Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2010 (66)
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This movie can be described in two words: Christina Aguilera; she explodes off the screen as Ali. It is the best performance by an actress in a musical since Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls" (2006) or Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago" (2002) as Velma Kelly. "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" is even one of the songs in "Burlesque."
Cher stars as an aging singer and former dancer who co-owns a burlesque with her ex-husband. That sounds like something Cher would do. And she is the hottest 64 year old chick who can still rock and roll and appear opposite Aguilera and make them both better.
But Aguilera showed star quality not seen since Streisand. Now don't blaspheme, Larry H., or exaggerate. I'm not; I just saw "Burlesque" and thought it was stunning. And did I mention that Christina Aguilera brought me to tears with her performance and energetic, dynamic singing. And goose-bumps. I love Christian Aguilera.
Aguilera is two faced, too: one scene she is the hayseed from Iowa, then she is the bombastic starlet in high heels, wig, and bustier strutting her stuff on stage and looking like a heartthrob. And boy can she dance!
What the heck is a burlesque? Burlesque is a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration. And fun and exciting and bawdy and this burlesque is loved by Cher's character (Tess) even while the bank will not loan her the needed money to stave off foreclosure.
When a musical cooks like this one, much credit must go to the director - Steven Antin who also wrote the script. The cast was astonishing: Cam Gigandet as Jack the hunky roommate; Eric Dane as Marcus the suave, rich real estate developer; Kristen Bell as Nikki the alcoholic bad girl and Ali's rival, and the great Stanley Tucci who plays Tess' gay friend and confidant.
Who were the big winners? Anyone and everyone that had anything to do with the movie. Nominations will abound with Ms. Aguilera leading the way. As soon as you finish your turkey, go see this movie. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 94. Larry H.
This is the movie about the young man that was hiking alone near Maob, Utah, in 2003 when his right arm and hand became pinned by a boulder. He was an experienced cayoneer, but even this situation was beyond his meager equipment kept in his backpack. He was desperate. He had not told anyone where he was going.
This movie is directed by Danny "Slumdog Millionaire" Boyle who also co-wrote the screenplay with Simon Beaufoy who won the 2009 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "Slumdog." Their screenplay is based on the novel "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston. Ralston is the guy the country first met when he survived this ordeal and lived to tell the world about his incredible journey and the time he spent helplessly trapped by the unforgiving boulder.
I often wondered "how could this happen?" This film painfully describes the events and superbly introduces us to Aron played by James Franco. I am writing this review while I am watching the movie at my desk in my office. Never written while watching a movie. It is riveting and I'm squirming in my chair.
When he was first trapped and was frantically trying to extricate himself, I did not think I would be able to continue watching. The story is gripping and Franco's portrayal is excruciatingly believable. The film editing, camera angles and direction are enthralling.
Back to Aron; he's suffering and having hallucinations, talking and singing to himself; doing anything to stay alive as his situation seems hopeless. He dropped his small pocket knife but was able to adroitly retrieve it. He has a video camera and is capturing significant scenes and leaving messages to whoever might find him and his parents.
Boyle is developing Aron's character through flashbacks while keeping tabs on the ordeal. It started on Sunday and now it's Monday. Aron is attempting to wedge, push, and leverage the boulder off his arm; nothing is working. I'm really rooting for this guy. No more writing until the film is over.
I lied; I couldn't wait. The scene I just saw caused me to get out of my chair and quickly stand up and walk around my office only to hurriedly return so I wouldn't miss anything. Aron and I are both struggling. Props to Danny Boyle; I'm sucking on a butterscotch so I'll calm down. Aron is asleep and an ant is crawling on his face.
I made it; the movie is over and the ending credits are rolling. Did Aron make it? I need a break. I'm drained. Franco deserves a nomination and so does Boyle. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 94. Larry H.
I saw this movie at the refurbished Memorial City mall at a special screening. There were hundreds of eager Harry Potter fans lined up to see the latest escapades of the Boy Wizard who is no longer going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry because he has been too busy fighting Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), Death Eaters, and various other evil wizards.
Luckily, the PR folks had set aside Cinemark's Theatre #1 for the "press" so Eric H. and I had great seats. I've read all seven of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, but Eric H. has read them twice and knows all the back stories and latest gossip; he would not miss Harry Potter 7.1 as dubbed by my friend Regina S. This is the seventh movie, but covers the first half of the last HP novel. The last movie, the eighth, is expected in the summer of 2011 and will cover the dramatic ending of the seventh novel.
The Dark Lord (Voldemort) has taken over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts and his power is growing stronger. Things look gloomy for the good witches and wizards, but Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) have not given up and are desperately trying to locate and destroy the Horcruxes. As further explanation, the Deathly Hallows are three highly powerful magical objects supposedly created by Death and given to each of three brothers in the Peverell family.
This is very spooky and scary stuff if the bad guys are chasing the good guys and trying to kill them while the audience is pulling for the beloved Harry, Hermione, and Ron. But very boring if returning Director David Yates loses his way and allows the action to come to a halt in a trade-off for in-depth explanations, useless dialogue, and unnecessary character development of our three heroes. For over an hour!
Yates has done some good Harry Potter work, but the middle of this movie was dreadful. The beginning was spellbinding and the audience was mesmerized; the ending was at least interesting and entertaining which caused me to wake up and pay attention. But Yates blew it big-time for most of the movie.
Who was the big winner? Nobody, but Alan Rickman shines as the evil Professor Severus Snape even though he is on the screen for less than five minutes. Hey, Yates, give Rickman more face time. Fiennes as the slit-nosed Voldemort brings an archetypical touch of hatred and abhorrence worthy of the Dark Lord who murdered Harry's parents and has vowed to kill the Boy Wizard. The three young stars that were paid many millions to reprise their roles were adequate at best.
Who should see this movie? All the Harry Potter freaks and those of you that have seen the previous six movies. The franchise is too valuable to quit because of this bobble. Surely, Harry Potter 7.2 will be wonderful, cross your fingers and touch blue, so most of us can not take the chance to pass on this movie. If you do not know the characters and have to scratch your head to even remember that Harry Potter has a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, then don't bother with HP 7.1. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 81. Larry H.
I do not like Diane Keaton or the horse she rode in on, but this mess was not her fault. As a matter of fact, Ms. Keaton's character did not offend me which is an improvement. I know that I am not supposed to allow my personal prejudices affect my movie-going judgment so I'll just let it go.
But on the other hand, I've decided to blame the screenwriter (Aline Brosh "The Devil Wears Prada" McKenna) who I do not know well and now I do not want to know her. The script was stupid and boring, the characters lacked substance, and the plot sucked. Other than that, things were pretty solid.
Harrison Ford mailed in his performance and it was marked "postage due." Rachel McAdams did the best she could with this script and she's extremely hot so we'll give her a pass. Jeff Goldblum as her boss was acceptable. All the other actors get a "who cares... and be sure to cash the check soon."
This movie opened on a Wednesday so I give the producers an "A" for effort and maybe it will give them a boost at the box office and isn't that what it's all about. Don't let quality get in the way; just hire Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton to play some old warhorses hanging onto their careers on a fledgling morning TV variety show and throw in Cutie McAdams as the newbie Executive Producer and let the chips (money) fall.
If you go see this movie, you are just encouraging them to make more formula movies for the mall theatres and force the indies to stay at the River Oaks. Stop now and click on www.larryhmoviereviews.com and pick one of my highly rated movies and let this piece of #@&* drown in its own popcorn. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
This is a very complicated movie so let me break it down for you: it's screamingly funny and Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis are perfect for their characters. I lied; this is not a complicated movie.
Peter Highman (Downey Jr.) the architect is in Atlanta for business and he needs to get home pronto because his wife is about to give birth to their first child. Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) is a jolly, goofball out-of-work actor that literally bumps into Peter in the Atlanta airport, and in short order the two of them are on the "no fly" list and kicked off the plane. Now this very odd couple must get to Los Angeles via cars, trucks, and other modes.
Hmmm. Doesn't this sound a lot like the 1987 classic "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" starring Steve Martin (Neal) and John Candy (Del)? Well, yes it does, but don't let that bother you because much to my surprise, Peter and Ethan are as charming, hilarious, and complicated as Neal and Del.
There's that word again: complicated. I didn't mean to imply that the plot or the story is complicated, but there are many layers of the onion that need to be peeled back in order to arrive at the true hearts and souls of our two heroes, err losers. No, loser is not right either. Perhaps wounded and vulnerable? Sad and pathetic? I know; two guys just trying to get through life the best way they know how.
The film is directed and co-written by Todd "Hangover" Phillips and he has once again shown his comedic genius. The gags and one-liners are sprinkled throughout the movie. I started laughing in the first scenes and never stopped. This movie is near faultless in reaching its goal: take two great actors, give them a witty script, and have some fun with it. I'm smiling now.
I've been on a roll lately in awarding the "big winner" award to someone connected to my most recent movie experience and this is no exception. The big winner is... drum roll: Zach Galifianakis; he has consistently been funny in his latest movies - "Hangover," "It's Kind of a Funny Story," and "Dinner for Schmucks," but he has never played the big dog. And he was opposite the brilliant Robert Downey Jr and held his own, thank you very much. Soon, people will even know how to pronounce his last name.
This flick is not for young people which is too bad because it's so funny, but the sex, drugs, and F-bombs give it a rating of R. So, if you are a degenerate and want a good laugh, go see "Due Date" and take a date. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
If you want to see this movie now, you have to travel to Landmark's River Oaks Theatre or The Woodlands. I love going to the old theatre on the outskirts of downtown Houston so I went to River Oaks.
I parked across the street from the theatre in front of Barnes and Noble. Since it was so convenient, I purchased the lasted John Grisham novel and pitched it in my back seat as I passed by on my way to the picture show.
Now that's a twofer.
"Hornet's Nest" is the final in the "Millennium Trilogy" by Stieg Larrson. Here is some trivia on Larrson: "Finished his so-called Millennium Trilogy shortly before his death in 2004. All three novels were published posthumously. He had finished three-quarters of a fourth book before his death and had notes for two more and had planned a series of ten." Big loss for the literary and movie world; he died in Stockholm at age 50.
The first book made into a movie was "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which I saw in June of this year. And shortly thereafter in July, I saw the second installment "The Girl Who Played with Fire." I saw all three movies at River Oaks. We need to keep River Oaks open especially since we recently lost The Angelika.
My reviews on the first two movies are archived on my movie page at LarryHmovierevies.com. I gave "Tattoo" a 93 and an 82 for "Fire." These Swedish movies with subtitles have been so successful and intriguing to American audiences that Hollywood will soon have its first English version re-make of "Tattoo" directed by David "The Social Network" Fincher. Not sure of the exact date of release but the word is "sometime in 2011." I hope Fincher doesn't screw it up; these movies are special.
The girl is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) who is now recovering in a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds because the last movie left her near death. But Lisbeth is tough; very tough and she is not about to allow a bullet in the head, shoulder and hip slow her down. The authorities are patiently waiting for her to get out of the hospital so they can arrest her and prosecute her for attempted murder. Ok, she tried to kill her father, Alexander Zalachenko, with an axe but the dirty so and so had it coming.
As a reminder, when Lisbeth was only 12, she doused her father and set him on fire because he had been beating her mother. That dirty so and so; he had it coming. She has a half brother that is upset and wants to kill her, too. And oh yeah, she has been raped, abused, and falsely incarcerated in a mental hospital for years. You'd have spiked hair, multiple piercings and a giant dragon tattoo on your back if it happened to you. She is one angry girl. Will the system finally beat her? Will she get some measure of revenge or justice? This movie is worth the trip. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
This is movie-making at its best. But I had a hard time making it to the theatre. I had already seen my Friday afternoon movie and sent in my review to my publisher at the "Fort Bend Independent" and to my movie review list of four hundred of my closest friends, so I did not have any pressure to see another movie over the weekend of October 22nd.
It had been a slow Saturday afternoon and UT was upset by Iowa State by 2 PM. I did not want to take a nap and all of my honey do's had been accomplished so I was getting antsy by mid-afternoon. I had been thinking a lot about the new De Niro/Norton movie and decided that I had to see it.
I checked the internet and found that it was playing at the Edwards (exclusively) at 5:25 PM. Monique H. did not want to go with me. Ironically, the Edwards cinema complex in the Greenway Plaza area is one block from Eric H's apartment, but I knew I could not disturb him as he was in a deep sleep recovering from a Saturday review class at South Texas College of Law in downtown Houston.
Stone is the name used by the Edward Norton's character that is in his eighth year of incarceration for arson; he and a cousin burned down the house of their grandparents with grandpa and grandma in the house. Stone is up for parole and his parole officer is none other than Jack Mabry (Bobby De Niro). Jack is close to retirement but explains to the warden that he wants to finish up a few of cases.
Norton/Stone is sporting a corn roll hairdo and the appropriate tats when he first sits down in Mabry's office for an interview. The sparks and F-bombs between Stone and Mabry are immediate and constant. You might say that they started off on the wrong foot. Stone stuffs his considerable anger because he knows that Mabry holds the key to his getting out of prison.
Stone wants out of prison so desperately that he is quite willing to solicit his comely wife, Lucetta, (Milla Jovovich) to intervene and meet with Officer Mabry. At first, Mabry refuses to even speak to Stone's wife but she can be very convincing. The mind games between Stone and Mabry and now Lucetta are a thing of beauty. The script is splendid.
Let's back up a minute: Mabry is married and the audiences is introduced to his wife Marylyn (Frances Conroy) through flashbacks and lonely dinners in their sad, morose home pending the imminent retirement of Office Mabry. Lucetta is hot; Madylyn looks like she's been rode hard and put up wet. I smell trouble!
So, who are the big winners in this independent film? Everybody. All four of the main actors deserve Oscar nominations; their acting was simply magnificent. The set designs, sounds, and music were outstanding and spellbinding. The screenplay by Angus MacLachlan and direction by John Curran were brilliant. I can hardly wait to see this movie again. I'd go today. This is a great movie. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
Breakfast and a movie. That's what Monique H. and I did on Friday October 22nd. We had a lovely breakfast at La Madeleine and then scampered over to AMC First Colony. I know it's been said that I'm a "Romantic Devil" but breakfast and a movie is just too much! It will be smooth sailing this weekend.
Speaking of the future, this movie is about the hereafter as in the time after you die. Where do you go and what happens? And can we communicate with our loved ones who go before us? Who among us would not like to be able to "talk" to a family member that has predeceased us?
These universally intriguing and spiritually complex questions are not too difficult for Director Clint Eastwood who recently turned 80. The story involves the lives and their connection to the hereafter by a blue collar worker George (Matt Damon), a French TV journalist Marie (Cecile De France) and a schoolboy named Marcus played by Frankie and George McLaren.
Eastwood's opening scene and special effects were riveting and set a tone for the movie that generated great expectations that I was about to see an epic film and surely it would get a nomination for Best Picture. Then Clint slowed waaaay down to methodically develop the main characters and the intricacies of their lives. And the movie came to a grinding halt and the action crawled for more than an hour.
I know that Clint knows what he's doing but he lost me. My audience became visibly bored and the concession runs were increasing. This is not a bad movie and some of you will rave about it, but most of you will be nonplussed because of the painful middle. But don't despair; there is an outstanding ending that saves the movie and wraps up the stories in a neat bundle.
Matt Damon once again showed his huge talent as an actor. It's the first time he and Clint have teamed up since "Invictus" and I doubt it will be the last; surely Clint "The Good" Eastwood can live to be 90+; Matt's a mere 40.
Interesting aspect: the lighting of the sets and the focus on the actors was quite deliberate and effective. Many of the close-ups of the actors' faces were highlighted by only half of their faces in light. The other half of their face was totally dark. I don't fully understand that technique but I found it interesting and it made me pay attention to the half I could see. Maybe that was Clint's angle. He had the money of Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg to produce this movie so I'm confident that there was enough money to hire the best.
Big winner: Cecile De France. How can you not be a big winner if you are named after your home country? What if her leading man was named Matt America? At any rate, she's a genuine fox and her hair in this movie is killer. Soon, you will hear young women going into hair salons saying "...give me a Hereafter" like that French actress. You should see this movie at the theatres even though you might enjoy it more the first time you see it on HBO or Netflix. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 87. Larry H.
This is the epitome of an action comedy. And of course you can't make an action comedy without Bruce Willis. Director Robert Schwentke didn't have to look too far for the rest of this cast either.
I must admit that pairing Mary-Louise Parker as Willis' love interest is a bit of a stretch but I bought it much to the credit of Parker. The choice of crusty Morgan Freeman as an 80 year-old retired CIA agent and the elegant Helen Mirren as a former machine-gun toting agent who describes herself as "I kill people" were brilliant.
And when a director needs an actor that has been used as a human LSD experiment for eleven years by the CIA, the choice is obvious: John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs. Crazy John has the facial expressions and weird stare that is euphemistically described as "...don't get John too riled up; he's wound a little tight." And he carries and old school revolver with a six-inch barrel.
Speaking of guns, this movie has all kinds. Willis' character, Frank Moses, routinely carries a 1911 .45 and can make a speed magazine change when necessary. How refreshing! Most of the other characters rely on M-4's and other assortment of automatic firepower and a few missiles and grenades.
I counted the rounds fired and I lost track at 17,525; it became quite difficult to keep up when 10-15 guys were firing automatic weapons simultaneously. I knew you would want me to make an accurate count, but there was just too much going on. I tried.
Please note that I have not written a word about the plot or the story. Does it really matter? This is a movie with good guys that were former CIA agents that are fighting current CIA agents (bad?) and everyone is a little good and a little bad. The audience is pulling for Willis, Parker, Malkovich, Freeman, and Mirren, but Karl Urban as CIA Agent Cooper who is chasing our oldsters is also likeable.
Now let's add Ernest Borgnine as Henry, The Records Keeper, and Richard Dreyfuss as Alexander Dunning who is a ...I've forgotten and don't care. And then there's Brian Cox as the sweet Russian, Ivan Simanov, who still has a crush on Victoria (Helen Mirren) all these years after The Cold War; how charming is that? This is a silly little movie that is designed to make you chuckle and enjoy some legendary actors have fun and I did.
Grade 87. Larry H.
The movie opens in 1969 Denver, Colorado, where Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) is a housewife mixing batter in a bowl with a lawyer husband, and four young children. Her parents and the Chenery family horse farm are back in Virginia. The horse business is not going well.
Momma Chenery dies and Old Man Chenery has lost his mind so daughter Penny commutes from Denver in attempt to serve as the owner of the race horses. She begins by hiring a new trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) and jockey Ron Turcotte (Otto Thorwarth). Even though Penny is only a "housewife," she is the designated person to run the horse operation of the family business.
In 1969, Women's Lib was just getting started so Penny was in a world controlled by men and women need not apply. With this backdrop of preconceived notions, Diane Lane exploded as the beautiful and resolute owner of a young horse affectionately referred to as Big Red. As a two year old, Big Red was a consistent winner and was named Best Horse of the Year in 1972, but he had not raced in any of the Triple Crown races ... yet.
Director Randall Wallace strikes an amazing balance between race track and humans who control and train the newly-named Secretariat. As Horse of the Year, Secretariat is under a lot of pressure to do well in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. The year is 1973 and no horse had won the Triple Crown since Citation in 1948.
The script weaves a believable and exciting story of the progress and pitfalls of Secretariat while maintaining action and human drama. Diane Lane as Penny Tweedy personifies grace, tenderness and tenacity as the hard-charging owner. Malkovich as the quirky trainer is the perfect match for Lane and both will be on short lists for awards. Of course, describing Malkovich's character as "quirky" is surely admitting that he did not stretch for this performance. Not so sure. Crazy John was also extremely charming and likeable.
But the big winner is Diane Lane. At 45, she showed that her long career has finally paid off in this memorable performance that was the rock of this multi-faceted chronicle of one of the greatest race horses to ever live.
Ok, if you have been living under a rock and are prepared to admit that you do not know the results of Secretariat's attempt to win the Triple Crown, then stop reading immediately. He won! In 1973, I was in my first year of law school and I was crazier than John Malkovich and even I knew all about Secretariat. It was a huge story and electrified the nation.
This movie captured the glamour and excitement of the quest by the big red horse and I felt the emotion of the story throughout. I attribute my goose bumps and tears to watching an extraordinary animal and the performance of Diane "Lonesome Dove" Lane. Rock 'n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.