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Reviews for August 15th, 2014

Documentary Round-Up

      Web Junkie, opening at.


Directed by Lenny Abrahamson


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Magnolia Pictures.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Life After Beth

Directed by Jeff Baena

      Zach (Dane DeHaan) mourns the loss of his girlfriend, Beth (Audrey Plaza), who died of a snake bite. He spends his time with Beth's parents, Maury (John C. Reilly) and Gennie (Molly Shannon), but, one day, all-of-a-sudden, they don't answer their door and, to make matters even more unusual, he sees Beth inside the house. Do Beth's parents have some sort of secret they're trying to hide? That answer arrives shortly not long after when they explain to Zach that Beth had mysteriously showed up back home and that she has no recollection of dying or how she escaped from her grave. Little does he know that a zombie nor that other zombies have also risen from the dead. Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser play Zach's parents.

      Zombie comedies can work quite effectively with a clever, imaginative and witty screenplay that also combines its genres smoothly. Unfortunately, writer/director Jeff Baena's screenplay lacks those essential elements despite the potential of its kooky premise and the film's talented cast. The zombie humor gets old pretty fast, and the blend of comedy, horror, romance and drama result in unevenness. This might have been more engaging as a short film, but at 90 minutes, it drags on and on with repetitive jokes that were only mildly funny to begin with. Perhaps kicking the screwball comedy, irreverence and/or kookiness up a few notches would've generated more laughs.

      To be fair, though, Dane DeHaan is indeed a very capable actor who knows how to sink his teeth into a wide range of raw emotions like he did in The Place Beyond the Pines and Kill Your Darlings. Here he's just as superb, but he's undermined by a lackluster screenplay that fails to be smart, funny or poignant for that matter---although it does try. The same can be said for Audrey Plaza who deserves better material. Both of their strong performances will help to keep you somewhat amused instead of bored by the comedic scenes that fall somewhat flat. At least Baena keeps the pace moving briskly you amused throughout the film instead of being bored. Nonetheless, you'll still find yourself yearning for Shaun of the Dead, a much funnier, irreverent and biting zombie comedy.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by A24 Pictures.
Opens at Angelika Film Center.

The Trip to Italy

Directed by Michael Winterbottom


Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
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