Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2011 (51)
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This is the season for movie awards for 2011. The Golden Globes have been announced by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on Sunday January 15th. Some of those awards will be foretelling of Oscars, which are the only awards that count, but never forget that the Globes are the result of voting by foreigners, and they ain’t from around here.
Often we will see double winners so we will see some Globe winners repeated on Oscar night February 26th hosted by Billy Crystal. But this piece is to give you a heads-up and a head start on the movies that need to be seen in the next six weeks so you will not be out of the loop when the Oscars are announced. Get ready for the madness to begin as the nominations for Oscars are revealed in the early morning of January 24th.
The broadcast of the Oscar nominations on NBC is thrilling for me because we finally see the favorites named by the academy and can start the speculation and whining. Invariably, there are some nominations that tick me off for the inclusion of my pans and exclusion of my picks. And the nominations happen quickly; the impact of the lists revealed from a stark stage behind a simple podium on January 24th are overwhelming to me so I watched them with paper, pen, and a cup of coffee to enhance my focus and immediately start the process. When the nominations are revealed on NBC around 7:40 am, I take a deep breath and let it flow over me, then I let the games begin.
In an effort to get you up to speed and ready for the Oscars, here are the must-see movies: The Descendants, War Horse, Shame, Drive, Albert Nobbs, My Week with Marilyn, The Artist, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tree of Life, Bridesmaids, Margin Call, Rampart, Carnage, A Dangerous Method, Iron Lady, Beginners, Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin, Rango, Puss ‘n Boots, I Saw the Devil, 13 Assassins, Project Nim, and Harry Potter. Have fun. Rock ‘n Roll.
Larry H. January 16, 2011
This move will be remembered for the performance by Keira Knightley as the sexually complicated patient of Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) even though 2011 will be remembered as the year of Michael Fassbender. In the year 2011, Fassbender is also credited with starring roles in “Shame” “X-Men: First Class” “Jane Eyre” “Haywire” and a short film entitled “Pitch Black Heist.” Fassbender versus Ryan Gosling who starred in “Drive” “Crazy, Stupid Love” and Clooney’s “The Ides of March.”
If you don’t know who Fassbender and Gosling are, then you are too old or not going to enough movies. But that’s ok because I’m young and go to a lot of movies and you are my friend so we’re good. My 19 year old niece, Lizzie B., knows them quite well.
Knightley’s Sabina Speilrein has a shot at a nomination for Best Supporting Actress because I believed her when she went into contortions when asked by the famous Dr. Jung “…tell me about the first time your father beat you.” The movie is based on a true account of the relationships between Jung and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Jung and his Russian patient/lover Speilrein. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag if you know your psychoanalysis history. Freud and Jung were the founding fathers of what we now casually call “therapy.” There is much controversy about Freud’s relating most events to sex, but these guys got it all started. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Director David “A History of Violence” Cronenberg, 67, created a beautifully constructed film that articulates an intriguing story of the mysteries of Freud and Jung in the early twentieth century. I don’t know much about these guys, but occasionally I’m pretty sure I have a Freudian slip.
While I’m touting Knightley, let’s remember that Fassbender and Mortensen are outstanding not to mention Vincent “Black Swan” Cassel’s magnificent portrayal of Otto Gross, but quite simply, Knightley won the acting contest among these four accomplished actors. Cronenberg is one of our best and this movie is extraordinary and will reach classic status because of the odd subject matter matched with a brilliant production. It’s just not a fun movie and will never have a broad appeal, but if you are searching for a fascinating plot, sensational acting and editing, memorable costumes and set designs, and captivating music, then this is the movie for you. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
Spielberg wins by a neck. This World War I drama about a courageous, beautiful horse has the magnificent splendor of “Gone With the Wind,” the emotional texture of “Field of Dreams” and the bloody reality of “Saving Private Ryan.” Spielberg is back and so is his buddy Kathleen Kennedy who is the coolest Executive Producer in Hollywood. Ok, coolest female producer.
Here is a blurb from Wikipedia about film producer Kathleen Kennedy: “ She was born in 1953 and in 1981 she co-founded Amblin Entertainment with her husband, Frank Marshall and Steven Spielberg. She is known for producing Jurassic Park films and E.T.; she is the second-most successful film producer of all time after Steven Spielberg with domestic box office receipts of just over $5 billion.” In 1981, I might have been persuaded to form a film- producing company with Steven S.; I’m not a thousand percent sure but I’m darn confident that I could have raised some cash for that endeavor. Call me, Steven. Anyway, I’m amazed at the number of movies produced by Kathleen Kennedy, so if Steven won’t call me, KK, will you call me?
This touching story begins in Devon, England, as The Great World looms on the horizon and the Germans are surely about to attack the rest of Europe and force the British into the Kaiser’s war. Meanwhile, young Albert’s war-torn father buys a horse that appears to be a horrible investment. Albert names the horse “Joey” and they bond quickly and become close in spite of the doubters. Good times don’t last long before Joey is sold to the British military and off he goes to fight the war in the Calvary. Albert is too young to join the British military so Joey and Albert tearfully part ways.
And by this time, I have already had five sets of goose bumps; this movie ripped my heart. I loved this movie. And here is a list of the things I liked about “War Horse:”
Acting, editing, cinematography, script, music, and directing. This film is my current pick for Best Picture of the Year 2011; nominations will abound. Spielberg and Kennedy and Harrison will be extremely happy when the accolades start rolling in; it has already garnered a Golden Globe nomination. Spielberg, Kennedy, and Harrison, oh my, I can see it now – The Sugar Shack Shows! We’ll have to work on our brand, but I have some ideas we can kick around. I’m so excited.
The movie is 146 minutes, so you should eat your ham and potato salad early Christmas Day, take a short nap, then catch a three o’clock showing of “War Horse” which opens nationwide on Christmas Day. I’m just going by saying, but I think I can get along with Steven and Kathleen; I’m willing to listen to their ideas, too, so long as we make quality movies. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 94. Larry H
Director David Fincher (“The Social Network”) has done the impossible. His remake of the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2009) is as good or better than the original. And I liked the original immensely. Fincher basically stuck to the original film and novel (trilogy by Stieg Larsson) so you will not feel cheated if you are a fan of the first movie and the books about the young, troubled computer hacker that has a vivid tattoo of a dragon on her back.
In describing Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) physically, one cannot merely be limited by the dragon tattoo as she has multiple piercings, spiked hair, and an angry scowl on her face, and she prefers black leather, smokes like a chimney, and rides a motorcycle. Mara’s Lisbeth is as memorable as the same character played by Noomi Rapace in 2009. Rooney and Noomi.
Rooney Mara is actually from NFL royalty in addition to being an accomplished actress. Her maternal great grandfather was Art Rooney, Sr., founder of the Pittsburg Steelers and her paternal great grandfather was Tim Mara, founder of the New York Giants. So let’s not make fun of her seemingly odd name as it may be one of the coolest names in American sports/entertainment.
Back to the story, a young woman from a very wealthy family in Sweden has been missing or murdered for 40 years and the family patriarch hires a disgraced magazine reporter (Daniel Craig) to take a fresh look at unraveling the mystery. The reporter, Mikael Blomkvist, needs an assistant to do some of the research so he teams up with Lisbeth who is one of the best, but she “..is different…in every way.” That’s an understatement.
She has been a ward of the state for many years and must report to an overseer who abuses her mentally and sexually. These scenes are horribly graphic and are a turn-off to many, but integral to the Lisbeth story.
Craig gained weight for this movie and does not have his James Bond good looks but he is perfect for the part. His chemistry with Rooney Mara is dead-on. Credit David Fincher for making every aspect of this film click without ever having to apologize for producing a re-make of an already internationally accepted movie. Of course, it helped slightly that Fincher did not have to use English subtitles as the 2009 Swedish version.
The action is fast and mystery intriguing in spite of the fact that I knew the details of the story as I was a huge fan of the first Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This movie is 158 minutes of great movie-making by Fincher who also directed “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008). There will be a lot of outstanding movies to see during the holidays so put this one on your gift list even though it is rated R and should be rated X. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
If I had any guts, I would have walked out of this sorry excuse for an action movie. Shame on you Brad Bird, director of the latest film of the Mission Impossible franchise. I didn’t like any of the characters, couldn’t stay focused enough to fully follow the plot, and clearly the little-used God Bomb Theory kicked in.
If you’ve forgotten the meaning of the God Bomb Theory , please see www.larryhmoviereviews.com. You people need to go to my website more often so it will look like I have a lot of traffic and a successful web page and Google will love me; they really, really will.
Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt. I don’t care. Jeremy “The Hurt Locker” Renner joins as a pseudo analyst/agent; I don’t care. One of the team members was a beautiful skank; ok, I care a little bit. What is “Ghost Protocol?” It happens when the IMF completely disavows the mission and shuts down all operations; I don’t care.
There was a huge crowd at my Saturday afternoon showing at First Colony AMC and it will be a blockbuster; I don’t care. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
This is a compelling and timely movie by British Director Steve McQueen; and “no” he was not the star of “Bullit,” which came out the year before Steve Rodney McQueen was born. This Steve McQueen is 42 years old and was born in London in 1969. His previous movie that received some acclaim was “Hunger” (2008) about a Northern Irish prison hunger strike. I did not see “Hunger” so “no comment,” but his directorial talent is quite obvious in “Shame,” which he co-wrote with Abi Morgan.
“Shame” is set in New York and is about sexual addiction starring Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan. This Brandon is conflicted and confused and clearly addicted to sexual encounters and acts out with all the stereo-typical behavior of taking things too far and taking unreasonable risks. He’s an addict. The movie will be controversial to some.
I’d heard that the movie was about sexual addiction which seemed like a bold move for everyone involved, but the whole addiction aspect slipped up on me before I realized that Brandon was in way over his head and out of control. But the progression was subtle; much to the credit of McQueen and Fassbender. With a subject like sexual addiction, which still is a social taboo, the movie takes the audience intimately into Brandon’s life and he seems, at first, like a normal, red-blooded American young man that likes women. Then the hook is set and Brandon take us down a road that is scary and emotionally perplexing.
I’m not sure I still have my arms around this movie. McQueen has used the big screen to tell a story that is very sensitive to most of us. Sensitive is not the right word; uncomfortable is probably more correct, but if you are willing to set aside the nudity and pain, then this is worth the price of admission.
The acting by Fassbender is off-the-charts good. He’s on a major roll of great parts and has earned the reputation as one of the super talents in current Hollywood. He’s got the rugged good looks and the ability to play a wide range of characters. So does his co-star Carey Mulligan who plays Sissy Sullivan and sings “New York, New York.” Mulligan should get a nomination for her performance and that song! I admit that I’m a huge fan of the 26 year-old actress. I was one of the few to crown her queen in 2009 when she earned her first Sugar Award for Best Actress in “An Education.” See LarryHmoviereviews.com for more details about Sugar Awards.
This movie might be remembered historically when the old-timers fondly reminisce about that movie that teamed McQueen, Fassbender, and Mulligan. Fascinating movie. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
The film is an adaptation from a John le Carre novel about the investigation by retired British agent George Smiley to determine the identity of a Russian mole during the Cold War. The codes names of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are used for ease in communication among the key spies involved in this extremely complicated plot that jumps from scene to scene and country to country through a series of flashbacks.
One could benefit from a program to keep up with all the players. Here is a short list of the spies and suspects (not real names): Percy Alleline, Bill Haydon, Roy Bland, Tony Esterhase, Jim Prideaux, and Control who is the head of the Circus. Oh yeah, “Circus” is the upper echelon also known as M16 (Secret Intelligence Service) which was tasked to collect foreign intelligence. During the Cold War of the 1950’s and 1960’s, these guys were some genuine spooks and they are accurately portrayed in this movie as pretty skilled spies. The lead is superbly played by Gary Oldham (George Smiley) who methodically gathers clues and tightens the net in his quest to find the Russian mole.
This movie is not for everyone, but those of you who love a good whodunit and are willing to be patient and follow small clues and tidbits in a very confusing and convoluted story, then this movie is for you. I got a little confused, but please don’t tell anyone as I’m supposed to be a professional moviegoer. Oops.
Major footnote and mild newsflash: I’ve made a terrible mistake by missing “Drive” which debuted in September starring Ryan Gosling. The trailers were seemingly dull to me and I didn’t bother seeing this movie until I obtained a DVD via the Houston Film Critics Society. “Drive” is an absolutely fantastic movie and should be on your must-see list. I will be sorely disappointed if Gosling is not nominated for Best Actor. Let me put it in plain terms, Gosling plays a two-bit Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a wheelman and gets involved in a heist that goes deadly wrong and the bad guys come after him.
Ok, here’s the plain part: Gosling’s character is so stoic and cool at the same time that he reminded me of a combo of a young Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. Does that make him a god? Just kidding because I’ve already told you people that I don’t blaspheme, but Ryan G. accomplished this feat without packing a pistol or showing his internationally known six pack. And there are other outstanding performances by the great Carey Mulligan (see “Shame” also) and Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman as heavies. Bryan Cranston as Shannon is memorable even though he gets slightly lost because there are so many great performances. “Drive” is worthy of a nomination. Rock ‘n Roll.
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Grade 85. Larry H
I was excited when I sat down in Theatre #2 at AMC First Colony because I was the only person in the auditorium and I was about to see a Martin Scorsese movie. In 3D no less; I had my glasses already perched on my nose. I look good in 3D glasses. Please see attached photo.
Just as the final trailers had run, two women sauntered in and noisily walked past my aisle seat. I knew they were close friends because they were talking non-stop and had difficulty choosing their perfect seat. They had 349 choices but seemed baffled. They finally chose a seat not far from me and began using their cell phone and chatting energetically. I considered hollering to them in a stage whisper “…hey, I can hear ya...” but they looked a little rough and I didn’t want to get beat up by two middle-aged women so I let it go.
The cast includes Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen who both shone brightly as well as young Asa Butterfield as the orphaned boy who lives in the walls of a train station in 1930’s Paris. Sounds like an intriguing plot full of covert camera angles and imaginative editing, but not so much.
To see a Scorsese movie is a privilege and I often thought about the creative process of Scorsese as I was watching the film. Let’s take a minute to list some of his accomplishments: Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, Raging Bull, The Color of Money, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed. He’s considered one of the greatest and the critics are raving about “Hugo” as though it is Oscar-worthy. But not this critic.
Scorsese has created a beautiful, 3D movie with a tender yet mysterious and suspenseful story with great acting, but I didn’t enjoy the film. No matter how well-made and skillful the director, if I don’t enjoy my experience in the dark of the theatre, then grades will suffer. Sorry, Marty, I know Steven returns your phone call, and certainly Leo does, but this project with the gorgeous 3D effects is not a great movie.
How do I know? The two ladies who were sitting close to me walked out with about 30 minutes left in the movie. Are you kidding me? They walked it and left me in the theatre all by my lonesome? Step One is to admit it happened. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 79. Larry H.
“My Week with Marilyn” and “The Descendants”
It’s good to be a moviegoer. The Oscar-worthy movies are beginning their majesty roll that starts around Thanksgiving and doesn’t stop until mid-January. Some directors and producers are sorely disappointed as their post-Thanksgiving plans lack the proper gobble resulting in zero nominations, but the smart money is smart. And two of the winners are “My Week with Marilyn” and “The Descendants.”
As promised, the performances by Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier are praiseworthy. The criticism that Williams doesn’t look like Marilyn is folly; nobody looks like Marilyn so let it go. Her portrayal of the biggest movie star of the 50’s and 60’s is believable and eye-catching. She is on my short list.
The movie is based on the diary notes of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) who was the Third Assistant Director of the movie “The Prince and the Showgirl” which was being shot in England under the direction of Olivier. Marilyn came swooping in from America with her insecurities and international fame and immediately butted heads with the classically trained Olivier.
Marilyn had recently married Arthur Miller, but she had her curves pointed at any man that would pay attention to her including the young Third Assistant Director. She “devours” men. Maybe so, but I enjoyed watching Michelle Williams’ creation of her Marilyn and when she finished her dance routine on set while shooting the Olivier movie, I almost stood up to applaud.
Is this a great movie? No, but the story and acting are superb and it comes very close to being worthy of a Best Picture nom. The other big winners are Director Simon Curtis, Redmayne, and Emma Watson as Lucy who proved that she can really act other than playing Hermoine Granger in the “Harry Potter” franchise.
I saw “Marilyn” at the newly furbished Sundance Theatres in downtown Houston which has taken the place of the Angelika. I’m thrilled to announce that the facilities are handsome and comfortable and there is assigned seating. When purchasing a ticket, a computer screen is presented to the customer who then touches the screen to pick a seat. I sat in K16.
I have been enjoying the Thanksgiving holidays and must cut short this piece because I’m on the way to see Pawpaw and Mawmaw, but suffice it to say that George Clooney is a cinch for a nomination in “The Descendants” which will endear all fans of Hawaii. This is a GREAT movie and the big surprise to me was the stunning performance by 19 year old Shailene Woodley as Clooney’s teenager daughter who explains to her dad that “…Mom was cheating on you.” Mom is in a coma and dad and his fellow descendants are about to get rich from selling 25,000 acres of pristine Hawaii real estate. The numerous quick switches from comedy to sadness in this flick are a thing of beauty.
Go see Marilyn and George. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grades: “My Week with Marilyn” 90. “The Descendants” 93. Larry H.
As the title implies, this is the second cute and cuddly animated movie about the loveable penguins who struggle to survive in their Emperor Penguin World. The story hardly mattered to me. The film is just a beautiful, touching movie about the little tuxedo creatures who are loveable because of their cuteness and their nonaggressive nature.
What happens when there is a large block of ice that traps the penguin nation? If you are intrigue by this dilemma, then pack your bags and go see this movie and/or wait ‘till it comes to your local cable/satellite company.
Elijah Woods returns as Mumbles and the sexy voice of Sofia Vergara as the slinky penguin Carmen debuts.
I saw this show in IMAX 3D and I highly recommend that you, too, see this movie with the big, bulky glasses; it’s cinematography spectacular and the special effects are genius and dominate. The editing is disjointed and the story is a wandering fool, thus rendering the written word secondary to the penguin world of ice and snow. There should not be a Happy Feet Three, but that won’t stop Director George Miller who appeared to be quite enamored with this project. I was not. Rock ‘n Roll.
Vergara’s accent is identical to her Gloria on the hugely popular TV hit “Modern Family.” And the duo of
Brad Pitt and Matt Damon lend their distinctive voices to create Will the Krill and Bill the Krill. Yes, they were
adorable as the renegade krills that wanted to escape from the masses of the shrimp-like creatures who serve
as food for others. I think it was Will (Pitt), hard to tell as all the krill look alike to me, that delivered the
best line of the movie: “I’m one in a krillion.”
Grade 78. Larry H.