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

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The Lucky One (2012)

Lucky One, TheThe Lucky One

Release Date: April 20, 2012

Director: Scott Hicks

Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner

Runtime: 101 min

Nicholas Sparks’ films are just that old extended fable: love conquers all. This is just another one of his predictable, boy meets girl and then loses girl, romantic love stories. None have yet achieved the quality of The Notebook and this doesn’t even come close.

U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) arrives home from his third tour duty in Iraq, with a photograph of his own personal guardian angel: a woman he doesn’t even know. He goes home and feels he is not where he belongs; so he types ‘lighthouse’ into Google (because in the photo, she’s standing in front of a lighthouse) and he magically finds a correct match (among millions of Google images, that’s very possible). He walks from Colorado to Louisiana and he soon finds Beth (Taylor Schilling), the mystery girl. He gets a job working for her, and he starts building relationships with her, her son, Ben (Riley Thomas Scott) and her grandmother, Ellie (Blythe Danner), much to the dislike of Beth’s ex-husband, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson).

Oh, dear God, Nicholas Sparks! Stop it with these stories, please! And to the studios, stop adapting his works! Oh, I nearly forgot why they make this stuff… for the money and the target audience. The people who actually like this schmaltzy and schlocky crap: females of nearly all ages. Though, mostly, it’s teenage girls who like young attractive actors or actually enjoy the works of Sparks.

Anyway, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation is dull and uninteresting, but it’s a little better than 2010’s The Last Song. However, that is not an impressive feat. Sparks forgets to incorporate any sort of realism into this tale. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, Logan is able to track down Beth and get a job working for her. That’s done like a true stalker, right? The characters that Sparks so desperately tries to compose aren’t interesting at all.

Logan only wants to live out what he thinks his destiny is: being with her (how sweet…). He thinks it’s a sign from above, but he doesn’t even have the courage to tell her he found the photograph of her. Doesn’t he realize that’s going to blow up in his face? He must have watched some romantic flicks before he left for Iraq! Then, we have Beth. She’s a former teacher who’s afraid to get back into the dating game, or any game of reality, because of an overbearing Sheriff ex-husband. I’ll get to that scum in a minute. The son of Beth (Ben, portrayed by the not-so-cute-but-really-annoying Riley Thomas Stewart) is an uninteresting character that is afraid of coming out of his shell, but Logan soon helps him. That, in turn, warms Beth’s heart. Nana is probably the most interesting character, but she wasn’t really developed at all (she was there to offer some jokes). The characters are really that bad.

Now, for the ex-husband, Keith. He’s simply that over-the-top asshole that nobody likes. He wants to take the kid away, and every single word he utters is a speeding river of stupidity.

The Lucky One is a love story that has some concepts of destiny and fate thrown in it. That really doesn’t help the film at all. However, there are a few redeeming qualities, but not merely enough to allow anywhere near a passing grade. The lame movie is fairly well-acted by Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling. Blythe Danner is pretty satisfying, too. To complement them, there are many beautiful shots of the Louisiana country-side. The film also benefits from the complete eye candy that is Taylor Schilling. If only the ladies showed more skin in Nicholas Sparks flicks!

This basically gets brought down by its poor characters, lack of realism, its predictable premise and its poor storytelling. It gets tugged down about as much as Gandalf got pulled down by the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The main difference being: Gandalf kept fighting with great force; while The Lucky One gets a few half-hearted punches in, but it came nowhere near to tasting victory. Heck, this doesn’t even deserve a comparison to a film like Fellowship, but the comparison works well – so I just had to use it.

The Lucky One is the same old romantic tale that is made even more irritating by its very over-the-top and silly antagonist. It may be satisfying for its target audience; but for me, the only entertainment I found was the sound of my own voice offering a commentary mocking practically the entire feature.

30/100