Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2008 (49)
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This is a great movie. Occasionally, there is magic in movie-making and Director Danny Boyle has hit that elusive jackpot. So, I guess that makes him the millionaire
Not to worry though because everyone associated with this movie will be a winner and part of their careers will always be linked to "Slumdog Millionaire."
The opening scene is in Mumbai, India, 2006, and a young man named Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is on the Hindi TV version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire". The stage, music, rules, and format are the same as the American version of the popular TV show. Jamal, however, is from the poor part of the country and is not expected to do well. No one believes a "slumdog" could possibly answer questions worth 20 million rupee that even "doctors and lawyers" can not answer. Is Jamal a cheater, a genius, or "is it written?"
Well, the police want to know how this lowly slumdog could answer so many questions correctly and they arrest him during a break in the show to determine the method of his obvious cheating. The "questioning" by the police involve beatings and electrical connections to his toes, but Jamal insists that he is not cheating.
While in the custody of the Mumbai police, Jamal slowly tells his life story, with excerpts of the TV show in the background, that begins as an orphan at a very early age and living with his brother, Salim, on the streets and surviving by their wits. In their attempt to stay alive, they encounter a young girl name Latika (played by Freida Pinto as an adult) who is beautiful and immediately wins the heart of young Jamal. And Jamal never stops loving her even though their lives are separated by tragedy and cruelty.
The story is this movie and Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy will be nominated. It is billed as a "Danny Boyle Film" and he is about to become a very famous, rich Brit. And nominated. Not Golden Globes; I don't care about the Globes. If it's not an Oscar, then it doesn't count.
Much of the movie is seen through the escapades of young Jamal and Salim while they are less than 12 years old; the child actors were superb.
The music, sound, and editing are masterful; especially the editing. The movie never stops beginning and taking the audience on a frightful and exciting adventure that evokes fear, suspense, anxiety, and deep empathy for the characters. There is much about righteousness, redemption, death and defeat, but the greatest of these is love.
The undying love by an 18 year old man that is determined to save his beloved Latika and is willing to go on a TV game show in hopes that she will see him and somehow they will be together again. I'm getting emotional just thinking about this movie. I want to see it again soon which is the ultimate compliment. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
This is a big flick which is why it has been called an "epic." We need epic movies occasionally just to remind Hollywood that all movies do not have to follow the formula and wrap up in under two hours. "Australia" is 15 minutes shy of three hours.
Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) travels from England to Australia in 1939 to claim the land left by her recently-murdered husband. Of course, she is a proper lady like Maureen O'Hara and knows nothing of the wild and woolly ways of the Outback, but she has Drover (Hugh Jackman) the big, strong John Wayne type to help save her station (ranch for us Texans) and sell the cattle to the military.
This Australia has plenty of men who like to say "let's have a go of it" and call each other "mate" while talking about the "pretty Sheila's." And one of my favorite lines by Drover: "nobody hires me and nobody fires me" lest someone think he is not an independent sort that only cares about living on the land and driving cattle. Until he meets Ms.Sarah.
Lady Sarah wins the hearts of the locals and the Aboriginals who "...from that point on we called her 'Mrs. Boss.'" Mrs. Boss has spunk and is willing to fight the evil land baron who steels cattle and is "the authority" in the North Territory where Mrs. Boss is trying to have a go of it with her Faraway Downs.
Mrs. Boss is also very tall and Director Baz Luhrmann never lets her wear any costume that does not appropriately accent her curves and swagger. Kidman will relish the memory of her figure in this movie.
A major aspect of the story is the prejudice and scorn of the people of mixed race that are a product of the white Australians and the Aboriginals who are black. A young boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters) whose mother is black grew up on Faraway Downs and is the grandson of a mystical figure referred to as King George.
My friend Robert B. claims that Nullah "stole the show" and I must agree that his charm and personality kept the story alive; he also was a narrator. The bonding love between Mrs. Boss, Drover and Nullah brought tears to my eyes and caused goose bumps more than once.
This show is not too long. Heck, the best is the last hour. This is not a perfect movie and is actually a little rough and edit-challenged at times, but it is entertaining with just the right amount of sweetness and savagery and I liked all the characters. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
This is the greatest film ever made about vampires and teen love. I knew that my teenage niece Elizabeth B. had read the novels by Stephenie Meyer but I figured they were just another love story for young teenage girls and certainly would not interest a man of my maturity.
Being the adventurous movie guy that I am, I took a chance on this one and was pleasantly surprised; it is shockingly good. The plot is the old story of forbidden love, but a sixteen year old high school junior named Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) living with her Chief of Police dad in Forks, Washington isn't exactly the setting of epic greatness even if she falls madly in love with a seemingly young, handsome vampire named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
Perhaps you remember Pattinson playing the Hogwarts Tri-wizard Champion in the Harry Potter movies and he was also the romantic rival of Harry for the attention of Cho Chang, Harry's first crush. So, Pattinson knows about playing a pretty boy going for the cute teenage girl.
The movie is superbly directed by Catherine Hardwicke and delicately transferred from being a popular novel to the big screen by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. It is worth noting that most of the creative and production talent involved in the making of this movie is female. Takes one to know one; a willing-to-die-for love that will conquer all.
Stewart and Pattinson electrify the screen with their glances and passion coupled with just the right amount of vulnerability and beauty. Pattinson's strikingly good looks and memorable eyebrows did not detract from his flawless portrayal of a confused and kind vampire just trying to do the right thing. But what is the right thing? Do you bite the neck of the one you love or do you fight your vampire instincts so your true love can remain a mortal even though her smell is "intoxicating."
Edward Cullen explains to Bella that he has a "special appetite" and that he "never eats or sleeps" yet she falls for him anyway. Perhaps he wins her over with his super-hero strength and quickness or is it that he is the one person that understands her dysfunctional life?
Or is that he has really pale skin and never goes out in the sunlight. Why you'd think he was a vampire? And then again it might be as simple as love at first bite...er, I mean first sight.
If you are open to a tender love story and the best baseball game ever played by a team of vampires, then you, too, should give this soon-to-be blockbuster a chance. I can hardly wait for a sequel and mark my words there will be more movies and Elizabeth B. and I will be happy. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.
I knew I was in trouble when I started getting bored after only three minutes. The opening chase scene with guns and leaping to and from tall buildings and killing bad guys was ok and then it got real slow.
This Bond movie is a Quantum of Crap. I've been a Bond fan since I was a freshman in high school and I've seen them all and I'll see them in the future, but this Bond's a Bust!
Let's do it by the numbers:
0 - characters I liked
0 - hot chicks worthy of Ms. Galore
0 - cool guns; I'm tired of his pea-shooter Walther PPK; a man needs at least a 9MM and his style of gun should be a 1911 if he's going into the field. A PPK is ok if you're shooting bad guys in a bedroom or even a ballroom, but please don't take that sissy gun into the field.
106 - number of painful minutes I sat through this pitiful excuse for a Bond movie
Daniel Craig returns as 007 secret Agent James Bond and he's sad because his lover is dead and so he wants some revenge. I get that, but mix in a little fun, Dude. This Bond was too morose, melancholy, and mean.
Judith Dench returns as M and she's actually a bright spot of the movie. How she managed to make her character interesting in this Bond Bomb is beyond me; maybe she's a great actress. Hmmmmm?
The cars weren't even cool but please note I think I spotted the new Toyota iQ that is scheduled to debut in Europe in January 2009. When your cars and guns are not cool and your women are not hot, Houston, we have a problem. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
I have just returned from seeing "Changeling," directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, and I am emotionally drained and not sure if I can finish this piece without taking a nap. Movie watching can be very tiring.
Steven Spielberg says that a great movie "...never stops beginning" and Larry H. says a great Clint Eastwood movie occurs when "...Clint has me emotionally unraveled and on the floor and he won't take his foot off my neck." I was distraught the entire movie which lasts slightly over two hours and twenty minutes.
I knew I was in for a long ride when my heart was skipping beats and we had only covered 15 minutes. Other clues of my distress were: shifting in seat repeatedly, hands sweating and twitching, crossing and uncrossing legs, looking around audience to see if anyone else was also gasping for air, and my favorite - unable to eat popcorn at a regular pace.
Screenwriter J. Michael Stracynski has taken a true story of the disappearance of nine year old boy on March 10, 1928, in Los Angeles and turned that tragedy into a masterful script. And Clint took it and ran with it.
And the mother of the boy is Angelina "Big Lips" Jolie whose performance is so riveting that I will forever remember her character's name: Christine Collins. When this single mom reports her son's disappearance, the LA Police Department bungles the search and then in an attempt to make it go away delivers to her another nine year old boy that is not her son.
Momma Collins has the audacity to protest and the LAPD ratchet up their resistance and strong-arm tactics and has her thrown into the local mental hospital based on a cop's affidavit.
Jolie's character suffers terrifying and sad injustices while grieving the tragic loss of her son but never giving up the search. She is aided in her fight by Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Maldovich), a Presbyterian preacher who is convinced that the LAPD is corrupt, and my hero: a civil lawyer who takes her case pro bono.
The good cop, Detective Lester Ybarra, is played artfully by Michael Kelly, a dead-ringer for a young Steve Martin with dark hair. When you see this film, let me know if you agree with me about Kelly.
I was not familiar with the word "Changeling" so I looked it up on Wikipedia which I think we can all agree is the last authority on such things and found that the word comes from Western European folklore and "... the parents of a changeling child will have no choice but to take back their baby and leave the real baby behind."
I don't know if that Wiki definition is an exact match and please understand that I have not revealed much of the story, but suffice it to say that this moviegoer is a parent of a son that was overwhelmed with sadness and despair in large part due to the superb acting of Jolie and Directing of Clint. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
I had tried to see "What Just Happened" starring Bobby D. or "Changeling" starring Big Lips Jolie, but neither show would accommodate my Friday afternoon schedule. So, I perused the newspaper for an alternative flick when I remembered that my friend Bill A. had raved about "The Secret Life of Bees."
I had not heard much about this movie so I was a little hesitant, but Bill A. is a devoted moviegoer so I decided to give it a chanceling.
The movie is set in 1964 South Carolina when 14 year old Lily Owen (Dakota Fanning) leaves her family's peach farm with her "colored" friend Roseleen (Jennifer Hudson) for a better life and to escape Daddy T-Ray Owens (Paul Bettany). Lily's mother had died tragically when she was four years old and that loss had ripped a big hole in Lily's heart.
The setting of 1964 and the beginning of the post Civil Rights Bill signed by President Johnson is a significant backdrop for this period piece. But don't be fooled by the numerous scenes of racial hatred and discrimination, this movie is universally heartwarming and tender.
I repeatedly got goose bumps and so will you. If you don't see this movie at the walk-in theatre then you will see it after you rent it at Blockbuster or order it on Netflix, but you are going to see it. The word on this jewel is going to get out and I'm going to help spread the word. This is an glorious movie and is my early favorite for Best Picture of 2008.
I'm not saying it will win Best Picture, but I'm laying odds that it will be nominated. The rest of this wonderful cast is played by Queen Latifah as August Boatwright, Alicia Keys as June Boatwright, and Sophie Okonedo as May Boatwright.
This group of actors is sheer magic on the screen and has already won the Best Ensemble award from the Hollywood Film Festival. I know this sounds like just another Oscar-lite award, but they won "ensemble" because the judges could not decide which of these great actresses deserved the individual awards so they just said "ah, what the heck, let's just give 'em the ensemble award and that will take care of the whole bunch of 'em."
This could be the year Queen Latifah gets hers due and maybe young Dakota might win the big one, too.
This is a chick flick in that it is about five very strong women and is all about love, but Co-writer/Director Gina Prince-Bythewood has made her mark with this superb film and a ton of money (eventually) for Executive Producer Jada Pinkett Smith.
The young girl, Lily, was fourteen in 1964 and so was I. As the story develops we learn that Lily was born in July 1950; so was I. I recognized the cars, sets, and prejudice of the South. I even know a little about bees, but as Ms. August explains to Lily "...the bees live a complicated life." And of course, Ms. August was talking about us and the mysteries of the human experience. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 94. Larry H.
This movie is outstandingly violent. At the one hour mark of this 129-minute film, I was so disgusted with the blood, guts, and hatred that I was ready to walk. I decided to postpone my decision to leave until I gave director Gavin O'Connor one more scene.
And then it dawned on me that if I was that emotionally distraught, what in the world could possibly be in store in the next hour. That "next scene" was off-the-charts violent and bloody but I decided to hang in there.
"Pride and Glory" is the classic good cop/bad copy starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell as brothers-in-law. The setting is present-day New York and the good ole NYPD have not taken a hit on their image like this since "Serpico."
I'm not going to tell you which of these big hunky stars is the good cop and which is the bad cop. Oh ok, I'll give you a hint: Ed Norton is not the bad cop but he has a glaringly obvious two inch scar on his left cheek. And Colin Farrell dishes out some brutality that made me wince.
The story centers on a family of Irish-Catholic cops with Jon Voight as the patriarch. The names of the players are Jimmy, Francis, and Raymond; can't get much more Irish; oh yeah I forgot that Francis was called "Frannie."
Director O'Connor (don't ask me where he got the dramatic guts to make a movie about Irish NYPD cops) began this saga with pronounced intensity and emotional upheaval and never let up. If the use of the "F" bomb is any indication of intensity, then this flick gets high marks for intensity.
This movie is not for everyone; heck it's not for most. I enjoyed it out of respect for the professionalism of the product and the superb acting, but I don't care if I ever see it again. All of the characters were flawed badly without ample chance of timely redemption which resulted in only slight caring on my part.
However, I think it would have been great fun to be a part of the decision-making process of which of the two stars would be the good and bad cop. Norton and Farrell are at the top of their games and either could have withstood the challenge of corruption and courage. I'm not sure Director O'Connor made the right choice.
Now that would be interesting: let's re-make this movie and allow Norton and Farrell to switch parts. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen team up again for a winner; remember "A History of Violence" (2005) when Viggo was a former mobster hiding out in a small town and Ed Harris showed up with a scarred face to extract some revenge? Evidently Ed Harris remembered that film because he directed "Appaloosa" and hired his old buddy to partner with him in this throwback Western.
It's an authentic Western in the same sense as Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" (1992). Even has a meaningful outhouse scene; don't see that caliber of authenticity very often. One can also tell if a Western is trying to be true to the times by paying close attention to the guns and the distinct sounds made by a Colt .45, Winchester 30-30 and shotgun.
In this movie, Everett Hitch (Mortensen) carries an 8 gauge shotgun and he ain't scared to shoot a bad guy at close range if needed. An 8 gauge shotgun is so big that it made Mortensen looked like he was carrying a pipe with some wood on the end of it. I don't think I've ever seen an 8 gauge shotgun; one of my crazy cousins use to hunt geese with a 10 gauge, but that's as close as I've ever come to a 8 gauge until this movie.
Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch are hired lawmen circa 1882 to "clean up" a town that is terrorized by a rancher (Jeremy Irons) who killed the City Marshall before our heroes come to town. And our heroes are veterans of the Civil War and other "peace making" adventures while wearing a badge.
Once they get the badge pinned on their chest, they are the law. The good and bad guys either follow the rules of Virgil Cole and his shotgun-carrying sidekick or they get their butt kicked or killed; don't make no difference.
Every good Western has to have a Miss Kitty with a narrow waist and fancy clothes with an eye for the men and the ability to drink a little whiskey and in this movie she looks just like Renee Zellweger. Ok, it is Zellweger and she is the perfect little sassy lass who has learned to survive in the badlands of the U.S. Territories by doing what she has to do to get a new house and hold onto a man because she's "gets lonely."
The new City Marshall (Cole) is sweet on her even though Zellweger's character sometimes gets her loyalties confused. However, the theatrical balance between Ed Harris, Jeremy Irons, Viggo, and Renee is perfectly juggled and harnessed by Director and Co-writer Ed Harris. And the acting is outstanding.
I've always been a big admirer of the actor Ed Harris but did not know he was a big-time director and writer. I guess that makes him the new Clint Eastwood.
If you like a Westerns and find yourself complaining that they "just don't make any good Westerns anymore," then stop complaining and go see this very well-done movie. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.
This is for the few of you that have not already seen this blockbuster. It came out September 26th and was tops at the box-office last week and I suspect that it will continue to be number one. This is one heck of a big-budget action film.
But I have not always thought that. I was a week late seeing this flick so I had preferred to see one of the movies that came out October 3rd, but Monique H. had different ideas. Sometimes she is a smart lady.
It was a slow, hot Saturday afternoon and she said it was time to eat lunch (we had already had a typical late breakfast) and she thought we should eat before we went to the movies. I told her that eating was not a problem and that we could get some popcorn with butter and salt and Mr. Pibb which covers all four of the food groups.
Then she said that she was "real hungry" and being the caring, loving husband that I am, I said "not a problem" again: "We can get some Milk Duds, too." And now I was confident that we had all the food groups covered. She's a good sport and has a fine digestive system which is important when picking a mate.
I liked this movie from the opening scene and was glued to the screen almost nonstop. At one point during one of the long, spectacular car chase scenes, I found myself putting my hands under my chin for emotional support and then took some deep breaths when the sequence ended and Director D. J. Caruso gave us a break in the action. A short break.
Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan star as strangers thrown together in a weird twist of events dictated by an unfamiliar female voice on their respective cell phones which led them on dangerous missions under threat of death or harm to family members. The audience is not expected to know exactly why or how these seemingly unconnected events are relevant so I can not share with you at this time. It's a decent mystery and a fun ride.
Props to Billy Bob Thornton who continues to impress me with his ability to bring a vast array of believable characters to the big screen and he did it again in this movie as a relentless FBI agent. Who would think that crazy 'ole Billy Bob would be such an accomplished actor; I have come to believe that he's one of the best.
This movie would make even more money if the economy wasn't so scary, but I predict that it will top 100 million because it's just a darn good flick.
Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
I saw "Righteous Kill" after I had my power back at my house so I had a better attitude for this movie than I did for "Burn After Reading."
And who can turn down a flick starring Robert "You Talking to Me?" De Niro and Al "Godfather 3X" Pacino? Not me, certainly, so I suited up and showed up. I grew up with these boys; De Niro is 65 and Pacino is 68. Ouch. Not that there's anything wrong with their ages, but if I grew up with them what age does that make me? I am not on social security.
This is not a particularly special movie other than the stars are two of the giants of the industry, but they play New York police detectives named Turk and Rooster and waltz around their precinct acting like they are big, bad veteran cops trying to solve a serial murder and they look like De Niro and Pacino with much deeper facial lines than they had in the 70's.
These two boys have not had plastic surgery and they have inspired me to keep the mug I have. If they can grow old gracefully, then so can Larry H.
This movie reminds me of "No Way Out" starring Kevin Costner who was a young naval officer working in the pentagon at a time when Washington D.C. was fixated on finding what they believed to be a Russian spy named Ivan. That plot had a lot of misdirection and confusing video that kept the viewer off balance. I really like "No Way Out" and watched it again recently.
But this movie is no "No Way Out" but it has a thought-provoking, clever ending and De Niro and Pacino can still cut it. I give the slight edge in this film to Pacino, but for this movie only. Anyone that criticizes Bobby De Niro (his friends call him Bobby) is blaspheming and I don't blaspheme.
I was happy for De Niro because he has multiple love scenes with a young female CSI-type cop named Karen Corelli played by Carla Guigino and she is a certified American fox and only 37. I thought it was a bit of a stretch for De Niro, but that's one of the reasons he's such a great actor, and the director mercifully used only the most tactful camera angles so as not to overly expose Bobby's 65 year old body. Way to go, Bobby!
One of the tough drug-dealer characters was artfully performed by 50 Cent; that dude sure gets around. And John "ER" Leguizamo turns in a good performance as Detective Simon Perez; I'm a big fan of Leguizamo.
For a post hurricane movie, this is not bad and the Glock pistols are sweet.
Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 88. Larry H.