‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ Will Have You Laughing, But Not for Long, Because Things Get Stressful Quick, But in an Edifying Way

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Bodies Bodies Bodies (CREDIT: Eric Chakeen/A24)

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Lee Pace

Director: Halina Reijn

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R for Generally Raucous Vibes That Make Everyone Ill-Prepared for the Bloodbath

Release Date: August 5, 2022 (Limited)/August 12, 2022 (Expands Wide)

What’s It About?: What’s the best thing to do during a hurricane? Hunker down for a house party, maybe? Eh, even if the building is sturdy enough to prevent any permanent damage, things could get messy. Which is to say, the characters of Bodies Bodies Bodies are putting themselves at risk. Emotional, physical, potentially lethal risk. The group of seven hanging out at the mansion are a mix of longtime friends and new lovers, as well as plenty of uninvited secrets and passive-aggressiveness. When the storm forces them inside for the night, they decide to play the titular party game, in which one person is assigned to play the “killer” who must be sussed out by the other players. But when one of them actually winds up dead, an impromptu murder investigation begins. And instead of banding together, they all find ways to be suspicious of each other.

What Made an Impression?: Like other great killer mystery thrillers, Bodies Bodies Bodies does a fine job of convincing us that everyone is a legitimate suspect. Just when I thought I’d identified the most secretive and cruel individual, somebody else does something equally thoughtless. Based on what we see, these are not very good friends. I was most reminded of 2015’s Unfriended, in which a Skype session turns deadly as each of the callers reveal just how profoundly awful they are. But the Bodies Bodies Bodies crew aren’t quite that terrible. Instead, they’re insecure young adults trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and they’re not finding any useful support from the other insecure people around them. If you add buckets of windy rain and a dead body to that powder keg, it’s not going to be a fun night.

It all resolves in a gut-punch of an ending that will have you going, “It’s just a movie. I should really just relax.” Because if you don’t, you’ll be stressed out for days, or potentially months even. These people shouldn’t be partying, they should be in therapy. (Well, maybe they can rage every once in a while if they maintain a healthy therapy schedule.) What if the sequel were a visit to a psychiatrist during a hurricane? I would definitely check that out. Anyway, if nothing else, Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much a warning that we should all come up with a plan ASAP for what to do if any of our friends suddenly winds up inexplicably dead.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is Recommended If You Like: Unfriended, Scream, Ready or Not

Grade: 4 out of 5 Machetes

How Well Does ‘I Want You Back’ Handle Its Manipulative Premise? Let’s Find Out!

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I Want You Back (CREDIT: © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC)

Starring: Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Gina Rodriguez, Scott Eastwood, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo, Omar Gooding, Dylan Gelula, Isabel May, Pete Davidson, Jami Gertz

Director: Jason Orley

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: R for Adults Behaving Hot and Bothered

Release Date: February 11, 2022 (Amazon Prime Video)

Plenty of romantic comedies feature highly manipulative, perhaps even psychopathic behavior, and I Want You Back is just the latest example. That feature of the genre isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. It all just depends on how you present it. If you’re going for something cynical or a heightened/surreal vibe, then this behavior fits perfectly. If however you want to conclude with the sweet-as-treacle traditional happily-ever-after, then the message might end up a whole heck of a lot darker than intended. In the case of I Want You Back … it’s complicated. It features likable actors who can go vicious or weird if that’s what’s asked of them, but this time they’re aiming for something more grounded and thoughtful. But they’re not perfect either. They make some bad decisions, eventually they have to deal with the consequences, and the narrative grapples with how to move forward from those consequences.

Here’s the setup: Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) are both blindsided when they’re dumped from their respective long-term relationships. Breakups are always hard, but these ones are especially tough, because these two mortal fools have convinced themselves that their now-exes (Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez) were The Ones for them. So when they have a chance encounter in the office building where they both work, they hatch a scheme wherein they will rip apart the new relationship of the other’s ex so that they can be reunited. Along the way, they get up to a few shenanigans, deliver some chuckle-worthy dialogue, forge some unlikely friendships, and learn a little bit about themselves. But the clock is ticking, and The Truth Bomb is just waiting to go off…

Let’s jump ahead to discuss the point when Peter and Emma’s scheme fully unravels. Predictably, everyone who’s been an unwitting pawn is so aghast at the lack of forthrightness and integrity when they thought everything had been genuine. It would be realistic if everyone remained angry with each other for weeks, months, or even years afterward. But instead, they talk it out. Is it enough to justify a happy ending? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not personally sure myself. But I am certain that it’s ultimately healthiest to address these emotionally distressing situations head-on. It may be supremely difficult, but settling on anger most likely means allowing these situations to fester into something even more toxic. Since I Want You Back recognizes that, it mostly wins my approval.

I Want You Back is Recommended If You Like: Sitcom Stars in Movies, Quarter-Life Crises, Abortive threesomes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Airplane Safety Masks

‘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

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 6/12/20

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CREDIT: Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Artemis Fowl (Streaming on Disney+)
Da 5 Bloods (Streaming on Netflix) – Da latest Spike Lee joint.
The King of Staten Island (On Demand) – Pete Davidson teams up with Judd Apatow!

SNL Review November 10, 2018: Liev Schreiber/Lil Wayne

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

This post was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Love It

Pete Davidson and Dan CrenshawPete Davidson’s commentary last week about various electoral candidates understandably caused a bit of an uproar, though I imagine I was not the only one who thought that Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw demanding an apology was a bit of an overreaction. True, Pete made light of a combat injury sustained by Crenshaw, but saying that an eyepatch makes you look like a detective in a porno isn’t necessarily an insult. It’s more like a weird observation. After all, it’s strange that in 2018 an eyepatch is still the prescribed way to handle certain ocular injuries.

Anyway, while Pete’s joke wasn’t exactly high-minded, it wasn’t like he was attacking Crenshaw’s character.  And it turns out, Crenshaw understands that! He’s not thin-skinned or humorless (or, more cynically, he’s not making a bad faith argument to gin up controversy). It looks like everyone involved came up with the best solution, as Crenshaw stops by the desk to in turn make fun of Pete in an awkwardly personal matter. Fighting fire with fire is usually a bad idea, but fighting comedy with comedy is often the best idea.

Dave’s Outside the Women’s Bathroom – This is exactly the sort of off-the-wall, experimental, possibly terrible idea that the last sketch of the night should be. It helps that nobody really knows what is going on and that there are a variety of reactions to the situation, some reasonable and some absurd. The women walking out of the bathroom are understandably confused and horrified, while Heidi Gardner slays as Dave’s uniquely passionate girlfriend, who is more worried that she will “look like a prostitute” while sitting alone and that Dave might leave her if his ridiculous talk show somehow becomes a runaway success. And through it all, Schreiber fascinatingly plays Dave as not a creep, but a weirdly earnest hustler and dreamer.

House Hunters demonstrates that relentlessly throwing a bunch of crazy details out there works if the characters delivering them maintain a straight face the whole time.

Keep It

Booty Kings – This hip-hop club banger is not the most hilarious music video parody SNL has ever presented, but it does have one of the best messages. Those who tout the importance of consent are sometimes (wrongly) accused of taking the fun and the sexiness out of sex, but the Booty Kings demonstrate that the room can still be hot and heavy if you take a second to ask someone if they are okay with their backside being worshipped. I think we can all benefit from making “booty ally” a part of our vernacular.

As we witness the Jeff Sessions Farewell, I just want to say how thankful I am that in 2018, we can have a political impression as silly as one in which the departing attorney general’s family tree is filled with possums…Liev Schreiber’s Monologue is like one of those monologues of yore in which the host is “managing expectations” by simply explaining to the audience who he is…Good Day Denver reveals that gremlins must be running the graphics department at morning talk shows…Unity offers an admirable message of, well, unity, but I gotta say, “crotch” and “moist” are perfectly decent words…Colleen Rafferty is back, this time for a Paranormal Occurrence, and hoo boy, it is quite the stunner that she is only 27 years old AND she’s a surrogate mother. But the biggest laughs this time come from Liev Schreiber’s love of tiny things…Michael and Colin are reliable for more jokes about Florida, Gritty, and RBG defending her UFC featherweight title…The Poddys deeply understand podcast culture and tropes (and what with it taking place at the “MeUndies Theater,” it almost sounds like the awards will be for “potty” excellence)…I won’t soon forget Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney as a pair of pantsless, feuding tween Brothers. Mad props for those Rasta-style Looney Tunes shirts.

Leave It

No Leave It sketches this week. Not too many outright classics, but no duds, either.

Liev Schreiber

On a scale of serious actors I never would have expected to host SNL, Liev Schreiber fits squarely within that classification. Despite his relative lack of an impact in the zeitgeist, he has the sort of dramatic intensity that could be hilariously slotted into sketch comedy if deployed correctly. And for a decent number of sketches, that is what happens. Schreiber does flub quite a few lines throughout, but interestingly enough, it appears that that is how his characters were written.

Lil Wayne

On a scale of the greatest living rappers, Lil Wayne is often included on that list, and man, I just don’t get that. His two performances in this episode don’t do much to change my opinion. He’s certainly confident and in the zone with his unique flow, and I appreciate that he has what looks like a gulag of backing dancers for one song. Maybe these tracks aren’t the cream of Wayne’s crop, and there are better offerings that can convince me of his prowess. (I’ll let those who are more in tune with the rap game sort that out.) Ultimately, what he has to offer is perfectly fine to listen to.

Letter Grades:

Jeff Sessions Farewell – B-

Liev Schreiber’s Monologue – B-

Good Day Denver – B-

Unity – B-

Paranormal Occurrence – B

Lil Wayne ft. Halsey performs “Can’t Be Broken” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Pete Davidson and Dan Crenshaw – B+

The Poddys – B

House Hunters – B+

Lil Wayne ft. Swizz Beatz performs “Uproar” – B-

Brothers – B

Dave’s Outside the Women’s Bathroom (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-