2022 TV & Movie Reviews: Prey / Black Bird / Bodies Bodies Bodies

A predator, a serial killer, and a group of entitled twenty-somethings. Lots of sociopaths this week.

Prey

Let me start off first by saying that this is far and away the best Predator sequel we have ever gotten. Not that there was much competition, Predator 2 is among the most awful, painful to watch action movies of the 1990s, with a few good visual ideas that are completely fucked by some of the shittiest cinematography I’ve ever seen in my life. Robert Rodriguez‘s Predators squanders a good premise with bullshit characters and cheesy effects, while Shane Black‘s The Predator takes one of the most impressive action movie casts of the 21st century and makes them do and say jack shit. The first Alien vs. Predator movie is awful but stupidly enjoyable, while the sequel, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, is shot so dark you can’t see anything…but what you hear is pure dumpster can.

So what you’re left with is the original Arnold vehicle and this one, two wholly different movies. While the original focuses on simply being a straight-up good time for the audience while leaning into the cheese, this one takes a more serious approach. Taking place in the 1700s in the Great Plains, it follows a young Comanche woman, Naru (Amber Midthunder), trying to prove to the boys that she kicks ass too. When she’s out kicking ass with her cute dog, she discovers an alien ship has crash-landed on Earth. Since it’s the 1700s, she thinks it’s a demon but it’s actually just Mr. Predator. It’s been a long fucking week at the office so he’s down for the weekend to do some human hunting and R&R. That’s really all you need to know about the plot, the rest of the movie is just a cat and mouse game between Naru and Mr. Predator.

It’s a shame this isn’t in theaters because it’s shot so damn well. This is a gorgeous movie that fully takes advantage of its surroundings. I wish some of the action and effects were a little bit better choreographed/realized, but Prey moves at such a good speed it didn’t bother me too much. Enough can’t be said about Amber Midthunder who carries the movie on her shoulders, at least until Mr. Predator arrives. She’s great and obviously has a bright future in film acting. The one thing that bugs me more than anything about this is that they didn’t shoot it in Comanche. They shot it in English and later dubbed it in Comanche, which is bullshit. Dub tracks typically suck unless it’s for animation because the mismatch between the mouth and audio is often too great to ignore. You just watch a movie and think about how mismatched the audio and mouth movements are until it drives you crazy and you drive your Kia Soul into the dining room of a Raising Cane’s. I think the studio was scared because most Hulu subscribers don’t know how to read, but the jury is still out. Regardless, it doesn’t stop Prey from being a solid thriller that actually knows how to build suspense. Grade: B (Hulu)

Black Bird

There are too many fictionalized true crime miniseries already out there, so why should you care about this one? One of the most common issues with them is that they’re too long. The story is stretched a bit at points to crank it up to 8-10 episodes. Most of the time, they only need 4-6 to effectively and most efficiently tell their story. Black Bird knows this because it’s only six episodes long, and I would argue it could even be four episodes long if they condensed the first three episodes into one. It gets off to a slow start in the first three episodes, when they’re setting up what the entire show is about. Basically, this former college football player turned young, successful heroin dealer, Jimmy Keene (Rocketman‘s Taron Egerton) goes to jail for ten years. After a year or so, he’s approached by federal agents (Robert “Bunny Colvin” Wisdom and The Killing of Two LoversSepideh Moafi) to befriend and squeeze a confession out of a serial child killer/rapist, Larry Hall (Richard Jewell‘s Paul Walter Hauser), in exchange for his freedom. A motivating factor in this is that Jimmy’s dad, Big Jim (Heaven’s Ray Liotta), is rapidly dying of stroke-related shit. As Jimmy tries to get closer to Larry, another law enforcement person (Dear God‘s Greg Kinnear) tries to gather more physical evidence on the case. The whole point of this show is the conversations between Jimmy and Larry. We don’t get to them soon enough, but when it does the show quickly shoots off at an accelerated rate. The acting is all fine here with Taron Egerton delivering his best work yet, Ray Liotta delivering a brief but powerful final performance, but the real standout is Paul Walter Hauser as Larry. This is the single best performance I’ve seen all summer, effortlessly shifting from low-status puppy dog to incensed, self-aggrandizing sociopath. Hauser is a masterpiece, but the show itself is merely very, very good. Grade: B+ (AppleTV+)

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Bodies Bodies Bodies, the new A24 horror film, works better as a comedy than a horror, but it tries to have it both ways. In so doing, it isn’t completely successful as either, but you can’t discount the movie’s swagger. Basically, the story is that a terrible, rich twenty-something (Pete Davidson) is home alone at his dad’s mansion for the weekend, so he invites his terrible rich twenty-something friends over to party. They all know each other pretty well, except one of them – a Bulgarian girl that one of friends is dating – maybe the only well-adjusted one there. From there it turns into a hangout movie mixed with a mystery movie, with more of an emphasis on the hangout part. When it gets to just be itself and go off on character and dialogue-forward tangents, Bodies Bodies Bodies comes alive. When it has to function as a thriller or take steps to solve its central mystery, it stumbles the most. The one-liners are pretty hit or miss and sometimes the Gen Z critique is so on-the-nose it induces some groans. However, the biggest ace the movie has up its sleeve is its uniformly excellent cast, which brings more to the characters than I’m suspecting was on the page. The real stand-outs being Shiva Baby‘s Rachel Sennott as a self-centered asshole with a podcast about herself and Pushing DaisiesLee Pace as her mysterious, wild child boyfriend. Borat 2‘s Maria Bakalova grounds the whole thing with her mostly dramatic performance, while Amanda Stenberg and Myha’la Herrold are powerhouses in their own right. The weakest performance is probably from Pete Davidson, the only actor who doesn’t seem to be completely present in the moment. On one hand, he’s perfectly cast as a thorny, angsty, drug-fueled social monster, but on the other hand, he never digs at anything deeper than surface level with his character. The ending is extremely predictable but also annoying because it leaves so many threads untied, and if there was ever a movie where things should be tied up in a package, it’s a culture-critique horror comedy. So many teen horror or comedy movies, mostly mainstream, have absolutely no identity. They’re just carbon copy crap designed to have a solid opening weekend and sell well overseas, and be easily translatable enough to sell overseas. Bodies Bodies Bodies has nothing but personality and with how generic popular entertainment has gotten these days, it’s kind of a godsend. Grade: B- (In Theaters)

ALSO IN THEATERS OR STREAMING:

TV

RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 7Paramount+

Better Call Saul (Season 6, Part One)AMC+

Stranger Things (Season 4, Part Two)Netflix

Yellowjackets (Season 1)Showtime

Severance (Season 1)AppleTV+

Heartstopper (Season 1)Netflix

Barry (Season 3)HBOMax

Under the Banner of HeavenHulu

Atlanta (Season 3)Hulu

Worst Roommate EverNetflix

FILM

Nope (B+) – In Theaters

The Bob’s Burgers Movie (B) – HBOMax and Hulu

The Black Phone (C+) – In Theaters and $19.99 rental on Amazon

Cha Cha Real Smooth (B) – AppleTV+

Licorice Pizza (A) – Amazon Prime

Jurassic World: Dominion (D) – In Theaters and $19.99 rental on Amazon

Top Gun: Maverick (B+) – In Theaters

Moonfall (A+/F/Whatever) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

The Northman (B) – Peacock

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (B-) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

The Batman (C+) – HBOMax

Old (C-) – HBOMax

Nightmare Alley (D+) – HBOMax

Nobody (B-) – HBOMax

Last Night in Soho (B-) – HBOMax

Pig (A-) – Hulu

Fire Island (B-) – Hulu

Benedetta (B+) – Hulu

Titane (B+) – Hulu

Willy’s Wonderland (B-) – Hulu

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