The Movielife Has a Gambling Problem should make these boys stars. While the five-song EP is slight, it provides a glimpse of things to come. While some fans may be grumbling that The Movielife has picked pop over punk, abandoning its roots, the energy in these five songs can't be denied. The Movielife may not be anything out of the ordinary in terms of punk-pop, but they are unquestionably fun.
"Walking on Glass" opens things up and immediately sets up The Movielife's sound. The noisy guitars of Brandon Reilly and Alex Amiruddin, the simple drum beats of Evan Baken, and Phil Navetta's surprisingly subtle bass all support Vinnie Caruana's sung/spoken/screamed vocal style, singing lyrics like "and everything I said, I practiced in my head". It's an appropriate introduction, since this is about what you'd expect from a band of The Movielife's caliber, but it still has enough charm to make listeners interested in what is next.
While any of these five songs could be a single, "Hand Grenade" stands out the most. Although not a departure in sound from any of the others, "Hand Grenade" just seems to be a little bit stronger and a little bit more on the mark of the formula than any of the other songs. The assault of guitars/drums/bass all combine into perfect pop form, with a slightly slowed middle section and a half-second of silence. Caruana's voice perfectly captures the adolescent angst of lyrics like "you won't look at anyone but her and I don't think she's listening", all building up to the melodic finale as Caruana extends the last note before the song cuts off. At just three minutes, "Hand Grenade" is calculated emo-punk perfection, and sold to an eager audience, "Hand Grenade" would be The Movielife's breakout hit.
"It's Up to Me" neither makes much of an impression nor annoys listeners enough to make them skip the track. It has a feel of just being filler on the EP, which is unfortunate because The Movielife can't really afford to waste a moment on such a short recording. The ostentatiously named "If Only Duct Tape Could Fix Everything" does pick up on the promise of "Hand Grenade" and reveals a slightly softer (but just as deliberate) side to the band as Caruana sings, "I can't understand why I keep you around, but I can't, I won't let you down". If "Hand Grenade" deserves to be the band's breakout hit, "If Only Duct Tape . . ." deserves to be the b-side. If The Movielife Has a Gambling Problem only contained these two songs, it would be a short, but satisfying EP.
"Operate" closes the set, and the vaguely more melodic qualities of both the music and the vocals do move The Movielife a bit past its blatant punk-pop status. The band will never be Matchbox Twenty, but the range, however limited it is, that The Movielife manages to show proves that it has more going for it than surface impressions might allow. "Operate" concludes the EP with the promise that The Movielife is aware of itself, and it's the first and only song where the band seems to be entirely comfortable with the music it is making here.
As a departure from its former style, the title The Movielife Has a Gambling Problem may have some truth in it. The Movielife is taking a risk by moving its sound into one that is more pop-inspired, and while portions of the EP may seem created for the sole purpose of selling the band to the masses, this technique does work and the band's talent shines through regardless of its more commercial sound. People are going to take notice of The Movielife because of this EP, and that seems to be the ultimate purpose.