Blu-ray Review “The Lone Ranger”

Actors: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter
Directors: Gore Verbinski
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Run Time: 149 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Right from day one, I had a feeling that “The Lone Ranger” would be a mistake to make, especially for north of $200 million dollars and even with starring Johnny Depp as Tonto. I am not sure how the executives at Disney didn’t see that. I (like most of America) had no interest in seeing this in theaters but I was still curious on Blu-ray. I was definitely pleasantly surprised. Depp is Depp…and that is not a bad thing obviously! Not a huge Armie Hammer, he reminds me too much of a car salesmen playing The Lone Ranger. The film itself is definitely epic, no question. Action packed and quite visual. But WAY too long. They could have easily trimmed 30 minutes off. Still this is a relatively fun popcorn flick and worth checking out. I am definitely a sucker for over-the-top Depp roles to hate it.

Official Premise: The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer; “The Social Network”), the last of his kind, teams with Tonto (Johnny Depp; “Pirates of the Caribbean” series), a dark and mysterious vigilante, to seek vengeance after justice has failed them. It’s a runaway train of epic surprises, as these two unlikely heroes must learn to work together before the ultimate showdown between good and evil explodes. Screenplay by Justin Haythe (“Revolutionary Road”), Ted Elliott (“Pirates of the Caribbean” series) and Terry Rossio (“Pirates of the Caribbean” series).

Disney is releasing this film as a combo pack with Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet Digital Copy. With the film’s $200+ million dollar budget, you have to expect a very visual film and that does translate very well to its 1080p transfer. I liked the colors in the film, it set a certain mood that I dug quite a bit. Since the film is action packed, also the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track really soared. From the chugging train to the gunshots, this is one hell of an active and very impressive track. In terms of special features though, they are quite the letdown. “Riding The Rails of The Lone Ranger” is barely over 10 minutes and focus on the train and cars in the film. “Armies’s Western Road Trip: Armie Hammer” is a tour of the film’s scenic locations with the actor. “Becoming A Cowboy” is another short featurette about how they actors got into character. Lastly there is a Deleted Scene & Blooper Reel included.


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Book Review “The Lone Ranger: Behind the Mask”

Author: Michael Singer
Hardcover: 168 pages
Publisher: Insight Editions
Release Date: July 3, 2013

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

If you look at a film like “The Lone Ranger” you can tell that it was one hell of a production and cost around $250 million dollars to make.  So when it comes to the behind-the-scenes making of book, I was hoping for a huge elaborate look in the making-of the film.  I have to admit, I was a little bit let down. I feel that this book would have benefited more from a “Art of” book then a behind-the-scenes look.  “The Lone Ranger: Behind the Mask” tells a story of the long and hard road that it took in order to get this movie made. I would maybe recommend this to die-hard Depp fans. But be warned though of spoilers included towards the end of the book.

Since this was such an enormous production, we get an inside look at the huge sets in Albuquerque, the epic vistas of Monument Valley, and the sound stages of Los Angeles.  Accompanying that with some great shots of the cast and crew as well as some candid behind-the-scenes look.  There is some concept art and planning work for the characters and sets. Like I said, I would have loved to seen more focus on the art behind the film but at least we get a little taste of that in this book. The photos included though are high quality and do show a great deal of scale from the production.

One thing I should point out after this book is that is filled with celebrity cameos.  There are afterwords from Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.  There is an introduction by director Gore Verbinski.  There is a special photo foreword from Jerry Bruckheimer. At first when I show the cover of this book, I thought to myself if there was actually anything in between all these various afterwords and forewords.  The author of the book, Michael Singer, definitely brings a great knowledge of books based on behind-the-scenes of films.  He worked on “Bring Me That Horizon: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean”, again also with Bruckheimer, Depp and Verbinski.  So I guess you can call this project a family reunion. 


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Film Review “The Lone Ranger”

Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and William Fichtner
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 149 minutes
Walt Disney Studios

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

My father grew up watching “The Lone Ranger”. Whether it was Clayton Moore or John Hart donning the bandit style mask, my dad sat in front of the TV watching the 221 televised adventures of “The Lone Ranger”. I even remember my dad trying to bestow upon me the same excitement he had watching it. He didn’t want to just relive the adventures, he wanted me to feel that same spark of joy he once had. It never caught. I grew up on animated shows like “Mighty Max” and was drawn by the bleak world of crime portrayed in “Batman: The Animated Series”. The black and white TV show just didn’t resonate with me. Now that I’m older and understand what my dad was trying to do all those years ago, I was hoping Disney could rejuvenate those feelings once felt by thousands upon thousands of children during the 50’s. Sadly they’ve let me down.

A lone train chugs across the barren desert. Aboard is John Reid (Armie Hammer), a clean shaven man who puts his faith in the law. Farther down in another train cart, chained to the floor is the gritty looking and notorious outlaw, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Next to him is the odd Native American, Tonto (Johnny Depp). These are our three main players. After Butch escapes, John travels into the harsh and unforgiving wild with a group of Texas Rangers to track him down. Butch and his gang of thugs ambush and savagely murder the group. Tonto then comes across the grisly scene of seven bodies lifeless in the dry heat. He digs seven holes to bury the dead, but a white horse stands at John’s resting place. To Tonto, it represents a spirit, telling him that John may have died, but he is alive again and will help Tonto in his journey to rid the land of evil.

I’m not sure how the Lone Ranger is suppose to act or appear, but Armie Hammer has a commanding presence on screen. He’s very likeable as the rugged hero. Fichtner would have been a fantastic villain if there was more exposition, but he still gives off some pretty wicked vibes with his implied taste for human flesh. Seriously. Tonto in the original series was meant to be a spiritual guide, but in this movie the character comes off as the Native American version of Jack Sparrow. It’s easy to compare this movie to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series because of director Gore Verbinski. If that isn’t enough the writers of “Pirates” (Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot) are tagging along as well. They’re joined by Justin Haythe(“Snitch” and “Revolutionary Road”) who most likely added to the difficulty of updating a classic character.

There are a multitude of times during this movie you can tell these three were struggling to jam their ideas in. This leads to a long and unfocused flick. Concepts are barely fleshed out and some scenes serve no purpose. Instead of completing or simply removing them, every scene is glued to the next by an action set. The action sequences are fun to watch, but they’re not dripping with peril. We’re given plenty of “will he live?” scenarios where we know the outcome is yes. Yes they will live. When we’re finally able to take a breather, we’re treated to a gorgeous landscape and sets that have a fantasy twist on the old west. Vibrant colors cover the rustic feel of towns and businesses. One of my favorite scenes involves our heroes visiting a brothel. Some of the establishing shots are quite breathtaking. Towering rocks chiseled from years of weather and patches of vegetation bravely fighting the coarse sand surrounding it.

Even with it’s meandering, I will admit, the last half hour feels magical. William Tell’s Overture kicks into gear as explosions rock the ground and we’re finally watching the “Lone Ranger” deliver justice. The classical piece by Rossini, made famous during the Lone Ranger’s radio time, stills packs a youthful sense of excitement as gun smoke fills the air. In that moment I realized that somewhere in the early stages of this movie, when all three writers gathered and collaborated, there was a wonderful and enchanting story with memorable characters waiting to capture the wild west imagination. As well as delight the hearts and minds of both young and old viewers. Instead we’re left with a movie that has an identity crisis and expects puns on the classic TV show to cover it’s weaknesses.


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Book Review “After Earth: United Ranger Corps Survival Manual”

Author: Robert Greenberger
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Insight Editions
Release Date: May 21, 2013

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to M. Night Shyamalan, I think we all have had our share of his twist-filled films.  “After Earth” looks original and pretty interesting. It also starts Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith kicking alien ass.  So I am curious to see it.  When I saw that Insight Edition was releasing “United Ranger Corps Survival Manual” as the companion the film, I was very interested since they did a fantastic job with “The Dark Knight Manual” by Brandon T. Snider last year. This book tries to copy the success of that book but comes up a little short. Still though it is a great companion and definitely has peaked my interest more in seeing this film.  I even have a feeling that after seeing this film, I am going to enjoy this film quite a bit more.

Official Premise: Go beyond After Earth with this unique, in-universe journey into the world of the United Ranger Corps. From the history of the Rangers, to humanity’s exodus from Earth, and the ongoing battle against the Skrel, a fearsome alien race, the United Ranger Corps Survival Manual immerses you in the After Earth universe. Study the secrets of ghosting—the art of singlehandedly slaying the vicious Ursa—and complete your mastery of the cutlass, a Ranger’s greatest weapon, as you discover what it takes to be one of Nova Prime’s elite. Filled with interactive elements, including a schematic of the Ranger base, a complete guide to the highly evolved animals of Earth, and even a handwritten journal entry from Cypher Raige, the United Ranger Corps Survival Manual is the essential companion to the After Earth film.

The manual covers doesn’t just cover the film, they cover the world surrounding the film.  Some of the chapter topics range from “A History of Earth’s Last Days, “Ranger Cadet Training”, “Ranger Uniform and Equipment”, including “Mastering the Cutlass”.  The color tone of the manual is a little drab yet the images are sharp and high quality. Like “The Dark Knight Manual”,  this manual has a few pull out and neat little tricks taking this to a different level than most companion books. I feel that they should have consulted Brandon T. Snider for some tips on how to make it perfect like he did with “The Dark Knight” but it still works. The author of the book is Robert Greenberger, who has worked with DC Comics, Marvel, Starlog and knows his sci-fi, especially from his work with the “Star Trek” franchise. I look forward to further books from him and again another hit from Insight Editions.