"I guess that my life has been a series of flukes in the record business. The first thing I ever did was the biggest record that I'll ever have." – Alex Chilton
Greetings from the apocalypse! It's a weekend full of westerns, cool bands and two movies with Steve Carell. That helps to ease the pain of yet another extended Johnny Depp mugging session masquerading as a popcorn film. I'm on to you, Depp …
Friday, July 5
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POW! IN THEATERS
"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi-ho, who gives a s**t?'" "The Lone Ranger" returns us to those thrilling days of yesteryear via the thundering hoof-beats of audience apathy as Disney throws a cool $200 million on the fire betting on a brand name that hasn't been relevant since when JFK was still alive. Wannabe Cherokee Johnny Depp does his usual postmodern shtick as a crazy Tonto while Armie Hammer seems to be pretty earnest as the bland title hero. The word on this is pure poison, and I did everything in my power to avoid screening this 2-hour-30-minute monstrosity this week. Successfully, I might add. I plan to make it a tradition to not watch this movie every July 4 weekend.
"The Lone Ranger" may have been out of the saddle the last few generations, but in a summer where Superman and Captain Kirk are inadvertent mass murderers maybe we could use something a little old-fashioned. Those wanting a taste of the original western hero can watch the feature-length pilot episode of the original TV series, which in itself was based on a long-running radio show. Guess times haven't changed much, eh? "Enter the Lone Ranger" was originally broadcast on September 15, 1949 and starred Clayton Moore as the masked man doing battle with the Butch Cavendish gang (also the new movie's villain) and Jay Silverheels as his noble savage partner Tonto. Watch it in its entirety below via YouTube:
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
Johnny Depp and "Ranger" director Gore Verbinski have a history of ritualistically immolating Disney Dollars with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy, but the pair also teamed up for the rather unorthodox animated western "Rango," which garnered an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It also may have turned a new generation onto the effects of psychotropic drugs, as the movie's surreal antics play like Hunter S. Thompson as a chameleon. Incidentally, Thompson has an animated cameo.
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PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
Speaking of Thompson, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is on at 2:15 a.m. on HBO 2. It features the old, awesome Johnny Depp before he sold his soul to Jerry Bruckheimer and before he dived disastrously back to the HST well for "The Rum Diary." Director Terry Gilliam drives Depp and co-star Benicio Del Toro into a frenzy of intoxicated dynamite, causing the screen to erupt in a disorienting visual orgy that simulates all the uppers and downers of a legendary '70s drug trip. The neo-beat narration of the book is wisely retained, helping to contextualize Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo's wildman behavior as a final mournful death rattle of '60s optimism, "the crest of a high and beautiful wave" that energized and ultimately bankrupted a generation.
Saturday, July 6
YOU DOWN WITH VOD?
I'm a sucker for great band docs, and this week's uber recommended Survivor of Thunderdome "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" (now on VOD and in theaters) happens to be about the best band you've never heard of and I've loved since college so HA! Bragging rights. The ironically named Big Star was the brainchild of the tragic Chris Bell, who created a rollicking, high-energy sound that forever altered the music landscape, really. Bell recruited Box Tops frontman Alex Chilton of "The Letter" fame and the ensuing three albums influenced a generation of alternative rockers such as R.E.M., The Posies and Belle & Sebastian. Their story of Memphis musicianship and bad luck on the business front should serve as a cautionary tale to those who think it only takes talent to make it in the biz. Oh, and in case you were wondering, that is their track at the beginning of "That '70s Show." Rock on.
PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
Of course, not all Memphis rockers fared badly, especially the King himself, Mr. Elvis Presley. The death of many Elvis impersonators is at the center of the 2004 comedy "Elvis Has Left the Building" on FLIX at 4:25 a.m. This oddity stars Academy Award-winning hottie Kim Basinger as a woman on a road trip who turns into an accidental serial killer of fake Elvises and manages to fall in love with John Corbett while she's at it. Features an ever-so-brief Tom Hanks cameo, probably because it's made by his former "Bosom Buddies" director Joel Zwick.
NEW ON BLU
We're gonna stay in a southern frame of reference for 1977's "The Kentucky Fried Movie," the comedic sketch movie that has absolutely nothing to do with the south but is one of the funniest movies ever ever ever. Director John Landis ("Animal House") made his debut helming a series of utterly left-field bits including "Catholic High School Girls in Trouble," educational film "Zinc Oxide and You," fake blaxploitation trailer "Cleopatra Schwartz" and the longest sustained Bruce Lee parody in history titled "A Fistful of Yen." Own it. "The popcorn you are eating has been pissed in. Film at eleven."
Sunday, July 7
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MASTER OF THE ART HOUSE
Ah yes, that other Steve Carell movie, the one without banana-colored Minions in it. It's called "The Way, Way Back," and even though its not "Despicable Me 2" Carell does play a kind of despicable dude who makes the life of 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) miserable during the summer he discovers girls and stuff. Sam Rockwell plays a water park manager who mentors Duncan in the ways of the woman, and AnnaSophia Robb is his object of adolescent desire. The film was made by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, who won Oscars for their script to "The Descendants," and seems to be channeling the long-dead spirit of John Hughes.
People revere John Hughes' Hallmark Card-ready rite de passage movies but forget that the man could also make dumb movies, like really dumb. Case in point: "Weird Science," where Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith make a hot woman that looks like Kelly LeBrock with a floppy disc and a dial-up modem. Who knows if this movie is pro- or anti-feminist, but the idea of a live-in magical supermodel teaching sexually repressed Chicago youth about having some goddamn backbone is goofy '80s fun. What's the haps, young Robert Downey, Jr.? Watch it in its entirety below via HULU fo free, yo:
We conclude our coming-of-age triptych with Cameron Crowe's perennial heart-melter "Say Anything …," which you can catch at a free outdoor screening around 8 p.m. at Habana Outpost in Brooklyn, NY. John Cusack is at his charming doe-faced best as average dude Lloyd Dobler who falls hardcore for high school valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye). What man isn't guilty of such a thing? Valedictorians are smokin'. Also, can we please bring back awesome '80s teen comedy names like that?
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …