The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB" and "HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION"

Unfriended: Dark Web

Unfriended: Dark Web is a slight improvement on the original Unfriended, which makes it a nice little surprise. Colin Woodell plays Matias, a guy who gets someone's used laptop and discovers it has a connection to the “dark web” – the part of the internet where all manner of illegal activity is conducted. He and the friends with whom he's video chatting are soon sucked into a nightmare of depravity as the laptop's owner threatens to kill Matias's hearing-impaired girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras) if he doesn't return it. A cabal of faceless dark web users also begin stalking him.

As with the original, the sequel plays out entirely on a computer screen, with Facebook, Wikipedia, and Skype all used to advance the story. The gimmick works better this time, in part because writer/director Stephen Susco keeps the pace brisk while simultaneously capitalizing on the reputed sickness of the dark web. Things get a little preposterous in the third act, but the performances are pretty good and there are a sufficient number of shock moments to hold the movie together anyway. Unfriended: Dark Web is just creepy enough to make you paranoid about who might be watching you online.

Incidentally, there are two different endings to this film, and you don't know which one you're going to get when you buy a ticket. After a quick Google search, I discovered that I saw “Ending A,” which sounds more exciting but less character-driven than “Ending B.”

( out of four)

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is the best film in the series so far. Granted, that's not saying a whole lot since this isn't exactly Pixar-level material. Still, it's funny and charming, with a twist that nicely freshens things up.

Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) decides that father Dracula (Adam Sandler) is too stressed and needs a vacation. She subsequently arranges for him and his monster pals to take a luxury cruise. On the boat, Drac falls for the cruise director, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), unaware that she's the descendant of his long-time enemy Van Helsing.

Hotel Transylvania 3 is packed with delightful wall-to-wall silliness. The monster cruise, for example, goes to the Bermuda Triangle. (Well, of course it does.) There are other clever monster-related jokes scattered throughout, in addition to a nice subplot about Mavis learning to accept that her widower father might find love again. The animation is bright and colorful, and putting the horror-themed characters into a setting normally thought of as relaxing is an inspired idea that helps this third installment establish its own identity.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation pleasingly finds new life in the franchise.

( out of four)


Unfriended: Dark Web is rated R for some disturbing violence, language and sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is rated PG for some action and rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.


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