Zac Efron and Miles Teller play buddies and coworkers who seem to have it all goin' on. They're successful and a hit with the ladies. They don't want anything to do with a relationship and their biggest fear in life is when a woman says 'so, where is this going?' And Michael B. Jordan is their married pal whose marriage is on the rocks and he needs a little help getting back in the game.
Ahh, where to begin ... Well for one thing, the title is appropriate. This movie is filled with awkward moments, both intentionally and unintentionally. Some of the sophomoric humor is adequately amusing, but some of it falls painfully flat. I think it might have served the film to either go even more crude and consistently funny or a lot less crude and more romantic, because as is it falls awkwardly in the middle of a rom-com and a crass comedy.
As far as the story, you can see the character arcs coming a mile away. Spoiler alert: These hound dogs actually discover love and consider changing their chasing-tail ways. You'd have to be kind of a moron to not see that coming in the first 5 minutes actually.
But I think that most important to your viewing experience will be whether or not you connect to these characters. Personally I could not. Perhaps it's a generational thing and I'm too old, but these self-centered, arrogant man-whores and the sluts they get with, whose only thoughts in life seem to be about who they're going to bang next (despite having ultra-cool, hip, and financially rewarding jobs that miraculously don't seem to require any of their time or efforts) just got on my nerves. In fact, I kind of hated every character in the movie. Truth be told, I find Zac Efron to be pretty easy to hate. And Michael B. Jordan just seemed like a less fun Turk from 'Scrubs'. And while I loved Miles Teller last year, both in The Spectacular Now and 21 & Over, I think it's time to pull back the over-confident and arrogant but loveable Vince Vaughn-esque chatterbox thing and show us he has another side. It's called acting. But instead Teller ramped it up to the point of irritation.
So it probably sounds like I hated it. But no, I didn't hate it. Even with all of that said, it's better than a lot of the rest of the terrible January releases of late and at least provides a few laughs. Though I'm clearly not recommending it either. You're much better off revisiting Friends with Benefits or No Strings Attached.
Who is this movie for? Generation Z. Generations Y, X and older won't get it.
I'm a big fan of writer/director Jason Reitman. He knocked it out of the park with his debut feature film 'Thank You for Smoking' in 2005, and then rallied with two acclaimed and crowd pleasing follow ups, 'Juno' and 'Up in the Air'. I had the privilege of listening to him speak about the latter two in person, and I can tell you he is among the most interesting filmmakers I've heard speak. In 2011 he followed these films up with 'Young Adult', which received praise from critics, largely for Charlize Theron's fearless performance. And while I did enjoy it, I didn't connect with it as strongly as with his prior three. And now, though I hate to say it, 'Labor Day' is his weakest one yet.
Josh Brolin plays an escaped convict in need of a safe place to lay low. And he finds it with a lonely woman (played by Kate Winslet) and her son. But while the characters are earnestly portrayed, the relationship that results in this melodramatic Lifetime-esque romance aren't believable in the least. For one thing, the beautiful Kate Winslet just isn't believable as a lonely and agoraphobic woman who has no options in her life for love. One can only suspend one's disbeliefe so much. And her eventual feelings towards her captor just don't feel based in reality, and the whole notion of this sensitive and fatherly/husbandly-figure of a fugitive seems to come right out of a romance novel. True romantics might enjoy this as a modern day fairy tale. But the realist in me doesn't buy it as believable for a second. Of course, the weakest Jason Reitman film is still better than many, and although I may be biased a bit, I still thought it was a well made film and a bit better than most of my fellow critics. But there are much better options in theaters now.
Who is this movie for? All you fans of those romance novels with Fabio on the cover. You know who you are.
By popular demand I am adding a post on what to see and what to avoid on Amazon On Demand, Comcast XFinity on Demand, iTunes, and an assortment of other sources for all those obscure titles that pop up on Video on Demand. Most people I know don't go to the movies much. They prefer to watch in the comfort of their own home, and I don't blame them. But if you're the adventurous type that likes to try to find those hidden gems on your own, beware. Most of those obscure titles are obscure for a reason. Yet I love looking for the oyster with the pearl, so below are my reviews of all the films I've seen recently on Video on Demand. But I encourage you make use of my Best of 2013 By Genrefor better new releases up your alley. And of course you could (and should) always go back a bit to revisit my Best Films of 2012, Best Films of 2012 By Genre, Best Films of 2011, Best Films of 2011 By Genre, and Best Films of 2010 posts. As always, I welcome your comments.
Sometimes combing the VOD releases actually pays off. Despite looking all too much like a made for TV movie of the week, this prison drama is much better than its very limited theatrical release and tepid internet reviews imply. (And that's why I never listen to other critics.)
Newcomer Spencer Lofranco plays James, the titular troubled teen with behavioral issues who can't find a place in society and goes down the tempting path of gang-banging. Based on a real man's experience, the story is told in two timelines, one of James' experiences in prison, and the other of what led to him being there. The story, script, and cast, featuring compelling supporting performances by James Woods, Ving Rhames, and Mary-Louise Parker make this film definitely worth your time if you like the genre. If only they had a little more money to clean up the cinematography this one would have at least made a bigger splash on the big screen, giving it a fair chance at getting seen. Unfortunately it's been doomed to a virtually unacknowledged existence on VOD. Don't overlook it.
'Jamesy Boy' is now available in the warmth and coziness of your home on Video on Demand.
Who is this movie for? Fans of troubled youth, gang, and prison films like 'Shawshank Redemption' and 'American History X' should find it satisfying (though clearly not quite in the same class as those classics.)
A cop takes the law into his own hands when the man he suspects killed his daughter is set free due to a lack of evidence. How far is too far to go to seek justice?
As you can see from the poster, Quentin Tarantino proclaimed this violent Israeli revenge/kidnap/torture thriller the best film of 2013 (even though it wasn't technically released here in the US until 2014.) And while, knowing his taste, I understand his enthusiasm for it, and I quite enjoyed it myself when I saw it last October at the Philadelphia Film Festival, I must say that it won't be everyone's cup of tea. It's quite violent and disturbing. And although it's understandably compared to my second favorite film of 2013, Prisoners, I don't think it's nearly in the same class. But fans of the genre will surely enjoy it. (It should be noted that Tarantino also boldly included the much panned The Lone Ranger on his Top Ten of 2013. So we all have some bad taste, but at least he's an individual and not ashamed of owning what he loves.)
'Big Bad Wolves' is available now on Video on Demand (in Hebrew with English subtitles.)
Who is this movie for? Fans of violent, disturbing, and darkly comical revenge thrillers who also don't mind reading subtitles.
Quirky cops do bad things in this God-awful film by writer/director Quentin Dupieux, who made the cult followed 'Rubber', about a tire with telepathic powers, and the wonderfully offbeat 'Wrong'. This one, however, is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. There's not even an accidental moment of value in this horrible, horrible movie. It's a 2013 release and now gets the honor to be added to the very top of my Worst Films of 2013 blog. Now, if only I could get that $6.99 and 82 minutes of my life back ...
'Wrong Cops' is now available on Video on Demand should you choose to make a very poor decision. But don't say I didn't warn you.
Who is this movie for? Complete idiots. And those who loved the awful Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (which also features Eric Wareheim) and don't mind seeing something even worse!
Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario) is a teenager with deep rooted emotional problems stemming from her mother's death during childbirth. Despite her loving dad, played by the great Alfred Molina, and her caring and sweet stepmother, she has extreme difficulty connecting with people. But when a new neighbor (Jessica Biel) moves next door, Emanuel forms a mother-daughter bond with her, but soon discovers she is even more emotionally damaged. This is a well made and heartfelt film that is so earnestly acted by Scodelario, Biel, and Molina that I definitely can't dismiss it. Although I do wish it went further and delved deeper than it actually does. Writer/director Francesca Gregorini clearly has what it takes to be a great filmmaker and I look forward to seeing what she does next. Unfortunately this one is just shy of being a great film.
'The Truth About Emanuel' is available at home on Video on Demand.
Who is this movie for? Those who really connected with the Ryan Gosling-led dark comedy 'Lars and the Real Girl' will probably connect with it the strongest. Personally I didn't fully connect with either one, but I prefer this one.
Will Forte plays a doctor who travels to Ireland to stay with a family in disarray due to the husband suffering a stroke.
I'd love to be able to recommend this film because it's heartfelt, well intentioned, well acted, and well shot. But even more so because I've met Will Forte in person twice over the last four months and he's surely the nicest man in Hollywood. But unfortunately I can't. It just never comes to life and I wasn't pulled in by it no matter how much I wanted to be. Though I am happy to say that 13 out of the 14 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, so other critics are seeing something in it that I'm not. Maybe I missed something here and should revisit it later in the year.
'Run & Jump' is now available in the comfort of your own home on Video on Demand.
Who is this movie for? Those who can appreciate a slow, quiet, heartfelt indie drama with a touch of romance, set in Ireland.
Dominic Cooper and Samuel Jackson star in this pretty standard thriller about a successful district attorney who accidentally hits a man while driving home after a night of drinking. He calls 911, leaves the scene of the crime, and then feels guilty when another man is arrested for the crime. The first half seems to have potential to be a better than average thriller, but as with many films, it fails to deliver anything of interest in the final half. The cast is better than the average script deserves, making this an enjoyable enough watch despite the mediocrity of the script.
'Reasonable Doubt' is now available in limited release in theaters but also at home on Video on Demand.
Who is this movie for? Most would probably find it watchable, but very few will find it to actually be worth their time. You can do better.
It's not even three weeks into January and we already have yet another documentary style, found footage, demonic possession horror film. This one adds absolutely nothing new to the genre, and fans of the genre (if there are any who aren't as tired of it as I am) are better off sticking with the latest Paranormal Activity that came out two weeks ago. And quite frankly, 20th Century Fox and writer Lindsay Devlin should be ashamed of themselves for releasing something so extremely derivative of so many other films. 'Devil's Due' clearly didn't deserve a theatrical release. And not because it's bad. It's fair. But because we've all seen it a dozen times already.
As an aside, I'm frequently told I strongly resemble star Zach Gilford, best known for the TV show 'Friday Night Lights', which I've never seen before. And now, having seen this film, I get it. He's a better looking version of 32 year old me. And watching his facial mannerisms freaked me out way more than anything in this uncreative and uninspired waste of time and money.
Who is this movie for? Only those obsessed with seeing every single documentary style, found footage, demonic possession horror film need see it. But really even they should probably save their time.
Chris Pine steps into the role made famous on screen by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. And this time out, we get the origin story of Tom Clancy's international man of mystery, CIA operative Jack Ryan. The film also features Keira Knightley as his love interest, Kevin Costner as his sage mentor, and Kenneth Branagh (who also directed the film) as the evil Russian out to destroy America. The cast is perfect, and the frenetic pace and enjoyable action scenes keep it very watchable even though it's completely predictable. To me, it's the very definition of a B+, fun and well made but nothing special that makes it a must see.
Who is this movie for? Most everyone will enjoy it.
I was saddened to learn that Sam Berns passed away this week. You probably don't know him by name, but I had the privilege of watching his documentary, 'Life According to Sam', at the Nantucket Film Festival last June. And although it wasn't on my original schedule of films to see, it became the talk of the festival, as did he and his parents who were there for a Q&A after the screening. Unfortunately I missed seeing them but I caught the film on my last day when it replayed as the winner of the audience award, and totally loved it.
Sam was stricken by a rare disease called Progeria which causes your body to age rapidly. And even though he was only a teenager, he didn't resemble one at all. Of course this didn't keep him down. He had loving parents, lots of friends, and a great love for the Dave Matthews Band. He lived life with a better attitude than most of us and it seemed like everyone around him loved him. And now, thanks to him, Progeria is on more people's radar, and maybe a cure is that much closer. I highly recommend seeing this movie, even if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea. It'll win you over. And you can see it now, at least until 1/19, on HBO on Demand.
Movie Grade: A-
Grade for Sam Berns: A+
Who is this movie for? Everyone. It's an inspiration.
Be sure to tune in to the Critics Choice Movie Awards on Thursday at 8:00 PM on the CW! Here are several good reasons why:
As a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, I'm one of around 280 broadcast film critics who nominate and vote on the awards! Ratings for the show are very important to the BFCA and therefore are also very important to me. So tell your friends!
I'll be attending the awards, so you might just see me in the crowd embarassing myself in some way!
Aisha Tyler will be the host, and she's both funny and beautiful.
Forest Whitaker, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke will be receiving special (and well deserved) awards
Nominees expected to attend include: Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Tom Hanks, Spike Jonze, Jared Leto, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Melissa McCarthy, Matthew McConaughey, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, David O. Russell, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Oprah Winfrey, and Hans Zimmer.
Presenters expected to attend include: Jensen Ackles, Christina Applegate, Kristen Bell, Jessica Chastain, Don Cheadle, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Sir Ben Kingsley, Nia Long, Kellan Lutz, James Marsden, Jared Padalecki, Margot Robbie, Julia Roberts, Ian Somerhalder, Isaiah Washington, and Marlon Wayans
Most people don't know playwright and film writer/director Neil LaBute by name.
And of those that do, feelings towards him tend to be polarized. When I saw his
first film 'In the Company of Men' in 1997 featuring Aaron Eckhart, I found it
to be extraordinarily mean spirited and suspected him to be a chauvinistic
misogynist. Though over time I have come to realize that I was completely
wrong. He's actually just a brilliant writer with a great ear for dialogue and a keen observer of human
behavior. His work almost always revolves around men and women being cruel to
each other. And while often exaggerated, it always feels completely honest and
provides thought provoking commentary on the battle of the sexes. I
particularly enjoy his films 'The Shape of Things', 'Your Friends and
Neighbors', and Some Girl(s). And we can now add
'Some Velvet Morning' to my list of favorites.
Stanley Tucci plays a man who has just left his wife for his former lover, played by Alice Eve. He shows up at her home, unexpectedly, and announces that he's finally done it. But her feelings don't exactly match his. Tension builds as this uncomfortable interaction escalates and unfolds in real time.
'Some Velvet Morning' is available right now on Video on Demand
Who is this movie for? Fans of Neil LaBute's unique and often uncomfortable writing, as well as off-Broadway dialogue-heavy plays with only two actors and one set. For me this is a true delight. For big action blockbuster fans it will undoubtedly be the most boring hour and 24 minutes. Though if you do love it as much as I did, pair it with the other LaBute treasures mentioned above or with the more popular 'Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight' trilogy.
'District 9's Sharlto Copley plays a man who wakes up in an open grave filled with dead bodies. He doesn't remember who he is or how he got there. And things get even more mysterious when he meets up with a group of people who also don't remember who they are.
This is everything I love in a horror film. It's suspenseful. There's mystery. It's not one of those jittery camcorder-style that gives you a headache, or super dark where you can't see anything at all. In fact, the cinematography, the locations, and the fact that most of the film takes place during daylight all add to the enjoyment. And the cast of mostly unknowns is just perfect. Plus, with the always intriguing premise of memory loss, it (ironically) brings back memories of 'Memento' and 'Unknown' (from 2006, not the Liam Neeson one from 2011). It's simply one of the best horror films of recent years, despite what other early reviewers are saying. Loved it. See it right now on Video on Demand!
Who is this movie for? Horror buffs who are as tired as I am of the overdone found footage/documentary style, as well as the cliche haunted house/exorcism films that dominate the world of horror today.
For the life of me I can't even describe the film I just watched. IMDB's synopsis is 'A true tale of love, liberty and scandal amongst the Edwardian artists' colony in Cornwall'. Ummm ... sure. Well, here's what I can tell you. Watching this film was like watching paint dry ... but more dull.
Who is this movie for? Only those who can't get enough Merchant Ivory Productions and period romances ... even the ones that are terrible. But don't say I didn't warn you.
Radha Mitchell and Jon Dore play a couple who want a child but can't conceive one. Conveniently, Mitchell's Tourette Syndrome suffering best friend, played by Michelle Monaghan, just got knocked up from some dude she met in a bar. So why not have the baby and give it to your friends in need? The premise is alright, but this dysfunction-laden dramedy from first time writer/director Jessie McCormack doesn't know what it wants to be. It's not funny. It's not dramatic. It is quirky, but not in a good way. And none of the performances or characters feel real. It's a total misfire.
Who is this movie for? No one. It's too poorly put together for anyone to waste ther time. For much better dysfunctional family drama, see August: Osage County instead.
A high school girl commits various sex acts, in six acts, with her fellow students in this Israeli drama, in Hebrew with English subtitles. And it paints a pretty dismal picture for today's young people. The self-obsessed and spoiled boys all say and do whatever it takes to get the new girl in town to perform increasingly unwanted sex acts on them, even bordering on statutory rape. And the girl is so determined to be accepted into the in-crowd that she's willing to be passed around and reputed to be the school slut. It feels quite real, and God help all you parents of teenagers.
Who is this movie for? It's a cautionary tale for all you neglectful parents out there. Of course those neglectful parents aren't reading my review and monitoring what their children see and do. And though it's well made, aside from raising awareness, this film never reaches the level to make it quite worth your time.
Alice Eve and Bryan Cranston star in this paint-by-numbers straight to VOD thriller as a down-on-her-luck motel owner and a dangerous courier, respectively, whose lives intersect. Eve sheds her British accent and trademark glamorous beauty to play the (still unrealistically) pretty yet disheveled mom, and Cranston plays his best stereotypically stoic and thick-accented Russian mobster, but neither one does anything to make this made-for-TV-esqe movie worth watching.
Who is this movie for? Even the biggest of fans of Cranston in 'Breaking Bad' and Eve in 'Star Trek: Into Darkness' or 'She's Out of My League' need not waste their time. Unfortunately neither one is worth it here. Only those who prefer their thrillers completely predictable should invest the 78 minutes (+ a whopping 12 minutes of closing credits!)
Check out my appearance on Good Day Orlando where I offered my thoughts on 'The Legend of Hercules', 'Lone Survivor', 'Inside Llewyn Davis', 'Her', and 'August: Osage County', as well as a mention about the upcoming Critics Choice Movie Awards on Thursday 1/16 at 8:00 PM on the CW. I'll be there in person! Be sure to watch!