Posts Tagged ‘anna kendrick’

A Simole Favor

Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a young, widowed video blogger whose site doles out tips on making crafts, and cooking recipes.  Her best friend, Emily Nelson, (Blake Lively) has gone missing, and Stephanie tearfully recounts to her vlog followers how Emily asked her to take care of her son, Nicky (Ian Ho) and just disappeared.  Emily is a director at a fashion company, who lives in a big house, with her handsome husband, Sean Townshend (Henry Golding) and her son.  Now, Emily is missing, and Stephanie is intent to find her.  Why would such a successful person suddenly disappear?  Is Emily alive?  Does Stephanie really want to find Emily?

There is a slimy aspect to this movie, and it starts with the friendship between Emily and Stephanie, is this a sincere friendship, or a transactional friendship?  If transactional, what exactly does Emily get from her friendship with Stephanie? A Simple Favor is a somewhat interesting character study until the disappearance, then the storytelling becomes sloppy and unfocused.  There is a reveal that answers the question of what happened to Emily, but it’s such a cliché that the rest of the movie is just a letdown.  The smarminess of the characters is a double edged sword, it adds to the excitement of the film, there’s an aspect of ‘what will these characters do next’, but at the same time is there a protagonist?  That is not clear, and that makes this movie more like Gone Girl than it should be, and that is not good.

Anna Kendrick has played these smart-aleck millennial types too many times, and it’s bothersome.  Is this the only kind of character she can play, cut the snark and do some acting.  Even on the current Hilton hotel commercials, she plays an obnoxious spoiled brat.  Please, stop.  I like Blake Lively, she was great in The Town, and also good in The Age of Adeline, but she lays it on a little thick here as the edgy artsy, nouveau riche fashion exec, it felt like she was playing a character, not like the character was a real person. Henry Golding is little more than eye candy for the ladies. Ian Ho, a child actor, was good at playing a bratty son of privilege.

The direction is ok, there are a lot of shots of the luxurious mansion and a certain painting of Emily from a certain angle, the pacing slows during the second half of the film, and the actors don’t give great performances.  Paul Feig has done some comedies, Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, but nothing like this.

A Simple Favor:  A less than Lively performance from Blake.

Pitch Perfect 2

The Barden Bellas have won the U.S. acapella championship for three straight years.  But while performing for the President in Washington D.C., a wardrobe malfunction featuring Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) causes the Bellas to lose their championship and their lucrative tour, to the international champs, German acapella group , Das Sound Machine.  The ladies try to get back on their feet, with a legacy member named Emily, (Hailee Steinfeld) but Becca (Anna Kendrick) is distracted by a job with a producer. (Keegan Michael Key) Fat Amy is distracted by the amorous intentions of Bumper (Adam Devine) and even new girl Emily catches the eye of acapella singer and wanna-be magician Benji. (Ben Platt) The only person who has not lost focus is Chloe (Britney Snow) but that’s because she is her 7th year at Barden.  After another disastrous performance, the Bellas go to a singing retreat/boot camp, run by none other than Aubrey. (Anna Camp) Can the Bellas find their voice and take the World Championships from Das Sound Machine?

I liked Pitch Perfect, but I’m wary of sequels.  This sequel is formulaic, the ‘champions fall from grace, can they regain their championship’ plotline is all too familiar, and even though a lot of jokes work in this movie, a lot more jokes don’t work.  The Germans are standard issue superior Sounding Eurotrash,  the jokes from the Latina member of the Bellas, Flo, are just insulting, and even the asides from Lilly, the shy Asian girl, aren’t as shocking.  The many romances are clunky, and run contrary to the supposed feminism of the film. The ending is eminently predictable.  The music is good, but the potential viewer can get the soundtrack for the songs, sitting through half a good movie is not really worth it.

The acting is ok, Anna Kendrick’s performance seemed forced, like she is going through the motions, Rebel Wilson, the breakout star of the first movie hams it up relentlessly and that ruins her performance. Hailee Steinfeld, the new addition doesn’t add much comically, but she can at least sing. Katy Segal of Married with Children fame is wasted as Emily’s mom, she is a great singer and has impeccable comedic timing.  Keegan Michael Key from Key and Peele is wasted as well.  Elizabeth Banks hams it up also as Gail, the inappropriate acapella announcer.

Elizabeth Banks has built a cottage industry for herself with these movies, as actress, director and producer.  I’m not sure what is so noteworthy about her directing, she stages a few songs, but there’s nothing visually or technically outstanding about this movie, the pacing is ok, but the movie is too long.  Banks gets so-so performances from the actresses here.  Banks had a 29 million dollar budget, I guess that’s low for Hollywood standards, and besides Anna Kendrick’s salary, the money was spent on nothing spectacular.  The movie was filmed in Baton Rouge, they didn’t even go to Denmark.  But alas, it made 287 million, so there is going to be a sequel, although they seem to be running out of plot, unless the Bellas battle extraterrestrials.  Who else is left?

Pitch Perfect Two: Winding up for another pitch.


Claire Bennett (Jennifer Aniston) becomes obsessed with the suicide of Nina Collins, (Anna Kendrick) a member of her pain management group.  To cope with her own pain, Claire gets hooked on Percocet, drinks, sleeps with strangers, and is abusive to the only woman who can tolerate her cries for attention, her maid, Silvana. (Adrianna Barraza) Claire tries to strike up a friendship with Nina’s husband, Roy, (Sam Worthington) and his son, Casey. (Evan O’Toole)  Roy is also grieving the loss of Nina.  Do the two, who share a common sense of grief, find a way to ease each other’s pain?

Cake is about a woman who suffers from tremendous physical and emotional pain, after some unspecified physical  and emotional pain, and because it has nowhere to go, it becomes a meandering, redundant non sequitur. She masks her pain with drugs, alcohol, and meaningless sex.  I get it, but the script goes nowhere, there is no comedy to break up the sorrow, just more and more scenes of pain and degradation, no character development, characters appear and disappear, all in the gauzy haze of Claire’s drug-addled mind..  There seems to be a lot of vomiting in movies these days, Aniston hurls chunks in this movie. Robert Duvall does the same in The Judge, I guess projectile vomiting is a sign that the character has hit bottom.  After 1 ¾ hours of morose dialogue, the movie just ends.

The acting by the leads is horrendous. Aniston plays an insufferable, self-absorbed, self-medicating harpy, and because she can’t or won’t modulate her voice to convey emotion, all her lines come out sounding flat and monotone. Aniston signals that this is a serious performance by deglamorizing her looks, wearing mousy hair, and a scarred face. Sam Worthington doesn’t even try  to cover his Australian accent, he doesn’t have much to do, he’s not quite a love interest, and all he can do is play the distant, mourning, husband, and he’s not very convincing at that. Anna Kendrick shows up briefly, and tries to liven up the proceedings, but isn’t in the movie for long enough to change the general malaise.  Adriana Barrera is also very good, but in typical Hollywood fashion, Barrera is reduced to playing a maid.  Hollywood stereotypes strike again.

The pacing is slow ,director Daniel Barnz shows no initiative, the movie just drags along, he gets awful performances from his two leads, and his prior movies include the young adult sci fi flick Beastly.  I heard Oscar buzz about this, but after seeing Cake, I have to ask, why?

Cake:  A bitter slice of life.

into the woods

Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) battles her stepmother (Christine Baranski) to go to a three day festival given by a Prince. (Chris Pine)  Red Riding Hood (Lila Crawford) steals cookies and bread from a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) to feed to her granny.(Annette Crosbie) She must evade a hungry wolf (Johnny Depp) to get to grandma.  A boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) sells his cow for some magic beans from the baker. The baker and his wife are childless.  A witch,(Meryl Steep)  who keeps a girl with long hair named Rapunzel  (Mackenzie Mauzy) locked in a tower.  The witch says she can give the childless baker and his wife a child, if they bring her something milky white, something red, something golden like corn, and golden slippers.  Does Cinderella get her prince?  Does Red evade the wolf?  What happens to Jack and his magic beans?  Does Rapunzel get out of the tower?  Does the baker and his wife have a child?

This is what some people call a fractured fairy tale, I call it a morally ambiguous fairy tale.  The characters may seem familiar, but things are not as they seem, thanks to a twist near the end of the film.  These characters may end up happy or not, but their lives are far from perfect after the twist.  If there is happiness to be had, these characters will have to work for it.  If there is a theme it is about child rearing, how to be a good and consistent parent.  It’s an interesting take on these well-known Grimm fairy tales. The music enhances the story, makes it livelier in some circumstances provides exposition.  If there is an issue with this movie, there are too many characters, and some of the characters have very little development.

The acting is generally good, with Meryl Streep giving a standout performance, with Emily Blunt giving a complex, multi-layered performance.  The younger actors, Daniel Huttleston  and Lilla Crawford also give strong performance,  Chris Pine tries very hard, but neither his voice or acting seems up to the task. Johnny Depp has a great cameo as the wolf.

The direction gives this story the proper eerie feel, the pacing is good and the songs are well-staged. The kids will enjoy the songs, they might not understand the subtleties of the movie, but they will enjoy the fairy tale aspect of the movie.

Into the Woods:  A Knotty Tale.

pitch perfect

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a freshman at Barden University, the big activity at Barden is a-capella singing.  Beca wants none of it, she wants to be a DJ, but her father says if she can stay in school for a year, and still doesn’t like it, he will pay for her to become a DJ, but she has to have at least one school activity.  Beca reluctantly joins the Bellas, the all-female a-capella singing group.  The leader of the Bellas, Aubrey (Anna Camp) always picked the cutest girls to be part of the Bellas, but she’s had to lower the physical standards for the Bellas a bit, because she vomited all over the audience at last year’s finals, so she lets Beca join, as well as Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Cynthia Rose (Esther Dean) who’s also a big girl, and may or may not be a lesbian. The Bellas main rivals, are the Treblemakers, the all-male a-capella group led by an egomaniac, named Bumper. (Adam Devine) Bumper has recently added Jesse (Skylar Astin) to the Treblemakers.  Jesse knows Beca from the radio station where they both work, they’ve become quote close,  but Aubrey’s number one rule is that no Bella ever date or sleep with a Treblemaker. The Bellas make the regionals, but Becca notices that they’re doing the same songs as last year, when they llost, she wants to spice things up a bit with some new mashups, will she get any support from the new Bellas?  Will she get support from Aubrey’s oldest friend and right hand, Chloe? (Brittany Snow )

Of course Pitch Perfect was made because of the popularity of the Glee tv series, and it shares many attributes with Glee, it’s about singing, of course, it’s about outcasts trying to meld with the popular kids  to form a great singing group, and there’s some sexual tension thrown in between the leads.  Some of the characters almost devolve into stereotypes.  Fat Amy is loud and brassy, an Asian member of the group can barely be heard above a whisper, and there’s the ubiquitous gay/lesbian character .  And even though some of the characters aren’t stereotypical, they’re commonly portrayed negative female types.  Aubrey’s the head cheerleader type, a control freak, a person who wants to be queen of her fiefdom, no matter how small it is, and Chloe is a sycophant, who goes along to get along.  And some of the writing even borrows from Dodgeball, believe it or not.

But this movie works, why does it work?  Because it is funny, the music is good, and the actors are endearing.  Anna Kendrick would not have been my first choice for Beca, she’s 26, and hardly looks like a college freshman, but she works as a comic foil for Aubrey, and there is some chemistry between her and Skylar Astin.  Anna Camp really humanizes Aubrey and Brittany Snow is sweet and likeable,  in what could have been a throwaway role. The music is what makes this movie fun, sure there’s Bruno Mars, Price Tag, all the current hits, but there are enough songs from the 80’s and 90’s to keep the older folks happy, like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” “Don’t You Forget About Me.” and No Diggitty.  Yes there’s autotune, but you must be used to that from Glee, right?  So forget all the shotcomings and enjoy.  Would I let a tween watch it? No, the humor is a bit heavy on sexual references, but an older teen yes.

Pitch Perfect:  Gleefully good.



Adam (Joseph Gordon Leavitt) is a 27 year old writer at a radio station.  His best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogan) also works at the radio station.  Adam has an artist girlfriend named Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is flighty and non-attentive, and a  mother (Angelica Huston) who smothers him.  Adam’s father has Alzheimer’s disease.  Adam feels some pain in his back, he goes to the doctor and finds out he has a rare form of spinal cancer.  After being shocked initially, Adam goes through chemotherapy and befriends two cancer patients, Mitch (Matt Frewer) and Alan (Phillip Baker Hall) Rachel stays with Adam, but it’s out of a sense of pity, or duty, or some other misguided reason.  The relationship doesn’t last, though because Kyle sees Rachel kissing another artist at her art show debut. Adam tries to forget Rachel by sleeping with a girl from a club, but his back hurts too much to enjoy the lovemaking.  Adam’s life is not going well, to say the least, Kyle tries to help, the only way he knows how, by introducing Adam to girls, Adam’s mother continues to smother him, and his therapist,  Katherine, (Anna Kendrick) who should be helping Adam, is awkward and inexperienced.  To make matters worse, Adam hears from the doctor that the chemo hasn’t worked, and he needs an operation to remove the tumor, and if that doesn’t work, he’s out of options. What happens next?

I like this movie, because despite the devastating topic, it’s treated with maturity and more importantly with humor.  Nobody wants to see a pity party here, and we don’t get one.  Writer Will Reiser keeps the jokes and the pop culture references coming fast and furious.  We see Adam’s pain, but he handles it with stoicism , and it seems totally natural.  The ending is disappointing, but the writer painted himself into a corner, so that no matter which ending he chose, someone in the audience would have been disappointed.  The acting is great.  Joseph Gordon Leavitt is superb, he’s just a very likable guy, and he plays his role as a cancer sufferer with an understated dignity.  Seth Rogan is Seth Rogan, slightly less irritating than usual, providing lots of laugh, despite playing the same character in every movie.  I liked Bryce Dallas Howard, I know she was supposed to be a superficial airhead, but I can’t see her as an evil person.  Anna Kendrick feels oddly out of place, here, she plays the role as if she’s 12, and it makes for lots of awkwardness, and no chemistry with Leavitt.  Angelica Huston gives the mother a heart, even though her character is not given a lot to work with.

50/50.  100% good.


Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a corporate downsizing specialist, he works for a company that exclusively fires people, because the original company that people work for doesn’t have the guts to fire the people they’ve hired.  Ryan likes his job, or at least the travel aspects of it, he’s got the airport down to a science, packing, security, which line to stand in.   Ryan’s only goal in life seems to be to rack up frequent flier miles, and to keep his life free of relationships, of any consequence, personal and otherwise.  He even lectures on it, What’s in Your Backpack, asks Ryan, and he wants people to lighten their backpacks, disentangle themselves from attachments to people, to things, to everything.  Ryan even meets the perfect woman for him, named Alex,(Farminga)  a female version of himself, commitment phobic, driven to succeed.  They meet in a hotel bar and Ryan impresses Alex with his concierge card from American Airlines, that’s how alike they are.   Life is perfect for Ryan, right?  So that of course means that something has to change.

Change for Ryan comes in the form of Natalie Keener (Kendrick) a recent college graduate, who has an idea to downsize people using videoconferencing, which would mean that Ryan is permanently grounded, a fact he does not like.  Ryan suggests to his boss, Craig  (Jason Bateman) that he take Natalie on the road with her to experience his technique in the fine art of downsizing people,  They fly from town to town, Natalie’s attempts at firing people don’t go that well, her relationships don’t go that well, her boyfriend texts their breakup, but yet she calls out Ryan on his relationship with Alex and asks him why he doesn’t  want a stable loving monogamous relationship, and he can’t answer that question, so he  asks Alex to come with him to his sister Julie’s (Melanie Lynsky) wedding, a big relationship milestone.  On the day of the wedding Julie’s fiancé, Jim (Danny McBride) gets cold feet, can Ryan talk Jim into marriage?  Can he talk himself into a stable, monogamous relationship with Alex?

I like this movie, but it contradicts itself.  Ryan talks about being commitment phobic, and not tying yourself down with relationships, but the only person he sees on the road is Alex, face it, Ryan is in a committed relationship whether he wants to admit it or not.  Secondly, Ryan is arguing for the personal touch in downsizing, but every other life choice he’s made argues against the personal touch.  That’s a contradiction.  There is a twist in this movie, and I like it, it was refreshing to see the tables turned. I really have a problem with Clooney’s acting, his voice descends into a dull monotone, his delivery of lines is robotic sometimes, emotionless, flat.  And that hurts this movie.  The only scene where he cuts through the blandness of his performance is a scene where he fires JK Simmons, he really reached me in that scene, but that was it.  Vera Farminga is very good, as the woman who stays true to herself, and does not deviate from the path she’s set out for herself.  Anna Kendrick, I can’t decide if her character us annoying or she is annoying,  I’ll have to watch her in something else to decide. Overall this is a good movie with some flaws.

Up in The Air.  Just Plane Good.