"Gravity"

As anyone still willing to listen to me knows, I am not an admirer of Sandra Bullock. From her stilted, monochromatic style of acting, to her unfortunate rounds of plastic surgery, the woman once known as "America's Sweetheart" mostly just grates on my nerves.

I am aghast that Bullock was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this role. A statuette for her would cause me to seriously consider moving to Canada (that's what you do when you're outraged by an election result, right?). For that matter she didn't deserve to win an Oscar for "The Blind Side" either.

With all of this you may be surprised to learn that in this review I come to praise Bullock, not bury her. While her acting has not noticeably improved, this is a perfect role for her talents. She delivers a convincing performance as a NASA scientist on her first trip into space who has to fight for her life after a meteor mishap. And she's well-paired with George Clooney, who delivers the same jocular, brave, gotta-love-him routine that we've seen him do a dozen times before.

In all, "Gravity" earned 10 Academy Award nominations, an impressive feat for a solid film and a compelling reason to watch it -- though it is not the Best Picture of the year. But keep your expectations in check. It will not be as good on your iPad or TV as it was in the theater. Bullock's sense of hopelessness and the vastness of space that can be conjured up in a theater simply don't work as well in your living room or on your train ride home from work.


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The palpable fear the film generates makes this best for kids 13 and older. (PG-13: Language and peril). 1 hour and 31 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars)

Overall: 2 ½ stars

Kids: N /A

Teens: 1½ stars

Adults: 2½ stars

Seniors: 3 stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- intense space drama cleared for viewing.

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2"

I liked the 1982 book about giant food that rains from the sky, I liked the first animated movie of the same name and dadgummit, I like this sequel, too.

This time, the island of Chewandswallow is overrun with giant food that has come to life in a bizarre half-plant-half-animal mash-up. Our lovable inventor (voiced by Bill Hader) is recruited by a Steve Jobs-like technology guru (Will Forte) to return to the now abandoned island and stop this science experiment run amok.

The gags are silly, the plot twists are telegraphed a mile in advance and yet it's still a fun, sweet cartoon that you and your kids will enjoy. The standard-issue scenes of near-death are fine for kids at least 5 years old. (PG: Mild rude humor). 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars)

Overall: 2½ stars

Kids: 3½ stars

Teens: 2 stars

Adults: 2½ stars

Seniors: 2½ stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- enjoyable, wacky, family-friendly cartoon.

J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at jason@alderman.net.