Reel Critics: A-listers shine quietly in 'Larry Crowne'

Few movie stars ever make it to the top of Hollywood's A-List. But Tom Hanks is one of them. He is now involved in writing, directing and starring in a personal film of his own choice. He plays the lead character in "Larry Crowne," a kinder, gentler story of one man's mid-life crisis.

Larry is divorced and strapped with a huge mortgage he can't pay off. He gets laid off from his job at a big box store. He goes through multiple rejections for new employment and must upgrade his job interview skills. Needing to retrain himself in several ways, he enrolls at the local community college.

Julia Roberts plays the teacher of his speech class. The initial tension between them morphs predictably into attraction as her marriage crumbles. Larry also meets an assortment of younger students who introduce him to new ways of thinking and living.

What develops is a congenial story of new possibilities. There are a couple of big laughs, but this small film generates a constant stream of smiles and mellow amusement. It's Tom Hank's version of a quiet, anti-blockbuster movie for the summer.


Mechanical overload in 'Transformers'

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is the latest creation of director Michael Bay's "more is more" filmmaking. More than two hours of mayhem mindlessly lays Chicago to waste in the ultimate giant robot battle for world domination. There's a real-life astronaut and a Victoria's Secret model — a perfect movie for little boys of all ages.

Short bursts of humor kept my brain from shifting to autopilot. John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong and John Turturro are given a chance to actually be funny and speed this implausible plot along.

Shia LaBeouf, the hero in all three "Transformer" movies, seems like more of an afterthought here. His job is to try and explain the story while nimbly dodging twisted chunks of metal.

But if it wasn't for him, there'd be no need for his leggy girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whitely). Her job is to wear wildly inappropriate office attire and strike a pose for the 3-D cameras.

The climactic battle between noble Autocons and evil Decepticons is a technical, soulless wonder. There's the requisite Michael Bay slow-motion shot of well-muscled guys strutting their stuff down the street. And best of all — Carly's makeup remains runway-perfect!

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

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