Friday, August 12, 2022

Plaza plays 'Criminal' like a pro; 'BodiesBodies' may find Gen Z fans, fans

If you think "Emily the Criminal" sounds like a raucous comedy with former "Parks and Recreation" TV star Aubrey Plaza in the all-important lead, well guess again. 

The funny stand-up girl has grown up to become the woman in little-seen films such as "Black Bear" and "Best Sellers." Now, as a struggling artist-turned expert in credit card fraud, Plaza offers one of the year's most versatile performances in the role of her career.

Just steal yourself away and watch her Emily go from getting warned in the first scene about a one-time indiscretion being on her "permanent record" to hustling desperately to make an illegal mark in a contemporary world that rarely even offers the proverbial sucker a legitimate break.

By the way, Greater Clevelanders might want to know that "Emily" becomes the latest from Low Spark Films, the indie production company headed by Chagrin Falls native Tyler Davidson. "Take Shelter," "The Kings of Summer" and "The Signal," among others, have come previously. It's also a first-time feature writing/directing gig for a 40-year-old AFI graduate named John Patton Ford. Please remember the name; you'll certainly see it again. 

Rated "R" by MPAA: language, some violence and brief drug use; 1:34; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Some rich and totally full of themselves Zoomers get to stir in their own juices a little while in the darkly comic "BodiesBodiesBodies." Thankfully, a boffo ending saves the day for anyone still hangin' around and, uh, perhaps that includes some viewers, too.

Before then, Dutch-born director Halein Reijn and screenwriter Sarah DeLappe take off on similar films of this ilk and occasionally poke dead-on fun at these young Floridians (maybe?), who so easily toss a so-called Hurricane Party Cocktail of alcohol, drugs, sex, snarky comments and a full assortment of weapons.

Playing the alleged title game spurs on the proceedings, but most folks might do some serious maturing when all that you'd expect to occur in a dark mansion on a stormy night does just that here. The only gals coming close to wising up, though, make up the movie couple portrayed by distaff headliners Maria Bakalova ("Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"), naturally the lone non-American in the group, and Amandla Stenberg ("The Hate U Give").

Among the "boys" -- surprise, surprise -- now ex-"SNL" funnyman Pete Davidson looks like a skinny, young Uncle Fester and acts like the total jerk as the host of it all. Also along for the quick ride is Lee Pace, nicely cast as an aging "vet" and apparent pick-up pal of a much younger vixen (Rachel Sennott of "Shiva Baby" fame). Anybody for a sequel? Nobody?

Rated "R" by MPAA: violence, bloody images, drug use, sexual references and pervasive language; 1:35; $ $ $ out of $5

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