projects (like the infamous Disney and DreamWorks 1998 double-header grudge match of A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Armageddon vs. Deep Impact). This year is no different, producing a slew of movie doppelgangers. For the sake of creativity, I left the painfully obvious off. Still, who can forget offerings like Olympus Has Fallen up against White House Down as well as This Is the End paired with The World’s End? And, if you really hate yourself, you can watch a terrible trippleganger of A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whether it’s similar themes, the same actor in noticeably similar roles, or parallel stand-out moments in two films, this list of 13 movie pairings can provide a nice selection of companion pieces for your viewing pleasure.

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discs toad road

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Toad Road James (James Davidson) is a slacker, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for meaning he sits around all day doing nothing. Instead, he sits around all day smoking, popping, and snorting anything he and his friends can get their hands on, but that starts to change when he meets the new girl, Sara (Sara Anne Jones). She’s new to the drug scene, he introduces her, and she gets hooked just as he wants out. He agrees to one last trip with her. Shrooms in hand, the two head out to the legendary Toad Road to investigate rumors of the seven gates of hell. It goes according to plan until he wakes up to discover she’s disappeared. Writer/director Jason Banker’s debut feature is low budget, raw, messy, unsure of itself, and yet oddly mesmerizing. The “horror” element introduced via the title feels almost like an afterthought added to make the film more marketable, but the core of the film works as a frequently intense and often painful look at the obvious and not so obvious struggles that come with drug addiction. The doomed love story adds to the film’s tragic allure, but the real life fate of Miss Jones sadly cements it. [DVD extras: Commentary with writer/director Jason Banker and friends, deleted scenes, featurettes, booklet]

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Orson Welles

The morning’s most fascinating articles from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Oscars

The morning’s fascinating articles from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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depp

Watching The Lone Ranger crash and burn last month may really haven taken its toll on Johnny Depp. Or maybe it was something else entirely. Whatever the case, we may soon live in a world where Depp no longer plays quirky characters with even quirkier headgear. We may actually live in a world where Depp no longer plays any characters at all. In an interview with BBC Breakfast, that he may soon depart the world of acting. Depp had this to say: “At a certain point you start thinking and when you add up the amount of dialogue you say per year, for example, you realize you’ve said written words more than you’ve had a chance to say your own words. You start thinking of that as an insane option for a human being. Are there quieter things I wouldn’t mind doing? Yeah. I wouldn’t say I’m dropping out any second, but I would say it’s probably not too far away.” This might seem a little early, but bear in mind that the actor has just turned 50 this past June. His characters may have the same eccentricities that Edward Scissorhands did, but Edward Scissorhands is already 23 years old.

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loneranger09

Despite their best efforts and truly masterfully applied eyeliner, Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp could not get audiences excited to see The Lone Ranger over the Independence Day weekend. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Disney blockbuster is expecting a $150m loss worldwide on top of its bloated budget. The western, based on a 1930s radio program and 1950s TV show, only managed to bring in $48.9m domestically in its five-day opening. Compare that to the $250m production budget and the $175m in marketing, and we’re approaching John Carter levels of disaster. So what went wrong? People love it when Depp dresses up in whimsical costumes and wobbles precariously on moving vehicles. The film even reunited the Pirates of the Caribbean dream team of Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. But let’s not forget that Bruckheimer + Disney does not always equal success. For every Pirates, there’s a Prince of Persia: Sands of Time lurking under the surface.

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bruck

After the massive production of The Lone Ranger, it’s surprising Jerry Bruckheimer didn’t show up to the film’s press day all gray-haired and jaded. The 10-month shooting schedule aside, the film went through pre-production halts, budget issues, and creative battles. That must be stressful for anyone, but it’s probably something Bruckheimer deals with fairly often. From Bad Boys II, Beverly Hills Cop, the Pirates series, to, best of all, Michael Mann’s Thief, Bruckheimer has produced some of the general public’s, and film nerds’, favorite films of the past 20 or so years. Whether The Lone Ranger will stand among Bruckheimer’s biggest hits has yet to be determined, but it’s unquestionably a passion project for the main players involved. I mean, who wouldn’t get passionate about the idea of Johnny Depp playing a Native American who feeds a dead bird? Bruckheimer did, alongside once again joining forces with director Gore Verbinski and making a Western-as-summer-action-blockbuster. In a roundtable interview down in New Mexico, we spoke with Bruckheimer about the difficulty of making a Western today, pesky weather, and working with Verbinski:

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THE LONE RANGER

In 1982, Rex Allen, Jr. released a single entitled “Last of the Silver Screen Cowboys,” in which he bemoaned the way Western heroes in the movies had become “a fast dyin’ breed,” and how the days of folks like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and their ilk, when “we knew good would win in the end,” were being rapidly supplanted by the sort of shady fella who you couldn’t necessarily count on to be “standin’ tall for what he believes is right.” Thing is, that breed of cowboy had actually begun its slow death almost 20 years earlier, and it started, ironically enough, not long after the release of one of the most epic Westerns of all time. 1962’s How the West was Won is the sort of film you just don’t see any more, a sprawling saga which tells a 50-year tale of four generations of a family over the course of 162 minutes and five segments: “The Rivers,” “The Plains,” “The Civil War,” “The Railroad,” and “The Outlaws,” directed variously by John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall. In addition to narration by Spencer Tracy, the film also features a cast that includes John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach, Karl Malden, Robert Preston, George Peppard, Walter Brennan, Debbie Reynolds, and many other instantly recognizable faces. You see what I mean? “Epic” barely begins to cover it. Yet within a year, the cowboy genre began its first dramatic turn away from the straightforward white hat versus […]

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The Lone Ranger 2013

There’s a scene late in Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger in which Rebecca Reid (Ruth Wilson) is bonked on the head by a large piece of coal in the middle of a heart-stopping runaway train sequence. The result of such an action (will her eyes roll back in her head in a dizzy, cartoonish manner? will she be maimed for life by the sharp rock? is there going to be more blood for us to deal with?) seems nothing short of entirely arbitrary. Anything could happen post-coal-bonking, and within the context of The Lone Ranger, that sort of thing isn’t exciting or fun or interesting, it’s distracting and unsettling. It’s also par for the course in a frighteningly (and just plain strangely) uneven attempt at a blockbuster outing. While the criticism that a film is “uneven” is often a meaningless one (don’t all films have their ups and downs? their peaks and valleys?), The Lone Ranger is unavoidably, unabashedly, bizarrely uneven. It’s the only word for it. Tonally, the film seems entirely at war with itself – zinging between cheery hijinks and brutal violence, often within the same scene, and seemingly without any sense of pattern or placement. A PG-13 rating signals that the film is, at the very least, somewhat suitable for tweens, but The Lone Ranger has seemingly sneaked by the MPAA, because it’s one of the bloodiest and most brutal films of its rating in recent memory. A man’s heart is eaten out of his (still beating) […]

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hammer

I was taken aback when greeting a very energized Armie Hammer. Almost immediately I was blinded by his chompers. “Teeth can be this white?” I thought. Yes, they can be. In-person, there’s a movie star quality to Hammer, not only because of his teeth, although they play a big, pearly role. Even at the young age of 26, he has a movie star quality. It’s easy to see why he almost played Batman for George Miller all those years ago. Maybe it’s because of Hammer’s appeal that filmmakers want to give him a beating on screen. With Gore Verbinski‘s The Lone Ranger and Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror, Hammer took his fair share of body blows. Not many people would’ve pegged him as the physical comedy type after the success of The Social Network, but here he is, now in a big Disney tentpole spending most of its running time getting knocked to the floor. Which is what can happen to you if you get too close and look directly into those teeth. Fortunately, I had a pair of sunglasses for our talk.

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Silver

Just in time for the Fourth of July holiday, a great American hero, born from the sands of the very Wild West he helped settle, hits the big screen at a clip so fast that it can only be declared a gallop. Tall, brave, fierce, fast, and funny, Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger seems poised to reintroduce this legend of stage and screen to a whole new pack of fans, while also delighting an adoring public that’s tracked his every step since the 1930’s. We are talking, of course, about Silver. (Who did you think we were talking about? Oh. Oh, that’s awkward.) The Lone Ranger’s long and winding trail to the big screen has been, well, long and winding, with all sorts of budgetary concerns threatening to derail the Armie Hammer- and Johnny Depp-starring take on the American epic before and even during its production. While the film was originally meant to have some heavy supernatural elements (werewolves, anyone?), Verbinski’s final product only retains enough weirdo stuff (carnivorous rabbits, talk of “visions,” and even some cannibalistic tendencies) to keep the film’s sense of “nature being out of balance” going, even as the rest of the production’s awkward issues crumble around it. But Silver, the Lone Ranger’s trusty steed, is chief among the film’s mystical undertones – mainly because he’s deemed a “spirit horse” from the moment he arrives, his faith in Hammer’s John Reid brings him back from the dead, and he has a panache for showing up places […]

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William Fichtner Lone Ranger

William Fichtner isn’t an actor afraid to go big. Maybe that comes with the territory of being a character actor, but no one can ever accuse Fichtner of playing it safe. There are many examples, and perhaps some others better than this one, but take a moment to reflect upon the Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito comedy vehicle, What’s the Worst that Can Happen?. Not exactly a comedy classic, but, even if you only vaguely remember that movie, you definitely remember Fichtner’s performance as a flamboyant detective. It’s the kind of performance that breathes life into a scene. The same can be said for Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Bartholomew”Butch” Cavendish is a villain with a mustache itching to be twirled, but, as Fichtner put it, he refused to do any twirling of the sort. That’s right, no twirling of any kind. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get to have fun in another Jerry Bruckheimer production, making for his fourth feature with the Hollywood big shot.

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James Badge Dale

There were a surprising amount of baddies in Iron Man 3. Director Shane Black‘s Tony Stark adventure put the idea of multiple villains being a bad idea to rest. One of those villains — or henchman, if you want to get technical — was played by a familiar face, James Badge Dale. Badge Dale chewed on every piece of Black’s dialog and his character’s eccentricities. Even with the technical challenges, it’s a role Badge Dale wanted to let loose with. The actor used to work construction, and he wanted to bring that mentality to the character. A Shane Black henchman isn’t the only role we’ll see James Badge Dale in this summer, as he has both World War Z and The Lone Ranger next on dock, and they represent a chance for the actor to reach an audience that maybe doesn’t frequently watch Shame or The Pacific with their free time. They’re certainly all physical roles, which, according to James Badge Dale, is a part of the job that he loves:

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The Lone Ranger 2013

Gore Verbinski‘s The Lone Ranger hits July 3rd, and it seems sort of perfect for the Independence Day weekend. It’s a western on a massive scale with plenty of explosions and bullets to spare, but if the trailers so far haven’t sealed the deal, this last one should do the trick. For one, it downplays how ridiculous Johnny Depp probably is as Tonto and focuses on the action with a percussive ballet in the background that matches every trigger pull cut for cut. Justice is like the hawk. Sometimes it must go hooded:

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Iron Man Extended Look

For many of us, the Super Bowl isn’t about the game so much as the party and the food and the commercials, especially the movie previews. As usual, this year gave us a mix of ads for films opening fairly soon and blockbusters arriving this summer. And as usual, some studios spent their dollars wisely while others didn’t, so there was also a mix of good and bad that will lead the buzz on these titles for at least the next couple days. After the jump we’ve listed all the movies advertised during Super Bowl  XLVII and categorized each as one of the winner or one of the losers of this annual Hollywood marketing game. 

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The Lone Ranger 2013

I can’t get over Johnny Depp doing the whole “Kemosabe” schtick as Tonto. Can’t do it. Maybe with time, it’ll get easier, but it makes almost zero sense that amid a sea of modernized remakes and adaptations, Gore Verbinski and Disney would hold tight to a stereotypical trapping from a different era that didn’t seem to know any better. Why deconstruct Wonderland behind Burton but keep the “Me Wantum Wampum” accent on a character that no one under 60 gives a damn about? It’s a small detail, probably. It just seems extra ridiculous. At any rate, they’ve released a new trailer with a few more scenes, and it’s hard to deny that this thing looks fantastic — employing the kind of lush detail and slow-motion destruction that we’ve come to expect alongside the added bonus of top hats and petty coats. Check it out for yourself:

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The Lone Ranger 2013

Casting Johnny Depp as a Native American was always going to be a strange idea. Even with him claiming his great-grandmother was part Cherokee or Creek, it’s tough to point to the decision and claim that it was motivated by a sense of the role and not by, say, Depp’s incredible bankability as one of the last remaining movie stars. Still, it’s nice to see that the first teaser footage from Gore Verbinski‘s The Lone Ranger – which stars Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the masked avenger of the title – shows off just a hint of Depp’s wondrously stereotypical, “Me Wantum Wampum” accent for the flick. It’s one of those situations where perhaps a racial depiction from the 1930s wasn’t the best thing to keep in a movie for 2013. However, laughable white washing aside, the epic scale and gun metal patina makes the project look visually stunning. Since the film sees theaters in May of next year, expect to learn more about Hammer and Depp’s characters, but for now, enjoy a solid look at the adventurous tone:

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Culture Warrior

Enduring cultural figures like Batman endure precisely because of the slight but notable changes they incur over time. Batman has had a long history in the moving image, and while the character has maintained both the central conceit of being a crime-fighting detective, the cinematic Batman of seventy years ago bears little resemblance to the Batman we’re familiar with today. The character and his myth have been interpreted with variation by a multitude of creative persons other than Bob Kane and Bill Finger. In the moving image, Batman has been embodied by a range of actors including Robert Lowery, Adam West, and George Clooney, and Batman has been realized by directors and showrunners prone to various tastes and aesthetic interpretations like William Dozier and Christopher Nolan. While Batman is perhaps best-known by a non-comic-astute mass culture through the many blockbuster feature films made about him, including this summer’s hotly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, the character’s cinematic origins are rooted in the long-dead format of the movie serial. Batman first leapt off the page in a 15-part serial made in 1943 titled Batman and another six years later titled Batman and Robin. These serials did not influence Batman’s later cinematic iterations realized by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher as much as they inspired Batman’s representation on television. Batman’s presence in film serials and on television have had a decisive and important impact in terms of how mass audiences perceive the Batman of feature films. At the same time, these serials […]

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