Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2010 (66)
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Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Justin Timberlake, The Eric H. Generation, Jesse Eisenberg, and Director David Fincher were the big winners. Timberlake was noticeably capable in his character Sean "Napster" Parker and Eisenberg delivered Sorkin's lines with the proficiency of an accomplished actor.
The biggest winner, no doubt, is Aaron "The West Wing" Sorkin who wrote a brilliant screenplay based on the novel by Ben Mezrich entitled "The Accidental Billionaires." Mezrich graduated from Harvard in 1991 which is also the alma mater of the key players of Facebook.
Sorkin's screenplay was the typical witty, fast-talking chatter that was the hallmark of "The West Wing" and "Charlie Wilson's War." I'm a huge fan of the 49 year old Sorkin, and I'm convinced that his words dominated this movie and made it a box office hit.
I have a Facebook account as do 500 million other folks, and this is the story of the creation of Facebook and the in-house fighting among the young Harvard inventors and rival Harvard students who thought the prime creator, Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg), stole their idea. Let the lawsuits begin!
Most who see this movie will come away with the notion that Zuckerberg (age 26) is an unfeeling jerk with little to no social skills. My impression of Zuckerberg, the real person, is that he also does not care what we think because currently he is worth north of $5 billion. I'm cool with that.
Monique H. and I saw this movie at 10 AM on Saturday. I agree; it is very hard to get up on a Saturday morning; watch cartoons, eat breakfast, and hurry to AMC before noon, but we did it. This movie is important because it helps define a generation of people under age 30 who could not attend college without access to their Facebook friends. Now, even older adults like Larry H. know how to "facebook" someone. Thanks Zuckerberg. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
Money never sleeps on Wall Street but Larry H. slept in Theatre #11 Edwards Greenway Palace Stadium 24. Anticipation is a dangerous emotion; once again I had been amped to see Gordon Gekko do his magic (or voodoo) on Wall Street. Surely an updated "Wall Street" with the recent global financial collapse as a backdrop would be a surefire hit. Wrong, Stock Market Breath.
Gekko (Michael "Kirk's Boy" Douglas) got out of prison in 2001 after serving 8 years hard and then the movie jumps to 2008 with the introduction of Wall Street Boy Wonder Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) who is in love with Gekko's estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Winnie hates her father but falls in love with another "Street" man.
This is a slick, stylish movie ably directed by Oliver Stone who also directed the original "Wall Street" in 1987. If one was grading Stone's ability to direct and create a meaningful movie, then he would win high marks. If one is grading Stone's ability to make this sequel entertaining, then Stone would get a failing grade. At times, I was so bored that I literally went to sleep only to head-snap myself awake with no cares that I missed a scene or two. At one point, the audience laughed and I didn't have a clue nor did I mind.
The script by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff seemed historically accurate and insightful and would have been a first class documentary, but with this cast of actors and Michael Douglas reprising his Gordon Gekko character, we deserved a bang-up flick with joy and intrigue. We got dull and unexciting.
Stone's graphics and CG effects were astounding and others will copy the cinematography, but I wanted characters that were worthy of my concern and compassion not Stone showing off his skills as a movie-maker.
My favorite character was Josh Brolin's bad guy as he appeared to at least be the most understandable. Carey Mulligan was my choice for Best Actress in 2009 for her portrayal in "An Education" and she performed admirably in her supporting role as Gekko's daughter. Mulligan's superb acting skills override her simple, less-than-sexy British looks. On the other hand, Shia has the good looks but suffers from a lack of star performance.
Eric H. was my sidekick at this movie; I don't think he went to sleep but his comments were something like "...dang." And he did noticed when I made a hissing (mocking) noise during a serious scene between Mulligan and LaBeouf. I was trying to help the audience understand my disdain. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 71S. Larry H.
This is Ben Affleck's movie. Ben is the director, star, and co-writer. His stock is about to go sky high; he's has entered the Clint Eastwood stratosphere with this touching, action film.
The storyline involves four Bostonians from the Charlestown neighborhood who specialize in robbing armored trucks and banks. Doug MacRay (Affleck) is the brains of this dubious band of thieves that also includes the classic over-the-top member James Coughlin (Jeremy "The Hurt Locker" Renner.) Coughlin is the two-time ex-con that vows not to go back to prison and isn't the least bit afraid to smash someone's head with his M4 full auto carbine or shoot them depending on his mood or twisted rationale.
The script is wonderfully written and the characters are complicated which means they are terribly flawed with some redeeming human qualities with just a pinch of charm. That formula bodes will for a violent film that involves cops and robbers thus allowing the audience to like everybody. And I did.
Obviously I was pulling for Ben and the boys to get away with their bank heists. What does that say about me? It says that the acting, directing and screenplay were outstanding. I even liked the FBI Special Agent (Jon "Mad Men" Hamm) who was trying to put the pieces together so he could bust the gang because he is a do-gooder cop. Well, not exactly because the FBI boys cut some corners, too, in the name of the law, of course.
More complications: during one of the bank jobs, the robbers take a beautiful bank manager (Rebecca Hall) hostage, but let her go unharmed. Then Coughlin starts worrying that perhaps the bank manager might remember too much about them and help the FBI. So, on behalf of the team, Affleck's character befriends her and promptly falls in love.
Now let's recap: bank robbers take a hostage and let her go, then the leader of the gang does some recon and falls in love with the fair maiden while the FBI is closing in and the gang smells a rat. Uh oh, I smell trouble and you know I'm also blessed with the sense of smell as we found out last week; they call me "Larry H. the Stink Smeller from Sugar Land." I'm not bragging; I'm just trying to remind you of the facts.
Speaking of smells; let me tell you a story about my 1:00 PM crowd which was very large. So large in fact, that a couple sat down by me. The woman was about to sit by me, but she realized that if she moved over one more seat then she would not have to sit by a single man (Larry H.) and would have a vacant seat to her right. Just about the time she was going to slide into the seat next to me, she made that awkward turn and settled into the adjacent seat thus forcing her beau to sit next to me. Within minutes, she took both of her shoes off and put her bare feet on top of his feet. And dang if he didn't shortly thereafter take off his shoes. I can't make up this stuff.
Then about an hour into the movie, the projectionist hit a "technical difficulty" so said the manager at the front of the theatre. During this brief interlude, the house lights came up and I noticed that this sweet, middle aged, barefooted couple was holding hands. Now let's recap: a couple is actually sitting next to Larry H. and brushing up against him (a criminal act in itself) and they are half naked and holding hands. Who do they think they are? Daisy and Jethro! They seemed nice enough so I forgave them.
This is an edgy movie and I know because I was on the edge of my seat during the entire flick. We all know that Ben Affleck can produce a believable Boston-based movie ("Good Will Hunting") but he has created a winner with "The Town" and it will garner awards and accolades. Benny will not have trouble getting financing for his next project. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.
All the good shrinks tell us that we must have boundaries. I don't know what that means but I think I've hit a wall. Isn't that a boundary? The new movies coming out this week are atrocious.
How do you know these things Larry H. if you haven't even seen the movie? I can smell stink before I stick my nose in the theatre. That's why they call me "Larry H. The Stink Smeller from Sugar Land."
Lest you doubt me and want to take the smell test for yourself, please review the excerpts below taken primarily from Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Note: if you can't trust the internet, then who can you trust?
"Resident Evil: Afterlife" - In a world ravaged by a virus infection, they turn victims into the Undead starring Millia Jovovich and Ali Larter. I'm sweet on Ali but surely she can't save this campy crap. This is the fourth installment of the Resident Evil franchise. You have got to be kidding me. You suckers that have seen the first three movies should turn in your movie card.
"I'm Still Here" - A documentary on Joaquin Phoenix's transition from the acting world to a career as an aspiring rapper. This actually has a tiny potential if you think sitting through odd movies is cool. I've seen Joaquin interviewed about his "transition" and I think he needs to see one of those "good shrinks."
"The Virginity Hit" - Four guys, one camera, and their experience chronicling the exhilarating and terrifying rite of passage: losing your virginity. Ok, that's it; I believe in the First Amendment as much as the next freak, but these guys should be arrested. And you, too, if you pay to see this "Hit."
There are a couple other movies debuting the week of September 10th (after Labor Day Weekend), but I think you get my stink; er point. But I'm not sad because I've decided that instead of going to the movies on this beautiful hot Friday, I'm going surfing at Galveston. If only I had a surf board. Gotta have boundaries! Rock 'n Roll.
Grade: N/A. Larry H.
This is a modern-day Spaghetti Western circa Clint Eastwood except this time it is pretty boy George Clooney (age 49). I loved all the 1960's Eastwood/Sergio Leone movies about the stoic cowboy/assassin who spoke little and killed many. I had seen the trailers for "The American" and I was pumped; this movie couldn't fail. Wrong, Theatre Breath!
I was profoundly disappointed. Was the acting bad? No. Was there something wrong with the cinematography, the music, editing? No, that's not the problem either. Then what's the problem? Script.
The story sounds wonderful and intriguing: Assassin Jack (Clooney) has to pull the trigger of his sissy Walther .380 a few too many times in Sweden so he flees to Italy to lay low for awhile in preparation of one last job. Jack is complicated and if you can know a man by the friends he keeps then Jack is certainly interesting because his "friends" are a hooker, mobster, and a Catholic Priest.
I think I know that joke: so a hooker, a mobster, and a priest walk in a bar... Only this time, it is not a joke although maybe it should have been a little more humorous. I think my audience laughed zero times. My audience was also very old and seemed unengaged and distracted. Clooney and the girls looked pretty sweet. I don't have a man crush or anything but Clooney's eyelashes are impressive.
I've known George Clooney was more than just another pretty face when he played Captain Billy Tyne in "The Perfect Storm" in 2000 which is also the year he starred in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" The boy can act and he did a magnificent job as the lonely, melancholy American in Italy, but I couldn't emotionally invest in the characters and didn't care if they lived or died. Here's a bright spot, there was a interesting storyline about a lightweight rifle smuggled and assembled by Jack which was ideal for killing folks.
End of bright spots. I am hereby replacing AMC Loew's The Fountains as my Number One Theatre with AMC First Colony. I will maintain my reserved parking space in the rear of The Fountains (see larryhmoviereviews.com for a photo) and trust that you will not park there. Problem: I do not have reserved parking at AMC First Colony; hmmmm. Is it possible that the management at First Colony does not know who I am? I've been having recognition problems lately; what's up with that? Maybe I need a team jersey. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 78. Larry H. Happy Labor Day!
The old man in the scraggly beard explained to the local preacher (Gerald McRaney), "...it's time for me to get low" which means it is time for him to be buried. Of course, this old codger was not dead yet, so he clarified that he wanted to have a funeral party and let folks "tell stories about me."
Robert Duvall (age 79) plays Felix Bush, a hermit in 1930's Tennessee, who has lived a colorful life and offended or scared most of the people in his hometown. Where I grew up, we'd call him Old Man Bush and that also meant he was ornery, cantankerous and just might shoot you with his shotgun if you said or did anything that might set him off.
There also seemed to be a dark, secretive past of this Old Man Bush. He wasn't stupid but no one really understood him. Except Rev. Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs) and he wasn't talking. However, Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) had known him for over 40 years and seemed to know him best. But she did not know the whole story.
On the other hand, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) was the local undertaker and had fallen on hard financial times because people were not dying quick enough in the community so he was more than willing to help Old Man Bush have a funeral party and even sell tickets to raise money. His young assistant Buddy (Lucas Black) was conflicted but ultimately eager to help with the party because he had a wife and infant to support.
Director Aaron Schneider gathered an outstanding cast and shot the film in interesting angles and lighting with ideal editing and story-telling. I enjoyed every minute of the movie, but there was an incident. Monique H. and I arrived late to our seats at River Oaks Theatre; the movie had already started. Don't blame me - it was very hot and we couldn't find a parking spot. I think it was Monique H's fault that we were tardy, but I don't like to blame others so I am not going to even mention it.
When the house lights are down, I can not see because it is dark. I might have stepped on a woman's foot and twisted the knee of a man that was unfortunately sitting next to the only two open seats remaining in the theatre. I was definitely "that guy" who disrupted the entire upper section of the smallish theatre on the second floor, but I couldn't help myself. Monique H. was leading: I was innocently following. It was ugly.
I digress. Duvall and Murray gave an acting clinic. I even like the way Duvall sucks his teeth (see also "Lonesome Dove" and other Gus-like characters) when making a serious facial gesture with an eye twinkle. I routinely think he should be nominated for an Oscar in spite of the opinion of the members of the academy.
I've been a big fan of Bill Murray since his days on SNL and a great admirer of his deadpan look and the passion of a man that needs a boost from the audience in order for him to take another breath. Spacek and Black performed admirably; I was especially happy to see Sissy show that she still can be a leading lady at age 60. I liked this movie immensely. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
This film opens at the River Oaks Theatre in Houston on August 20th. I saw it at a screening at the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston on July 28th. There was an unusually large crowd at the screening and then personal appearances by many of the stars and Li Cunxin the following Saturday night. This is uniquely a Houston story.
The film is based on the life of Li Cuxin (pronounced LEE SCHWIN SING) and his best selling autobiography first published in Australia where Li is now a successful stockbroker. But in 1981, he was a 20-year old dancer with the Houston Ballet as part of a cultural exchange program. He continued to dance for the Houston Ballet until 1995.
After his planned visit to the U.S. in 1981, he decided to defect. "A tense 21-hour standoff ensued inside the Chinese consulate on Montrose (Houston) as Chinese officials locked Li in a room and pressured him to change his mind." The scene at the consulate is a pivotal aspect of the movie and the realities and legalities began a tug of war that required the awakening of a Federal Judge. Literally, the Houston immigration attorney (Kyle MacLachlan) for Li had to resort to calling Judge Woodrow Seals at home to get him to consider an immediate restraining order to save Li from being spirited away by the Chinese.
The Houston attorney, Charles C. Foster, who actually represented Li in 1981 was at the screening and was introduced before the movie began. After the movie, I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Foster who has been the go-to immigration lawyer in the Houston area for over 30 years. Charles told me about the behind-the-scenes legal negotiations that took place between Judge Seals, Judge Singleton, and the US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. He said, "Larry, the discussion actually took place on the loading dock behind the Federal Courthouse." And Larry H. said, "...yeah, Charles, but did you really call Judge Seals at home late at night?" We both agreed that calling a Federal judge at home, much less late at night, is unheard of in the legal annals of Texas, but the situation was dire and Charles admitted "...I didn't have any other option." The legal aspect of the movie is extremely well done sans the negotiations on the loading dock.
This is a fascinating movie that chronicles the riveting life of Li from his impoverished village in a totalitarian China to his superb performances on the Houston stages of Jones Hall and Wortham Center. I was emotionally involved throughout the movie and can pay it the ultimate compliment: I look forward to seeing it again, soon.
The direction by Bruce Beresford was a work of art in his skillful translation from the book to the screen. The performance by Bruce Greenwood as our own Ben Stevenson, the longtime artistic director of the Houston Ballet, was spectacular and one of my early favorites as Best Supporting Actor. The dancing and portrayal of the adult Li by Chi Cao, who is a Principal Dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, made the story believable and poignant. Go see this movie now. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H
This movie is in a class all by itself. Maybe a cross between "Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Mask" and "Batman." Nah, that's not right. I don't think there's ever been a movie like Scott Pilgrim directed by the whacky hipster Edgar ("Grindhouse/Funky Pete") Wright.
And I am not hip enough to fully appreciate this movie. And anyone that uses or even understands the word "hip" should not see this flick. I saw Scott Pilgrim at AMC First Colony in the smallish Theatre #6 with about 75 of my young neighbors (under 30) and they laughed hard and often. I laughed less than five times; that's not true: I chuckled three times.
The film is based on the Oni Press graphic novel Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, written by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Precious Scott Pilgrim was played by the cute, cuddly vulnerable Michael Cera who is dating a 17 year old high schooler named Knives; he's 23.
The seemingly mousy Scott then falls for the "seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, roller blading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers" superbly played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She looks hot in blue hair if that tells you something. Problem: Scott must fight/challenge/destroy Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to win Ramona. That does not bother Scott since he is a bassist in a local rock band and has fewer muscles than Larry H. That does not necessarily mean that he is a weak man; have you seen my pecs lately?
It's also not a problem if you are making a movie based on a graphic novel with zero boundaries. If Director Wright wants the audience to know a character's name, he simply flashes "Stephen Stills Age 22." Or when folks kiss, have hearts float away from their lips. Or better yet, when there is violence or serious blows to the head or groin, flash the words "Kapow" or "Thonk." All of this is done in the name of good fun; I'm just not too sure that this is a classic. Closer to Cult.
Big winners: of course Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but also Alison Pill as the band's redheaded drummer, Johnny Simmons as Young Neil, Ellen Wong as Knives Chau, and Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate Wallace Wells. And the best for last - Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Gordon Graves. He sports a shirt with three G's on it; I want one for my first day back at school ...if I went to school.
This movie will be known for its fashion statements as much as its production value. The costumes, jewelry, hair, makeup, and music will show up on your local high school and college campuses in the coming weeks. I give kudos for a well made movie, but I admit that I was too old to fully value the humor of this movie, and that bums me. I tried but I was caught off guard when my young audience was laughing hysterically and I didn't get it. I hate it when that happens. But...Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 85. Larry H.
I saw this movie at 10:30 on a Saturday morning; I enjoyed brunch of popcorn and Mr. Pibb. I'm back home now and trying to bang out a few words about "The Other Guys," but I'm still weak from watching the movie and driving in feels-like heat of 100+.
This is the funniest terrible movie I've ever seen. It is dreadful and unworthy of Director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell who teamed up on "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights." McKay is a seasoned comedy writer ("Saturday Night Live") and co-wrote this piece of muck, but even his comedic genius could not save this asinine, juvenile movie.
Don't get me wrong; I laughed at least 20 times but as soon as I caught my breath I returned to boredom and weariness. This is the type of movie that you should see if you have absolutely nothing better to do with your time and you just want a few cheap jokes and maybe a guffaw.
This movie should be seen on your patio with that cheap TV that you keep outside so you can watch stuff while you are grilling the weekend steaks. The kind of movie that you watch out of the corner of your eye on Channel 397 late at night. Or maybe on Channel 51 as you are washing clothes.
Say something positive, Larry H., and quit being such a whiner. Ok, Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell had good comedic chemistry as mismatched NY police detectives and the opening scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson as super cops is hilarious and very well done. And Michael Keaton as Captain Gene Mauch shows that he can still bring it. Keaton at 58 needed the gig.
Some of the ongoing jokes about femininity and music are pretty funny and clever. But the storyline is so infantile that there is no way to assign this film any redeeming social value or nominations for any category. I need a nap. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 75. Larry H.
If you go to this movie, you're a schmuck. I saw this movie in Austin at the AMC Barton Creek Square. My AMC in Sugar Land is quite familiar with Larry H. and they readily allow me free entrance when I flash my Houston Film Critics membership card.
Not so much at Barton Creek. I flashed my card as usual, but the young lass at the ticket booth said that she would have to call the manager. "But I'm Larry H. from Sugar Land." She replied "...the manager will be here in a moment." I explained again that I was Larry H. from SUGAR LAND!" She said "Sugarwater?" "No, Sugar Land, two words." "Oh, Sugarfoot?" "No, that's an old TV western (1957) starring Tom Brewster." "Sorry, but I don't want a brewski." Austin IS weird.
Steve Carell stars as the dimwitted IRS employee, Barry, who is chosen by Tim the rising financial executive to attend a dinner with him hosted by his boss (Bruce Greenwood). The theme of the dinner is to invite a bunch of "idiots" to the dinner and then make fun of them and choose the "winner." As in the biggest buffoon.
Before they actually attend the dinner, Barry and Tim bond through one silly mishap and misunderstanding after another. There are the usual car wrecks, cell phone accidental switches, and girlfriend/stalker misdirection. All of this done in the name of painful character development.
Steve Carell is one of the top comedic actors of the decade but he is in danger of becoming a Jerry Lewis knockoff unless he is a little more discreet in his choice of roles and screenplays. Carell's acting was adequate and his facial expressions are still priceless, but the screenplay by David Guion and Michael Handelman should be sent to bed without dinner.
Who am I to criticized Steve Carell who is also currently starring as a voice in "Despicable Me" and the hugely successful "Date Night" earlier this year; not to mention his dominance as Michael Scott in "The Office?" I'm a huge fan and known throughout most of my hometown as Larry H. and parts of Austin; that's who I am. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 73. Larry H.