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The Rat who is made of Stainless Steel

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Film Reviews: Prince Avalanche (2013), The Lone Ranger (2013), The Pledge (2001), Prisoners (2013)
Prince Avalanche (2013). Written and directed by David Gordon Green. The film is set in 1988 in Texas, following a huge wildfire the previous year. Alvin (Paul Rudd) has contracted his girlfriend's younger brother Lance (Emile Hirsch) to help him paint the lines, install reflectors etc. on the rebuilt road through one of the wildfire areas. Initially the difference in age and character makes it hard for them to get on. Prince Avalanche is another of the small scale black comedies, although in large part it's mostly just minimalist drama. Rudd and Hirsch are good as the beleaguered pair. The cinematography of the fire swept woodland scenery is hypnotic, significantly assisted by a beautiful soundtrack from Explosions in the Sky. I didn't quite mesh with the characters though, and the story was too spartan for my taste. If you like your comedy to be black and minimalist then you should enjoy this. 4/5 (Good)

The Lone Ranger (2013). Directed by Gore Verbinski and based on the radio show by George W Trendle and Fran Striker. Initially set in 1933 San Francisco, a young boy visits a Wild West exhibition at a passing carnival. One of the dioramas has the life-size figure of a very aged Native American, who turns to the boy when he approaches for a closer inspection. The Native American starts to reminisce about the past, and the rest of the story is told in flashback. I'm sure I am not the first to spot what Disney were doing with The Lone Ranger. Take average clichéd (even more so in this case) overly long story, add a quirky Johnny Depp character, spend a lot of money on production and marketing, and have a very financially successful film series, right? Well, wrong as it turns out in this case - at least in terms of the financially successful bit. For me at least the film was fun enough, albeit with the same aforementioned problems of the prior film series. Johnny Depp is kinda amusing as Tonto. If you like long fancily produced cliché action films then this should be your bag. 3/5 (Average)

The Pledge (2001). Directed by Sean Penn and based on the novella by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The film starts with police detective Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) at his retirement party. In tandem a boy is on a snowmobile which gets stuck in a drift. A man spots him, but runs to his car and drives off at speed. The boy walks to the spot the man was running from and finds a murdered girl. I spotted The Pledge as one of the Den of Geek Top 25 Underappreciated Films of 2001. I realised about halfway through that I'd seen it before, but I couldn't remember the ending. The Pledge is a very well done murder mystery, albeit with the emphasis on drama. Nicholson is fantastic, and helped by an excellent supporting cast. The latter half is the film is a bit slow in pace, and (without trying to give too much away) I'm not sure the twist at the end works very well. For me at least I just felt confused and unsatisfied, so there's that to be aware of. A shame really as the rest of the film is great. 4/5 (Good)

Prisoners (2013). Written by Aaron Guzikowski and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Two neighbouring families are having a Thanksgiving dinner. The two younger daughters say they are going across to the other house with their older siblings, but it transpires some time later that they didn't ask their siblings and they aren't at the house. Prisoners is a very good thriller which sustains the pace throughout a long running time of almost 2.5 hours. It reminded me somewhat of Silence of the Lambs, albeit a notch below. Jake Gyllenhal is particularly good as a police detective, even though he doesn't seem quite right for the part. Hugh Jackman plays one of the fathers, although it isn't a particularly subtle performance. The credibility of the story is also pushed at times, although at other times is spot on. These are all mostly niggles though. A must watch for thriller fans. 4/5 (Good)