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.

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

This-Is-The-End

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.