Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2016 (46)
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This is a “Disaster Film.” Congratulations to Director Peter Berg for putting his audience in the middle of the fire and explosion on the offshore drilling rig owned by BP petroleum company. Revealing the end of this saga is not a spoiler as we all know what happened about 45 miles southeast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010, when this infamous gulf rig went Ka-blooey.
There were 126 men and women workers on this floating platform; 11 men died and many others injured and the lives of the survivors changed forever. Much of the news coverage after this catastrophe was about the colossal environmental damage done by the millions of gallons of oil spewing into our beloved Gulf of Mexico for a painful 87 days. I have a vivid memory of standing in line at my bank and watching the images on a TV on the wall near my teller of the black liquid roaring out of the floor of the gulf and I wanted to scream “Make it Stop.” It was brutal.
But, this brilliant piece of filmmaking is about the folks that were actually on the rig making decisions that led to the eruption that caused the fire and devastation of a sophisticated piece of man-made technology. BP execs were on the rig as owners; Transocean workers were the operators and Schlumberger and others were also in the mix.
Berg seemed to point the finger at the lead BP executive beautifully played by John Malkovich with a touch of a southern Louisiana accent. Mark Wahlberg was the hero, Mike Williams, who was the Chief Electrical Tech and married to cutie Kate Hudson. All the actors turned in workmanlike performances, but this movie is about the rig known as Deepwater Horizon – 5200 feet above the floor of the gulf.
Berg and primary screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand provided appropriate character development and education of the immensity and complexity of this monstrous drilling rig so that when the gauges indicated that the “pressure is too high,” we understood that a tragedy was about to detonate. The film’s named Deepwater Horizon not “BP lays a 50 billion dollar egg” and almost singlehandedly ruins the precious ecosystem of the gulf.
Director Berg stayed on script and told a story about this piece of equipment that was designed to do good and produce fuel for my car, and he did not lose focus that this was a human tragedy and people died.
I enjoyed the performance of Kurt Russell, a young 65, as the sage “Mr. Jimmy” who was in charge of operations and at odds with BP’s Malkovich. This movie is based on “true events” as described in a New York Times investigative article and I felt like Berg was shooting straight with me so I appreciated this opportunity to watch history. Sad, but true. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
997: for other reviews see - www.larryhmoviereviews.com
I first saw “The Magnificent Seven” starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn in 1960. I loved that version and thought that cowboys in the old West circa 1879 should act like those guys - full of courage and willing to help defend a poor village who were being terrorized by bad guys.
That was the basic story created by the Japanese genius, Akira Kurosawa, (1910-1998). It was Kurosawa’s story that was stolen by Hollywood as he did not get any credit for the 1960 movie, but someone came to their senses for this Magnificent Seven and appropriately refers to Kurosawa - “based on his screenplay.” Ok, I can live with that if Director Kurosawa’s family can.
The beautiful and magical story of a ragtag group of cowboys willing to fight for the downtrodden against impossible odds is universally appealing and many will flock to the theatres hoping to see Denzel Washington as Chisolm re-capture the enchantment of Chris Adams played by Brynner in 1960. And they will be disappointed.
Ticket sales will be good, because there are many of us who can vividly remember James Coburn throw a knife in the chest of a guy who was drawing a pistol and the wink and a nod by McQueen as he joins Brynner in gathering the characters of The Magnificent Seven. And don’t forget seeing Charles Bronson chopping wood with his shirt off as he was working for food. Wow, I didn’t realize how entrenched the 1960 movie was in my psyche.
Having admitted that, I can also confess that this current Magnificent Seven was barely tolerable for me. My friend Michael B. gave it an 82; that’s about right. There’s nothing wrong with the acting and the plot is the same and the cinematography is exceptional, but I needed my guys resurrected so I could re-live my early impressions of a Western with some of the Hollywood greats of the 1960’s.
No offense to Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio; they were adequate and believable, but they knew that they were taking a big chance trying to re-make one of the all-time great Westerns. Everybody involved will make a few bucks and nobody’s career will suffer, but I can’t remember much about this movie which I saw about an hour ago, and I can tell you all about the black gloves and costume worn by Robert Vaughn in 1960. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 80. Larry H. www.larryhmoviereviews.com
This is an Eddie Murphy movie but he’s not the usual funny guy that we’ve come to expect since his dominance on Saturday Night Live in the early 80’s. Murphy is the sweet, tender and extremely layered Mr. Church who cooks for a single mom who is dying from breast cancer and her ten year-old daughter Charlie (Britt Robertson). The setting is 1971 Los Angeles; the mom and daughter are white so the combo is unusual but they need each other to survive and find love.
Henry Church is committed to helping these two females through a very tough time in their lives and he is an extraordinarily talented cook who prepares all of their meals in their home, cleans up, and then walks home each evening. Where is his home? Mom and daughter do not know. There is a valid reason for this arrangement, but let’s save that part of the story for those of you who buy a ticket.
The power of this movie is in the sugary story by Susan McMartin who has written for successful TV shows “Two and Half Men” “Mom” and “Californication.” Gotta respect that collage of plots and silliness. Oh yeah, she’s also credited with four episodes of writing for “Another World” in the mid 90’s.
I had forgotten who wrote the screenplay as I watched “Mr. Church” but there was an unmistakable motherly touch so I was confident that a woman was in control of the details of this made-for-Hallmark movie. And speaking of tender, Director Bruce Beresford has made a few tear-jerkers in his day and his most famous work is “Tender Mercies” (1983) starring Robert Duvall and Tess Harper.
But this is not a TV show on the Hallmark channel; it should be. The plot is simple and syrupy but not particularly uplifting. The characters were blasé and predictable even though I liked Natascha McEIhone’s wispy performance as the beautiful cancer-ridden mother who always referred to Murphy’s character as “Mr. Church.” Let’s keep an eye on McElhone as she will be the First Lady in the new TV series “Designated Survivor” opposite Kiefer Sutherland. That should be a great gig for her.
The 26-year-old Britt Robertson as Charlie is also worthy of some praise but in this mawkish, mushy movie, her star is not bright. Murphy, on the other hand, was able to show a measured and dignified side of his career that will go a long way in demonstrating that he is an accomplished thespian. Good choice Eddie. I’ve always like Eddie Murphy and still do. I would definitely like for Mr. Church to cook for me and so will you. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 84. Larry H. www.larryhmoviereviews.com #995
“We’re clear for takeoff…runway 4…this is US Airway Flight 1549…” said Captain Chesley Sullenberger. I’d want to be called “Sully” if my name was Chesley; what was his mother thinking? But we all love Sully for his heroic landing of an Airbus on a New York river after losing both engines as result of a large flock of birds. The “Miracle on the Hudson” as it was quickly referred to in the news.
The safe landing of a commercial jet on a waterway and that iconic photo of all 155 souls on the wings of the plane as they await rescue is burned into our collective memories, and Director Clint Eastwood presents this film, based on Sullenberger’s book, assuming that the audience has at least heard of the story and has a basic understanding of the events. This monumentally upbeat story occurred in 2009 and 86 year-old Eastwood expects his audience to hang on for takeoff and “prepare for impact” and puts us in the cockpit with Sully and First Officer Jeff Skiles effortlessly portrayed by Aaron Eckhart.
That’ right; I said that Eastwood was 86! That boy made a deal with the devil. I’ve been a seriously devoted fan of Clint Eastwood since we were cowboys together on “Rawhide” in 1959-1965; he was Rowdy Yates and I was a young boy learning how to ride and rope in Bay City, Texas. Eastwood has only won four Oscars; the biggies are for his direction of “Unforgiven” in 1992 and “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004. “Go ahead, Punk, make my day.” His career is legendary; thanks Clint.
So, when Clint called Tom Hanks to ask him to play Sully, the two-time Oscar winner saw “Malpaso Productions,” on caller ID, he took the call. Hanks was superb as Captain Sully; his body language, facial expressions, hair and mustache, and spoken dialogue were classic Tom Hanks. His body of work is so superior that his magnificent performance as the heroic pilot under intense scrutiny by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) will go unheralded, but Larry H. hereby grants Hanks with the “Box of Chocolates” Golden Award for performance by a male actor who keeps knocking it out of the park consistently thus his Oscars have dried up since 1994.
Enough of Eastwood and Hanks, pretty-boy Eckhart was an ideal match for Hanks’ Captain Sully and he even made the First Officer’s 1970’s mustache look good.
And I was thrilled to see Anna “Breaking Bad” Gunn distinguish herself as one of the NTSB Board Members. Way to go, Anna!
This is an Eastwood film; I could feel his touch throughout the peculiar sequence of presenting this endearing story yet never getting away from telling a tale that is uniquely American. Not Oscar-worthy but ticket-worthy. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
Normally, I don’t go to scary moviesm, but my movie buds, Wes and Hema F., gave me the nod on this film and they go to more movies than anybody I know. And they were right. This is an outstanding movie in spite of it scaring the bajeebers out of me; I mean I had a physical reaction and was worn out as I stumbled out of the theatre.
This is not for the faint of heart or children; or sissies. Director Fede Alvarez, born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1978, has a few horror movies under his belt, but this plot and the spooky surprises will have you on the edge of your seat. Alvarez has set the bar very high in this masterfully produced and edited film for those of you who love “scary movies.”
Terrifying, chilling, frightening, alarming, upsetting, startling; did I mention that it was scary? A movie that alters my emotions wins the prize. There is zero boredom or daydreaming with “Don’t Breathe.” And don’t blink either or you’ll miss another scene or spoken word that is revealed at just the right time. That’s called “Alvarez Time” as he has created a fast-paced believable plot that could only happen in Hollywood, but I was totally engaged and pulling for everybody and nobody.
Alvarez co-wrote this film and even appears as himself before the movie begins and welcomes us to the occasion and casually wishes us a good experience during the next 90 minutes. I knew he was up to something because he was too calm. The storm was coming. If he can direct, write, edit, and produce a film of this magnitude on a $10 million budget, watch out, this guy is only 38.
The story begins simple: three young knuckleheads concoct a plan to rob a blind man as they believe he as “at least 300 thousand” stashed in his house where he lives alone with his big dog. The knuck known as Money brings a Berretta 92 FS nine-millimeter in case the blind military veteran is not as big a pushover as he seems. So, the three hooligans break in the house and all hell breaks loose. You gotta see it to believe it; and I did.
Stephen Lang, as the blind homeowner, is the only well-known actor. You remember Lang as the hard-nosed Colonel Miles Quaritch in “Avatar.” I am now prepared to present the First Annual “Wait Until Dark” (1967) Audrey Hepburn/Susy Hendrix Blind Character Award to Lang for his riveting performance as the nameless Blind Man. Lang was; you guessed it – scary!
And the three young robbers were certainly ready for primetime but the star was 27 year-old Jane Levy who shined as the ditsy blond. She had the eye of both of the male knuckleheads and was ready and able to fight The Blind Man. Alvarez and Levy worked together in 2013 when she was the main character in Alvarez’ “Evil Dead” that was also low-budget with some box office success.
Let’s review: three young geniuses with a Berretta rob a blind man with a big dog. Piece of cake; nothing could go wrong. “Don’t Breathe” and it’s possible that the blind man will not shoot you in the head or his dog will not bite your butt. This is fun; go see it. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.
This is a documentary about the boxer Roberto Duran during his career - 1970’s and 1980’s. He was a dynamic fighter and made a lot of money and was a big dog in the boxing world. And he fought Sugar Ray Leonard and made the infamous statement, allegedly, of “No Mas” during a very well-publicized fight with Sugar Ray. This took place during the crazy days of boxing promotor Don King and all the shenanigans that came along with his electric hair.
Problem: I bought a ticket to see a movie; not a documentary. I realize that a documentary is a type of movie, but I wanted entertainment and got a sad little life story about Duran and the pitiful people that were in his camp. Documentaries are extremely important and should be supported for the sake of history and politics, but don’t trick me into thinking the product is a movie designed for entertainment and hire Robert DeNiro to narrate and star as Duran’s trainer. That’s fraud.
And “Hands of Stone” is not a very good documentary. This “movie” was boring, poorly edited and directed, and the music was too loud and obnoxious. Yes, I said that about the music. I hope my boy Bobby DeNiro got his money upfront and didn’t take points on the backend. I wish I could say that DeNiro carried the movie in spite of the piles of dead weight, but this piece of trash took Bobby down with it.
Ok, here’s some good news. Edgar Ramirez, age 39, who played Duran is a handsome fellow and has a bright future. He and the director (Jonathan Jakubowicz) are both from Venezuela. Just saying. Ruben Blades who is currently starring as Daniel Salazar on AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” did an admirable job as part of the Duran brain trust.
Jakubowicz took an artistic leap of faith in making this movie and I give him props for creativity and effort, but “F” for theater and amusement. He caused fatigue and weariness instead of excitement and enjoyment. I want my money back. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
That’s a great Texas saying – come “Hell or High Water.” Meaning no matter what; gotta get it done even if hell or the creek rises; oh wait, that’s another cool Texanism that indicates one’s determination.
In this movie, it’s the Howard Brothers who are determined to raise money by robbing banks with the lofty goal of saving the family ranch that so happens to have some of that Texas Crude bubbling up. Hello West Texas.
Tanner Howard played by Ben Foster is an ex-con and the hothead of the family while Toby Howard is the quiet hunk with an ex-wife and two young sons. So, let’s pick Captain Kirk aka Chris Pine to play the reluctant bank robber who is just trying to save the ranch for his boys. Yes, that’s right, the same Chris Pine who is currently starring in “Star Trek Beyond” which I saw in Odessa last month.
Foster and Pine had near-perfect chemistry and were the ideal brothers who could cuss, fight, and kick each other but don’t mess with my brother. “I love you, man.”
I’ve been a big fan of Ben Foster since his intense role as Staff Sgt. Will Montgomery in the 2009 film “The Messenger.” And Chris Pine did not let his movie-star good looks get in the way of his acting. Foster and Pine as the Howard Brothers are memorable.
This movie was marvelously fast-paced with brilliant character development. Every set of bad guys has to have a good guy chasing them and Director David McKenzie was blessed to land one of the kings made for a dusty West Texas setting – none other than Jeff Bridges. Don’t forget that Jeff Bridges hit the bigtime at age 22 when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Duane Jackson in “The Last Picture Show” also set in the plains of the greater Midland area.
Thanks to screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, this movie is delightfully funny. Sure, there is some powerful and up-close violence, but humor is sprinkled throughout this marvelous cast who spoke Sheridan’s words at just the right time. My audience laughed hard and often. When it was time to settle down and quit chuckling, the movie glides into a serious third act that will grab your heart.
It’s way too early to start thinking about Oscar Nominations. Not. All three stars had Oscar-worthy performances as did Screenwriter Sheridan and bravo to Director McKenzie who took a simple plot and turned it into a masterpiece. And I need to mention the wonderful group of C&W songs that are gift-wrapped for the audience and make it all better.
Here’s a taste of Sheridan’s script that blended wit and music when Jeff Bridges’ character tells his Texas Ranger partner as they are driving to catch the bank robbers – “Get some giddyap music goin’ there on the radio.” “Hell or High Water” grossed less than $1 million opening weekend, but now you know. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
Footnote: some will think that “Hell or High Water” has a vibe of “No Country for Old Men” (2007) and I don’t argue with that comparison. The only connection I could find between the two films is, Margaret Bowman, the actress who plays the sassy older waitress in the T-Bone restaurant. In Old Men, she is credited as Del Rio Motel Clerk. “What don’t you want?” is her soon-to-be famous line from “Hell of High Water.” Go Margaret.
This movie begins with “House of the Rising Sun” as background music of opening scenes. What a marvelous start and then shortly we heard Mick Jagger banging out “Sympathy for the Devil.” I was feeling good; got a DC Entertainment Extended Universe movie cookin’ with Will Smith starring as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn who is one of the baddest women characters ever to appear on the big screen, and then the movie started heading South.
The plot by screenwriter and director David “Training Day” Ayer had the right idea – gather up a heard of Super Villains led by Smith and Robbie with special powers to combat the evildoers of the world supported by great costumes and makeup not to mention fantastic special effects; heavy on CGI and the go-to theme in today’s big-budget films: bombs and bullets.
But Ayer tried too hard. This film was crushed by over development and back stories that went on and on. I was not sure who the bad guys were. I was confident that I was pulling for Will Smith with his six-pack abs and his band of wackos that ranged from a man who could shoot fire out of his hands to a crocodile man (Killer Croc), but none of the characters were very likeable.
The boss of this operation and the spunky, spooky government agent was played by Viola Davis; this film is not her fault. None of the blame falls on the actors. David Ayer, on the other hand, and his $175 million budget came in second in a two-man foot race. Ayers is only 48 and he’s a gifted writer, but Suicide Squad, unfortunately, will not be his blockbuster breakout.
Credit Ayer for attracting some huge talent. Oscar winner from “Dallas Buyers Club” Jared Leto was over-the-top memorable as The Joker; Joel Kinnaman had a big role as military guy Rick Flag. We know Kinnaman from “House of Cards” and Netflix’s “The Killing.” My man Common was Monster T like no other. And one of my new favorite actors, David Harbour, from The Duffer Brothers “Stranger Things” played an assistant to Viola Davis. And need I name drop Scott “Little Clint” Eastwood had a co-starring role as Lt. Edwards. Good cast; bad movie.
As a reminder, when grading a movie, an “S” for “sleep” is added after the numerical grade if Larry H. is found dozing for more than a moment. The over and under for the nap during “Suicide Squad” is 10 minutes. There is no concrete scientific proof for this allegation, but near the end, there are a handful of scenes that cannot be accounted for.
Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69S. Larry H.
According to the rationalization of Bob Wiley of “What About Bob?,” there’s are only two kinds of people – those who like Woody Allen and those who do not. I do not like Woody Allen and I didn’t like “Annie Hall,” and that was in 1977, and I haven’t been able to get past it. Let it go, Larry H.
The Wood Man has been nominated for 24 Oscars; 16 as a screenwriter, 7 as a director and one as an actor. So, Hollywood is part of “those who like Woody Allen.”
I understand; I kind of liked “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989) and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and actually loved “Midnight in Paris” (2011). But, me and The Wood Man are not simpatico, but I tip my hat to his weird genius.
Café Society is classically Woody Allen. Staccato speech by dreamy characters trying to be clever, intimate settings, forbidden love, music dominated by solo pianos and clarinets, and a backdrop of Jewish characters from the mean streets of Brooklyn. Café was set in the 1930’s; it began in Hollywood then drifted back to the night clubs of Manhattan with a slice of gangster.
Jesse Eisenberg starred as Bobby Dorfman; the naïve misfit who is spurned and burned in Hollywood so he retreats to his home of New York to start over with the help of his mobster brother. Young Bobby is a lot like a young Woody Allen; I think Eisenberg even took on Allen’s mannerisms which was creepy to me.
Kristen “I’m not Bella Swan Anymore” Stewart shines as Vonnie who has two competing lovers. This time they are not a Werewolf and Vampire but a confused big-shot Hollywood talent agent played by Steve Carell and the young, slightly effeminate Woody Allen character. Stewart’s Vonnie was beautiful, sexy, and a vamp who knew how to juggle the loves of her life without much remorse or guilt. And Stewart nailed it.
This will not be a Woody Allen blockbuster or a way for him to add to his impressive number of nominations. Go see this movie if you are a Woody Allen fan. The rest of you should not dare venture into the Café Society. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 77. Larry H. www.larryhmoviereviews.com
The setting is the beautiful mountain ranges and the bush of New Zealand and we all know that those folks not only have a striking accent and a rugged soul, but a fierce sense of independence with a pinch of frivolity. Lucky for us, director Taika Waititi was born in New Zealand in 1975 and knows that culture oh so well.
When he was lining up the cast, the decision to star 69 year-old Sam Neill, originally from New Zealand, was a no-brainer, but the choice of a five feet three-inch teenager who weighs somewhere north of 200 pounds, Julian Dennison, to play the part of the runaway Ricky Baker, was brilliant. Julian, by far the film’s champion, will win you over in his portrayal of the wayward kid just looking for a permanent home where he can feel safe.
As in the U.S., Social Services handles these matters in New Zealand and is tasked with finding a compatible couple to serve as the foster parents of a kid like Ricky Baker who is described as a “…bad egg, he’s disobedient…stealing, spitting, running away, kicking stuff, throwing rocks, loitering, and graffiti.” Oh my! So Paula (Rachel House) from Social Services places Ricky Baker with an elderly couple that lives in the countryside of New Zealand. Bella (Rima Te Wiata), the new foster mother, is pleased to have Ricky Baker join the family, but the Sam Neill character, Hec (short for Hector), requests that Ricky “leave me alone.”
Ricky Baker routinely runs away but doesn’t get too far before he realizes that a warm bed is a good bet. But that would be a happy, uncomplicated ending so things take a sad turn and before you know it, Ricky Baker and Hec take refuge in the bush to hide from the tenacious authorities who are determined to capture the odd duo who are equally determined not to be caught. Ricky: “What do we do now?” Hec: “We run….well, maybe a fast walk.”
The relationship between the curmudgeon and the full-of-life youngster is a thing of beauty. The audience is definitely pulling for the foster dad and the bad egg and Director Waititi allows his two stars to shine as we get to know them and love them. I bought this story hook, line, and sinker.
It kind of had a vibe to it that reminded me of “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) in that kids were being pursued by Social Services with whimsical music and a loving relationship budding before our eyes. Sweet, tender, and caring, under a cloud of danger and mystery. That’s a good plot.
I saw this movie with Monique H. on a Friday afternoon at the Sundance Theatres in Downtown Houston and later that night we saw “Wicked” at the Hobby Center. And then the next afternoon, we saw “Spider’s Web” at The Alley and that night Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons at The Wortham Center. It was a Theatre Bonanza and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” was an outstanding kickoff. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 92. Larry H.