That Awkward Moment (2014)

That Awkward MomentReleased: January 31, 2014. Directed by: Tom Gormican. Starring: Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller. Runtime: 94 min.

“That Awkward Moment” is a film about relationships. Its title derives from the film’s idea that in every relationship, there is a moment where one of the partners asks “Where is this going?” Often times, that moment can be awkward; but not when the guy already knows the answer. The film presents the idea that, when the moment comes, just get out of that relationship. Because, you know, screw comittment! Casual sex takes precedence! Go to bars, meet women, and build up a roster, so you can have sex every day of the week with a different woman. Apparently, we’re becoming more and more polygamous. There’s nothing like a chick for every day of the week. It feels as if this film is designed in such a way, it might work better as a very short book of tips.

There is a story here. Jason (Zac Efron) is a young gun living in New York who is in the book and magazine cover designing business. His business partner is one of his best friends, Daniel (Miles Teller); and his other best friend, Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) is a doctor. Mikey is in his mid-20s and is getting divorced from his first wife, Vera (Jessica Lucas). It sounds pretty rough, considering how young he is. She’s cheating with a guy who looks like Morris Chestnut, no less. Who looks like Morris Chestnut?! Well, Morris Chestnut looks like Morris Chestnut; and apparently this guy does, too. Anyway, the basic story is that, in support of their best friend Mikey, they make a pact that they’re all going to stay single. Yeah. RIGHT. They’re all going to say no to love. As with every romantic comedy, they all pretty much set their eye on a woman simultaneously, and then don’t tell their friends about their intentions because they don’t want to back out on the pact. Jason likes a new girl in town fresh out of college, Ellie (Imogen Poots); Daniel begins to like his wing-woman Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis); and Mikey decides to give things a shot with Vera, again.

The film has so many ideas about dating, but they use mostly generic characters to depict it. The idea they didn’t portray, was that it’s probably never a good idea to have a girl as your wing-man, because you’re eventually going to think, as far as films teach people, “Hey… I don’t like this girl picking up other dudes; she should screw me, instead, out of respect!” Granted, it does seem like an okay idea at first.

One thing’s that funny is that the film only has enough awkward moments that you can count them on one hand. I won’t spoil them all, but they’re there. Jason confuses Ellie for a prostitute when they first meet, and then leaves because he doesn’t have money for a hooker (Poots would be one of those high-end $1000 an hour hookers, I think). Some awkward moments induce crude laughs, but only one or two that are memorable. Another awkward moment that the film depicts is the miscommunication with all the texting, because if one person says “We need to talk” in a text, the other might just have instant anxiety. Communication is key, folks.

One final awkward moment that I detected is the fact that all the women have sex with their clothes on. Well, Poots is naked but she has her comforter covering herself. Yet, both Teller and Efron show their butts. Boo! I want female skin! For Efron, this film might just be used for him as a gateway film for cruder things, perhaps he is preparing us for “Neighbors.” He swears, he gets nude, and he screws, but there’s still a romantic under all that cockiness. At least his sex scene here is less awkward than that one he shared with Taylor Schilling in “The Lucky One.” He’s a character afraid of comittment, because aren’t we all once in awhile? He also gets depicted as the biggest douche in the film in some ways, something Efron isn’t the strongest at playing, and it’s a role usually reserved for Teller (at least with my experience with his roles). Seeing him as a nicer guy than his roles in “21 and Over” and “Project X” with the ability to actually respect woman in a way, enables me to like him a bit more. A bit. I don’t think I’ll see the star potential until I watch “The Spectacular Now,” however.

The acting is natural for a film that has awkward in the title, and the cast is pretty good. I fell in love with Poots’ performance here, and her charming presence is welcome. She’s playing the most layered character of the movie, an independent woman meaning to land on her feet and get her life going in a big city. All the actors are talented to some degree (Michael B. Jordan especially; and Davis is a pleasant surprise for me), but they’re just working with a script that is heavy on the romantic aspect, but the laughs can be counted on two hands and they’re far between each other. Not good for a comedy!

Score50/100

Advertisements

Re-review of Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldReleased: January 18, 2008. Director: Matt Reeves. Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller. Runtime: 85 min.

Dave over at Dave Examines Movies asked me some time ago to re-watch “Cloverfield.” He asked me to watch the movie in a different light; as he thought my score of 66 was a bit too low. I watched this on July 10th, I believe, when I was getting excited for “Pacific Rim.” I wanted to get a bit more excited for it, so I thought it was the best time to re-watch this, one of the only monster movies I own. I watched it with an open mind,

The film revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

It’s impressive to think that J.J. Abrams kept this project for what it truly was secret for so long (many thought it was another Godzilla movie), especially in a society where even J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym isn’t safe. It’s also an impressive directorial debut from Matt Reeves (“Let Me In” is a really good flick, too) and features some good writing from Drew Goddard. It’s rarely boring, and the movie doesn’t last too long — so that’s pretty good if the viewer isn’t liking it so much. I’m usually not a big fan of found footage movies, as I think a found footage flick gem comes around only so often (“Chronicle” is my favourite of the bunch), but the insane camerawork of this film captures the true chaos of this situation. They’re like real people, and this is a seriously terrifying situation, even if there aren’t many big scares. The tiny cast carries the film well.

This is a fun monster movie with a cool, you know, monster; even if I’m not sure I’ll re-visit it again after watching it twice. The ending is a bit too abrupt for my tastes, as well. Maybe I’ll have to check out some of those Godzilla movies soon, before that remake comes out next year. Admittedly, this does seem like a movie that gets better with each viewing, and it helps that I was in the mood for a monster flick.

Score75/100

Here’s my original review of “Cloverfield.”

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil DeadEvil Dead

Release Date: April 5, 2013

Director: Fede Alvarez

Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas

Runtime: 91 min

Tagline: The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience

Evil Dead might not be the most terrifying film you will ever experience, but it is one of the bloodiest, most exciting and satisfying horror flicks in quite some time.

Five friends go up to a cabin in the woods that has sentimental value, as they’d camp there all the time as tykes. This time, they have a more serious agenda. Mia (Jane Levy) is a heroin addict who plans to beat the addiction. To help her, lifelong friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), who is there to offer support, deem it necessary to keep her at the cabin, so she doesn’t overdose again in the future. Another force soon keeps them at the cabin, when the friends find the Book of Dead (left by witches and father of a possessed girl who was burned alive) and unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. When this evil is unleashed, the friends get possessed one by one until one is left to fight for survival.

Cue the quick-paced plot, chainsaws, gross-out gore, gallons of blood, dismemberment, heroism and total awesomeness. The wickedly amazing good news is: It’s a great remake. It’s also a great individual horror film that stands well on its own two feet (and sometimes, one). It also stands fairly well being inevitably compared to Sam Raimi’s original 1981 cult classic.

This stays faithful to the original, but even when we think we know how this all plays out — there’s an admirable amount of wiggle room for surprise, and amazing plot twists. The original opts for simplicity where the central characters are merely taking a vacation for the shits and giggles, while these guys have a real purpose. They’re leading one of their best friends down a dirt road to sobriety, but litte do they know they’ll be leading her down a road of demonic possession. One thing that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and why this proves sometimes being simple can be better, is… Why choose that one childhood shacky cabin in the woods to help a friend get sober? Why not take her to a more secure friend’s house, a nice four-star hotel in the tropics, or, hmm… A rehabilitation facility?

Some of the decisions of the characters are really rather silly, but that’s expected in this day and age. Some decisions aren’t as silly as some of the characters in the original, like when the gal who was molested by the tree willingly went outside to ask “Who’s there? I heard you!” The way the demons were actually summoned is a very idiotic decision on one of the characters parts. Eric can hardly resist opening up the book because curiosity is just strangling him. Despite the multiple warnings from the book like probably a spell that was designed to give him a nasty paper cut, or actual warnings on the very page he reads a passage from, he still says the coveted words. Eric, if you’re so goddamn curious, just read the Latin in your head. It isn’t the time to practice a foreign language, especially not that of an ancient book with strange writings and demonic rituals in it. Granted, if he doesn’t commit the silly actions he does, none of the happenings of this great modern horror would happen.

This decides to take the terror trail and sometimes treads on some gross-out campiness. Fans of the original might think blood spewing all over the screen is funny (mostly because it’s pleasantly awesome), but others could be grossed out or find it cringe-worthy. The witty demons get some of the laughs, mostly the one in the cellar. It’s also funny when the possessed friends try to convince the unaffected that they’re normal and harmless, and they fall for the conniving demons, hook, line, and sinker. Fan of the original or not, one should not trust any of the effective false senses of security.

This doesn’t mean to be campy, this is a remake and it stands proudly on its own. Some of it is terrifying when the more primary characters’ lives are at stake, or like when one of the gals is being raped by a tree. It’s one of those horror movies that relies both on some effective pop-out scares and a wicked atmosphere. The sound of speeding wind when the camera is rushing through the forest is still very spooky and effective, and it gives a chill to the bone. One thing that is admirable about this is the director’s choice to use practical effects instead of CGI-effects. This rarity is great because this is an age with movies like Life of Pi or even Mama, where the latter’s villain is entirely CGI. The effects that the filmmakers achieve here are endlessly impressive. Fede Alvarez’s decision to use practical effects is a great one, and he seems like a director everyone should keep an eye on.

The characterization is good, where it focuses mainly on the brother-sister dynamic between David and Mia. She feels like David has not been there for her the past few years, and this sometimes anti-hero uses this to her effective advantage throughout the feature.

The petite central cast of five people carry the film well. Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore don’t shine vibrantly, but the real carriers of the film are the other three. Pucci’s good as the brain of the operation, Eric. Fernandez has some scenes where he acts terribly, but he has other scenes where he is able to do a good job of portraying a concerned older brother. Because of this, he evens out to be just kind-of forgettable. Jane Levy gets her chance to shine in every aspect of the word as a sometimes anti-hero, and always an all-around bad-ass. Ash would most definitely approve of her.

In a nutshell: As far as horror remakes go, this is one of the finest in quite some time. This film has cool effects, a woman being sexually assaulted by a tree with a sex drive (try telling that one to a therapist), demonic possession, beatings, stabbings, and the usage of weapons like exacto-knives, nail guns, and, of course, chainsaws. If that all sounds like your idea of a good time, check this out; it’s one of the best 80’s horror films made in the past five years.

88/100

Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldCloverfield

Release Date: January 18, 2008

Director: Matt Reeves

Stars: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: Some thing has found us

Older review, written November 26, 2012. 

You all know how these found footage feautures work, right? Something attacks, everyone (probably) dies. Yup. That’s it, that’s all. That’s all she wrote.

Cloverfield revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

The cinematography is about as shaky as that of The Blair Witch Project. The story may not be that realistic, but it is still a pretty scary idea. Imagine this: You’re just partying, having a good time, and then there’s a crash outside. You go out to investigate, and there’s a big monster out there, and you think to yourself, “Holy crap! I thought I was in New York, not Tokyo!”

What if you get separated by your family and friends? You might not see them anymore because of this. That’s a scary thought.

Anyways, it’s action-packed and sort of thrilling, but at times it gets boring. I don’t dig these traditional stories that most found footage films offer. The formula is tired, and footage should just get sweeped under the rug for a little while. This one is just okay, but it brings a belief to so many other new filmmakers: “Hey, I could get a few million bucks and make my own movie… I’ll do that… It’ll be good…” No, young filmmakers, the joke’s on you! Once in a blue moon, a found footage horror flick is actually good. They’re usually bad, and you’ll probably produce that crappy one. So don’t. Please. At least for another ten years.

66/100

Did you know? The film begins on April 27 and ends on May 23 at the exact same time: 6.42 AM.