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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Unfriended: Dark Web

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

In descriptions of the “Deep Web,” the Internet is often compared to an iceberg. What you see above the surface is about 5% of the actual thing. The remaining 95% is hidden below. But this is the Deep Web, which simply means areas of the Internet that are not indexed by search engines like Google. These include networks in private companies (sometimes called Intranet) and information like bank and credit card numbers. It’s all fairly mundane—for the most part.

Then there is the Dark Web, which is an area of the Internet that is not logged into with the usual means. It’s a place where people from all over the world can come together in chat rooms—similar to what the Internet was in its infancy in the mid-90s. Much like anywhere else where folks congregate without regulation, illegal activities happen. The types of activities run the gamut from relatively benign marijuana sales to the much more sinister and depraved. Naturally, it is these types of activities that get the largest proportion of coverage by press and pundits. So of course, when a group of seven friends become entangled with the Dark Web in “Unfriended: Dark Web,” the folks they’re dealing with are interested in way more than selling them a dime bag.

Their entanglement is the fault of Matias (Colin Woodell). He thought it would be okay to take a high-end lap top he saw in a lost and found at a coffee shop. It was sitting there for weeks, so, he reasoned, the owner must not want it back. My oh my how wrong he was.

Much like the first “Unfriended” movie, the action in “Unfriended: Dark Web” takes place entirely on Matias’s screen. We watch as he boots up the computer, hacks in (using some hilarious password guesses before getting it right), and joins his friends online for game night. What I admire about this movie, as I did the first one, is the challenge of it for writer-director Stephen Susco. He needs to set the stage, introduce the characters, then ratchet up the tension—and play it all on one screen.

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Doing this by showing multiple windows open at the same time and muting background windows when not relevant is a smart way to go. There are some out there who may be confused by all of what is happening, but tech-savvy young people—whom this movie is geared toward—will have no trouble following along. In an era where multiple windows is not enough and people now look at multiple screens, showing Matias mute his annoying friends so he can talk on Facebook with the man whose computer he stole or Face Time with deaf girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras) is fairly straightforward.

The bad people Matias and company cross paths with in “Unfriended: Dark Web” all call themselves Charon—a reference to the ferryman of Greek mythology. The have an interesting ability to render themselves electronically invisible, so anyone trying to view them with a camera cannot see them—unless the Charon wants to be seen. This is a chilling prospect. By the time you know they’re there, it’s already too late. I guess the lesson here—as if the name isn’t already foreboding enough—is don’t mess with the Dark Web. That’s sage advice. Rent it.

Also New This Week

Ant-Man and the Wasp

I get it. After ten years, it’s easy to get jaded about Marvel. The studio consistently delivers colorful heroes and exciting action as well as top notch visual effects, sound effects, and music. They are their own strongest competitor, at least until DC gets its act together. Sure, the villains in some of these movies leave a bit to be desired, as is the case with “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” but there are more to these movies than just a straight on hero versus villain story.

Marvel movies go beyond the standard in one of two ways: Either with a fantastic character arc or by attaching a theme to the movie and building on it. The character arcs are usually reserved for the first movie in which a hero is introduced, commonly known as an origin story. I contend that the reason these movies are still made today is because the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) got off to such an immensely promising start with 2008’s “Iron Man,” which saw Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark go from self-centered billionaire playboy to heroic freedom fighter. It’s still one of my all-time favorite character arcs in all of movies, period.

Building on a theme typically happens in the sequels. Some themes are harder to spot than others, but “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is not subtle about its theme: Fathers and daughters.

We can start with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Since Scott is under house arrest after becoming gigantic at the battle in Germany during “Captain America: Civil War,” he has to improvise a way to play with Cassie. He turns the house into a super fun fort, complete with an epic slide at the end. It’s clear that Scott loves his daughter and doesn’t want his mistakes to interfere with their relationship.

Then there is Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). They have two main things in common. One is that they are both super mad at Scott for the stunt he pulled in Germany and are not talking to him. The other is the begrudging realization that they do have to talk to Scott, since his mind is a connection to the quantum realm. This is a sub-microscopic realm in which Hank’s wife/Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been trapped for thirty years. After decades of thinking there is no hope to rescue her, they now have a shot. Hank builds a machine that will allow safe access to the quantum realm.

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Things aren’t so easy, as not only are Hank and Hope fugitives wanted by the FBI, but a woman named Ava (Hannah John-Kamen) is after his new technology. Why? Because, in keeping on theme, she blames Hank Pym for disgracing her father, which eventually led to his death in a horrible accident. Ava was present at this same accident, but instead of killing her it left her in constant pain as she morphs in and out of multiple realities. To deal with it, she sought the help of another former Pym associate named Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). He built a special suit for Ava to help her control what is happening to her, and also acts as a care giver and father figure to her. Flashbacks with Ava also reveal that SHIELD has a darker history than Nick Fury would like to admit.

Amidst all of the daddy-daughter bonding is an action movie. The fun twist on the usual fist fights and car chases is that Scott, as Ant-Man, and Hope, as Wasp, have the ability to render themselves small or large. This gives them a tactical advantage in hand to hand combat. They also have clever devices that can render objects big or small. This is not only handy in a fight, it also helps when several cars and an entire building need to be moved en masse.

The villain in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is Sonny Burch, a black market technology dealer played by Walton Goggins. He’s certainly one of the weaker enemies in the MCU, more apt at being a punchline for Scott’s best friend Luis (Michael Peña, returning for some hilarious comic relief) than at posing a real threat. As important as villains are, they are not the end all be all that makes a good movie. Rather, villains are one method of many that serve to challenge our heroes and tell a great story. While Burch may not be the best, there are enough good qualities in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” to make up the difference. Rent it.

More New Releases: “Down a Dark Hall,” about a young girl at a boarding school who confronts the institution's supernatural occurrences and dark powers of its headmistress, starring AnnaSophia Robb and Uma Thurman; “Reprisal,” about a veteran who looks to raise money for his son's healthcare by teaming up with another vet to track down criminals, starring Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo; “Arizona,” about a single mom and struggling realtor whose life goes off the rails when she witnesses a murder, starring Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt, Luke Wilson, Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson, and David Alan Grier; and “Whitney,” an in-depth look at the life and music of Whitney Houston.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.