REVIEW: Bodies Bodies Bodies

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies!

What a film. 

More hysterical thriller than slasher horror flick, Bodies Bodies Bodies encapsulates the essence of a 2022 horror comedy. The characters, drama, and dialogue are all very to the times (Gen Z-ish), but not in a cringey or depthless way, a trap that so many recent Netflix originals fall into the trap of.

A friend and I sat towards the right back of the theater, right next to the exit. No one ever closed the door, so we could hear what was playing in the theater next door. The same trailers we had just watched were gabbing over the beginning of our movie. 

Opening with a visceral, personal, and almost uncomfortably intimate make out sesh between the protagonist Sophie and her girlfriend Bee, the garish green grass made for the backdrop of Sophie telling Bee I love you for the first time. Followed by Bee’s silence and Sophie’s quick assurance and apology, you don’t have to say it back. A highly-saturated color palette. The wheels going screech! after a tender, vulnerable utteration. We’re only two minutes in. 

Everything from the internet-age dance and hyperpop soundtrack, to the dive right in to the meatball-tangled-in-spaghetti, saucy messiness of relationships, to the neighboring theater noise, made you buckle down for the ride, sensing you needed your seatbelt clipped in, since you’re sitting in the backseat, while the driver swerves back and forth, up front.

The I love you scene cuts directly to Bee and Sophie typing away at their own phones, facing each other, but occupied. My friend Debby said she could relate; this really spoke to our generation. 

The following events are the result of a group of friends with a lot of loaded, shoved down history, being “bored in the house, in the house bored.”

The tension of this strange amalgamation of people is felt quite immediately. 

As soon as we enter the house, there’s a lot of toxic energy: friends whispering behind each other’s backs, weird exchanged looks, threats, warnings. 

They start to play Bodies Bodies Bodies, a game that always brings out the worst, bubbles of hidden drama burbling up to the surface. It starts with each person taking a shot and a slap to the face, to commence each new round. The game is a bit like mafia and among us: one person is the killer, and everyone else is trying to figure out who that killer is. All the lights go out each night, and it’s everyone for themselves as the killer lurks for its next victim. Upon stumbling upon a dead body, you scream BODIES BODIES BODIES! and congregate to theorize about the killer’s identity. Who to trust? What are the features that you’re bringing to the table, and how can they be used to your advantage, or leveraged against others?

Immediately, if we couldn’t already tell, the game makes it clear that these friends all seem to hate each other. As soon as the girls find David’s throat slit, his blood-gushing body soaking in a puddle, as the storm pours and pours, the hysterics begin. Everyone is on defense and offense; accusations, alliances, and betrayal all around. In this game (the make believe and real one), feelings are facts. Emotions are running high, and no one will be too afraid to let their own, or someone else’s skeletons out of the closet. And it’s all the more complicated due to “the suffocating weight of their shared history.”

It all starts to get scary when the line between joke and serious, game / real, blurs. Misunderstandings build into tension, then into violence. When the girls go to confront Greg, the only person in the house who wasn’t with David when they found his body, he exclaims “Oh, you guys are fucking with me!” recycling the joke he was just the butt of into his own line. When Bee ends up taking a dumbbell to Greg’s head to protect Sophie, that’s when the bodies really start to fall to the floor. 

I won’t spoil more, but some of the funniest lines / moments: 

  • Jordan hate listening to Alice’s podcast
  • Google calendars
  • Alice defending Greg, the biggest unknown, who she’s known for “long, like long” (2 weeks): “He’s a libra moon, that says a lot!”
  • Greg’s light therapy mask for seasonal depression
  • The gang mistaking Greg’s occupation as “vet,” to mean ex-military personnel, when he’s really a veterinarian
  • Jordan’s poor (upper-middle class) parents who teach at a public university 

Now whenever I use my phone flashlight, I’ll have to hope that my body body body! doesn’t end up in a heap in a mansion during a hurricane.

image credits:

PREVIEW: Bodies Bodies Bodies

Bodies Bodies Bodies is playing at the State Theater this Sunday at 3:45!

The American black comedy horror film was released on August 5th, directed by Halina Reijn in her English-language debut. The synopsis from A24: “When a group of rich 20-somethings plan a hurricane party at a remote family mansion, a party game goes awry in this fresh and funny look at backstabbing, fake friends, and one party gone very, very wrong.” Some actors you might recognize are Amandla Stenerg and Pete Davidson. 

I’m looking forward to seeing a horror movie in theaters. It has been a while! I’m also a big fan of Amandla Stenberg; I first heard about the movie through her instagram. I’ve heard things on Twitter about the dialogue being a little too realistic, about how the movie contained conversations that sounded straight out of their own lives. The movie seems to have echoes of 1990s/2000s thrillers. Another plus is that the film features a new single by Charli XCX, one of my favorite artists. I look forward to experiencing the thrill! 

If you miss this showing, there are plenty more to come at the State Theater very soon!

featured image and synopsis credit:

REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

It was an interesting take… but did it really do its job?

To long-time Harry Potter fans like myself, seeing the wizarding world on screen again is a big pleasure. Listening to the famous Harry Potter anthem always gives me the shivers, and it did so this time when the anthem was played in the new Fantastic Beasts series. The jolt is from the nostalgia of the story of the boy who lived; it is hard to separate the Harry Potter series from this new spin-off that takes place between. In this sense, this movie was highly interesting in showing diversity in characters and location. We have seen more racial diversity in roles not to mention the story happening outside the UK too, in contrast with the Harry Potter series where the wizarding world seemed to be centered around Hogwarts. The scene where the Manhatten bridge was emphasized in the background was not only pretty but symbolized this change. However, there are some points that did not seem right in consideration of the prior series:

  1. Would the wizards, who have their organized ministry, solely depend on an animal to choose their leader? I guess this was necessary to add a reason for Newt to join the adventure and focus more on Fantastic beasts as the title suggests, but this election process was even odder because the reason why the wizarding world is doing that is not fully explored but suggested abruptly. The audience hears that the animal would ‘bow’ to a great soul and thus is used to choose a leader. It sounds a bit weird, and no further details were given or world-building hadn’t been done to make the story more believable.
  2. The existence of an international wizarding organization and a leader seems to be a bit odd-if such a thing existed, why didn’t they intervene when Voldemort threatened peace?

Story-wise, there were also some issues. Firstly, the charm of the characters is weak because it is told, not shown; making it hard for the audience to resonate with them. For example, Albus Dumbledore suddenly praises Newt after he himself did a grand duel with Grindelwald, and says that he couldn’t have defeated Grindelwald if Newt haven’t helped. However, Newt’s brilliance was not shown in this film, except for the time when he danced to a herd of magical lobsters. The appraise seemed a bit sudden, and so was the headmaster’s praise of Mr. Kowalski. Albus Dumbledore insists that he has a good heart, but the audience has left a mystery about why it is so. In general, I feel that too many stories needed to be in the same movie that none of them was developed to a level that would be interesting. Many ideas, such as the wizarding election, Credence’s troubles, and Aberforth’s conflict with Albus were just briefly mentioned and not discussed thoroughly. Characters are suddenly thrown into the story, without any explanation on why they have to be there. However, the exploration is what makes the audience like the character and fall for the story. This movie, in that sense, did not do such a great job. We’ll see how the next episode of the series, which will be sure to be produced considering how the story ended, may try to improve the loose storyline.

PREVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

J.K. Rowling’s magical world is hitting the screen again in the State theater. Since the beloved motive series of the boy who lived(Harry Potter) ended on 2011, the legacy of the wizarding world is being continued through another world lead by Eddie Redmane as Newt Scamander. This new series follow a young man who devotes himself to the care of magical animals who happens to find that more life than the animals he is taking care of, in fact, a big part of the wizarding world, might depend on him. While the story is not directly related to the Harry Potter series, it will also intrigue the original Harry Potter fans by unveiling the story of Albus Dumbledore, the wise and mysterious headmaster from the original series, when he didn’t have the long, dragging beard. The role is played by Jude Law in the new series-this gives some hints about the characteristics of the wise man in his young days!
This series kicked off with question mark hovering over the fans of the series as it had a big casting change on one of its main character and villain(?), Grindelwald – the character was starred by Johnny Depp untill the second motive of the series, but will be played by Mads Mikkelsen from this movie. How this change will affect the color of the series; we shall find out soon enough.

REVIEW: Turning Red

Turning Red was an adorable, true-to-form triumph. The pixar film deals with everything from generational trauma, female friendships and relationships, to teenage independence – it’s a hysterical joy to watch.

Leaning into telling a deeply personal narrative that draws heavily on the director Domee Shi’s background and childhood experiences made the film all the more charming and insightful. I made many points of connection and felt truly heard through some of the sentiments, frustrations, and challenges depicted throughout the movie. There were even a few that felt a little too spot on.

Set in the early 2000’s, the movie gushed out an onslaught of nostalgia for a time I wasn’t even familiar with. From the flip phones to the girls lining up at an actual ticket box office right before the show, to Bootylicious, the movie is riddled with small shout outs to this era.

Care-to-detail made all the difference. Tiny mementos like the stick-on star earrings Mei adorns because her mom probably doesn’t let her get them pierced and the pastel neon lofi-like sunsets oozed with familiarity. The soothing yet brightly-colored scenery felt like a love letter to classic Ghibli films, another essential from the watchlist of my adolescent years. From the obsession with sparkly eyes, to making ‘eraser crumbs’ by rubbing the dead skin on your hands, this film brought up so many details of my childhood that I had forgotten myself.

Turning Red focuses mainly on Mei’s bumpy but trying relationship with her mother. Mother-daughter relationships are complicated from the get go, but this one hits extra close to home. The beginning of the film shows Mei and her mother setting up their family temple together – like mother, like daughter, they’re so in sync.

As a 13-year old girl, Mei is really hard on herself. With a mom who still treats her like a child, and an absurd amount of pressure on her shoulders, even puberty is put on the backburner. Mei juggles the fear of letting everyone down and the desire for her mom’s approval, all while wanting the simple teenage pleasure of being obsessed with a boy band. As if her body going through changes isn’t enough, Mei feels like “all her [mother’s] hopes and dreams are pinned on me.”

Mei truly knows what it’s like to have a mother with no chill. The mortification of your mom performing overprotective and intrusive things along with the pressures as one becomes a teenager, especially in Asian households and families – it’s no easy feat. “The daisy mart has lost a loyal customer today.” I’ve definitely witnessed my mom using that exact phrasing, and it gets no less nails-scoring-palms each time it’s recited. And the Powerpoint presentation is so… I’ve been there. I’ve gone through notepads of pros and cons lists and had my fair share of compelling speeches at dinner time. The movie gets it so right – it’s right around 13 when you graduate from amateur efforts like begging, and these tactics start to finally work.


But in these relationships where fear tactics and ultimatums are regular occurrences, something, someone, is bound to snap.

It was funny to watch this with my family (a trio of a mother and two daughters), because my sister and I made sure to make our mom use this as an opportunity for self-betterment. That weekend, my mom had just had a huge fight with my sister about going to a concert (“Mom, are you seeing the parallels??”), and we were trying to utilize this film to help us all learn the value of perspective.

Despite the film heavily following Mei, we also come to understand Mei’s mother by meeting her as a teenager. We learn that there’s a pattern of sorts: Mei’s mom fears her own mom, and there are ritual feelings of insufficiency passed down with each generation. And yet, Mei’s mom also expresses that there is a lot of guilt that comes with hurting your own mom. She is fighting to not let the same thing happen between her and her daughter. 

Through Mei’s mom’s point of view, both Mei and the audience are able to empathize with the mom, rather than antagonize her. “I’m not good enough for her or anyone,” teenage Mei’s mom says. The two connect in that aspect. “But it isn’t true,” my mom tearfully said, which Mei says not 60 seconds later, verbatim. My sister and I laughed with each other at this, because maybe Mission Reflection was a success.

The film is not a letter of resentment, but a holistic picture of three generations of women. Turning Red accurately documents the growing pains of maternal relationships. Because no matter how strained their connection, the grandmother is fiercely set on “not losing my daughter.” Their family needs each other and cares for one another more than anything. But luckily, they learn that this love cannot interfere with autonomy and self-agency. As one of the auntie’s says: “It’s her life, now move.” – to all of our thoughts!

Mei and a younger version of her mom

Maybe my shared experience with the characters is what made Turning Red stand out to me. But whether or not you identify as an Asian woman or have a helicopter parent, I deeply recommend giving the film a try. In a Wired review, Amit Katwala notes that, “predictably, some reviewers didn’t get it—after movies about robots and talking cars and clown fish, they felt a story about a 13-year-old Chinese girl was too unrelatable, too “narrow” and “limiting in scope.” But ultimately, the whole point of cinema is to transport you into the head of someone you’ve never met and teach you something about yourself in the process.”

Superhero shot of Mei poofing through the city to get to the 4town concert – iconic.

And this movie took risks – several times, I caught myself with mouth hanging open, just thrilled by the audacity these creators had. Specifically, Mei’s worst-nightmare-come-to-life is animated in such a way that my family truly believed it was a dream, so the second-hand embarrassment we were suffering from would surely get reimbursed, right? Just wake up Mei! 

… She was not, in fact, sleeping. (You’ll know exactly which scene when it happens.) Instead, she uses the line we all have once or twice: “I’ll just go to sleep and when I wake up this will all be over.” And if that isn’t the epitome of a fresh-becoming teenager.

From the mention of periods to the animations of pads of all sizes and flows, I want to highly praise the movie for throwing in what is a universal burden for so many women with such casualness. That, along with Pixar’s recent few films completely obliterating the Bechdel test by focusing on relationships between women, made Turning Red such a precious gem. After all, where else will the words “stripper music” and “awooga” appear in a children’s movie?


Mei performing gyrations in front of her mother to buy time for her family to perform the ritual

REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

After two years away due to the pandemic, the M-agination Annual Film Festival made a reappearance at the Michigan Theater this week. The film festival showcased 13 short films, all of them written, produced, and acted by students.

I was largely impressed by the range and quality of these productions. There were a good amount of comedy sketches, some of which fell flat and felt like a group of friends just messing around on camera. Some of them, however, had me laughing out loud in my seat. I particularly enjoyed “Buster,” a gruesome short film about a sentient pet rock, and “Dunked,” a well-executed comedy in which nothing really made sense. There were also a handful of more serious, dramatic pieces, including the spooky, suspenseful short “Familiar,” which I was surprised to find out was partially filmed in my campus residence. I was particularly struck by a piece called “Leisure Activities,” which told a story with no words at all about someone going into the woods to paint. The cinematography and coloring in this one in particular that made this one stand out to me as a masterpiece. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this film festival. The “short” nature of short films meant that we got to see 13 different stories, and there was something for everyone. M-agination created a fun night out–I hope they are able to host their festival next year as well!