Unfriended

Universal Pictures

Rated R for violence, sexuality, teen drug and alcohol abuse, and pervasive profanity

Teens Terrorized Over The ‘Net In Found Footage Horror Flick

On April 9, 2013, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) drank too much at a high school classmate’s unsupervised keg party, and promptly passed out and pooped on herself. Time was when such immature behavior might be forgiven as a youthful indiscretion and quietly swept under the rug just as soon as the hangover wore off the next morning.

But then came the unforgiving Digital Age during which the slightest faux pas can so easily come back to haunt you forever. That’s precisely what happened to Laura, thanks to the mean-spirited fellow reveler who, instead of coming to the assistance of a damsel-in-distress, whipped out a cell to record an embarrassing video of her sprawled on the ground with her skirt hiked above the waist.

The initial invasion of privacy escalated to cyber-bulling when the movie was posted online followed by a thread of cruel comments. After several days of mercilessly teasing, the tortured teen finally took her own life with a gun.

Now, it’s exactly one year later, and we find Laura’s former BBF Blaire (Shelley Hennig) flirting with Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) via Skype. Their sensual exchange comes to an abrupt end when they are joined in the chatroom by a trio of friends, Jess (Renee Olstead) Adam (Will Peltz) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki).

Next thing you know, an anonymous intruder claiming to be Laura announces her presence and starts divulging deep secrets about each of them. The spooked quintet assumes the uninvited guest to be their prankster pal, Val (Courtney Halverson), until she pops up on a separate screen. Then, when “Laura” starts knocking them off one-by-one, it becomes clear that they are dealing with a disembodied spirit bent on vengeance.

Directed by Levan Gabriadze, Unfriended is a found footage horror flick ostensibly designed with Millennials in mind. For, this novel genre-bender unfolds on a computer from beginning to its terrifying end. Although most folks over 30 are apt to find the hyperactive adventure visually-disconcerting, the up-and-coming generation weaned on screens is likely to be right at home, given how they’re glued to electronic stimuli, 24/7.

Revenge as a dish best served pixilated!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 82 minutes

 

 

Brotherly Love

Liquid Soul Media / Freestyle Releasing

Rated R for violence, profanity and ethnic slurs

Shades Of Romeo And Juliet Abound In Inner-City Saga Set In West Philly

Twins Jackie (Keke Palmer) and Sergio Taylor (Eric D. Hill, Jr.) already had it tough enough growing up in the ghetto before the untimely demise of their dad a few years ago. But then their mother (Macy Gray) stopped functioning and started hitting the bottle.

That’s when their big brother, June (Cory Hardrict), became the family breadwinner, and it’s been a struggle for him to keep a roof over their heads ever since. So, he started dealing drugs hoping that his becoming an outlaw would at least enable his siblings to keep their noses clean and continue pursuing their dreams. After all, Sergio is one of the top high school basketball players in the nation, while Jackie is an aspiring singer in need of a big break.

By comparison, the living is easy for kids like Chris Collins (Quincy Brown) from “The Hilltop,” the upscale enclave located just across the proverbial tracks. He’s a classmate of Jackie’s at Overbrook High, where students from his ‘hood don’t mix with those from “The Bottom,” especially in the wake of the gang warfare that recently claimed the life of one of his cousins.

Chris has a crush on Jackie, and she likes him, too. Under normal circumstances theirs would be a match made in heaven, since his father is a famous record producer capable of launching a promising talent’s musical career.

However, complications arise reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet when the competing clans suggest that the pair separate. Will the star-crossed lovers follow their hearts or capitulate to the pressure from friends and relatives?

Written and directed by Jamal Hill (Autumn), Brotherly Love is a gritty, inner-city saga of Shakespearean proportions shot on location in West Philadelphia. Provided you have a strong stomach for Ebonics laced with lots of cursing and the N-word, you’ll likely find this super-realistic adventure quite compelling.

As far as performances are concerned, Keke Palmer is terrific in the lead role as Jackie. She also belts out a couple of tunes on the soundtrack, including a mesmerizing, closing credits rendition of the Harold Melvin R&B classic, “Wake Up Everybody.” And the rest of the cast, especially Cory Hardrict, Romeo Miller, Macy Gray, Eric D. Hill, Jr., Quincy Brown and Faizon Love, does a great job creating the requisite edgy atmosphere that imbues the production with a very authentic feel for the duration.

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art though Romeo? I be hanging with my homeys, mama!

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 111 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening April 24, 2015

 

The Age Of Adaline (PG-13 for a suggestive comment) Romantic fantasy about a well-preserved, reclusive spinster (Blake Lively), born at the dawn of the 20th century, who starts dating a charismatic philanthropist (Michael Huisman) without letting him know she hasn’t aged a day in 80 years. Plot thickens during a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) when her big secret is suddenly put in jeopardy. With Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Crew and Anjali Jay.

 

The Water Diviner (R for violence and disturbing images) Russell Crowe directed and stars in this historical drama about an Australian farmer searching in Turkey for his three sons who went missing in the Battle of Gallipoli. Cast includes Isabel Lucas, Olga Kurylenko and Megan Gale. (In English, Turkish, Greek and Russian with subtitles)

 

Adult Beginners (R for profanity and drug use) Diminished dreams dramedy about a narcissistic entrepreneur (Nick Kroll) who moves from Manhattan to the suburbs to take a job as a nanny for his sister’s (Rose Byrne) children after his latest start-up crashes and burns. With Bobby Cannavale, Bobby Moynihan and Joel McHale.

 

Blackbird (R for teen sexuality, profanity and drug use) Coming-of-age drama about a 17-year-old high school student (Julian Walker) struggling with his sexuality in a sleepy Southern town marked by intolerance. Cast includes Mo’Nique Isaiah Washington, Kevin Allesee and Terrell Tilford.

 

Emptying The Skies (Unrated) Endangered species exposé chronicling the decimation of the migratory songbird population now facing extinction due to flagrant poaching of the rapidly-disappearing species. (In English, Italian, French and German with subtitles)

 

The Forger (R for violence and profanity) John Travolta stars as the title character in this crime thriller as a recently-paroled thief who conspires with his father (Christopher Plummer) to steal a Monet from a museum and replace it with a fake. With Abigail Spencer, Anson Mount, Tye Sheridan and Jennifer Ehle.

 

Helicopter Mom (Unrated) Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) handles the title role in this dysfunctional family comedy about a meddling mom who becomes obsessed with her possibly-gay, college-bound son’s (Jason Dolley) sexual orientation. Supporting cast includes Skyler Samuels, Kate Flannery and Kurt Collins.

 

Just Before I Go (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Courteney Cox directs this dark comedy starring Seann William Scott as a suicidal soul who returns to his hometown to make amends with folks he’s offended before taking his life. With Olivia Thirlby, Evan Ross and Elisha Cuthbert.

 

Laugh Killer Laugh (Unrated) Crime drama about an antisocial jewel thief (William Forsythe) who finally turns a new leaf the day he emerges from a coma with a new personality. Featuring Tom Sizemore, Bianca Hunter and Larry Romano.

 

Little Boy (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Faith-based fable about a desperate seven-year-old (Jakob Salvati) willing to do whatever it takes to end World War II so he can be reunited with his father (Michael Rapaport). Co-starring Kevin James, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa.

 

Misery Loves Comedy (Unrated) Anecdotal documentary featuring five dozen showbiz icons speculating about whether one must have experienced misfortune to be able to make other people laugh. Ensemble includes Tom Hanks, Larry David, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, Lewis Black, Janeane Garofalo and Matthew Perry.

 

Planetary (Unrated) Eco-documentary endeavoring to remind us, in the face of the impending global crisis, of the undeniable truth that we are all connected.

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