Movie Reviews: A Predictable Disappointment & The Best Movie of 2013

american hustle

Maybe on this New Year’s Day you’ve decided to wait out the hangover by heading to the movie theater. It’s not the worst play to be when you’re recovering from too much partying: It’s dark, the seats are generally comfortable, you’re actually encouraged to eat greasy junk food, and you don’t have to speak to other humans.

Or maybe one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to see more movies (that’s a weird one, try harder next time).

Either way, I wanted to weigh in on two movies I’ve recently seen in the theater: Anchorman 2 and American Hustle. 

Anyone who’s already seen these two movies knows it’s a travesty to compare them. One of them is an over-the-top, zany, hilarious and clever film featuring some of the finest actors Hollywood has to offer. And the other one is Anchorman 2.

Let’s just knock this out of the way quickly: Anchorman 2 wasn’t very good. You can convince me that there were enough individual funny moments to make seeing the movie worthwhile, but if you try to argue that it comes anywhere near the brilliance of the original Anchorman, you’ve lost all credibility with me forever. Maybe in similar fashion to the first Anchorman, this latest installment will prove better the more I watch it. But we’ll have to wait and see. For now, I remain unimpressed. I don’t think I laughed once during the opening 25 minutes, and I was secretly rooting for the film to take a drastic turn where it would focus solely on Brick Tamland & Chani’s amazingly awkward love (Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig).

Don’t see this movie in the theater. Save it for a Netflix night when you only want to laugh a little bit. On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it a 4.5 out of 10. 

Now that we’ve gotten than bit of unpleasantness out of the way, let’s turn our attention American Hustle, a comedy-drama crime film that will most certainly be getting some Oscar nominations, both for its actors and its director/screenwriters.

Like other David O. Russell films, it’s tough to do the plot justice via a written description. The movie’s loosely based on an FBI operation from the 1970s (so loosely based, in fact, that the movie opens with these words on the screen: “Some of this actually happened”) that involves a couple of con artists working with the Feds to entrap some of New Jersey’s greedier politicians. Except that the FBI agent leading the operation is almost as incompetent and distractable as the con artists he’s supposed to be in charge of. And while Christian Bale’s con artist Irving Rosenfeld and Bradley Cooper’s FBI agent Richie DiMaso appear to be the people in charge of this cat-and-mouse game, it’s really the women that make the big moves and drive the story. Amy Adams is fantastic as Bale’s partner who ends up in the middle of everything, but Jennifer Lawrence steals the show as Bale’s bitter and unstable wife. I’d estimate Lawrence only had 20 minutes of screen time in this entire movie, but she was so good, she’d better win Best Supporting Actress at the 86h Academy Awards in March or else.. (or else what? Or else I will never attend the Academy Awards no matter how bad they want me there. That’s how serious I am about this.)

If the previous paragraph didn’t sound like much of a plot description, that’s because it’s impossible to appropriately capture all the madcap zaniness of this film. Just know that it was super entertaining the entire time, the acting was amazing and the twists and turns at the end completely legitimize this movie as a crime drama.

You should see this movie if: You enjoy incredible movies; you liked other David O. Russell films; you enjoy seeing today’s best actors submitting possibly their best work of their careers; you gravitate towards movies that have the perfect amount of comedy, drama and intelligent plot; you’re as obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence as I now am; you appreciate outrageous comb-overs and perms; you want to see the most glorious usage of constant side boob ever seen on screen.

You should not see this movie if: I don’t know, actually…if you hate good entertainment, I guess?

On the RWS, I give it a 9.5 out of 10. This is now the highest-rated film of all time using the RWS.

Poor Wolf of Wall Street…before I even see it I know it doesn’t stand a chance to match wits with American Hustle.

2013 in Review: My Best & Worst NFL Predictions

2013 crystal ball

Yesterday was supposed to be the final day to look back on 2013, but I couldn’t help myself. So many sports analysts/columnists/experts don’t hold themselves accountable for the outrageous predictions they make at the beginning of a sports season. But I spent the last day of the year digging through my archives to find my predictions that were spot on and the ones that were…terrible.

So let’s take one final stroll down 2013’s memory lane…

Best of the AFC Predictions

  • On Denver: “Demaryius Thomas could force his way to the top of the NFL’s WR rankings in ’13.” (His finishing WR ranks: 1st in touchdowns, 9th in receptions, 4th in yards, 1st in yards after catch)
  • On Denver again: “Another 1 seed for Denver.”
  • On Miami: “The Dolphin’s ceiling is 8-8..Tannehill isn’t good even though people talk like he is.” (Admittedly, Tannehill was better in 2013, but he still didn’t crack the top 20 for quarterbacks in completion percentage and passer rating)
  • On New England: “Anyone who thinks their offense won’t skip a beat just because they’ve looked good in the preseason is delusional, naive or in denial. There will be struggles for sure…12-4 seems right.”
  • Team’s records I nailed: Buffalo (6-10), New England (12-4)
  • Playoff seedings I nailed: #1 Denver, #2 New England

Worst of the AFC Predictions

  • On Cincinnati: “9-7 but no playoffs.”
  • On Cleveland: “What if Weeden becomes slightly above average? What if Richardson makes a significant leap in year two? …They could be a surprise division winner. Call me crazy, but I’m going 9-7 for this team.”
  • On Houston: “Seven automatic wins…they’l finish 9-7 and make no noise in the playoffs.” (Technically I could argue putting this in the “best” section because they won’t be making any noise in the playoffs.)
  • On Kansas City: “I’m fine with some improvement, but not playoff-level improvement. 6-10 for the Chiefs.”
  • On the Jets: “This team stinks and won’t do better than 5-11.” (But it’s true!! They do stink!!)

Best of the NFC Predictions

  • On Carolina: “I made a bet in Vegas on Carolina to win the Super Bowl at 40/1 odds.” (Their updated odds as we head into week 1 of the playoffs? 10/1.)
  • On Dallas: “You can pencil them in for 8-8.”
  • On Detroit: “You’ve gotta account for several losses due to boneheaded plays or being underprepared. Don’t see this team making a serious playoff run until they replace the head coach.”
  • On Green Bay: “Their underwhelming playoff results the last two years might allow them to fly under the radar, but don’t sleep on a team that went a combined 27-5 over the past two regular seasons.” (OK, so even I didn’t think they’d fly this far under the radar with that 8-7-1 record.)
  • Team’s records I nailed: Dallas (8-8), St. Louis (7-9), San Francisco (12-4)
  • Playoff seedings I nailed: #1 Seattle, #5 San Francisco

Worst of the NFC Predictions

  • On Arizona: “I honestly think they only have two winnable games, but I’ll give them a 6-10 record because I might be underrating their defense.”
  • On Atlanta: “Significant home field advantage. 10-6 seems right.” (Their final record: 4-12 overall and only 3-5 at home.)
  • On Carolina: “8-8 is doable but I’m actually going with 6-10 for the Panthers because I don’t think they can keep up offensively”
  • On Tampa: “9-7 with an extremely fun offense to watch.” (I doubt any sane person can call anything about that Bucs season “fun.”)
  • On Washington: “Isn’t Washington to win it all at 33/1 odds somewhat intriguing…I say 11-5 and a deep playoff run.” (Wow, ouch, terrible.)

Worse than any of that…

  • On Atlanta: “A tough division might cause them to limp into the playoffs looking more like a pretender than a contender, but the key is just getting there. Atlanta will improbably move through the NFC bracket while the AFC essentially goes as expected. Atlanta beats Denver in the Super Bowl. Count on it.” (Four months later, I’m no longer willing to recommend that you count on this exact Super Bowl matchup. Just a hunch.)

Best of Individual Player Predictions

  • “I’m going with Peyton Manning to lead the league in passing yards.”
  • “I’m going with Peyton Manning to win the 2013 MVP award, and sadly I think that offense might look like the 2007 Patriots when it’s all said and done.”
  • “I’m saying Josh Freeman is the first quarterback benched due to ineffectiveness.” (I may have been wrong about mostly everything else, but you gotta admit, I NAILED these QB predictions!)

Worst of Individual Player/Coach Predictions

  • Doug Martin is my 2013 rushing champ.” (Hey, he was only 1151 yards shy of LeSean McCoy’s league-leading rushing total.)
  • “I think Cleveland wins the AFC North, and if they do that, Rob Chudzinski automatically wins Coach of the Year so that’s who I’m picking.” (Worst prediction ever?)
  • I predicted Titans owner Bud Adams wouldn’t live to see the end of the 2013 season. (Technically I was right and this belongs in the “best of” section, but it just feels wrong to accurately predict someone’s death, so I’m sticking it on the “worst of” list instead.)

So if you’re keeping score at home, it turns out I’m even worse at preseason predictions than I am at in-season against the spread picks. I’m the worst.

But look out for my AFC & NFC playoff predictions later this week…I can’t be any worse than the regular season!