Combustible Celluloid
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With: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Kimiko Glenn, Marc John Jefferies, Colson Baker, Brian Marc, Ed Squires
Written by: Jessica Sharzer, based on a novel by Jeanne Ryan
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving dangerous and risky behavior, some sexual content, language, drug content, drinking and nudity-all involving teens
Running Time: 96
Date: 07/27/2016

Nerve (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dare Pair

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This flyweight thriller for the new millennium is graphically flashy, with decent, likable characters and adrenaline-fueled thrills, even if it grows ever more implausible and ultimately disposable. Yet it does offer a spectacular condemnation of mob mentality and internet trolling, rewarding kindness and responsibility. Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman previously brought us the internet dating scam story Catfish as well as the surveillance camera-powered Paranormal Activity 3, and seem to have their fingers on the pulse of... something.

After the death of her older brother, high school yearbook photographer Vee (Emma Roberts) lives life in a safe zone, rarely taking any chances, unlike her sexy, outgoing best friend Syd (Emily Meade). Syd tells her about an online game called "Nerve," wherein users can choose to "watch" or "play" through a series of dares. After a particularly humiliating day, she decides to play. This instantly sends her on an odyssey across New York City, unexpectedly teamed up with the cool, kind Ian (Dave Franco). As the dares get bigger and bigger, she finds everything spinning out of control; the night leads up to a deadly face-off with a ruthless player known as Ty (Colson Baker, a.k.a. rapper Machine Gun Kelly).

Nerve effectively captures the feel of a movement or a trend (it weirdly recalls Pokemon Go) in a New York City setting, as well as the adrenaline of an all-night romp. The filmmakers keep a good, strong storytelling pace, blowing right past several small plot problems and careless shortcuts without a thought. The casting is spot-on; the chemistry between Emma Roberts and Dave Franco certainly helps carry the story along.

Lionsgate has released an exceptional new Blu-ray package, which also includes a DVD and a digital copy. Picture and sound are awesome. It includes a DTSX sound mix, plus a DTS mix that's "optimized for late night viewing." Someone clearly put some thought into the extras; when the home screen comes up, viewers can start the movie, go to scenes or audio/subtitles setup, or they can click on either WATCHER or PLAYER. The first one comes up with a string of little featurettes. The second comes up with character bios, a quiz (determining how brave you are), and a home (safe) version of the "Nerve" game. This was a fairly unsung theatrical release of the summer, so I hope people find it at home.

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