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New release movie reviews - July 4
THE LONE RANGER *** (149 minutes) M
We might not have exactly been losing sleep over the introduction of The Lone Ranger into the pantheon of multiplex franchise heroes, but here he comes anyway. With a madeover Tonto, no less.
And what a fine, fun, somewhat over-long romp it is, with plenty of marvellously staged action, a generous smattering of humour and two chemically sparky lead performances from Johnny Depp as Tonto and a goofy Armie Hammer (The Social Network; J Edgar) as the titular gunslinger.
Courtesy of director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2, 3; Rango) and a safe 32 years since the last time the western outlaw lawman tried riding into our hearts in The Legend of the Lone Ranger - an enjoyable big-budget fiasco almost nobody remembers - the film is an origin story that places as much emphasis on the birth of our white-hatted hero as it does on his Native American companion - or "Indian", as he is commonly referred to in the film.
Indeed, it's Tonto who really triggers the whole premise, giving rise to the lone ranger myth as he invokes the power of the supernatural, with the presence of the "spirit horse" symbolising both the culture of the Comanche and the need for the hero to eventually ride upon a white horse he can call Silver. The story is pretty much seen through Tonto's eyes, especially all the heavy stuff about abusing the first inhabitants.
Now, this might reek of political correctness designed to help redress the misrepresentation of Native Americans in cinema but...well, it is. But please don't let that put you off, as Depp puts as much fruity over-ripe comic business into his Tonto as he did with Pirates Captain Jack Sparrow. And even though Tonto speaks in fractured English, he's actually easier to understand than Jack Sparrow ever was. He is also infinitely less annoying.
As with most big films these days, The Lone Ranger is about 30 minutes too long, and it does get too yappy as it deep-dives into its plot about political corruption, racism and good old-fashioned greed.
But when the Lone Ranger theme (aka Rossini's William Tell Overture) inevitably kicks in for the film's amazing train-borne action finale you can't help go all needles and pins.
And, to their Oscar-deserving credit, the digital artists at Industrial Light and Magic (the FX house founded by George Lucas for Star Wars) really deliver the goods. Nobody blows up bridges or make computer-rendered horses look like the real deal better than these guys.
WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS **** (130 minutes) M
Outstanding, cool-headed documentary from Oscar winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) about the origins of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, its charismatic founder Julian Assange and the leaking of US military secrets courtesy of Bradley Manning. Paced like a thriller, the bizarre backstory of Manning provides fresh insights into his motives, and though Assange refused to be interviewed for the film - which he denounced without seeing it - his character and motivations get a good going over, thanks chiefly to former friends and colleagues speaking out.
(See our interview with producer Marc Shmuger)
REALITY ***1/2 (111 minutes; subtitled) M
A small-time fishmonger (Aniello Arena) becomes so obsessed with qualifying for the Italian version of Big Brother he slowly loses interest in all the things of value to him. Blending black comedy with real drama, director Matteo Garrone (the over-rated Gomorrah) captures the 21st-century affliction of learned discontent, where perfectly happy people go in quest of something they think is better. Reality is a thoughtful, intelligent film that easily stands alongside Ron Howard's EDtv (1999) and Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998) for its dissection of the damaged psyche that comes with wanting to bear yourself on camera.