UPDATE 6/15: Via Variety, stars Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson …
Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.
In Cake, it takes about fifteen minutes for director Daniel Barnz to establish the ground rules for this familiar portrait of grief and addiction, followed up by another 90 minutes or so of dramatic clumsiness and eye-rolling clichés. Whether it is drugs, sex, or booze, each brings a routine numbing quality to the table for Claire Bennett (Aniston), a seemingly darkly comedic and scathing woman who we first meet in a support group for chronic physical pain.
Normally, I’m a fair and agreeable chap who approaches each movie with an open mind. I must warn you, however, that my review of Into the Woods will be neither fair nor agreeable. I will not be fawning over director Rob Marshall, who seems clueless as to what his own movie is about, nor will I be singing the praises of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, who has probably written grocery lists more pleasing to the ear than these tunes. What I will be doing is trying to deconstruct one of my most grueling cinematic experiences of 2014.
It is an inherent belief that the holiday season and family gatherings go hand-in-hand like puffy earmuffs on an exposed frozen ear. Well, writer-director (and co-star) Joe Swanberg backs up this assertion with his dysfunctional familial gem Happy Christmas. The gift-giving in Happy Christmas is predicated upon breezy disillusionment, personal and professional malaise, and the underscoring of being unfulfilled. Once again Swanberg puts his unique stamp on the microscopic root of relationships and the fragile consequences of coping with the pressures of such interaction.
Twenty years ago, if someone said that ‘zombie romantic comedy’ was going to become an actual cinematic sub-genre, they’d have been called a witch and burned at the stake. And yet, they would have been right, and Fantasia 2014 has seen the unveiling of yet another film in the rapidly expanding genre, Life After Beth. Starring Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation and Dane DeHaan, recently of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Life After Beth is best described as a zombie breakup comedy. It’s also best described as “decent, but not amazing”, a serviceable enough zom-rom-com kept afloat mostly by the supporting cast.
Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies is a prime example of how a cast can save a movie from drifting into obscurity once the end credits roll. Good chemistry between actors is essential to making a film enjoyable; luckily for Drinking Buddies, the cast is exactly what turns the film into a minor success. The four principal stars are supremely likable and are given the chance to show off their improvisation skills throughout.