In a time where most horror movies completely suck and the ones that are good only play in one cinema, here comes Unfriended in its wide release glory. Taking place entirely over a Skype conversation, Unfriended follows the story of Blaire Lily (Shelly Hennig). When talking with her high school friends online one night, their chat is interrupted by an anonymous presence. At first they presume its a glitch, but soon enough their glitch begins to talk, claiming to be Laura Barns (Heather Sossamon), their old friend who killed herself exactly one year ago, and that's where the real fun begins.
Unfriended is a rare, low budgeted horror movie that shouldn't work, but does. In similar style to one of the short films in 2012's V/H/S, the film takes place entirely on a computer screen. We start there and we end there, never cutting away to the outside world. The story is told through Skype, iMessage, Facebook and various other social medias and websites. Having this provides a unique spin on the horror genre. It's not the be all and end all of cinema and it certainly won't go down as a classic in the same way that The Shining and The Exorcist did (it probably won't even be nearly as talked about as recent films such as the Paranormal Activity series either), but it's a fun, creepy 83 minute long movie that's much better than anyone expected it to be, myself included.
There's some really solid tension to be found in Unfriended. Tension that's been lacking in most modern horror movies. It's a slow moving film with very little characters, but it utilises this, making the low budget worth while. It uses its lack of a cast to build up the tension and show us the bonds these characters have, or even the literal tension between them. Sure, none of them are all that developed and a few are there to literally just be killed, but the ones that last the longer get a lot of development and their true colours really shine late into the movie.
It's during this third act where the movie pulls out its greatest trick. Without spoiling what, the remaining characters are forced into a drinking game, except the stakes are much higher than a sip of alcohol. It's here we learn more about who they are, their relationships and their history, and upon every reveal, the stakes just continue to grow. My heart was pounding as we see their timer go down, each one of them vulnerable. It's suspenseful stuff and it works really well.
It's just the pay offs that are a bit of a let down. We get several minutes of nerve wracking suspense, only to be given a few half second flashing images and then the game starts all over again. Once things get heated, I could start to pick together who does what and who's going to die next, although to be honest, I wasn't 100% sure I was right. It was just suspicions, and I guess that's what horror does best. It makes you prepare to be scared, and sometimes you are, sometimes you aren't. It's what I love about this genre. The engagement.
As entertaining as this movie is, I don't feel like I will ever need to rewatch it. I don't feel like it's a movie to come back to again, simply because it just won't be as frightening the second time around. Since you know the final outcome, all suspense is thrown out the window, and I feel the only thing that would motivate me to keep watching would be the graphic deaths, but even they aren't too horrific. It's a one-time watch and that one time was good enough for me. Now, time to delete my Facebook account to ensure that this never ever happens to me.
To sum up, Unfriended is an entertaining and rather chilling film you only need to watch once. Not because it's overly graphic or uncomfortable to watch, but simply because it relies on you not knowing what's coming next, and I guess that's what I enjoyed most about it too.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (NOT *The* Avengers. Nope, there's no the's here) picks up soon after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While S.H.I.E.L.D is no more and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is off in hiding, that doesn't mean the Avengers are on holiday. While celebrating in the Avengers tower after a successful mission, the team are met by Ultron (James Spader), a seemingly failed artificial intelligence program created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Ultron sets out on a mission to destroy the Avengers once and for all, doing so by turning them against each other..
I can still remember the day I went off to see 2008's Iron Man in the cinema. I was excited. Of course I was. I sat down, I watched it and I loved it. Four years later The Avengers came out, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. Now, in 2015, we have Avengers: Age of Ultron, and like most, I was unbelievably excited for it. Not Star Wars The Force Awakens excited, but still excited. Despite a few tiny hiccups, although none of which are too drastic, Avengers: Age of Ultron most definitely succeeds at doing what it set out to do. It's a more than worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it may just be one of their best to date.
Right from the opening scene, director Joss Whedon lets us in on the action. Unlike the first film, there's no need for much set up. There's no need to reintroduce all of these characters. He knows we're already fans and he knows these characters need no introduction. We get straight into it, and there's even one big, CGI filled tracking shot that shows off all of their abilities and it's one of my favourite shots in the whole film. It's all sorts of awesome.
It's in this opening scene where the tone is set and it's this tone that remains consistent for the entire runtime. Whedon knows we're here to see the Avengers kicking ass and so we get that in this opening scene. It's not only a perfect opening, but a perfect scene. Period. It's fun, it's fast, it's full of rage and it has Captain America throwing a goddamn motorcycle. You can tell that these characters are having fun doing their thing and as an audience member, this rubs off. We are too, and the effect is tantalising.
This first scene also gives us our first look at Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), two of the many new additions to the series. While their presence is brief to begin with, they certainly get a lot of screen time later on, both of them playing dominant roles in the story. But the focus of the two seems to rely on Scarlet Witch, which isn't actually too bad. She's the more developed, more interesting and it's a character we haven't already seen before. *cough Days of Future Past cough* Quicksilver is fine, but he just doesn't compare to the character's previous on-screen portrayal last year.
Another new addition is the bad guy, Ultron, who's strings are most definitely off. He's no Loki, but he's still a worthy opponent, his constant bitters with Iron Man always a delight. The two are one of the same, resulting in their scenes together being more playful than anything else. And that's my main problem with this film. It's not enough to bring it down from a 5 star rating, but it must be addressed. Ultron doesn't always feel like a villain. He jokes around with the other characters and never comes across as too much of a threat. Sure, I always felt like he was capable of destruction, but I never felt as if he was going to win, whereas with Loki I did. But like I said, he's still a worthy opponent and it's not too big of a complaint.
Despite being more light hearted than the advertising suggested, these characters develop in unexpected ways, some of which actually do become pretty dark. In fact, the darkest, grittiest aspects of this movie are the character's backstories and the new layers that have been added to them, in particular Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). There's a scene she shares with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) mid-way through the film that really blew me away. However, it's Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) that steals the thunder (pun most definitely intended), as he's given a lot more to do than in the first film, and his character is explored in several new ways.
Surprisingly, Hulk is the one who became the most important character this time around. While he's able to control the big green guy a little more than he used to, he's never entirely in control, and if things do get out of hand, he's afraid he may do more damage than he's already done. Like the trailers showed us, something along those lines does occur, and it's up to good ole Iron Man to save the day in his Hulkbuster outfit. It's an insane scene, featuring enough destruction to entertain, but without pulling a Man of Steel on us.
The final new character that's worth mentioning is Vision, a purple robot with the mind of a man. While his screen time is limited, I'm sure we'll get plenty more of him in the future, and I can't wait. He's witty, loveable and looks sleek in battle. He may only appear late into the film, but he fits right in, not feeling out of place or without motive. There's an interesting layer to him that, while hinted at during interviews, plays a dominant role in the overall film. Really, every character plays an important role in the scheme of things. Then there's Thor. Poor Thor. Thor doesn't really get to do a lot and that makes me sad. But hey, his hammer does, so there's that.
To sum up, Avengers: Age of Ultron may have a few flaws, but not enough to make me lower my rating. It's fun, action fuelled, adds new layers to these characters and introduces us to plenty of new ones too. Bring on Civil War. Bring on Infinity War. Marvel, I'm ready for anything.
4 1/2 Stars
The Gunman is directed by Pierre Morel, the director of Taken. The film, funnily enough, also uses the exact same screenplay as Taken, so there's that. We follow the story of... uh... now that I think about it, I don't even know Sean Penn's character's name... or any character's name... or what even happened in this movie. There's some plot about getting vengeance over an attempted killing. There's a plot about a previous sniper assassination. There's a plot involving Sean Penn and his ex-girlfriend. There's a plot for just about everything, yet nothing at all. The Gunman is a mess and somehow it's even harder to follow than Inherent Vice. Yeah, I went there.
The Gunman is all over the place. It's a completely unfocussed movie, spending way too much time on the backstory that at one point I thought it was going to be the main plot, but then what happens? We get the "six years later" title card, although even by that stage I'd lost interest in this film. And in case the first twenty or so minutes weren't messy enough, the film then decides it would like to add in countless subplots, irrelevant supporting characters and then pretend that Javier Bardem and Idris Elba are the leads, when in actual fact they have about five minutes of screen time total between the two of them.
As the film went on, I slowly came to the realisation that The Gunman, despite having the word gun in the title, is missing, uh, a lot of guns. In fact, there's really just a couple of short action sequences that come to mind when I think about this film. I suppose I could say the same about Taken, although the difference between this and Taken is the main character. The two films, while similar in plot, feature two completely different leads, further proving the obvious statement that a lead with layers is 1000 times better than a bland and familiar lead.
With Taken, the lead actor is Liam freaking Neeson. I will love that man in everything he's in, so the fact that I cared about his character was a plus. With this, Sean Penn's character didn't give me anything to connect with. He's just your typical, run of the mill dude and because of that, I found myself extremely bored. Sure, they try to add in a disease, but this is only utilised in two scenes, neither of which were that investing.
This film does have its redeeming qualities though. While the action is bland and infrequent, the plot is all over the place and the screenplay is laughable, the performances aren't all that bad. Sure, like I previously mentioned, Idris Elba and Javier Bardem are hardly in the film, but when they are, they're actually pretty good. Anyone could've filled in Elba's role and he didn't add anything special to the character, but his performance is fine and I guess that counts for something.
But it's Sean Penn that actually does the best job, acting-wise at least. He co-wrote the script as well and while that's far from amazing, his performance is admirable. It's not Mystic River levels of amazing, that scene where he asks if his daughter is dead still sends chills down my spine, but he does the best with what he's given, even if what he's given is rather embarrassing for his career.
To sum up, The Gunman features a strong performance from Sean Penn, but other than that, there's not a lot to go off. It's a messy, dull and action-less movie that wastes its supporting cast and just feels way too familiar.
I went into The Age of Adaline half-expecting a complete waste of time and half-expecting an enjoyable romance movie. So honestly, I was preparing for this film to go either way. Walking out of the movie, I'm joyed to say that it's not a complete waste of time, although that's not to say you need to rush out and see it either. The film follows the story of Adaline (Blake Lively). At the age of 29, Adaline was involved in a car accident which resulted in her no longer ageing. Weird, I know. We soon catch up with her eight decades later. Her daughter is approaching death and she's still stuck in a 29-year-old body. Then she meets Ellis (Michiel Huisman), a man who instantaneously falls for her, forcing Adaline to risk the secrecy of her condition for another chance at love.
I kind of liked this movie, I'm not going to lie. I was hesitant going in, but I shouldn't have been. The film itself is nothing spectacular, and I will get into why very shortly, but it has its own unique spin on this old-school love story that certainly complicates things, to say the least. The film begins extremely well, doing a great job at setting up the characters and trying to put logic behind Adaline's condition, even if they sometimes go through the facts so fast that you'll have no idea what you actually just heard. But the strange thing is that you just go with it. You accept that this is happening and you believe it, or at least I did, even if just for the two hour long period of watching this film.
Once the initial woo-ha has finished, the film then begins to delve into familiar territory. It takes a nose dive down into the clichéd romance movies area, although this dive is gradual. It doesn't rush there, but it fails to avoid it as well. It starts out decent and then takes a turn for the worse. It's not horrible by any means, but there's a certain familiarity about everything that I wasn't able to overcome. I could foresee what was about to happen, for it has happened in countless movies prior to this.
Then, all of a sudden, the film picks itself back up, dusts itself off and suddenly takes an unexpected turn. A turn that was only hinted at in the trailer. About an hour or so into the movie we're introduced to Harrison Ford's character, and here is when the film starts to get interesting once again. It pushes its clichés under the carpet and adds another interesting layer into the mix. A layer that involves an important figure from Adeline's past, and that figure? Mr. Harrison Ford himself. Talk about an unexpected reunion.
It's in this third act that the film rises and exceeds all expectations I had for this movie. Sure, the film as a whole isn't perfect. It's scattered with clichés, never fully reaches its potential and has the odd awkward line here and there, but during the time spent with Harrison Ford's character during the second half of this movie, this film became something special. It was exciting, heart breaking, unpredictable and even a little emotional. Plus, the scenes involving the entire family have an unexpected amount of tension to them. It's brilliant stuff, although unfortunately wasn't done as well during the first half.
Alas, the moments of brilliance failed to last long as a certain event happens, an event that I jokingly said earlier would happen, and the after effects of that event caused me to roll my eyes. Yes, the story did seem like it was going to be difficult to wrap up, and once it did in fact finish, the result is somewhat underwhelming. It's rushed and handled poorly, cramming every detail in your face. There's not enough time given to let everything sink in. It all happens in such a hurry.
To sum up, The Age of Adaline starts out rather promising, although then goes on to throw clichés in our face before finally coming back around late in the second act to provide us with countless brilliant scenes and scenarios, mostly thanks to one Harrison Ford.
The DUFF follows the story of high-schooler, Bianca (Mae Whitman). At a party one night, Bianca is told by her long time neighbour and childhood friend, Wesley (Robbie Amell), that she is a duff. What's a duff? A duff is a designated ugly fat friend. It's more of a label, really, as you don't in fact have to be fat or ugly. Taken back by the news, Bianca asks Wesley to help her become the dateable one in her group of friends, offering to tutor him science if he does so. And so begins yet another film in which we watch a high school student change the way they look so that they can fit in. Great.
For the first 45 minutes of The DUFF, I was honestly regretting sitting down in the cinema. It was the most clichéd, unoriginal, poorly acted and painful cinema experience since Seventh Son. There were a couple of chuckles here and there, nearly entirely thanks to Ken Jeong, but nothing worthy of applause. Then the film's second half takes place and I'm honestly not sure what happened, but it improved. A lot. The film got funny, it hard some heart and I was entertained thoroughly. It's not perfect, but it was a shock. It's not enough to say I enjoyed this film, and it's certainly not enough for me to recommend you sit through 45 excruciating minutes to get to 45 decent minutes, but it's something.
I'll give this movie credit for at least trying to appear original. Don't get me wrong, once the film gets going, it's completely unoriginal and heads down in the exact path you knew it was going to go down just from watching the trailer, but it tries to hide its clichés by utilising the whole 'duff' angle. It's still a 'girl wants boy and must transform to get him' type of movie, but they give a new motive for why she needs to transform, adding at least one new thing to the high school comedy genre, even if it is only miniscule.
Once it does in fact get going, it's so full of clichés that you'll feel as if you've seen this movie before. There's the hot friends, the ugly friend, the jock and the bitch. They try to approach it in a self aware way, but it's still the same characters from every movie ever, self aware or not. But let's talk about this movie's bitch, played by Disney Channel star, Bella Thorne. Her intentions are left unmentioned, her arc is non-existent and her dialogue is hilariously bad. She's the least developed character in the entire movie.
To sum up, the first half of The DUFF is an excruciating, clichéd, poorly acted and conventional experience that makes Insurgent look like fun, but then the second half comes along and even though it's predictable, it's got a fair few laughs and a lot of heart.
2 1/2 Stars
While We're Young is the latest film from writer/director, Noah Baumbach, director of such films as Frances Ha and The Squid And The Whale. It follows the story of a middle-aged couple, Cornelia (Naomi Watts) and Josh (Ben Stiller). They're a point in their life where all of their friends are off having babies, yet they're wandering through life knowing that there's going to be another day tomorrow. That's when they meet Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a younger couple who are living their lives without technology. And so begins a seemingly unlikely friendship that all revolves around the world of documentary filmmaking.
I'll be honest. This is my first venture into the world of Noah Baumbach, or at least into the world of films he has directed. With so many well known films such as The Squid And The Whale, Greenburg and Kicking And Screaming (not the Will Ferrell one), even I'm shocked that this is my first film of his. However, I do have a knowledge of the films he has helped to write, such as Madagascar 3, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, all of which are excellent movies. From what I've seen and heard, he's essentially the more hipster version of Wes Anderson, and this very much shows in While We're Young. While it's not quite as polished or stylised as Anderson's films, it does have a familiar feel to it, but with a dash of Woody Allen to top things off. Take that as you will.
While We're Young, on a lot of levels, is a film about society. It's a film about old vs new, young vs old, narrative vs documentary, children vs adults and so much more. I don't know if confronting is the right word to use, but the subject matter is certainly along those lines. Even eye opening seems like an exaggerated way of describing this film's themes. On the one side, we have Josh and Cornelia. They're middle aged and they're completely up to date with technology, completely utilising all of its features. Then on the other side is Jamie and Darby. They're young, hipsters and attempting to re-live a time without technology. All intriguing characters, all performed exquisitely.
Noah Baumbach does such a great job at contrasting the two, never making it in your face, but not being obviously subtle either. There's a brilliant scene in which the two couples are having a conversation and they're trying to remember a fact about ice cream. Josh pulls out his phone to google it, but is halted by Jamie, who would rather just not know than cheat and google the answer. Scenes like this are just the tip of the ice berg, for as the film continues, we're treated with a variety of different contrasts, leading to an ending that couldn't have been better.
To sum up, While We're Young is another success for Noah Baumbach, combining the themes of Wes Anderson with the humour of Woody Allen, and then sprinkling it off with his own unique approach, as well as casting brilliant actors to give brilliant performances.
3 1/2 Stars
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water continues the story of a sponge living in a town under the sea. His name? SpongeBob Squarepants (Tom Kenny), of course. We catch up with him doing what he does best: loving everything, which includes making Krabby Patties, the most popular food in his town. But when the recipe disappears, the townspeople begin to riot, causing an apocalypse to take place. Now, SpongeBob and his enemy Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) must go out to find the recipe and save humanity. Or fishmanity. Or, whatever.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water will give Inherent Vice a run for its money for trippiest film ever made. I have absolutely no idea what drugs the writers of this film were taking when they decided to write this movie, but I'm thankful that drug exists. I don't feel the need to experience it though, as watching this movie has given me a taste for that lifestyle, and if I were to double feature it with Inherent Vice then maybe, just maybe, I may overdose. It's a mind boggling, yet self aware 90 minutes that will have you questioning reality and trying to comprehend if any of this stuff is actually happening or if somebody drugged your popcorn. I'm still not sure what I watched, but I'm happy I did.
Unlike what the advertising (and title) suggested, the film is more animation-oriented, rather than live action. It's two thirds animation, one third live action, and when the animation is on screen, it's bloody weird. The 2D animation looks wonderful, keeping it in the style of the TV show, which I did used to watch when I was younger, and the 3D animation is also very fleshed out. As a fan of animation in general, I'm glad they decided to go this way, even if none of the story makes any sort of sense.
Seriously, I can't tell you enough, this film is a drug trip. It's got time travel, fish interrogating tires, an apocalypse, Mr. Krabs in a gimp outfit, a talking dolphin that shoots lasers at one point, a cotton candy world and so much more. It's utterly and completely ridiculous, but it's so much fun to watch, and much like Inherent Vice, I couldn't help but smile at most of the scenes due to their likability and insanity, all wrapped in a thick layer of marijuana. It's crazy, but it's awesome.
To sum up, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water brings back the humour and animation style of the original series and mixes it with live action and (presumably) marijuana, resulting in one hell of an experience.
Everybody ready to board the feels train? Good. We're going to be here a while. Furious 7 is the SEVENTH installment in the seemingly never ending Fast & Furious franchise; a series of fast cars, foreign locations and women in skimpy outfits. It continues the story of Dom (Vin "We Are Groot" Diesel), Brian (the late Paul Walker) and their crew of drivers. After taking down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans, who makes a brief appearance in the opening shot) in the previous movie, his brother, Deckard (Jason Statham) comes after the crew, wanting vengeance for what they did to his brother.
I am not a big fan of this franchise. I think the first film is watchable, but nothing special, and I hate films two through four. Those 3 were unbearably painful to sit through. Then, all of a sudden, Fast Five gets released, The Rock is cast and the series took an unexpected turn into awesome-ville. It was an insanely awesome film that didn't take itself too seriously. Then Fast & Furious 6 came along and it was a film that required no thinking whatsoever, although I must admit that it's a rather entertaining, if not lengthy, time. Now we have Furious 7, and it's most certainly the best Fast & Furious movie to date, as well as the perfect send off for Paul Walker.
There were two things that I was worried about going into this movie. The first was its connections to Tokyo Drift, which I heard were pretty significant. Tokyo Drift is the third film in the franchise and its most certainly the franchise's low point. Thankfully, we can all rest easy, for there are just two scenes that connect this to that. We may have to put up with Lucas Black's lack of acting skills for a solid thirty seconds, but hey, it's better than 30 minutes, or worse yet, the entire movie.
Then my other concern was how they would approach Paul Walker's saddening and unexpected passing, which occurred less than halfway through production. It was announced that his brothers would come in to fill the role, and that CGI would be applied so it looks convincing, but I remained skeptical. I'm pleased to announce that you can hardly tell which scenes were filmed when. With the exception of the ending, which I will get into soon, and a fight scene in which you can't see Paul Walker's face for the entire fight, it's nearly impossible to notice which scenes were him and which were his brothers. It's convincing, it flows well and it just works. So kudos to James Wan and the entire cast and crew for actually getting this movie to happen, and making it awesome too.
It's arguably the most insane Fast & Furious movie yet, pulling off stuns you won't believe you're seeing. It takes the title 'Furious 7' and dials it up to 'Furious 11,' for the action, when on screen, is utterly and completely amazing, even if shortened down versions of the two best scenes were shown in the trailer. It's ridiculous and slightly over the top, but at least it's somewhat logical, unlike the conclusion to Fast & Furious 6, which had a runway that's physically impossible to make, and that wasn't even the most illogical scene from that movie.
This film seriously has everything. It goes from cars jumping out of planes to cars flying between skyscrapers. It's a jaw dropping, blood pumping good time that you can never believe if really happening, but you can't help but scream "HELL YEAH," which, as a matter of fact, one guy did twice during my screening of this film. Normally I'm against people yelling in movies, but come on. We were all thinking it.
While the film is technically action heavy, it's not action focused. Its main priority is treating these characters with respect and giving them the send off they deserve, if it even is a send off for most of them. There's a solid family element to the film, taking a more dominant role than it does in the previous films. Even The Rock gets a chance to show off some love as we're introduced to his open-mouthed daughter. But this film's main concern is giving Paul Walker the best send off he can get, and Furious 7 is a film that would make him proud.
I don't wish to delve into spoiler territory, but I must discuss the ending quite briefly. Sure, you can tell it was filmed after the death of Paul Walker, but other than that, dare I say that it's a perfect ending? It's sincere, heartfelt and endearing, and at one point it nearly brought a tear to my eye. They couldn't have given Walker a better send off, finishing on an ariel shot that's all sorts of brilliant. This film isn't perfect, I know that. It's got the odd cheesy line here and there, The Rock is very underused and it occasionally feels like its in a rush to get to as many locations as it can, but for what it is and what happened during production, it's the best film they could've made.
To sum up, Furious 7 is far from perfect, especially because of the unfortunate death of Paul Walker less than halfway through production, yet somehow, they still manage to craft the craziest, most endearing and entertaining Fast & Furious movie yet.
3 1/2 Stars