Movie Review: ‘Unsullied’

The most notable thing about “Unsullied” is the man behind the camera. The thriller’s first-time director, Simeon Rice, is a former NFL defensive end who earned a Super Bowl ring in 2003 playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As an athlete, Rice’s performance was brilliant, but the same cannot be said about his latest endeavor. “Unsullied” is wholly underwhelming, with atrocious performances and plot twists so implausible that they would be funny in a film less tedious than this.

Reagan (Murray Gray) is a competitive sprinter whose car breaks down in the forest, where she is offered a ride by two handsome strangers (Rusty Joiner and James Gaudioso), whom we learn from an awkward, surreptitious close-up are up to no good. One of them subdues her with a chloroform-soaked rag and she wakes up tied to a bed. As the kidnappers rape another woman in the next room, Reagan manages to escape. The rest of “Unsullied” is a chase, with the men hunting Reagan for sport.

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Successful horror requires tight editing and a sense of composition, which contribute to an overall sense of dread. Rice’s directorial choices, unfortunately, veer between arbitrary and nonsensical. Before Regan’s capture there is a languid, pointless scene in which the bad guys charm townsfolk over breakfast. Then there are frequent, distracting flashbacks involving Regan’s sister, who has mysteriously disappeared. None of this, however, lends the characters depth. Instead, Rice seems desperate to pad out the running time. The performances are broad and silly, resembling a poor man’s “Deliverance,” minus the menace. The tepid dialogue does not help, either.

Flat cinematography and clunky action give “Unsullied” the feel of an amateur film, the sort of horror fare that regularly runs on basic cable in the wee hours. While Rice’s feature directorial debut has few redeeming qualities, it really becomes borderline offensive when the script (by John Nodilo, from a story written with Rice) introduces plot twists that insult our intelligence. It’s only in the third act, for instance, that we discover that Reagan has carried a secret pistol all along. It’s introduced in time for her final showdown with one of the bad guys — who has conveniently fixed her car just so she can drive to his hideout.

Don’t try to think about it. “Unsullied” is easier to forget that way.

½★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★

R. Contains violence, including rape, coarse language and brief drug use. 93 minutes.

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Watching 5 Hours of TV a Day Could Kill You

Here’s a study to make you get off the couch. Researchers from Japan’s Osaka University found that watching more than five hours of TV a day can make you six times more likely to suffer a fatal blood clot, the Telegraph reports. The study, presented to the European Society of Cardiology, shows men and women between the ages of 40 and 79 who watch more than five hours of TV a day are twice as likely to suffer a possibly fatal pulmonary embolism from blood clots than someone who watches less than 2.5 hours of TV a day. But that goes up to six times more likely when looking at people younger than 60.

“Leg immobility during television viewing may in part explain the finding,“ says one of the researchers, whose study tracked 86,000 in Japan over 18 years. The danger is that blood clots can form in a leg vein and prevent the flow of blood to the heart. This was the first study to look at prolonged TV watching as it relates to blood clots—important in the age of binge watching, notes the Independent—but researchers say a similar connection is likely with playing video or computer games. In a press release, researchers said binge watchers should follow the same guidelines given to those on long airplane flights: stand up, walk around, and drink plenty of water.

Movie Review: ‘Z for Zachariah’

Part post-apocalyptic psychological thriller and part teenage coming-of-age drama, “Z for Zachariah” upends the conventions of both those genres to construct, out of their ruins, something else entirely. Directed by Craig Zobel (“Compliance”) and adapted by Nissar Modi from the posthumously published novel by Robert C. O’Brien, the resulting film is a darkly nuanced Genesis fable centering on a stolid, preternaturally capable 19-year-old Eve and her 30-something Adam, a man who pales, in terms of strength of character, next to his adolescent partner.

As young-adult films go, this one is startlingly grown up.

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Margot Robbie plays the film’s Eve, a country girl named Ann who has been living — since a nuclear cataclysm — in her family home in the middle of an edenic rural American valley that has somehow remained untouched by the radioactive fallout that seems to have poisoned the rest of the world. As far as Ann knows, she’s the last human being on Earth. That opinion suddenly changes with the arrival of John (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an engineer who wanders into her sanctuary wearing a hazmat suit and pulling a small trailer behind him. For a while after Ann takes him in, they become like the first man and woman, fishing in the valley’s pristine pond, harvesting vegetables, rebuilding a broken generator and making guilty goo-goo eyes at each other.

As for the sin they’re contemplating, the age difference is slightly creepy, but what are you going to do at the end of the world?

The cozy domesticity ends when a second, much younger man named Caleb (Chris Pine) shows up. Aside from the characters’ different ages, there are other cultural divisions: Ann is deeply religious, while John, a man of science, is not. Caleb — who, like Ann, has a blue-collar background — apparently pretends to be devout in order to ingratiate himself with her. John is black; Ann and Caleb are white.

Tension, in other words, hangs in the air like a toxic fog. Zobel builds up a nice mood of sexual tension and menace as the plot advances, stirring in themes of race, class, faith and gender. Though John and Caleb are the ones who get together to build a water wheel to power the generator — out of the ruins of the town church, a metaphor if ever there was one — it is Ann who comes across as the enterprising one here. The sexual jealousy that develops between John and Caleb — each of whom wants to become the last man, or “Zachariah,” in the parlance of a Biblical alphabet primer — makes both of them seem petty and weak-minded.

There is no grand moral or message to this story, except perhaps to remind us of both the depths and heights that people are capable of in extremity. The acting is strong, with Robbie and Ejiofor turning in performances that feel powerfully authentic, even in moments of ethical confusion. Maybe especially in moments of ethical confusion.

“Z for Zachariah” isn’t a portrait of the end of the world so much as the dawn of a new one. If it tells us anything about human nature, it’s that the tenancy of our species on this planet has been forever marked by moral compromise, and our willingness to turn a blind eye to it.

★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★

PG-13. Contains a scene of sexuality, partial nudity and coarse language. 98 minutes.

All the winners from the 2015 VMAs

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The MTV VMAs took over Los Angeles on Sunday night with expected performances from Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, and Demi Lovato. Miley Cyrus made a flashy return to the awards show to host the event, and Kanye West picked up the network’s highest honor, the Video Vanguard Award.

Oh yeah, they also gave out a bunch of awards. Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Ed Sheeran led the nominees going into the night, and here’s a list of winners, which will be updated throughout the night.

WINNER: Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood”
Beyoncé – “7/11”
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

WINNER: Fall Out Boy – “Uma Thurman”
Hozier – “Take Me To Church”
Florence + the Machine – “Ship To Wreck”
Walk the Moon – “Shut Up and Dance”
Arctic Monkeys – “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”

WINNER: Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
Beyoncé – “7/11”
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
Maroon 5 – “Sugar”

WINNER: Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
The Weeknd – “Earned It”
Nick Jonas – “Chains”

WINNER: Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
Big Sean ft. E-40 – “IDFWU”

WINNER: Big Sean ft. Kanye West and John Legend – “One Man Can Change the World”
Jennifer Hudson – “I Still Love You”
Colbie Caillat – “Try”
Rihanna – “American Oxygen”
Wale – “The White Shoes”

WINNER: Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”
Vance Joy – “Riptide”
George Ezra – “Budapest”
James Bay – “Hold Back The River”
FKA Twigs – “Pendulum”

WINNER: Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
Beyoncé – “7/11”
Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
Sia – “Elastic Heart”
Ellie Goulding – “Love Me Like You Do”

WINNER: Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood”
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
Ariana Grande & The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder”
Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj – “Bang Bang”

WINNER: Snoop Dogg – “So Many Pros” (Jason Fijal)
Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood” (Charles Infante)
Jack White – “Would You Fight For My Love” (Jeff Peterson)
The Chemical Brothers – “Go” (Michel Gondry)
Skrillex & Diplo – “Where Are U Now” with Justin Bieber (Brewer)

WINNER: OK Go – “I Won’t Let You Down” (OK Go, air:man and Mori Harano)
Beyoncé – “7/11” (Beyoncé, Chris Grant, Additional choreography: Gabriel Valenciano)
Chet Faker – “Gold” (Ryan Heffington)
Ed Sheeran – “Don’t” (Nappy Tabs)
Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me” (Keone and Mari Madrid)

WINNER: Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me” (Larkin Sieple)
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud” (Daniel Pearl)
Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood” (Christopher Probst)
FKA Twigs – “Two Weeks” (Justin Brown)
Alt-J – “Left Hand Free” (Mike Simpson)

WINNER: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright” (Colin Tilley & The Little Homies)
Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood” (Joseph Kahn)
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk” (Bruno Mars and Cameron Duddy)
Hozier – “Take Me To Church” (Brendan Canty, Conal Thomson)
Childish Gambino – “Sober” (Hiro Murai)

WINNER: Beyoncé – “7/11” (Beyoncé, Ed Burke, Jonathan Wing)
Ed Sheeran – “Don’t” (Jacquelyn London)
Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood” (Chancler Haynes at Cosmo Street)
A$AP Rocky – “L$D” (Dexter Navy)
Skrillex & Diplo – “Where Are U Now” with Justin Bieber (Brewer)

WINNER: Skrillex & Diplo – “Where Are U Now” with Justin Bieber (Brewer)
Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood” (Ingenuity Studios)
FKA Twigs – “Two Weeks” (Gloria FX, Tomash Kuzmytskyi, and Max Chyzhevskyy)
Childish Gambino – “Telegraph Ave.” (Gloria FX)
Tyler, The Creator – “F****** Young/Death Camp” (Gloria FX)

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