Three movies you HAVE to watch this weekend

Pick your Jennifer (Aniston or Lawrence!) in the films on offer in cinemas, on DVD and on TV (Feb 20-22)

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by Charles Gant |
Published on

At the cinema: Cake

The last few years have seen Jennifer Aniston reinventing herself again, unleashing her inner bad girl in raunchy comedies Horrible Bosses and We’re The Millers, and thus banishing Friends’ network-TV-friendly, lustrous-tressed Rachel to our distant memory banks. Now get ready for Jen, seriously dramatic actress. In Cake, she plays Claire, a woman whose scars are mental as well as physical. Evidently a victim of a vehicle accident, she is dealing with chronic pain, grief over loss of a loved one, a broken marriage and addiction to prescription meds. So far, so gritty. Thankfully, there’s also a (blackly) comic edge to the dialogue, which chimes well with the casting – Jen has a knack for gallows humour, and the screenplay is buoyed by genuine wit. This performance won Jen her first Golden Globe nomination for film acting, an accolade that was then turned against her when the Oscar Academy failed to follow suit. “Jen snubbed” was the story – the actress positioned, as is customary, in the victim role. This Sunday the Oscar will very likely go to Julianne Moore for Still Alice, and deservedly so. That film doesn’t arrive in cinemas until March 6. Until then, here’s a performance by another great actress, consistently underestimated.

On DVD: The Maze Runner

First there was The Hunger Games. Then Divergent. Does the world really need a third young adult film franchise about teenagers in a dystopian future? Maybe not, but The Maze Runner is still plenty entertaining, and sequels are on the way. Dylan O’Brien (TV’s Teen Wolf) stars as a young man who wakes up in a walled enclosure, joining fellow teen males who have formed a makeshift society of castaways. The only way out is through a giant maze, which, inconveniently, reconfigures every night. It’s a bit Lord Of The Flies meets cult sci-fi flick Cube (worth a rent/VOD purchase, incidentally). My quibble is that the reason for the boys being put in this situation, when finally revealed, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but never mind about that. Skins’ Kaya Scodelario is also in it as the sole female member of the guinea pigs, and the cast also includes Will Poulter (We’re The Millers).

On TV: Silver Linings Playbook (Saturday, Channel 4, 9pm)

In 2013 David O Russell hit paydirt with his movie American Hustle, which featured Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as supporting cast members (both Oscar-nominated). This is his film from the year before, also featuring Brad and Jen, this time in the lead roles. Bradley stars as Pat, whose anger issues have seen him spend eight months in a state mental facility, following a violent incident. Now back living with his parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver), he strikes up a testy friendship with Tiffany (Jennifer), a young widow who buries her grief with random sexual encounters. If that plot description makes the film sound too quirky for its own good, well, Russell is certainly a director who feels comfortable exploring the edge of the mainstream. Brad and Jen were both Oscar-nominated for these performances, with the latter winning the award. That fact is doubtless behind Channel 4’s decision to show this film the day before this year’s Oscar ceremony – which will see Bradley, who is nominated yet again (for American Sniper), compete for Best Actor. Here’s another chance to see the film that began the US Academy’s love affair with a star many had assumed wouldn’t progress much beyond The Hangover.

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