When Life Imitates Art: Matt Johnson on ‘BlackBerry’


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Jay Baruchel and Matt Johnson in Blackberry

In a way, BlackBerry, SFFILM’s Sloan Science on Screen Award recipient that screened at the Festival on Monday, Apr. 17, began with DIY woodworking videos on YouTube. Producer Niv Fichman (The Saddest Music in the World, Antiviral) approached Operation Avalanche writer/director Matt Johnson and writer/producer Matthew Miller with the proposal that they adapt the book Losing the Signal: The Untold Story of the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry, about the once popular precursor to modern smartphones. Finding those videos turned out to be key to cracking the story.

The story behind the making of BlackBerry

The book by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff spun the tale of Research In Motion (RIM), the Waterloo, Ontario, company that invented the BlackBerry through the eyes of its two CEOS, tech geek Mike Lazaridis and hard-charging businessman Jim Balsillie. What Toronto native Johnson wanted to find were opinions of people who had worked at RIM. His brother-in-law is an engineer and through him, he learned of the connection between that profession and DIY projects, leading Johnson to scour YouTube until he struck gold when he discovered that one of BlackBerry’s original engineers later started his own woodworking company, posting videos about his projects. Johnson reached out and managed to overcome the man’s initial reticence.

“He really opened up from his perspective as just an engineer on the ground,” Johnson said during a phone call in the days leading up to the Festival. “He told us everything that was happening in the day to day. That’s when it clicked with us that this company, yes, is an engineering firm. But to us, it’s a lot like what it’s like to start a filmmaking career. You’re working with your friends, you’re working all day, and it’s fun. You don’t go to work for the money. The camaraderie is more important than either the product or the compensation.

“That’s when it really took off. We came up with this structure, a story about a kind of exciting startup culture that gets transformed through success into a corporate culture. That is when, all of a sudden, we knew what the characters needed to be and we were able to dig into all of our research from that angle. So that was a real lightning moment for us.”

Fichman originally hired Johnson and Miller merely to write the script, but as the pair threw themselves into the work, it became apparent that they wanted to tell the story themselves. Miller became a producer. BlackBerry became Johnson’s first feature since Operation Avalanche and he took on the role of Doug, Lazaridis’ closest collaborator at the beginning and the company’s amiable and goofy conscience.

“Basically, as soon as I realized this was an opportunity to tell the story of my own life, I thought, ‘Well, it wouldn’t be right to write it and put it in somebody else’s hands,’” Johnson said. “It wasn’t that I wanted to do it so badly, but because I thought, ‘Well, what we’re writing is really not going to be manageable by somebody who hasn’t exactly lived through it in the same way. Niv agreed one to one. He was an amazing partner.”

Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie in BlackBerry

The Trotsky’s Jay Baruchel came aboard to play the silver-haired Lazaridis, a man perhaps too invested in his company’s product, while It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton is the id of the piece as the energetic, crude, take-no-prisoners Balsillie. BlackBerry represents another step in the evolution of Johnson’s career, after making his 2013 feature debut with the ultra-low-budget, Slamdance award winner The Dirties, followed by Operation Avalanche in 2016, in which film geeks working for the CIA during the Cold War get involved with shenanigans involving the space race and Stanley Kubrick–and a film in which Johnson and his crew managed to invade NASA.

What was it like to work on BlackBerry?

“By American standards, BlackBerry’s budget is quite small, 8½ million Canadian,” Johnson said. For me, it meant that all of the sudden I was working with the actors’ union, all of the sudden we were working with a crew of 40+ people and the marshaling and coaching that went on. It was so funny how life imitated art, trying to maintain the ethos of that early Research in Motion. We’re all doing this for the fun energy while knowing not only the stakes but also that there were way more people involved. I like to hope that some of that energy remains on the screen. That was, by far, the hardest part of the process.

“You may notice that we tried to shoot as much in the real world as we could,” he added. “A lot of the actors aren’t really actors. A lot of them are real people, all those engineers I’m surrounded by are all very young filmmakers from Toronto, who have no background in acting but have a certain vitality, a certain life. And we shot in all the real places Research in Motion actually was. We shot in Waterloo in a lot of the real factories. The kind of stuff was important. We didn’t necessarily break in to as many places as we did on my last film but certainly authenticity was important.”

What does Johnson make of the rise and fall of BlackBerry?

The story of BlackBerry reads like an Icarus tale, a company that flew too high and crashed and burned, as much a victim of corporate hubris as the invention of the iPhone, the product that slew BlackBerry with its more advanced features and sleek style. But Johnson sees another reason for the fall of Research In Motion and its phone.

Jay Baruchel as Michael Lazaridis in BlackBerry

“I think Michael Lazaridis really had a bit of falling love with his own product, to the point of obsession,” he said. “I think what the film highlights in its own small way is a kind of – I don’t want to say arrogance–but there is that myth of the man who makes a statue of a woman and he makes it so perfect, so beautiful, that he falls in love with it. It was like that with Mike, so that when all of a sudden there was another device that did things almost the exact opposite of what his did, his pride and love for his own creation made him completely blind to the positives of what the smartphone was going to become. He fell so in love with what he’d done that he was blinded by possible improvements, because he thought, ‘Well, this could never be better.’” —Pam Gradt

Thanks to SFFILM for allowing me to reprint this interview from https://sffilm.org/blog/

Be ‘Afraid’ of ‘Beau’s’ endless journey


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Beau Is Afraid. The title is literal, Beau (Joaquin Phoenix), fears everything, anxiety rooted in his relationship with his monster mommy Mona (Patti LuPone) that permeates every corner of his life. It’s a promising start as Midsommar writer/director Ari Aster’s latest begins in Beau’s psychiatrist’s (Stephen McKinley Henderson) where Beau picks up new meds prior to a visit with Mom, but it doesn’t take long to unravel. Three hours long, and full of forced surrealism and repellant characters, Beau Is Afraid only intermittently amuses. It’s not so much a movie as a filmgoers’ exercise in endurance.

The pity is it begins well enough. Beau lives in such an urban hellscape that you half expect Phoenix to show up in a dual role as the Joker to confront his meek doppelganger. These early scenes with bodies moldering in the streets, crowds of junkies and criminals that seem more dead than alive, and violent crime busting out all over feel like the beginning of an especially visceral zombie movie. But Aster soon moves on to a suburban home where Beau, recovering from an accident, finds himself the prisoner of its cheerful owners (Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan) before running off into a forest where he finds a theater group mounting a seemingly endless play. From there, he works his way home to Mother and a chance meeting with his childhood crush Elaine (an ill-used Parker Posey).

That’s not all, of course. There are plenty of flashbacks back to Beau’s childhood, explicating the roots of his troubled relationship with Mona (played by Zoe Lister-Jones in these scenes), even a trip to the attic long forbidden to Beau, and much more. So much more. It all feels… endless. And pointless, unless the only point is to torture this poor guy for existing.

While the rest of the cast plays at being cartoons (they have no choice – like Jessica Rabbit, they are simply drawn that way), Phoenix delivers a full-bodied, empathetic performance. All for naught. His efforts are simply wasted in this epic empty exercise. –Pam Grady

Chatterbox: David Johansen tells his own story in glorious ‘Personality Crisis’


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Nearly a decade ago, Martin Scorsese cast an actor to play the young David Johansen in Vinyl, his 2016 short-lived television series set during the glam rock era of the early 1970s. Now he turns his lens to the real deal with Personality Crisis: One Night Only, Scorsese’s first feature documentary since 2019’s Rolling Thunder Revue and co-directed by editor David Tedeschi. Using a January 2020 Johansen performance at New York’s Café Carlyle – on the singer’s 70th birthday, yet – as a base, the film flits back and forth through time to tell Johansen’s story from his childhood on Staten Island to his days fronting the legendary protopunk band The New York Dolls and beyond, a lively snapshot of a fabulous 50-year career.

The title, of course. Comes from one of the Dolls’ signature tunes. While David Johansen performing as Buster Poindexter performing the songs of David Johansen, the conceit of his Café Carlyle show, might seem like the definition of a “personality crisis,” what is manifest in this wildly entertaining documentary is that crisis of personality has never been an issue for Johansen. He is all personality, warm, witty, and wise as a septuagenarian on his SiriusXM podcast and in conversation with his daughter, Leah Hennessey, and virtually jumping out of the screen as a young man whether performing with the Dolls or in early interviews.

The Café Carlyle performance captures Johansen in fine form, masterfully interpreting his catalog and as an ace raconteur relating stories of his life between songs. The New York Dolls footage interspersed with this is stunning, demonstrating exactly how and why the band was so influential on the glam and punk movements and making the case for how contemporary it remains. Heck, these days they would be banned in Florida, Texas, and other states for their outfits alone let alone lyrics that would make Moms for Liberty types squirm.

Scorsese and Tedeschi don’t stop with just the bookends of Johansen’s career but also delve into his work with The David Johansen Group, his blues band The Harry Smiths, the birth of his pompadoured alter ego Poindexter (just don’t ask him to play his hit “Hot Hot Hot”), and the second 2004-2011 iteration of the Dolls.

Seeing Johansen’s various iterations on stage and in videos is glorious. He is a consummate showman even when simply standing and holding a drink. But Personality Crisis’ secret sauce is Johansen’s vivid memories related in that purring growl of a voice. Scorsese and Tedeschi have made a wonderfully vivid documentary of someone for whom the word “icon” actually fits. But be forewarned: This is a film that will leave you jonesing for Johansen to bring his Café Carlyle show to your own town. – Pam Grady

Personality Crisis: One Night Only available on demand and on Showtime as of 8pm, Friday, April 14.

Flash, Bam Boom: Keanu Reeves’ brilliant return as John Wick


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Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 4. Photo Credit: Murray Close

Who—or what—is John Wick, really? A nearly indestructible assassin, sure. A lonely widower, definitely. A loyal friend, yes. A lover of dogs, certainly. But as John Wick: Chapter 4 gloriously proves, he is also a live-action cartoon character, as well, a Roadrunnerfigure who melds the qualities of that elusive desert bird with his genius for evading the falling anvil or rolling boulder with those of his hapless antagonist, Wile E. Coyote, who never gets to avoid the anvil or boulder. In his fourth and final outing as the character, Keanu Reeves gracefully inhabits both qualities, dodging bullets and flying fists and feet while expressing the pain of every bone-rattling encounter.

With Wick still among the living despite their best efforts to vanquish him, his vexed former employers at the criminal underworld’s High Table have reached out to a new psychopath to front their organization and bring Wick down. Arrogant and supercilious, Marquis (Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård) is a coward at heart who relishes in inflicting cruelty on others. One of his strategies in pursuing Wick is to isolate him from his allies, beginning by decertifying New York’s five-star hotel for the killer elite, the Continental, a dark turn of fate for manager Winston (the magnificent Ian McShane) and concierge Charon (the late Lance Reddick, the picture of elegance). The Tokyo Continental and its manager, Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada, Reeves’ costar in 47 Ronin), are similarly endangered by the Marquis’  lethal initiative. To further insure success, he blackmails one of Wick’s friends, Caine (Hong Kong icon Donnie Yen), a blind assassin, into targeting his buddy. And Marquis keeps raising the bounty on Wick’s head, unleashing an army of killers, including Tracker (Shamier Anderson), who, like Wick, loves dogs.

Fans of Walter Hill’s 1979 classic The Warriors will delight in John Wick’s third act, which is framed as a homage to that action thriller, only instead of traveling across New York, Wick speeds across Paris. And instead of encountering Gramercy Riffs, Baseball Furies, and Rogues, he is beset by a seemingly endless horde of killers intent on earning millions by taking him down.

In this fourth outing together, neither Reeves nor director Chad Stahelski have lost a step. Reeves is all-in as the nearly indestructible Wick, kind of the anti-Tom Cruise, in that you know that that one is always going to come out the way he started, fit and fresh as a daisy. With Wick, no one would be surprised if he had full-on hip and knee replacements between the last film and this or wore an elaborate brace beneath his impeccable tailoring. Reeves makes us feel every punch, fall, and other crunching shock to his system. And it’s a lot of such trauma: Stahelski rarely eases up on the action of tension for long. As a former stuntman, he knows how this kind of action is supposed to work and he is a genius at execution. The film is nearly three hours long but the time flies by.

Every Roadrunner cartoon eventually comes to an end, and so it appears the same with John Wick. But if this is Reeves’ last go-round in Wick’s skin, he is going out in a glorious hail of flash, bam, boom. It is a fitting goodbye to an indelible character. –Pam Grady

When the personal interferes with the political: ‘What We Do Next’


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What We Do Next might as well be titled The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions, for it is perceived good intentions that lead to murder and incarceration for one character and a ticking time bomb in the careers of two others in writer-director Stephen Belber’s claustrophobic drama.

The good deed is $500 that lawyer Paul Fleming (Corey Stoll) gives to community activist Sandy James (Karen Pittman), who hands it off to Elsa Mercado (Michelle Veintimilla), a teenager she’s counseling. Over What We Do Next’s slim, 76-minute running time, Sandy will insist over and over again that she had no idea the money would go toward the purchase of a gun that Elsa would use to murder the father who was sexually abusing her, protests that ring increasingly hollow in the face of Sandy’s own behavior.

Whatever the truth is, it never came out at Elsa’s trial. Sixteen years later, when a now system-hardened Elsa is paroled, Sandy is a rising political star with an eye toward becoming New York’s mayor in the not-too-distant future. Paul is a divorced sad sack but still a successful corporate lawyer. And there is a reporter hot on the trail of the real story behind Elsa’s crime – leverage for someone with ambitions of her own but with zero experience and a prison GED.

The story of this messy trio plays out over seven chapters in a chamber piece that speaks to Belber’s other job as a playwright. So, does the dialogue, which is literate and sharp – these are people who wield words as if they were knives. Sandy and Paul insist they are on the side of right and may have even convinced themselves of that. But they will never fool Elsa who is only too aware that she did long, hard time while the people who abetted her got off scot-free and are now craven in their attempts to stay in the clear.

The film is billed as a crime drama but, really, it is more a morality play as Belber peels back the layers of Sandy and Paul’s hypocrisy. They have convinced themselves that Elsa’s anger and bitterness are misplaced but she has to listen to their self-justifications, which might enrage anyone.

Paul is a well-meaning weasel, ostensibly willing to do the right thing but when doing so might impact the life he’s built for himself, he quickly back pedals. He is divorced and freely admits to  being a crap father, so not stepping up is apparently embedded in his DNA. If he’s incapable of being there for his son, what chance does Elsa have?

As for Sandy, we all know a Sandy. She is our councilperson or Congressional representative or governor or mayor. She is all about the big picture and she is dedicated to raising the lives of the underrepresented and underprivileged. She wants to help. She insists on it and backs it up with proposed legislation. The problem is that it is all abstract with her. She’s not so different from Orson Welles’ villain Harry Lime in The Third Man who looks upon people as “dots,” except while Harry is indifferent to all that humanity, Sandy is laser focused on proving how much she cares. She’s all about improving the lives of the masses.

But the masses are one thing, an individual like Elsa in all her messy humanity is something else. Sandy prefers the anonymity of all those dots to one woman she sees as an unfortunate blast from her past who could potentially stand in the way of the future she has so carefully mapped.

Belber delivers a tight, taut, and enraging drama, performed by three actors at the top of their game. It is a chilly film, the only heat coming from Elsa’s unregulated emotions and all the more powerful for that. Like Sandy, What We Do Next never loses sight of its end game. –Pam Grady

Higher than the average bruin: ‘Cocaine Bear’


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What would Ranger Smith do?

What would Ranger Smith do if Yogi Bear and Boo Boo stumbled onto a lost shipment of cocaine, got into it, and went all angry grizzly on any human that crossed their paths?

Well, Ranger Smith was never as quick as the ursid smarter than the average bear, so he’d probably end up Yogi’s lunch, which is not far off from what happens in the brutal, wickedly funny Cocaine Bear.

The horror comedy, written by Jimmy Warden and directed by Elizabeth Banks, is based on real events that happened in 1985 when a drug dealer named Andrew Thornton jettisoned the cargo of their overweight plane over a national forest. A bear stumbled on the stash of coke, snacked on it, and died. He apparently did not live long enough to lay waste to any passing tourists.

The motley assortment of people wandering the woods in Cocaine Bear are not so lucky. This is one of those movies in which the majority of the characters are simply fodder. They are walking and talking and soon to be bear food. They include a trio of teenage hooligans; a pair of European tourists; amorous Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale); Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), the wildlife inspector Liz has a crush on; drug kingpin Syd (Ray Liotta); Syd’s grief-stricken son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and his best friend Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.); narcotics cop Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.); tweens playing hooky Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery); and Sari (Keri Russell), Dee Dee’s mom on the hunt for the wayward kids.

The smartest thing about the movie is that it is set in 1985 and it feels like 1985, specifically a drive-in movie from 1985. The action is bonkers with body parts flying and the bear behaving with all the homicidal hunger and intent as Jaws’ shark with not a Roy Scheider or Robert Shaw in sight to stop her coke-fueled rampage. She is having quite the binge!

High praise goes to little Convery as a foul-mouthed tyke who will say anything to pretend to knowledge he doesn’t have. Ehrenreich and O’Shea share amiable chemistry as best buds, reluctant in their mission to find the wayward drugs. Veterans of typically more dramatic fare, Martindale, Whitlock, and the late Liotta (to whom Cocaine Bear is dedicated) are clearly having a blast in their unaccustomed roles of starring in a live-action cartoon. Seriously, Yogi Bear would not be out of place if he were the animal out of his mind.

It is a little sad that Cocaine Bear is arriving in theaters in February. Universal should have held back or the summer months so those towns still blessed with drive-ins could play this ultimate drive-in fare. Maybe with Tucker and Dale vs. Evil on a double bill. Possible with streaming, of course, but don’t wait for that. The mayhem Banks creates with her deranged bear deserves to be seen on a big screen in all its visceral, outrageously funny glory. –Pam Grady

THE FABELMANS: Spielberg relates the birth of a filmmaker


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Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is irresistible from its opening frames as midcentury computer scientist Burt (Paul Dano) and pianist Mitzi (Michelle Williams) take their firstborn, six-year-old Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) to his very first big-screen movie, Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 circus spectacular The Greatest Show on Earth. Sammy is dubious and uncomprehending as his father explains to him the concept of persistence of vision. It is a short, funny scene that expresses Spielberg’s lifelong (not to mention, extremely lucrative) love affair with flickering images and the stories they tell.

Billed as Spielberg’s most personal movie to date, well, of course, it is. The fictional family may be named Fabelman but this is the story of the Spielbergs, however much it may fudge the facts. Written by the director with his West Side Story collaborator, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, it is both a kind of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as it portrays Sammy’s passion for making movies and also a portrait of an American family that buries emotional landmines under the veneer of fixed smiles. It is both Spielberg’s origin story and his coming to terms with his past.

As dramas go, The Fabelmans is overlong. There is fat to be cut, which one imagines teenage Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) – shown often hunched at his desking, editing his movies – thoughtfully removing from the work. But Spielberg isn’t 16 anymore, he is 60 years older and it is clear that every frame is important to him emotionally, occasionally to the film’s detriment. In particular, a scene with Judd Hirsch as Sammy’s lion-tamer great uncle who understands his great nephew’s artistic impulses, telling him, “You’re going to join the circus,” is lovely – and wholly unnecessary.

And once the family moves to Northern California when Sammy is in high school, bringing the problems in the Burt and Mitzi’s marriage into sharp focus and introducing Sammy to antisemitism and first love, the wheels kind of fall off the movie before righting itself again in The Fabelmans’ closing scenes. It’s more a matter of rhythm than anything else. Scenes play out too long and some become repetitive. Again, it is hard to fault Spielberg. This is his story, and he has to tell it the way he needs to tell it even if his younger self – the guy who made Duel and Jaws and the wunderkind who was 22 when he directed screen legend Joan Crawford in the pilot episode of Night Gallery – probably would have sent him back to the cutting room to more sharply hone his creation.

LaBelle is terrific as Sammy, perfectly expressing hurt, anger, and confusion at his family’s situation and in his complicated relationship with his mother. But he is even better in the scenes in which Sammy starts on the path that will define his life. The moviemaking scenes, whether on location explaining to his cast how he wants a scene played or alone in his room cutting away, are fabulous, expressing youthful passion and wonder at the act of creation.

Even better are the products of those creations. The movies within the movie are enchanting. Recreating his own early experiments in filmmaking, the past six decades fall away. Spielberg finds his young self in these scenes and they are simply magical. As one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, he has become an auteur of blockbuster filmmaking but this time he scores with a story that is much more intimate.

It is a little disconcerting seeing Paul Dano suddenly grown middle-aged – has it really been that long since Little Miss Sunshine? – but he is wonderful as Sammy’s genius and too good-natured for his own good dad. Williams as highly strung Mitzi once more makes a case for GOAT of her generation. Director David Lynch is hilarious in a small cameo playing one of Sammy’s (and Spielberg’s) directing idols. On the technical side of things, Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan) delivers luminous images in which every moment seems to be magic time and 90-year-old John Williams contributes one of his most elegant scores.

The Fabelmans is not Spielberg’s final film. Just this past week, he announced a new collaboration with Bradley Cooper that will resurrect Steve McQueen’s Bullitt character. Nevertheless, the drama has the feeling of a summing up, a story he needed to tell before time runs out. Luckily, for all the rest of us, who get to watch the tale unfold. – Pam Grady

A bloody good time: Partying with BODIES BODIES BODIES


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In a remote mansion, while torrential wind and rain rage outside, the power goes out and so does the life of one person after another in this wicked horror black comedy that has the ancient bones of an Agatha Christie mystery but a style that is every inch Gen Z. Amandla Stenberg and Pete Davidson head up an ensemble cast in a film that might be summarized as love hurts while blood spurts.

Stenberg is Sophie, a recovering addict, who shows up at the party at her lifelong BFF David’s (Pete Davidson) parents’ estate unexpectedly, new working-class, immigrant girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) in tow. Sophie wasn’t expected, not even David is happy to see her, hissing, “What’s she doing her?” to his actor girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), hinting at the bridges Sophie’s burned. She and Bee aren’t the only interlopers: oblivious podcaster Alice (Rachel Sennott) has brought her new, middle-aged Tinder boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace), a genial hippie nearly old enough to be her dad the others believe to be an Afghanistan war veteran.

Completing the group and the only partygoer without a partner is Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), an ex of Sophie’s who also feels a bit out of place in the company of rich kids. She is, as Alice points out, upper-middle-class, but she doesn’t feel that way since her parents are but professors – at a state college. Her unease and apparent unresolved issues with Sophie add to the uneasy dynamics in a house in which none of the couples quite fit and the snobbery is as rampant as the drug and alcohol abuse. Add to that the titular party game, in which one person is the designated murderer, another becomes the victim, and then rather than solve the mystery, everyone fights. It’s a tense atmosphere long before the first real body drops.

Sophie and Bee are the most fully realized characters and Davidson’s David is the most head-scratching, not quite believable as a scion of enormous wealth. But Davidson wasn’t cast for that but because he’s a gifted physical comic who can deliver a funny line. And while there are nods to the class struggle in the way Bee and Greg are treated by the group, the film is not social satire. It’s a broad comedy with a body count.

In an era of inflated running times, Dutch director Halina Reijn (Instinct) wisely keeps hers down to 95 minutes, keeping the suspense running high and the laughs coming. Shooting in near darkness in many scenes where the only light appears to come from flashlights, cell phones, and glow stick jewelry, cinematographer Jasper Wolf creates an atmosphere of menace. Adding to that ambience is Disasterpeace’s strident score.

Bodies Bodies Bodies’ greatest strength is its screenplay by Sarah DeLappe, adapting Kristen Roupenian’s New Yorker story, which offers a memorable portrait of a certain segment of a generation while building up to one blisteringly hilarious denouement. There is nothing new under the sun when murder is afoot in a big house in the middle of nowhere but DeLappe transforms a story that could easily have been hackneyed into something fresh and hilarious. This is a film modest in its ambitions that delivers a big payoff. –Pam Grady

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS trailers drops, plus a word about THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN


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Force Majeure and The Square filmmaker Ruben Östlund satirizes the super-rich with Triangle of Sadness, starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, and Woody Harrelson, coming to theaters October 7.

Watching the trailer, I couldn’t help but think of another ill-fated cruise with the affluent on board. No, I don’t mean Gilligan’s Island and the Howells, but good guess. No, The Magic Christian, starring Peter Sellers as Guy Grand, the world’s richest man, and Ringo Starr, as his freshly adopted son, Young Man, also involves a ship full of the uber-wealthy. The title of this whacked adaptation of Terry Southern’s novel (with a screenplay by Southern and director Joseph McGrath with assists from Sellers and Monty Python’s John Cleese and Graham Chapman) is the name of the vessel, part of a subplot in a wild lampoon in which Grand pulls prank after prank as he sets out to prove everybody has a price.

Triangle of Sadness won’t be here for another two months. The Magic Christian is readily available on YouTube. Check it out. – Pam Grady

IN BRUGES stars Gleeson and Farrell reunite in new McDonagh dark comedy


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Martin McDonagh reunites his In Bruges cast, Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, and also adds to the Aran Islands mythology of his plays The Cripple of Inishmaan and The Lieutenant of Inishmore in his new black comedy. Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon costar. Eagerly anticipated and arriving in US theaters on Oct. 21.