The horror comedy Life After Beth stars Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed) as the titular Beth, a young woman who tragically dies from a snakebite while out on a hike. Her grieving boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan - The Amazing Spider-Man 2) bemoans the fact that he didn't have enough time with Beth to let her know everything he felt. He gets another chance at love when Beth mysteriously returns from the dead which her parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon) believe to be a divine gift ... although Zach begins to believe Beth is actually a zombie! The film is filled with uneasy, grotesque warped laughs at the expense of the undead and as a twisted take on a relationship the film is kind of cute; but the films takes a jarring and confusing turn with the arrival of a full-fledged Zombie Apocalypse that changes the entire mood of the film for the worse. I believe the film is actually a metaphor for a soured relationship but that'd require more thought and brains than some would want to use around zombies. Plaza's trademark deadpan humor works here and her appreciation of slow jazz is winning; but when Beth is sidelined to give some other zombies screen time (why?) the film loses its appeal as there is little "life" in this film without Beth.
Spectacularly ordinary. Richard Linklater's (Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight) latest film Boyhood is a film shot over a 12 year span that chronicles the life/boyhood of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he goes to school or eats dinner or takes a road trip or fights with a parent etc. The film gives us nothing overtly exciting like explosions or car chases (a broken beer bottle might be the film's most "exciting/action" element) and instead focuses on the drama of growing up when things are beyond our control and we have to make them work. It is a story everyone should relate to and/or find common ground with; but it might also simply be "too realistic" to entice others to want to watch the nearly 3 hour film. Mason's parents -- Ethan Hawke (Gattaca) and Patricia Arquette (True Romance) -- are divorced and he lives with his mother and older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater - Richard's daughter). Mason experiences life and literally grows up before our eyes. The film is clearly a narrative cinematic experiment that I found fascinating because there was nothing outlandish associated with the film or his story. I felt invested in his story/growth hoping for the best for Mason; but I am a self-admitted "people watcher" who observes and learns from others so this film was right up my alley. The movie will not be for everyone but I believe it to be rather special. I even shed a tear near the film's end as I knew Mason was heading off to college and our time together was coming to an end. Thank you Mr. Linklater for the experience.
Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) plays identical twin sisters Laurel and Audrey who are as unlike as two people can be. Laurel is a meek homebody who has decided to remain in her small hometown to look after their widower father (John Carroll Lynch - Shutter Island) and Audrey is the sister who left the small town world behind her and found a comfortable job selling real estate in the city living it up with a few different boyfriends and a group of catty, materialistic friends. When the opportunity arises for Laurel to take the place of Audrey, she jumps at it and discovers what others have believed and felt toward the sisters all along while also finding herself in the process. It is a quirky and at-times dark coming of age tale that is promising but not wholly successful as it too easily falls into predictable rom-com traps once Laurel meets Audrey's nice neighbor played by Jake Johnson ('New Girl'). Kazan is cute and charming in her role(s) and she pulls her trick off with a nice balance; but the film wants to be poignant and it falls short.
Indie darling Amy Seimetz writes and directs this obscure little film about a tense road trip between two lovers as they travel along the Gulf coast of Florida. The purpose of their journey is unclear but it is apparent that Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil - You're Next) is growing increasingly fearful that Leo (Kentucker Audley - The Sacrament) is going to leave her in the near future for any number of reasons the audience begins to discern. The movie is not one for mass audiences as little action occurs onscreen until near the film's end. Up until then, the film focuses on mood and emotion as the situation the characters find themselves in slowly unravels as Crystal's fragile psychological state may prove to be their undoing. The actors are quite strong here as Audley's desperation and growing frustration is palpable as his Leo tries to calm Sheil's contemptible and clingy Crystal who is slowly checking out of reality. Sheil is either a great actress or one I cannot stomach as few characters have annoyed me so onscreen in the past. Seimetz proves to be a talent behind the camera here and I hope she is given more chances to further a blossoming career. I'm hopeful for her but as for Crystal and Leo -- hope is fading faster than a setting sunset.