This week we watched a sure-to-be Oscar winner, a wonderful haunted house movie, and Johnny Depp at his very hottest.
Why limit film reviews to just one a week? And why use a bunch of dang words? Can’t we give you the goods in one or two paragraphs? Now, with our powers combined (that’s Susan Howson and Ross Catrow), you can hear about a film currently in theaters, some Netflix streamers, and even an occasional DVD. More bang for your buck! And you don’t even have to provide any bucks!
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American Hustle (2013)
Director David O. Russell is on a mission to convince us that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are today’s geniuses of comic timing. Last year’s Silver Linings Playbook was excellent, but his 2013 offering is just frigging riveting. This film, about some grifters teaming up with the FBI to tackle their vague idea of corruption, is not technically a comedy. But its funny parts are SO funny that it makes me want to just be like, “You know what, we don’t really need to just shove everything into a genre.”
Anyway, think The Departed with the funny parts (you remember them, they starred Alec Baldwin) extended and intensified. Plus incredibly good performances, which Russell seems to inspire perfectly. –S
- Why you should see this movie: You want to see the Best Picture winner, because, guys, this may very well be it.
- Why you shouldn’t: You love bras, and you think everyone should wear one all the time. Pssh, welcome to 1978. There are no bras here, loser.
- Bechdel Test: There are two main women in this film, and their only conversation (while INCREDIBLE) is about their mutual friend, Christian Bale. There’s a very brief convo between two females about nail polish, but I’m not sure I want to give this movie a pass based on that.
Sharknado is what would happen if someone gave me $250,000 to drink 100 beers and then write a movie script. Honestly, it’s far better than anything I could ever come up with on such a limited budget: it’s got some CG shots of sharks fighting a helicopter and stars both Tara Reid and Ian Ziering.
Yeah it’s about sharks that are picked up by a tornado and distributed across Los Angeles, and yeah the acting/writing/effects are pretty terrible, and yeah they use a ton of stock (and cheap/free) nature footage.1 But it kept my attention, got a couple of real laughs, and really impressed me with what they accomplished given a pretty stringent set of constraints. —R
- Why you should see this movie: You’re interested in how to make a movie everyone in America knows about for only $250,000.
- Why you shouldn’t: You’re afraid of sharks and/or Tara Reid.
- Bechdel Test: Not unless some of the sharks were female sharks and you consider devouring someone as a conversation.
Dead Man (1995)
In this black-and-white thinkpiece by Jim Jarmusch, Johnny Depp MAY BE at his very hottest. It’s a crazy thing to think about, and if it were in full color, you might need to wear special Depp-glasses in order to preserve your retinas from his blinding beauty.
But I digress. This film is about letting your past die and accepting what lies ahead. It’s beautiful and mystical, but also funny in a Jarmuschian way (think Crispin Glover covered in soot and some jokes about Cleveland). Plus Gabriel Byrne! And Iggy Pop! –S
- Why you should see this movie: You take a lot of pleasure in watching a film that is good for you, but doesn’t punish you.
- Why you shouldn’t: You prefer explosions and a plot that moves at a rapid pace. This film will not deliver.
- Bechdel Test: There are two women in this film, and both of their purposes are to be a receptacle during intercourse. One of them gets killed for it. Not sure this could fail any worse.
The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring is another haunted-house tale out of the lives of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren—who have terrified residents of old homes since the original Amityville Horror in 1979. As with any century-old house, there’s bound to be some unpleasant history if you look hard enough, and for this particular house in Rhode Island that unpleasant history involves witches, murders, suicides, and other terrible things that like to possess adorable children. The Warrens are called in to investigate, and things go to hell.
Guys, I’m filled with hope for modern horror films! There was a time, a dark time, where you couldn’t catch a horror flick without sitting through two hours of realistic human torture. But now! Movies like The Conjuring (and House of the Devil!!) are wonderful things, and this one strikes a great balance between anticipation, reveal, and climax. —R
- Why you should see this movie: As haunted house movies go, this one is great.
- Why you shouldn’t: Your house was built in 1928 and you’re home alone for the evening.
- Bechdel Test: Yeah man, assuming demons are genderless—which I feel like is an OK assumption.
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- Brilliant if you ask me. ↩