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Front Row at the Movies

Film Review Unforgettable
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Rosario Dawson, left, and Katherine Heigle in a scene from "Unforgettable."

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Shirrel Rhoades

Friday, April 21, 2017

“Phoenix Forgotten” remembers Arizona UFO phenomenon

In March 1997, thousands of people reported seeing strange lights over Phoenix, Arizona. They described them as a triangular formation of lights passing over the state. Witnesses said this V-shaped UFO was larger than several football fields. Even the governor admitted to watching this — “otherworldly,” he called it — phenomenon.

Now this unexplained event is the inspiration for a new science-fiction psychological horror film called “Phoenix Forgotten.”

Although directed by first-timer Justin Barber, it was produced by Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner,” “Alien”), T.S. Nowlin (“The Maze Runner”), Wes Ball (“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”), Courtney Solomon (“Murder in the Dark”) and Mark Canton (“The Martian”) — a very experienced team.

“Phoenix Forgotten” tells of three local teens who go into the desert following the 1997 Phoenix Lights in hopes of documenting the strange occurrence. That night they disappeared and were never seen again.

Now, 20 years later, footage has supposedly been discovered that reveals their final hours of chasing the UFO.

Yes, think: “The Blair Witch Project.” This is another of those “found footage” tropes.

It stars Chelsea Lopez, Florence Hartigan, and Luke Spencer Roberts — three young actors you’ve likely never heard of.

“Phoenix Forgotten” promises us that “for the first time ever, the truth will be revealed.”

The film’s website advises that since 1998 there have been 109,847 confirmed UFO sightings. The producers are hoping you will make it 109,848.

 

“Unforgettable” is unforgivable

No, we’re not talking about Nat King Cole’s romantic signature song. This is a movie that, in fact, might be described as anti-romantic.

In “Unforgettable,” a deranged woman poses a threat to her ex-husband and his new wife. She just can’t let go. She can’t forgive and forget.

The movie was originally slated to star Kate Hudson and Kerry Washington as the ex-wife and new wife, but when they dropped out of the project, Denise Di Novi, the film’s producer, stepped in as director and hired Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson for the leads. Geoff Stults joined the cast as the husband caught in the middle.

This is Di Novi’s first time in the director’s chair, so we can forgive her for choosing such a forgettable title for her domestic revenge movie. On Internet Movie Database, there are 35 movies, videos, shorts and TV episodes titled “Unforgettable.” Maybe she have gone with “Unforgivable” — there are only one-third as many movies with that title.

Unforgivable works on so many levels.

Tessa Conover (Heigl) is unforgiving of Julia Banks (Dawson) for taking her husband David (Stults).

Tessa will do anything to get her husband back. Blackmail, sabotage, even possibly murder. Sure, she puts on the “let’s be friends” act, but she’s really out to destroy Julia as she tries to reclaim the life she feels was stolen from her.

“There was a time when I thought we were on the road to getting back together,” Tessa confides to Julia over drinks. “Then, he met you.”

It’s a familiar subgenre: Jealous Woman Stalks The Woman Who Stole Her Man, the kind of movie you’d expect to happen across on the Lifetime network.

Best known for her rom-coms, Heigl usually plays sweetheart characters, so it’s fun to see her take on a darker role.

This coming August, Heigl will reprise her role in an animated film, “The Nut Job 2.” Come to think of it, that might have been a better title for this movie than “Unforgettable.”

Shirrel Rhoades is the movie reviewer for Cooke Communications North Carolina. He can be reached at srhoades@aol.com.

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