Reel Critics: A 'Labor'-ed day for Winslet

I never thought I would use the words "Kate Winslet" and "mediocre movie" in the same sentence. Then along came her new film "Labor Day," which lands between being not that bad but not that good either.

Director and writer Jason Reitman has several small but critically acclaimed movies to his credit, including "Juno" and "Up in the Air." But his story misses the mark this time around while still getting quality acting performances from his stars.

Josh Brolin plays an escaped convict who lands in the home of a single mom struggling to raise her son in a small town. Winslet plays the woman and brings the right amount of anxiety and excitement to her interaction with the man on the lam. The tension in the movie comes from her dilemma over whether to alert the police or join him on the run.

The plot is obvious; only the outcome is in doubt. Reitman ends up opting for a typical Hollywood ending that manages to be an unexpected tearjerker.

—John Depko


'Moment' not short enough

From television to movies, the life of 20-something singles in Manhattan seems to be filled with nonstop fun and endless streams of gorgeous dates. Everyone has a spacious apartment and is cheerfully photogenic. "That Awkward Moment" feeds that urban myth in the most charmingly vacuous way imaginable.

Zac Efron plays a very cute (and evidently quite successful) book jacket designer whose doctor pal (Michael B. Jordan) suddenly finds himself single. Together with their baby-faced, proudly immature friend (Miles Teller), these guys make it their personal goal to avoid any emotional commitment while having sex in the city.

Naturally, the guys manage to break that pact, but not before some zany and brainless hijinx ensue. What guy hasn't suspected his gorgeous girl of being a hooker, and what beautiful girl hasn't been attracted to a smug buffoon? Or so this movie would have us believe.

There are some feeble attempts at romance here, with lots of bathroom humor a la "The Hangover," but it's all pretty lame. Efron, for all his thick-browed prettiness, conveys no more emotional weight than that nightlight alarm clock with his likeness (available on eBay). Both convey only one expression.

Jordan, who gave an Oscar-quality lead performance in last year's "Fruitvale Station," is given very little to do here except pick up a paycheck in the movie's one "deep" story line. Awkward, indeed.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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