Monday, April 20, 2015
Rapid Reviews: Unfriended and Clouds of Sils Maria
Despite it's unconvincing trailer and ridiculous-sounding premise, Russian filmmaker Leo Gabriadze's newest horror entry, Unfriended, definitely surpasses initial expectations. The film using tense thrills and a clever, almost Saw-like, script from Nelson Greaves to keep the audience fully engaged.
Unfriended follows a quintet of high school friends who meet online in a video-cam chatroom on the anniversary of their friend's suicide. Unbeknownst to them, a supernatural force hacks into the deceased teen's personal social media site and torments the five friends in a devious game of vengeance.
For as thrilling and smartly-written as Unfriended is, the short 80+ minute film develops at a crawling pace before it unleashes into a terrorizing second half. Moreover, the feature is viewed entirely through the computer screen of the lead female character. Hence, Unfriended makes for an unfriendly viewing experience. Too much time is dedicated to simply reading online messages between characters and it becomes a daunting task for the audience. But although this recent horror release certainly comes with its hitches, there are enough thrills and creativity keeping it a mediocre and tolerable scary movie.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Another limited release out in select theatres is Olivier Assayas' drama, Clouds of Sils Maria. I had the pleasure of catching the film at the 2014 Philadelphia Film Festival and walked away pleasantly surprised by its contents. Headlined by performances from Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche and a more refined role from Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria is a long-winded treat.
The feature follows an aging star actress (Binoche) who is forced to reflect on herself and her career as a co-star in a revival of the same production that spawned her stardom. The only problem is she's taking the opposite role of the manipulated older woman, rather than the seductive younger character. Mirroring her own life in many ways, she prepares for the difficult and eye-opening challenge with the help of her assistant (Stewart) in picturesque Sils Maria.
In a dialogue heavy and over-extending fashion, Clouds of Sils Maria paints a beautiful and personal portrait of facing your demons. There aren't many thrills and the pacing is sluggish, but a mesmerizing onscreen performance from Juliette Binoche and career-best work from Kristen Stewart draw the audience into a subtle and wonderful story. Clouds of Sils Maria is a film for cinephiles and fans of stage productions as it develops more like a play than a major motion picture.
Stars: 3 stars out of 4