Friday, February 28, 2014

Non-Stop (2014)

At this point, doesn't Liam Neeson seem way overqualified to be an Air Marshall? It used to be that he had a particular set of skills, but now it seems that he has every set of skills. If they ever did a celebrity season of Survivor, I'd put my money on him to win it all.

Bill Marks (Neeson) is manning a non-stop flight from New York to London. He's an apparent alcoholic, which seems to be a common character trait with flight films recently. This all comes into play later though. Shortly after takeoff, Bill receives a series of text messages saying they will kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes if $150 million isn't wired to an account.

He initially has everyone's cooperation, but it's found that the account is in Bill's name. This points all fingers and suspicion his direction, because I guess everyone believes Bill is dumb enough to hijack a plane and use an offshore account in his own name. You'd think that would be enough keep him in the clear, but his past and personal demons cast a cloud of doubt. Bill is desperate to uncover who's really behind this, with few people he can trust.

Non-Stop has an interesting enough premise and actually does a good job of building tension. Though it's all pretty standard thriller stuff where you are thrown constant red herrings. It seems that everyone has some kind of distracting character trait giving a reason to think they are the mastermind.

I found many of the characters annoying and rude enough that I entertained thoughts like maybe they should just shoot the plane down. As they board, you see the kind of self absorbed behavior that makes people hate flying and people in general. I was surprised they didn't have someone with a anxiety dog with them. Many refused to follow directions, while demanding they had the right to know what's going on. Nobody ever seems to consider that maybe it's best they don't know what's going when there's potential hijacking risk. Maybe you're guy he's looking for, so why should he tell you anything? Anyway...

The bigger problem is when we get to the conclusion it's wildly unconvincing and borders on the ridiculous. It's the kind of ending where they went too far out of their way to have an "original" motivation for the bad guys. It would have been a bigger twist if they just had basic goals in mind. Complexity isn't a requirement for a good thriller; you can still be relatively straight-forward. Why can't it just be about the money? Why do their actions have to make a statement?

There's also a terrible quick-cut, shaky-cam fight during this climax, which was a shame because earlier there's a fight that takes place in a bathroom stall that I thought was shot really well. More than a few things happen towards the end that had me shaking my head at how far-fetched they were. It's a shame the end subtracts so much.

Really the only reason to watch Non-Stop is for Liam Neeson. His commitment lends credibility and makes you take the film more seriously than if another actor had been cast. You get the wrong guy as your lead and you have another Passenger 57 on your hands. The rest of the cast is a waste, which is a shame because I love Julianne Moore and Corey Stoll. Stoll, in particular, was criminally underused. Fresh off her breakout role in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong'o has a small role, but isn't asked to do much either. I didn't even realize it was her at first. Only Michelle Dockery stood out to me, as she's the only person besides Moore that has much face time with Neeson.

Here's one weird nitpick. At one point, Liam Neeson puts his hand on the seat in front of him and there's a close up shot of his hand. It's a totally unnecessary shot, but the weird thing about it was that the close up was very likely of a hand model. If you notice his hands in any other scene, or pretty much any movie he's ever been in, you can tell the hands and nails didn't match at all. This isn't a knock on Neeson, as he's the kind of rugged man's man that wouldn't get a manicure. It wouldn't fit his character either. Just a weird shot since there was no need for it at all.

Non-Stop is a serviceable thriller that's watchable mainly due to the presence of Liam Neeson. It's the kind of forgettable film that's best enjoyed if you don't think about it too much. If you're all caught up on your Oscar flicks, and have nothing else to do, there are worse ways to kill two hours. I'd recommend saving it for rental though.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

Pompeii (2014)

Pompeii opens with a quote from Pliny the Younger as he witnessed the destruction at Pompeii. This the only thing about Pompeii I found genuinely interesting, but it's more because I'm a fan of Russian River Brewing. Beer aficionados all know and enjoy Pliny the Younger, and his uncle, Pliny the Elder, who actually died attempting to rescue people from Pompeii. A strong beer like Pliny the Elder or Younger is likely the only way you can get through or enjoy Pompeii, the latest masterpiece from director Paul W.S. Anderson.

The plot of Pompeii is basically a retread of Titanic, only Mount Vesuvius has replaced the titular ship, and then some half-assed gladiator and Roman junk thrown in. It's so packed borrowed ideas that I thought maybe Shia the Beef wrote it. Three people are credited with the "screenplay", where I imagine the writing session involved taking turns pulling movie cliches out of a hat.

It's not just the plot that's uninteresting, the characters are so forgettable and bland that some are barely ever mentioned by name. I had an easier time remembering them by names of other characters the actors played. Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is a slave/gladiator, whose most distinguishing feature is his abs, but that's not all there is to him. He's also a horse whisperer, which basically means holding a horse down while breaking its neck. This is how he meets Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who isn't at all shocked or turned off by watching a man kill a wounded horse with his bare hands. They fall in love instantly, even though Jon Snow is just a poor slave. However, Baby Doll is expected to marry Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who Jon Snow wants revenge on for killing his parents when he was a kid. Meanwhile, Jon clashes with another gladiator, Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), but they become best friends later.

I find it interesting the poster says "No Warning", when it seemed that they had plenty of warnings. In case you might forget that there's an active volcano in play, nearly every scene of the film features a shot of Mount Vesuvius or a loud rumble, sometimes interrupting dialog. It's nearly an hour into the film before Vesuvius erupts, so you have to squirm through the boring, tedious mess. You'll find yourself saying, "Can we just get on with it?" You care and feel nothing for these characters as they march towards their inevitable deaths. It's all rather pointless.

The effects, which you would figure to be the strong point, are also disappointing. Their quality is inconsistent, looking absolutely terrible at times. There's nothing about the destruction you haven't seen before in other disaster related flicks. There's even a scene of someone trying to outrun a shock wave on a chariot, similar to Keanu Reeves trying to outrun an explosion on a motorbike in Chain Reaction. The effect looks just as bad now as it did back in 1996. Only 3D was available to me, and I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear it didn't do anything for the visuals.

It's a waste of a decent cast having to play such wooden characters. I can't blame any of them, as it's not like they had much to work with. Like Carrie-Anne Moss is in the film, but it seemed the only point was to give her a less dignified death than Trinity had in the Matrix series. I'm surprised Anderson didn't just cast his wife, Milla Jovovich, instead. This is beneath Jared Harris as well. He's like Bill Nighy in that he's a good actor that always gets stuck in these lame action/fantasy films. Kiefer Sutherland seemed to be the only guy giving a real effort, but he has to be thrilled they are bringing 24 back so he doesn't have to take lame roles for a while.

I should have known the second I saw this was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson that I shouldn't have expected much. This is what I get for avoiding IMDB and Rottentomatoes before I see a film. I've often said that Anderson is basically Uwe Boll with a budget. Are his films profitable? Is he really easy to work with? I'm just amazed he keeps getting attached to films, and even more at the casts that star in them.

Even the soundtrack sounded borrowed, with parts having a familiar, Hans Zimmer feel. Some sounded lifted right from Man of Steel or The Dark Knight Rises. During the credits I noticed that one of the credited songs was from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which made me wonder if originality was any kind of goal or objective here. Yes, I did stay until the end of the credits, but that's because I wanted to make sure there wasn't some post-credit sequel stinger. You know we'd all be excited for Pompeii 2: Electric Boogaloo or Pompeii 2: Vesuvius' Revenge.

Combining the worst aspects of Titanic, any disaster movie, and the Spartacus series, Pompeii puts the "disaster" back in "disaster flick". Featuring a contrived story, mediocre special effects and forgettable characters, Pompeii can't even be enjoyed as a guilty pleasure. I can only advise renting this for a dollar, and then skipping ahead 60 minutes. Won't miss anything if you do this.

1 (out of 5) Death Stars

Friday, February 14, 2014

Robocop (2014)

You can count me among the people that weren't looking forward to this Robocop remake. Nothing against the cast or anyone involved, but I love Robocop. Like many of you, I'm growing tired of all the remakes and reboots, and if there was any film that didn't need a remake, it was Robocop.

That's not to say a remake couldn't be good though. There have been some good ones, but there's been some really, really bad ones. Fortunately, this new Robocop falls somewhere in the middle. While it won't make anyone forget the original, it stands up as a solid, but flawed, action film. It's far from the trainwreck I feared it would be.

A word of warning, while I'll avoid spoilers as best I can, there are certain elements I'll be bringing up in comparing the two. If you haven't seen the original by now, then shame on you.

From the opening moments, this has a much different setup and tone. Outside of a few main points, there's not that many similarities to the original story. OmniCorp (OCP) has been supplying robot soldiers that are deployed overseas, and have been successful in decreasing confrontation. They want to bring this to the US, but due to something called the Dreyfuss Act, robot soldiers are outlawed. Despite their efficiency, they aren't trusted by the public to deal with the human aspects of law enforcement. The CEO of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) decides that a cyborg police officer can be sold to the American public, bridging that gap and allowing them to overcome public opinion. Candidates are selected by lead scientist Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman), and it's just a matter of waiting for someone to "volunteer".

Meanwhile, Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and his partner Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams) are tracking down a local crime boss, Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow). After an attempt to get Vallon fails, Murphy is targeted by Vallon and severely hurt by a car bomb. His only chance for survival is the Robocop program, and his wife (Abbie Cornish) gives her consent to save him.

This was one of the aspects I was concerned about. In the original, Murphy dies and his mind is wiped. One of the main themes is Murphy remembering things about his past life, and slowing regaining some part of his identity and humanity. In this remake, Murphy remembers all details about his life. Everyone seems to be aware of the fact that he's alive, and not many are surprised to see him as a cyborg, as if it's not that big of a deal. He struggles a bit with what was done to him, but gets over it pretty quickly. I also found it odd that they mentioned a few times publicly that he had died. If you're trying to gain the public trust, do you want that face of that to be someone that's been brought back to life? Just say he was severely hurt in the line of duty and OmniCorp technology allowed him to resume his duties, only better. Otherwise people might think he's some kind of cyborg zombie.

Also, his identity can't be in doubt when he has a retractable mask that doesn't obscure his face. I thought the new mask and exposed human hand were going to bug me, but in the context of the film it works. Without it explicitly being stated, you can tell it was a conscious choice by OmniCorp to give him more of a human look to identify with the public. At times he simply looks like a guy in fancy tactical armor.

The aspect of regaining his humanity is replaced with one regarding the concept of free will, when it's revealed the Murphy's brain has been altered, so that he's not always in control of his actions, even though he thinks he is. There are also some interesting themes though regarding media and political manipulation. It's very serious, which leads to probably the biggest problem with the remake: it's too serious. When talking to a few random folks after the film, one consistent complaint was the lack of funny commercials from the original. It's missing the all the campy satire and goofy lines. While there are a few funny parts, this isn't a film I would call fun.

Another issue I had is the lack of a strong villain. The original gave us the awesome Clarence Boddicker, played perfectly by Kurtwood Smith. His performance is still quoted to this day. There's really no central villain in the current film. Antoine Vallon is totally underdeveloped and you never feel any consistent threat from him. He's practically an afterthought halfway through the film. The lack of a central villain is made worse by a very sloppy and rushed conclusion that felt like it was improvised as they went along. It's so poorly conceived that it almost ruins all the good things setup in the first half of the film. This is the weakest aspect of Joshua Zetumer's screenplay. It seems odd that they would try to reboot a franchise with someone's first screenplay. It would have been a good idea to bring in a veteran screenwriter to punch up the script and come up with a better ending.

I was happy they didn't shoehorn a bunch of references and quotes from the original. The updated, original theme song was a nice touch.

The effects are good for the most part, but there are a few times where Robocop looks a little too much like a CG creation, especially in some of the bigger action sequences. With all the black on black, you can't always make out what's going on. There were a few creative scenes though, and it always cool to see Robocop taking out bad guys. I've never seen any of director Jose Padilha's other films, but he seems to have a good handle on action.

There were a few times where I had a hard time telling if Kinnaman was in a suit or some CG/green suit creation. It's just not the same as seeing Peter Weller in a big ass robot suit, and you lose some that tangible quality. On a side note, I've always heard stories about how Peter Weller worked so hard on making his moves robotic that directors in other works had to remind him to stop walking like a robot or turning at 90 degrees.

Robocop boasts a very strong cast and is well acted across the board. As much as I like Joel Kinnaman as Holder on The Killing, I wasn't sure if he was the right choice for Robocop. He showed some surprising emotional range and he did a good job overall. It was nice to see a different side of him. Gary Oldman was his dependable self always classes any film up. Michael Keaton was a welcome sight after what seems like years and years of not seeing him in anything. Kind of an inspired casting, but he did well. I'd like to see him in more roles like this. I also thought Abbie Cornish did a good job. She's always come of as kind of flat in other roles, but I actually thought she was really showing some emotion this time.

Samuel Jackson has the most fun as Fox News type television show host. He has some of the few genuine laughs of the film. These were also some of the parts I also though were the most interesting, as his character was attempting to use his show to sway public opinion.

As it's PG-13, there's very little blood, no nudity, and very little swearing I could recall. I think it's suitable for teens though.

It doesn't have the same fun or subversive satire of the original, but the Robocop remake manages to be a solid action flick. It's well acted, has good special effects, and outside of a messy conclusion, is smarter than expected. If you can get past the aversion to remakes, and go in with an open mind, I don't think you'll be that disappointed. It's worth a matinee.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Lego Movie (2014)

It's been said that The Lego Movie is little more than a extended toy commercial. Even if I agreed with that, my general response to this is, "Who cares?" Legos are awesome, and so is The Lego Movie!

How rare is it that you have a series of toys that has stood the test of time. I played with Legos when I was a kid, particularly the generic 80's Space Legos referenced in the film, and decades later my nephews are playing with them. Only they have much cooler Star Wars and Superhero themed Legos. Plus, there's the great Lego video game series, too. Admit it, you've played them. I suppose it helps when you film is based on a product that has a broad, built in audience.

The basic story is a Matrix-esque hero's quest. When attempting to protect a weapon called the "Kragle", Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) warns Lord Business (Will Ferrell) of a prophecy where someone known as the "Special" will find the Piece of Resistance, the only thing that can stop the Kragle.

Later, we meet Emmet (Chris Pratt), an average guy with no special skills or qualities. While working on a construction site, he sees a woman, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), frantically searching for something. When trying to catch up to her, he stumbles down a hole and finds the famed Piece. He has a vision and shortly after is arrested by Bad Cop (Liam Neeson). Emmet learns of Lord, now President, Business' plan to use the Kragle to destroy the world. Believing Emmet is the Special, she rescues him and off they go to thwart President Business' plan.

It's almost hard to put into words how much fun is packed into The Lego Movie. There literally is a laugh a minute, with the gags coming in such rapid fire succession that it's easy to miss everything that's going on. Like many of the better animated films, the humor doesn't pander to a particular age group. There's something for everyone. At times you'll hear a big laugh from the kids, then maybe a handful of adults at something a little more obscure. They even throw in a subtle dig at generic sitcoms and pop music aimed at the masses.

As we get to the conclusion, there's a slight twist that gives the story some weight and makes it more than just about jokes and pretty animation. You'll look back on the film and realize that some of it's creativity, and even the simpler moments, are really more about the imagination of a child. It also reminded me of times where I would refuse to let my nephews take a Star Wars action figure out of the package, as to not ruin it's condition or integrity, when they simply wanted to play with it. Toys, especially Legos, are meant to be played with and inspire creativity, not sit on some old guy's shelf hoping it will gain value some day. Sure collecting has its place, but it helps to be reminded about their true purpose.

Despite Legos not having a ton of articulation, the animation is surprisingly fluid. There some very creative use of Legos to animate rounded shapes like clouds and water. There's some great Transformers type stuff, as well. This is also one of the few movies that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend seeing in 3D. The format fits the the vibrant images and animation well.

Where The Lego Movie really shines is with it's voice cast. As I've mentioned in previous animated films, it's a strength when they can cast recognizable voices, but they don't distract or take you out of the movie. While the cast is filled with big name stars, you're likely to not recognize many of voices until you watch the credits. Many I thought were impressions until I saw they cast the actual person. Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, and the rest are all great, but I think most people will remember Will Arnett's portrayal as Batman as the best of the bunch. He's absolutely hilarious, and sings the best Batman related song of all time. Charlie Day was also another standout as his voice fit his character perfectly. I think you'll see a lot of people quoting his, and other lines, from the film for a while.

Lastly, I have to mention the directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. These are the same guys behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, so they are really knocking it out of the park so far.

The Lego Movie is truly a great animated family film that appeals to the kid in all of us. It's smart, hilarious and features both great animation and voice acting. I know it's early in the year, but I can already see this in my best of 2014 list and easily my favorite animated film. I can't recommend this movie enough.

5 (out of 5) Death Stars


Saturday, February 8, 2014

I, Frankenstein (2014)

As I, Frankenstein begins, Frankenstein's monster (Aaron Eckhart) states that the cold does not affect him. I beg to differ with Mr. Frankenstein's Monster. In the immortal words of Mr. Freeze, "Everything freezes." I'm pretty sure we can still make a Frankenstein popsicle out of you.

This is one of the many times you'll need to shut your brain off to get through I, Frankenstein. Criticizing I, Frankenstein for being dumb is like complaining water has too much moisture. Can you really get on a dumb movie for being exactly that?

The setup for I, Frankenstein reads like it's straight from a video game, and if you take it on that level it's interesting enough. Demons and gargoyles have been fighting a war for eternity. Who knew that the gargoyles were the good guys; they're so scary looking. The demons want Frankenstein's monster because his existence shows that life can be created without a soul. Unlocking the secret to how he was given life would allow demons to reanimate bodies that can be possessed by the souls of descended demons, giving them the upper hand in the war.

The gargoyles save Frankenstein's monster from being captured by the demons, and he's given the whole rundown by the gargoyle queen (Miranda Otto). She names him "Adam", because "Jesus Frankenstein" was already taken, I guess. Adam wants no part in their war, but has no problem with killing demons that pursue him. Centuries of isolation has honed his fighting skills, and matched with his superhuman strength and durability, he's an undead weapon.

Maybe Kevin "General" Grevioux's (who also has a small role in the film) graphic novel explains their universe better, but in the movie too many things don't hold up to any kind of scrutiny. If you spend too much time thinking about them, which you shouldn't, your brain goes into a derp loop that lasts until it's over. Like the gargoyles get mad at Adam for killing a demon in plain sight of humans, yet they do this many times themselves. When demons and gargoyles die, they do so in blinding red and bluish white flares. Are these things invisible to humans? Plus, much of this happens at night, making it look like a fireworks display. I guess nobody noticed their several large scale battles either? The gargoyles live in this giant cathedral fortress in the middle of the city. Is that a church people can attend, or is it just some huge building that everyone ignores? And why does Adam have superhuman strength and durability anyway? Wouldn't a body thrown together from 12 others be inherently weaker and easier to hurt? Does he need to sleep or eat? Uh oh, it's happening again...derp!

With those colorful effects and fight scenes, its aesthetic is very video game-esque and I found myself wishing I was playing this game instead of watching a movie. I even mimed using a controller a few times on instinct. The special effects aren't the greatest, but the sheer number of CG creatures and brightness kind of covers for that.

Bill Nighy, as the leader of the demons, tries to ham it up as best he can in a somewhat scenery chewing performance, but the material is beneath him. The makers of this film must have compromising pictures of Aaron Eckhart somewhere, as that's the only reason you can explain his (and several others) appearance in this film. Eckhart grunts his way through the film for the most part, and doesn't look like he wants to be there. I feel the worst for Yvonne Strahovski as this probably isn't what she had in mind after five seasons of Chuck. I'm still holding out hope that someone at Marvel/Disney casts her as Ms. Marvel. At least she's going to be in 24: Live Another Day, so there's that.

About the only thing I'll credit the movie for is not going the obvious route and putting Strahovski and Eckhart in a love scene. Eckhart has a few shirtless scenes where she's patching him up, so naturally I kept waiting for them to kiss and then eventually have sex. Thankfully this is avoided entirely.

I, Frankenstein is a movie based off a graphic novel, that should have been made into a video game instead. Not that I was expecting much, but it's one of the dumbest movies I've seen in long time. It's deafening, dull, and unintelligible, but ooooh, bright colors!

0.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

The Monuments Men (2014)

I heard the working title for The Monuments Men was Monument's Eleven.

Okay, I didn't actually hear that, but that's the vibe I got while watching The Monuments Men. George Clooney assembles a team, albeit an older one, but still happens to include MATT DAMON, to steal back a bunch of stolen art from some asshole. Sound familiar? Same general story, different locale.

In this case the asshole was Hitler, who had the Nazis going around Europe stealing works of art. So, not only was Hitler a genocidal maniac, he was a selfish hoarder. A team led by Lt. Frank Stokes (Clooney) is tasked with finding, recovering and returning these works of art. There's also concern that Hitler will destroy it all when they lose the war (since this is based on true events, we all know it's not going to go well for Hitler). Plus, the Russians are also trying to loot the art for their own collection.

Joining Stokes' team is Bob Balaban, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bill Murray. It's a great cast and they play well off each other, but we spend so little time with any of them that it seems like a waste. I can't recall many movies where I felt like Bill Murray was underused, but it happens here. Everyone is off in smaller, two man teams, rarely spending any time together as a full group. We barely learn anything about the Men as a result. Much like I complained in Lone Survivor, I could hardly remember any character's name by the end of the film.

Matt Damon spends most of his time with Cate Blanchett, but can you blame him? I'd much rather spend time with her than a bunch of guys. Blanchett plays a French national working at the Louvre who also wants to recover the art, but doesn't trust Damon and the American's intentions. Like the rest of the cast, Blanchett was underused, and it's a shame to get someone like her and have her do so little. She's not even on the poster, so it's not like she was cast for her star power or box office draw. There's nothing in the role that they couldn't have just gotten a lesser known, French actress. This isn't a knock on Blanchett, but more the lack of development in the characters.  Nobody is really required to do any heavy lifting.

The Monuments Men also runs a tad too long. After many, many scenes series of them driving back and forth, going through various art caches, it gets a little repetitive. Some scenes felt totally unnecessary. The narrative is very scattered as it randomly jumps around without any rhyme or reason.

There's very little tension (again, we know how it's going to turn out), and many of the moments where they attempt to build some suspense are immediately diffused with humor. It's surprisingly light, despite being framed around World War II and people dying around them. There are many times where it tries to pull on the heart strings a little, but fails to connect and comes off as sappy, especially with the overstated score.

I can see how George Clooney was trying to make a statement about the importance of art as their grander purpose, but this gets lost in the inconsistent tone of the film. Of Clooney's directed films, this is the weakest I can recall and felt like more of a pet project where he assembled a few friends to make a film.

The Monuments Men assembles a great cast and is pleasant enough, but substitutes charm for a compelling story or characters. It's ultimately forgettable, but the kind of film you'd probably enjoy if you caught on cable when flipping channels. Nothing you need to rush out and see, but not that bad either.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

Saturday, February 1, 2014

That Awkward Moment (2014)

I don't have a ton to say about That Awkward Moment, so this may be one of the shortest reviews I've ever put out there.

It's not that I found That Awkward Moment particularly awful, but there's no plot, no real setup, and nothing happens.  The catalyst for the current situation is that Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) comes home, finds that his wife has been cheating on him and wants a divorce.  He seeks the solace of his buddies, Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller), who are living the single life.  They want to get Mikey back out there, but all vow that none of them will get into a relationship, which is just fine for Jason and Daniel, as neither one of them has any interest in that.  So how long before all of these guys find themselves in complicated relationships?

From that point, That Awkward Moment isn't much more than a mashup of buddy and romantic comedy cliches.  Again, it's not that it's terrible, but there's nothing original about it.  It really drags along as you wait for something, anything, to happen.

When you add that it's not particularly funny, it makes it that much harder to get through.  Even the one part of the film where you can tell they were going for the the big, funny event is all based on a misunderstanding that's taken to a ridiculous extreme.  It's one of the few "awkward moments" in the film.  Another one involving everyone walking into the same bathroom at the same time was so contrived that lost any believability.  What are the odds that three guys happen to walk into the same bathroom at a fancy house party at the same time?  Two of them had only arrived at the party just moments before.  Plus, nobody seemed to be interested in locking the bathroom door.  That will tend to lead to more awkward moments.  You could credit one of the characters for actually pointing the lack of door locking out, but a line of dialog doesn't explain how four different people committed the same behavior within a minute.

Tom Gormican's script, (he also directed), is very underwritten.  It's a shame, as the leads are all fairly charming and have good chemistry together.  I can't really fault any of the actors, as they did the best with the material.  There's just not a lot to their characters to really identify with, and nothing particularly distinctive about any of them.  They can pretty much be broken up into the following:

  • Funny guy that nobody takes seriously.  He's the first to get into a serious relationship.
  • Guy that's still trying to reconcile his previous relationship.  He can't get involved with anyone else until then.
  • Consummate player that's so afraid of commitment, that he doesn't recognize the good thing in front of him.

I'll let you guess who's who. Without even seeing the film, I bet you get them all correct.  Outside of some throwaway line about going to college together, we don't even know anything about how they met, or how long they've known each other.

It's interesting that two of the female characters had a lot more going on than the guys. Ellie (Imogen Poots) is an author that's getting a book published, and Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) is a musician, but neither of these are explored with any kind of depth.  Chelsea also acts as the guy's perfect wingman, and appears to have been friends with them for a while, but their relationship is never really defined beyond that.  Was she related to one of them?  Was she also someone they knew from college?

That Awkward Moment is a collection of cliches you've seen in other films, lacking any creativity or a needed infusion of humor.  However, its biggest sin is that it's boring.  If you happened to catch it on cable or rented it for a buck, you might not think it was that terrible, but I can't recommend anyone going out to the theater and seeing it.  Don't waste your time and money.

2 (out of 5) Death Stars