The Lone Ranger (2013)

“Enjoyable Western Adventure That is Unfairly Criticised” 9/10

 

The Lone Ranger tells the exciting tale of the Lone Ranger, John Reid (Armie Hammer), from the perspective of Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp), who rescues him and offers his help in bringing the notorious Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) to justice, which throws the pair into many adventures along the way.

I was surprised to see that many critics had dismissed this film and it has actually been a flop at the box office. Even from the very beginning I felt caught up in the adventure and found it to be very thrilling. It has a lovely Western setting and lots of brawls and gunfights (although reasonably tame as this is a family film). I think part of the charm of the film is that the tale is being recounted from the perspective of Tonto, now an elderly man, to a young boy full of excitement and amazement for the story, eager to learn more. It resonates those childhood memories of being enchanted by a bold story such as this, that lingers in the mind and fuels the imagination, something that we eventually grow out of a little, and I liked the reminiscent touch that this offered. Even as an adult the plot is still thrilling and it’s something of a different offering from Disney, more along a Pirates of the Caribbean feel in terms of adult themes and action sequences.

Johnny Depp is outstanding in this, really embracing the role of the Native American warrior and bringing his own brand of quirkiness to it that brings a few laughs. Armie Hammer, an unknown actor to me until now, also impressed me in this film, as the somewhat reluctant but heroic Lone Ranger. The more minor characters were also relative unknowns to me, besides Helena Bonham Carter, but I didn’t feel there was a particularly weak link in the casting.

The Lone Ranger is an enjoyable Western adventure that is family friendly and exciting. Don’t be put off by the negative reviews, I think it’s sadly underrated and unfairly criticised – if you’re looking for a fun, quirky adventure then give this a shot.

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The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

“Interesting Love Story But Hard to Follow” 7/10

 

The Deep Blue Sea is a period romance focusing on Hester (Rachel Weisz), the wife of a judge who embarks on an affair with the reckless RAF pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). However, overcome with a mixture of guilt and disappointment that her new life isn’t quite what she’d hoped, she makes a dramatic decision which has disastrous consequences for herself and her relationships.

This film has quite a poignant story – it focuses a lot on emotion and doubt which are highly relatable even outwith the situation of the story itself. The period setting gives it a somehow more romantic edge and it really is an interesting love story. You can’t help but understand the problems that Hester experiences with her troubled life, and the “grass is greener” feeling that draws her towards a seemingly more exciting life with Freddie. The story ebbs and flows in parallel with Hester’s feelings, and at times takes some dark turns. Despite the story being good, I felt really let down by the direction – the scenes constantly switch between present day and very recent flashbacks with little discerning detail as to which is which. I found myself lost at many points during the film, unable to work out where it was in the story and having to rely on the odd bit of choice dialogue that would reveal the time setting. This is sadly very off-putting and took away from the punch that the script would have had otherwise.

Despite the scene confusions, Weisz and Hiddleston offer a beautiful, if difficult, romance that is really set alive by the strengths of them as actors. Weisz is on top form with a powerful but vulnerable performance, and Hiddleston suits the role of the troubled romantic (his character in this reminded me a lot of his role in “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2014) in which he was incredible). There was also good performances from smaller characters, most notably Hester’s husband Sir William (Simon Russell Beale) who’s role was vulnerable and gentle, an opposite to the rival of his wife’s affections.

The Deep Blue Sea is quite a powerful and interesting love story, but sadly I felt that the possibility of this film being a great classic romance was tarnished somewhat by the lack of clarity in time shifts. Nevertheless, the story is good and it’s worth a watch for the excellent characters and script.

Carnage (2011)

“A Darkly Comedic Look at Chaotic Personalities” 9/10

 

Carnage is a fascinating and darkly comedic drama that certainly lives up to its title.  Two pairs of parents, the Cowans (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) and the Longstreets (John C Reilly and Jodie Foster) meet up to discuss an incident involving a tussle between their two sons.  The Longstreets invite the Cowans over to their apartment to discuss the appropriate next steps, however the discussion ends up snowballing into total carnage.

 

Nearly the entire film is set in the one room, the Longstreet’s lounge, which in itself makes for fascinating viewing, creating a caged-in, uncomfortable atmosphere.  At the beginning the two sets of parents do not know each other, intensifying that discomfort, and as a viewer watching that one room for the entire film becomes more and more enveloping – towards the end I felt as if I too were trapped in the apartment, unable to escape the spiralling chaos that was unfolding.  The film is based on the play “God of Carnage” which I have seen and enjoyed, so I was glad to see that the effectiveness of the staging had not been lost in its move to the screen.  A good casting was a strong contributing factor in creating this effect of being “drawn in” – in particular the two actresses.  This film is all about clashes and is demonstrated most strongly in the characters.  Winslet’s character is anxious and stressed, keen to move on quickly from the incident with the least fuss; whilst Foster’s character is much more ideological and full of very firm and unchanging views on the world, believing that her son deserves more than just a quick apology.  The two men are also wildly different: Reilly’s character is accommodating and free-flowing (a stark contrast from his wife too) and Waltz, a seriously underrated actor who I would love to see in more things, is a detached father who’s primary concern is his work.  I always find films with character clashes fascinating and this one does it to perfection, embracing some parenting stereotypes to bring the story to a head.

 

It’s difficult to discuss the story without revealing anything about the plot or spoiling the way it unfolds.  It is however really quite realistic of how an argument between complete strangers can develop, eventually skewing this out of proportion as the story progresses.  The ending is bizarre – when I first saw it I felt it was very anti-climactic, however upon reflection I realised that it was actually the best ending that the film could have had.  Some may disagree but I felt that any other ending would have been cheesy or disappointing.

 

Carnage is fascinating and darkly comedic throughout and features a strong cast of wonderfully different characters.  Although the story might be, at times, outrageously exaggerated, I think it’s an interesting watch because it stems from such a believable place.  It’s definitely one to spend some time reflecting on afterwards.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)

“Uplifting Story But Slightly Unconvincing Character Relationships” 8/10

 

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen tells the uplifting story of fisheries expert Dr Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) who is approached by consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt) who persuades him to work on a project for a sheik (Amr Waked) who wants to introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen.  Initially the project seems impossible but over time Alfred and Harriet find themselves on a journey, taking a leap of faith to make it possible.

 

The story itself is humble and touching, uniting the two main characters (McGregor and Blunt) who find themselves a little lost in life, and reminds them that with a little faith, anything is possible – a message that features strongly throughout.  Despite its moralistic teachings, it manages to be surprisingly funny at the same time, mostly coming from Kristen Scott Thomas playing a no-nonsense government official.  Ewan McGregor really shone in this film, bringing his character’s flaws to the screen in a sweetly awkward fashion that was also bursting with relatability and honesty.  Emily Blunt offers a more easy-going and self-assured role, although there are moments of well-placed vulnerability too.  Despite these two strong performances I felt that sadly there wasn’t much chemistry between the characters, something about it didn’t have me convinced.  Perhaps it was the uncertain, tenuous relationships that they had with their partners (played by Rachael Stirling and Tom Mision respectively) that made it all seem so awkward and slightly forced.  Thankfully this doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the story too much.  The setting is beautiful, some fantastic Scottish landscapes (something I really need to see more of having lived here most of my life) and from the Yemen too.

 

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an uplifting and inspiring story that offers a touching reminder that anything is possible with just a little faith, something that few films provide.  For me, I felt that the strong characters were tarnished just a little by their less-than-convincing interactions.  Despite this, it’s still and enjoyably sweet feel-good film, definitely worth a watch.

Sunshine (2007)

“A Thought-Provoking and Hard-Hitting Look at Humanity” 10/10

 

In 2057, the sun is dying and the planet is in jeopardy, and so a team of astronauts make a second attempt at a dangerous mission to revive the sun.  Facing nothing but adversity along the way the team must overcome all the odds as they are humanity’s last hope for survival.

 

I still feel a little in shock at this film.  It takes such an honest, hard-hitting look at humanity, placing the viewer straight into the difficult lives of the astronauts and constantly throwing a series of increasingly tough decisions and scenarios – it makes you question every decision they make, and then question yourself.  I’ve never thought more seriously about the idea of sacrifice for the greater good than whilst being put into the shoes of the characters.  Don’t be put off by this though – it’s thought-provoking only so long as you let it be.  Knowing this was a Danny Boyle film I had high hopes for the directorial styling of this film and it lived up to my expectations.  He manages to simultaneously create the feeling of confinement and eternal empty space, and throws in some really trippy snapshot scenes that give a terrifying edge of madness as the film progresses.  Visually it is very convincing (and apparently also factually as the film’s science advisor was Dr Brian Cox), in particular the CGI shots of the sun, which is interestingly portrayed both astronomically and more religiously, a nice nod to the Greek myth of Icarus (who flew too close to the sun), that lends its name to the space shuttle.

 

The casting is pretty strong which is necessary to clash each of these flawed characters and drive their individual motivations on the mission.  The most notable performances came from Cillian Murphy, the determined but hesitant hero; Chris Evans, the tough and hard-hitting voice of reason (a somewhat unfamiliar role to him but one that he carries off impeccably, as I usually find with his work); and Rose Byrne, the compassionate and slightly vulnerable one who offers a last-ditch attempt to prove that humanity isn’t completely doomed to selfishness.  However the performances from the other actors (Michelle Yeoh, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong and Cliff Curtis) all brought that little something different to each argument and scenario that made you think.

 

Sunshine is a thought-provoking and hard-hitting look at humanity that will have you questioning yourself about how you would make decisions in a life or death situation to save a world that is not so unrealistic from what the future could be like.  This one definitely stays with you long after it’s over.

The Artist (2011)

“A Beautifully Modern Classic Silent Movie” 10/10

 

The Artist tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent film star who happens to bump into one of his fans, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), inspiring her to audition for a minor role as a dancer at the studio where he works.  However the world of film is changing, moving away from silent films into talking-pictures, and while Peppy rises to fame quickly George is set in his ways and refuses to believe that silent film is dead.

 

I have never seen a feature film in the silent movie style, and I loved this.  Black and white films always look classy and this one had a beautiful authentic 1920’s feel that completely disguised the fact that it is a modern film.  The musical score set the scenes perfectly, creating atmosphere to replace the words that would normally tell the story, which flowed wonderfully and was consistently entertaining.  Dujardin and Bejo brought their characters to life through charming (and not overdone to compensate for the lack of dialogue) acting and sweep you up in their heart-warming tale of forbidden romance.  There’s also an incredibly well-trained dog that adds to the overall sweet nature of the film.  The story is initially fairly simplistic but that really adds to the overall charm, and once the plot has been set up we see the complex nature of George’s life and how he struggles to cope in a changing world, something that no doubt many people can relate to.  Peppy on the other hand is embracing the new age and all of the opportunities coming her way, which again is very relatable, and the clash of these two character’s personalities adds the complexity to the plot.

 

The Artist is classic and beautifully well-done, with highly relatable characters and an authentic silent movie styling that is captivating and rare nowadays.  It’s a heart-warming and romantic story guaranteed to make you smile (and a little nostalgic), I highly recommend it!