This is Casey Affleck’s movie. There is an able cast of Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges, but Affleck’s Lee Chandler is by far the dominant character who reluctantly becomes the guardian of a teenage nephew after the death of his father.
Affleck makes the most of this acting opportunity as crazy Uncle Lee and will be a contender for Best Actor. He plays a plumber/handyman who has “issues” and is called back home to Manchester when his brother (Kyle Chandler) suddenly dies from heart disease.
The teenager is skillfully played by Lucas Hedges whose resume includes parts in “Moonrise Kingdome” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” so keep your eye on this young star as he has big things ahead of him.
There’s some Oscar buzz for Michelle Williams as Best Supporting Actress but her performance is just another great character in her long list of amazing acting accomplishments; not Oscar worthy. Prediction: Her awards will come from her slated performance as Janis Joplin, a movie about the legendary singer’s life.
Quick question: who or what is the connection between two of the big movies of 2016 - “Fences” and “Manchester by the Sea?” Answer: Stephen Henderson co-stars in “Fences” with much screen time, and he has a small part as Lee Chandler’s boss in this movie.
“If you’re going to freak out, every time you see a frozen chicken, then we’re going to the hospital!” Nobody said parenting was easy.
Director Kenneth Lonergan can be proud of this movie, but his strength is in his writing. This emotionally complicated and clever screenplay of a family that has struggles that an audience can understand is more likely to be nominated than his directorial skills.
The musical score of Manchester is intriguing and appropriately eerie, sad, mysterious, and uplifting when needed. Props to Canadian Lesley Barber.
Many will find this movie too depressing and lacking of joy and humor; count me in. This film is a good example of “life is difficult.”
However, just when the mood was dragging, Ferris Bueller aka Matthew Broderick, showed up in a small part. Insert inappropriate smiles here.
“At least she’s not drinking or in a psyche ward…you know Catholics are Christians, too….”
Lonergan has created an outstanding piece of movie-making that is not a feel-good movie for the masses. If you’ve seen all the other “must see” flicks, then those of you who like a Boston/Manchester accent should put this on your list. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
Denzel Washington; he directs and stars in this complicated story about Troy Maxson who is a New York City garbage worker in the 1950’s and complains “…how come only the white man gets to be a driver and none of the coloreds.” And Troy uses the “N” word routinely and tells his wife Rose (Viola Davis) to “…get back in the house, Woman, this is man’s talk.”
Troy screams that he “ain’t scare of death; death ain’t nothing but a fast ball on the outside of the plate; I batted .432… the white man won’t let that boy get no scholarship….” His buddy tells Troy that “you got more stories than the devil’s got sinners.” So, Troy starts telling a story about the devil with a clipboard and payment of a ten-dollar debt that took 15 years.
Words matter and this movie is based on the 1987 Pulitzer prize-winning play by August Wilson (died in 2005) who was stung by racism as a young, struggling writer so he had a special insight into the black man’s challenges because of the color of his skin. Denzel plays Troy as a pompous, hard drinker (gin) who is too smart for his britches, but Wilson’s story and themes allow Denzel to also show a sensitive and likeable side of Troy Maxson.
Therefore, this film is important as it attempts to capture the Black Family experience during the Jim Crow years of the 50’s in Manhattan. Much of the movie is set in the Maxson’s concrete back yard where we are introduced to his drinking buddy and co-worker Jim Bono beautifully played by 67 year-old Stephen Henderson. I fear that Henderson will get overlooked as Best Supporting Actor because of the super-powerful performances by Denzel and Viola Davis, but watching Henderson work his craft to the fullest was a treat.
When Viola Davis is introduced as a nominee as Best Supporting Actress on the evening of February 26th at the 89th Oscars presentation, I predict that her tearful and slobbering, heart-breaking scene with Troy in that backyard will jump out on the big screen and the voters will fondly remember why they voted for her.
This is a perfect role for Denzel because he owned Troy. James Earl Jones had a memorable run on Broadway in 1987 as Troy Maxson, but Denzel has made Troy his special brand of anger, love, and obligation that will surely garner a nomination for Best Actor.
This is the first directorial gig for Denzel, at age 64, since his 2007 production of “The Great Debaters” so I suspect that he has invested his money and his soul in making this very revealing movie about the African American experience in this country and few are more suited or equipped than the big dog – Denzel Washington. This is a must see. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 93. Larry H.
And the envelope; please. This film is currently my pick for Best Picture 2016 and the crowning of Director/Writer Damien Chazelle as the new winner of the Steven Spielberg Award for movie-making genius.
I’m re-watching the opening scene of a jammed-up LA freeway of this stylistic song and dance extravaganza, that is big fun and entertaining, just so I can get my happy mood flowing again. This movie is magical. “Just another day of sun.” Don’t be late to this movie because the opening scene is spectacular.
Southern California sun. When watching this film, and you will see it sooner or later, try to remember that Damien Chazelle was born in 1985; yeah, the boy is 31 years old and is the same guy that wrote and directed the award-winning “Whiplash” in 2014. La La is his fourth film. His career in movies is truly unlimited and I’m thrilled that he’s on our team. Stay alive Damien, and don’t you dare let the immense success and adulation that is about to happen to you, make you crazy. Easy to say, but let’s watch the next 40 years.
Here’s the strong aspects of this movie: acting, music, dancing, singing, screenplay (original), cinematography, costumes, editing, visual effects, make-up and hairstyling. And it’s a delightful love story that will take you back to the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers 1930’s and hurl you into the Ryan Gosling/Emma Stone of today.
Is that possible? Yes, because Damien Chazelle is a virtuoso and Gosling and Stone can perform, sing and dance well enough that both will be nominated. Best couples performance since Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in “As Good as It Gets” in 1997.
Gosling’s Sebastian is a frustrated jazz pianist who thinks his style of music is the answer to the world’s problems and bright-eyed Emma Stone’s Mia is a an equally bewildered, struggling actress who makes coffee on the studio lot. His two-tone shoes are legendary and her almost-no-make-up is gutsy.
Chazelle’s writing and direction takes us down a love trail where a slight touch of the fingers leads to a trip to Griffith Observatory in the hills of LA and dancing under the stars and gravity-defying embraces while floating in the heavens.
Sebastian’s car is a cool convertible and Mia drives a Prius. Will these two lovebirds get together? Will their careers and dreams dictate and trump their hearts? This quality of a film is rare. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 95. Larry H.
Nocturnal Animals is way too scary and depressing for me. Not so fast Movie Breath. When watching this movie, I was on the edge of my emotional seat and was almost ducking scenes when the vengeance and blood was at its worse …or do I really mean at its best.
This movie debuts on December the ninth so start getting yourself mentally prepared for a work of art that will work you over. Emotionally that is. Director Tom Ford keeps his foot on the gas while seemingly sneaking up on the next big scene when one of the protagonists points a gun in somebody’s ribs or face.
I was not too hot on this film until hours after I’d seen it and I started to “warm” up – I slowly concluded that Ford and his outstanding cast had produced an excellent film with great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams and a break-out performance by Michael Shannon who we call a character actor. You’ve seen him a million times but you can’t think of his name.
Shannon plays the local law enforcement officer who has advanced stage lung cancer and chain smokes cigarettes to take his mind off his cancer. And Shannon’s Bobby Andes is focused on apprehending the bad guys even if he has go off the reservation to solve the crime.
This film is billed as a “story within a story” involving an ex-husband and a manuscript and reality becomes fuzzy, but don’t let that confuse you. This is a splendid example of movie-making so props to Tom Ford who has not directed a film since “A Single Man” in 2009 where Colin Furth was nominated for Best Actor.
Go see “Nocturnal Animals” but save some of your spending money so you can buy a ticket to “La La Land” which comes out on December 16th staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in one of the best movies of the year; we’ll talk next week.
Grade 91. Larry H.
This World War II movie is based on the events of a true American Hero, Desmond Doss, who refused to carry a weapon and was one of the first to be called a “Conscientious Objector.” That’s the politically correct word, but his platoon buddies called him “coward” and other colorful names. Until he saved their bacon by literally carrying them down a cliff under heavy enemy fire from the Japanese during the Battle of Okinawa.
Army Medic Doss is partially remembered as the first American to win the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Andrew Garfield played Doss and in my mind, he is one of the outstanding actors of his generation. At 33, he’s already starred as Eduardo Severin in “The Social Network” and Peter Parker as “The Amazing Spider-Man” Parts 1 and 2. I first became a huge fan of Garfield’s when he played Tommy opposite Carey Mulligan in “Never Let Me Go” in 2010. The real Desmond Doss died in 2006 at the age of 87 and I think he would have been pleased with Garfield’s performance.
This is a winner by Director Mel Gibson. The same guy who directed the controversial “Passion for the Christ” in 2004. The 60-year-old Gibson has only directed seven movies; seems like more. With this victory, Gibson will be able to make many more movies. Success in Hollywood is valued above all else so put your money on Mel. And kudos to Mel for hiring his son Milo Gibson to a co-starring role as Lucky Ford.
My girlfriend, Rachel Griffiths, played Doss’ mother; I always like her performances as I’m a big “Six Feet Under” fan and she was the memorable and complicated Brenda Chenowith
There are lots of blood and guts and some rats chewing on corpses so be warned. I didn’t think it was over-the-top, but I noticed more than one person covering their eyes. Hey guys, war is hell.
Hacksaw has grossed $55 million since its opening on November 4th on an estimated budget of $40 million. That’s good math, Mel.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is a very well done World War Two movie. I’m amaze that our appetite for war movies is never-ending. The costumes and weapons were genuine and authentic. Love that World War Two stuff. Happy Holidays.
Grade 90. Larry H.
Oh my goodness J. K. Rowling is a mere muggle. Oops, the term for a normal human, not to be confused with wizards and witches in this movie is no longer “muggles” but “non-mag” as in non-magical. If you are a devoted Harry Potter fan, then you will notice many other subtle and huge differences even though this film is billed as a spin-off of the eight gigantically successfully boy-wizard films set primarily at Hogwarts and Great Britain.
The biggest variation from the Harry Potter films derived from the seven books written by J.K. is that there was not a book for us to read before we took the big-screen leap of faith on Fantastic Beasts without the blessed guidance of J.K.’s written word. Arguably, J.K. Rowling is the best story-teller since Shakespeare. I’ve read all of her Harry Potter books.
But this is her first attempt at being a screenwriter. Apparently, it is not an automatic that a novelist can also pen a brilliant screenplay. Director David Yates did is his part. The movie is fast-paced and beautiful with glorious costumes and music, but the story is disjointed and rambling.
The choice of Eddie Redmayne as the floppy-haired Newt Scamander turned out to be golden which gives me hope for the next four films. Yes, you heard me; the money boys have already committed to four more Newt and the Beasts that are currently being called “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” 2, 3, 4, and 5. Yates has signed on.
Our new hero, Newt Scamander, lands in New York in 1926 with a suitcase full of Fantastic Beasts created by the fertile mind of J. K. Rowling.
Problem: I didn’t think the beasts were fantastic. Sticky, gory, silly, useless, awkward, but not fantastic.
Having the 34 year-old Redmayne anchor the movie fresh from his Oscar win in “The Theory of Everything” (2014) was helpful and the other big-named stars like Collen Ferrell as Graves, Jon Voight as Daddy Shaw, and a cameo of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald was smart, but the big winner is Dan Folger who soared as Jacob Kowalski, the non-mag schlepping through the magical world as the witness to the zany acts of the beasts as they escaped from Newt’s suitcase and terrorized Manhattan. “Should we obliviate him?”
The world has to see this movie because it’s too important to ignore, but the decision to see 2-5 should be a personal decision. I’m pulling for you, J. K., but you gotta pick it up a notch. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 79. Larry H.
This movie’s lead characters are played by Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. Between these three very accomplished actors, they have garnered eight nominations and one Oscar. So, that just goes to show you that good acting cannot save a bad script.
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer is only 46 and still has all of his hair, so there’s time for him to further develop his skills. Currently, he’s best known for his work on “The Thing” from 2011 and he has another movie out this year – “Lights Out.” Brother Heisserer has a special skill set for whacky plots and this ragged story of aliens landing in twelve areas of earth starts out like “Jaws.” But oops; things sloooooooow down to a crawl.
I really wanted to see the spaceship as soon as we knew that something from outer space had landed on earth and it was dominating TV and twitter and my audience was on the edge of their chairs, but Director Denis Villeneuve took his time slowly revealing the giant oblong egg-shaped vessels from the heavens. That approach and initial editing was the highlight of the film.
Even the sound sucked; I had repeated difficulty understanding the dialogue and it was in English. Amy Adams plays linguist Dr. Louise Banks who is primarily responsible for interpreting the sounds being made by the recent arrivals. She struggles.
Forest Whitaker is Colonel Weber who represents the military and the hard-headed government types who don’t have a clue and are constantly getting in the way of Dr. Banks. Jeremy Renner plays Ian Donnelly; an expert of some sort and is tasked with helping Dr. Banks. Renner should never, ever play anyone named Ian.
This was a hugely disappointing movie. I was expecting another “Contact” starring Jodie Foster; that glorious movie from 1997, but instead I got “War of the Worlds.” Not the 1953 version; the 2005 version – yikes.
I knew I should have seen “Hacksaw Ridge.” Wes F. says it’s better than “Doctor Strange.” Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 73. Larry H.
This is a fun movie and Marvel has done it again. As in, they are producing 3-4 outstanding movie each year and it appears that the hits will keep on coming for years. Bravo to Stan Lee, who turns 94 in December. He’s the genius and the living creator of most of Marvel’s stash of successes. He served as Executive Producer on this film. He’s been married to Joan since 1947; I wanna be Stan Lee when I grow up.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title character – the talented and arrogant surgeon who is in a horrific wreck which crushes his delicate hands and seemingly ends his medical career. After many repair surgeries and rehabilitation in his beloved medical world, the dejected and angry Doctor Strange turns to the world of mystic arts for a Hail Mary cure.
He is advised by Mordo, exquisitely played by Chiwetel “12 Years a Slave” Ejiofor, to forget everything he knows and take a huge leap of faith. That suggestion does not compute with the famed neurosurgeon who thinks he knows everything. But our hero is desperate to reclaim his dexterity and go back to his medical world which opens his mind just enough so that The Ancient One can start him on a journey of healing and ultimately a mission to save the world from evildoers.
So here’s what have so far: Dr. Strange is broken, a guy named Mordo tells him to get over his egotistical self, and he becomes a student of The Ancient One who teaches him the “secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions…to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” And that my friends is how you create a Super Hero worthy of The Avengers.
A beautifully bald-headed Tilda Swinton is glorious as the mystical and mysterious The Ancient One. She took one for the team by shaving her head and she will be richly rewarded as her Hollywood resume just took another big boost as she exhibited again her wide range of talented performances. She won’t win an Oscar as she did in “Michael Clayton” but she will be remembered for this performance.
Cumberbatch is the big winner among many winners as he was spectacular and riveting as the extremely complicated and pious Doctor Stephen Strange. His character is slated to appear in future Marvel movies with Thor and The Avengers in the next two years. These young leading men (Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Cumberbatch, Ejiofor and others) who had the vision to star in one of Marvel’s masterpieces look like geniuses for making a career move that could provide a lifetime of opportunity. There is no limit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and apparently Stan Lee will live forever.
Director and Co-Writer Scott Derrickson captured the essence of a mystical world of shuffling buildings in Greenwich Village and laser-like lights that flicker and jump in tune with a well-choregraphed cast of combative good and bad guys. Props to Rachel McAdam as the surgeon buddy of Doctor Strange and Benedict Wong as one of the good guys with a sense of humor. My audience laughed heartily 15-20 times. As technically advanced as this movie is, it was able to repeatedly make subtle humor a hallmark. Wow. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H. #1001
The Dan Brown character Robert Langdon “wakes up” in an Italian hospital from an apparent coma from a grazing gunshot to the head which leaves him with amnesia.
He’s not the only one that wakes up.
Tom Hanks once again plays Professor Langdon; the guy with the special touch in making monumental leaps from seemingly meaningless clues. Hanks appeared in “Angels and Demons” in 2009 and “The Da Vinci Code” in 2006. Wow, this series of movies has haunted the screens for ten years. Just shows that if you throw some big money and big stars at an extremely weak screenplay, anything can happen. And this time a dreadful movie happened.
Director Ron “Opie” Howard and Hanks have done this dance three times and it hasn’t gotten any better. I’m barely qualified to rip all three movies. I’ve not sat through the other two films completely. I was determined to make it all the way through “Inferno” but it took all of my strength. When I woke up, the end credits were rolling. I gathered up my belongings and walked out with the other Social Security recipients. No one was talking, so I’m not sure of their takes. However, at one point, I’m pretty sure I heard snoring.
I don’t hold it against Opie and Tommy Tom; they’re extremely rich and famous and this sorry-excuse-for-a movie will barely be a blip on their filmography. But I suggest that they not go on the talk-show circuit and try to sell it and act like they’re proud of this piece of silliness. We all need to make a buck.
Felicity Jones as ER physician Sienna Brooks turned world travel and partner of secret clues with the wacky Professor Landon was cute as a button and a bright spot in this so-called movie. Jones was nominated for Best Actress for her spectacular portrayal of Jane Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” (2014) so we know she can act. She grabbed her paycheck and checked out soon after it was a wrap. I hope.
These “Inferno” characters were running around the world trying to save mankind from a madman who wanted to unleash a virus to cut the population in half. Little Danny Brown came up with that plot and I can see Opie and Hanks buying in on the project; just one more time. But, Boys, you have got to stop it.
Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69S. Larry H. Published Review #1000 – see www.larryhmoviereviews.com
“They’re unloading the crate; we better go in…pure opium…we better run for it…are you mad at me…stand down.” And folks, the dialogue from this latest installment of super-ex-military-action-film starring Tom Cruise as Major Jack Reacher doesn’t get any better. “It’s not ‘Major’…I’m no longer with the military.”
Apologies to Lee Child who originally wrote the Jack Reacher series; I’m sure they were a fun read but this Jack Reacher film is a bust. Is it the producers’ fault? There are three credited with being the producer – one of which is Tom Cruise.
I need to speak directly to Tom for a moment: “Tommy, have you lost your freakin’ mind? I know you put up a bunch of your own money ($68 million budget) and agreed to star as Jack Reacher, again (2012), but you had to notice that this story was silly and senseless with characters that were underdeveloped and completely devoid of depth and able to utter meaningful sentences. And that bad guy who wore short, tight, leather black gloves with Velcro and holes for each knuckle; what was that – 1950? I know you threatened to ‘break his arms, and then his legs and then his neck’ and it caused me to quake, but Tommy, at age 54, you can’t keep going to the well forever; even Clint Eastwood had to move on past Dirty Harry.”
There’s a rumor, and you know I don’t like to spread rumors, but on good authority, I’ve heard that Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Dolph Lundgren have signed a letter requesting that you stop making Jack Reacher movies. Ouch.
I have some positive observations about your leading lady, Cobie Smulders, and young co-star Danika Yarosh, but I think I’ll let it go.
The name of this movie should be “Jack Reacher: Never Go.” Rock ‘n Roll
Grade 69. Larry H. #999