October 28, 2016
        Ten Contenders will compete for Best Documentary Short Subject                "The Circle" and "The Lost City of Z": Which potential 2016 contenders got bumped to 2017?                Natalie Portman, Janelle Monáe, Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Stacy Keach at Hollywood Film Awards                Viola Davis will be campaigned in Best Supporting Actress for "Fences"                Mel Gibson to be Honored with the Hollywood Director Award at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Michael Moore drops a surprise new film with "Michael Moore in TrumpLand"                Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster        

Paul: A comedic love letter to all things sci-fi – REVIEW

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Greg Motolla’s “Paul” is a swiftly plotted and consistently funny road-trip comedy about Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), best friends and sci-fi fanatics who are touring all the alien hot spots from Area 51 to Roswell on their way back from Comic-Con.

But if you don’t know about Comic-Con or care about Area 51 and Roswell, you’re better off seeing anything else.

The story centers on this twosome but really starts with Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a bulbous-headed extraterrestrial who crash landed on our planet in 1947, and has been under government surveillance – influencing pop culture and advising the likes of Steven Spielberg — ever since.

Convinced that the government, specifically The Big Guy (Sigourney Weaver), has collected all she needs and is ready to pull Paul’s plug, the little green man orchestrates an escape. He lands in Graeme and Clive’s roomy RV, and the trio bumbles ahead, staying one step ahead of Secret Service agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) while picking up a ultra-conservative, right-wing Christian (Kristen Wiig) who bristles at the idea of Paul because it pokes holes in her belief that the Lord, Or Savior, is not the center of the known universe.

“Paul,” however, isn’t here to poke fun at organized religion or lash out at the government. These characters are just necessary players in what turns out to be a loving homage to the 1950s and ’60s science-fiction genre.

In much the same fashion that “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” penned open love letters to zombie and action cinema, respectively, “Paul” is infused with an appreciation of all things sci-fi … specifically, all things Steven Spielberg (who cleverly cameos).

Whip-smart references to beloved genre classics abound. Some are subtle. Others are obvious. All fly fast and furious but so often hit their mark because Motolla’s crisp direction picks its moments and his cast – specifically Pegg and Frost – is plugged directly into the vibe and eager to play along.

Years ago, I might have said “Paul” only plays to a specific audience. And that still may be the case. The difference, however, is that the audience that will be in on the joke “Paul” is telling has grown. Substantially. Right around the time Blythe Danner utters an infamous line of dialogue to Weaver, that group will label “Paul” as out of this world.

Grade: *** out of 4 stars


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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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