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.

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Taking The Decision-Making Process Out of Your Weekend Movie Theater Visit (5 Reviews)

It’s officially the first weekend of Summer, and you might be so inclined to go see a movie this weekend.  This may be especially true if you live in a place where the temperature might hit 95 and you’ve got no AC at your house.  The movie theater is a great place to get out of the heat and stuff yourself to capacity with 3lbs of popcorn & 76 ounces of soda.  But which movie will you see?

If you’re like me, a lot of movie trailers and commercials have looked extremely appealing lately so it might be tough to choose.  Luckily I have lots of time on my hand so I’ve checked out five different movies in the theater over the past two weeks.  If you only have time to see one movie and don’t want to be disappointed, keep reading for my ranking and feedback of these five big budget films.

Here they are in order of worst to least-worst:

5). Snow White & the Huntsman – PG-13

Don’t laugh.  It’s supposed to be a darker take on the classic fairy tale, and that’s what appealed to me.  I was promised lots of killing, crazy army battles and the evilest queen ever created.  I wanted Charlize Theron’s queen to be truly devious, to constantly be chasing Kristen Stewart’s Snow White in clever ways throughout the film.  I wanted SW and her allies to go through hell and be faced with certain death over and over again.  Unfortunately I got only about 10 minutes of this in the beginning of the movie and 10 minutes at the end, with about 100 minutes in between of I don’t know what… The middle was Snow White wandering through the “Dark Forest” mostly unharmed, hooking up with groups of people who never told us their motivation for wanting revenge on the Queen.  The movie didn’t even clearly lay out who some of the major characters were and how they fit into the story.  It seems like the makers of this movie were so fixated on the “dark” imagery—Snow White’s hair, the Queen’s wardrobe, the Dark Forest—that they forgot about creating excitement throughout the entire movie and developing the characters enough that they naturally fit in with the overall plot.  The only redeeming part of this movie was the Dwarves, and they don’t even come into play until two-thirds of the way through.

Final Verdict: Not even worth putting on the Netflix queue.

4). Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (3-D) – R

This one totally tricked me because I had heard so many positive reviews about the book this movie is based on.  And the guy who wrote the book was in charge of writing the script so I went in with high hopes.  Big mistake.  Recently I was reading a book on Screenwriting and the author said that movie audiences are willing to accept “one piece of magic per movie.”  His example is that audiences will accept aliens landing on earth in a movie, but they will not accept aliens landing on earth who then get bit by vampires.  You can have one piece of fantasy in a movie, but no more than one.  Well Vampire Hunter had at least three.  I could believe that Vampires inhabited the southern states of the Union during the time of the Civil War, but I couldn’t also believe that Lincoln’s ax had magical powers AND that he turned into a superhero.  And then, by the end of the movie, his friends basically had superpowers too.  This was just too much, and it turned the movie into a cartoon.  There’s a scene in the movie where Lincoln and one of his vampire enemies are caught in a horse stampede and they literally start throwing full grown horses at each other!  I’m not making this up.  The movie becomes one big joke, and obviously they weren’t trying to make a comedy.  They were trying to make a very serious movie.  The only reason it’s not #5 on my list is because Snow White was just so boring.

Final Verdict: You’re going to try to talk yourself into this movie, either at the theater or on DVD.  Don’t do it.

3). Men in Black 3 (3-D) – PG-13

In my defense, I got back to LA from San Francisco this past Monday around 2pm, and walked into a “fire alarm testing” situation at my apartment complex.  Knowing the ear-splitting sound was going to continue for three more hours, I decided a movie was the best option.  Because I had already seen three of the other four movies on this list, I had little choice at the local theater.  I never saw MIB 2, but figured that wouldn’t be a problem.  OK, so Men in Black isn’t much of a “thinker’s movie.”  It’s not going to win any awards.  But unlike #5 and #4 on this list, at least it was fun to watch.  It had all the characteristics of your typical cheesy summer action film—including Will Smith overacting and Tommy Lee Jones/Josh Brolin (playing a younger version of Tommy Lee when Will Smith travels back to 1969) calling someone “Slick” or “Ace” a few too many times.  But it’s a movie you’ll feel familiar and comfortable with, and it’ll fly by at 106 minutes.  The 3-D didn’t really add much for me on this particular film.  But again, it did it’s job of entertaining me while the alarms were blaring at my apartment.

Final Verdict: Worth the Netflix queue add, but don’t prioritize it.

2). Prometheus (3-D) – R

The lazy in me wants to simply say, “I feel the exact same way about Prometheus as I did about Avatar,” and make you try to figure out what that means.  But fine, let me explain.  This movie, to me, is absolutely worth seeing in 3-D on a movie theater screen.  It is visually pleasing, as I suspect all well-done space travel movies made in 3-D will be from now on.  It’s the perfect type of movie for 3-D.  Having said that, I didn’t love the plot, and I didn’t care much about the movie trying to answer important questions like, “Who created humans?” and “What happens to us after we die?”  If sci-fi is your genre of choice, and you like movies that reach for answers to those types of questions, you’re going to love this film.  I was never able to invest in the characters or plot of Avatar, but I enjoyed the film at least when seeing it in 3-D on the big screen, and that’s exactly how Prometheus played out for me.

Final Verdict: See it in the theater, in 3-D.  It’s one of those movies worth shelling out the crazy 3-D ticket prices.

1). The Avengers (3-D) – PG-13

I’m holding out high hopes for the new Batman in July, but Avengers may very well end up being the best movie of the Summer.  And that’s coming from someone who’s not a comic book person and typically doesn’t love superhero movies.  This movie had so much more than just great action scenes.  The plot wasn’t overly cheesy, and it was simple enough to not get in the way.  The characters, for the most part, were well-developed and had depth.  If I wanted to nitpick, I’d mention that the Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner characters were pretty much unnecessary to the movie.  They were the only two characters that didn’t have any layers beyond their special powers and being involved in the action scenes.  The rest of the characters—especially Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk—were incredible, both as superheroes doing superhero things, and as regular people.  One of the most entertaining decisions the creators of The Avengers made was having a lot of conflict and fighting between the superheroes.  The movie isn’t just about six superheroes trying to stop a villain.  It’s about six superheroes trying to stop a villain while figuring out if they can trust each other and be team players.  And yes, the action in 3-D is incredible.

Final Verdict: See it in 3-D at the theater for sure, but if you can’t, get it to the top of your Netflix queue as soon as it’s released on Blu-Ray.