‘Bones and All’ is the Cannibal Love Story We Could Never Have Prepared For

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“Send us your bones!” (CREDIT: Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures
© 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, André Holland, Michael Stuhlbarg, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Running Time: 130 Minutes

Rating: R for Bloody Chomping and Some Horny Cannibals

Release Date: November 18, 2022 (Limited)/November 23, 2022 (Expands Nationwide)

What’s It About?: If you only knew the poster and the title of Bones and All, you’d probably think it’s some overflowingly passionate romance. You know, the sort of thing where the main characters scream, “I love you! With every fiber of my being! BONES AND ALL!” Director Luca Guadagnino and one of his stars, Timothée Chalamet, certainly have memorable experience in the genre, what with 2017’s Call Me by Your Name. And in fact, it basically is that movie, except that the main characters have an unquenchable hunger to literally consume their fellow human beings.

What Made an Impression?: When Mark Rylance shows up, hoo boy, there’s no turning back. He’s a veteran “Eater” who arrives to provide some guidance to Maren (Taylor Russell), who upon turning 18 has been abandoned by her father (André Holland), who has decided that everyone will be safer if she’s on her own. With an inscrutable accent and an outfit that screams “arts and crafts cannibal hobbyist,” Rylance’s Sully is an unforgettable presence who is sure to make you confused about what type of movie you’re watching. Is it campy comedy, quirky indie whatchamacallit, or disturbing-to-the-nth-degree psychological horror? At first, Sully seems kind of charming, but then he’s totally a villain. This is the kind of movie that you have to sit with for a while to fully digest it, as it’s kind of inventing its whole deal as it goes along.

Now, you may be wondering: will I, or should I, root for the central love story? Maren and Lee (Chalamet) both seem like decent people, who just have the rare (mis)fortune of being bound by an unusually violent biological impulse. They do their best to not be too destructive about it and to live as normally human as possible when they can. But it’s more or less impossible to be 100% perfect in their efforts. I found myself on their sides, as much as I could be. A big reason for that was because I just wanted to see where this was going. Bones and All has a similar vibe of social alienation as most vampire tales, but with a taste that I’ve never quite experienced before. Simply put, I’ve never before gone bones and all the way myself, and now that I have, I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it, but I do kind of want to try it again.

Bones and All is Recommended If You Like: The Vampire Diaries, Road Trips, Allowing yourself to be disarmed

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Bites

‘Escape Room: Tournament of Champions’ Repeats Its Predecessor’s Formula and Keeps Hinting at a Greater Conspiracy

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Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (CREDIT: Sony Pictures)

Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, Carlito Olivero, Deborah Ann Woll

Director: Adam Robitel

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Violence That Cuts Away From the Most Graphic Parts and Profanity Including One (1) F-Bomb

Release Date: July 16, 2021 (Theaters)

I mostly enjoyed Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, but I’m a little worried about what this franchise will be like by the time we get to Escape Room 2000: Ultra Super-Duper New ‘n’ Improved XTreme Tournament of Ninja Warriors, which will arrive much sooner than we’re prepared for. I’m rooting for our plucky heroes to take down the evil cabal behind the whole game, but the dictates of horror sequelization demand that it can never quite be defeated. So subsequent entries will surely be some combination of overly repetitive or increasingly ridiculous to justify the continuation. Tournament of Champions mostly repeats the formula established by the first Escape Room, while ostensibly inching ever so closer to the Big Bad Behind It All, and also ultimately mostly being about teasing the next chapter.

I wouldn’t be going through all this fretting if I were living in a post-Escape Room Cinematic World. If I could watch all of the theoretical absurd sequels in the comfort of home one right after the other, I could easily treat it as an anthropological excursion. Instead, I’m still motivated by my genuine hope that everything will work out for the plucky Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), the survivors from the first go-round. Let’s call it the Nightmare on Elm Street Rule, wherein the relatively crappy latter-day sequels are mostly endearing if you watch them at least 20 years after they were released. That’s not to say that Escape Room has already reached that period with Tournament of Champions. It’s just that I can see The Inevitable, and it’s in my nature to get hung up on it.

But if I can pull myself back into the present for a moment, I can happily take in the vicarious thrills of a scrappy group puzzling out all these deadly traps. Both Escape Room flicks are basically PG-13-ified, less relentless versions of Saw. The tone is thereby one of cleverness and adrenaline, rather than gory sadism. In that vein, Escape Room also has a tendency to occasionally venture into the cheesy and overly cute, especially when Zoey and Ben miss some Major Clues that are right in front of their eyes. But that’s part of the charm! Honestly, I don’t think I would have it any other way. (Hey, maybe I’ve already learned to stop worrying and love the Silliness of It All…)

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is Recommended If You Like: Horror movie franchise churn

Grade: 3 out of 5 Clues

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Escape Room’ Makes Immersive Puzzles Fun and Unsettling

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CREDIT: David Bloomer/Sony Pictures Entertainment

This review was originally published on News Cult in January 2019.

Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani

Director: Adam Robitel

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Disorientingly Perilous Action, Traumatic Flashbacks, and Inadvertent Drug Use

Release Date: January 4, 2019

Depending on where you’re coming from, Escape Room is arriving either ten years too late or right on schedule. The real-life escape room craze is still going strong, if TV shows as diverse as Conan and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are to be believed. From that perspective, Escape Room the film is cannily capitalizing on a current trend. But considered from a cinematic context, the Saw series already set the template a decade ago (and now even exists in its own escape room form). But that is not exactly the highest standard. Thus, Escape Room, which renders immersive puzzle spaces actually deadly, has plenty of space to make its mark as a solid piece of entertainment for those who do not have the stomach for torture porn.

That is not to say that Escape Room is a pleasant watch, especially for anyone claustrophobic enough to find the entire concept of escape rooms frightening enough in the first place. It has a cruel streak, though it is tempered by a consistent preference for hope (or at least the illusion of it). Where Saw was often gross and off-putting while occasionally trying to say something about human nature, Escape Room is tightly engineered but also unsettling in just how random it ultimately is. The six people who have been chosen for this challenge all have a past as the lone survivors of deadly accidents, including drunk driving, an IED blast, and carbon monoxide poisoning. While the escape room has been designed with their histories in mind, that concept may have everything or nothing to do with who makes it out alive. The (possibly sequel teeing-up) ending is effective as a gut punch saying that this whole game is actually a “no escape” room. But the whole movie has a feeling of meaninglessness that is somewhat frightening but also the sign of a screenplay with limited subtext.

That said, while Escape Room‘s themes and motivations are never fully clear, it was successful at holding my attention, and I suspect that many audiences will feel the same. The designs of each section of the escape room are ingenious feats of engineering, from a lobby that turns into an oven to an upside-down pool bar. It also helps that each of the characters generally act to the top of their intelligences, making this an engaging battle of wits. We also get at least two different kinds of comic relief, with Tyler Labine as the goofy uncle type and Nik Dodani (best known as Murphy Brown’s new social media director) as the escape room enthusiast who realizes too late how real the threat is. The whole thing is fluffy, but enough to make you think twice about playing any more interactive games.

Escape Room is Recommended If You Like: Actual escape rooms probably, plus the Saw and Final Destination series

Grade: 3 out of 5 Unlocked Doors