Mary Elizabeth Winstead

"While We’re Young," a new film by Noah Baumbach, chronicles the story of straight-laced, middle-aged couple as they dive headfirst into a midlife crisis after befriending a significantly younger couple.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of A24 Films | Daily Texan Staff

Amid the buzz about “Insurgent,” the second installment of the “Divergent” trilogy, or movies like Disney’s upcoming remake of “Cinderella,” a number of interesting films and series pass through theaters and online streaming sites totally unnoticed. From freethinking robots to zombie beavers, here are some of the most overlooked offerings cinema and TV are presenting this month — the good, the bad and the ugly. Viewer discretion is advised.

Zombeavers

Yes, this is a film about zombie beavers. If you derive joy from making fun of other people’s terrible ideas, “Zombeavers,” like 2013’s “Sharknado,” is prime real estate. The film pokes fun at the ridiculous stereotypes of the horror genre through horrifically cheesy dialogue, excessive low-budget blood and an army of crudely stuffed taxidermy beavers. 

Release date: March 20

  1. Where: Select theaters

​Watch the trailer for "Zombeavers" now:

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Faults

“Faults” bends conventional genre boundaries, combining aspects of a black comedy, drama and thriller into a low-budget film starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser. The film playfully deals with the serious subject matter of psychotherapy through the main character of Orser, a “deprogrammer” hired by Winstead’s parents to “deprogram” their brainwashed daughter. Winstead, a cult victim, proves steadfast in her brainwashed beliefs and poses a challenge for Orser. The film, a directorial debut for Riley Stearns, follows Winstead and Orser as they battle for control over Winstead’s mind.

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  2. Release date: March 6 
  3. Where: iTunes

​Watch the trailer for "Faults" now:

While We’re Young

“While We’re Young,” a film indie legend Noah Baumbach wrote, directed and produced, chronicles the story of straight-laced, middle-aged couple, played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, as they dive headfirst into a midlife crisis after befriending a significantly younger couple, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried.

In a write-up for Toronto International Film Festival, writer Cameron Bailey wrote that the film perfectly encapsulates the paradox of modern urban sophisticates: the older generations embracing iPhones and Netflix and the younger discovering vinyl and vintage VHS tapes.

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  2. National release date: March 27 
  3. Where: Violet Crown Cinema

Watch the official teaser trailer for "While We're Young" here:

Chappie

Sci-fi vet Neill Blomkamp, known for “Elysium” and “District 9,” directs the emotional action-thriller, “Chappie,” which follows a young robot set in the near future. “Chappie” tells the story of the first sentient robot, who fights for his life against Hugh Jackman, a corrupt law enforcer who wants to destroy him. Surprisingly, the MPAA has given the movie an R rating for violence, language and nudity, raising many questions as to who might be stripping down in a film in which the main character is a robot.

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  2. National release date: March 6
  3. Where: Major Austin movie theaters

Check out the trailer for "Chappie" here:

Bloodline

Netflix will strategically releases its new thriller-drama series, “Bloodline,” just three weeks after “House of Cards”’ third season premiere in hopes of keeping all the binge-watching couch potatoes’ attention. From the creators of “Damages,” the series follows Kyle Chandler and his prominent Floridian family as their world is rocked by the return of the renegade eldest brother, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), who threatens to reveal the family’s dark secrets and scandalous past. The trailer reveals levels of drama and character development of the same caliber as the widely-loved Netflix dramas “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.”

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  2. National release date: March 20
  3. Where: Netflix

Watch the trailer for "Bloodline" your next binge-watching Netflix addiction, here:

Maps To The Stars

Academy Award-winner Julianne Moore stars in “Maps to the Stars,” a satirical drama that comments on the superficial and greedy nature of the entertainment industry. Moore depicts an unraveling washed up actress in need of a personal assistant who hires former psych ward patient Agatha (Mia Wasikowska). 

The film also stars John Cusack as a celebrity therapist and Robert Pattinson as a limo driver. The script, inspired by time the writer spent as a limo driver in Beverly Hills in the 1990s, fell into the hands of Canadian director David Cronenberg and was released Friday.

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  2. National release date: Feb. 27
  3. Where: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — South Lamar

Watch the trailer for "Maps to the Stars" here:

Charlie (Aaron Paul) and Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) share a rare happy moment in “Smashed.”  Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

November is apparently the month of the alcoholism message movie, and between last week’s harrowing “Flight” and Sony Pictures Classics’ unsettling “Smashed,” the topic has been getting a lot of play on the big screen lately. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between the two films, but “Smashed” is an entirely different animal, a much more simplistic but emotional portrayal of a marriage collapsing under the harsh light of sobriety.

Alcohol has always been a factor in the relationship between Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul), and the two are already deep in a mutually propulsive spiral when the film begins. After Kate, a first grade teacher, vomits in front of her class, she begins to realize she may have a problem. With the help of co-worker Dave (Nick Offerman), Kate begins to take steps toward recovery, something that pushes her apart from her husband even as it helps her gain control of her life.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a consistently unpredictable screen presence, and it’s never certain if she will be the dull, pretty face of “Death Proof” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” or the interesting performer from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Fortunately, “Smashed” may be her best showcase yet, a role without any room for vanity or self-awareness, and Winstead throws herself into it admirably. The film essentially asks her to play two different people, and the animalistic depravity of Kate in the film’s opening is a marked difference from the clarity and focus she has once she starts attending AA meetings. Winstead is powerful and understated here, and she shows off a surprisingly effective dramatic skill set.

Unfortunately, “Smashed” spends the majority of its runtime focused almost exclusively on Winstead, and that small scope ends up drastically hurting the film. At only 75 minutes without credits, it’s hard not to feel a bit cheated having plunked down the money for a full ticket only to get about two-thirds of a movie. The film’s central tension focuses on Kate and Charlie’s marriage, but we never really get a sense of Charlie as a character. As good as Paul is, Charlie never ascends beyond a paper-thin enabler, the soft-voiced devil on Kate’s shoulder. There’s no reason for the audience to invest in their marriage, and the film’s climax jumps to a foregone conclusion without giving us any reason to care about it one way or another.

Director James Ponsoldt, who co-wrote “Smashed”’s script with Susan Burke, displays a stronger sense of his story and characters behind the camera. The film’s look is notable, especially for the stark visual contrasts Ponsoldt brings to Kate’s levels of sobriety. When she’s drunk, the camera takes an impressionable lilt, becoming more and more erratic the more Kate imbibes, and her sober scenes are met with steadiness and a more restrained aesthetic. It is an interesting, creative way to approach Kate’s struggle and a subtle visual signature for Ponsoldt.

Although “Smashed” suffers from its slightness, it’s still a well written and directed film that never veers into sentimentality. There’s no sugar-coating of alcoholism here, and although many of the film’s supporting characters could have used some fleshing out, actors like Offerman, Paul and Octavia Spencer still impress. Even though there’s a lot to like about the film, there’s so little to it that it’s hard to recommend a pricey theater viewing. However, its scale is so small and its struggles so quiet that it could make for an even more effective experience on video, and it’s certainly worth what little of your time for which it asks.

Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: 'Smashed' avoids mush, probes into alcoholism 

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” follows the life of 22-year-old Toronto native Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, “Superbad”) as he falls for American delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Live Free or Die Hard”). However, before he can begin a relationship with her, he must defeat her seven ex-boyfriends, all of whom belong to the League of Evil Exes, who want to control Ramona’s love life.

On Aug. 13, the young and talented cast of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” — including Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, Cera and Winstead — as well as director Edgar Wright made Austin their last stop in the United States before heading out to promote the film in Europe. Sitting at a round table at the Four Seasons Hotel, the cast members opened up about their on-set experiences and the appeal of their respective characters.

The Daily Texan: What attracted you to the script?

Brandon Routh: No one could read the script unless [they were] working with the director Edgar Wright, but I read the source material and knew that this was something I was interested in.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead: I read the [comic] books, loved everything. I like the stylized, over-the-top performances.

DT: In the film, Scott must defeat Ramona’s exes by using their weaknesses against them. Do each of you have a weakness?

Jason Schwartzman: Getting buried alive and hair pulling.

Edgar Wright: Tickling. Definitely tickling.

Michael Cera: I hate when people grab you by the neck.

DT: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and what would be your superhero name?

JS: I would be Ultrasound Man.

EW: Wizard Sleeve. I would have Dumbledore in this sleeve, Merlin in the pocket and Gandalf in the other [sleeve].

MC: The Tailor, I could make anyone’s clothes fit perfectly with the touch of my finger.

DT: Anna, you have acted in a variety of different films, each in a different genre. Are you trying to find your niche?

Anna Kendrick: You get lucky. If I told you that I had any type of strategy, I would be lying. I wanted to do “Scott Pilgrim” because I was a fan of Edgar’s work and wanted a shot at working with him.