Movie Review Archive - H
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Happy Endings (R)
Another one of those films where a long list of seemingly unconnected character's lives intersect at the end. This one involves an aspiring filmmaker, a gay couple, a lesbian couple, a gold-digging singer, adoption, abortion, an illegal alien, yadda, yadda, yadda. Derivative but mildly interesting. Starring (among others) Lisa Kudrow, Tom Arnold and Maggie Gyllenhaal. 130 minutes.
Hardball is a modern little league melodrama starring Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure). It contains a surprising amount of violence, drugs, gambling and alcohol abuse. It should have been titled "The Bad News Bears In The Ghetto". The one-dimensional Reeves displays his usual spokes-model talents and I was left feeling a bit bewildered. Although the film gives what would seem to be a fairly accurate portrayal of what youth baseball and life in the Chicago projects is like, Hardball is certainly not a film for children. It doesn't work for adults either. This cliche-ridden movie is certainly one to avoid.
Hard Candy (R)
Repulsive and contrived "thriller" about a disturbed fourteen year old girl (Ellen Page) who turns the tables on a creepy thirty-something pedophile. If you hate men (And who doesn't?), this film is for you. It made my teeth hurt. 103 minutes.
Harrison's Flowers (R)
Andie MacDowell stars as the wife of a missing news photographer in Harrison's Flowers. Her search, set against the backdrop of the brutal 1991 Serbian-Croatian conflict in Yugoslavia and that war's "ethnic cleansing", is quite moving. After constantly hearing about reporters (such as the late Daniel Pearl) who go into war zones, it's rather startling to see what it must really be like. Super-model turned actress MacDowell (Groundhog Day, Green Card, The Muse) finally gets a serious role that she can sink her teeth into and delivers a good performance. Also starring Elias Koteas, David Straithairn, Adrien Brody and Brendan Gleeson. 130 minutes.
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (PG)
The second in a series of film adaptations based on J.K. Rowling's immensely popular Harry Potter books. It's better than last year's Sorcerer's Stone. Chamber is a bit too dark and complex for young children. Making the movies progressively more adult is a wise move though. These films will undoubtedly become classics over the years. Think of them as this generation's The Wizard Of Oz. The recent death of veteran actor Richard Harris, who was such an integral part of the first two films, will be a huge loss for future installments. You don't have to read the books to enjoy these movies, but I would highly recommend seeing them in order. 161 minutes.
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (PG13)
The fourth Potter film continues to enchant it's audience but in a much darker way. As the characters mature, the movies become more ominous and violent. This time Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) must compete in a series of events which include fighting a dragon, rescuing his friends who are trapped underwater and finding a way out of a deadly maze. The world of Potter and company is escapism in it's purest form and I can't wait for the fifth installment. Also starring Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. 157 minutes.
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (PG)
When a 2001 time capsule is buried on December 31st, surely a copy of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (the "director's cut" on DVD of course) will be included. Potter is a metaphor for the sum-total of current Anglo pop-culture and sociology. Although not exactly cutting-edge (I hate that term), the film does boast modern special effects, a who's-who of British acting aristocracy, agnostic story telling and a belief that children are, as or more, sensitive, intelligent, brave and therefore superior to adults. We had no choice but to go right out and see this movie. We were told to by vapid television shows like "The Today Program" and "Entertainment Tonight". Young bespectacled Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) has been on the cover of most every major magazine and his toys are on every child's Christmas list. Area schools have based weeks worth of lessons around the Potter story. Hollywood snaps it's powerful fingers and we get in line. At least, so we are told, it is inspiring young people to read. I don't need to go into the specifics of the film. It is a faithful (if somewhat rigid) adaptation of J.K. Rowling's wildly successful book of the same name. There are enough spells cast, brooms ridden and wands waved to last a lifetime of dreaded Halloweens. The movie however, is a good one, especially for young audiences. I found the story somewhat derivative and the characters a bit cloying at times but hey, that's just me. I can hardly wait to get poked in the eye or the groin by a child wielding a Harry Potter broom stick. Also starring Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman.
Hart's War (R)
Imagine if you will, Hogan's Heroes, Perry Mason and The Great Escape. Throw in a little To Kill A Mockingbird and you have the disappointing Hart's War. Bruce Willis stars as Col. William McNamara, a tough as nails commanding officer in charge of a group of Allied Soldiers being held in a German POW camp in the waning days of WWII. One of the GIs is murdered and a trial is held in the camp with the Germans participating. The biggest problem with this film is that in order for the story to work, the German guards and officers have to be quite indulgent. So indulgent that all believability is lost. The prisoners are allowed to have a phonograph, records, a kitchen, musical instruments, a kitten and a theater where they are allowed to stage a musical that mocks the Nazis, complete with a version of Spike Jones' anti-Hitler anthem "Der Furhrer's Face". And of course there's a secret tunnel. I kept waiting for Sgt. Schultz to pop in. This film expects us to take it very seriously but I just couldn't. Also starring Colin Farrell. 125 minutes.
Heart Of Gold (PG)
Slim Jims. Those mystery meat snacks that people seem to either love or hate. Apparently Neil Young is like a Slim Jim. I was surprised that so many people reacted negatively when I mentioned Heart Of Gold, Jonathan Demme's new Neil Young concert film which features both old and new songs. I assumed that everyone loved Neil Young. Apparently his laid-back instrumental approach and falsetto vocal stylings are not for everyone. Young wrote the songs for his 2005 studio album "Prairie Wind" during a period in which he was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. He actually took time out during the recording to have surgery. The songs were a musical last will and testament of sorts. Tunes dealing with God, family, childhood and nature poured out of Young's head as he contemplated his impending mortality. Having survived the surgery, he decided to debut the new project in August, 2005 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. Young employed the services of his long time musician/friends as well as his beautiful wife. This very moving film reduced me to tears several times. Highlights include "It's A Dream", "Falling Off The Face Of The Earth" and "Old Man". Lyrics Mr. Young wrote while he was in his twenties and thirties like "It keeps me searchin' for a heart of gold and I'm gettin' old" and "Old man take a look at my life I'm a lot like you" as well as new ones like "If you follow every dream you might get lost" have a powerfully ironic impact now that he is sixty. The playing, mixing, arrangements and Young's voice are much better in this live concert film than on "Prairie Wind" so besides recommending the film, my advice is to get the soundtrack CD. By the way, someone named Carrie Rickey, reviewing Heart Of Gold for Knight Ridder, described Young's appearance as "a spud with stringy hair stuffed into a Stetson". If you're going to take a cheap shot Ms. Rickey, why stop there? Why not also mention Young's wife Pegi's crows feet, Emmylou Harris' grey hair and background vocalist Gary Pigg's unusual moniker? Also starring Ben Keith (pedal steel and lap steel guitars), Spooner Oldham (keyboards), Rick Rosas (electric bass), Grant Boatwright (guitars) and Karl Himmell (drums and percussion). 103 minutes.
Hearts In Atlantis (PG13)
Stephen King's newest screen adaptation Hearts In Atlantis is a watchable but disappointing film. King's heart is in the right place but his movie is too slow and just a bit too sentimental. Anthony Hopkins plays Ted Rautigan, a strange middle-aged man with psychic powers who is taken in as a border by a widow (Hope Davis) and her 11 year old son Bobby (Anton Yelchin) whom he befriends. Bobby's "coming of age" and the accompanying nostalgia tug at the heart strings but the pursuit of Ted by the "low men" (bad guys) who want to take advantage of his psychic abilities is almost laughable. I wish that I could recommend this film because I sort of liked it. Instead, go rent King's brilliant Stand By Me. Also starring as the older Bobby, durable David Morse (The Green Mile).
Hedwig And The Angry Inch (R)
Hedwig is the story of a German Cold War boy who gets a sex change operation so that he can marry an American GI and move with him to the USA. Hedwig dreams of rock stardom and finding his "other half" (life partner), I guess the way Mini-Me completes Dr. Evil. Anyway, to make a long story short (no pun intended), Hedwig's sex change operation is botched, leaving him with a "one inch lump of flesh". This "angry inch" and the "other half longing" are the running themes of this gender-bender film. This is actually a screen adaptation of a successful Broadway musical. Hedwig has been called the next Rocky Horror Picture Show. Unlike Rocky Horror this is not an interactive film, although I was tempted to remove my shoe and hurl it at the screen several times. The songs are mostly power/pop/punk ballads and the story is certainly original. Not recommended for homophobes.
Boasts a large, talented cast including Glenn Close and Elizabeth Banks as a New York mother and daughter with relationship issues. Heights is somewhat Woody Allenesque in that it tales place in Manhattan, is lovingly photographed, is punctuated with plain white titles on a black screen and is populated by neurotic characters who are better looking and have way cooler jobs than you or I. Yet another in a seemingly endless string of recent films in which random character's lives intersect. This one takes place during a single twenty four hour period and unlike most of Mr. Allen's recent work, is definitely worth seeing. Also starring Eric Bogosian, George Segal, James Marsden, Jesse Bradford and John Light. 93 minutes.
Writer/director David Mamet (The Spanish Prisoner, House Of Games, Lakeboat) is back. I don't know about you but I am totally sick of motion pictures involving colorful thieves. I'm especially sick of colorful thieves being talked into pulling "one last job." These types of stories have been done to death, especially recently. Furthermore, gifted stage wordsmith Mamet's screenplays don't always work. The smart dialogue of Mamet's Lakeboat was overshadowed by an almost complete lack of action. The lakeboat became stale and claustrophobic. Heist was not a film that I was eagerly anticipating but it's a real success. The actors get to deliver great lines like, "I'll be as quiet as an ant pissing on cotton" and the plot has more twists than Mr. Salty. I guess Heist is sort of a guilty pleasure. Can we please, someday, stop romanticizing gun-toting criminals? Starring Gene Hackperson, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo and Sam Rockwell.
Herbie Fully Loaded (G)
Sequel to the long forgotten series of Walt Disney Herbie The Love Bug films from last century. Now that Herbie (a Volkswagen Beetle that has a mind of his own) is fully loaded, his new owner (Lindsay Lohan) can race him in a NASCAR event against her father's (Michael Keaton) wishes. Not a great film but I found myself unable to take my eyes off of those darn headlights. 101 minutes.
Hide And Seek (R)
After the death of his wife, a father (Robert De Niro) and his troubled daughter (Dakota Fanning) move to the country for a fresh start. This thriller is bad right out of the gate and gets worse with each reel. Every scene seems to have been borrowed from director John Polson's favorite horror films. Mr. De Niro continues to erode his legacy with another questionable career choice. Hey Bob. Do you like to hunt or fish? Go away for a while and when you come back, be selective. Also starring Elisabeth Shue, Famke Janssen and the ubiquitous Dylan Baker. 100 minutes.
High Crimes (PG13)
Ashley Judd stars as Claire Kubic, a California attorney whose ex-Marine husband (Jim "The Weasel" Caviezel) is accused of war atrocities in El Salvadore. Kubic enlists the help of a broken down alcoholic lawyer (Morgan Freeman) who has experience with military trials. High Crimes is a fairly effective thriller that is, unfortunately, a familiar pastiche of many previous courtroom, military and crime dramas. It also has a twist or two too many. 115 minutes.
Shot in Nepal, Himalaya is the story of a group of remote mountain dwellers who must load sacks of salt on their yaks and trek hundreds of miles through The Himalayas in order to trade for grain that will sustain them through the winter months. There is also an interesting sub-plot that involves a power struggle between the wise old chief and his young heir presumptive. This film was beautifully shot by National Geographic photographer and first time director Eric Valli. Valli utilizes mostly non-professional actors and the locations are breathtaking. This film will be deemed "too slow" by younger viewers and older casual mainstream cinema enthusiasts. A little culture never hurt anybody.
A History Of Violence (R)
After thwarting a robbery, a seemingly mild mannered man's (Viggo Mortensen) new found fame gets him noticed by out of town criminals from a life that he hoped he'd left behind. Laughably bad in almost every way. Considering the cast, director (David Cronenberg) and advance press, I was amazed at just how putrid this film was. Stay away. Also starring Maria Bello (The Cooler) and Ed Harris (The Right Stuff, Pollack). 96 minutes.
A "date doctor" (Will Smith) dispenses romantic advice but can't seem to get out of his own way when he himself becomes smitten. Smith is likeable as always but Hitch is instantly forgettable. 115 minutes.
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (PG)
A silly inter-galactic romp featuring singing dolphins that can fly, mice that are smarter than humans and aliens blowing up Planet Earth in order to create a hyperspace bypass. Protagonist Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) hitches a ride on a spaceship just prior to the demolition. Also starring Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel and the voice of Alan Rickman. 103 minutes.
Hollywood Ending (PG13)
One of my favorite childhood memories is a California vacation that began with a spanking and then a flat tire on the Ford sedan. Actor/director Woody Allen's (Annie Hall, Hannah And Her Sisters) latest film is a lot like that trip to the west coast. It appears to be DOA but then it picks up steam. Allen plays a washed-up director whose ex-wife (Tea Leoni) convinces the movie studio that she works for to hire him. He then loses his eyesight and tries to fake his way through the shoot. Hollywood Ending will not win over any Allen detractors but fans of the Wood Man will definitely enjoy this once they get past the initial scenes and the fact that in his movies, Allen still seems to attract stunningly beautiful ladies half his age. Also starring Treat Williams and George Hamilton. 112 minutes.
On June 16th, 1959, George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on the popular TV series, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. His death was ruled a suicide. This film re-examines Reeves' final months and tries to make us believe that there was foul play involved. Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a troubled private dick, asks many questions but gets few answers in this long and pointless yawner. First Bob Crane and now George Reeves. Soon, Hollywood's probably going to tell us that Ray Combs was actually murdered by corpulent comic Louie Anderson and that Hitler's brain is being kept alive in Mel Gibson's garage. Also starring Ben Afleck, Bob Hoskins and Diane Lane. 126 minutes.
Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) was a top San Francisco hostage negotiator until he mishandled a situation which resulted in the deaths of a mother and her young son. A year later, as a small town police chief, he reluctantly faces a much more complex hostage situation. Great supporting cast. Great story concept. Plenty of action. I really like Bruce Willis. I really wanted to like Hostage but it reeks of Hollywood formula action stupidity. A clever ending might have saved this film. Too many bullets and not enough brains. 113 minutes.
Hotel Rwanda (PG13)
Hotel Rwanda tells the true story of a hotel manager's (Don Cheadle) love and commitment to his family, friends and fellow human beings during the bloody 1994 Rwandan Civil War. The fact that this film focuses on a conflict in which one million were killed yet shows less violence than the average Hollywood action movie is astonishing. So is the rate of alcohol consumption and Cheadle's performance. He's come a long way since Boogie Nights. Also starring Nick Nolte. 110 minutes.
The Hours (PG13)
A long, often pretentious, sometimes interesting look at three women, living in different eras. They are all connected, more or less, by the novel "Mrs. Dalloway". The Hours is the kind of film that actors want to be in, critics fall over themselves praising, award shows lavish gaudy trophies on and mainstream America finds boring. If you like purple passages and women kissing full on the lips, then this movie is for you. Starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, Ed Harris, Claire Danes and the suddenly ubiquitous John C. Reilly. 114 minutes.
House Of D (PG13)
A middle aged father (David Duchovny) revisits his New York City childhood. Robin Williams guests as his adult best friend who is mentally challenged. Duchovny's brand of nostalgia, sentimentality and humor come off as trite. Written and directed by Mr. Duke of NY. Also starring Tea Leoni. 96 minutes.
How High (R)
After surrendering my shopping bags and submitting to a body cavity search, I was finally allowed to enter the local cineplex. The probe was more fun than watching How High. Maybe young members of the Hip-Hop Nation are amused by the arrogant racist rappers Redman and Method Man but I found their film repugnant and unfunny. Yeah, I'm in my forties and white but I liked the recent rap film The Wash. This movie stinks in every way possible. 92 minutes.
How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (PG13)
This is one of those wretched screenplays in which people date one another on a bet. Everyone knows that the couple is perfect except them. Furthermore, all of the characters are selfish and superficial and hold down glamorous jobs. And The Knicks are in the finals at MSG. Get real! I wanted to hate this film but I couldn't. The stars (Mathew McConaughey and Kate Hudson) are attractive and there are a few great New York City location shots. Plus, I'm a sucker for remotely decent romantic comedies. This is the type of movie that a young woman should bribe her boyfriend to see. I could recommend this one depending on the bribe. 116 minutes.
The Hunted (R)
Tommy Lee Jones and Benecio del Toro beat and cut the hell out of each other. This non-stop action picture is sort of The Fugitive Redux. Unfortunately, it's too derivative, doesn't fully explain the principal characters' motivations and it ends rather abruptly. The booming God-like voice of Johnny Cash reciting Bob Dylan's "Highway 61" over the opening and closing credits was a nice touch though. 94 minutes.
Hustle And Flow (R)
A dead-on examination of the development of a rap artist in present day Memphis, Tennessee. DJay (Terrence Howard) is a kindly pimp/pot dealer with a dream. He rarely beats his hos, always has high quality icky-sticky and is a deep thinker. Watching DJay, his producer and engineer build the song "Whoop That Trick" track by track was fascinating though I did get a bit tired of DJay calling everyone "my" ("man" spoken with a very lazy southern accent) after about the thirtieth time. 114 minutes.