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There will never be another Friends. Not just in the sense that the 1994-2004 series was a one-of-a-kind comedy that defined a generation, but also in that there will literally never be another Friends—as in, there will be no money-grabbing, nostalgia-drunk reboot. The show’s stars could not be any more disinterested.

Which is commendable, considering the megabucks being thrown around to dig lesser ’90s series out of the grave. The recent Will and Grace revival isn’t all that loathsome, but who knows how the upcoming recycled takes of Charmed, Roswell, Party of Five and Murphy Brown are going to fare?

And then there’s Roseannehard pass.

Back to Friends: All six stars—Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer—have collectively and individually said “no way, no how, no thanks” to a reunion. Millions of Netflix viewers are apparently just fine with the 10 seasons already available; Friends is one of the streamer’s top draws, especially among (!!!Marketing Buzzword Alert!!!) #millennials.

But where do you go once you’ve binge-watched all 236 Friends episodes? Here are 14 (ish) shows starring The Artists Formerly Known as Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross and Rachel outside of Central Perk. (Sorry, no Gunther.)

Cougar Town (Seasons 1-6 on Hulu):The most successful—or at least longest-lived—post-Friends solo project was also the most Friends-like. Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town evolved from a sitcom about a man-hungry 40-something divorcee into a genuinely funny ensemble comedy about—spoiler—six friends. There’s also no laugh track, favoring the rapid-fire delivery of producer Bill Lawrence’s Scrubs, and each of Cougar Town’s 102 episodes is named after a Tom Petty song.

Dirt (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Cox’s first series after the end of Friends didn’t fare as well. In 2007-08 FX drama Dirt, she starred as the editor-in-chief of a muck-racking celebrity-gossip magazine who wrecks lives for print and profit. (Remember the days when magazines could profit from print? Good times.) Dirt showed an unexpectedly dark and ruthless side of Cox, but the series eventually became too twisted even for FX, which killed it after 20 episodes.

Misfits of Science (Season 1 on DailyMotion): Before Friends, Cox co-starred in another NBC series, 1985-86 sci-fi oddity Misfits of Science. Unfortunately, this piece of retro-kitsch is ridiculously unavailable, existing only on import DVDs and random Internet sites. Kind of a stoopid dollar-store X-Men, Misfits of Science centered on a gang of superpowered teens; only Cox stood out (though co-star Mark Thomas Miller did go on to lead the cinematic triumph Ski School).

Joey (Seasons 1-2 on various sites): Nearly as hard to find and only half as funny was Matt LeBlanc’s Joey, the only “official” Friends spin-off. The 2005-06 sitcom should have been a slam-dunk right after Friends, with an impressive cast that included Drea de Matteo, Andrea Anders and Jennifer Coolidge … but, man, did it suck with the force of a thousand black holes. Apparently, the plan was to move “actor Joey” to Hollywood to fail miserably. Mission meta-accomplished.

Episodes (Seasons 1-5 on Netflix): Speaking of meta, here’s Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc! After disappearing upon the demise of Joey, LeBlanc resurfaced five years later in a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque Showtime series as an exaggerated version of himself—with brutally hilarious results. R-rated inside jokes about Friends and Joey fly furiously, as do jabs at Hollywood vanity and toxicity, with “Matt LeBlanc” leading the way as Dickhead Supreme. The best Friends follow-up.

Man With a Plan (Seasons 1-2 on CBS All Access): And now the worst. Before Episodes had even finished its run on Showtime, LeBlanc had lined up a new gig straight out of the CBS sitcom-clone factory: Man With a Plan, the kind of hackneyed network shit that his fictional self would have mocked mercilessly. He’s a stay-at-home dad! His kids are assholes! His wife thinks he’s a dope! How is this different from Kevin Can Wait? The wife isn’t dead … yet.

The Comeback (Seasons 1-2 on HBO Go): In 2005, Lisa Kudrow co-created and co-wrote The Comeback, wherein she starred as actress Valerie Cherish, a D-lister who had a hit sitcom in the ’90s (meta!). After Season 1, the Season 2 followed … more than 9 years later. The Comeback is “raw footage” of a reality show called The Comeback, chronicling Valerie’s Hollywood comeback on a new sitcom (kinda meta!). Kudrow’s ballsy, uninhibited performance is as uncomfortably funny as anything Ricky Gervais has ever pulled off.

Web Therapy (Seasons 1-4 on various sites): Speaking of meta: Kudrow created Web Therapy in 2008 as an online series, but it eventually moved to Showtime, and now it can barely be found streaming anywhere. Here, she’s Dr. Fiona Wallace, a self-proclaimed “groundbreaking” therapist who conducts 3-minute sessions via Skype with a dizzying array of celebrity patients (including several Friends). Silly on the surface, Web Therapy is a darker comedy than it first appears to be.

Feed the Beast (Season 1 on Hulu):Give credit to AMC: The cable network sinks serious money into serious failures (see: most every show that isn’t The Walking Dead). Feed the Beast, a gritty 2016 drama starring David Schwimmer as a sad-sack sommelier (that’s a wine expert, PBR-heads), was like Breaking Bad meets Kitchen Nightmares: Two buds open a fine-dining restaurant in the Bronx, only to be seared and deconstructed by the local mob. Ten episodes, done.

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson (Season 1 on Netflix): Earlier in 2016, however, Schwimmer killed—too soon?—as defense attorney Robert Kardashian in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, a sprawling, ambitious, entertaining mess dramatizing the Juice’s 1995 murder trial. Stars John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr. received most of the attention, but Schwimmer was fantastic (and nominated for an Emmy) in a freak-show of a series.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (Season 1 on various sites):Matthew Perry was poised to become the biggest post-Friends breakout TV star, and in 2006, he wound up on NBC’s hella-hyped Aaron Sorkin dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which went … nowhere. Set behind the scenes at a Saturday Night Live-style sketch show, Studio 60’s initial episodes were sharp and funny, but then dragged and died on preachy politics. (Sorkin later got the mix right with HBO’s The Newsroom.)

Mr. Sunshine (Season 1 on various sites): Perry’s losing streak just kept streaking with 2011’s Mr. Sunshine, a half-hour comedy that found him playing the unlucky-in-love manager of a San Diego sports arena. Despite a solid cast that included Allison Janney, Andrea Anders (who also did time on Joey) and Portia Doubleday (later of Mr. Robot), Mr. Sunshine grounded out after one meh season. Perry had better luck playing himself on Childrens Hospital that year.

Go On (Season 1 on various sites): Another one-season wonder, the funniest thing about Perry’s Go On was the hashtag that NBC used to promote it on Twitter: #goon. How could anyone not find laughs in the story of a recently widowed sports-talk radio host (Perry) forced to attend a grief-therapy support group? Comedy gold! America didn’t agree, sending Go On to the sitcom graveyard after 22 episodes. A darker version probably would have thrived on HBO, but whatever.

And Then There’s … Jennifer Aniston (Jen streaming on JustWatch): Aside from a few brief post-Friends cameos, the former Rachel has stayed the hell away from TV—after witnessing Chandler’s trajectory, who can blame her? Instead, Jennifer Aniston has starred in 50-odd movies, not including her first (and finest), 1993’s Leprechaun. Other great roles in the Aniston canon include Office Space, Rock Star, The Good Girl, Derailed, Management, The Switch and Horrible Bosses; avoid Marley and Me and Mother’s Day like Rachel’s Thanksgiving Trifle.

Bill Frost talks about television on the TV Tan podcast (BillFrost.tv) and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

Published in TV

Jennifer Aniston personifies emotional and physical pain in Cake. She does such a great job of looking and sounding miserable that it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that crew members were driving nails into her feet out of the camera’s view during takes.

Aniston plays a woman named Claire, and the reasons for Claire’s misery are not made clear until well into the film, a wise choice by director Daniel Barnz and screenwriter Patrick Tobin. Not only does this slow revelation provide the film with some decent mystery; it allows the focus to solely be on Claire in the moment, as she struggles with physical back pain and some sort of loss.

The film opens with Claire in a chronic-pain support group. They address the loss of Nina (played by Anna Kendrick in photos and flashbacks), a member who committed suicide by jumping off a freeway overpass. Claire makes a brutally honest observation about the conditions of her suicide—and gets ejected from the group. It’s clear that Claire is a dangerously unhappy person.

Little is revealed about Claire’s background as the film progresses. We learn she has a husband (Chris Messina) who cares deeply for her, but no longer lives at their house. She appears to be taken care of financially, with a supportive housekeeper, Silvana (Adriana Barraza), who endures her mood swings.

For unexplained reasons, Claire fixates on Nina, sometimes dreaming about her, and even hallucinating about her after indulging in too many painkillers. Her obsession leads her to Nina’s house, where she meets Nina’s widower, Roy (Sam Worthington), and her son. Worthington delivers perhaps his best performance yet as a man who is confused by the loss of his wife, and who deals with Claire in a curious, yet amiable, way.

The relationship between Claire and Roy is unorthodox, yet delicately handled. I’ll dare to say it’s even charming, which is surprising, considering their emotional states. Aniston and Worthington are both very much in command of the raw emotion and pain in play between their characters. They even manage to inject a fair amount of humor.

Aniston manages to make Claire a sympathetic character despite her constant unpleasantness. While we only get glimpses of the Claire that might’ve existed before her back and heart became racked with pain, it’s obvious that Claire was once somebody for whom many people cared—and she pushed them away for solid reasons. The pain of her losses never leaves Aniston’s face, even when she is smiling.

Aniston has played dour people before—and she’s played them well. (For example, check out her performance in The Good Girl.) I’ve always viewed her as very talented, so her effectiveness here doesn’t surprise me.

Even though we do find out some of the reasons behind the tragedies Claire has endured, many of the details remain shrouded. Some critics have found this frustrating, and punished the film for it. I think it’s one of the film’s many virtues. Not knowing exactly why Claire is in pain somehow makes her struggle all the more vivid and compelling.

The excellent supporting cast also includes Felicity Huffman as Claire’s therapy-group leader. Huffman has a couple of great scenes, including an odd one involving vodka. (Her real husband, William H. Macy, makes an important cameo.) Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) is also very good as a physical therapist who has had enough of Claire’s shit.

You’ll probably want to watch a couple of Friends episodes after taking this one in, if only to see Aniston happy and pain free again. Cake is a good movie—but it’s a rough one to watch at times. Just like it should be.

Cake is now playing at the UltraStar Mary Pickford Stadium 14 (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100), the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342) and the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Published in Reviews

While the first Horrible Bosses got by on the charms of its three main stars, the second one falls a bit short.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) have decided to go into business for themselves after the events of the first film. They wind up on TV pitching a stupid idea called the Shower Buddy, where they are seen by Rex (Chris Pine), the son of billionaire businessman Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz). This leads to that, and the boys wind up in a kidnapping scheme involving Rex trying to double-cross his dad.

The screenplay strains to bring back Jennifer Aniston as the naughty dentist and Kevin Spacey as the embittered ex-boss. It also doesn’t help that Day and Sudeikis are a bit overwrought this time out; their acts are getting a little tired.

Bateman is easily the funniest thing about this movie—effortlessly smarmy, as always. I laughed a fair amount of times, but these characters would be better-served with all-new material and a new premise. I like seeing them together, but they need a new place to play.

Horrible Bosses 2 is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Life of Crime, a film based on the 1978 Elmore Leonard novel The Switch, has finally made it to the screen, nearly 30 years after producers first tried to make The Switch into a film. Unfortunately, the movie is rather drab.

The film features a kidnapping plot that has a rich wife, Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), being taken hostage; however, her philandering husband, Frank (Tim Robbins), doesn’t really care. A plan to make the movie in the ’80s was scrapped when Ruthless People, a movie starring Danny DeVito and Bette Midler with a similar premise, went into production.

In the interim, Quentin Tarantino adapted Leonard’s Rum Punch into Jackie Brown in ’97. Jackie Brown featured characters who also appear in Life of Crime: Kidnappers Ordell Robbie (Mos Def) and Louis Gara (John Hawkes) were played by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro, respectively, in Jackie Brown. Isla Fisher also appears as Frank’s mistress, Melanie, a character portrayed by Bridget Fonda in Jackie Brown.

I share this trivia about Life of Crime, because it is far more interesting than anything that happens in the actual movie.

Unlike some of the more successful Elmore Leonard film adaptations, like Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and Out of Sight (1998), Life of Crime lacks cleverness, laughs and even a discernible pulse. It’s a mostly flat affair, boasting a decent cast trying their best with a bland script.

Writer-director Daniel Schechter opts to make Life of Crime a period piece set in the 1970s. He gives his movie a washed-out look to go along with the humorless dialogue, and the pacing of this film is at times frustratingly slow and sloppy. It’s only 98 minutes long, but it feels like more like three hours long.

Nothing happens in this movie that feels new or inspired. The kidnappers take Mickey; they find out a big ransom is unlikely because the husband is a jerk; and that’s it. There’s a side plot involving a guy named Marshall (Will Forte) trying to have an affair with Mickey that is underdeveloped, and Mark Boone Junior shows up as a kidnapping accomplice who is a neo-Nazi. His character is probably supposed to add some kind of dark comic flavor, but he’s just ugly and unpleasant.

Aniston, one of the more misused actresses in Hollywood, is given the thankless task of acting worried and tired throughout the movie. None of her comedic chops are called upon; one gets a true sense that she was left out in the wilderness by her director.

Of all the performers, Mos Def seems the most comfortable in his role. He stars in the few moments of the movie that pop and crackle with Leonard’s style. Hawkes, a reliable actor, unfortunately joins Aniston in seeming mostly lost. Fisher, like Mos Def, manages to make her scenes somewhat worth watching. At one point, the characters played by Mos Def and Fisher team up; that made me wish the whole film was just about them.

The film includes the requisite unflattering period clothes and ’70s music on the soundtrack. The 1970s could provide a cool musical backdrop, but Schechter and friends chose such duds as “Let Your Love Flow” and “Don’t Pull Your Love.” If any soundtrack could have used a nice, upbeat ’70s track by The Kinks or The Who, it would have been this one.

Life of Crime seems to entirely miss the point and spirit of its source material. Or, perhaps it’s just getting unjustly compared to work by the likes of Tarantino and Barry Sonnenfeld. Either way, I was pretty bored.

Life of Crime is available via video on demand and online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com. It is also playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

In We’re the Millers, Jason Sudeikis plays a small-time drug-dealer who gets in over his head and is forced by his boss (Ed Helms) to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. Realizing that border agents seem to go easy on families, he hires a fake family to make the trip in an RV.

The family includes a wife (a stripper played by Jennifer Aniston), a daughter (a homeless girl played by Emma Roberts) and a son (a hapless neighbor played by Will Poulter).

The film has a Chevy Chase “Vacation” movie vibe; Sudeikis is charming in a way in which Chase was for a brief time in his career. Aniston plays a mighty-good stripper; she has another calling in case the whole acting thing doesn’t work out. Roberts gets perhaps her best role yet as Casey; she delivers some great eye-rolling moments. As for Poulter, he steals scenes nearly every time he speaks, and his encounter with a tarantula is priceless.

Sure, the movie gets a little gooey and sentimental by the time it plays out, but we’ve come to like the characters by then, so it’s OK. This is not a grand cinematic effort by any means, but it does provide some good laughs, with a fair share being quite shocking.

Special Features: The “extended cut” has an extra nine minutes or so of stuff. You also get a behind-the-scenes segment, deleted scenes, outtakes and more. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing