On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 11, 2015

Unfriended is a fun thriller. One of those quick, harmless scary movies that fully intend to make you jump, but are just as funny as any mainstream comedy you've seen as of late. Of course, the comedy is meant to throw you off your game, to make you comfortable before it all comes crashing down and the original intent of the film is fulfilled. While Unfriended clearly knows what it is and exactly who it is meant to play for, it is much smarter than its facade suggests and it only comes off this way because it clearly knows its target audience well enough to pull the gimmick of the film off almost flawlessly. That gimmick being the fact the entire film takes place within a single computer screen. It's an interesting concept and actually allows for a large amount of character building to be conveyed without a word being spoken (the ads on the side of our protagonists Facebook page hint at what she's interested in as do the multiple tabs opened in her Chrome browser), but more than this it takes advantage of every piece of social media technology at a teenagers disposal and turns it into a weapon against them. Sure, it is exaggerated at points and though we never feel anything is really at stake given we're expected to believe a dead girl has come back to haunt her friends from beyond the keyboard, the main idea holds steady while the rather precise story is executed at a pace that never allows the audience to become bored. In fact, it's just the opposite as the further down the rabbit hole we go the more fascinating it is to see just how much we divulge of ourselves online and how easily that can come back and be used against us. That is what the throughline theme is here, if there is even one to be found: that, eventually, the lives we lead on the clouds of the internet may someday meet up with our actual reality and the result for most might be pretty messy. Of course, Unfriended isn't really into teaching lessons or serving as a cautionary tale to a generation absorbed by their tech, but more it just wants to have a little fun with current trends and in this regard, it succeeds to the point of obtaining guilty pleasure status. Full review here. B-

You know those movies that are easily relegated to comfort food? You know, the ones where things that in the real world would be deathly serious (sometimes literally), but in a movie intended to be nothing more than fluff are dismissed without a second thought? I tend to like these movies more than I should. I enjoy them in a way that I get to turn a blind eye to the real issues of the world or even to thinking critically for a while, but when a movie is made specifically for this purpose and yet you can’t help but constantly think about how awful it is, things must be rough. I mean, no one expects much nutrition from comfort food, but at least it goes down easy. That said, there is nothing fulfilling or fun about Hot Pursuit. Hot Pursuit is a buddy/road trip comedy that was clearly created in the vein of The Heat by putting two female actors in the lead roles and hoping for the same results. While this was no doubt meant to be the watered down version with Reese Witherspoon playing up the naive, but dedicated cop routine that Sandy Bullock perfected while they flipped the script on the major comic relief of the piece by making her both a criminal as well as enlisting an actor known more for her looks than anything else. While Melissa McCarthy gets a fair amount of attention for her appearance, Sofia Vergara gets that same attention for completely opposite reasons. With Hot Pursuit, Witherspoon’s production company, Pacific Standard, was looking to sneak into the summer movie season and provide a bit of alternative programming for those not interested in super hero team-ups, but even those who aren’t fans of super heroes or dinosaurs would have more fun at something like Avengers than they would at a screening of Hot Pursuit. I’ve never watched Mike & Molly, but I feel like that would be the more apt comparison to a McCarthy project as Hot Pursuit is more akin to watching a punishing half hour comedic sitcom that has been stretched as far as it can possibly go without the laugh track instructing us on when things are “supposed” to be funny. Full review here. F

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