Cake (2014) – I’m not the biggest Jennifer Aniston fan. She’s one of those actresses that has always annoyed me a little bit, for no particular reason. (She was even my least favorite part of Friends, when I watched it during its original run!) So I didn’t go into this move with high expectations (aside from my excitement over seeing Chris Messina in another film), but I walked out very impressed by both Aniston’s performance and the film as a whole. I have a new respect for her as an actress after seeing her take on this role, not because it’s more serious than many of her previous roles but because she’s so convincing as Claire, a complicated woman who struggles not only with chronic physical pain but with inner turmoil resulting from the loss of her son. The supporting performances are also very good, which is important since this film is very character-oriented rather than story-oriented.
Foxcatcher (2014) – I have a personal bias against the first two thirds or so of this film: I am not a fan of wrestling, and not a fan of sports movies. I decided to watch it for the crime drama aspect, and to see whether it lived up to the hype. The lengthy wrestling scenes and quiet tone of the film made most of its run-time seem very slow to me, and at times I found it dull. But as I said, I recognize that this is a personal bias and doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the film. There is some very effective mood-building, and Steve Carell delivers an undoubtedly interesting/intense portrayal of John du Pont.
Unbroken (2014) – A stellar film, in my opinion. Angelina Jolie’s direction exceeded my expectations. I was also very impressed with the performances and the script. The period is captured quite well, as are the horrors of war. Louis Zamperini’s journey is a fascinating one, powerful and often heartbreaking to watch. (I almost cried a few times!) This is the type of film that sticks with you very long after watching, and I considered doing a full review since it’s a period film, but I realized all of my thoughts could be summed up with “It’s great, watch it now!”
The Wedding Ringer (2015) – This film was just not for me. I found the comedy to be unoriginal and unfunny, for the most part. While slightly more successful in its sappy bro-mance moments, the whole thing just felt flat. I expected very little from this film going in, and very little is what I got!