Director/Writer Christopher Nolan has made his mark with “Dunkirk.” His work on “The Dark Knight,” “Man of Steel” and others such as “Prestige” put him on the Hollywood map, but this stupendous piece of movie-making will reserve a seat for him at the Big Boys Table for creative thinking and mastery of the craft.
This film is a story about British and French soldiers trapped on the beach at Dunkirk in 1940 and the Germans are closing in fast while enemy planes are bombarding men packed onto ships with no cover who are “sitting ducks.” And the seemingly helpless warriors are attempting to hold on while praying for relief which would be a miracle.
Nolan had a $150 million budget, but he used every nickel on the construction of magnificent sets and thrilling action that dropped the battlefield into the laps of the audience. I felt like I was in this fight and I was scared of the shooting, bombing, and drowning. This battle was too one-sided and unfair. Whoever said “War is Hell” knew about Dunkirk.
The dialogue is minimal and the character development is just enough to allow the viewer to choose sides and understand the courage, desperation, and the anxiety of hopelessness. When I say that the “dialogue is minimal;” that’s an understatement. That is part of Nolan’s genius for this movie, and he took a huge directorial leap of faith by allowing this film to speak through the action on the screen; not the explanations or narration by his characters.
My music hero, Hans Zimmer, will surely garner a nom for his score. The music is not the type of songs that will make you want to sing along with the characters, but the strings will keep you on the edge of your seat and heart pumping every time Nolan dictates the next emotional step. The Maestro has been nominated nine times and won the Oscar for “The Lion King” in 1994; he’s due. Zimmer and Nolan worked together on “The Dark Knight.”
The movie is all about the action and the emotions of warfare so the actors don’t really have a great opportunity to shine. But, big props to the revered stage-actor Mark Rylance as the British civilian who steps into the war. He probably will not get any nominations for this performance, but I was riveted by his portrayal of the captain of a small “family yacht” sailing toward Dunkirk. Reminder: Rylance won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor when he shared the screen with Tom Hanks in “Bridge of Spies” in 2015.
Since the Battle of Dunkirk occurred before the Americans entered WWII, it does not have the historical flair or reputation of post 1941. Nolan, however, being the Brit that he is, clearly understands the grit and greatness that occurred on those beaches. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.
This is Ansel Elgort’s coming out party. He’s only 23, but he is THE star as “Baby” of this movie which is blessed with other big names like Kevin “House of Cards” Spacey, Jon “Mad Men” Hamm, Jon “Walking Dead” Bernthal, and Jamie “Oscar Winner” Foxx.
And here’s some of the names of the characters who make up the bank-robbing gang led by Doc: Buddy, Bats, Eddie No-Nose, JD, Griff, and Darling. And the super-skilled, tire-burning getaway driver is named Baby who perpetually wears dark sunglasses and ear buds so he can listen to music while Doc is explaining the details of the next big heist.
And this entertaining and amusing band of charming hoodlums is the product of writer/director Edgar Wright’s fertile imagination. Wright at 43, has already reach enough success to convince these big-dog actors to play along in his Taratinoesque light-hearted car chase and bang-bang film with lots of blood and complicated good guys who kill people without regret.
“Shaun of the Dead” in 2004 is probably Wright’s biggest jewel prior to “Baby Driver” but this cleverly-scripted movie and box office success will open many financial doors for this Brit. He and Ansel Elgort will forever be merged in their careers as this movie might reach cult level.
Elgort’s classic good looks and pleasant smile will serve this talented actor well as he will continue to get hunky parts for the lead male who isn’t afraid to show his emotions. The love story in this movie (of course Wright injected the forbidden love of two young, bright-eyed and misguided twenty-somethings) blossomed in the midst of a cops and robbers farce filled with automatic weapons and intrigue.
Biggest winner other than Wright and Elgort: Lily James as Debora the waitress who falls in love with Baby. For those of you keeping score, she was Lady Rose MacClare on “Downton Abbey.” And yes, Lily James was born in England in 1989.
“Baby Driver” has had some big buzz and anticipation; my film-critic friend Travis L. thinks “it’s the best movie of the year; so far.” I wouldn’t go that far, but this flick is enjoyable and ingenious. Bravo Edgar Wright! Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
Excellent script by Gregg Hurwitz and direction by Colin Trevorrow was on the mark and kid-friendly because his young stars performed like seasoned adults when needed. The family in this movie is anchored by eleven-year-old Henry who has the intelligence of an Einstein and the maturity of… (awkward pause) I’m sorry I can’t think of anyone that I know who is mature. But you get the point.
Henry Carpenter went to a regular school because his mom (Naomi Watts) wanted him to develop some healthy age-appropriate social skills. Watts’ character, the single mom, played video games and left the financial decisions to Henry. Another wise decision by the waitress-mother who deeply loved Henry and his younger brother, Peter. Henry made stock trades on a pay phone apparently because he was too young to have a cell phone.
Strange family. But, they are loveable and the character development was fantastic. And that is the key to any movie. I understood and liked these characters so I knew that Director Trevorrow was setting me up for the punch in the gut.
And if one is trying to embellish, a Hitchcockian suspense and twist.
There’s not a dull moment in this low-budget film about love, devotion, and doing the next right thing. Estimated $10 million which is extremely low by Little Tom Cruise’s standards, but his “The Mummy” laid an egg for $125 million. So who’s counting? Not me; these simple sets, haunting music, thoughtful costumes, and zero special effects make this film distinctive and evocative.
Big winners: everyone in the film and/or connected to it in any manner; “The Book of Henry” is a huge victor worthy of much acclaim and gold.
Great movies invariably have great casts and this is no exception. Biggest surprise – Sarah Silverman in low-cut blouses, heavy make-up and a drink in her hand. Jaeden Lieberher, 14, as Henry, has carved out an acting career for himself as the multi-layered boy-genius who portrayed kindness, insight, and compassion. Dean “Breaking Bad” Norris is the stern cop living next door to the Carpenters and Lee “Halt and Catch Fire” Pace plays a brain surgeon who will make a house call under the right circumstances.
Target audience: teenage girls based on my audience. And I heard all of them sniffling and shuffling when things got emotionally tender. This flick is high on the “Heart Strings” scale. Take a hanky and have fun. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 90. Larry H.
Little Tommy Cruise mailed this one in. But if you want to see him in the buff, there is a brief scene of nudity early in the film where he is standing and tiptoeing in his birthday suit. At age 54, Cruise still has a pretty chiseled body; good for you, Tommy.
This is one of the movies that Universal hopes to establish their genre of “Dark Universe” films to catapult their stock in monster movies. We shall see. They stuck about $125 million in this one. I bet Little Tommy got a big chunk of that.
Cruise might be a controversial Hollywood figure, but his recent successes in the Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher franchises, as well as a long career that includes “Top Gun” make him relevant and a box office draw. And yes, the rumor is true; “Top Gun: Maverick” is in pre-production. Whatever that means.
In “The Mummy” an ancient princess, who made a deal with Dark Forces and has even darker secrets, makes her return of terror. She has tats all over her body including her face; she’s badass. And she eats people’s faces. “Face-eating, Jack?” comes to mind when the loveable Jack (Steven Guttenberg) asked the alien Walter (Brian Dennehy) about that delicacy in one of my all-time favorites – “Cocoon” 1985. I apologize for my momentary reminiscent take of that great movie, but I’m trying to say something positive.
Cause this movie stinks. Director/Co-writer Alex Kurtzman lost total control of this flick and turned it into a silly kick-boxing, knife gouging, face-eating farce. At age 44, Kurtzman has had some phenomenal achievements with “Transformers” (2007) “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) and “Star Trek” (2009). Can’t win ‘em all, Alex.
I’m confident I went to sleep during “The Mummy” but I can’t be 100% sure. My head was bobbing and I jerked my head up and could not decipher the scene sequence on the screen, and I had that moment of embarrassment wondering if anyone realized that Larry H. had just taken a dive. I think that’s a nap.
I was thrilled when “The Mummy” was over so I could get on with my life. Please don’t waste your money. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 69. Larry H.
It is accepted as truth that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” unless they are the Un-Dead, and in yet another movie with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). This fifth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise also stars Javier Bardem as a competing ghost Captain of the Ship – that would be Captain Salazar who has a see-through body and heavy gross stuff on his face.
That “gross-stuff” makeup is part of the fun and shtick of these crazy Pirates that fight with swords, but never seem to die. Jack Sparrow is still his charming self who also needs some rehab; the boy has a serious drinking problem, but he sloshes his way through death and defiance without a scratch. It’s that clean living of a Johnny Depp character.
The ”Pirates of the Caribbean” film series began in 2003 when Captain Jack and the crew sailed into our lives in “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Before we/I start ripping this movie, let’s remember that the first four movies that were innocently based on the theme-park ride at Walt Disney, have sold tickets worth $3.73 billion and Depp was nominated for Best Actor for “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
In 2003, the world was fascinated with Captain Jack and while Depp was nominated for an Oscar; he didn’t win, but to get nominated for a part where he plays a schmuck pirate with gold teeth and a silly grin is noteworthy. His portrayal of the adorable Jack Sparrow in “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” is not worthy of a high school award much less an award for a captain on the high seas. Oh, how times have changes. But, the money is still good.
Will this fifth movie top $4 billion in total franchise sales – domestic? Not counting worldwide, pirate product, and video games.
Even though this movie suffers from the Rocky Syndrome, it will be a mild success and top four billion, but barely.
Bigger question: will there be a Pirates Six? Of course! With this kind of money flowing, who cares about the product. Hey, that’s not fair. This movie leaves it all on the screen and Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg spent many millions on sets and special effects, but there’s only so many ways that Captain Jack and the boys can become entangled with a beautiful femme fatale and a mysterious cure for curses or a map to riches.
I was glad to see 65 year-old Geoffrey Rush reprise his role as Captain Hector Barbossa who looked more like the Cowardly Lion than a treacherous pirate. After you see this movie, let me know if you also had visions of the Wizard of Oz when you see Barbossa’s costume.
This is a “pay your money and takes your changes” experience. You know if you think big music and fantasy stories are appealing. I would have preferred to wait for the DVD. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 72. Larry H.
I’ve always known that Director Guy Ritchie had extraordinary powers to convince others to do what he wanted them to do when he married Madonna in December, 2000. So, he was once again able to acquire the money to make this fantasy film about the struggles of King Arthur. I thought we already covered that; how many movies and books have been produced about good ole Arthur.
Ritchie and his two co-writers evidently think we needed at least one more starring Charlie Hunnam who is best known as Jax Teller of the hugely successful TV series “Sons of Anarchy.” (2008-2014). I chose this movie for my Friday afternoon delight primarily because I wanted to see my boy Charlie Hunnam make the transition to the big screen. Ritchie and Hunnam are both Brits so not a big stretch for either of them to want to explore the back alleys of Londinium through the eyes of young Arthur and his crew.
In this version of King Arthur, he still pulls Excalibur from the rock, but then he’s bewildered how to control its powers and to handle it emotionally. And that mean old Vortigern (Jude Law) kills Arthur’s parents and steals his crown; darn the luck.
But Arthur joins the resistance and fights his way back to the thrown; or does he? I wouldn’t know because I left about an hour and twenty minutes into this fraudulent flick.
I knew I shouldn’t have chosen this movie just to see Charlie Hunnam. During the opening scenes, I felt in my bones that “Ritchie’s messing with us.” Might have been the giant elephant-like woolly monsters with tusks 25 feet long.
Ritchie was able to corral an outstanding cast of Djimon Hounsou as Bedivere, Astrid Berges-Frisbey as The Mage, Eric Bana as Uther, and “Game of Thrones’” Littlefinger, Aidan Gillen who played Bill. All of that talent was lost on a silly, sophomoric story and special effects and music that were over the top.
My crowd was small and unimpressed based on crowd body language. Go Rockets! Oh yeah, I forgot that James Harden and the boys wanted to take an early vacation so they skipped Game 6. Double dang it.
Grade 69W. Larry H. (Note: a “W” in Larry H’s grading system indicates that he walked out.)
Excerpt from my review of “Guardians of the Galaxy” (Vol. 1) even though we did not know in 2014 for certain that there would be a Vol. 2:
“Chris Pratt’s life is over as he knows it. He’s the breakout star of this movie where he plays Peter Quill aka Star Lord. Of course, it appears that no one refers to him as “Star Lord” but he believes it, so it’s amusing. Everything Pratt does in this movie is bouncing between charming, funny, or tongue-in-cheek. He’s having a laugh throughout the film even if disaster has befallen him. He will no longer just be known as Anna Faris’ husband or as the dimwitted Andy Dwyer from TV’s “Parks and Recreation.” Ditto.
My comments from August 1, 2014, are still accurate a mere three years later and now Marvel and Disney have blessed us with Volume 2. At least “they” will be blessed as this movie is destined to gross very large piles of money. Pratt, Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), and Michael Rooker (Yondu) are bigtime Hollywood stars because of their gigs in Guardians. They are set for life in this fifteenth movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the hits just keep on coming. There are at least seven more MCU movies already set for a theatre complex near you.
Established stars also quickly agree to participate in a MCU project because the previous 14 movies have been smash hits. “Iron Man” and Robert Downey Jr. started this bonanza in 2008 and then we’ve had The Hulk, Spiderman, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, Ant Man, Black Widow and Doctor Strange. Stan Lee and Marvel Comics couldn’t be any hotter.
Let’s talk more about 94 year-old Stan Lee who is the Godfather of Marvel Comics. He and his partner Jack Kirby created superheroes beginning in the 1950’s. Lee is credited with the creation of “naturalistic characters” who had, in spite of being a superhero, fits of anger, emotional upheaval, relationship problems and financial woes. Just like the rest of us; except they could fly, jump, shoot and scoot while they saved the world or the entire universe if needed. We do love to escape to our superheroes.
Bradley Cooper certainly does not need to lend his voice to Rocket, the loveable and feisty racoon-looking Guardian of the Galaxy and neither does Vin Diesel as Baby Root, but they do it because these movies are fun and super-successful. Same for Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone. My favorite character: Taserface played by Chris Sullivan.
Director James Gunn wrote a brilliantly clever and humorous script and hired outstanding special effects and animation artists. This movie is one long fireworks display. Too long.
Eric H. and I saw this movie on a Thursday Night sneak preview at First Colony AMC. A very devoted crowd who clapped and laughed heartily.
At times, I literally screamed with hoots and hollers, but in spite of this being a gloriously produced and directed film, I was not fully entertained by the story of Peter Quill and the gang trying to discover his true parentage while fighting bad guys of the cosmos and “…protecting valuable batteries from an interdimensional monster in exchange for the release of Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula.”
If you like superhero movies that are big-budget projects, then this one’s for you. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 80. Larry H. www.larryhmoviereviews.com
This movie’s been out since March 31st so many of you have already seen “The Boss Baby.” How do I know that? Ticket sales are over $125 million. And that my friends is a ticket to big bucks.
But how do you make an animation about a baby; a boss baby no less. And what is a boss baby?
First: buy the filming rights to a popular children’s book entitled; wait for it….”The Boss Baby” by Marla Frazee. Then get a bunch of great Hollywood voices under contract and by all means hire Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro to produce and write the music that will cause the audience to flit and fly along this whimsical story about babies, and puppies and love.
Then hire some very skilled special effects guys and set designers and you have a formula for a winning movie for kids. The kids in my audience, and I mean children under six, squealed and screamed with glee and laughed on cue repeatedly which means Directors Hendel Butoy and Tom McGrath know the location of a child’s funny bone. Why two directors? I don’t know.
The voice of Alec Baldwin was The Boss Baby and he brought just the right enough humor and hutzpah with a pinch of charm to a complicated character who arrives as an infant via cab in a tiny will-made suit and tie carrying a briefcase. The rest of the story is irrelevant.
If you own a child or can borrow one from your family or friends, then take a leap of faith and have a “take-a-kid-to-a-movie” experience that will earn you extra points in heaven. This is an extremely hilarious and comical film designed for kids, about kids, and all we need is love.
Bravo to Marla Frazee for having the exquisite understanding and special awareness of the perspective of children and the reason the will laugh and be happy if you tell a good story. And it doesn’t hurt to have a long noodle dangling from the nose of Boss Baby and a few bare butt shots with powder. My kids shrieked with enjoyment and when they laughed, I laughed. It was a hoot. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade: Kids Yes Larry H.
“Dominic Torreto has gone rogue,” exclaims Hobbs, a shocked member of the crew. The “Fast and Furious” crew began in 2001 led by Paul Walker as Brian O’Connor and Vin Diesel as Dom. Tragically Walker died in a real-life car wreck in 2013.
But the crew of fast cars and fast women survived and now consists of the veteran Hobbs played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; I still like calling him The Rock. Jason Statham as Deckard and Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris as Roman and Tej. With a crew like this, with this much name recognition and muscle-popping hunks, this latest entry of the Fast and Furious franchise will make back its $250 million price tag by early summer. Salaries and special effects alone must have topped $200 million. This is a very high-dollar production.
Director F. Gary Gray, at 46, knows how to make an action movie with a big budget because I just saw him do it. Gray is best known for his award-winning movie “Straight Outta Compton” (2015) when he told the story of the birth of Hip Hop in 1980’s Los Angeles.
Other than the guys on steroids, Michelle Rodriquez returns as Letty; Dom’s love interest. And to further counter-balance the boys, Nathalie Emmanuel reprises her role of Ramsey, the skank with the big Afro. Kurt Russell who played “Mr. Nobody” in Furious 7 joined the fun and brought along “Little Nobody” played by Little Clint. As in Scott Eastwood at age 31. He looks so much like his daddy that it’s spooky; no need for DNA testing.
Charlize Theron begins a new character – Cipher. And she is a super-badass woman with sexy waist-length blond hair with the attitude of a classic psychopath. Let’s just say in deference to the latest vote by the Senate on a US Supreme Court Justice, she goes nuclear.
The story is not important; this is about rock ‘em sock ‘em power cars with big engines and big egos and this film delivers the “Fast and Furious” product; you will not be disappointed if you are a fan. I haven’t seen about the last five so I was merely visiting the shenanigans to see how things have been progressing.
Interesting footnote to the Game of Thrones devotees: Kristofer Hivju, also known as the tough guy (Tormund Giantsbane) with the big red beard from GOT has some serious screen time in this movie and you already have concluded that Nathalie Emmanuel is Missandei from GOT; she’s the hot chick who serves alongside the even hotter Daenerys Targaryen. Can’t wait until the new season begins.
The fate of the “Fast and Furious” stream of consciousness and its ability to sell tickets will remain solid. Some of my audience clapped at the end of the movie; gotta love fans of a movie franchise. They are an extremely loyal group and will keep buying tickets and love Vin “The Voice” Diesel and Dwayne Johnson – The Rock. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 80. Larry H.
This movie has a great message; it’s just not a great movie. The novel of the same name was written by Canadian William P. Young who originally self-published “The Shack” and then the rest is history after selling about a million copies.
In an interview, Young explained that the title of the book is a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain.” Couldn’t have said it better.
Before going to this movie that has been out for several weeks, everyone, and I mean everybody, I spoke to about “The Shack” emphasized that I should “take some Kleenex” because it’s a tear-jerker. And guess what; they were right.
Extremely emotional movie about family, death, grief, blame, guilt, sin, arrogance, and redemption, recovery, and trusting God. And not necessarily in that order, but British Director Stuart Hazeldine understood the delicate balance of a the spiritual journey of a father broken by the murder of his child.
That father, who was suffering from a shattered soul and a fierce fight with God, was played by Sam Worthington. You remember Sam as Jake Scully who fought the good fight in the 2009 movie “Avatar.” He was perfect in this film as Mack Phillips.
And he needed to bring a strong performance because the super-talented Octavia Spencer played “Papa” also known as God. God was actually played by two actors; the other heavenly performance was by none other than 64 year-old Graham Greene who is also Canadian; born on the Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, Canada.
Avraham Aviv Alush, an Israeli-born actor, played Jesus and Sumire Matsubara from Japan played the third part of the Holy Trinity. So, let’s summarize: God was played by an African American woman and a male born on a Canadian Indian Reservation; Jesus was an Israeli soldier turned actor, and the Holy Spirit was played by a 27 year-old Japanese woman. I do not know what this means, but it sure is an interesting aspect of movie-making. Does this mean that God is not blond and blue-eyed? Is there a heaven and where is it?
The couple in AMC Theatre #22 sitting about four seats to my right were crying and sniffling so loudly that I was having difficulty hearing the movie. God bless ‘em. I did not shed a tear. What’s up with that? Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 85. Larry H. email@example.com