‘The Suicide Squad’ is Silly, Violent, Imaginative, and Easy Enough to Follow

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The Suicide Squad (CREDIT: Warner Bros./Screenshot)

Starring: Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Alice Braga, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Flula Borg, Steve Agee, Storm Reid, Taika Waititi

Director: James Gunn

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for Various Body Parts Getting Torn Apart, a Full Roster of Potty Mouths, and a Little Bit of Nudity

Release Date: August 5, 2021 (Theaters and HBO Max)

The Suicide Squad feels like it came from another dimension. It shares a few characters with 2016’s (no “the”) Suicide Squad and has essentially the same premise. It’s ostensibly a sequel to that earlier effort, but it’s effectively a do-over. There are plenty of reboots every year at the multiplex, but rarely do we have such an unabashed mulligan. The multiverse theory posits that there is an infinite number of realities with any number of minor or major variations, and it seems that we’ve somehow been visited by the one in which James Gunn directed a Suicide Squad movie instead of David Ayer. Adding to this surreal state of affairs was the fact that I was in a bit of a fugue state while watching The Suicide Squad. It was a 10:00 AM screening, my first morning trip to a movie theater post-pandemic. My body was confused by the lack of sunlight at the early hour and thus my brain was unsure if it should be waking or dreaming. Either way, heads were always fated to explode.

The Suicide Squad takes a cue from Suicide Squad by having multiple beginnings, but this time it’s a cheeky bit of purposeful misdirection instead of stinky studio manipulation. Suicide squads are famously expendable, and it turns out that there are degrees of expendability, as one squad is introduced with plenty of fanfare only to serve as a diversion. Everyone involved clearly wanted to feature as many characters as possible to essentially say, “Can you believe all of the colorful ridiculousness that has actually appeared in DC Comics?” The team that we spend most of our time with consists of the ever-popular Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a couple of sharpshooters (Idris Elba, John Cena), a queen of rodents (Daniela Melchior), and a guy who shoots polka dots out of his mouth (David Dastmalchian). They’re sent to the fictional South American island nation of Corto Maltese for some top secret political meddling, but a date with the fantastical awaits them.

I wasn’t prepared for the Big Bad in The Suicide Squad to be a giant starfish, but that is indeed what awaited me. And quite frankly, I’m glad that that’s what we got. I can take or leave the gleeful over-the-top violence; it’s good for a few laughs, but after a couple of hours, I’m exhausted by the fact that I’m not really meant to care about any of these characters (although a few do manage to find a small place in my heart). So I’m grateful that there’s a surplus of visual imagination to appreciate. Way too many extraterrestrial cinematic CGI creatures of the past 15 years or so are some variation on big bad bugs, so a massive starfish that squirts out hundreds of smaller starfish is a relief. I’d be happy to see Starro rolling around every future corner of the big-screen DC universe, whether or not the reject crew is around.

So in conclusion, if you like kooky superpowers at their absolute kookiest and rats getting their time in the spotlight, you’ll probably have a decent time with the Suicide Squad.

The Suicide Squad is Recommended If You Like: The trailers for 2016’s Suicide Squad, bodily mutilation played for laughs, Mouse Hunt

Grade: 3 out of 5 Rats

‘F9’ Goes Full Looney Tunes

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F9: Explosion (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Cena, Sung Kang, Charlize Theron, Vinnie Bennett, Finn Cole, J.D. Pardo, Michael Rooker, Lucas Black, Shad Moss, Jason Tobin, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren

Director: Justin Lin

Running Time: 145 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for The Usual Cascade of Absurd Action

Release Date: June 25, 2021 (Theaters)

F9 is easily the silliest of the Fast & Furious series, which is saying something for a franchise that already went up to 11 and beyond on the Over-the-Top Scale at least four movies ago. It’s not the level of ambition that’s different so much as the tenor. The main attraction of Fast Five through Furious 7 was how technically brilliant the stunts were; this time it’s all about how they could fit right in with something out of Bugs Bunny and company. Roman (Tyrese) and Tej (Ludacris) definitely have a Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner vibe. (Which one is which depends on any given moment.) Another apt comparison: Muppet Labs’ Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker. (Once again, the roles can flip-flop depending on the situation.)

So here’s the deal this time around: Dom has a brother that we’ve never seen before! Also, the gang goes to space! How did the former remain a secret for so long? Ehh, don’t worry about it, they’ll figure out a way. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. Did you hear the part I just mentioned about space? This series, and this entry in particular, doesn’t really concern itself with what’s probable. Well, actually I kind of take that back, as it actually does concern itself with probability, but only in terms of playing lip service to the concept. To wit: there’s a running bit in which Roman, Tej, and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) ponder if they’re something akin to invincible superheroes. The movie doesn’t actually say that they are, but it doesn’t not say that either.

What’s also making me feel good with F9 is the Tokyo Drift reunion. What had previously seemed like the ugly stepchild in the franchise and what I had originally pegged as a potential so-bad-it’s-good contender has instead evolved into something resembling a cult classic full of hidden treasures. Sung Kang has already returned as Han multiple times, and the trailer has already spoiled that he’s back from the dead for this go-round. But on top of that, we’ve also got Lucas Black, Jason Tobin, and Shad “Bow Wow” Moss back in action. They’re not drifting their rides this time around, but they are more explosive than ever. Remember that Muppet Labs comparison. This is a trio of Bunsen Honeydews right here. Also of note: with appearances by Frog and Robopine, I believe this is the first Fast & Furious movie to feature two (2) Masked Singer alums.

I haven’t talked too much about John Cena showing up and wreaking havoc as Dom’s long-lost brother Jakob, or Jordana Brewster as their sister Mia getting back in the swing of things after skipping the last chapter, even though that is of course the main storyline. And well, that’s because, we all know how this story goes: something threatens the stability of the family, and then crazy stunts are pulled off all over the globe in the name of strengthening the family’s core and opening up that family to new members. I don’t worry too much about the villainy, because nobody stays a villain for very long in this universe. As long as there are enough silly shenanigans going on in the margins – and in the most important moments – then we’re good to go.

F9 is Recommended If You Like: Fast Five, Tokyo Drift, Violent kid-friendly cartoons

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Electromagnets

CGI Animals and a Daffy Robert Downey Jr. Performance Make for a Feather-Brained ‘Dolittle’

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Carmel Laniado, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Jason Mantzoukas, Frances de la Tour

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG for Mild Animal Chaos

Release Date: January 17, 2020

It’s not a great sign when my favorite part of a movie is the end credits revealing who all the voice actors were, especially when it’s a movie about talking to animals, because … I love talking to animals! Not necessarily in the Dr. Dolittle sense, but if I did have that ability, I would be happy to use it. As for Robert Downey Jr.’s version of the classic fictional veterinarian, I wouldn’t say that he is unhappy about his interspecies communication abilities, but he is making some odd choices, what with an unplaceable accent while barely opening his mouth whenever he talks to the point that it seems like he is practicing his ventriloquism. Dolittle is a movie whose existence in 2020 I’m having trouble fathoming, but despite that, I can’t say that I doubt Downey’s commitment, however strange it may be.

Anyway, the plot is some fever dream logic-driven concoction about how a reclusive Dr. Dolittle, hiding away in his home following the death of his wife, is summoned to set out on an adventure to find a cure for a deathly ill young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). Naturally enough, his animal friends join him to help out, and their presence on this journey just feels too unremarkable. Perhaps that has to do with the reliance on CGI, which renders these creatures less adorable and more just humans with fur or feathers or scales. For the most part, then, Dolittle is a mix of humdrum when it should be goofy and ridiculous when it should be straightforward. Although, there is one part when Dr. Dolittle removes a set of bagpipes from a dragon’s colon, so this endeavor wasn’t a total disappointment.

Dolittle is Recommended If You Have: A Bottomless Appreciation for CGI Animal Hijinx

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Quacks

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Bumblebee’ is Retro Fun and Mercifully Economical

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures

This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Pamela Adlon, John Ortiz, Stephen Schneider, Jason Drucker, Dylan O’Brien, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullen

Director: Travis Knight

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Deadly Alien Technology That Vaporizes Blood and Guts

Release Date: December 21, 2018

The Transformers series is addicted to origin stories and secret histories. Bumblebee does not break that spell, but it does present it in a much more palatable package than usual. The 2007 franchise starter supposedly presented the first time that the Autobots and Decepticons made themselves known on Earth in a major way. But as the series has rattled on, it’s been revealed that the bots have actually been around on this planet in some capacity for thousands of years, which sounds exhausting to hear about, and is even more exhausting to watch. I checked out after 2011’s Dark of the Moon, but I’ve heard horror stories from folks who stuck around for 2014’s Age of Extinction and 2017’s The Last Knight.

The spinoff nature of Bumblebee offers the potential to go in a fresh direction, but its elevator pitch does not exactly inspire confidence. “What if a teenager finds a beat-up old car that turns out to be a Transformer?” is pretty much the exact same starting point as the first Transformers. But while the setup is familiar, the details are unique and mercifully leaner compared to what’s come before. Wisely, only four Transformers play significant roles. There’s the title little fellow, opting for a modest Volkswagen Beetle disguise instead of his typical Camaro look. On his tail are the Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick, voiced with nasty verve by Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux. And Optimus Prime shows up occasionally to keep Bumblebee’s spirits up, mostly in Princess Leia-to-Obi-Wan Kenobi-style pre-recorded message form. Metal clanking against metal is still no more aesthetically pleasing than it’s ever been, but there’s thankfully a lot less of it this time around.

As for the humans, Hailee Steinfeld is a natural in coming-of-age mode. She plays Charlie Watson, a teenager in 1987 San Francisco who would much rather spend her time fixing up cars (like she used to always do with her dad before he passed away) rather than hang out with her family or classmates. There are plenty of hallmarks of the genre: an awkward neighbor with a huge crush (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), an overbearing mom and stepdad (the delightful pair of Pamela Adlon and Stephen Schneider) who try and fail to get Charlie to smile more often, an annoying younger brother, and bitchy classmates. Bumblebee slots into her universe as a sort of wounded animal that she nurses back to health and also as the only one who really understands Charlie. Bumblebee hardly reinvents the wheel, but it’s a perfectly fun and satisfying addition to the girl-and-her-bot genre.

Bumblebee is Recommended If You Like: The first Transformers movie but not the Michael Bay excess, The Smiths, ’80s-set coming-of-age flicks

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Volkswagen Bugs

This Is a Movie Review: Three Teenage Girls Make a Sex Pact, But It is the Parents of ‘Blockers’ Who Are Behaving Badly

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CREDIT: Quantrell D. Colbert/Universal Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in April 2018.

Starring: Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon

Director: Kay Cannon

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Rating: R for Girls Talking About Sex Without Any Shame, Butt Chugging and the Like, and a Concerning Amount of Drug Use

Release Date: April 6, 2018

What to do with a movie that has a really great message but that plays fast-and-loose with any sense of realism? You take the good, you take the bad – the facts of life! I didn’t go into this meaning to name-check a classic ’80s TV theme song, but as it popped into my head, it just felt remarkably right. At its core, and at its best, Blockers emphasizes the fact that teenage girls have sexual desires and treats that truth as matter-of-factly as it deserves to be treated. This isn’t some “girls can be gross, too!” twist on a “boys will be boys” classic. The sex here approached with maturity and it is often romantic. Any grossness in Blockers is due to insecurity or lapses in plausibility.

Have sex pacts ever occurred in real life? If so, I hope they are as supportive and sweetly motivated as the one in Blockers. On the occasion of her senior prom, Julie (Kathryn Newton) announces to her lifelong friends Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) her intention to lose her virginity tonight to her boyfriend. Sensing an opportunity for a shared anniversary, Kayla and Sam declare that they are in as well. They may not be in as serious a relationship as Julie is, but they’ve got guys who they like well enough and who have the necessary equipment. But when Julie’s mom Lisa (Leslie Mann), Kayla’s dad Mitch (John Cena), and Sam’s dad Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) catch wind of the pact, they are not going to stand idly by as their girls become women.

It is distressing that these parents have such regressively protective attitudes, though it is encouraging that they are presented as the ones so clearly in the wrong. And what’s more, their motivations are more complicated than not trusting their daughters. Lisa is a single mom who has raised Julie alone her whole life. She is struggling through deep-seated separation anxiety, worrying that Julie getting closer to her boyfriend means she will attend college thousands of miles away, which means that she could disappear forever. Director Kay Cannon and her team of screenwriters handle this unflinchingly, and I wish they would have devoted even more time to it. Hunter, meanwhile, knows that Sam is gay and is worried that her friends are forcing her to do something she doesn’t really want to do. Originally introduced as a deadbeat screw-up, he ends up coming off as the most open-minded of the trio, though the film does lose focus a bit on that tack for the sake of gags. Mitch is really the only one who comes as the stereotypically overprotective parent, and though Cena does imbue him with a fair amount of sweetness, he feels out of place in what the film is ultimately saying.

Blockers’ message that teenage girls should be allowed to make their own sexual decisions, especially if they are with boys (or otherwise) who they like and respect, is indisputably valuable. While it may be underlined a little too obviously, perhaps it is a message that needs to be repeated. It is also heartening to see a group of supportive teenage female friends on screen. Julie, Kayla, and Sam have their stark differences, but their loyalty runs deep. That well of positivity offsets a bit the parents’ surplus of bad behavior, which stretches the bounds of credulity a bit too much. Seriously, Blockers, you’re plenty funny without having to resort to butt chugging beer. That is to say, this is a movie that is much more sure-footed when it comes to romance (somehow making licorice the perfect food for declaring love) than when it swerves into the territory of illegal behavior.

Blockers is Recommended If You Like: Superbad and other Judd Apatow productions, particularly if they feature insecure parents, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Clueless

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Sex Pacts

This Is a Movie Review: Ferdinand is Not Your Typical Bull, But ‘Ferdinand’ is Your Typical CG-Animated Kids Movie

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CREDIT: Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally posted on News Cult in December 2017.

Starring: John Cena, Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, Jerrod Carmichael, Gina Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Flula Borg, Boris Kodjoe, Sally Phillips, Lily Day, Juanes, Jeremy Sisto

Director: Carlos Saldanha

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for Destruction Wrought by a Bull Who Refuses to Accept How Big He Is

Release Date: December 15, 2017

Based on Robert Lawson’s 1936 children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, the Blue Sky animated film Ferdinand is all about one of the most massive bulls in all of Spain. He is a beyond-perfect physical specimen for bullfighting, and in this country it goes without saying that calves spend their youths obsessing about the day they will get to face off against the matadors. But Ferdinand does not have the same pugnacious instinct as his peers. He would much rather spend his days on the farm, sniffing flowers, scarfing down carrots, and just hanging out with the preteen girl who dotes on him. But in a world that sees him as a beast, he must find a way to reconcile his hulking physicality with who he is on the inside.

Ferdinand the film, however, does not stick out from the pack as much as its titular character does. Its message of staying true to yourself is de rigueur in kids’ fare, and the CG animation, while certainly professional, does not pull off any truly lasting images. Thus, it lives and dies on the strength of its voice cast and the laugh-generating power of its gags. John Cena’s giant teddy bear persona is the correct vibe for Ferdinand, while Kate McKinnon is just right as the goat sidekick she’s versatile enough that she probably could have voiced any or all of the characters if the Ferdinand casting crew had been in the mood for that). While everyone else is at least adequate, the only significant standout is David Tennant as a heavily accented Scottish bull. Regarding the chuckles, there is some amusement to be had, as when Ferdinand sucks a caterpillar up his nose and sneezes it out as a butterfly or when the mostly blind owner of a china shop mistakes his tail for a feather duster.

Ferdinand also touches upon the fate of the bulls who are not deemed worthy of the bullfighting ring. I’m talking about the chop shop. This raises the question: are all films about talking animals secretly vegetarian propaganda? And if so, is that always, sometimes, or never intentional? A frequent, nigh-unavoidable trope of this genre is the slaughter that is just around the corner from failure or carelessness. When your lead character is an animal whose meat is favored by carnivores and omnivores, it is only natural to draw sympathy out of the threat of being eaten. Efforts to remain kid-friendly often result in daring escapes from pulverization as moments of triumph, and that is very much the case here. I do not mean to make a moral judgment one way or the other, but instead offer a philosophical pondering: are vegetarians drawn into working in the talking animal film business, or does the talking animal film business make its workers vegetarian?

Ferdinand is Recommended If You Like: Every Talking Animal Movie Ever

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 “Macarena”-Playing Flowerpots

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Daddy’s Home 2’ is Amiably, Almost Transcendently Sweet, Except When Its Nasty Side Mucks Things Up

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2017.

Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson, Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, John Cena

Director: Sean Anders

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Alarmingly Near-Lethal Accidents and the Budding Birds and Bees

Release Date: November 10, 2017

There is a principle in improv comedy that stresses avoiding introducing conflict too quickly, as arguments can be anathema to the performative harmony required by yes-and’ing. That same advice is not as often applied to a scripted narrative, as conflict is frequently the engine that drives the plot. But for a family-centric hangout comedy like Daddy’s Home 2, which derives its most humorous moments out of character-based foibles, it might actually be best to keep conflict to a minimum. For its first 30 minutes or so, this sequel easily bests its original by allowing its blended families to be mostly harmonious. But it cannot quite quit its nasty, mean-spirited streak. Still, there are enough moments that genuinely convey the magic of the holidays and the power of choosing love over frustration for this to mostly be a success.

When we first check back in on Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), they’re the perfect picture of co-dadding. Whenever they are told that theirs is a strange arrangement between father and stepfather, they do not care, because they genuinely get along with each other now, despite their significant differences. But all is not 100% well, as the kids are not fans of swinging back and forth between two houses, especially on Christmas. The solution: one big holiday getaway with all the kids and all the parents, with Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) and Dusty’s dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) joining to add a few new wrinkles.

The juxtaposition between these two patriarchs is where DH2 derives most of its laughs. Don and Brad are unabashedly close, always greeting each other with a kiss on the lips. Dusty, meanwhile, resents Kurt for rarely showing up to be an adequate father and grandfather. These stark differences could lead to a bunch of cheap gags, but instead the interplay between this quartet remains mostly palatable, thanks to the sweet treatment of Don and Brad’s closeness, Kurt not being as much of a Neanderthal as the previews implied, and the film clearly presenting his absenteeism and macho bullshit as bad things. Plus, Brad and especially Don avoid being bullied by remaining confident in their identities and playfully acknowledging Dusty and Kurt’s different personal styles.

Thus why it is too bad that DH2 cannot trust itself to maintain this bonhomie. Every little disagreement and accident gets blown way out of proportion. Sure, even people who get along get on each other’s nerves every once in a while, but generally they do not turn into completely unrecognizable assholes, as they do in this film. There are plenty of funny moments of folks just goofing off, so there is no comedic need for all the shouting and chaos.

This over-the-top-tendency does not even touch on the moments of (unintentional?) pure horror, when mishaps with heavy machinery and weaponry result in main characters just a few inches away from death. A snow blower gets stuck in Christmas lights and flies around the house! An errant chainsaw nearly impales Brad! Don gets lost and is almost left facedown in the snow overnight! A shotgun accidentally fires, and the bullet grazes Kurt’s arm! Somehow all this madness leads to a genuinely heartwarming conclusion that almost makes all these extremes almost forgivable.

One particularly insightful scene represents what Daddy’s Home 2 is at its best and for a few minutes, places it among the upper tier of 2017’s cinematic offerings. It is telling that this film understands certain improv principles, as an outing at an improv show demonstrates the danger and revelations that can happen at a live comedy performance. Don has been taking improv classes, so Brad has volunteered him as an audience participant. A prompt for the scene hits a little close to home, exposing the secrets cracking away at his endlessly chipper façade. The wrenching agony on Lithgow’s face presents an actor at the top of his game, always giving his all no matter how silly or sentimental the material.

Daddy’s Home 2 is Recommended If You Like: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Other Guys, Anything with John Lithgow

Grade: 3 out of 5 Loaded Guns (Literal and Metaphorical)

This Is a Movie Review: Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena Evade an Iraqi Sniper Behind ‘The Wall’

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CREDIT: David James/Amazon Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in May 2017.

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena 

Director: Doug Liman

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Sniper Bullets Whizzing By and the Expletives You Yell When Blood Mixes with Sand

Release Date: May 12, 2017 (Limited)

The Wall feels like the type of movie that should have been released at the end of the George W. Bush era, as the national tide was becoming significantly less supportive of any Middle East military efforts. But considering that the War on Terror and nation-rebuilding operations tend to have no end in sight, the premise is unfortunately evergreen. It is 2007 in Iraq, Bush has declared victory, and the war is supposedly winding down. American soldiers Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Matthews (John Cena) find themselves at the mercy of the deadly Iraqi sniper Juba, with only a makeshift brick wall to serve as protection.

The film mostly consists of a battle of wits between Taylor-Johnson and Juba, who hacks into the Americans’ local radio. Juba is in control of the situation, and he is mostly toying with Isaac until what is almost certainly an inevitable execution, making for essentially the combat version of Phone Booth. Regarding how this plays out as a cinematic thrill ride, there is certainly constant tension, but there is also constant labored breathing from Taylor-Johnson, and that is never the ideal sound mix.

The most universal truths are often best expressed in the most intimate stories, and that micro-macro metonymy is at the forefront of the tightly composed The Wall. Juba somehow knows the most relevant details of Isaac’s story, taunting him about how he just cannot leave a complete mission well enough alone. His personal struggle mirrors his country’s boondoggle. Taylor-Johnson is not the most compelling actor to bring this point across (he excels more in something more depraved like Nocturnal Animals), but a devastating conclusion ensures that The Wall gets its point across. This film is not exactly anti-war, and not even necessarily anti-Iraq War, but rightness or wrongness does not account for much when all you stand for and behind is crumbling around you. 

The Wall is Recommended If You Like: Lone Survivor, Phone Booth, the ending of Night of the Living Dead

Grade: 3 out of 5 Poetic Snipers

SNL Review December 10, 2016: John Cena/Maren Morris

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "John Cena" Episode 1713 -- Pictured: Host John Cena on December 6, 2016 -- (Photo by: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “John Cena” Episode 1713 — Pictured: Host John Cena on December 6, 2016 — (Photo by: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in December 2016.

Love It

Hook a Hunk – The hook of “Hook a Hunk” is clear from a mile away. As soon as all the contestants on this dating show parody are introduced, and not one of them is played by John Cena, it follows that the hunkiest of hunks in the building must be playing the host and Cecily Strong’s contestant must fall for him in favor of any of the contestants. And yet, “Hook a Hunk” succeeds despite its obviousness, as Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney carve out their own little scene amidst the disappointment, because love wins.

Aidy Bryant clings to the ledge while holding on to the Office Christmas Tree, and some terrifying camera angles ramp up the tension necessary to build to the catharsis that is so important in comedy.

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