We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.
Two films, both featuring youths who make poor decisions.
COP CAR (2015)
A lot of people will be watching Cop Car hoping to get an idea of why Jon Watts, who directed the film from a screenplay he wrote with Christopher D. Ford, has been hired to direct the Marvel Cinematic Universe's upcoming Spider-Man film, since this is the movie he had coming out when he signed the deal with Marvel and Sony. Viewers looking for hints of the director's superhero future won't see many indications of it, but this low-key thriller does show that Watts knows how to work with younger characters and has a handle on both comedy and suspense.
The story centers on two preteen boys, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford), who have run away from home. While wandering through the vast Colorado countryside, they come across a seemingly abandoned police cruiser and decide that a car will be helpful in their travels. They drive off in it, giving no thought to potential consequences. These kids think they're invincible little adults - for a while, they even think it's entirely plausible that they can pass themselves off as police officers if anyone notices them driving this car around.
The kids would be in enough trouble if this were any average cop car. Unfortunately for them, this vehicle belongs to the very corrupt Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), who drove it out into the countryside to dispose of a couple bodies. He only managed to dump the corpse of one victim before his cruiser disappeared. The body of the other person is still in the trunk of the car... and they may not even be dead. Kretzer needs to retrieve his car by any means necessary.
Watts brought that perfectly simple set-up to the screen in a masteful way, resulting in a film that is equally fun and unnerving to watch. The fun comes from watching the antics of the two boys and watching Kretzer desperately scramble to keep his world from falling apart. It's unnerving because we worry about what might happen to the kids.
Bacon delivers a strong performance, as you would expect from him, and Freedson-Jackson and Wellford are both incredible, and incredibly real. Freedson-Jackson reminded me very much of my own grade school age nephew, who probably does think he could be a perfectly capable police officer if he were hired tomorrow.
Whether or not you're interested in seeing what Watts does with Spider-Man, Cop Car is a movie that I highly recommend checking out, especially if you're a fan of movies like the Coen brothers' Blood Simple and/or No Country for Old Men.
I owe a bit of an apology to writer Nelson Greaves and director Leo Gabriadze. When their movie Unfriended was coming out, I had absolutely no interest in seeing it. It seemed lame and ridiculous to me, the idea of a horror movie that plays out entirely on a laptop screen. I didn't want to spend my time and money to watch that in a theatre. When Unfriended was shown at a nearby drive-in, I did consider going to see it, as the chance to see a horror movie at a drive-in is always enticing, but watching a laptop screen on a drive-in screen seemed even less appropriate than on a theatre screen, so I skipped it.
While spending a month visiting my Remake Comparison co-writer Priscilla, I finally decided to give Unfriended a chance. She's a major horror fan, and I kept hearing that Unfriended was a much better movie than you would expect it to be, so we dove into it with very low expectations.
As it turns out, Unfriended is a much better movie than you would expect it to be.
Greaves and Gabriadze's collaboration deals with the aftermath of a cyberbullying tragedy, picking up on the one year anniversary of the suicide of a girl named Laura Barns. Laura killed herself after a humiliating video was posted online.
The computer screen the film plays out on belongs to teenager Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig, also of Ouija), and we watch as she video chats with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm) and their friends Val (Courtney Halverson), Adam (Will Peltz), Jess (Renee Olstead), and Ken (Jacob Wysocki) on Skype. These characters all knew Laura Barns, and their conversation is quickly interrupted by a mystery caller known only as billie227. Someone who also has access to Laura Barns' Facebook account. Someone who appears to believe that this group of teens had something to do with Laura's suicide. Someone who wants to get revenge.
The events are shown in real time, and over the course of the film's 82 minutes secrets are revealed, friendships are ruined, and lives are lost.
Blaire talks on Skype, private messages, checks Facebook, Googles information, and we see it all as if we were the one using the laptop. It's an interesting approach that actually works for this movie, although I'm still glad that I didn't see it in the theatre or at the drive-in. This style is definitely something I could only enjoy with a home viewing.
There are some dopey things in Unfriended to be sure, but the fast pace and the fun of watching this group of characters self-destruct made it worth the watch. So I apologize. I thought Unfriended would be terrible, but it's really quite entertaining. Greaves and Gabriadze pulled it off.