Movie Review: Foxcatcher


The buzz around Foxcatcher leading up to its release date had me believing I’d be seeing a fantastic movie and an even better individual performance out of Steve Carrell’s serious turn as John du Pont.

One of those two things was true. Carrell was incredible in seizing his first role that was 0% comedic. He’s certainly had some jobs that showed glimpses of his dramatic side (Little Miss Sunshine and Crazy, Stupid, Love come to mind), but never a leading role as serious as portraying the real life du Pont, the heir to the du Pont family fortune who took a particular liking to the sport of wrestling and the U.S. National Team.

If you don’t know the story behind du Pont and his wrestling passion that was at its peak in the ’80s and ’90s, you aren’t going to get a ton of backstory or explanation in this film. But we’re able to piece things together quite nicely.

John du Pont is a middle-aged man born into wealth due to his family’s history selling gunpowder and other military ammunition items during the wars. He lacks interest in his mother’s main hobby, horses and equestrian competition, but he finds his competitive passion in the form of wrestling. This interest coincides with brothers Greg and Mark Schultz rising to the top of the wrestling world after both of them won gold medals in the 1984 Olympics (two more outstanding acting performances were given in the form of Mark Ruffalo (Greg, the older brother) and Channing Tatum (Mark, the younger brother) playing these wrestling heroes).

John du Pont convinces Mark Schultz and then later Greg Schultz to join him at his Foxcatcher Farm to build and train the next great U.S. Men’s Wrestling Team.

If at this point in reading the review you’re wondering where the drama and the movie-like feel is going to come from, I understand your concern. While there are scandalous moments ranging from Mark getting sucked into drugs and du Pont getting too physical with his discipline, the movie ended with me wondering where the hell the plot went.

For anyone who does know the story and infamy behind du Pont, there is of course a major climactic moment after the brothers distance themselves from the seemingly crazier-by-the-day old man, but even that didn’t turn into a major payoff for the audience.

It was all so boring and slow. Even the Oscar-worthy performance by Carrell (and possibly others) couldn’t mask the lack of gripping plot.

You should see this movie if: You’re a history buff that takes a particular interest in the more obscure topics like amateur wrestling and historic American families; you want to see an awesome Steve Carrell performance along with great supporting work by Ruffalo & Tatum; you like a slow deliberate pacing to your movie (it felt like a typical movie about an English king or queen where there’s lots of slow, soft talking and almost no action); you want to see Tatum with his shirt off so badly that you’ll waste $15 and two hours of your life (this is only applicable if you lack the internet where you’d be able to look up any number of pictures of Tatum’s chiseled bod).

You should not see this movie if: You only like good movies; you are only entertained by action or comedy; you need you movies to have essential elements like a plot, raising of the stakes and an eventual climax; you hate Carrell, Ruffalo or Tatum; you fall asleep easily; you have no interest in competition.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), unfortunately I have to give this movie one of my lowest scores of all time…a 4 out of 10. It wasn’t a complete abomination and I didn’t walk out of the theater early (something that’s only happened once in my life…it was during A Walk In The Clouds).

But it’s bad when I can’t think of a single person I know who might enjoy Foxcatcher.

Get Your Summer Movie Experience Started Off Right (Skip The Magic, Go For The Raunchy Apocalypse)


It’s officially the first day of Summer, and that means movie theater overload is upon us. We’ve made it through the dark days of March and April (where you were ultimately choosing between The Incredible Burt Wonderstone or Jurassic Park 3D if you really needed to get to the theater), and we’re suddenly nipples deep in potentially solid movies. If you decide to head to the theaters this weekend, you’ll have to choose one film to see among the following: World War Z, Man of Steel, This Is The End, The Bling Ring, Now You See Me, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, or Monsters University. All of them could be great, depending on your personal preferences.

If you’re planning to go see a movie this weekend, and you’re thinking this blog is going to give you reviews for all eight of those movies I just listed, well I’m sorry to say you’re about to be 62.5% disappointed. I’ve only seen three of the eight.

But if this blog post helps even one person pick the right film among the few that I’ve seen, then I guess I’m doing my job. And of course, you can find professional reviews from professional critics all over the internet. I’m not trying to replicate the type of review you’d read from a reputable critic. I’ll just cut through the bullshit and give you the bottom line on these motion pictures.

  1. Star Trek Into Darkness: The first thing you need to know about this movie is that you don’t need to know anything about Star Trek’s lengthy film and TV history to enjoy it. You don’t even need to have seen the 2009 first installment of these new Star Treks to understand this one. You should see this movie if: You enjoy sci-fi movies that are grounded in reality almost enough to not be considered sci-fi; you like a movie that’s about 85% action, 12% comedy and 3% romance; you think Chris Pine is so hot that you’d sit through a two-hour movie about space exploration and alien planets just to watch him on a giant movie screen (Chris Pine is available in 3D for this film). You should NOT see this movie if: Thinking of Star Trek immediately makes you yawn or have a glazed over look in your eyes; you think Star Trek and Star Wars are the same thing and you’d end up spending the whole movie whispering to your boyfriend about when he thinks Darth Vader’s going to make his first appearance; you hate awesome action movies. On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it a 7.5 out of 10.
  2. Now You See Me: Based on the trailers for this movie, my expectation was for it to be an intellectually stimulating heist story with the unique twist that the criminals are these great illusionists with a ton of tricks up their sleeves. Unfortunately my expectations were aimed way too high on this one. The opening 15-20 minutes is solid as you get sucked into these magicians’ worlds and their first great robbery together. But the rest of the movie is an extremely lame chase between the bumbling FBI agents and the magicians who continue to perform in public even though the FBI is after them (the FBI literally stands by and watches these performances at times, making you wonder if there’s an unknown law that states people can’t be arrested while performing magic). Just because they threw together a movie with six or seven well-known actors doesn’t mean it’s going to be a well-acted movie. It’s not, and the lame, overly complex plot doesn’t make up for the awful acting. You should see this movie if: You’ve always wanted to watch a film that’s more confusing and less interesting than Ocean’s 11; you are obsessed with magicians; you enjoy watching Mark Ruffalo look like the world’s worst Cop; you enjoy the “Shyamalan twists” at the end of a movie no matter how little sense they make. You should NOT see this movie if: You enjoy good movies only; you don’t want to spend a whole movie-going experience thinking about how old and tired Morgan Freeman looks; you like to spend your money wisely. On the RWS, I give it a 2.5 out of 10.
  3. This Is The End: I don’t know if this movie looks stupid or brilliant to the average person. When I walked out of the theater last night, I was leaning much more towards the brilliant side. And I still am today, but the one caveat to this movie’s brilliance is that it might only be good to people who are familiar with these actors. Not like you need to have met these actors in real life, but you’ll probably enjoy this movie the most if you’re familiar with their previous work and the type of personalities they have. In case you don’t know, this film stars Seth Rogen, James Franco and many of their friends playing exaggerated versions of themselves during a sudden apocalypse. At times it almost feels like one big inside joke that you’ll only understand if you have a general sense of how the public perceives these actors. For example, if you don’t know going into the movie that Michael Cera always plays characters who are soft-spoken, sweet, a little dorky and mostly awkward, then it probably won’t be as funny when you see him snorting coke and being an asshole to everyone at the party that gets this movie started. You should see this movie if: You were a fan of movies like Superbad, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express and I Love You Man; you live for raunchy sex & toilet humor as well as alcohol & drug humor; you have the ability to enjoy a movie for its amazing humor no matter how nonsensical and far-fetched the plot is (that really shouldn’t be too hard). You should NOT see this movie if: You’re uncomfortable with the words fuck, cum, jizz, or the C-word; you have absolutely no interest in seeing actors play themselves and make fun of each other for 90 minutes nonstop; you aren’t OK with seeing several gigantic (fake) penises on a movie screen. On the RWS, I give it a 8.5 out of 10.

So to recap, we’re working with one solid sci-fi/action movie, one incredible comedy and one gigantic flop. You’re free to make your own choices when you head to the theater this weekend, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re stuck watching magicians and FBI agents running in circles while you hear people in the next theater over laughing hysterically at yet another amazing semen joke.

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.