Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2016 (46)
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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.
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 DC Comics best shot at swinging back against Marvel’s unprecedented success in leaping from the written comic books onto the theatre screens of the world. And DC Comic’s might not have the heft of Marvel but they have a winner with Batman v. Superman. This is the second movie of the series; the first was “Man of Steel” (2013) and it was also skillfully directed by Zack Snyder (“300” 2006 and “Watchmen” 2009).
I’ve watched the recent trailers of Batman v. Superman so I was ready for this movie, but I was still baffled and fearful that two of my super-heroes were “versus” each other. That ain’t right; so how can this be reconciled? Superman and I have been tight since the 50’s when Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter from the Dailey Planet, was played by George Reeves. As an 6 year-old-kid, I thought that just maybe Superman was "...faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."
Nobody’s more powerful than a locomotive. Well, Superman sure is. Reason: He was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton and rocketed to Earth as an infant by his father, Jor-El, moments before Krypton’s destruction. In this movie, Kevin Costner has a cameo as Jor-El and Superman’s mother is once again portrayed beautifully by one of my faves – Diane Lane.
And Batman aka Bruce Wayne does only good for the people of Gotham and is unquestionably a super hero; as in, he has special powers and is a super nice guy who saves a damsel in distress and fights the Joker and other bad guys. He’s a crime fighter so how can he be against Superman. I’m not buying it.
According to this screenplay, Batman (Ben Affleck) is worried about the intentions of Superman (Henry “Pretty-Boy” Cavill) so a fight of sorts ensues. Do Superman and Batman actually throw down? Really? Is that good for the world? Think Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg); if anybody can mess up a good thing, it’s Lex Luthor.
This is a big movie in that the sets and visual effects are spectacular and a clear result of Director Snyder’s war chest of $250 million, and he spent every penny on making this movie a remarkable display of cinematography at its best. The action takes a break only to allow the audience to catch its breath.
Affleck and Cavill are respectable as Batman and Superman so that’s a load off, and the supporting cast (Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, and Israeli Gal Gadot as Super Woman) is outstanding, but Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is award-winning. While watching Eisenberg perform, I repeatedly pondered if an actor can actually get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor so early in the year in a DC Comics movie. Maybe.
This movie will be an enormous box office hit. My Friday afternoon audience at AMC Theatre #12 (IMAX 3D) on opening day was in excess of 300. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 88. Larry H.
According to the rationalization of Bob Wiley of “What About Bob?,” there’s are only two kinds of people – those who like Woody Allen and those who do not. I do not like Woody Allen and I didn’t like “Annie Hall,” and that was in 1977, and I haven’t been able to get past it. Let it go, Larry H.
The Wood Man has been nominated for 24 Oscars; 16 as a screenwriter, 7 as a director and one as an actor. So, Hollywood is part of “those who like Woody Allen.”
I understand; I kind of liked “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989) and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and actually loved “Midnight in Paris” (2011). But, me and The Wood Man are not simpatico, but I tip my hat to his weird genius.
Café Society is classically Woody Allen. Staccato speech by dreamy characters trying to be clever, intimate settings, forbidden love, music dominated by solo pianos and clarinets, and a backdrop of Jewish characters from the mean streets of Brooklyn. Café was set in the 1930’s; it began in Hollywood then drifted back to the night clubs of Manhattan with a slice of gangster.
Jesse Eisenberg starred as Bobby Dorfman; the naïve misfit who is spurned and burned in Hollywood so he retreats to his home of New York to start over with the help of his mobster brother. Young Bobby is a lot like a young Woody Allen; I think Eisenberg even took on Allen’s mannerisms which was creepy to me.
Kristen “I’m not Bella Swan Anymore” Stewart shines as Vonnie who has two competing lovers. This time they are not a Werewolf and Vampire but a confused big-shot Hollywood talent agent played by Steve Carell and the young, slightly effeminate Woody Allen character. Stewart’s Vonnie was beautiful, sexy, and a vamp who knew how to juggle the loves of her life without much remorse or guilt. And Stewart nailed it.
This will not be a Woody Allen blockbuster or a way for him to add to his impressive number of nominations. Go see this movie if you are a Woody Allen fan. The rest of you should not dare venture into the Café Society. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 77. Larry H. www.larryhmoviereviews.com
First of all, let’s get the business out of the way. Captain America: Civil War is epic! This is the biggest, most spectacular Marvel movie in its long line of very successful super-hero movies. Who’s in it? Almost everybody. It’s a civil war; so pick a side and let’s get after it.
The plot is a little contrived but huge credit to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who were tasked with making us believe that a fight could possibly break out among enhanced humans who have protected this planet for decades. Sure, there was some collateral damage when they blew up buildings and caused massive fires, but dat gummit they had a job to do. If a few innocent civilians got popped in the process, then please consider the big picture – it’s not easy being a Super Hero.
Not so fast claims 117 nations who have signed the Sokovia Accords which state in part:
“In accordance with the document at hand, I hereby certify that the below mentioned participants, peoples, and individuals, shall no longer operate freely or unregulated, but instead operate under the rules, ordinances and governances of the afore mentioned United Nations panel, acting only when and if the panel deems it appropriate and/or necessary.”
At first reading, some might think the Accords were in the best interest of the people of Earth – see Tony Stark. On the other hand, Steve Rogers aka Captain America does not trust the United Nations to make these monumental decisions. Ok, it’s go time. Does Iron Man actually get into a man on man fight with Cap? Do these loveable super heroes choose a side and have a gargantuan fight on the tarmac of an airport? Is anyone killed? What about the next movie?
I know; it’s pretty daunting just thinking about a civil war among friends that is not very civil. Who am I pulling for in this battle of Biblical proportions? How did they choose sides?
And that’s what makes this a wonderfully entertaining movie. The action, suspense and battles are nonstop. This project was a full-employment opportunity for the Special Effects experts of Hollywood. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo are the geniuses that put this all together. They had previously teamed up with writers Markus and McFeely in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” so they were ready to make this ambitious film in a style that would sustain the colossal momentum and gleaming reputation of the Marvel Universe.
I attended Civil War with Eric H. in a 3D IMAX theatre on the Thursday night before the opening on Friday May 6th. The crowd was big and ready for a fight or should I say ready for some fun. Because this audience came early and stayed late (after-credit clips) and they was mostly AFs. Avenger Freaks. The guys that can name and explain every character and their back story and don’t have much tolerance for you normies who do not even know how to show appropriate homage to the revered Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For the sake of most of you, I have listed all the super-heroes below so you will not get lost in this fast-paced story. So keep up. (Suggestion: print this and use as a program)
Chris Evans - Steve Rogers / Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. - Tony Stark / Iron Man
Scarlett Johansson - Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Sebastian Stan - Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie - Sam Wilson / Falcon
Don Cheadle - Lieutenant James Rhodes / War Machine
Jeremy Renner - Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Chadwick Boseman - T'Challa / Black Panther
Paul Bettany - Vision
Elizabeth Olsen - Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
Paul Rudd - Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Emily VanCamp - Sharon Carter
Tom Holland - Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Daniel Brühl - Zemo
Frank Grillo - Brock Rumlow / Crossbones
Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.
The only thing intelligent about this film is those who choose not to see it. I’m a big fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin “Funnyman” Hart, but this movie is a stinker.
Johnson plays a big galoot who was the fat kid in high school but “I worked out six hours every day for twenty years.” And that dumpy, sometimes nude, kid who was the butt of cruel jokes by his high school classmates turned out to be Mr. Muscles on-top-of-muscles Bob Stone.
So is anyone in the CIA? That’s part of the mystique of this action comedy if, in fact, “mystique” is the right word, but let’s just say that at some point Dwayne Johnson’s character claims to be involved in some international shenanigans and some bad guys may or may not be chasing him and shooting at him repeatedly. There were about a thousand shots fired, but very little blood.
Bob Stone is kind-hearted and sometimes skillfully chooses to hit an attacker in the head with a swinging refrigerator door or shooting an ink cartridge in mid-air thus confusing and blinding the aggressors rather than committing outright brutality. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber of “We’re the Millers” (2013) was going for laughs. Being named Rawson probably gave him some insight into high school bullying.
Meanwhile, Stone’s high school idol, Calvin “The Jet” Joyner (Hart) is a going-nowhere accountant and refuses to get involved with said shenanigans, but Bob Stone keeps pulling him back in. And CJ keeps yelling in that Kevin Hart big-mouth, big teeth style that we love - “I’m not IN.” So our two doofuses dig deeper and run harder while many people with SIG Sauer semi-automatic pistols are chasing them and shooting very near where they are standing.
The characters are appropriately developed, but the plot is dumb as a board. Or is that a sack of hammers? I get those confused. There are a few laughs and I admit to several giggles and/or chortles, but primarily, I was looking at my watch; for 107 minutes.
Amy Ryan from “The Office” as Agent Pamela Harris was the big winner as she once again exhibited her understated humor and charm without getting pulled under by scatter-brain male leads. There are at least two surprise cameos; their names aren’t even listed in the cast, but their small parts were outstanding and some of the few highlights.
Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 71. 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 “Disaster Film.” Congratulations to Director Peter Berg for putting his audience in the middle of the fire and explosion on the offshore drilling rig owned by BP petroleum company. Revealing the end of this saga is not a spoiler as we all know what happened about 45 miles southeast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010, when this infamous gulf rig went Ka-blooey.
There were 126 men and women workers on this floating platform; 11 men died and many others injured and the lives of the survivors changed forever. Much of the news coverage after this catastrophe was about the colossal environmental damage done by the millions of gallons of oil spewing into our beloved Gulf of Mexico for a painful 87 days. I have a vivid memory of standing in line at my bank and watching the images on a TV on the wall near my teller of the black liquid roaring out of the floor of the gulf and I wanted to scream “Make it Stop.” It was brutal.
But, this brilliant piece of filmmaking is about the folks that were actually on the rig making decisions that led to the eruption that caused the fire and devastation of a sophisticated piece of man-made technology. BP execs were on the rig as owners; Transocean workers were the operators and Schlumberger and others were also in the mix.
Berg seemed to point the finger at the lead BP executive beautifully played by John Malkovich with a touch of a southern Louisiana accent. Mark Wahlberg was the hero, Mike Williams, who was the Chief Electrical Tech and married to cutie Kate Hudson. All the actors turned in workmanlike performances, but this movie is about the rig known as Deepwater Horizon – 5200 feet above the floor of the gulf.
Berg and primary screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand provided appropriate character development and education of the immensity and complexity of this monstrous drilling rig so that when the gauges indicated that the “pressure is too high,” we understood that a tragedy was about to detonate. The film’s named Deepwater Horizon not “BP lays a 50 billion dollar egg” and almost singlehandedly ruins the precious ecosystem of the gulf.
Director Berg stayed on script and told a story about this piece of equipment that was designed to do good and produce fuel for my car, and he did not lose focus that this was a human tragedy and people died.
I enjoyed the performance of Kurt Russell, a young 65, as the sage “Mr. Jimmy” who was in charge of operations and at odds with BP’s Malkovich. This movie is based on “true events” as described in a New York Times investigative article and I felt like Berg was shooting straight with me so I appreciated this opportunity to watch history. Sad, but true. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 89. Larry H.
997: for other reviews see - www.larryhmoviereviews.com
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
Normally, I don’t go to scary moviesm, but my movie buds, Wes and Hema F., gave me the nod on this film and they go to more movies than anybody I know. And they were right. This is an outstanding movie in spite of it scaring the bajeebers out of me; I mean I had a physical reaction and was worn out as I stumbled out of the theatre.
This is not for the faint of heart or children; or sissies. Director Fede Alvarez, born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1978, has a few horror movies under his belt, but this plot and the spooky surprises will have you on the edge of your seat. Alvarez has set the bar very high in this masterfully produced and edited film for those of you who love “scary movies.”
Terrifying, chilling, frightening, alarming, upsetting, startling; did I mention that it was scary? A movie that alters my emotions wins the prize. There is zero boredom or daydreaming with “Don’t Breathe.” And don’t blink either or you’ll miss another scene or spoken word that is revealed at just the right time. That’s called “Alvarez Time” as he has created a fast-paced believable plot that could only happen in Hollywood, but I was totally engaged and pulling for everybody and nobody.
Alvarez co-wrote this film and even appears as himself before the movie begins and welcomes us to the occasion and casually wishes us a good experience during the next 90 minutes. I knew he was up to something because he was too calm. The storm was coming. If he can direct, write, edit, and produce a film of this magnitude on a $10 million budget, watch out, this guy is only 38.
The story begins simple: three young knuckleheads concoct a plan to rob a blind man as they believe he as “at least 300 thousand” stashed in his house where he lives alone with his big dog. The knuck known as Money brings a Berretta 92 FS nine-millimeter in case the blind military veteran is not as big a pushover as he seems. So, the three hooligans break in the house and all hell breaks loose. You gotta see it to believe it; and I did.
Stephen Lang, as the blind homeowner, is the only well-known actor. You remember Lang as the hard-nosed Colonel Miles Quaritch in “Avatar.” I am now prepared to present the First Annual “Wait Until Dark” (1967) Audrey Hepburn/Susy Hendrix Blind Character Award to Lang for his riveting performance as the nameless Blind Man. Lang was; you guessed it – scary!
And the three young robbers were certainly ready for primetime but the star was 27 year-old Jane Levy who shined as the ditsy blond. She had the eye of both of the male knuckleheads and was ready and able to fight The Blind Man. Alvarez and Levy worked together in 2013 when she was the main character in Alvarez’ “Evil Dead” that was also low-budget with some box office success.
Let’s review: three young geniuses with a Berretta rob a blind man with a big dog. Piece of cake; nothing could go wrong. “Don’t Breathe” and it’s possible that the blind man will not shoot you in the head or his dog will not bite your butt. This is fun; go see it. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.