Review: She’s Funny That Way (2014)

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Reminiscent of the screwball farces that thrived in the 1930s and 40s, She’s Funny That Way – Peter Bogdanovich’s first feature in thirteen years – is a strained but entertaining hoopla. Arnold (Owen Wilson), a theatre director, runs into difficulty when he casts Isabella (Imogen Poots), a hooker-turned-actress, opposite his wife (Kathryn Hahn) and her ex-lover (Rhys Ifans) in his new play. Continue reading “Review: She’s Funny That Way (2014)”

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Review: Cake (2014)

 

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The perennially underrated Jennifer Aniston excels in Cake, delivering a topnotch performance in Daniel Barnz’ otherwise half-baked drama. Scarred by a devastating accident, pill-popping Claire (Aniston) hobbles around in constant pain, barking orders at her maid (Adriana Barraza) and ousting everyone else. When a woman (Anna Kendrick) from her support circle commits suicide, Claire is compelled to question her own existence. Continue reading “Review: Cake (2014)”

Review: We’re The Millers (2013)

We're The Millers

The latest in the line of R-rated comedies hoping to capitalise on the success achieved by The Hangover, Bridesmaids and The Heat, We’re The Millers boasts a starry cast and neat premise, yet squanders both by subjecting them to a hit-and-miss script and a series of laughably uninspired gags. When small-time pot dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) has his marijuana stash stolen, he’s forced to become a drug smuggler to repay the debt to his boss.  Continue reading “Review: We’re The Millers (2013)”

In Defence Of… Jennifer Aniston

When Friends, formerly titled Insomnia Café, first hit TV screens way back in October 1994, no one imagined the worldwide success it would achieve, let alone that the six actors who played the lead roles would become such international stars. It has not been so rosy since the series ended in 2004, however, as neither David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Matt Le Blanc, Lisa Kudrow, nor Jennifer Aniston have made noticeable and befitting transitions to the Continue reading “In Defence Of… Jennifer Aniston”

Review: Wanderlust (2012)

Finding themselves both out of work after investing in a small yet expensive micro-loft located in Manhattan’s West Village, George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) decide to up sticks. Stumbling upon a hippie commune after an unsuccessful stay with George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino) and his alcoholic wife, Marissa (a scene-stealing Michaela Watkins), the couple decide to stay on at “Elysium” in the hope of finding themselves.

While they initially embrace this more simple way of life, they soon hit a few stumbling blocks, and are forced to confront issues (such as infidelity) that they Continue reading “Review: Wanderlust (2012)”

Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)

For Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day), the only thing that would make the daily grind more tolerable would be to grind their intolerable bosses into dust. Quitting is not an option, so, with the benefit of a few-too-many drinks and some dubious advice from a hustling ex-con, the three friends devise a convoluted and seemingly foolproof plan to rid themselves of their respective employers…permanently. There’s only one problem: even the best laid plans are only as foolproof as the brains behind them.

While the premise for Horrible Bosses starts off as a simplistic and mundane everyday comedy, it quickly (and welcomely) develops into something far more devilish and sinister. Screenwriters Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein may not bring a whole lot of plausibility or realism to the table, and you may find yourself scratching your head at the film’s outlandish ideas, but their zealous efforts go towards creating something bold, eccentric and ahead of the game.

The central trio of Bateman, Day and Sudeikis is what really bolsters this comedy. Their characters are vastly different but gel so well together, bouncing off one another with an incredible charm and quick wit. Bateman has sharpened his skill to deliver a raw comedic performance, and Sudeikis is solidly on-from. Out of the three though, it’s Day who truly stands out, doing so at every available opportunity. His rapport with Aniston in particular is expertly acted.

In terms of the bosses, and in that respect the main supporting cast, Kevin Spacey owns his role. Obviously in performance euphoria, he rabidly shoots off abuse like he’s been waiting his whole career to play this slave-driving psycho. Though shamefully kept in the background, Colin Farrell entirely embraces his less than flattering physical transformation, along with a daft vocabulary and racist sensibilities. As for Jennifer Aniston, she has finally been cast against type as the nymphomaniac Dr. Harris, dropping one hysterical vulgarity after another. Rachel Green is no more, and Aniston has a whole lot more to offer as an actress than most cinemagoers have been led to believe. She has, for better or worse, well and truly shed her good girl image.

As a director, Gordon fares very well. On the back of his outstanding documentary The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters, Four Christmases was a clear career misstep. To Horrible Bosses, however, he has brought unabashed zany humour, immersive interspersed drama and an offbeat directing style: techniques clearly built up during his time spent making documentaries and working on veteran television comedies, such as 30 Rock. In short: a perfect mix for welcomely off-kilter comedy film.

The two most noticeable flaws of Horrible Bosses, however, are that it never fully measures up to its outrageously dark premise, and that it ends up feeling borderline offensive at times. The film does provide elements of dark comedy, finding humour in scenes of death, mutilation and drug use, but it’s played all too cosily and light-hearted, never evoking the desired reaction. Also, however fun it is to watch Dr. Harris sexually harass Dale and hear how much Kurt wants to sleep with every living female, it often comes across as crass and degrading, and can be uncomfortable to watch.

That said, Horrible Bosses is still frequently hilarious, with laughs arriving both hard and often once the film finds its feet, thanks in no part to the sharply written script and enthusiasm evident in the well selected cast. There are even times when it sets itself up as a new favourite for the workplace comedy genre in the vein of Office Space or Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, but it ultimately falls short and feels miles away from its courageously crazy premise. Nevertheless, it’s a well-intended and laugh-out-loud comedy worth a chance.

Review: Just Go With It (2011)

Synopsis: A plastic surgeon (Adam Sandler), romancing a much younger schoolteacher (Brooklyn Decker), enlists his loyal assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to pretend to be his soon to be ex-wife, in order to cover up a careless lie. When more lies backfire, the assistant’s kids become involved, and everyone heads off for a weekend in Hawaii that will change all their lives.

The overall set-up (mooted by Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling) borders on farce, but through short-sharp bursts of comedy, manages to make a commendable attempt to break-free of rom-com conventions and head into surprisingly heartwarming territory.

Still, no matter how hard it tries, it unfortunately remains a desperately uneven film, suffering from Dennis Dugan’s basic, overly glossy direction and a ludicrously bloated, lingering running time.

The two leads, Sandler and Aniston, display a very natural comedic flare and, to the films advantage, combine their strengths – Sandler’s acerbic sweetness with Aniston’s down-to-earth warmth – to reasonable avail, establishing a tenable and charismatic on-screen duo.

It’s a testament to Aniston who, no matter how deadpan her post-Friends career has become, remains one of the best comedic actresses of her generation, wonderfully transferring her glowing off-screen, warm-natured personality, and sizeable womanly assets, into Katherine’s likeable and winning nature, essentially bringing her to life.

Prevailing in a supporting role, Bailee Madison, who plays Katherine’s youngest daughter, delivers a bubbly, witty and energetic preeminent performance.

Nicole Kidman, on the other hand, stars as Katherine’s frenemy Devlin Adams. It’s a somewhat inspired role, and certainly brings a breath of fresh air to the trailing central plot, but Kidman’s performance comes across as forced, unnatural and down right insane. Your never sure whether to laugh or cringe.

Just Go With It is so ridiculously overblown that it’s bereft of any true mentality, with the end wrapped up so hastily it makes the whole ordeal arguably pointless. Yet, through a zealous performance from Aniston and a suitably pushy script, it’s an infrequently entertaining effort.

Review: The Switch (2010)

Originally titled The Baster, The Switch is an indie romantic-drama from the mind of Allan Loeb, who previously wrote screenplay’s for Things We Lost in the Fire and 21, and is loosely based on a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides.

The film centers on the overly anxious, perplexing and irritating Wally, who’s unmarried 40-year-old best friend, Kassie (Aniston), turns to a turkey baster in order to become pregnant. After moving to Michigan to raise her child, Kassie returns and reunites with Wally, who has been living with a secret: he replaced her preferred sperm sample with his own.

The Switch, which most would label as a female-centred rom-com, instead switches the focus onto the male’s point-of-view. It ponders serious, life-changing questions about pregnancy and fatherhood, in a heartfelt and humorous way. Bateman plays the role of Wally perfectly, highlighting his charming, wry personality in an endearing and well-natured way, showing Bateman has what it takes to carry a high-profile comedy film.

Aniston, in a much-welcomed departure from her previous films, holds her own, providing an appealing, yet restrained performance as a single mother, letting audiences see why she was Hollywood’s sweetheart in the first place. Jeff Goldbum and Juliette Lewis shine in their limited roles, each embodying their characters to the best of their ability, while never outshining the central leads.

Despite the source material being predictable, and the sometimes cringeworthy dialogue, the directors – Will Speck and Josh Gordon – manage to keep the film on track, heading toward an ultimate goal, maintaining the message throughout and never letting the films throwaway moments overshadow the light-hearted, rather brilliant ones that some critics seem to be ignoring.

The Switch may not break any boundaries, or attract a particularly wide audience, but it’s surprisingly funny and sufficiently light-hearted take on an often bland genre. Bateman proves himself as a male lead, while Aniston proves there’s more to her acting range than silly, generic comedies.