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Episode 4 – Dope, Inside Out. . . and what is the deal with critics?

This week we review Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out and indie comedy-drama Dope. 

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Dope is about young Malcolm growing up in Inglewood, Los Angeles, as a self-proclaimed geek who is into “white shit” like skateboarding, Game of Thrones, manga, his trip-hop punk bank named Awwreoh! and getting good grades and going to Harvard. Through a series of misadventures, the day before his fateful alumni interview that could determine his future, he gets a bunch of drugs planted in his backpack and then is placed in circumstances where he has to sell them. Sorry for plot spoilers– that’s not the point. Lots in here about racial identity– what it means to be black and expectations based on your race. There’s also a strong commentary about drugs and how the impoverished African-American community deals with the violence and problems of delivering drugs to white folks.

Strong performances by main cast, a GREAT soundtrack (which you can stream here) and lots of laughs and real drama.  8/10

Inside Out is Disney/Pixar’s return to form after not having an incredibly spectacular movie for a while. Perfect cast. The purpose of Sadness. Bing Bong.

9/10

Our childhood imaginary friends.

What is the purpose of criticism or critics?

Ratatouille –  the main message here was Gusteau saying that “Anyone Can Cook.” Remy was challenged by knowing that a critic was coming in to eat their food, and he made something to blow his mind.

Chef – Jon Favreau and Oliver Plat get into it on social media over a bad review. Chef says critic doesn’t understand how to cook. Critic says his dishes are uninspired. So chef gets fired, gets inspired with a food truck, and critic ends up wanting to financially back his restaurants. What what what?!?!

Critics are chefs’ friends– they demand more, and point out where things can be improved. What do you need to be a critic? Anyone can cook, so anyone can critic– just use critics as a lens or filter, not infallible arbiters of good and bad.

Birdman – theater critics are way mean. Why are they so broken? We wanted to like TMNT. Really. Sometimes a movie is just escapism. The law of large numbers and critic aggregation sites.

Agree with us, disagree with us– let’s have a discussion.

Closing song is from Lava, the short that played before Inside Out. We forgot to review it, but it is excellent and worth the price of admission alone.

Episode 3 – Jurassic World, Christopher Lee Tribute

We review Jurassic World and share memories about Christopher Lee.

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Jurassic World – It has its flaws, but we both loved it. Buy the premise, but the bit. Lots of easter eggs and nods to the first film. Maybe too many nods– and outright aping shots and score from the first one. Christ Pratt is awesome. Least annoying kids. Wasted D’Onofrio. Adam gives it 7/10, Andy gives it 7.5/10. For more and to read us arguing with Bryan Young, read the roundtable review over at Big Shiny Robot.

In Memoriam: Christopher Lee – Yes Saruman and Dooku, but so much more. Andy talks The Man with the Golden Gun. Lee’s Nazi-hunting days. Tolkien expert and stabbing expert. Adam talks heavy metal and Christmas albums.

Music in this week’s episode taken from the Jurassic Park score by John Williams, the Fellowship of the Ring score by Howard Shore, and “The Bloody Verdict of Verden” from Christopher Lee’s metal rock opera about Charlemagne.

Episode 2 – PRIDE, Pitch Perfect 2, Spy, Entourage, Love and Mercy

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride month, so we’re celebrating! Tony Awards, so let’s talk musicals:

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Pitch Perfect 2 If you saw the first Pitch Perfect and The Mighty Ducks 2, you’ve seen this movie. But it’s still pretty good. Andy gives this a 7.5/10.

Spy – Not a spoof of spy movies– an actual spy movie with comedic elements. Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig work great together, and the supporting cast is amazing. But Feig needs an editor. Both Andy and Adam give this an 8/10

Entourage – Why? We didn’t need this movie. And there simply aren’t enough celebrity cameos and mindless T&A to make this interesting. 3/10 says Andy.

Love and Mercy – Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, played by Paul Dano in 1967 as they’re recording Pet Sounds, played by John Cusack in the 80’s as Wilson deals with mental health issues and being dominated by his live-in therapist (Paul Giamatti) and Elizabeth Banks is there to try to save him. It’s like a lot of musical biopics, but Andy really liked it: 9/10

Our recommendations for the week, based on the theme of LGBTQ Pride:

Adam: Weekend (2011) A great story of a weekend hookup that becomes something more. Beautiful story, great acting, great direction. Immediately released as a Criterion and so deserving.

Andy: The Case Against 8 (2014) – As a political junkie, Andy loved this documentary about the court case and the couples who served as the plaintiffs to overturn California’s Prop 8. Former opposing attorneys during the Bush v Gore Florida recount, Ted Olson and David Boies are the main lawyers in this case. Olson provides a strong, conservative case for recognizing marriage equality. Truth is better than fiction. Available on HBO Go, so also check out Angels in America and The Normal Heart.

Music in this episode:

Theme song: Boyz in the Hood performed by Dynamite Hack

Pitch Perfect cast: Cups (When I’m Gone), Das Sound Machine performs at Das Car Show, We Belong

Duran Duran – A View to a Kill, Theme from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger

Jane’s Addiction – Superhero (theme from Entourage)

Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby, God Only Knows

Songs from the 2015 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical – Fun Home — “Ring of Keys”, “Welcome to the Fun Home”

Weird Al Yankovic – Jurassic Park

Episode 1 – Tomorrowland, Mad Max: Fury Road

What is “Bored as Hell”? A podcast that will keep you from being bored as hell at the movies.

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Our philosophy on movie ratings: a 1-10 scale that is essentially a Bell Curve: most movies are going to be in the 3-7 range, and 1s and 10s are truly rare and equally awful as they are spectacular. But taking your entire family to the movies and buying popcorn can be as expensive as movie ticket, so you want to choose wisely.

Tomorrowland poster

Tomorrowland – It’s good to go into this movie relatively blind of what it’s all about. Know that it’s a slower burn, more thinky movie. But it’s still good for kids– depending on your kids. The acting is great: Clooney and Britt Robertson are great, but the breakout star is Raffi Cassidy.

The third act has some problems, and the ending is a little preachy. Andy likes the preachiness.

8/10

Tron 3 gets cancelled. Why Adam’s mom hates Tron. The dumbing down of sci-fi.

Hugh Laurie and George Clooney on Graham Norton this week was great. Next week Chris Pratt!

Mad Max Fury road poster

Mad Max: Fury Road – the movie that shouldn’t have been made. Max is basically a feral creature, captured by Immortan Joe’s cult of War Boys and used as a bloodbag for Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult. When Imperator Furiousa (Charlize Theron) takes off in her war rig with Immortan Joe’s harem, they go after her with all the fury they can muster. And then you have a 2 hour car chase.

Remember when Warner Bros was going to let George Miller make a Justice League movie? Andy thinks this is not only the best movie of the year, but the best of the last several years– the best since the first Avengers. Tiny moments and glances mean so much. You can dissect so much of this movie. The War Boys’ religion and nerding out about it for an hour and a half.

This is the opposite side of the same coin of Tomorrowland. Both directors present visions of the future and we can choose our destiny. Is the movie about feminism? Sure, but it’s also about a ton of other issues and layered. Nux probably has the best character arc of the movie.

Mad Max Fury Road guy playing guitar cool meme

Go see this a bunch of times.

10/10

What we’re excited about, what we’re concerned about for the rest of the year.

Recommendations:

Andy: Get a Hulu Plus subscription. Catch up on tv you missed, plus Hulu is adding Seinfeld on June 24th. They also have every Criteron movie available to stream.

Adam: Criterion Collection dvds/blu-rays at Costco. Why Criterion is great. This month’s Criterions at Costco is Seven Samurai and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

San Andreas only kind of “Rock”s

SAN ANDREAS (6 of 10) – Directed by Brad Peyton; Written by Carlton Cuse; Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Archie PanjabiPaul GiamattiIoan GruffuddHugo Johnstone-BurtArt Parkinson; Rated PG-13 for “intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language”, in wide release May 29, 2015.

Originally published at BigShinyRobot.com by Andy.

San Andreas is a film in that grandest of traditions of giant, spectacular disaster movies, shared by other “classics” like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure that were staples of cinema in the 70’s, 80’s and even into the 90’s (remember when we had TWO volcano movies in 1997 and then TWO asteroid movies in 1998?) In that sense, San Andreas doesn’t cover any new ground, but it does deliver a lot of action, some genuine thrills, and even manages to make this cynical critic care about its characters a little bit.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an elite Los Angeles Fire and Rescue helicopter pilot, and we see just how skilled he is in an opening sequence during a harrowing rescue of an SUV dangling off a cliff in the San Fernando Valley.

At the same time, Cal Tech seismology professor Paul Giamatti may have discovered a method of predicting earthquakes, and he and his team race off to the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas to investigate a cluster of small quakes.

Of course, disaster strikes. . .and it may mean certain doom as the quakes threaten to spread up and down the San Andreas Fault, destroying . . .well, pretty much all of California.

When the megaquake hits, Johnson has to swing into action to save his estranged wife from the top of a downtown LA skyscraper, and then rescue his daughter in San Francisco. Yes, there’s some family drama and angst. And a tragic backstory. Luckily, it doesn’t get too cloying and actually helps make the story more interesting rather than just have the movie be a series of sequences watching buildings topple over.

Unfortunately, this is still basically a retread of the disaster movie genre, simply switching out Hollywood’s favorite nihilistic obsession of destroying itself (eg, next week’s Entourage premier. . . ZZzzzing!!!) with destroying the Bay Area instead. While the script is attributed to former Lost producer Carlton Cuse, it is very obviously a product of the Hollywood script-by-committee.

But, that being said, it is a better entry into the disaster genre, understanding what it is and where it comes from, and it tries to exceed the limitations of what it is. For example the film takes a different turn in its final act as San Francisco deals with a giant tsunami, helping to make sure each action sequence builds from the previous one and tries to raise the stakes.

While the real stars here are the spectacle and the special effects, the human cast does a great job as well. Carla Gugino seems to have a lot of fun here, and when daughter Alexandra Daddario (The Percy Jackson movies, White Collar) is trying to escape from crumbling and flooding San Francisco, she’s aided by a pair of English brothers who bring a lot of fun and hear to the story.And yes, there’s even a little bit of a love story. Awwww. . . .predictable and trite? Yes. But remember, this is a disaster movie, not Shakespeare.

There’s a great metaphor for this film in its choice of soundtrack, which uses a remake of The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming” by Sia. Hey, that’s a good song, and a good singer, and she tries to take it in an interesting direction by making it a soulful ballad. But. . .it kind of misses the mark, as that song is really all about the harmonies and call-and-repeat mechanic that a single singer can’t deliver. Good try. Not bad. Great production values. But ultimately not a classic.

Overall, you can sum up whether or not you should see this movie with this question: Do you want to see Los Angeles and San Francisco get completely wrecked? If yes, enjoy, but don’t expect too much from it. If not, go watch Mad Max: Fury Road again.

Tomorrowland Roundtable Review

TOMORROWLAND (8 of 10) – Directed by Brad Bird; Written by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird; Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Robinson; Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language, in wide release May 22, 2015.

Originally posted on BigShinyRobot.com by Adam and Andy.

Disney’s and Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland is everything you’d expect from Disney and Brad Bird. In a world where cynicism, ironic detachment, and hopelessness pervade everything, it reminds of what it used to be to dream about a shiny future. And it maybe offers a glimmer of hope of how it can be that way again.

The story follows high schooler Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), whose father (Tim McGraw) is a NASA engineer tasked with dismantling the space shuttle launch platform in Cape Canaveral. This is distressing to young Casey for numerous reasons, the biggest of which is it seems like we’ve given up on our aspirations for a better future and resigned ourselves to a future ravaged by climate change, nuclear terrorism, and dystopian politics.

Casey, by touching a Tomorrowland pin, is given a glimpse into this beautiful city of the future. With our world in peril, Casey must join together with a former boy genius Frank Walker (George Clooney) to get back there and prevent impending doom.

As big of a movie as this is, we assembled our robot roundtable to break it down as only we can:

Citizen-bot: I saw this movie as everyone should: with my 10 year old. This film’s message of hope and dreams and imagination hit her just as hard as it did my 10 year old inner self.

Swank-mo-tron: I too came with my kids and I think my enjoyment of the film was better for it. It was a homerun for them and they’ve asked to see it again already. For me, I found the film to have a couple of slight flaws in the structure and logic of the film, but the good far outweighed my complaints about these things. In fact, this film, in a sea of dystopian stories for the last 20 years was nothing short of refreshing. And more than that, it pressed all of my Disney-nerd buttons. It felt like Brad Bird was channeling Walt Disney by way of the Steven Spielberg that made films like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Citizen-bot: I definitely got the Spielberg/Disney mashup vibe. It also reminded me of another great kids sci-fi movie I loved about sci-fi and the power of (literally) following your dreams: Joe Dante’s Explorers starring a very young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix.

Adam: The one thing I’m really glad I did was go into this movie almost completely blind. The only exposure I had was the first trailer, so I didn’t go in with any expectations of what to expect, and I would highly recommend everyone who can approach it that way, do so. Some of the people I talked to after the screening were disappointed because they wanted to see an action, sci-fi, summer movie, and while there are some really cool and well-shot action moments, this movie is all about the small, intimate moments between the characters and their personal growth. And that’s why it worked for me. Lots of explosions, car chases and battle scenes would have ruined it for me, so I’m glad they were used sparingly. In fact, their inclusion in the third act was the weakest moment overall.

Swank-mo-tron: For me, I was astounded by how well Raffey Cassidy carried her parts of the film. She’s a very young actress and she has to carry her own against George Clooney and she gets all the best scenes and moments of the film. She’s the real break-out here. And her scene in the memorabilia store is the one my kids were talking about the most when we left the theatre. She’s a great character and her story was fascinating, even though we never quite got enough of it.

Adam: Without a doubt she was the best part of the movie. Her presence commanded your attention every moment she was on screen, and it have that much poise and gravitas at such a young age is astounding. The last time I saw an actress accomplish the same feat was Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, and I really hope that Raffey Cassidy continues to do such amazing work.

Citizen-bot: The comparison to Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit is totally apt. She’s amazing. There’s so much I want to discuss about her but can’t without major spoilers. She’s amazing. That’s it.

And that scene in the memorabilia store. BEST part of the movie, great cameos by Keegan Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn and soooooo many easter eggs. Keep your eyes peeled.

Swank-mo-tron: More than anything, I love the message of this film. That the end of the world is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It has a hope and optimism that was refreshing to see. It was a summer blockbuster of ideas rather than explosions and set pieces, though it has those, too.

Adam: Exactly! “Hope” permeated the film and left me optimistic about the world around me. Humanity hasn’t passed the point of no return. We are close, but even if just one person will believe and do something to change the world, they can accomplish that. Believe you can make a difference, and you will. That said, they did get a bit preachy and heavy handed with their message, and it really didn’t need to be beaten into us again and again.

Citizen-Bot: No cynic ever built anything of value. In 2015, it’s easy to be cynical. But the people that are name-checked or alluded to in this film: Tesla, Eiffel, HG Wells, Edison, Walt frickin’ Disney — despite their flaws, they made something. They tried to get people to hope for something better. I think Brad Bird does the same.

Poltergeist won’t scare anyone

POLTERGEIST (5 of 10) – Directed by Gil Kenan; Written by David Lindsay-Abaire; Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Jane Adams; Rated PG-13 for “intense frightening sequences, brief suggestive material, and some language”, in wide release May 22, 2015.

Originally posted at BigShinyRobot.com by Andy.

Don’t let the pedigree fool you. Despite being executive produced by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House), Poltergeist offers no new scares or thrills. Instead, we get a fairly predictable, by-the-book remake of the 1982 film (co-written by a Mr. Steven Spielberg).

In the era of over-the-top-blood-by-the-truckful-raining-from-the-sky horror remakes (I’m looking at you, Evil Dead remake!) or the deconstructive masterpiece that is Cabin in the Woods, you’re going to have to offer more than some evil clowns, creepy tvs, and a few good jump scares to make this work. In fact, in terms of ambience and scariness, I think you’ll have more scares watching a playthrough of Five Nights at Freddy’s on YouTube than in this movie.

Which is too bad. Both director and actors really try to elevate this material. Sam Rockwell is great as the dad, as is Jared Harris as the paranormal investigator (who now has his own reality show, natch), but the real stars here are the kids. Without them, the movie wouldn’t work at all. And they do a great job, or at least as much as they can.

Poltergeist isn’t a bad movie by any stretch. In fact, compared to the spate of other very, very, very bad haunted house movies we’ve been subjected to (I’m looking at you, every movie in the Paranormal Activity series!!), it stacks up well. But why this is being released now over Memorial Day weekend is beyond me, when it really would clean up is in October as we’re ready for a good scary movie. Maybe by then it’ll be on DVD and Blu-Ray, in which case, make sure you watch it at home with all your lights turned off and have a great time.

But waste my time and money in a theater when I could be watching Mad Max, Avengers, or Tomorrowland (or even Pitch Perfect if that’s your thing?) Nope. Not unless you’re REALLY in the mood for a few scares but mostly just retreading the same ground as the original, done with better effects.

5 out of 10.

Mad Max: Fury Road is everything you’ve heard and more

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (10 out of 10)  – Directed by George Miller; Written by George MillerBrendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris; Starring: Charlize TheronTom HardyNicholas HoultHugh Keays-ByrneJosh HelmanNathan JonesZoë KravitzRosie Huntington-WhiteleyRiley KeoughAbbey LeeCourtney EatonJohn HowardRichard Carter; Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images, in wide release May 15, 2015.

Originally posted on BigShinyRobot.com by Andy.

Yes. Mad Max: Fury Road is just as good, if not better, than you’ve heard. Whether you’re looking for a ridiculous spectacle of epic proportions of an action movie, or a thoughtful (but incredibly intense) musing on ecology, feminism, religion, resource allocation, you will find it here. And stuff blows up. A lot of stuff blows up.

The plot is fairly simple: Max (Tom Hardy) finds himself alone, going crazy, but now captured by a tribe ruled over by Immortan Joe, who is treated like a demi-god by his people because he controls the scarcest resource of all: water. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is sent out on a resupply mission to trade water for gasoline and bullets, but it seems she has her own agenda. Instead, she has set free Immortan Joe’s harem/sex slaves (let’s be real, that’s what they are!) and is off in search of “the Green Place,” which she believes she can find.

Max is taken along as the “bloodbag” for one of Joe’s WarBoys, who use his universal donor type O negative blood (and considerable strength and resilience) to transfuse into themselves to amp up for battle (in much the same way endurance cyclists would supposedly bank their own blood and then get a transfusion to increase the red blood cell count and replenish nutrients). Also amping them up for battle? a giant truck with six drummers and a heavy metal guitar player who actually provide the score for most of the intense battles. Oh, and, in case you missed it in the trailer? The guitar shoots fire.

Max finds himself between Joe’s Warboys and Furiosa and generally wants no part in this dispute, but just wants to escape and be left alone.

And hijinks ensue. And by hijinks, I mean that’s all in the first 15 minutes of the film. The rest of it is just one giant car chase scene for the rest of the movie.

Mad Max Fury Road guy playing guitar cool meme

 

 

George Miller has not only revitalized his Mad Max franchise, but in so doing has remolded what our expectations should be for action films. It bookends well with the two other best films (so far) of 2015, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Ex Machina. Kingsman was fun and a great spectacle, but not much in the way of being thinky. Ex Machina had all the thinks and all the feels. Somehow Miller manages to offer both in a film I can’t wait to see again, or, even moreso, get on Blu Ray and watch repeatedly, rewinding sequences and going frame by frame to study what is truly the apotheosis of everything this director has done before.

If there is any downside of Fury Road, it is that it moves so fast that you will miss things. It has an intensity that films like Furious 7 should be jealous of, and whips the audience along at a breakneck speed. Let me create a metaphor out of the film’s content itself:

In the film, Theron’s character Furiosa drives a war rig: a giant tanker truck outfitted with weapons and defensive measures.

The film moves like this giant war rig– with a huge intensity and inertia that once it is going it is not going to stop for anything or anyone. There are dozens of tiny moments — glances between characters, crumbs of information and exposition and world-building — that if you blink you might miss them because the movie is going so fast. Characters are often jumping on and off the rig, finding places to grab on and stage some of the more daring fights. In this same way, there’s multiple places for the audience to find purchase and get onto the movie. But it is moving so fast it expects you to keep up and keep holding on.

Also like the war rig, Furiosa is the only one who can drive it. In the hands of a less skilled director who didn’t intimately know what he was doing, this could be a huge mess. But Miller, like Furiosa, has a plan, and knows exactly how to handle this gargantuan mess cobbled together from pieces of lesser cars and trucks.

There’s been a lot said about whether or not this is a “feminist” movie or not. It undoubtedly is. Theron’s Furiosa is the main character of this film, and is far more developed than even Max, who mostly plays the brooding sidekick role (and is also the surrogate for the audience, as he has to be explained to exactly what’s going on). Furiosa kicks more ass than most male action stars do in their films. And since she is literally liberating women from sex slavery, confronting Joe that women are not property, and fighting a literal oppressive patriarchy, it’s hard not to say this isn’t not just a feminist film, but perhaps THE feminist action movie. (Move over, Aliens!)

But to reduce it to just being feminist belies a much greater complexity. Immortan Joe is not just a stand-in for patriarchy, but also for the worst aspects of capitalism, religion, and all other manner of great evils. (Not to say capitalism and religion are evils– just that they can be certainly used for evil purposes.) There is also a strong undercurrent message about ecology and how we’re destroying the planet. Or you can completely shut your brain off and watch this as just a plain action movie. People with agendas are certainly welcome to claim this movie as their own, but much like the cave in Empire Strikes Back, what you see therein is determined by what you take with you.

Seriously, anyone threatening to boycott this movie because they don’t like some perceived agenda is a fool of the highest magnitude. You’re simply denying yourself one of the greatest treats of the year, and probably encouraging your opposing side to want to go see it more. Everyone just calm yourselves down and go enjoy one of the best movies of the year? No, make that one of the best movies of the decade. MRAs and SJWs should go to the theater together, enjoy a tub of popped corn and a tasty beverage, and just watch stuff get blown up real cool.

10 out of 10.

Yes. 10 out of 10. It’s just that good.

Unfriended Review

Unfriended (1 out of 10); Directed by Levan Gabriadze; Written by Nelson Greaves; Starring Shelley Hennig, Matthew Bohrer, Will Peltz and Heather Sossaman; Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug and alcohol use – all involving teens; 82 minutes; In wide release on April 17, 2015.

Originally posted at BigShinyRobot.com by Adam.

Hollywood loves found-footage films because they are cheap to produce and usually make a ton of money. Unfortunately, most of these end up being complete rubbish and exist only to add to the studio’s bottom line. Unfriended looks promising because the trailers portray it as a unique and fresh take on the tired genre — a Blair Witch for the Facebook generation. Sadly, its gimmick is all it has going for it, and after it wears off 20 minutes in, all that’s left is an utterly boring and forgettable experience.

The whole movie takes place on a MacBook screen where the plot is laid out via text messages, Skype, YouTube and Facebook Messenger. Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her friends are all happily Skyping each other when an unknown person hacks in and starts harassing them. At first this hacker is merely an annoyance since it won’t go away, but when it starts revealing dirty secrets about each teen’s past, they desperately try to get rid of it even as they begin to turn on each other. Blaire eventually figures out that it is the one year anniversary of the death of Laura (Heather Sossaman), one of their classmates who was driven to suicide after a particularly lecherous video of her was released online and ruined her life. Sure enough, the ghost of Laura has indeed possessed their computers and is out to get revenge against the people who tormented her in life. One by one, each teenager falls prey to her twisted games in order to punish whoever was responsible for recording and posting the video.

The only good thing about Unfriended is the initial novelty of watching everything unfold on a computer screen. Considering that many of us, and especially Millennials, pretty much live in their phones and computers, the idea of a ghost stalking you through social media is actually pretty cool and creepy. The director does a decent job of making it feel like we are watching a real teenager use her computer as she constantly flips through apps and web pages in the way a bored adolescent would. But like I said, that gets old really fast.

The last two-thirds basically boils down to a bunch of teenagers texting, drinking and yelling obscenities at each other, and that’s not a movie, that’s something on MTV. None of the kids are remotely likable; there’s no one to root for as each is an abominable person who we want to see killed in horrible ways except we really don’t get to.

Sure, the kids begin to die off in presumably gruesome ways, but instead of allowing us to see what happens, their computer will freeze or “buffer” allowing only a brief glimpse of what took place before their session hangs up. Half the fun of a horror movie are the death scenes, but Unfriended isn’t even kind enough to give us that. Which leads to the biggest problem of all.

It’s boring.

Horror can be funny, bloody, scary or outright strange, but this one isn’t any of that. It’s literally nearly an hour and a half of watching kids text with an occasional moment of “tension” thrown in when we know the ghost is going to kill someone. It isn’t scary in the least nor is it funny or remotely entertaining. This is the very worst kind of film because it’s very obvious it — and the inevitable sequels — only exist to fill a bank account.

I guess one can argue that it is trying to make a statement about the evils of cyber bullying, and yes, that is an underlying message, but most people would probably find an after-school special more interesting than the drivel presented here. There’s just nothing going on.

Unfriended is so bad that months down the road, most people won’t even remember it exists, and I can’t think of a more damning sentiment about a film. This could have been really fun and creepy, so it’s too bad that the final result was so terrible.

Furious 7 Review

Furious 7 (8 out of 10); Directed by James Wan; Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and Kurt Russell; Written by Chris Morgan; Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language; 140 minutes; In wide release on April 3, 2015.

Originally posted at BigShinyRobot.com by Adam.

The Fast and Furious franchise hasn’t made a name for itself for its deep acting, storytelling or filmmaking. Fans go in expecting fast cars, beautiful, scantily clad people and lots of ‘splosions, and most of the series has provided that in spades. Some misfires in the middle gave way to a decent fifth and sixth outing, but this final film has trumped them all and is easily the best in the series. Not only fun and frantic, it also pays tribute to the late Paul Walker and delivers a satisfying and touching experience.

Due to the twisted continuity of the films — four, five and six are prequels — Furious 7 takes place after the events of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift with ex-MI6 assassin Ian Shaw (Jason Statham) on a mission to hunt down Dom (Vin Diesel) and the rest of his crew in revenge for their nearly killing his little brother. Brian (Paul Walker) is happy yet not content with his new life and family and agrees to come out of retirement to help Dom and the crew put the Shaw issue to rest once and for all. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his shadowy government organization rescue them and promise to do everything in their power to stop Shaw if Dom and Brian will do them a favor — rescue a brilliant hacker and her tracking program from a notorious terrorist. The crew races across the globe in an attempt to guarantee her safety and also stay one step ahead of the madman out for their blood. Enemies join forces and force an epic showdown in the streets of L.A. where fast cars and fancy driving may not be enough to help Dom and his family survive.

While this isn’t high art by any means, Furious 7 is definitely one of the more entertaining movies to come along in awhile. In fact, the only other recent one I can think of that I’ve enjoyed this much was Kingsman. Yes, it’s incredibly stupid and has no idea how gravity or the laws of physics work, but the whole experience of watching cars literally fly through the air and the streets is exhilarating. Newcomer James Wan has an incredible eye for shooting action and doesn’t disappoint anywhere. Whether it’s jumping cars in between and through luxury high rises in Abu Dhabi to having them literally fall from the sky, he never lets up or fails to eke out the most excitement possible in each shot.

The same can’t quite be said of the script which, while not horrible, is definitely the weakest point in the film. I wasn’t expecting The Godfather, but the rewrites and edits are evident throughout as characters react or respond to things that were never mentioned or said anywhere else. It’s also too long, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours. It’s entertaining throughout, but there are a few too many moments where we are waiting for everyone to stop talking about family and get to the next action set piece.

The best thing here is the thoughtful and poignant respect they paid to Paul Walker. Without spoiling anything, I can say that they give his character a proper send off that was befitting of his role in all seven of the films. The wonderful montage showing some of the his well-known moments in the series combined with a touching voice over by Dom will no doubt leave moviegoers a bit misty-eyed as they exit the theater.

Too many action movies take themselves far too seriously or end up being brain dead, but Furious 7 never forgets what it is and what it wants to do. It delivers a surprisingly well-done and fun thrill ride that also squeezes in a poignant ending. Film snobs will absolutely hate it, but if anyone is willing to sit down and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is, they’ll have a good time. It’s big, dumb fun with heart … and nitrous.