Larry H's Movie Reviews for 2016 (46)
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What’s a zootopia? Heck, everybody knows that. It’s a village of anthropomorphic animals. I’ve been waiting a long time to use anthropomorphic in a sentence. These beautifully created animations are bears and deer that wear clothes and carry brief cases and have jobs. And they exhibit human characteristics such as love, joy, fear, and embarrassment.
If you can buy that animal/human concept, then you are good to go for “Zootopia.” In this particular “topia” – not a real word but it should be, our star is a loveable bunny named Judy Hopps (voice by Gennifer Goodwin). And Judy always wanted to grow up to be a cop and in spite of this groundbreaking idea, her parents were very fearful that their little bunny would get hurt.
So, Judy’s parents were pleased when Judy’s first assignment was Parking Duty in Precinct One. That’s a “safe job,” but don’t call Judy a Meter Maid! She graduated number one at the Police Academy.
The Chief of Police was an enormous and intimidating Water Buffalo with fierce horns. Chief Bogo was voiced by British actor Idris Elba; his voice is in demand as you can hear his melodious pipes in “The Jungle Book” which is debuting in a week. If I was a big-dog actor in Hollywood, I think I would like the voice gigs and apparently most of the stars agree as it supposedly pays well and there is no stigma for joining in the animation fun.
Officer Hopps is not fully respected by the other animal police officers, but she perseveres in attempting to locate 14 animals that have disappeared. Oh my; that’s sad and scary. Judy enlists the help of a wily fox (Jason Bateman) and off they go to conquer the world and make a difference.
Zootopia has been out for five weeks, but since it’s already grossed $275 million in the U.S, I decided that I had to see what all the fuss was about. It’s about a kids’ movie that is really well done with warm and fuzzy themes.
In my theatre on a sunny Friday afternoon, there were about 15 of us, but some stood out more than others. Let’s take Elrod first. He was with his grandfather and Elrod needed to go to the bathroom. When Elrod and Gramps were exiting via the AMC aisle, Elrod took a left and started going up the stairs instead of downward toward the bathroom. Gramps could not keep up with Elrod so he hollered to him and got Elrod to reverse his way; Elrod could have cared less. No foul; no harm, Elrod.
Then we had Lisa who periodically popped out of her seat and began dancing on the stairs. Very close to the area where Elrod had run amok. I couldn’t blame Lisa for her performance as the music was catchy and you can’t stop it when you get “happy feet.” Go, Lisa, go Lisa.
And then there was Skinny Pete who was having difficulty hearing some of the dialogue so he energetically asked his red-faced parents “…what he say, Daddy…Mommy, why did she do that?” In defense of young Pete, some of the spoken words by the animals were not fully enunciated and if my parents had been there, perhaps I, too, might have inquired. Go, Pete.
Let’s not forget Baby Parker who only wanted to know when and how her next meal was coming. We were pretty sure Parker had been participating in nursing and her schedule was messed up. I get cranky, too, Parker, whenever my blood sugar gets low. You’d cry, too, if it happened to you. Go, Parker. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 275 million. 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.
“He’s some kind of god and he’s going to rise up again and take judgment on the world; the four are always with him – like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
That’s pretty biblical; straight out of the Book of Revelation. But this latest episode of the X-Men Franchise is straight out of Director and Co-writer Bryan Singer who has been a major franchise contributor all the way back to 2000 when he directed and co-wrote the first of nine X-Men films. Six X-Men, two Wolverine, and Deadpool. Singer’s only 50, but he’s been a force in Hollywood for 20 years when he directed “The Usual Suspects” in 1995 and it won two Oscars for writing and acting for Kevin Spacey.
This X-Men movie returns to the basic theme of Mutants having special powers used for the good of humanity. Can’t argue with that premise. These super-hero movies with huge budgets have created a contest among some of the giants of the film industry of “who can make the most dazzling film.” The spectacular visual effects and artistic designs are mind-boggling when considering how far movie-making has come in the last 10-20 years. And we are the better for it.
However, there are consequences. Two of the most talented actors of this generation (Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender) are in this movie, but the cinematography, music, costumes, make-up and sound almost obliterate their performances. Don’t get me wrong; J Law still looks good in blue and Fassbender’s rendition of a grieving father holding his dying wife and daughter were riveting, but a star’s acting skills can easily get swept under the digital post-production rug.
James McAvoy is back as Professor Charles Xavier who runs the School for the Gifted which teaches its students how to control their special powers. Every universe needs a school with a mission to help mutants. Mutants have rights, too.
Oscar “Inside Llewyn Davis” Isaac is magnificent as Apocalypse aka En Sabah Nur under his multiple prosthetics, piles of makeup, and alluring costume appropriate for a god-like figure who awakens in Ancient Egypt with an agenda of cleansing the world of perceived reckless and irresponsible behavior. Professor X and his band of do-gooders must push back and we have a major conflict that results in much face-to-face brutal combat and destruction of the world’s structures.
Director Singer spent his entire $178 million budget and the bulk of it was visually apparent and the movie boasts that it created 15,000 jobs in making this movie. It’s interesting that touting the jobs stat was important to the producers. We’ll see if that tidbit also becomes an industry contest. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 87. 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.
I first saw “The Magnificent Seven” starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn in 1960. I loved that version and thought that cowboys in the old West circa 1879 should act like those guys - full of courage and willing to help defend a poor village who were being terrorized by bad guys.
That was the basic story created by the Japanese genius, Akira Kurosawa, (1910-1998). It was Kurosawa’s story that was stolen by Hollywood as he did not get any credit for the 1960 movie, but someone came to their senses for this Magnificent Seven and appropriately refers to Kurosawa - “based on his screenplay.” Ok, I can live with that if Director Kurosawa’s family can.
The beautiful and magical story of a ragtag group of cowboys willing to fight for the downtrodden against impossible odds is universally appealing and many will flock to the theatres hoping to see Denzel Washington as Chisolm re-capture the enchantment of Chris Adams played by Brynner in 1960. And they will be disappointed.
Ticket sales will be good, because there are many of us who can vividly remember James Coburn throw a knife in the chest of a guy who was drawing a pistol and the wink and a nod by McQueen as he joins Brynner in gathering the characters of The Magnificent Seven. And don’t forget seeing Charles Bronson chopping wood with his shirt off as he was working for food. Wow, I didn’t realize how entrenched the 1960 movie was in my psyche.
Having admitted that, I can also confess that this current Magnificent Seven was barely tolerable for me. My friend Michael B. gave it an 82; that’s about right. There’s nothing wrong with the acting and the plot is the same and the cinematography is exceptional, but I needed my guys resurrected so I could re-live my early impressions of a Western with some of the Hollywood greats of the 1960’s.
No offense to Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio; they were adequate and believable, but they knew that they were taking a big chance trying to re-make one of the all-time great Westerns. Everybody involved will make a few bucks and nobody’s career will suffer, but I can’t remember much about this movie which I saw about an hour ago, and I can tell you all about the black gloves and costume worn by Robert Vaughn in 1960. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 80. Larry H. www.larryhmoviereviews.com
Sometimes we take chances in life. I had decided to see the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie, but at the last minute I pivoted to Theatre 18 to the back section of my AMC. It’s a theatre reserved for movies with small crowds. Counting me, we had four. One guy was late.
This bizarre storyline is set in a dystopian society where single people have 45 days to find their mate or they turn into their favorite animal and are cast into The Woods. Our hero, if you can call him that, is David, played by Hollywood-cool and super-talented Colin Farrell. Farrell is a mere 39 and from Dublin so he has the international stink about him. This 2015 film has production company input from several European countries and The City depicted in this movie is supposed to be Dublin. A24 has the U.S. distribution.
Farrell’s David shares in the opening interview at The Hotel that if he doesn’t make it, he’d like to be a lobster. “They live to be over a hundred years.” Ok, David, but can you find a woman, since you have chosen “heterosexual,” that is compatible with you?
Other well-matched couples shared characteristics such “short-sightedness” or even Limping Man was able to hook up with Nosebleed Woman by lying about his unique ability to have nose bleeds routinely. Wolves had eaten part of his leg; not his brain. Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) hid from his intended mate the small fact that he was inducing his nose bleeds by banging his face into hardwood furniture. Hey, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.
Yeah, that’s normal, if you exist in a bizzaro-world and in the petri dish of Greek Director and Co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos’ tortured imagination who is trying to make insightful literary takes about love, trust, loyalty, honesty, and pained choices by a frighten society. “The Lobster” is Lanthimos’ first English movie so I give him props for a breakthrough in his career, but don’t try this crap on me.
Many artsy-crafty critics and ticket-buyers will ooh and aah about this flick, but the characters are unlovable and the story is strained. There’s way too much needlessly nervy effort in trying to create mystery and deep thought when it’s actually a futile story of sadness and gloom. I want entertainment; this was a huge disappointment. “The Lobster” stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz (Short Sighted Woman), Jessica Barden (Nosebleed Woman) and John C. Reilly (Lisping Man). I was tricked!
Not to mention, British actress Olivia Colman beautifully played The Manager of The Hotel. Colman won my heart in her recent portrayal of a British spy in AMC’s six-episode “The Night Manager.” This film has talent and is thought-provoking if you care; I didn’t care and could barely wait until it was over. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 65. Larry H.
A “legend” is a story that is believed by many but cannot be proved to be true. If that’s the case, them put me down for “The Legend of Tarzan.” I know Tarzan existed/exists because we’ve been friends since the 1950’s when I was enthralled by Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimmer, who ran around the African Jungles in Hollywood fixing all kinds of evils that the goofy White Man had done to the delicate balance of the continent.
“Ugawa, Ugawa, you Jane, me Tarzan.” I speak a little African with just a slight accent of the Congo.
Before Weissmuller, we had Elmo Lincoln (1918), and then Gordon Scott in the mid 1950’s and later Ron Ely and others have taken a shot at portraying the mysterious and courageous feral child who could talk to animals and swing through the trees because he always knew where the best vines were. It all began in 1912 with a series of stories entitled “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
So how does the man from Sweden stack up against the previous Tarzans? Alexander Skarsgard is the new measuring stick; no contest. But that’s not fair to all the other Tarzans because this theatrical legend is big-budget and remarkably produced with contemporary CGI tricks and visual effects. On the other hand, Skarsgard is 6’ 4” with a near-perfect body and he is shirtless almost the entire movie. Ladies, take a deep breath.
This modern version that has diamonds and power as the motive of conflict with the gorgeous African landscape backdrop was primarily scripted by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer. British Director David “Harry Potter” Yates, at age 52, is in his prime and able to raise the estimated $180 million required to confirm my belief that Tarzan, also known as John Clayton III, was reared by the Mangani Great Apes, but much preferred the jungles of African than his English heirship.
I marveled at the new twists in this account of the man of the apes; that’s part of the fun of this movie. The main bad guy is brilliantly played by Christoph Waltz who is at his best as a snide, arrogant evildoer and he pulls it off again. And then there’s Samuel L. Jackson as a cool guy from the US playing second banana to Skarsgard’s Tarzan. Of course, SLJ was playing a “cool guy.” Australian actress Margot Robbie, 25, will take a quantum leap in her career as a result of her steely-eyed, sexy Jane.
It’s way too hot for outside sports, so you need to participate in movie-going with its glorious air-conditioning; Tarzan is a breath of cool air. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 88. Larry H.
Would British writer Rudyard Kipling turn over in his grave if he saw this movie version of his 1894 collection of stories known as The Jungle Book? Well; yes, he would do a 360, but he would be full of glee as this Computer Generated film about the young boy named Mowgli who was raised by a loving pack of wolves is a technological masterpiece. And the themes of human relationships and the relationship everyone has with nature are still as relevant today as they were in the 19th century.
Neel Sethi is the breakout star as Mowgli. Neel was born in 2003 and is an Indian-American, but he is originally from New York City. This will not be his last acting gig. He is delightful and believable as the wayward man-cub raised in the jungle and the audience understands that he is a survivor while he deeply respects the “The Law of the Jungle.”
Unfortunately for Mowgli’s seemingly comfortable existence with his devoted wolf mother, Raksha (voice by Lupita Nyong’o), and his siblings who are actual wolf cubs, there is an evil tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who is determined to eliminate this human from his jungle. Mowgli bravely leaves the pack with the conflicted goal of a journey to the Man Village.
While on this treacherous and eventful excursion, he runs into a bear named Baloo superbly voiced by Bill Murray with just the right touch of his patented dry wit and understatement. Baloo and Mowgli bond over a mission to obtain honey from a beehive on a cliff. Ben Kingsley is perfect as the sympathetic and wise panther (Baghera) who shadows young Mowgli on his fateful trip through the jungle.
Perhaps the voice star is Christopher Walken as King Louie - the giant ape. The basic story has not changed since the 1967 movie version, but in the 60’s they did not have big-time actors lending their voices to an animated film. Director Jon “Chef” Favreau had a star-studded cadre of talent at his disposal including Scarlett Johansson as Kaa the snake, Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, the leader of the wolf pack, and Gary Shandling as Ikki the porcupine. Shandling died March 24, 2016.
Favreau and his team of visual and digital artists have made a movie for the ages. I saw “The Jungle Book” in 3D and it was fantastic. I ducked more than once as an eagle or other animal was flying off the screen into my theatre seat. Visually this film is breathtaking.
But my favorite part of the movie was the song “I Wan’na Be Like You” sung by Christopher Walken in a style that only Walken can do. It’s still bouncing around in my head.
Have fun with “The Jungle Book.” Hey, Mr. Kipling, you can turn back over now; all is well. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
This movie is alive and in theatres opening on July 15th for one reason and one reason only: Bryan “Walter White” Cranston. Yeah, that’s right; the same chemistry teacher turned meth cook created by Cranston in arguably one of the best TV series of all time. But this is not “Breaking Bad;” this is Breaking Bored.
Shame on Director Brad Furman whose only marginally winning production has been “The Lincoln Lawyer” from 2011. The disjointed editing and fragmented story crushed any good vibe that Cranston and fellow undercover cop John Leguizamo brought to the screen. A plot that involves good guys and bad guys of the 1980’s Columbian cartel cocaine trafficking and laundering those piles of Medellin millions is intriguing, but Furman and team took that mystique and turned it into blandness.
Furman lost me in the those vital first three scenes when he had a long-haired mustachioed Cranston decked out in a classic 1985 outfit in the local bowling alley tipping the waitress twenty bucks. Still not sure what that was all about. This film started in mediocrity and dug itself into downright dreadfulness.
Furman’s direction was so lacking, that at times, Cranston sounded and acted as though he was Walter White. That should never happen; Cranston’s better than that. And Leguizamo’s energy and swagger was completely lost in the shuffle. Cranston and Leguizamo could have been electric but their chemistry needed some meth to pump them up and snort them into shape. Sad.
Here’s some good news: Diane Kruger was outstanding as the undercover fiancée to Cranston’s Bob Mazur. Flashback to 2013, Kruger was the gritty and dynamic police detective Sonya Cross in FX’s “The Bridge” where she played opposite Damian Bichir. I loved that series. And once again Amy “The Office” Ryan was sparkling in her role as a no-nonsense cop. Ryan is currently co-starring in “Central Intelligence” and only three weeks ago I gave her props for her “humor and charm.” Girls – 2 Boys – 0.
I’ve explained before that I will walk out of a movie if I don’t care about the characters and the story is floundering. Actually, I will proudly leave the theatre with a pinch of defiance and a I-told-you-so attitude. But as bad as this movie was, I just couldn’t make an early exit and for that I apologize. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
This is my punishment for not going to the movies on my anointed time of Friday afternoon. Don’t blame me; I was busy. Monique H. and I had a date Saturday for lunch so we extended it into an afternoon movie at our local AMC. The movie choice was a result of a compromise as we agreed that “…there aren’t many good movies out right now.”
Whenever I struggle with a movie and this was a mighty skirmish, I prefer to steal quotes from others and in this case it’s the studio that claims: “As a war between rival queen sisters Ravenna and Freya escalates, Eric and fellow warrior Sara, members of the Huntsmen army, raised to protect Freya, try to conceal their forbidden love as they combat Ravenna’s wicked intentions.” What a crock! I stayed for the entire movie and I’m pretty sure that was the plot, but I think I would have jazzed it up a little.
Maybe something like this: “Chris Hemsworth stars as a hunky warrior-huntsman who falls in love with a skank-warrior who never misses with her archery skills even when shooting at Chris, and two really dynamic Hollywood stars portray “ice queens” not only because there is a lot of ice involved but because they are some really doggone cold broads. I would have said “bitches” but this is a family show.
These three rough-around-the-edges women were played by Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and Jessica Chastain. Usually, I like all three of these actresses, but this film was so boring; I was suffering from Sleep Apathy. Two were evil queens and one was Chris’ love-interest. I’ll let you guess who played what; might be fun. I doubt you’ll see this movie at the theatre; might see it on Direct TV because you’ll hear that these four typically successful actors are in the movie and we all like a fairy tale.
But this tale has a target audience of 12-year-old girls and I ain’t one of those. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan spent all of his allotted $20 million on CG Effects and Staff and almost zero on the script. Here is quote from the action: Ravenna - “Are you ready huntsman?” Huntsman – “Aye.” Apologies, Mr Nicolas-Troyan but you aren’t Cedric the Entertainer.
Monique H. and I had a good time as we always do on one of our dates, but it was in spite of this silly sequel. Yes, there was a Huntsman #1. But alas, there is no light at the end of this dark fantasy. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.