Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2016 (46)
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This is movie-making at its best. Quentin Tarantino has evolved into directorial genius and a trailblazer in his eighth film. It seems like he has been making movies for a long time because he made “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992 and followed that with “Pulp Fiction” in 1994. Is Hateful Eight his best film; arguably, but Tarantino fans will debate forever about the Tarantino Best Movie Award. What about “Kill Bill” and “Django Unchained”? His best film is probably coming out in 2025; he’s only 52.
He won his two Oscars for writing for “Inglourious Basterds” and “Pulp Fiction.” And he wrote this screenplay; this movie should garner numerous nominations including this creative plot of a bunch of Post-Civil War desperados holed up in a one-room rest stop in the wintry outback of Wyoming. The bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is handcuffed to his fugitive captive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) at all times to insure that he gets her to the gallows in Red Rock.
But there’s a storm brewing as a pounding blizzard forces the fascinating, yet hateful, eight humans together in Minnie’s Haberdashery and let the craziness begin. I’m laughing now just thinking about the outlandish and comical scenes created by Tarantino and a super cast. This movie is full of blood and death; lots of blood so be warned, but the humor makes it all okay.
We can’t have a Tarantino movie without Samuel L. Jackson so welcome the witty and heavily-armed Major Marquis Warren to the party. Other Tarantino regulars Tim Roth (“Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”) and Michael Madsen (“Kill Bill”) also join the twisting, back-stabbing plot of killers and egomaniacs with a bullet for a brain. Bruce Dern as General Sandy Smithers and Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix round out the formula for absolute fun and joy for two hours and 46 minutes. But, we need eight so Demian “The Bridge” Bichir plays Bob and Channing Tatum is the mysterious Jody.
This is such a great film that I’m on my way to see it again as soon as I finish this review. Some believe that Hateful Eight is not a classic Tarantino movie. Bah, humbug; this has Tarantino’s handprints all over it and if you like his out-the-box style, then you will love this movie. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 94. Larry H.
Addendum: I’ve just come back to Harrison Law Firm from my second viewing of Hateful Eight – great movie but it’s not better than “Pulp Fiction.” The big winners are The Weinstein Company and Walton Goggins who also appeared in “Django Unchained.” This project is very incestuous – Harvey and Bob Weinstein executive produced most of Tarantino’s movies including “Pulp Fiction.” Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh starred in “Backdraft” in Ron Howard’s film in 1991.
This is a fascinating film about a mother and her five-year-old son who are held captive in a room. For years the “room” is their entire world. This space is small with the bare necessities of a bed, toilet, kitchenette, and bath and the only link to the outside world is a skylight. Jack’s entire life of five years has been spent in the confines of the area that he and Ma affectionately call “Room.”
Bizarre is a kind word for this setting and the austere group dynamics of two is equally disturbing. Such a peculiar story originally came from the novel by the same name and this screenplay was masterfully adapted by Emma Donoghue who has been nominated for an Oscar for her work. Speaking of Oscars, this little-known movie has earned three more for Best Direction by Lenny Abrahamson, Best Actress for Brie Larson as Ma, and much to my surprise, Best Picture.
I felt deep sadness during the character development of Ma and Jack; especially watching little, naïve Jack live in squalor and complete deprivation of a full life. Ma was loving and protective but there’s only so much a mother can do in these pathetic circumstances. But Brie Larson as Ma gave an effort that only a mom could produce and a brilliant young actress could bring to this story of love and survivorship.
Jacob Tremblay appropriately plays five-year-old Jack with shoulder-length hair and big, entrancing eyes. At times, I was memorized by a small male child having long, flowing hair that had not ever been touched by a barber. Director Abrahamson created an aura of mystery and mystique on a stage that was about 10 by 12 feet. That directorial challenge alone probably garnered enough empathy votes from fellow directors to warrant his Oscar nomination. I agree.
Brie Larson, born in 1989, has already been tested as a child actress and singer and has a very good agent; she is currently co-starring in “Trainwreck” which is still playing at some of your local AMC’s. Lest you think her Oscar nom for Room is overrated, she has already won the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her compassionate role as the kind-hearted lioness, Ma, who will do anything to protect her young.
This is one of those odd movies that is extremely well done in spite of its lack of box office appeal, but will forever have bragging rights that it was nominated for Best Picture. It won’t win, but getting the biggest Oscar nomination that exists will be worth a bump to everyone involved. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
This is the best work by Director Michael Bay. He’s been in the business since a very early age; he’s only 47, but he produced and directed “Pearl Harbor” in 2001 and “Armageddon” in 1998 and various music videos for Tina Turner, Meat Loaf, and Lionel Richie. He had an asterisk by his name as I thought of him as a lightweight. Not anymore. This is an extremely well-done movie with marvelous editing and direction. Michael Bay is no longer just a music video guy or the director of Ben Affleck.
This is an intense and sad story of the American Tragedy of the death of the American Ambassador and others in a raid by Libyan wackos in the suburbs of Benghazi on September 11th in 2012. The political fallout is still falling, but this is a Hollywood version of the “true events” according to the text of this movie.
The Secret Soldiers are six heroic former Marines, Seals, and Army Rangers who were hired by the C.I.A. to protect the US personnel still stationed in Benghazi at a time when most of the world had abandoned ship and closed down their embassies in Benghazi. Libya, after the fall of the 42-year reign of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, was a mess and chaos ruled. “It was hard to tell the good guys from the bad.”
The film is from the perspective of these six fearless men who were serving their county by being paid to protect Americans without the full backing of the US military and at times the US did not even acknowledge their existence. As most of you know, the US outpost (not the embassy) in Benghazi was attacked without provocation or warning on 9/11 and there was almost zero forces to defend the attack.
Stationed about a mile away were the six secret soldiers who jumped to the ready when the attack began in the early evening. The bloody bedlam and confusion exploded into close quarter combat led by our heroes. It lasted for about 13 gruesome hours. Director Bay presents a believable and forceful story based on excellent character development and clever choreography of juggling events and scary violence.
The primary hero is played by John “The Office” Krasinski who has finally demonstrated that he can be “the man” as the lead in a major movie. Bravo John, you did it. Other TV stars that shined as one of the six were Pablo Schreiber who is best known as Pornstache Mendez in “Orange Is the New Black” and Dominic Fumusa who was Nurse Jackie’s husband. These three guys are the big winners, in addition to Bay, because they each took it up a notch in the world of movies and showed that they belong.
If dramatic and courageous modern combat by brave Americans steeped in history is your interest, then this is a must-see. It did $16 million opening weekend. It deserves better; this is an outstanding movie. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.
“CG 36-500 proceed to rescue…Copy that.” The setting of this true story is February 1952 off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. An unusually powerfully snowy storm has enveloped the area and wreaked havoc on vessels caught at sea. The US Coast Guard is tasked with making rescues of ships in distress and in this case the high winds and surging waves have caused a large tanker to “split in two.” But what if it’s too dangerous to even mount a rescue attempt?
The film begins with a sweet love story between Bernie and Miriam played by Chris Pine and Holliday Grainger. We all remember Pine from his portrayal of Captain Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek movie, and some of you will recall Ms. Grainger as Lady Chatterley in a TV movie last year. With a 1950’s backdrop, the adoringly awkward couple had just become engaged when Bernie Webber is ordered to command a very small Coast Guard boat with a crew of three to challenge the treacherous waters off Cape Cod in blinding snow, wind and forty-feet waves. Their mentality is “…we’re the Coast Guard and that’s what we do.” Hmmmm, but is that a good idea.
The story develops from the perspective of our brave members of the Coast Guard and also from the eyes of the desperate crew of over 30 who are trying to manage a ship that is literally rudderless and near powerless while fighting the elements of a horribly ferocious and freezing storm with gale-force winds. Time is of the essence.
The tanker’s crew has already lost its captain so someone has to step up to lead the men to attempt to salvage the ship and buy enough time for somebody, somehow to rescue them at sea.
Casey Affleck, 40, as Ray is that leader to the crew of the ship and his performance was the shining light in a film full of cold darkness. Hopefully, this movie will separate him even further from his older brother, Ben.
Director Craig Gillespie spends a lot of time and money in creating spectacular sets worthy of the viciousness of the storm and the almost constant fear generated by the story, but his editing was disjointed and lacked the character empathy that was begging to be achieved in this disaster movie. He missed the boat. Oh no, I said it.
Gillespie’s last movie was “Million Dollar Arm” starring Jon Hamm and it was a lightweight, too, grossing $36 million on an estimated budget of $25 million. Cutting it kind of close there, Craig. “Finest Hours” sales will probably not set any records either. This is the season for movies that are competing for Oscars and all the other chumps are fighting for scraps. This movie is not ready for prime time. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 79. Larry H. www.larryhmoviereviews.com
“Hail, Caesar!” can go to hail. This was a complete bust by the brothers - The Coen Brothers as directors are not infallible, and occasionally can go a film too far. I love the Coen Brothers and some of my all-time favs are from the Coen Brothers. Allow me to share: Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, No County For Old Men, Burn After Reading, and their latest Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013.
I wanted to give them their props before I rip ‘em for this pile of junk. The Brothers, Joel and Ethan, tried to get too cute with this movie about a guy who fixes things for actors/actresses in the heyday of the 1950’s when the studios ran the film industry with an iron fist and could make an arrest or an unwanted pregnancy disappear. And the Communist were lurking in the background. Gosh, it sounds funny; maybe intriguing, but not only was it not funny in a Coen-Brothers kind-of-way, but it was not even entertaining. Dare I say dull?
I considered walking out of theatre #19 at AMC First Colony, but I didn’t have the guts to walk a Coen Brothers movie. I should’ve, but I feared a face-saving “Hail Mary” scene at the end to win the day, but instead I got “Hail, Caesar!”
Here’s some good news: the film is only 106 minutes. How did the Coen Brothers screw up a movie with a cast of their friends: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton (playing twins), Frances McDormand (Joel’s wife), Jonah Hill, and Channing “Freakin” Tatum? That’s a question so here’s the answer: bad script by….The Coen Brothers. There’s only one big winner and that’s Alden Ehrenreich, age 26, who played a inane cowboy actor, Hobie Doyle, and now that I think about this film, and that’s a painful process, his character was the funniest, wittiest of the lot. Thanks Alden.
If you are a Coen Brothers fan, you have to see this film; I understand. I’d like to hear from you. Surely, I’m not the only one who thinks this was a stinker. Have fun as the excitement of the Oscars is getting close – February 28th. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
Dear Lord, please don’t let there be a “Zoolander 3.” I didn’t mean to blaspheme, but I do hope that director and star Ben Stiller makes a lot of money on this silly slice of diddly boo and then let’s the franchise die. I didn’t see “Zoolander 1” so who am I to hate on this movie; I’m a human that suffers and don’t I bleed when cut? Ben and three other writers actually sat in a conference room and laughed at this facacta – which is Yiddish for trash/manure or other smelly things. There was definitely an odor.
I’ll try to relate the story to you, but please don’t expect an explanation of the ending as I left before the grand finale. Only fifteen minutes left, but I was not strong enough to remain in Theatre 23. I tried; dat gummit.
Our male models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) resurrect their characters from 2001. A little long in the tooth with hair and careers eschew, the bimbos are attempting to… I’m sorry; I’m not sure what they were trying to do. I did note that Penelope Cruz is still a fox even in an absurd movie. How dumb was it? Dumb as a board. An ugly board; that needs sanding and paint and other, newer and younger boards to provide structure.
Even Will Ferrell as Mugatu couldn’t save this sinking ship er stinkin’ ship. Benedict Cumberbatch as All, the androgynous person, took a shot at righting the ship but his service was brief hence the water continued to rush in; the pumps could not keep up. And Joe Jonas, Justin Bieber, Kristen Wiig, Macaulay Culkin, Billy Zane, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian West, Kiefer Sutherland, John Malkovich, Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, Lenny Kravitz, and Sting? Nope. Nada.
And then a brief moment of sunshine appeared as Susan Sarandon in a cameo sang ever so briefly with the voice and utterances of her 1975 Janet Weiss from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I kid you not; there are no boundaries in “Zoolander 2.” Contact me if you agree that Sarandon was imitating her old role as Janet Weiss.
That’s assuming, of course, that you see this flawed little flick, which is not advised under any circumstances. If you have not seen the movies nominated for Best Picture, then make sure you are ready for the Oscars on February 28th. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 65 W. Larry H.
Here’s what I think of Dead Pool - $196 million in nine days since it opened February 12th; $132 million in the first three days. So it doesn’t matter what I think. Ticket sales rule in American film. This is a compelling reason for so-called film critics to see movies before the public has had an opportunity to vote with their pocketbook. Ah, I’m just kidding; of course, my thoughts and opinions are vital to the US economy and the film industry in general.
I chose to see “Dead Pool” today, nine days after its opening, because I already knew that this Marvel-Superhero movie, heavily advertised on TV, was a smash hit at the box office and I couldn’t stand to think that you had seen a good movie while I chose to see “Zoolander 2” last week. Ugh, some of my decisions can be life-altering or at least huge disappointments.
I actually perused the movie choices at my local theatres on February 12th and decided to see Ben Stiller’s second foray about zany male bimbos and eventually walked out of that movie prior to its completion. (See last week’s review by Larry H.) I could have chosen instead to see “Dead Pool” on its opening day nine days ago, but my gut didn’t feel it. Life is difficult.
But let’s give me credit for at least watching the polls and other focus groups to get me pointed in the right direction in spite of my gut feelings. “Dead Pool” is not only a huge financial success, it’s a very fun and entertaining movie where the hero evolves from a “rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool.” And a sense of humor beyond any other Super Hero.
Ryan Reynolds, 39, is a scream as Wade Wilson/Deadpool. And, yes, I screamed with laughter. At times, I laughed so hard that I was definitely “that guy” in the theatre. Bravos to Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick for a superb script and to Director Tim Miller for creating a dynamic blend of special effects and tongue-in-cheek humor. The dialogue is clever, shrewd, and ingenious. And Miller kept things moving with adroit editing and crafty cinematography. Loved the costumes and Deadpool’s makeup.
Tim Miller has been in the business for years but this is his directorial debut for a full-length film. Has he earned another shot? Well yes he has; he and the same writers are already set for the making of Deadpool 2 (2017). Hollywood can smell the money. The production budget for Deadpool was $58 million - cha-ching!
Big winners? Everybody, but especially Brazilian-born Morena Baccarin as the love interest and T.J. Miller as Weasel. And Ryan Reynolds owned the screen; few will remember that he was also the Green Lantern in 2011. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
This is a rock ‘em sock ‘em shoot ‘em up movie with good cops/bad cops; mostly bad cops; a gang of criminals, and the Mafia. Not the regular Mafia but the Russian Mafia.
And I might have fumbled the ball early in the film; no, that’s not true, I bobbled it. I made the cardinal sin of getting confused during the character development stage.
So, whose fault is that? Director John Hillcoat or Larry H.? Hillcoat was born in Queensland, Australia; Harrison was born in Bay City, Texas, of the United States of America. Yeah, I thought so.
After Hillcoat caused me to become bewildered and lose track of who’s on first, I wasn’t sure who I was pulling for in this movie of mayhem. I enjoyed seeing the hooded good/bad boys rob a big, seemingly rich bank, and shoot people in the face while performing a day’s work, and then race away from the scene in an indistinguishable getaway van while a planted bomb exploded to cover their tracks, but who did it and why did they do it?
Motive. I never fully got my arms around the intent of the various sets of villains. Or were they the good guys? I do know that all the cops and robbers had the morals and charm of a South Texas rattlesnake.
Double-cross? Of course, there was lots of chicanery, deception, and Copy That, but I didn’t care if one or all of them got shot in the face. Maybe that was the point because there is lots of blood and bullets. Oh, now I get it. Everybody is tainted and carrying a pistol, cocked and locked, and an attitude of “you did me wrong and I’m gonna shoot you in the back or face; makes no difference to me.” That could be fun.
It wasn’t, but it could have, if the Aussie hadn’t lost control of his star-studded cast and the editing. The backseat camera shots and scene-jumping was quite mystifying, lest we forget, Larry H. had been muddled since the beginning. I swear I was sober – Mr. Pibb and Popcorn.
There were outstanding performances by Chiwetel “12 Years A Slave” Ejiofor and Casey Affleck who also shined several weeks ago in his starring role in “The Finest Hours.”
And my boy Woody Harrelson, a cop who likes to smoke a little weed, played his typical complicated, loveable wacko as Jeffrey. Big news for “The Walking Dead” fans: Norman Reedus who plays Daryl Dixon on TWD has a co-starring role and does himself proud in his 5-6 scenes. Way to go Norman!
This flick is a mild combination of “Reservoir Dogs” “The Town” and the 1995 “Heat.” Not as good as any of the three, but it’s still a movie involved with bank heists. And the Russian Mafia and scumbag cops and blah, blah. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 81. Larry H.
This is a sequel of sorts to the 2013 movie “Olympus Has Fallen.” Almost the same cast, but in 2013, the bad guys attacked the White House; code name “Olympus.” I reviewed Olympus and gave it an 82; see www.larryhmoviereviews.com for details. Some of those comments from 2013: “Actually, Butler showed that he can carry an action-packed movie that is little more than a twist of “Die Hard.”
That would be Gerard Butler who resurrects his character Agent Mike Banning in this updated, fast-paced, non-stop battle to once again protect U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) from vengeful terrorists. In this version, the Prime Minister of Great Britain has suddenly died so many Heads of State come to London to attend the funeral and uh-oh. Bombs start bursting in air. Lots of bombs and bullets and London does not fall into the Thames River, but it takes a huge hit.
Many dignitaries and innocent people die; did the bad guys get the President? Did Super-Agent Mike Banning win the day and save the Leader of the Free World?
Was Butler’s Mike Banning as tough, ruthless, and funny as Agent Bryan Mills of the Taken trilogy? Yes sir, and he’s as brutal and good with his fists and quick with a pistol. Banning does not miss when his gun is pointed at a terrorist. But does he save President Asher? You know I can’t tell you that.
This is a lavish action movie fueled with high octane shooting and shoving and Butler’s performance is worthy of his starring role and the money he’ll make on the back end as one of the Producers. Having Morgan Freeman co-starring as the Vice President always lends credibility just having him show up. In the 2013 “Fallen” movie, Freeman was the Speaker of the House; see how these things progress.
Attaboy for Director Babak Najafi, born in Tehran, Iran, in 1975, for never taking his foot off the pedal. If you like this genre (see “Die Hard/Taken”), then you will not be bored as this story goes down alleys and around the curb with bad guys in pursuit forcing Banning to hang out the back door of a speeding car to shoot a terrorist on a motorcycle. See “The Lone Ranger” and “Roy Rogers.” Not a bad way to spend 99 minutes. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
“These boys are inseparable; but we only want to adopt one of them; I’ve been searching for my baby brother for 28 years.” This is yet another movie by the mad genius Sacha Baron Cohen. Yeah, that’s the guy – “Borat, Bruno, and The Dictator.” I give him credit for being a genius because his brand of comedy, dare we say entertainment, is so far out there that his ticket sales have made him a very wealthy 44-year-old Brit.
“The Brothers Grimsby” directed by Frenchman Louis Laterrier (“The Incredible Hulk” and “The Transporter”) allows Cohen to exhibit his magical touch of bizarre funniness and crassness extraordinaire. Actually, this movie version of Cohen, rather than the mockumentary format is, believe it or not, not as vulgar as I feared. Sure, the two brothers get caught hiding inside the privates of a wild elephant who is about to mate with a suitor, but who among us has not tried to fade to black to escape harm.
Star and co-writer Cohen feels compelled to take it to another zany level to gain the upper hand in his in-your-face style of shock humor. In this spoof on James Bond and the British MI6, he reserves his barbs for “fat people” rather than his go-to targets of race and politics.
But he has no boundaries. Rebel Wilson as Cohen’s wife and Gabourey Sidibe, Banu the Cleaning Lady, were certainly good sports to allow themselves to be the butt of the joke for being large women.
Mark Strong is extremely adequate as little Grimsby brother, Sebastian the Spy, who is involved in an assignation attempt of an international philanthropist (Penelope Cruz) and unfortunately must enlist the partnership of his idiot brother, Nobby (Cohen) while trying to save the world. Let the madness begin.
I predict that the producers, including Cohen, and directors thought “The Brothers Grimsby” would be a box office hit and they would all get rich by riding the coattails of screwball Sacha Baron Cohen. Problem: this is not a very funny movie, character development is nonexistent and the action/silliness is spewed all over the screen without a witty course for the would-be heroes.
There were only four patrons at my noon showing on Opening Day. According to my semi-scientific calculations, this will be a dud. Only the hardcore Cohen fans will bother to buy a ticket and the rest of you normies should wait for Showtime or at least don’t go without a parent or guardian. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 79. Larry H.