It’s official: the summer movie season is in full swing. Expect many new reviews in the near future because there’s soooo much I want to see! In fact, I’ve been able to knock out three new films in the last couple of weeks—two of which I’m about to break down for you in this little Duet. I’ll probably be judged for seeing at least one if not both of these films, but you know what? No shame here. I saw them, enjoyed them, and would totally see them again. That said, let’s talk about Unfriended and Pitch Perfect 2.
Synopsis: “A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious, supernatural force using the account of their dead friend.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- The fact that the film is one continuous scene. I feel like this wouldn’t work for many found-footage films, but here it’s done in a pretty effective way, ratcheting up the tension with every creepy moment. This might not work for everyone, but it worked for me.
- The inventive deaths. There are some real doozies in here, people. Some of it is pretty hard to watch, but I also can’t help admiring the twisted, creative ways these bratty kids are killed off. Is that weird? Probably. Whatever. I’m weird. 😉 Anyway, I don’t want to ruin anything, but I do want to say two things: 1) I found the first death particularly creepy and effective given the way the film was shot. 2) I will never, ever look at a straightener the same way again. *shiver*
- Bringing horror to the internet. Again, I feel like this is something that not all films delving into similar territory would be able to pull off well. But Unfriended immerses you in the action by making it from one character’s perspective. You’re looking directly at her computer screen the whole time, watching as creepy things happen on Skype, Facebook, YouTube, and various other places on the interwebz. I know that probably doesn’t sound very scary or maybe even very interesting, but it somehow works. There’s something unnerving and inescapable about that stationary screen, and it adds to the overall creepiness.
The Low Notes:
- If seeing your computer screen pixelated drives you crazy, this movie will probably irk you a little. There are lots of moments during Skype conversations when the screen freezes or pixelates, and, yes, it can get annoying. I didn’t mind the freezing so much since it’s used to amp up some of the scares, but the pixelating…ugh. I realize it’s done to make it feel more realistic, but I’ve just been through too many troublesome Skype sessions with that crap. Haha.
- At one point, someone pulls up a random video chat in order to call 911, and it’s really, really stupid. It’s like some kind of video roulette where you can meet people from all over. I realize why it’s done (because the film hints at the characters having phone problems and it’s also a bit of comic relief), but it still just seemed incredibly dumb to me. Like, there has to be a better way.
- The ending. Compared to some of the clever touches throughout the film, the ending felt…cheap. Like something you would tack on to the end of a much more generic film. It didn’t ruin the film or anything, but after being pleasantly surprised by everything else, the end was a bit of a letdown.
The Staccato Version: I went into Unfriended expecting mildly stupid popcorn entertainment. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be genuinely creepy, creative, and even clever. Plus, it sends a pretty strong message about cyberbullying. I realize this is not a film that will suit everyone’s tastes—especially if you’re older and not particularly internet saavy—but I found Unfriended to be a fun, fresh take on the teen slasher genre. It effectively hits its target audience where they live: the internet. If we can’t escape the ghosts there, where are we safe…?
My Grade: B+
Pitch Perfect 2
Synopsis: “After a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- The music, of course. There are some brilliant, incredibly catchy mash-ups in this movie from the Bellas and various other groups. The riff-off scene (because, yes, there is another riff-off scene) is particularly fun, and the final showdown between the Bellas and Das Sound Machine, the Bellas’ intense new German nemesis, is an epic battle of musical talent. There’s also a hilarious duet between two of the film’s funniest characters, a sweet rendition of a pop song from Treblemakers, a super cool medley done in several different languages to showcase the talents at the A Capella World Championship…I could go on, but you can also just listen to the soundtrack yourself. 😉
- The humor. It’s as spot-on in this film as it was in its predecessor, which makes for lots of laughs. The Bellas are all delightfully quirky and fun (especially Rebel Wilson, who basically is Fat Amy), the singers of Das Sound Machine are ridiculous in the best possible way with their thick accents and odd grasp of the English language, podcast co-hosts Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins) continue to say whatever the hell they want, and Pitch Perfect newbie Keegan-Michael Key (of Key and Peele fame) plays Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) new boss in pretty hilarious fashion. As I said, lots of laughs.
- The Bellas. While the first movie largely focuses on Beca as a way to introduce us to the Bellas, this film is really much more about the Bellas as a unit, and I love that it goes in that direction. It delves into a kind of “importance of sisterhood” thing—without actually using such a cheesy term, of course, or coming off as stupid or cheesy at all. The Bellas are just a bunch of relatable “weirdos,” as Beca often says. The chemistry between these characters is fun to watch on and offstage.
The Low Notes:
- Rival a cappella group Das Sound Machine’s outrageously thick accents. I know I referred to that as a source of humor, and it is, but here’s the thing: their songs are great, but I couldn’t fully enjoy some of them because the accents they put on are so intense. There’s a fine line because you want the humor element, but you also want people to enjoy the soundtrack later. It’s hard to fully enjoy a song when all the “th” words are changed to farcical “zees.”
- The very forced presence of freshman singer Emily (Hailee Steinfeld). She’s clearly put in the film for an agenda, and I didn’t love it. I wish I could talk about it without ruining the last 10 minutes or so, but alas—I can’t. If you’ve seen the movie, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Emily herself is this awkward, hyperactive character who never really develops a personality as big as the other Bellas. When it’s all said and done, I feel like the film easily could’ve worked just as well without her.
- The ending. The last scene wasn’t quite as grand as I’d hoped. Plus, it makes me worry about what direction things will go in should the Pitch Perfect franchise decide to go for a trilogy, which is very likely given the stacks of cash it’s already made. I guess we’ll see…
The Staccato Version: Maybe I’m predisposed to like this film because of my background (I, too, was in an all-female a cappella group), but in my opinion, Pitch Perfect 2 is just as hilarious and toe-tapping as its predecessor. Basically, if you liked the first one, I’d be willing to bet money that you’ll enjoy this, too. Added bonus: Pitch Perfect 2 is a solid directorial debut for the wonderful Elizabeth Banks. Winning.
My Grade: B+