That Awkward Moment When I (Sorta) Defend THAT AWKWARD MOMENT

hr_That_Awkward_Moment_4That awkward moment when you really like a bad movie. There are many reasons you do: you like the actors, you like the setting, you like the fresh(ish) take on a tired genre, you like the theme which somehow resonates with you on that day in that moment. There are plenty of reasons to like a bad movie. But if you really enjoyed the film (dare I say, connected with the film), how bad can it actually be?
That awkward moment when the film feels horribly miscast. The biggest flaw of the film is the lead actors’ ages. Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan are playing characters in their vague mid-20s (certainly 2-3 years out of college); yet the last we saw of them, Teller was graduating from high school (The Spectacular Now); Jordan was a tragic 22-year-old (Fruitvale Station); and in the trailers before the film we saw Efron portraying a frat boy (Neighbors). Their youthful looks make them appear far too young to be in their mid-20s with some form of a career. But are they? (Maybe they’re just trying to break out of the mold they’ve been cast in.)
That-Awkward-Moment-Motion-Poster-Zac-EfronThat awkward moment when you realize all three leads are actually 26-years-old—more or less the accurate age to be playing these characters. Efron, whom we’ve seen mature over the years, is the most instantaneously believable in his role as Jason (a decade-younger Barney Stinson). While verbally sparring with Efron, Teller has enough buddy chemistry to make us buy him as being Jason’s best friend Daniel. But it’s overly-serious Mikey who, despite Jordan’s adult-seeming facial hair, feels like the odd man out. He’s a married guy facing divorce while sporting the youthful looks of a college student. His story is the least believable, and pushes him onto the fringes throughout the film.
That awkward moment when Mikey looks down on his best friends and their frivolous lifestyle. They enjoy going out each night, bedding different chicks, building up a “roster” of booty calls, yet dreading the moment when a girl gets too attached and says, “So.” So, where is this going? So, what are we? It’s a hum-drum dilemma, but they are in their mid-twenties; and it’s not their fault that Mikey got married when he was, what? 21? And how bad of a husband was he if he got Jessica Lucas to cheat on him? I don’t believe Lucas has ever played a character with a single mean bone in her body (maybe this was her attempt at breaking out of the mold).
That awkward moment when writer/director Tom Gormican seems to recognize that Mikey doesn’t quite fit in, and pulls the focus on the other two boys. Unfortunately, he has them bond over a trivial pact that haunts nearly every romantic comedy. The three amigos decide to celebrate Mikey’s impending divorce by not getting girlfriends. That’s something that Jason and Daniel have been consciously doing for years, but now that they they’ve clinked their coffee cups to it, it’s an official bro pact. And so the characters fall into the classic dilemmas we expect from a rom-com: they fall in love—Jason with the bewitching Imogen Poots (whose Ellie is far more endearing than her Allie in Greetings from Tim Buckley—but then again, Efron is a far more endearing romantic counterpart than Penn Badgley was) and Daniel with the guys’ good friend (and Robin-like wingman, I would like to add) Chelsea, played by Mackenzie Davis (whose helpful role involves telling a hot chick that she likes her shoes and then doing her version of “Have you met _____?”). Mikey is still dealing with his marital issues and doesn’t have time for the frivolous sexual relationships his buddies engage in.
maxresdefaultThat awkward moment when you like a film despite its flaws. The story may not be groundbreaking, yet it still feels fresh. I’ve been clamoring for a rom-com from the male point-of-view. And I’m not referring to bro-coms where it’s about two dudes bonding (although this film has that). This is a film about immature guys maturing in their romantic endeavors, not an easy task for “the selfish generation” as Jason aptly refers to us. It’s like getting the reverse point-of-view that we’ve seen from every other romantic comedy (about time, I tell ya!). Sure, it still falls into the formulaic pratfalls of its forebears; but what exactly did you expect when you sat down to watch it?
That awkward moment when you see yourself in the characters. These guys may be jerks who only want to hook up, but we all have those phases (unless you’re a Mikey and only accustomed or comfortable with the committed lifestyle). And maybe it’s because I’m currently in such a phase that I felt connected to Jason and Daniel’s dilemmas. It can (and does) seem so simple in the context of the film, but in real life, the lines are far blurrier, and it feels like Gormican is grasping at that. He makes these characters balance the fine line between smarmy and charming, and that’s where the casting comes in handy. For Efron and Teller are just the kind of buddies that you want to see succeed but understand when they fail. (Sure, Jordan does a good job; but I really didn’t care for him and his crumbling marriage—mostly because Gormican throws us into the divorce without establishing a resemblance of a relationship between them.)
That awkward moment when you think the movie’s theme may be a condemnation towards couples. Amidst learning to embrace being in a relationship, Jason must deal with the relationship he already has with his best friends. His (and Daniel’s) fear is that being in a relationship will make his friendship suffer. And, to some extent, that’s a correct expectation. Most people vanish into their newly founded relationships. But it is possible to balance the two (and the film hints at that). When everything inevitably goes to the toilet, Jason realizes that it’s because he devalued his relationship with his best friends. It’s the opposite effect of what happens when people do go into relationships, and it’s an interesting perspective to present (that is sadly buried in a mediocre film).
That Awkward Moment is not a good film (it was released in January). But That Awkward Moment was a very enjoyable film to watch. It addressed stories that I look for in a film, and I never once fell asleep (CONFESSION: I took 10-minute naps during American Hustle and Twelve Years a Slave). Plus, it exploits Efron’s body in a way that you hope and expect it to. If this film could be the start of something new (or at least different) in the romantic comedy genre, then it is wholly worth the price of admission (at least at matinee pricing).

Side note: As a New Yorker (can I say that yet?), I’ve been fully submersed in the Grammercy Park myth that so many of us strive for; and I fully enjoyed how the film approached it.

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Winter TV Roundup: The Good, the Bad, and the Unbearable

Each season brings us a fresh new crop of TV series. For those of us who obsessively watch television, this means a nicely plump workload of shows to sift through. For those who don’t, this means absolutely nothing at all. But if you fall into the latter category, then you may be missing out on some of this season’s best shows. So here’s my breakdown of new winter series and which ones you should be watching (and which ones you should avoid at all costs).

MV5BMjgzMjA2MDk0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzc3ODM4OA@@._V1_SX214_The Carrie Diaries is The CW’s attempt to replace the now deceased Gossip Girl (RIP!). It’s a high school drama that showcases fashion and New York City (and also witty in-jokes that New Yorkers would get—and love). The twist is that this is a Sex and the City prequel series set in the 1980s. Based on Candace Bushnell’s YA novels (which are more enjoyable than some of her adult fodder), Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) uses her familiar narration style to tell the story of her adolescence as she discovers her ambitions to live in NYC and write.

This is a fun, teen drama and should be experienced as such. The cast is well-equipped to bring exuberance to their compelling characters, and the story seems to be moving at a swift enough pace to keep things moving right along (Carrie already has two different boyfriends within 7 episodes).

Bottom Line: Best new teen show on TV and one of The CW’s strongest shows. Definitely worth watching, unless you despise the ‘80s.

(Airs Mondays at 8pm on The CW.)

The-following-posterKevin Williamson (Scream, The Vampire Diaries) has taken what he knows about vampires and transferred that knowledge into the serial killer series The Following. (It also incorporates the conspiratorial urgency of 24 with completely addicting nuance.) Years after capturing the Poe-obsessed serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is drawn back into the fray as a cult following that takes orders from Carroll begins a killing spree. More than just straight thriller, The Following humanizes these killers, giving the show an extra dimension that is usually lacking in other cop shows.

While the explicit use of violence has everyone’s panties in a bunch, those torturous murder scenes are too disturbing to be considered glorifying. What’s more disturbing is how invested you become with these cult followers (especially as concerns the delicious bisexual love triangle between Emma, Jacob, and Paul). Just as we have learned to care about bloodthirsty vampires, Williamson strives to make us care about bloodthirsty killers (and that’s the scariest part of all).

Bottom Line: Mixing character-building flashbacks with accelerated storytelling, The Following keeps up a thrilling pace that quickly sucks you into the show. This is definitely the best new show of the season (and it’s already been renewed for a second season!)

(Airs Mondays at 9pm on Fox.)

tnt-monday-morningsIf you’re not up for getting invested in a cult of serial killers, perhaps you’d like to invest some feelings in the heartfelt show Monday Mornings. Based on Sanjay Gupta’s book, David E. Kelley focuses this medical drama on the M&M (morbidity & mortality) meetings that holds doctors accountable for the deaths of their patients. Put in the hot seat, doctors must defend their actions and learn from their devastating failures.

Unlike soapy medical shows (read: Grey’s Anatomy), Monday Mornings is a compelling emotional drama that makes both the doctors and their patients feel real. Due to the dire nature of many of the cases, patients tend to transcend the patient-of-the-week story and become recurring characters (especially the more litigious patients). While too many moments descend into overwrought emotionality, they are handled with enough skill by the stellar cast (Alfred Molina, Jamie Bamber, Jennifer Finnigan, and Ving Rhames) to come off as genuine and touching.

Bottom Line: If you’ve been looking for a medical drama or are just in need of some emotional release, then Monday Mornings should be on your radar.

(Airs Mondays at 10pm on TNT.)

The-Americans-FX-Poster-300x450If you love the ‘80s but can’t stand the exuberance of The Carrie Diaries, then the Cold War drama The Americans may be up your alley. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) are Russian spies living in America. Balancing their idyllic American family lifestyle with their ingrained Russian patriotism, the couple must navigate the treacherous worlds of love and espionage.

Rhys and Russell do admirable jobs of drawing us into their drama, but to get fully hooked you must wade through the first two episodes before reaching true emotional engagement. The bland production design leaves the show bereft of visual stimuli (other than Rhys’ various Alias-esque disguises). While no true overarching stories have come to fruition, the foundation has been laid and the characters’ emotional dilemmas are entertaining enough (for now).

Bottom Line: Espionage intrigue should draw you into the show, but the anti-hero leads provide engaging performances to make you stay—it, too, has been renewed for a second season.

(Airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.)

ZERO-HOURHad Dan Brown written Taken, it probably would’ve resembled Zero Hour. When Hank’s (Anthony Edwards) wife Laila (Jacinda Barrett) is kidnapped by notorious criminal White Vincent (Michael Nyqvist), he must uncover the truth about a series of ancient clocks that predict not only the end of time—or “zero hour”—but also the most likely whereabouts of Vincent and his wife.

With twelve clocks in the mix (to represent the twelve disciples), you would think they would have plenty of Da Vinci Code sleuthing to last them a few seasons. But each episode reveals the location of the next clock while also enlightening us about famous historical figure’s conspiratorial pasts. Fortunately, this pacing is what makes the show so entertaining (as long as you get past the uninspired pilot episode). By the end of the third episode, enough twists have been inserted into the series that you’ll be begging for more.

Bottom Line: This adventuresome thriller will entertain you if you let it. It also serves as the perfect aphrodisiac for Brown’s upcoming new release Inferno.

(Airs Thursdays on ABC at 8pm.)

Cult-Poster-cult-31484975-620-912Cult is like the meta younger brother of The Following. Skeptical Jeff (Matthew Davis) gets sucked into cult intrigue when his brother goes missing. With the help of Skye (Jessica Lucas), the two navigate the murderous cult following that bases their actions on the hit TV series Cult (scenes from the show within the show are featured in each episode).

Unlike big brother The Following, Cult is a lifeless series. Even though I enjoy Davis and Lucas as actors, their acting is flat. And all the various layers of the show are just smoke-and-mirrors designed to hide how little substance the show really has.

Bottom Line: Avoid at all costs, and go watch The Following instead.

(The CW has already buried the show in the graveyard that is Fridays at 9pm.)

house-of-cards-final-posterLastly, for those of you who prefer to marathon shows in one weekend instead of enjoying the dissemination of plot development over 13 weeks, then House of Cards is perfect for you. This Netflix original series helmed by David Fincher will fill that Boss-sized hole in your heart (RIP!). Cards follows the revenge-y political machinations of spurned Majority Whip Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) along with his cold, calculating wife Claire (Robin Wright) and ambitious—yet naïve—journalist Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara).

The show is instantly addicting, and Netflix does its best to encourage bingeing behavior. Its only misstep is use of asides to the camera by Underwood to explain his thoughts in certain moments (which only serve to undermine the complexity of the series—if you can’t tell when Underwood is being manipulative then maybe you shouldn’t be watching this show). Thankfully, the asides become negligible (or at least less distracting) the farther you get into the series. Just be careful what you tweet about the show because, due to its watch-at-your-own-pace option, everything  (and conversely nothing) is a spoiler.

Bottom Line: If namedropping Fincher, Spacey, Wright, Mara, or Boss hasn’t convinced you already, then watch it because it is merely the first of Netflix’s groundbreaking new foray into scripted series.

(Airs on Netflix Streaming whenever you want it to.)