A Marathon Movie Review: Singing Girls, Partying Boys, Natural & Unnatural Disasters

Whew. So many movies to review, so little time. But it’s officially the start of summer, which means good TV is mostly hibernating until the Fall, your kids are out of school, and sometimes you just need to sit in a theater to escape the heat. Here are some quick hit thoughts on the four most recent movies I’ve seen, all of which are still in most theaters.

Pitch Perfect 2

pitch-perfect-2-poster It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen this movie, and it was definitely one I was highly anticipating. The original Pitch Perfect was amazing. It was clearly a movie where the more you watched it, the better it got. It was a perfect combination for people who like karaoke, sing-alongs, etc. There wasn’t a ton of plot thrown in your face, and it felt like we got a ton of music throughout the film. The second installment was funnier overall and had more storylines. Both of those aspects worked well, but the problem is they came at the expense of some of the musical experience. Don’t get me wrong, there was still lots of music, but I don’t think the songs or performances will ever be as memorable as the first. My initial reaction was that the music in Pitch Perfect 2 was horrible, but when I listened to the soundtrack and started to remember the scenes, I realized I was being a little harsh. The Bellas’ competition this time around was the German powerhouse acapella group, DSM. (Basically, this was Pitch Perfect’s “Mighty Ducks 2” movie, where there was a European villain and the stakes moved from the United States to a Worldwide level.) The other polarizing musical decision revolved around an original song. If you remember, PP1 had “Cups.” It was an immediate sensation both within the movie and on the radio. In PP2, we got “Flashlight,” and the jury is definitely out on whether that was a good decision or not. The dirty little secret of this movie is that the Germans were 1 billion times better than The Bellas. Oh well. The movie was solid, and I guarantee it’ll be another case of “it gets better the more you watch it.” I’m giving Pitch Perfect 2 a 6.5 out of 10 on the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS).

Entourage

entourage-cast I was never going to pay to see this movie so I hopped into a second theater after Jurassic World ended the other day to check it out for free. I didn’t want to pay for it because I assumed it was going to be exactly like an episode of Entourage, which had a run of eight seasons on HBO from 2004-11. And I was right…which makes reviewing this movie easy. If you liked Entourage for the most part when it was on TV, you’ll probably enjoy the big screen version. If you hated it, well, you probably already knew to skip the movie. We get to see Vince, E, Drama, Turtle and Ari doing their usual “this movie might ruin our careers” routine while minor characters from the TV version pop up left and right (Ari’s family, Lloyd, Dana Gould, Billy Walsh, etc). And we’re bombarded with celebrity cameos (Mark Wahlberg, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Gronk, Jessica Alba, Kelsey Grammar, Ed O’Neill, and so many more). Unlike the girl power Pitch Perfect, Entourage treats women like it always has: Pieces of meat to be hit on, joked about, screwed over, and discarded. I’ve seen a lot of people upset about this on social media in the past couple weeks. And to them I say, “What did you expect? It’s Entourage.” I’m giving it a 5.5 out of 10 on the RWS. It had enough going for it from a comedic and wow factor standpoint to make it worthwhile. Definitely not something you need to see in a theater, even if you were a huge fan of the show.

San Andreas

San-Andreas-Movie This is possibly the only movie of the four that you hadn’t heard about. It’s an action movie where The Rock plays the main character, a Los Angeles Firefighter who tries to save his daughter up in San Francisco when the entire West Coast experiences a devastatingly large earthquake. Listen, I’m seeing this movie for one reason: special effects (OK, two reasons: my high school obsession with The Rock still manifests itself from time to time). And the effects sucked. There was nothing interesting about the destruction that this massive earthquake caused. According to Paul Giamatti’s character, this was the largest recorded quake in the history of the world, and yet, the chaos and suffering was meh at best. What the fuck, San Andreas? You think I give a shit about the father-daughter relationship, or the fact that this family lost another daughter to a drowning accident years earlier. The two British supporting characters, while cute & funny, were not a main draw either. Give me the most ridiculous amount of shit blowing up and crumbling. Give me the earth opening up. Give me a tsunami that rivals anything we’ve ever seen. Give me something so I can at least give this movie a 2.0 on the Ross Watchability Scale. Do not give me a super slow sinking of a skyscraper into the flood waters where I know with 100% certainty that everyone’s going to make it out OK. As it stands, I’m giving San Andreas a 0.5 on the RWS, the lowest recorded rating in the history of this scale.

Jurassic World

jurassic-world-poster1 I don’t see many movies on their opening day, but I just had to see Jurassic World this past Friday. My excitement came from how much I enjoyed the original Jurassic Park back in 1993. I’m guessing I was the perfect age for that movie to be one of my favorites…a 10-year-old seeing an awesome dinosaur movie on a huge movie screen. I never saw the follow-ups to Jurassic Park, and you don’t need to have seen them either to enjoy this newest installment. Jurassic World takes place 20 years after the tragedy of the first story, in a time where they’ve been successfully running a dinosaur-based theme park for a while. In fact, it’s been around long enough that the main plot focuses on the operators of the park trying to engineer bigger, scarier dinosaurs to reinvigorate the public’s interest in the attractions. And of course, they make a dinosaur so big and so bad that all hell breaks loose. This conveniently happens on the same weekend where the park’s head of operations has nephews visiting. And if that sounds cliche, well, be prepared to get hit over the head with plenty of them (like that same head of operations being so focused on her career and making money for the park that she willingly puts her family and other park guests in danger). But aside from the usual problems with large-scale action movies (please don’t expect the dialogue to be riveting), Jurassic World was an awesome movie. The spectacle of it all and the special effects were fantastic. Even though the plots are never awesome in these movies, there were plenty of twists and turns to keep you genuinely interested even if you don’t like all the action parts. As with the original, it was really fun to see lots of minor characters and think, “I know they’re gonna die, but I can’t wait to see how and when.” Though the focus for most of the movie is on the humans trying to take down the highly-intelligent hybrid dinosaur that was cooked up in the park’s lab, don’t sleep on some awesome moments from the Velociraptors and T. Rex. Jurassic World gets a solid 7.5 out of 10 on the RWS. I will watch this one over and over again. So there you have it. Go see Jurassic World and Pitch Perfect 2 for sure. Entourage depends on your personal tastes. And San Andreas is awful for everyone.

Advertisements

Movie Review: The Gambler

the gambler

I saw two movies in the theater last week. The one I had been looking forward to for a while was Inherent Vice (review coming later this week), and the one I kind of just stumbled into and thought, “Eh, why not? This could be fun” was The Gambler.

After all, you know how much of a gambler I am (or maybe you don’t, but just take my word for it).

The Gambler was a lot of things, but unfortunately fun wasn’t one of them.

This film is set in modern day Los Angeles, contains no super natural beings or wizardry, no special effects or sci-fi aspects, and yet I’ve seen movies set in Middle-earth that were more believable than this sucky piece of art.

The plot is straight forward enough. Jim Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a college professor who has an insane gambling addiction. He falls into trouble early in the movie when a man who operates an underground casino informs him he owes $260,000 in gambling debt. It gets worse when he borrows money from a loan shark named Neville Baraka (played Michael Kenneth Williams…Omar, to you fans of The Wire) and immediately loses it doing what else, gambling of course. And from here it’s just a downward spiral. He has multiple opportunities to pay off his debts or come damn close, but instead he takes any money he has and keeps gambling with it until he loses.

And this is where The Gambler leaves the real world and enters a dark, twisted fantasy (not a nightmare because it never seems like the main character is too upset about his predicament). You can’t convince me there’s a single person on this planet who would gamble as recklessly as Bennett does in this story. It just doesn’t make any sense, unless he wants to die. And if that’s the case, fine, die already. Don’t come to a sudden realization that you do indeed want to live and then start to pick up the broken pieces of your life, all of which come through self-infliction.

It’s amazing that the marketing tag for this movie is “The only way out is all in” because that’s not even remotely true. It should say, “The only way out is all in…or by borrowing the money from your filthy rich mother.”

Bennett has real death threats hanging over his head from all the people he owes money to, but every time he’s given money, he just goes to a casino and blows it. It’s ludicrous.

In case the tone of this review isn’t crystal clear, this movie was infuriating. It was such a waste of time. It was a stupid, pointless, unbelievable story that made me long for a good gambling film like Rounders.

In fact, do yourself a favor and skip The Gambler and instead watch Rounders again (conveniently available on Netflix Instant). It’s a much better use of your time.

You should see this movie if: Ummm…hmm…I guess if you like semi-suspenseful casino scenes enough to overlook the horrible 95 minutes surrounding those scenes; if you are a family member of Mark Wahlberg’s (after all, he’ll probably ask you if you’ve seen it).

You should not see this movie if: You’re a human being with functioning eyeballs and ears.

It’s probably not a shocker that this movie is going to get the worst rating ever on the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS). I’m giving it a 1.5 out of 10.

Here’s a little teaser for the Inherent Vice review coming later this week: I rate it higher than The Gambler.

Movie Review: Birdman

birdman

Normally I wouldn’t be first in line to see an under-the-radar black comedy about a washed-up Hollywood star who’s battling demons—real and imagined—while trying to write, direct and star in a Broadway play just to announce to the world that he’s still relevant.

Normally I wouldn’t be the second in line, the 12th, the 100th or even the 10 millionth for a movie like that. But over the past couple weeks, everywhere I turned, I kept hearing the whispers about this incredible little film starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, the main character trying to restart his career (or put on his final act…it’s definitely ambiguous as to what his ultimate goal is with opening a Broadway play).

We’re into November now, which means movies with Oscar aspirations are finally being released in theaters. The buzz over Keaton’s performance is what got me into a theater this past week, and that buzz is 100% deserved.

Birdman is the name of the movie because it’s the name of the fictitious Superhero that Keaton’s Thomson played in three hugely successful movies 20 years earlier. Then he walked away from that career-making & fortune-making role, and presumably he vanished from the A-list for the next two decades.

It isn’t too big of a leap for people to think about Michael Keaton’s career as a parallel to this storyline. He starred as Batman in the late 80s/early 90s, but walked away from the franchise after two films. We all know subsequent Batman films have gone on to make a ton of money over the last 20 years, and Keaton hasn’t really been relevant for a long time now.

Even though Keaton says in this interview that the main character’s backstory in Birdman couldn’t be any less similar to his real life, you can’t help but make the comparison while watching the onscreen Riggan Thomson in action.

This movie is so much more than “struggling actor tries to save his career by performing on Broadway.” It has many layers. Thomson and his best friend/co-producer Jake are nearly out of money before the play’s opening night even arrives. (Finally! Zach Galifianakis plays a character that doesn’t just feel like a regurgitated version of his role in The Hangover films.)

When they need to find a last-minute actor to fill a major role in the play, they’re ecstatic to land Broadway veteran Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), but that ultimately comes with problems. First, in order to pay Shiner’s ridiculous salary, Thomson has to refinance his Malibu home that was supposed to be given to his daughter one day (she’s a recovering drug addict played by Emma Stone). Then Shiner starts to steal the spotlight and go rogue on the script.

The revolving love triangles among the cast and crew are minor conflicts compared to Thomson’s internal demon. He can’t get the voice of Birdman out of his head. It’s the voice that’s repeatedly telling him he doesn’t need this Broadway play or the hassle it brings. He’s a star. He grossed more than $1 Billion worldwide.

All the pressures and issues facing Thomson come to a head when the play is running its final preview, a showing attended by the New York Times theater critic Tabitha, who has the reputation of either making or breaking your success on Broadway.

What happens in the movie’s final 30 minutes will make you laugh, cry and walk away extremely satisfied.

You should see this movie if: You love artsy indie movies; you like black comedies; you want to see a movie that’s totally unique and original compared to a lot of the repetitive junk that the studios usually put out there; you’re OK with laughing and crying at the same time; you’re a big Michael Keaton and/or Edward Norton fan; you’re into Broadway and want to see a somewhat fictitious take of what goes on behind the curtain; you want to see what will most likely be an Oscar-nominated performance (Keaton’s for sure).

You should not see this movie if: You only like films that have lots of action and a ton of special effects; you couldn’t possibly picture liking an artsy movie; you only like comedies that are pure laughs and don’t have any drama; you hate Michael Keaton and/or Edward Norton; just thinking about plays and Broadway makes you start yawning.

On the Ross Watchability Scale, I’m giving Birdman a 7.5 out of 10. The acting is incredible throughout and the plot actually held my attention a lot better than I was initially expecting. I’m very glad to have heard that buzz that got me into the theater for this one.

One final note: If you’re considering a few different movie options for this weekend, you can compare my thoughts on Birdman with two other movies that should still be in the theaters: Gone Girl and Fury. Of course, there’s a very strong chance that you’re seeing Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar on its opening weekend, but if you want to avoid those crowds, check out one of the three movies above.

Enjoy.

Movie Review: Gone Girl

gone girl

Perhaps more appropriate than describing the plot and quality of this movie with the typical 500-800 words, a series of GIFs is more appropriate:

 

Three days after seeing the Ben Affleck-starring Gone Girl, I’m still trying to process it all. That’s one reason why I can’t possibly give a full review. The other reason is that I’m terrified of inadvertently spoiling the movie for you. There are so many intricate plot twists in this mystery that anything I tell you could provide more information than you’d want before seeing it.

I’ll simply tell you that it was awesome. That it was the first movie in a long time that made me want to stand up in the middle of the theater and ask the theater operators to pause the film so I could take five minutes to think about what I had just seen. And if I had my way, I would have done that two or three times throughout Gone Girl. It was just such a cool movie.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I’m giving it an 8.5 out of 10.

Just see it.

Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You

thisiswhereileaveyou

If you’ve always wanted to know the answer to the question, “Can Hollywood make a movie that’s depressing from start to finish that people will still show up to see?”, it seems like This Is Where I Leave You has given us a resounding “YES.”

This book-turned-dramedy, based around four adult siblings who have to spend seven days essentially under house arrest in their childhood home after their father dies and grounds them as his last wish, was made for about $20 million and has already grossed over $22 million at the box office over its first two weeks in theaters.

Depressing might be too general of a description and one that turns people off. Maybe a better way to frame this movie is to say it makes a concerted effort not to give any of its story lines a happy ending just for the sake of it being a movie (where, generally, people want to see happy endings or at the very least clear-cut resolutions).

There’s a lot of raw human emotion, uncomfortable arguments and hurt feelings.

BUT IT’S FUNNY!

The humor comes specifically from these four siblings who want nothing to do with each other and have pretty much neglected one another over the past decade.

Here are the four siblings, in a nutshell:

  • Judd: The main character who has tried to plan out his life so it would be perfect and uncomplicated. The movie begins with him discovering his wife is cheating on him with his boss.
  • Wendy: The one daughter among the siblings. She’s married with two kids, but it turns out her husband’s an asshole and she’s still hung up on her ex-boyfriend that she ditched years ago.
  • Paul: The tough guy of the group who runs the family business and has a bat-shit crazy wife who will stop at nothing to get pregnant.
  • Phillip: The baby of the family who has grown up to be….a grown-up baby! He’s a womanizer, irresponsible, always expecting someone to bail him out of his troubles. You know the type.

You can tell from those descriptions that each character has his or her own set of problems and it seems like this unwanted reunion comes at a time where each of their lives are unraveling (some slowly, some quickly).

You should see this movie if: You worship at the altars of Bateman and Fey (Jason Bateman plays Judd, Tina Fey plays Wendy); you don’t mind having your humor with a large helping of sadness and depression to go with it; you enjoy that helter skelter type of movie where a lot is going on and you don’t really understand how everything intertwines until the very end (a la Crazy, Stupid, Love); you want to see the most perfectly-placed joint smoking scene in movie history (with all the depression, it was very necessary to give us a scene purely for comic relief purposes in the middle of the movie, and that’s what they did with this no-strings-attached marijuana scene at temple).

You should not see this movie if: You can’t control your tears…seriously, my fiancee cried from start to finish and she only cries for the ending of Armageddon; if you want happy endings; you can’t handle the thought of a dysfunctional family and siblings who possibly hate each other; you don’t like swearing and other R-rated components of movies; you prefer plot-driven action movies (like Transformers for instance) to subtle character-driven films; you hate to laugh.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I’m giving This Is Where I Leave You a 6 out of 10. I’m not sure it’s one you’ll want to watch more than once due to the heaviness, but it’s worth it for the story and the laughs.

“Bad Words” Movie Review: Introducing you to Jason Bateman’s best (and so far only) directing job

bad words

It’s amazing that the recently released black comedy Bad Words is going to be a mild success.

Amazing because I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of it, that’s how nonexistent their marketing was (The only reason I stumbled upon it was due to a trip to Universal Studios where they happened to have a very small poster advertising it).

Amazing because the $10 million movie is the story of a vengeful adult who finds a loophole that allows him to participate in—and possibly ruin—a children’s national spelling bee. Not really a film that screams “Must See!” to the masses.

And amazing because the only bankable actor in the film was Jason Bateman…not someone you’d normally associate with carrying a movie.

But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t do exactly that. Bateman gives this cynical character plenty of dimensions, and he somehow pulls off becoming an empathetic figure while simultaneously being reprehensible.

And it turns out he also made his directing debut with Bad Words.

When you see the boring story lines and the blah locations, you’ll agree that he made something above average without much help.

I’m really not sure why Universal/Focus Features came to the decision to spend exactly $179 on worldwide marketing for this movie. If they had bothered to promote it, here are a few marketing pitches I heard they were considering:

  1. “Come watch Jason Bateman do things to prepubescent children that would get a normal man five to 10 in state prison.” (Seriously, there’s some indecent exposure in front of a 10-year-old that Bateman facilitates, and there’s a girl-becoming-a-woman situation that he uses to his advantage.)
  2. “We thought of a hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch that we think we turned into a decent 90-minute movie because we gave the main character a hidden emotional motivation and made him flawed yet somehow likable. Do come see it.”
  3. “Innocent children getting emotionally abused, verbally assaulted and cheated out of achieving their dreams. What’s not to love?

Bateman is basically doing the intellectual version of the grown up who goes balls-to-the-wall in a children’s basketball game. Just swatting the ball away on every shot attempt; firing the ball at a child’s face to “save it from going out of bounds”; trash talking the poor kids off the court.

For a sense of comparison, I’d go so far as to say Bateman’s performance is on par with his funniest acting jobs, but the overall quality of the movie doesn’t touch his high water mark, Horrible Bosses (a movie that has somehow climbed so high on my all-time comedy rankings that it would probably be the runner-up to The Big Lebowski if I was forced to choose one movie that I had to watch every day for the rest of my life).

You should see this movie if: You worship at the altar of Michael Bluth or Jason Bateman; you are so in love with comedy that you can’t wait for something to come out on DVD even if you know the overall story can’t possibly be worth paying for; you enjoy watching children suffer; you can get on board with a movie that depicts the bully as the hero; you want to see an inexperienced 10-year-old actor hold his own in this made-for-adults comedy; and like me, you know that Bateman is on a slow yet steady ascent to being a legitimate A-list comedic actor.

You should not see this movie if: You know you’re going to feel bad for the children; you take the treatment of children so seriously that you can’t even fathom laughing at something bad happening to one of them; you need an airtight plot to enjoy a movie; you need the cliched happy endings and the convenient wrapped up loose ends; you hate Bateman (in which case my girlfriend will gladly recite a list to you called “101 reasons that Jason Bateman is the greatest man on this planet”); you aren’t the type who could realize this is all just scene after scene of SNL skits and yet still enjoy it.

In terms of ranking this movie regardless of where you watch it, I’d have to give it a mere 5.5 on the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS). But of course it would be a little higher if we’re just determining whether or not it’s a worthwhile Netflix rental. You will laugh (and gasp) enough to  justify giving Bad Words 90 minutes of your precious time.

Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street…A Scary Good Time

wolf of wall street

I’ve been sitting on this Wolf Of Wall Street blog review for a couple weeks because I have no idea where to rank it on my world-renowned Watchability Scale. Sometimes I think it’s a brilliant movie. Other times I think it’s terrible. But I’m probably going to play it safe and rank it somewhere in between those two extremes.

The best, yet vaguest, description I can give is that it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Since I saw it in early January and was fooling myself into thinking I’d start dieting for my New Year’s Resolution, I went into this movie telling myself I would only eat one Peanut M&M each time Leonardo DiCaprio’s character partakes in illegal drug activity. I ended up in the hospital after the first hour with what the doctors described as an aggressive case of chocolate poisoning.

For those who have seen Boiler Room, I can only imagine Wolf was dreamt up by someone watching that film while doing a bunch of cocaine and quaaludes. And then he decided, “What if the main character was as fucked up throughout the entire movie as I am right now?”

For those who haven’t seen Boiler Room, Wolf is a movie about an ambitious young stock broker, Jordan Belfort, who finds ridiculous success in the 1990s by participating and then running an illegal stock brokerage. He and his colleagues make such a crazy shit ton of money that they can afford to throw parties with booze, drugs, midgets and hookers almost nightly. And then the FBI starts investigating them and the whole damn thing unravels.

A few interesting notes from the different Wikipedia pages I explored in order to research this movie:

  • It’s categorized as a black comedy. The plot description I just gave you might not sound like there’s any humor, but trust me, this was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
  • It is now ranked atop all movies in terms of how many times the word “fuck” is used (unless you count a documentary named Fuck–A documentary on the word).
  • After you’ve seen this movie, you’ll think there’s no way in hell what you just saw actually happened. But my look into the real Jordan Belfort revealed that almost all of this insanity did take place, without much exaggeration by Martin Scorsese, the film’s director.

My biggest problem with the movie is its three-hour run time. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • 1st hour: Possibly the finest 60 minutes in movie history. Never laughed so hard.
  • 2nd hour: A solid story of your classic rise and fall of an extremely flawed characte (lots of similarities to Blow).
  • 3rd hour: Atrocious, heavy, slow and loooooooong, ultra-depressing.

So if you only have two free hours but really want to see this movie, go for it. You won’t miss a thing.

And that first 60 minutes, the funniest hour in movie history, is anchored by the single greatest scene in movie history (from a comedy standpoint). For those of you who have seen Wolf, I’m talking of course about the lunch date between Leo and Matthew McConaughey. There’s no way to explain what goes on except to say that McConaughey’s character baptizes DiCaprio/Belfort via an extremely strange ritual. These five minutes alone are worth the price of admission.

You should see this movie if: You want to see some of the funniest yet craziest shit any movie has ever tried to pull off; you (like me) have seen every movie Leo’s ever been in minus The Man In The Iron Mask; ditto for seeing every Scorsese movie; if you love McConaughey, even though he’s only in the movie’s first 45 minutes; you love films about excess, flawed characters and an epic crash & burn; you’re able to take serious subject matter lightly.

You should not see this movie if: Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? If the drug-fueled exploits of a womanizing criminal isn’t your cup of tea; if swear words, specifically FUCK, make you uncomfortable; more importantly, if copious amounts of breasts and vaginas on the big screen make you uncomfortable; if you don’t like to see bad people prosper; if you or someone you’re related to got jobbed by the real Jordan Belfort’s fake brokerage in the 90s; if you hate humor; if you’re a super serious person who can’t take a light approach to an immoral film.

While the final third of the movie is nearly unwatchable, I’m still giving Wolf of Wall Street a 7.5 out of 10 on the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS) because humor triumphs over boring tragedy in my opinion.

When I returned to work from Christmas break, several of my coworkers had seen both Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle. All of them agreed that Wolf was significantly better. Those people are certified morons. If you’re choosing which Oscar-nominated film to see this weekend between the two, please do yourself a favor and see American Hustle. But sometime shortly after that, go see Leo play the Big Bad Wolf.

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.

Movie Review: Gravity (A Must-See in 3-D)

gravity2

So what’s the deal with that movie where Sandra Bullock is floating around in space? You know, the movie whose previews have given us nothing beyond “Sandra Bullock is lost in space.” The one that George Clooney’s rumored to be in even though you never see him in the previews or on any of the movie posters.

For my benefit and yours, I went to check it out this week in my favorite time slot: Tuesday afternoon, where I’m joined at the theater only by retired people and criminals trying to duck out of the public spotlight for a couple hours.

The movie is a sci-fi/thriller called Gravity. It stars Sandra Bullock as a bio-medical engineer making her maiden voyage into space to fix part of the Hubble Telescope. If a movie about things gone wrong in space automatically makes you think of Armageddon, then Bullock would be playing the Ben Affleck role. And that means George Clooney is channeling his inner Bruce Willis, playing the old grizzled veteran making his last expedition and helping the scared protege get through a rough first experience.

Gravity is actually nothing like Armageddon, so please don’t be scared off by that comparison. One blockbuster that I’ve heard people comparing it to is Castaway. That makes a little sense because both films start off with an unsuspecting person getting stranded in an unknown, almost unsurvivable place. But the similarities end there. While Castaway overwhelms us with the human side of the story—Tom Hanks’ primal struggle for survival on an uninhabited island with no companion and no real hope of returning to his loved ones—Gravity overwhelms us with the brilliance and tension of being lost in space.

To put it another way, we don’t care as much about the characters and what’s in store for them if they get home safely in Gravity as we do in Castaway.

Instead we focus on the in-the-moment plot. Is the satellite debris going to hit their shuttle? Does the escape pod have fuel? What happens when her oxygen runs out?

And the best use of 3-D I’ve ever seen…we focus a lot on that too. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best 3-D movie I’ve seen from a visual standpoint. Yes, better than Avatar. It’s just the perfect movie for that technology. If you have the option to see this movie in 3-D and you choose not to, I hope you regret it for the rest of your life.

You should see this movie if: You loved Apollo 13. You enjoy suspension-filled thrillers. You are OK with a little “odd couple buddy adventure” mixed into your serious movie. You’re obsessed with all things Sandra Bullock. You seek out movies that are visually captivating. You appreciate a movie whose broad subject matter can be whittled down and focused on just the important 90 minutes. You want to see 3-D used on the exact right movie.

You should not see this movie if: Getting a full cavity search sounds more pleasant than sitting through a sci-fi space adventure. You couldn’t care less about 3-D and the visual aspect of a movie. You have it out for Sandra Bullock and think she probably drove Jesse James to cheat on her. You know you’ll obsess the whole time over which plot points are realistic and which aren’t (for example: Is it realistic that an astronaut would be able to use a shuttle’s backup landing thrusters to propel her nearly 100 miles to a very specific landing spot on the Chinese Space Station? I don’t know and I don’t care).

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it an 8 out of 10. Without the 3-D component, it might merely be a 6 out of 10.

Speaking of 3-D, it turns out they accidentally showed us the first 20 minutes of Gravity in 2-D, but no one had spoken up or complained by the time a theater employee announced that they were restarting the movie in 3-D. How does no one in a group of 30 people complain about this screwup? You’d think people had to notice it. There’s a pretty big difference between the two viewing experiences. What’s my excuse? Well I hate admitting this, but when I was growing up I could never do those “Magic Eye” optical illusion things. I’d stare at them in the mall for hours and would eventually start crying when I couldn’t see the 3-D image like all the other kids (it was always a stupid fucking dolphin in the middle of the poster). So even though those first 20 minutes of the movie looked off to me, who was I to speak up? The guy who can’t even see a hidden image that most 3rd graders can figure out was going to complain about not being able to see the 3-D movie? And risk being told that it is, in fact, in 3-D already? No thank you.