Movies of the Week #39 (2021)

Bodied (2017): I have zero rapping affinities, but there’s something inherently cool in this witty, irreverent and ambitious movie. Joseph Kahn didn’t quite convince me with his previous feature, Detention, but he applies his flair and experience from doing music videos effectively to elevate Bodied into a perfectly entertaining story about rap, race and friendship. Riddled with actual rappers, while being lead by Calum Worthy and Jackie Long, Bodied fundamentally questions where the limits are in the iffy relationship between comedy and racism, while also having enough time to make the question feel personal to its characters. Perhaps my one major qualm is that Adam’s downfall feels artificial and plot-serving, which diminishes the second half of the movie, but even so, it doesn’t fail to entertain. 8

Free Guy (2021): Adapting any videogame to the big screen has proven a chore and so have VG-themed movies. By those standards, Free Guy is deemed a successful foray, a fun little romp with a Ready Player One story but an infinitely more relaxed vibe. It helps that Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer are around, with Reynolds particularly effective in playing the clueless NPC. I have never been a huge fan of Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum series and I can’t say I am impressed by some of the stuff that’s going on in Free Guy – in particular the unwieldly romances, which provide for a weak ending. Not to mention the cross promotion of streamers, the crammed “homages” to popular games and the fact that applying some form of logic to what’s happening is hazardous to your health. That being said…it is kinda fun and just last week I let myself be swayed by gawking at Mary Elizabeth Winstead for ninety minutes of schlock, so this one gets a pass. 6

Best Sellers (2021): There isn’t much in terms of freshness in Lina Roessler’s debut feature film, but its stars carry it all the way. Michael Caine, still prolific in his late 80s, and Aubrey Plaza play an author-published duo, the former a recluse who never followed up his magnum opus, the latter an heiress to a failing publishing house. The movie tries to be soulful and occasionally succeeds, but it really doesn’t push itself very much – it feels like you’ve seen it all before, which is probably true of most things by your mid-thirties. 6

Mortal Kombat (2021): Did I dare have some expectations of the newest MK? I did. Was I terribly distraught that they were not met? I wasn’t. The main problem with a mostly tolerable movie was that this didn’t really feel like MK and it was led by an uninspired protagonist. What I did like was the gory action with brutal fatalities, which provided a thin veneer of enjoyability to an ailing plot and lackluster characters. Maybe it’s time to revisit P.W.S.A’s interpretation of 26 years ago. 5

Return of the Living Dead: Part II (1988): RoTLD shaped my life in at least two ways – it terrified me when I was seven, inducing a decade long phobia of cemeteries, and it it was the first of the plethora of zombie movies I would go on to watch (and one of my favs, after I chilled out about the cemeteries). I’d seen the third movie in the series a long time ago (which was fun), but didn’t follow up on the one in the middle until now (the 2005 duology is also tentatively on my watchlist, in spite of the horrible reception). Sadly, I found RoTLD II stayed too close to the original, while lacking its freshness. Casting James Karen and Thom Matthews in basically the same roles, but with different characters, was somewhat amusing and the movie also featured a young Dana Ashbrook, as well as a Mitch Pileggi appearance – so that’s some nostalgia value right there. Even though the visual effects were also cool for their time, the ultra-campy feel of the script proved just too much for me to enjoy. The experience did make me want to give the RoTLD docu a rewatch, so there’s that! 5