Archive for the ‘Johnny Depp’ Category

MOVIE: Rango (2011)

March 13, 2011

Okay, professional movie critics (Ebert exempted — he loved it), what IS your problem?  This extremely kooky and delightful film got kind of trashed by most of the reviewers I read regularly, and the primary reason for it seemed to be that the cartoon critters weren’t cute enough.

What the. . .?  What do you have against warts, whiskers, and waddles?  Lizard bigots.  Sheesh.

This entertaining, clever Western is about a chameleon who is on a road trip through the desert with his human family when the car swerves after hitting an armadillo (who was pretty ugly, I’ll grant you, but hey, looks aren’t everything!), sending our new amigo flying out the back.

Totally lost and completely out of his element, he starts walking and eventually stumbles across a little town named Dirt full of a variety of other desert animals.  He moseys into the local saloon in search of a glass of water, and is immediately approached by a gang of locals who ain’t too keen on strangers.  This gives the chameleon an idea — he loves to act, so he decides to pretend to be a gunslinger named Rango, regaling the saloon’s sots with a Wild West tale about the time he took out seven bad guys with a single bullet.

As Rango settles into town, eventually given the rather dubious honor of being named sheriff (none of the other sheriffs have lived too long, he’s told AFTER accepting the gig), he begins to pick up on the fact Dirt is in trouble.  It’s the middle of a terrible drought and the town is nearly out of water.  But when he and his new gal pal, a lizard lady named Beans, start to notice strange things going on (what looks like a large dumping of water outside of town, the fact the mayor doesn’t seem terribly worried, the robbery of the last of the town’s water), they begin to suspect a conspiracy.

Can Rango and Beans figure out who’s keeping the town dry (and why) before the bad guy comes after them?

Well, of course they can, duh — this is a kid’s movie, after all; it’ll have a happy ending (though I want to note here that this movie is really more suitable for older kids than little ones — there are a lot of truly scary scenes and I’m also not sure little kids will be able to follow the story).

Any fan of Westerns will get a kick out of this smart, satirical flick, which affectionately incorporates almost every classic Western element, from rolling tumbleweeds, angry mobs, bank robbers, posses, and High Noon duels, to bar brawls, a rancher who won’t give up her land, a bad guy who wants to keep the town squished flat under his thumb, and a romance between a drifter and the woman who seems destined to help him put down roots.

There were also some pretty clever additional touches for adults, including a cameo by Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke (on their way to or from Vegas, no doubt), a batty take on the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now, and a sweet hat-tip to The Man With No Name (voiced perfectly by Timothy Olyphant, who really does a mighty fine Clint Eastwood).

The animation is absolutely gorgeous too — there were several scenic shots that were true works of art, in my opinion, and though the critters might, in fact, be a bit on the homely side, they’re intricately drawn, with tons of character in their faces, and even the ugliest of the ugly good guys had an irresistible charm that will win you over by the end.

“No man can walk out of his own story” is a great moral to this classic tale, and I think Rango is a movie both kids and grown-ups will really enjoy (though, again, it’s rated PG, not G, for a reason).

Also glorious:  it was made in 2D and it’s being shown in 2D and there is NO OPTION to see it in 3D.  Utterly refreshing.

And highly recommended!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Animation, Western, Kids
Cast:  Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant, Ray Winstone

MOVIE: Public Enemies (2009)

July 27, 2009

I’ve never been much of a Michael Mann fan. His movies always seem sort of the same to me — heavy focus on manly posturing, not enough focus on the things that make characters interesting.  Like, for example, their character.

I thought this movie MIGHT have a shot at being different, though, because it stars Johnny Depp, who has rarely failed to impress me (speak not to me of Secret Window), and because a movie about John Dillinger seemed pretty aptly timed, given the current state of American finances.  I wondered how Mann might try to connect the two — how he might portray Dillinger as a product of his time, and, in so doing, posit that we might be driving some of our own most troubled of souls in the same direction.  Something to that effect anyway.  Something sort of timely and interesting.  Or, well. . . I don’t know what I expected, exactly.  But I do know this much:  I didn’t expect this movie to suck quite as much as it ended up sucking.

The film opens with one of John Dillinger’s famed escapes from prison, this time busting out not only himself but several members of his gang.  From there, it takes us through the thirteen months that came in between that escape and Dillinger’s death, through a series of pursuits, near-arrests, deadly gun battles, and his codependent relationship with a young woman named Billie Frechette (played by Marion Cotillard).

There are, as is often the case with these types of movies, two separate paths for the story — one is Dillinger’s path and the other is that of the man trying to catch him, a young FBI agent named Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), hand-selected to lead the Dillinger task force by none other than J. Edgar “Don’t Call it ‘Vacuuming'” Hoover himself.

Now, here’s where things get kind of complicated.  I can see where Michael Mann was trying to take this movie, I think.  There’s a long history of movies about famous criminals that all sort of work the same way — The Untouchables and 3:10 to Yuma both kept springing to mind while I watched this one, for example.  In those films, both the good guy and the bad guy are broken down into pieces for the audience.  We start to understand what it is that drives the hero — what makes him work so hard to stop the villain, regardless of personal cost.   On the other side, we are shown the true nature of the villain himself — he might be vicious, he might be cruel, he might rape, rob, or steal, but deep down inside, he too is just a man with a history.

We usually end up with roughly the same epiphany at the end — the two men on the two sides are actually the same man, but for circumstances that drove them in opposite directions.  Reminds me of that line from Capote:  “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front.”

I could tell from early on in the picture that Mann had no interest in taking Public Enemies in that direction.  A few elements of Dillinger’s childhood are touched on lightly — he reveals his mother died when he was young and his father used to beat him, for example.  A few elements of Billie’s past are also briefly lit, in an attempt, I gather, to show us the extent of her vulnerability and explain why she would become so loyal to John, and so quickly.  And maybe something here and there for Purvis too — an agent in so far over his head even treading water seems fairly futile most of the time.

But that kind of stuff is not the actual heart of this movie.  Instead, this movie is just about . . . well. . . shoot-outs and cool cars, I guess.   Instead of sticking to the formula, Mann shook the formula off with a bitchy temper and then sort of forgot to put something back in its place.  So, what we’re left with is a bunch of running around and violence, with a few little laughs here and there (I’ll confess I did love it when John walked right into the Dillinger Task Force HQ and asked what the score of the ball game was), and almost no substance whatsoever.

Did I want the same old movie?  I don’t know — maybe I did.  But I would’ve settled for something else if only it had had any intensity or power whatsoever.  I mean, even Depp seemed like he was bored a good 9/10ths of the time.  There was no spirit to his role or anybody else’s — there was just nothing.  Nothing.

Go for the scenery if you plan to go at all.  Good looks are all this movie has going for it, I’m afraid.

[Pre-queue me at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Drama, Action
Cast:  Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, Christian Bale, Channing Tatum, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, Emilie de Ravin, Leelee Sobieski

MOVIE: Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon (2008)

March 2, 2009

yetiOkay, you know how last week I said I’d be reviewing this brilliant piece of celluloid “tomorrow”?  You guys know that by “tomorrow,” I actually mean “sometime in the current year,” right?  Just like by “Boyfriend of the Week,” I actually mean, “Boyfriend of the Whenever the Heck I Get Around To It”?

Thought so.  But I know you guys don’t mind — as one commenter recently said (much to my delight), you all prefer quality over quantity, and would rather my posts be few and far between as long as they remain as AWESOME as they are right now.

Okay, okay, she didn’t actually use the word “AWESOME,” but I know she was thinking it.  And I know she is also 100% totally right.  RIGHT?

Right.

So, now, at long last, my comments on Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon.

You know way back when you first saw that Ethan Hawke film Alive about the soccer team that crashes in the Andes and resorts to cannibalism to stay alive?  Raise your hand if you too thought to yourself, “Hey, you know what would make this movie truly great?  If they added a YETI to it!”

I know!  Me too!  And so as well, apparently, did screenplaywright Rafael Jordan.

Because this movie, as ridiculous as it sounds (and is, I might add), is essentially one giant rip-off of Alive. . . WITH YETIS! (TWO of them, no less!)

So, that kind of takes care of the plot description, right?   Alive with Yetis?  Therefore, instead of getting into story details, I’m simply going to list my favorite parts of this incredibly wonderfully bad movie:

1.  Peter DeLuise is in it!  OMG OMG OMG!  He’s so cute, LOL!  While most fans of 21 Jump Street were all ga-ga over Johnny Depp, my favorite character from day one was always, always Doug Penhall.  Doug was dorky!  He was goofy!  He was silly!  He was totally adorable!  He was the Costello to Depp’s overly-serious Abbott.  I always fall for the Costello.  Costellos are my weakness.

But aside from Jump Street and a solitary episode of Supernatural, I can’t tell you a single other thing I’ve ever seen Peter in.  So, when I saw he was in THIS, I confess I was not really sure what to expect.  Guess what, though.  He was AWESOME!  And soooooo good-lookin’.  He has aged extremely nicely.  Extremely, extremely nicely, my friends.  Anyway, in Yeti, he plays a ranger dude who has to hike in for three days with his partner to try to reach the plane crash victims, and, once they get there, he teams up with the victims to help them battle the deadly Yetis.  It’s totally awesome.

Until one of the Yetis rips him to pieces.  That part sucked.  If only because it took away the only character in this movie I was actually rooting for (besides the Yetis, of course).

2.  The crash victims (happily this time comprising both boys AND girls because you can’t have a cheesy monster movie without some gratuitous smooching scenes) go approximately 24 hours without food before they decide it’s time to turn their dead friends into Soylent Green.  The guy who talks the rest of them into it is all, “Man, we ran out of Power Bars, like, YESTERDAY, peeps!  We’re going to starve to death!  Even though the woods all around us appear to be chock full of bunnies we could catch and kill if only we’d paid attention to that one rabbit-snare episode of Survivorman!  But, alas, we did not.  So, in that case, I vote for eating Joe first because his butt’s the biggest.”

3.  I watched this movie on the Sci-Fi Network, not on DVD, and I must say, I heartily recommend going that route.  You know why?  The irony.  The irony of television editing out the word “God” whenever it is used (“God forsaken woods,” e.g.), but leaving in the scene in which the Yeti twists a man’s leg so violently it rips off at the hip, shooting blood all over the place.   Does this not perfectly sum up American society, or what?

4.  The tag line:  “Surviving the crash was only the beginning. . .  MUA HA HA HA HA!”  (Note: I added that last bit.)

Oh man, this movie is awesome.  Keep an eye out for it to come back around on Sci-Fi, or pick up the DVD and edit out all the “God” parts yourself, for the full effect.  Either way, you are in for a really good-bad time.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Horror
Cast:  Peter DeLuise!!  Josh Emerson, Ona Grauer, Elfina Luk, Brandon Jay McLaren, Adam O’Byrne