The Other Woman (2014)

The Other WomanReleased: April 25, 2014. Directed by: Nick Cassavetes. Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton. Runtime: 109 min. 

The Other Woman is a story about strange friendships and adultery. It raises ideas that monogamy just never works out, and one character is legitimately surprised that Carly (Cameron Diaz), is sticking to one man. Nicki Minaj is occupying one of those secretary roles who are moral compasses for their boss even though this one has questionable morals. She doesn’t consider it cheating if the partner is a fat Canadian with no sexual charisma. Minaj’s character Lydia isn’t featured prominently (she’s present for three or four scenes) so we should count our blessings for that. Minaj’s comedic delivery needs work. I might be treating her unfairly because I hate her. I must admit that she’s a talented rapper, though. Anyway, the film follows Lydia’s employer Carly who is dating a great guy named Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is good at playing the falsely charming douchebag), or at least she thinks he’s a great guy. When she finds out he’s married to Kate (Leslie Mann), they become friends, even though Diaz says they better not braid each other’s hair and drink cosmos. Don’t they know tequila is a gateway drink to that sort-of bonding? They set out on a slow-moving plan to put Mark in his place, in traditional ways – sometimes to the sound of the Mission: Impossible theme.

nicki-the-other-woman

My response to the humour that REALLY missed

This is a chick flick through and through, one that firmly believes men suck. On paper this could be some decent entertainment, because I like movies like this once in awhile – and I think the director, Nick Cassavetes, is talented. But this is his worst film to date. He’s no stranger to the so-called chick flick – director of My Sister’s Keeper, which could be tagged as one – but he is a stranger to comedy. He directed it well enough to get a counted six laughs from me, but half of those are because I’m a sucker for poop jokes. It also relies on other gross-out “gags” which are more gross than funny at all. That’s most notably the fact that Kate’s huge dog (who, in a running gag, has huge balls) is shown taking a shit on Carly’s carpet. (This is not the poop joke that got a big laugh from me, I assure you.)

That’s just a little taste of the grossness. There’s different comedy styles for everyone – gross-out-jokes, tame raunchy jokes, slapstick humour and jokes that just aren’t funny. In the test screenings, one would think they would have checked which one the audiences reacted the most to – and leaned towards one style, or at least tried to make all of those styles funny. This might be funnier if it got an R-rating. It’s essentially an awful version of John Tucker Must Die, where the cheating monster is married instead of just a guy in high school – and the victims are mid-20s to middle age. If it were made to be an update just with older stars – wouldn’t it make more sense to make it with an R-rating? A better writer than first-timer Melissa Stack would help, too. Too often the humour misses, and the film is too often extremely boring and predictable. The film’s also bereft of any romance that feels natural, which I think is odd for Cassavetes, director of The Notebook.

Haha nope, he won't notice us...

Haha nope, he won’t notice us…

The “comedy” that gets tailored for Mann’s talents is unfunny crying (because her husband is cheating on her) a nonsensical bit of why her husband shouldn’t eat bacon, and a thing where she wants to go to brain camp to become smarter. She really needs it since she doesn’t know it’s called college. Mann does get one big laugh. A cast member that is enjoyable is Don Johnson, even if his presence feels random. Cameron Diaz is here because of her charming smile, but she doesn’t muster any big laughs. She’s sexy but the sex appeal is more-so Kate Upton’s boobs. Upton comes into the film a bit late, and that’s really when they start sabotaging Mark; which makes the pacing issues more obvious, as she doesn’t appear until at least an hour in.

This is a brutal attempt at comedy with characters that you just won’t care about. Mann’s character is a somehow more whiny version of her character in Knocked Up, but at least that film is funny. Diaz’s Carly is a bit too unlikable at times, even with that lovely smile, as she practices tough love. It’s sometimes nice to see the plain lawyer, who seems to dedicate all of her time to this operation, open up to these people, though. Upton’s Amber is cute, she says cute things like “Let’s kick him in the balls!” It just seems to me that she doesn’t have many brain cells in her pretty little head. She can join Kate at “brain camp.” And while they’re there, Cassavetes and writer Melissa Stack can go to comedy camp.

Score: 38/100

Divergent (2014)

Divergent...Released: March 21, 2014. Directed by: Neil Burger. Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd. Runtime: 139 min.

Timing’s an important thing to consider when releasing any movie. With Divergent, one must consider if we truly need another post-apocalyptic YA novel adaptation while The Hunger Games still reigns supreme. I think it makes it easier to compare them, even though they’d still be compared if this were released after Hunger Games concludes its franchise. Perhaps by 2015, this wouldn’t be as successful – it seems people are already feeling fatigued from all of these post-apocalyptic young adult novel adaptations.

Divergent follows Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) whose identity crisis begins when she learns she’s a Divergent, which are members of society who don’t fit into the five factions of this dysoptian Chicago. They threaten society because they’re impossible to control. The film is basically about how Tris is going to fit into society, and she has to pick a faction to become a functioning member of society. She chooses Dauntless, and meets her mysterious boy toy Four (Theo James), and together they must find out the secret of Divergent’s before it’s too late.

Now, I’ll briefly describe the factions. The Amity are farmers who portray kindness. The Abnegation (Tris’ faction of origin) the governing faction, portray the trait of selflessness. Thinking of them Amish, since they don’t believe in vanity, might be a good way to remember them. The Erudite’s trait is intelligence, represented by Kate Winslet’s character. The Candor are brutally honest people who say whatever’s on their minds, so I call this faction the No Lawyers Allowed club (geddit?). The Dauntless, the faction Tris chooses, work as the police force – and their trait is bravery. I think of them as major adrenaline junkies. It’s funny that we’re already seeing Divergent personality tests across the web. (Apparently, I belong in Abnegation or Erudite.)

Anyway, the government believes that by dividing people into factions they will be easier to control, because they can only obtain one basic personality trait and do what job best suits them. The government doesn’t allow them to exercise free-will, either. I think it’s better portray all personality traits, but that’s a no-no, apparently. A lot of this film goes against basic human nature, especially the ‘faction before blood’ mindset. Screw that – my family comes first. The film brings about themes of fear, conformity and individuality, and the writers’ thoughts about these themes are mildly intriguing.

Divergents are also threatening because, since fear wakes them up, they’re a threat. I like the idea the idea of how one must choose their path at an early age (Tris and her brother choose the same day, so it seems it’s between 18 and 21 years old), no takesies backsies, even if they grow as people and change. (A single drop of their blood drops into the faction bowl of their choosing, so that’s official.) Do you choose to stay in your own faction and stay with your family or part ways? Do you really know your true identity at 18 years old? That’s one of the film’s most fascinating aspects, and the most compelling idea the film has. Though, The Lego Movie is a better exploration of conformity out of 2014 films.

I think this would be a good time to get the inevitable comparisons to The Hunger Games out of the way. I think this film’s Divergent member of society is “Hunger Games‘ Mockingjay. Both of these films are essentially about dysoptian futures and overthrowing the government. I think Tris Prior is a more likable protagonist than Katniss Everdeen, but not a stronger character overall.

Katniss is great, but too Condor-ish to be completely likable. Then again, that’s the point but it makes it so much greater when she shows her vulnerable side. Tris is a good character who stands up for her beliefs and other people, which sometimes brings attention to her when she’s trying to show that she’s someone in society who isn’t hard to control. Woodley portrays her well and heart-warmingly in a few scenes. I think her bravery’s admirable, and I’m curious to see how some of her decisions affect her in the sequels. Woodley, a dynamic actress, has a lot of personality. It seems to me that a challenge for her as an actress would be to be antagonized by a character portrayed by Miles Teller (playing yet another douche), who she has a close friendship with – and was his romantic interest in last year’s “The Spectacular Now.” She seems honestly hurt by some of the things she says, and I like that vulnerability.

As for Theo James’ Four, the character is described as “mysterious” but it feels more like “he’s mysterious because he’s under-developed.” James is forgettable in his role, and his character isn’t anything special. I think the chemistry shared between him and Woodley is believable, but he’s not that great. He’s just there because of the way he looks, sorry for being too much of a Condor with that one. Everyone’s pretty well-cast, from Ashley Judd to Ansel Elgort, but it seems that a lot of these actors just have so little screen time, especially Maggie Q who just gives Tris a tattoo and monitors the dream tests. One antagonizing character is Jai Courtney, who just takes pleasure in bossing people around as a trainer in the Dauntless faction, but he’ll get on your nerves after awhile. So much time is spent in training to be a Dauntless that there’s not much time for anything else. This is really just an initiation film to introduce the characters. I assume the fact that they only foreshadow that there’s something lurking outside the city’s walls suggests they will explore it further in the sequels.

I think the finale is underwhelming, but Neil Burger (who doesn’t bring much style to the film) really does direct the action-packed finale well. Throughout the film, there are a lot of dream sequences, and there’s a serum that allows one’s images in their head to be portrayed on a monitor; I want that serum, because I’d love to rewatch my dreams. There’s another futuristic invention where it doesn’t hurt to get a tattoo, so since I don’t like pain that’d be nice – I could get the Bugs Bunny tattoo I’ve always wanted. There’s a very fun game of Capture the Flag with guns that simulate the pain of real bullets (it makes me think of that paintball version of CTF in Child’s Play 3) and a crazy zip-lining sequence that enables some great imagery and cinematography to take place. The score also fits the film like a glove. Technically speaking, this all looks great – and it’s epic in scale – but only a stern pretty good in many other aspects.

Score63/100

Pompeii (2014)

PompeiiReleased: February 21, 2014. Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland. Runtime: 105 min.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson steps onto new territory for him with “Pompeii,” after directing a deadly fast car race (“Death Race”), aliens and predators (“AVP: Alien vs. Predator”) and mutated creatures (three of the “Resident Evil” movies). “Pompeii” has been described as a mix between “Gladiator” and “Titanic.” A good marketing statement considering those are both Best Picture winners; and successful at the box office, “Titanic” being wildly successful. It’s easy why people might think of “Gladiator,” because there are indeed gladiator scenes and it follows a gladiator; its “Titanic” connections are because of the class differences between the two lead love interests, and because this is a disaster film. But you know, this really doesn’t have as much Oscar potential as those two films.

Milo – a.k.a. The Kelt (portrayed by Kit Harington) – is a slave-turned-gladiator who comes to Pompeii to entertain the people with a fight to the death. He finds one thing in Pompeii that he was not anticipating; the love of the Princess of Pompeii, Cassia (Emily Browning). Cue the love triangle because corrupt Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) has his eyes set on her hand in marriage. Milo soon enough finds himself in a race-against-time to save Cassia, risking his life as Mount Vesuvius erupts, as Pompeii crumbles around him.

The fact that the relationship between Milo and Cassia is described as true love is funny considering the little they actually talk to each other. Because of that, this feels like a Disney fairy tale romance, but not particularly the charming kind. At least the relationship in “Titanic” is believable because they spend a lot of time together (enabled by the film’s runtime), but the couple here probably share twenty minutes of screen time; an hour or two real time. They’re likeable enough, but their chemistry is only okay because of that. Kit Harington is good in his role, as a slave-turned-gladiator who is the last of his villagers – the Horsemen. When he was young, he witnessed his fellow villagers be killed by Romans. Because of that his motivation is revenge, his love for Cassia, and survival. I can see some action movie star potential in him.

Emily Browning is good as Cassia, too; the pretty Australian portraying an independent woman who is put in an awkward position having to choose between an unhappy life, but good one where she’d get all she wants, with Senator Corvus; or choose a happy life with Milo, even if it doesn’t have guaranteed economic greatness. Love still seemed simpler in 79 A.D., at least the falling in love aspect of things. I mean, they hardly know each other; she’s just amazed by his kindness, and Milo sees a beautiful, independent woman. All just have to question the realism of the fictionalized romance.

Kiefer Sutherland sports a weird British accent that’s unidentifiable and inconsistent (mostly when he projects his voice) but he’s pretty good as the villain. Corvus came to Pompeii with plans of investing in the city of Pompeii, and he just happened to run into Cassia after they met in Rome. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway, Jared Harris and Carie-Anne Moss are patriarch and matriarch of royal family of Pompeii. The cast’s a good ensemble. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (TV’s “Lost”, “The Bourne Identity”) portrays Atticus, a fellow gladiator in the town of Pompeii who is one fight away from freedom. Freedom and survival is his drive, and I think he is the most interesting character out of the bunch. It’s funny, that even in non-prison movies – when a new gladiator (Milo, said to be the best) is on the block, he always gets challenged by big brutes. I find it funny.

The characters are fictionalized because the historical accuracies are based on a first-hand-account by Pliny the Younger. He couldn’t know these characters, and the relationship developments are so tailored for the big screen they couldn’t be true. I’m not saying the characters are bad, I’m just saying that if they didn’t have them, the volcano eruption would just be depicted on the Discovery Channel. People are coming to see this because it’s a disaster film with blockbuster visuals, great production design and sets that are built just so they could get destroyed; woo-hoo! It has one of the unwritten rules of disaster films; if the floor is crumbling, a character has to jump over it in a car (a horse in this case) in slow motion. I don’t think W.S. Anderson could resist doing that.

The gladiator scenes are actually exciting, too, sometimes brief – which I’m a fan of because if it’s a lesser villain against a main character, the audience knows who will win – so it’s nice that those fights don’t get dragged on. The editing during those scenes is good, not too quick and during some fights there are far away shots which I like. The disaster aspect of this is exciting (but it isn’t a fun disaster film like “The Day After Tomorrow” because, keep in mind, this is true) and it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of the eruption by the end of it all; I learn there was an initial eruption on August 24, 79; and then another the next day that was much more powerful, even though in the film it’s depicted as a powerful one erupting, and then a few others eruptions as they try to escape. For the audience, the disaster aspect is about thirty or forty minutes I’d guess; in real time, this lasted about 25 hours.

Another inaccurate portrayal is that it only portrays Pompeii as the only city that’s affected; Herculaneum and Stabiae were also affected by the eruption, but only Pompeii is mentioned. And heck, I don’t even clearly remember the name of the volcano (Vesuvius) being said. The eruption is foreshadowed by the volcano bubbling, and by horses going crazy when earthquakes occur. In all, thirteen thousand people died from the eruption; and it all happened so fast, most citizens were cemented in place (because of the mix of rain and ash, turning them into statues so to speak) in their position until the site was uncovered in 1595, over 1500 years later! Fascinating, right? Anderson depicts this tragedy with accuracy as far as the disaster goes; using blockbuster visuals, a good score, and the great cast lifts a fairly weak surrounding story to good.

Score70/100

Her (2013) Review

HerReleased: January 10, 2014 (wide release). Directed by: Spike Jonze. Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson. Runtime: 126 min.

Love is sometimes a strange, but such a beautiful thing. Oftentimes, one can’t help who they love romantically – the heart wants what the heart wants, as some say. In “Labor Day,” Kate Winslet’s Adele falls in love with a fugitive (weird), and in “Her,” Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore falls in love with his operating system (even weirder). Yet, the dynamic in the sappy former has been done to death; the dynamic in “Her” is quirky and charming, and totally new. This film follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely writer in Los Angeles recovering from a recent divorce with his ex Catherine (Rooney Mara). Theo develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that is designed to meet his every need.

Theo’s operating system is named Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. In the ad for the OS1, it is said to not only be an operating system, but a consciousness. She’s an artificial intelligence with a programmed personality that is very charming. Since Samantha in new to the world, she has a refreshing perspective about everything – and she gets excited about all the little things, and she wants to know what it’s like to be alive. Sam may not have a face, but Johansson portrays emotions well with her compassionate voice, and the wonder that is apparent through it. I think the really crappy thing for Phoenix is that he actually doesn’t get to have a sex scene with, you know, Johansson’s body. If I were Phoenix, that’d piss me off to no end!

I think Jonze thinks of a creative dynamic to solve that whole no body problem. At least he doesn’t think of a similar way to “Movie 43,” where there’s a human version of an iPod called the iBabe, that’s a hot girl who plays music. And when a lonely guy buys it, and it’s a realistic hot girl, you know how that’s going to turn out. Let’s count our blessings this isn’t a story about that, and by the way all, I’m sorry to remind you of that bad film. Speaking of lonely guys, Samantha is a great thing for Theo because it seems to me the OS1 is a great way to reduce loneliness because these artificial intelligences are funny and they have charming personalities (that are based on personalities of programmers), so it seems like incredible company. Theo has also been in a bit of a dark place lately after his divorce (he is skeptical to sign his divorce papers because it further symbolizes a chapter in one’s life closing), and he hasn’t been having enough fun lately. He’s an everyday character because of his fear for real emotions, and he’s relateable – and he’s embodied so well by Joaquin Phoenix, and it’s a real joy to watch him experience new things with the help of Sam. He’s such a likeable character that you really root for him, even though he’s in a bittersweet romance that is way worse than trying out long distance.

Her 1It’s an uplifting story that love can bring someone out of their shell, and since he writes letters for couples; he gets way more into in his work when he is in a relationship. One would think such a likeable guy deserves love. The characters help the quirky film always entertain and often sadden, making it a great blend of romance, science fiction, drama and comedy. It’s a science fiction because of the artificial intelligences and futuristic technology and it’s a comedy because it makes the audience laugh a lot with its unique sense of humour. I think it has a great blend of drama and comedy, often blending the two genres (and adding in some intensity in scenes) and one might not expect the chemistry between a man and an operating system to be so great, but it truly is. Spike Jonze is the right person to make such a unique story come to life, because it breathes new life into all of these genres.

Another thing that helps bring this story to life is the incredible score that rouses emotions, a primary objective of film’s scores; and there’s some great music, here, too. It’s also brought to life by great editing, beautiful settings and cinematography. I think some people might be offput by this film’s great premise, because, admittedly, it is a bit strange – but myself, I was hooked when I first heard of it. It’s just so brilliantly original. One other character I haven’t mentioned is Amy Adams’ character, Theo’s best friend – a documentary filmmaker named Amy.

In one scene she is discussing an idea for a documentary about her mother simply sleeping, posing the idea that people are at their most free when they are dreaming (meaning we don’t have to deal with the real world,  and we take a break from it); Samantha also says a line where she wonders if her personality is just programming or if her feelings are real, which made me think of humans. Sometimes I wonder if people are legitimately feeling their emotions, faking them, or like they’re just on auto-pilot and going through the motions of feelings, if you see what I mean by that. It seems to me that technology is diminishing some of our social capabilities in that perspective, and technology is advancing so much that we don’t have to deal with human interaction as much as we used to; which contributes to Theo’s fear of real emotions. These two quotes are directly linked together, and Jonze uses them to make a smart and honest assesment of humans.

One other hidden meaning that I picked up on was that this whole human-operating system relationship might be a whole new sort-of sexuality (for a lack of a better word) that gets talked about around the office in hushed tones. Is this a new thing society will have to accept in the future, if this sort-of relationship ever comes about? Falling in love is said to be, by Adams’ character, a socially acceptable insanity; but could this be accepted by most? All I know, this premise makes for a thought-provoking, original and special film.

Score100/100

Winter’s Tale (2014) Review

Winter's TaleReleased: February 14, 2014. Directed by: Akiva Goldsman. Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe. Runtime: 118 min.

“Winter’s Tale” is a story about destiny. It also has spirit guides in the form of flying white horses. That’s the first hint that it has a larger focus on the fantasy aspect of it, and it’s almost like a fairy tale with all of its themes. There’s an idea proposed that when people die, they don’t go up to Heaven per sé but they go up into a place in the sky, where their souls become the stars that we see at night. The film also proposes the idea that everyone has one miracle within them to give to someone else. This is the story of Peter Lake’s miracle.

Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is an ordinary thief who is running from a mob of fancily dressed folks at the beginning of the film, led by Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). He escapes them by hopping on a flying white horse and proceeds to wander the streets until his fancy horse stops in front of a big house. He decides to go into the house with intentions to rob the house, but instead falls in love with a young dying heiress who lives there, named Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). He loves her deeply and when he learns he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.

The film also expresses the idea that light connects everything. The dying heiress Beverly in one scene is talking about this in what at first seems like a crazy daze, that the sicker she gets she sees that light connects everything. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, is why some might ask “What are you going on about?” The villain of the film also likes light, a master thief who really likes pebbles and fancy stones. It’s because when he puts the dish full of pebbles against the window it makes a funny holographic psychic shape… Or something like that? Anyway, some might legitimately think he’s a tall leprechaun because of his fascination with all the valuables, and since there are flying horses, it wouldn’t be far-fetched for him to ride a horse to the end of the rainbow.

Pretty colours! Pretty colours!

Pretty colours! Pretty colours!

Well, he’s not a leprechaun but he’s a demonic evil boss that you certainly wouldn’t want. The higher power he works for is played by a surprise actor one wouldn’t expect in the role, but do yourselves a favor, and if you wanted to be surprised, don’t browse beyond principal cast of the film on websites. Pearly leads his large group of other fancily dressed thieves who wear suits and those black bowl hats, the ones that Charlie Chaplin would wear. He’s a god-awful villain who has been “blackening souls and crushing miracles” for as long as he remembers. Crowe is a really good actor who makes do with the laughably bad dialogue he’s given; and he deserves praise for delivering some of his lines with a straight face. But I do wonder why he didn’t question the silliness of head-butting Farrell repeatedly in the face. He’s in this sorta bounty hunting business again after his turn in “Les Miserables,” but at least he didn’t have an awful accent in that one, but we should be thankful he’s not singing his stupid lines in this one. Why these folks want to crush miracles and have such a problem with goodness happening isn’t really explained. But all we have to know is this guy is evil and he has a bone to pick with Peter Lake.

They might intend to capture our hero, but don't they look dapper?!

To capture an enemy, you must dress well.

The way it shows good vs. evil is through, at least one way that I picked up on, the different colours of horses. Peter rides a white one, Pearly has a black one. Anyway, the romance between Peter and Beverly is heartwarming; but it’s elevated to another greater level by the performances given by Farrell and Findlay. The disease Bev has is consumption; and she can never let her body heat get too high. It’s a bit of a pity that their romance is great and that the story in general can be so laughably awful. I found myself laughing in scenes that were supposed to be serious, but it’s so poorly written many can’t take it seriously at all. This is one of the most unintentionally funny films I’ve seen in the past few years; so if you want to see it for a laugh, give it a shot. There are five occasions where, even though it’s not a comedy, I was laughing my ass off – and I mean, when it’s laughably bad, it’s hilarious. There are some profoundly heart-warming scenes, but so much of this is profoundly stupid. I mean there’s some CGI effects that make people’s faces all evil-like and there’s one character who, when he’s finished talking, viciously turns off the light above his head. How silly. I think this is my early favourite for the “so bad it’s almost good” movie of 2014.

The idea that everything is connected by light is just too uninspired for me, and Pearly’s motivations to get rid of Lake are stupid and uninspired, too. There are some good aspects. I like the performances by Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay; I think their chemistry is electric. The cinematography for this part period-piece is quite great; but it seems like the authour Mark Helprin intended this to be a mythical New York, and it looks pretty ordinary to me. It seems like that is writer/director’s Akiva Goldsmith’s fault with that aspect. (I might give the book a shot, this seems like it’d be good in different hands.) The third act is heartwarming, and the film’s finest stretch.

This is where Jennifer Connelly’s character is introduced late in the film. The film starts in 1914, but Lake meets her in the year 2014 making the fantastical flick span a whole century. What Lake did for those one hundred years with no memory is what I’d like to know. Job interviewers would say: “What’s your name? Do you have any references?” He’d answer “I don’t know” to both, and never get hired. And what I’d like to know is if Lake is human or if he’s a supernatural being? And why does Lake have an Irish accent if he was raised in Brooklyn? Pearly’s accent surely couldn’t be influential if it’s so awful, right? These are things that would be simple to explain, but we never get that convenience.

Score50/100

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

Labor Day (2013)

Labor DayReleased: January 31, 2014. Directed by: Jason Reitman. Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith. Runtime: 111 min.

Warning: If you don’t want to know a lot about the film before seeing this, there might be more minor spoilers in this review than my usual review. But I guess there’s always that spoiler risk when reading a review. Anyway, enjoy! 

Jason Reitman’s newest film “Labor Day” is set in 1987 in a town with a lot of nice landscapes. It follows Adele (Kate Winslet), a depressed single mother who has been divorced for a few years now. She’s both depressed about the divorce and about the fact that she feels as if she has lost love forever. Her depression has gotten so bad that she only goes out of the house for a monthly trip to Price Mart. Her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) is starting 7th grade on Tuesday and he needs a new shirt, and they might as well do their supplies run. It doesn’t go as planned when Henry runs into a wounded man (Frank, portrayed by Josh Brolin) who menacingly yet not-so menacingly demands a ride to their house. He ends up being an escaped convict – ruh roh! As police search the town for him, he takes refuge in their home and the mother and son learn his story while their options become increasingly limited.

There’s tons of drama and some suspense sprinkled on each day in an attempt to keep everyone interested. The suspense is practically just a lot of people visiting (especially for someone who’s practically a recluse!) in a town where the people can be perceived as helpful or really freaking nosy. Some of them don’t even knock before they come in. That’s inconvenient for someone who has a fugitive in their home. Since the suspense is so simplistic, and the story is so simplistic and predictable (for the first two-thirds, at least), it only rarely increases the heart’s bpm. To add to the drama and the attempted suspense, this is a cheesy romantic flick, extra cheese.

The depressed Adele sees Frank as a chance to love again. You know, because it’s statistically proven that Stockholm’s syndrome is nicest on labour day. Those leaves are just so dang romantic! And don’t get me started on the peaches! Oh the peaches! A kind neighbor (J.K. Simmons) brings by a whole basket of peaches and they can’t eat them all! They’re only three people; so what do they do? They bake a peach pie! The way Jason Reitman directs the scene with Brolin directing Winslet’s shaking hands running through the peaches is horribly reminiscent of that pottery scene in 1990’s “Ghost.” When it’s with pottery it’s okay, but when you’re guiding someone’s hand mixing peaches up, it’s getting silly. It’s not as awful as the scene where Brolin feeds Winslet some beans, though. Winslet has to be fed because she is tied up, because Brolin is still a big bad kidnapper.

Come on guys, it's baking time!

Come on guys, it’s baking time!

Brolin portrays a relatively kind character, for someone who was convicted for murder. We see his crime through flashbacks that are randomly shown throughout the film; it’s not as if it’s shown and then right after he’s waking up from a nightmare, and it’s not like he’s sitting down Adele and Henry and telling them what happened.

Frank teaches Henry how to do things that a father figure teaches their son. It’s nice that Frank tries to be a father figure, but it’s just a weird situation with so much attempted sweetness shoe-horned in here. Personally, I see Frank as one of those stepfather figures I’d want the hell out of my house.

I’ve bagged on this film a lot so far, so here are some things I liked about this. I enjoyed this one incredibly random character named Evelyn (I had to look that up because I don’t think they actually say her name in the movie) looked her up; she befriends Henry, and she’s just comic relief on random days. Tobey Maguire’s narration is also good; I think he has a good, calming narrative voice. Another good thing about the film are the performances; I think the actors are talented, but just acting in a different, but very strange film where the basic emotions are anxiety and depression in the beginning, and things get more inspiring and sensitive as it goes along. It’s always welcome to have these bursts of enjoyment in a slow-moving, bland snoozefest.

You might like it, but since I am not all that familiar with Reitman’s style, I could have easily confused this for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Yep, it’s one of those. Since we know love is such a sweet thing, there’s not much use for a flick like this. There are a few things I took from the film, though: 1) If you go to Price Mart often enough, you’ll pick up someone who’s a pretty good handymad; and 2) You learn a tip if you ever harbour a fugitive: You should keep him inside and not play sports with him in the backyard or do chores in the front yard; because it defeats the meaning of hiding someone.

Score: 40/100