July/August 2022 Round-Up – Part 2

Bodies Bodies Bodies(8/15/2022)

The trailer for the new thriller Bodies Bodies Bodies promises something that could very easily be pretty annoying.  The film is a sort of Gen Z take on “And Then There Were None” in which a group of young people gather at a mansion to have a wild party while waiting for a hurricane to pass where they suddenly find there’s a killer in their midst killing them one by one.  The trailer suggests that this will be a rather satirical take on this material and this generation and includes clips of them saying a lot of online lingo with terms like “gaslighting,” “triggering,” and “toxicity” being thrown around before ending on a clip of a character played by Pete Davidson saying “I look like I fuck, and that’s the vibe I like to put out there.”  That sounds like it could pretty easily be insufferable, but I will say that the actual movie is at least a little less dominated by these internet buzzwords as that trailer would suggest… though maybe it should have been?  I will say, this is going to be marketed as a horror movie because it’s about people being violently killed in a dark house but the movie largely seems to be disinterested in actually scaring its audience much at all.  Instead kind of lives or dies by its satire and just generally how interested you are in the whodunit elements, and I’d say I was moderately interested in both.  I think the movie mostly fills the house with a reasonably interested set of characters, who are certainly archetypes but not necessarily archetypes who we’re sick of just yet and the cast does a pretty good job of bringing them alive believably.  As for the generational satire… well, they walk quite the tightrope with it and I think I admire just how far they got along it.  There probably could have been a rather reactionary version of this which is essentially making this whole situation some kind of blunt statement about “cancel culture” but this doesn’t really feel like that.  The film’s thirty two year old screenwriter, Sarah DeLappe, is a little older than the characters in this film but it feels like she actually does understand this culture and is engaging in self-critique rather than punching down on people she hates from afar.  Honestly I think I could have used a little more of that tone because the film doesn’t really start letting that generational satire fly until the second half, at which point it doesn’t entirely feel like it’s been set up.  Ultimately I enjoyed my 90 minutes with the movie and its take on “the youths” is certainly more interesting than a more straightforward take on the setup, but I can also see why this will annoy the shit out of some people.
*** out of Five

Beast(8/19/2022)

Beast, the new film in which Idris Elba goes toe to toe with an angry lion, is not exactly a film I was expecting high art out of.  I was mainly hoping that it would live up to the “high standards” of the 2019 film Crawl, a creature feature of similar ambition about alligators invading a house during a hurricane which was similarly released without a ton of fanfare during the dog days of summer a couple years back.  I have oddly warm feelings about that movie despite it decidedly not being anything special and was maybe hoping for a similar kind dumb fun time.  Was it as good?  Well, no.  Its setting isn’t as interesting as a house that’s slowly filling with water over the course of day of heavy rain and I think I just generally find alligators more scary than lions.  However, Crawl didn’t have a star in it as compelling as Idris Elba, so it’s a bit of a wash.  The film involves a family that gets caught in a stuck car that’s under siege by an angry large predatory cat… so basically Cujo, but with a lion.  If that sounds like a good time to you then you can do a lot worse than this.  The film’s ending doesn’t quite work but other than that it’s a decent creature feature.
*** out of Five

Emily the Criminal(8/21/2022)

Emily the Criminal is a movie that sort of just seemed to appear out of nowhere in theaters without a lot of advanced buzz.  The film is being released by Roadside Pictures and was plainly made on a modest budget so it has a bit more of that Independent CinemaTM feeling that we haven’t been getting this year, which has been oddly short on counter-programing.  It concerns a youngish woman played by Aubrey Plaza who is weighed down by debts and has trouble getting professional jobs because of an assault conviction on her record.  Eventually she dips her toe into acting as a “dummy buyer” in a credit card scam, fully knowing it was illegal, and then begins getting deeper and deeper into a criminal underworld.  She’s been around a little while but I still mostly associate Aubrey Plaza with her work on the sitcom “Parks and Rec,” where she plays this rather detached intern who was meant to be something of a statement on a certain kind of millennial type and this would seem to be something of an evolution of that.  Something of a statement about what that attitude leads to when it’s owned by someone who’s in a more precarious and less sheltered position.  The film presents a believable and down to earth depiction of how these kinds of crime rings probably operate and while its ultimately only able to get so deep into its analysis of this character it is an interesting enough portrait just the same.  This isn’t really the kind of thing that’s likely to really take the world by storm, I’d say best case scenario its greatest accomplishment will be an Independent Spirit Award nomination or two, but there aren’t a lot of options in theaters lately and this is worth a look.
*** our of Five

The Territory(8/29/2022)

Back in the 90s environmentalism tended to revolve around three core missions: fix the hole in the ozone, save the whales, and save the rainforest.  Fortunately, because of some smart policy decisions as a result of those campaigns the ozone is on its way to repair and the whale population is also in recovery.  Both are great examples of how this kind of activism can work and should give us reason for environmental hope.  Unfortunately the rainforest is more endangered than ever and is in fact a good example of how easy it is for us to back pedal on certain issues.  This brings us to the film The Territory, a documentary from National Geographic about the Uru-eu-wau-wau people, an Amazonian tribe who used to live so deep inside of the rainforest that they weren’t contacted by outsiders until the 1980s but whose territory is now surrounded on all sides by farms because of deforestation.  The tribe’s land is theoretically legally protected from encroachment but there are a number of settlers who, emboldened by Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, feel entitled to illegally encroach on this territory and clear away some of the forest so they can eventually settle it and then essentially ask for forgiveness in place of permission.  It’s a situation that will not be unfamiliar to some of the darker moments in United States history when sharecroppers would feel entitled to just snatch up Native American land because they had “dreams” of starting their own farms.  There’s something rather surreal about seeing that same dynamic just playing out in the modern world.  The film itself does a pretty good job of finding the right people to follow in bringing this story to light and the various perspectives involved.  As a work of filmmaking, it doesn’t exactly break the mold but it illustrates the issue in a way that’s very human and interesting.
***1/2 out of Five

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