As a writer, my problem has consistently been brevity. I always write too much and tend to overwrite in some cases. So as an exercise, I’ve devised #ShortCuts — short, timed reviews that I write within 15-minutes, check for spelling and grammar, and that’s it. The idea is a bit daunting for someone who has never really been limited with what he writes, but it’s something I’m keen to try out. I will continue writing long form reviews, but may try to post these a few times every few weeks and see if it helps make my writing a bit more concise.
With that, here are my #ShortCuts reviews for Hot Pursuit and Unfriended, both hitting Blu-ray/DVD this week.
Hot Pursuit is easily one of, if not the worst film I have seen all year. My girlfriend and I had to watch the film in two separate sittings, and even that may have been too much. There just is not much going for it at all – the comedic pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara is more annoying than it is funny, and the movie around them is a lot more violent than it is comedic. Witherspoon just came off a moving Oscar-nominated turn in Wild, and Vergara is consistently hysterical on Modern Family. So why did either of them think a Midnight Run-inspired road movie would be the next option for their careers?
I feel like banging my head on the keyboard to try and get across what an atrocity this film is, but feel like David Feeney and John Quaintance’s script speaks for itself. They are both TV writers, and some of the more risqué moments (including a moment where Witherspoon and Vergara try to turn on a very baffled Jim Gaffigan with a lesbian routine that would have been offensive even in the 1970’s) come off as bad TV. And after the third time you hear a joke about their age and height, it just becomes way too much. This is the kind of thing that would have barely passed in the 1990’s, never mind in 2015. It’s no wonder no one went to go see it earlier this summer. We can languish all we want about the lack of strong female characters and female led films, but if this is what studios think actually works, then I doubt we will ever stop complaining. Stay far away from this, and let it die a miserable death on Netflix.
Unfriended is a better concept than it is a film. The entire film takes place on Blaire’s (Shelley Hennig) computer, seemingly in real time, as some unknowing entity wreaks havoc on a number of high school students involved in the same Skype conversation. I feel some of the programs were a bit dumbed down too much for the film’s intended target group (why does Blaire never turn off her screen share if she is typing private messages that no one else is able to see?), and it skips a few too many beats if it is supposed to be real time. But I feel these are small complaints in the grand scheme of things – because it does feel like it genuinely nails the social media generation near perfectly. And tying into an all-too timely internet bullying trend makes the film feel all the more genuine.
But the concept only goes so far. This is not the kind of movie I would have ever wanted to see in a theatre. The scares would have hit a bit harder, but there is far too much going on to really make any of it pay off. It just would have been way too infuriating. As a fan of horror, my bigger gripe would be that there is no fun or excitement from watching any of these kids bite the dust like there would be in a Freddy or Jason movie. All of their death scenes are done too quickly to leave any sort of resonance. Worse, none of these characters are compelling, nor are their performances. The suspense of watching a computer timer or a crappy internet connection can only go far. If I can credit it with anything beyond the concept, it is that Unfriended is mercifully short and sweet at a lean 83-minutes. Anything more would have been overkill.