Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2012 (50)
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It’s Tarantino’s turn. Quentin Tarantino has been nominated twice as Best Director, but no gold; so far. The first time was for “Pulp Fiction” in 1994 and again in 2009 for “Inglourious Basterds.” Hollywood and the members of the Academy know about Tarantino’s mad genius, and the actors fight to get a part in one of his uniquely produced and edited films.. I predict that “Django Unchained” will be historical as Tarantino’s first Oscar for Best Director; there will be more as he is only 49.
“Django Unchained” begins shortly before the Civil War in the South where slavery is the hot issue and the inhuman cruelty that went along with slavery was integral to Tarantino’s story. He wrote the screenplay, too, and his take on slavery and the South is full of an unvarnished version of the savagery and torture of that culture. If you cannot stand to be a witness to the threat of castration and whipping of humans until they are near death, then you should consider another movie. Tarantino is merely showing the world part of the history of America with a theatrical balance of fear, blood, violence, love, ego and humor. And for striking that balance, this movie should win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Jamie Foxx plays Django “…and the D is silent” and Christoph Waltz as the dentist, Dr. King Schultz, form a partnership of sorts to kill white people who have committed various crimes and invariably the bounty on them is “dead or alive” and Django and Dr. Schultz seem to prefer “dead” in collecting their bounty. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that Dr. Schultz arranged for Django to become a freeman and thus was “unchained.” The two were very good at killing folks.
But Django’s true goal was to find his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) and somehow arrange for her freedom even if that meant killing many white folks. Dr. Schultz was along for the ride and a wad of cash and rarely killed anyone when he was not smiling and enjoying life. This team was deadly and ferocious and at times very funny.
The story takes a serious turn when Broomhilda is located on the plantation of Calvin Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) lovely plantation where the attitude is that a slave is a piece of property and the owner can do anything at any time to that piece of property. Such an attitude from DiCaprio’s character generates extreme viciousness and brutality. Django and Dr. Schultz try to outsmart Calvin Candie to earn the release of Broomhilda. Part of the problem with their scheme was Stephen, who worked for and had the confidence of Mr. Candie, Stephen was masterfully played by Samuel L. Jackson. What brilliant casting!
The acting by this cast was nothing short of magnificent which is always a direct result of a great director. The music, screenplay, cinematography, editing, and costumes will battle “Les Miserables” for most nominations. I will be watching at 7:30 am on January 10th to see the nomination battle. I find the announcement of the nominations almost as exciting as the Oscars. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 95. Larry H.
Here is the simple version: “In 19th-century France, Prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.” That’s like explaining chess by reading an old paperback book that’s missing a few chapters.
This is the musical of all musicals and was a smash, long-time Broadway hit and is based in part on Victor Hugo’s novel and seven other writers and lyricists. Les Mis aka Les Miz was not always a favorite of the critics and the public but it has become one of the great musical productions of all time. Who could possibly direct such a monumental piece of art that has 157 minutes of runtime? The answer is Director Tom Hooper, the same human that was awarded the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing for “The King’s Speech” in 2010. Two years ago? Are you kidding. Is it possible for Hooper to win again in such a short time.
His production of Les Miz a mere two years later is phenomenal, unbelievable, astonishing, and/or extraordinary. You choose; depends on the awards and the box office.
Now to the big questions: can Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe sing as well as act. Absolutely. I’m not saying they can sing for the New York Opera but Hooper pulls the best out of everyone that appears on the screen which also includes Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen (yes, even Bruno) and Helena Bonham Carter.
Those of you that have been waiting for years for this movie should buy a ticket now to make sure you get a seat and those of you that have no opinion or never heard of Les Miz, should pass. To call this a masterpiece could be an understatement. If the Academy voters are fair (which doesn’t always happen) this film will be heavily nominated not the least of which will be multiple acting, costume, directing, and of course music and cinematography. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
I did not plan to write a review on this film as I just wanted to go to the flicks and enjoy myself and catch up on my “might-get-an-Oscar” movies. But I was quite touch by this movie and cannot stop myself from saying a few things. First of all, it is superb piece of moviemaking and will help advance the 3D movement in current filmmaking. 3D is here to stay for a long time. During the trailers in Theatre 23 of First Colony 24, we were treated with the upcoming clips of “Jurassic Park” that will be re-released in 3D by Steven Spielberg in the Spring. I love “Jurassic Park” and watch it often on HBO etc. so of course I’ll choose to see it again in 3D. And so will millions of other ticket buyers, and Steven will get richer.
The point is 3D seems to appeal to enough people that many movies these days are offered in 2D and 3D at the same theatre complex; “Life of Pi” included. I wore my 3D glasses dutifully during the entire movie this afternoon, but I think I would have been just as happy watching it in 2D. My jury is still out on 3D.
This movie is about the life of Pi; oh duh. Pi is a young man from India whose family owns a zoo but economic circumstances have forced them to move to Canada and all of the animals will accompany them on a special ship geared for shipping animals and people. Bad storm and the ship sinks. Oh settle down; I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know from TV advertisements plus this movie’s been in theatres for weeks.
Two of the survivors turn out to be young Pi and a Bengal tiger who likes to eat meat. They are both on a small boat together that they latched onto during the storm while the ship was apparently sinking. Problem: how do a young man and an adult Bengal tiger co-exist on a small boat when they are both very hungry, thirsty, and desperate. Now we have a story.
The movie is told from the perspective of Pi as he reveals his thoughts, fears, and facts as he could remember them to a writer. It is a magnificent story about, God, love, respect, family, death, and hope. The music is soulful, sweet, sad, and suspenseful. The special effects are perfect and in seamless balance with a complicated narrative.
Pi Patel was played by Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan; their performances were brilliant which means they had excellent direction by Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – 2000) . And “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005. I liked Pi and the tiger; and the movie. Put it on your Christmas/New Year’s list. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 92. Larry H. firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com
This was supposed to be Richard Gere’s big shot at an Oscar; there’s been a big push by PR companies for Gere to win the gold. I’ve got some bad news for the studios and public relation companies: Gere will not even be nominated.
The main reasons are: his character was not likeable or empathetic. Pathetic is more accurate. Disclosure – I don’t like Richard Gere. I’ve forgotten the exact reasons but let’s be kind and just say that he’s not on my A list. I had high hopes for “Arbitrage.” Perhaps Larry H. and Richard G. could have become besties since the film was getting such hype. I tried; I really did. I stayed focus and followed the rather complicated financial story that involved all sorts of financial shenanigans, frauds, and felonies, but I didn’t care about anyone in the film. Not one.
I haven’t wished for the God Bomb Theory to kick in for a long time but the movie made the GBT kick in. If you are unfamiliar with the God Bomb Theory, then I suggest that you go to my we page at www.larryhmoviereveiws.com and search for the answer. It will make you a better person.
Richard Gere played Robert Miller who is a big-time financial wizard who does most of his business in the back of limousines and tells everyone else what to do except when he needs to beg for a $412 million loan; you know the type. He’s married to Susan Sarandon; there’s trouble right there with a capital T. And his daughter is hot and smart and she’s heavily involved in his business. Now that I think about it, “Arbitrage” was a poor choice of names. “Richard Gere is a Dumb A**” might have worked. Somebody must have known something was going wrong because the movie became available on DVD/Blu-Ray as of December 21st.
Is a simultaneous release in theatres and on Blu-Ray on the same day going to become a trend? I don’t know, but we need to watch this development.
Mike Roth was outstanding as Detective Michael Bryer and Sarandon was good as the suffering, alcoholic wife, but the acting was not a factor in this picture. Even the music was ill-advised and odd. Here’s some good news: Gere still has some handsome, thick hair and his character wore some classy suits. And that’s about it. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
Matt Damon was supposed to direct this movie which would have been his first, but due to scheduling conflicts, he yielded to Gus Van Sant. Van Sant is an A-List director so it was probably not a very hard choice to bring him in for this movie. And I am confident that it didn’t hurt his chances since Damon was starring in this movie just as he did in “Good Will Hunting” which was also directed by Van Sant. This is not “Good Will Hunting” but it is more like “Fairly Good Hunting.”
The story takes place in a small town in middle America that has been devastated by the recent economic woes of the country, but the town and surrounding area is sitting on a known quantity of natural gas, and Global gas company is willing to do what it takes to get these country bumpkins to sign drilling leases and it will “make you a millionaire.” The big gas company sends in Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and his sales partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) to get these folks to sign on the dotted line. And do it fast so another company does not beat Global.
We are talking about big, big money (as in Eagle Ford Shale money) which allows any hero to cut corners so long as it’s done in the name of “millions.” Damon and McDormand run into opposition: one is a high school teacher (Hal Holbrook) and the other is an environmentalist (John “The Office” Krasinski) that seems to know all the negative aspects of fracking drilling and every dirty little secret ever committed by Global.
The townspeople meet in the local gymnasium and agree that “we’ll vote on this in three weeks.” Let the war begin. The acting by the four main characters was outstanding because each has a long list of first rate performances, but they could not carry the sophomoric script. So, part of the blame has to be shared by two of the actors since Damon and Krasinski both received screenwriting credits and must have put up some of their dough because both were also listed as producers. I can see that as an easy step for Damon, but let’s give a big shout-out to Krasinski for running with the big dogs.
There were times when this film almost climbed up the rope of success and intrigue, but then hit some grease and slid back down to a thud. There are too many great movies vying for Oscar consideration for you to waste your time on this decidedly average movie. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 85. Larry H.
Occasionally, I like to write my review while watching a movie, especially when I have the DVD and the privilege of watching the film in the comforts of my office. And I’m bored and need something to do besides “watch” the movie. Such an occasion has arisen, so you will have the pleasure to read my thoughts as they occur; no time for editing. Just watch it and type.
The setting is simple enough: during a summer weekend in upstate New York in1939, King George VI and the Queen of England have come to the US to visit President FDR (Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) at Hyde Park. Seems the Roosevelt’s live unconnected lives and sleep in separate quarters if one believes this version. This account also includes romantic interludes between FDR and his lovely fifth cousin Daisy. Who keeps up with their fifth cousin and who is named Daisy? A character beautifully played by Laura Linney.
The President and Daisy take long rides in a car specially fitted for the President who does not have the use of his legs. So far in the movie, they have only held hands and kissed but we know there is something special in those embraces. Much of the movie is sweetly narrated by Daisy while the wheelchair-bound President meets with the stammering King. FDR explains to the young king that he will be a “very fine king.” This conclusion was reached in large part because the King graciously accepted a cocktail instead of tea as strongly recommended by FDR’s mother and the willingness to eat an American hotdog with mustard.
Director Roger Mitchell and Writer Richard Nelson might have to give up the business. This movie was painfully boring and should not win any awards or nominations even though there is a big push for Bill Murray for Best Actor. No way. The movie was so bad that I noticed that the music and cinematography were particularly unsightly. As I’ve said many times, making a great movie is hard. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 70. Larry H.
I’m in the process of trying to catch up on the movies that potentially will be nominated for Oscars. Even the offbeat films such “The Master” starring Joaquin Phoenix as a Naval veteran, Freddie Quell, that has severe challenges becoming re-acclimated to civilian life. The action is slow and methodical in its attempt to demonstrate Phoenix’ Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but the script by Paul Thomas (“There Will Be Blood”) Anderson is complicated and disjointed; I think. This is a very heavy story. Phoenix thinks he doesn’t have any problems (alcohol), but he participates in a recovery program led by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
When Phoenix and Hoffman are on the screen together, sparks fly. However, the plot and script (circa 1950) were too sophisticated for me. It took too much effort to keep up with, and I was not willing to stay focused enough that was required to pass a pop quiz on this movie. Amy Adams also has a small part and her acting is praiseworthy, but Phoenix and Hoffman turn in Oscar-worthy performances.
And before I knew it, a cult of believers led by Hoffman developed quickly in the movie with weird music dominating in the background. Things got really strange as they referred to themselves as The Cause; I think. I’m not sure of anything and I’m supposed to be a film critic. Maybe I need a nap and clear my head so I can better appreciate this movie.
I’ve been watching this film on a DVD provided by the studio as it is Oscar season, and the studios are in full swing in attempting to influence critics and voters and that includes our own little Houston Film Critics Society. I love getting these screeners that show up on my desk (60+) via UPS and FedEx. But this movie is still too weird and pointless to me even after a lunch break. Hoffman and his wife (Amy Adams) control/lead this bizarre band of bozos that qualify as a cult when being kind or just a bunch of whackos that breathe their own air. “We are creating a more open method of the mind.”
The only other genuine purpose of this movie could be to set up a forum for Phoenix and Hoffman to slug it out for an acting nomination. One other hint: Paul Thomas Anderson also directed “Magnolia” (1999). I strongly urge you to skip this movie and wait for it to come out on HBO.. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 71. Larry H.
What’s wrong with the world when a few of the boys can’t get together on a weeknight for some high stakes poker without some punks thinking they can rob the game and the players and think they can get away with it. Ray Liotta’s character had been running (“hosting”) the game and he even ripped off the game in the past, but he didn’t do it this time and the local mob economy was falling apart because such a bold act of ripping off the boys was upsetting the balance. Somebody’s going to pay for their transgressions. Society has to have some rules and ripping off a high-stakes poker game of mobsters is a killing offense.
As the story unfolds, the local hoods first have to find out who did it even if they have to beat it out of a few suspects. A good, effective beating is always the best source for the truth; might have to shoot them to get them to rat out the culprits, but it’s business. And this is the mood of the movie; just business and killings, beatings, and blood is just part of the profession. And to heck with you if you can’t take a joke. A few of the bad guys are scared, but mostly they are enforcing the rules and extracting some revenge. No biggie.
Jackie (Brad Pitt) is called in by the local Mob to solve the mystery of the heist and carry out the sentences for the transgressors. Pitt’s Jackie does his work without losing his temper or his cool because it’s a way of life. Throughout the movie, Director/Writer Andrew Dominik allows TV newscasts in the background to compete with the characters’ dialogue at a time when Barack Obama is a Senator from Illinois and George W. Bush is President with both of them espousing the American way and community and blah, blah, blah, when Dominik’s world is one of enforcement and retribution and men taking care of themselves without relying on any aspect of the government. The irony was obvious.
The cast of bad guys is legendary: Liotta, Pitt, James “The Sopranos” Gandolfini, Scott McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Richard Jenkins, and Sam Shepherd. As you might suspect, Gandolfini seemed to fit his part most comfortably and present an extremely believable character given his extensive experience as just another guy that happens to be a mobster. But pretty-boy Pitt did OK as a hit man without overacting or causing the audience to doubt his sincerity when he had to whack somebody by shooting them repeatedly at point-blank range. Just business.
This is a second-rate movie with mild entertainment value even though the Weinstein Brothers bankrolled it and Pitt was listed as a Producer. There are many better movies out there currently, so I’ll be surprised if this one does well at the box office even with Brad Pitt starring. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 82. Larry H.
Some will call this movie the love story and creative collaboration of Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) while others will see it as simply the behind-the-scenes production of Hitchcock’s famous 1960 “Psycho.” One needs to remember that in the early 60’s, the shower scene was way over the top for the stuffed-shirt movie executives and surely one could not show blood and nudity. We now know that Hitch made us think we saw both when in fact we saw blood going down the shower drain and let one’s imagination take over.
And that screeching and music still haunts most of us…eeekeeekeeekeeekeeek!!!!!!
Hopkins’s Hitchcock was masterful and will surely earn him a nomination and perhaps the gold. Mirren was her usual magnificent self and the film was beautifully edited and directed by the 46-year-old Brit Sacha Gervasi. His career will never be the same; you will no longer ask “who is that chap?”
“Hitchcock” has not been widely seen and certain not a box office hit, but do yourself a favor and put it on your Christmas Season list and be sure to see one of the first-rate movies of the year. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 92. Larry H.
This is a big film on a small platform. The hero is Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) who is paralyzed from the neck down because “my muscles don’t work.” But his sexual organ does have the ability to function even though as a man in his 30’s and confined to a bed on wheels and an iron long part-time, he is a virgin. Mark is deeply religious, so he approaches Father Brendan (William H. Macy) who contemplates the problem that Mark wants to have sex (fornicate) outside of marriage and the sympathetic priest declares that God will give him a “pass” on this one.
Thus, starts the trek by Mark to start meetings or “sessions” with a professional sex surrogate. Helen Hunt owns the role of Cheryl who quickly explains to Mark that she is not a prostitute, but a surrogate for sex for those who need special help. Hunt doesn’t show up for at least 30 minutes into the movie, but the meaningful action doesn’t get started until she gingerly yet therapeutically disrobes both of them and begins the torturous process of teaching and consummating the sex act.
Director and Screenwriter Ben Lewin convinced Ms. Hunt that total nudity was essential to the role so much so that by the end of the movie the frontal nudity of Helen Hunt is a nonissue. Meanwhile, Lewin weaved a story of tenderness, terror, and touch that was worthy a true story of man who was trapped in his body and only wanted to experience the sex act of his fellow humans.
The character development and story were established at the right speed so the audience did not have to take leaps of faith that were beyond their comfort zone but landed in their caring zone. For this balance, Lewin will be remembered as a genius and consideration for multiple nominations including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Direction.
Those nominations will leave room for the more obvious and surer bets for Best Actor by John Hawkes as the emaciated Mark and Best Supporting Actress for Helen Hunt as the magnificently caring and confused Cheryl the surrogate who was married to Adam Arkin. I’ve been a big fan of Hawkes since “Winter Bone” and no one has the guts to criticize the great Helen Hunt so count me in. Does she capture that enchantment of Carol in “As Good as It Gets?” Yes! And don’t rule out a nomination for long-haired William H. Macy as Father Brendan. This movie is a memorable story that will become a classic. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 94. Larry H.