The Lone Ranger
The name of Jerry Bruckheimer conjures up all sorts of things, but whether you love him or hate him, subtlety is not one of them. As a producer, he has done more than anyone to bring cinema into the shallow, effects-driven realm of the computer game. He scored a huge success with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and clearly has similar ambitions for The Lone Ranger. He is once again working with Gore Verbinski, who worked on three of the Pirates movies, as well as Johnny Depp, who seems intent on giving his role of Captain Jack Sparrow a Western makeover as Tonto. The film has its moments, but at two-and-a-half-hours, even the big-budget effects get tedious, the tone is wildly uneven and there really isn’t enough story to fill out space.
We have had Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, so it is no surprise that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are now back to continue the hugely successful lets-talk-about-love series that moves the timeline along nine years from when they first met in Vienna. The bittersweet of that moment of connection between a man and a woman, one that both know could only be a fleeting encounter, is pretty much dissipated now in the third film of this series, when they are together once again. That said, the film has gleaned strongly positive reviews, with John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter stating that the project “started in 1995’s Before Sunrise retains a clarity of spirit undimmed by 18 years.” It has broken away from the courtship formula and moved the lives of its protagonists forward in satisfying and believable ways. They are still talking about love, but now love is whole new ballgame and there is plenty to talk about.
The first RED, (which is supposed to mean Retired but Extremely Dangerous), was a perfectly acceptable piece of action silliness that gave aging stars a chance to be young again. There was no real need for a second serving, but here it is anyway, this time with the addition of some not-so-geriatric talent in the form of the still extremely hot Catherine Zeta-Jones and South Korean action star Lee Byung-hun. Bruce Willis still headlines as retired CIA agent Frank, and John Malkovich does paranoid like nobody else as Marvin. Anthony Hopkins gives his own stamp to the role of a crazed scientist, and Helen Mirren remains remarkably attractive kitted out in with a sniper rifle. There are some fun one liners, and a romantic subplot involving Frank and an old flame that provides some new comic material, but essentially this is more of the same light-hearted, forgettable stuff as the first RED.
Escape from Planet Earth
Space fantasy that seems to have taken a condensed course in Monsters Inc. The movie is bright and breezy, perfectly competent at amusing the very young, but not likely to reach out to the cross-over adult audience in the manner of Toy Story or Finding Nemo. The voice cast sports a few recognizable names in form of Brendan Fraser as Scorch Supernova, an astronaut who travels the universe saving people. But when he gets to planet Earth, he finds himself taken prisoner. He meets other aliens, kept in a super-secret facility aimed at destroying the alien threat. There is nothing strikingly original about any of the characters, which dooms Escape from Planet Earth to being summer vacation fodder.
Tiny Times Movie (小時代)
Four young women who have been through university together, all best friends, enter the world with their hopes, their dreams, their ambitions and their fears. Set against the background of Shanghai in the early 1990s, a city on the cusp of its own coming of age as a fashion and financial capital. The four women, each very different in character, are played by Yang Mi (楊冪), Amber Kuo (郭采潔), Hsieh Haden Kuo (郭碧婷) and Hsieh Yi-lin (謝依霖), a variety calculated to play to a wide fan audience. They inevitably embark on romantic experiences, and the male stars are equally calculated to appeal to the celebrity aware: Kai Ko (柯震東), Rhydian Vaughan (鳳小岳), Li Yue-ming (李悅銘) and Cheney Chen (陳學冬). Everyone is beautiful, the clothes are stylish and the buildings modern. High romance inevitably segues into tragedy, or at least disappointment that these bright young things can’t have absolutely everything they desire. Based on a novel by the best-selling Chinese novelist and teen pop idol Guo Jingming (郭敬明), who makes his debut as a screenwriter and director in this film.