Review: ‘Family Squares,’ starring Ann Dowd, Judy Greer, Billy Magnussen, Margo Martindale, June Squibb, Casey Wilson and Henry Winkler

April 7, 2022

by Carla Hay

“Family Squares” cast members. Pictured in top row, from left to right: Judy Greer, Margo Martindale and Henry Winkler. Pictured in bottom row, from left to right: Sam Richardson, Timothy Simons and Billy Magnussen (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“Family Squares”

Directed by Stephanie Laing

Culture Representation: Taking place 2020, in North Carolina, New York City, Connecticut and other parts of the world, the comedy/drama film “Family Squares” features a cast of predominantly white characters (with one Asian and one African American) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Before and after an American family’s matriarch dies, various members of the family meet on videoconference calls to talk about the clan’s frequently difficult relationships and some family secrets that cause conflicts. 

Culture Audience: “Family Squares” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s cast members and stories about bickering family members who still love each other despite their differences.

June Squibb in “Family Squares” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

Neither terrible nor great, “Family Squares” is a flawed comedy/drama that’s elevated by the talent of the movie’s cast members. It’s an uneven but well-acted movie about a family gathering on videoconference calls. Directed by Stephanie Laing, “Family Squares” has a title that refers to how the family members appear on screen in squares because of the videoconference format. It’s another movie about people being unable to interact in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Family Squares” (which Laing co-wrote with Brad Morris) won’t be considered a classic COVID-19 pandemic movie, but it might interest people who are curious to see a scripted story about how large families stayed in touch during the pre-vaccine lockdowns of the pandemic.

The movie, which takes place and was filmed in 2020, has the expected squabbles between these relatives, but there are enough tender moments and comedy to make the emotions well-rounded. Where the movie falters is in some of the dialogue, which can sometimes be too corny or too contrived. However, the cast members’ performances make the movie’s characters believable. You might see parts of yourself or people you know in some of these family members, even if what some these characters say occasionally sounds like an overly calculated movie script.

“Family Squares,” which centers on the fictional Worth family, could have done a better job of explaining in the beginning how each family member is related to each other. Unless you have an excellent memory or are taking notes, it might be very easy to get confused by the first 10 to 15 minutes of the movie, which is kind of a jumbled mess, where the characters show up on screen and then babble on about various things.

Here are the characters of the Worth family who participate in these videoconference calls:

  • Mabel (played by June Squibb) is the family’s feisty matriarch, who is in her 90s and dying in a hospice/nursing home somewhere in New York state. Mabel passes away during the first videoconference call that’s seen in the movie. Mabel divorced her husband (who is now deceased) many years ago and has been married to a much-younger woman for the past four years. Mabel’s two children from her marriage to her ex-husband are son Bobby and daughter Diane.
  • Judith Joyner (played by Ann Dowd), Mabel’s soft-spoken wife, lives in New York City, and has been unable to visit Mabel in person during Mabel’s final days because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
  • Bobby (played by Henry Winkler), Mabel’s bachelor son, has a rebellious past and a tense relationship with his younger sister Diane, who were both raised on a farm in Spring Hope, North Carolina.
  • Diane (played by Margo Martindale), Mabel’s strong-willed younger child, doesn’t think highly of Bobby because she thinks he’s irresponsible and flaky. Diane, who lives in Connecticut, is a widow and a mother of five adult children: son Bret, daughter Dorsey, son Chad, son Robert and daughter Katie.
  • Bret (played by Timothy Simons) is a widower and a failed business entrepreneur who is raising his daughter Cassie (who’s about 15 or 16 years old) on his own.
  • Dorsey (played by Judy Greer) is a neurotic single mother who is currently on a road trip (in a recreational vehicle camper) with her reluctant 17-year-old son Max. Dorsey has a longtime love/hate relationship with her younger sister Katie. Max’s father, who is described as a deadbeat dad who abandoned Dorsey and Max, is not a part of Max’s life.
  • Chad (played by Scott MacArthur), a bachelor with no children, is a fairly successful self-help guru and author, who thinks that he’s the one who has a life that is the most enviable out of all of his siblings.
  • Robert (played by Billy Magnussen) is a ne’er-do-well bachelor with no children. Robert jumps from job to job and has a younger brother inferiority complex with Chad, who bullied Robert when they were children. Robert claims to be calling from Russia, where he says he is hiding out for top-secret reasons that have to do with Robert’s computer hacking.
  • Katie (played by Casey Wilson) is the youngest of Diane’s children and the only one of her siblings to still live in their North Carolina hometown of Spring Hope. Katie is very image-conscious and has a bad habit of being tardy. Katie and her husband Kevin have three underage kids together, but Katie is the only one in their household who participates in the videoconference calls.
  • Max (played by Maclaren Laing), Dorsey’s marijuana-smoking son, loves his mother, but he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with her. Max was never close to his great-grandmother Mabel, so he is emotionally unaffected when Mabel dies.
  • Cassie (played by Elsie Fisher), Bret’s quiet and introverted teenage daughter, was emotionally attached to Mabel, so she is devastated when Mabel dies.

The movie’s unseen narrator is someone named Bill (voiced by Rob Reiner), whose identity is revealed toward the end of the movie. It might be easy to figure out who Bill is, based on his comments and observations. Some viewers might think the narration is unnecessary and annoying, while other viewers might think the narration is necessary and charming.

Someone who pops in occasionally during these videoconference calls is Kelly (played by Zoë Chao), the hospice nurse who was taking care of Mabel before Mabel passed away. Kelly is the one who sets up the videoconference call for Mabel, who is computer-illiterate and too sick to do it herself. After Mabel dies, Kelly plays video messages that Mabel left for her surviving family members.

Kelly has an awkward moment with Judith when, after Mabel dies, Judith wants to arrange to get Mabel’s personal items that were at the hospice, but Judith is not allowed to claim Mabel’s items. Kelly has to tell Judith that it’s because the hospice doesn’t have Judith listed as a family member, even though Judith and Mabel were legally married. This scene is a depiction of what LGBTQ people often have to go through when their spouses or partners die, and the spouses or partners who are left behind are impeded by homophobic policies and laws that deprive them of their rights. All of the members of the Worth family love and accept Judith, but the movie never bothers to explain why Mabel—who knew she was dying and was living openly as a queer married woman—never made the proper spousal arrangements for Judith at this hospice.

Another person who is part of these videoconference calls is a funeral director/attorney named Alex (played by Sam Richardson), who is put in an uncomfortable position when the Worth family members disagree over whether or not to have a virtual/online funeral for Mabel. Judith is a part of these funeral arrangements. And the decision about the funeral isn’t the only conflict in this family.

Mabel drops two bombshells in her farewell videos that are shown after her death: First, she announces that somewhere on the family farm property is something valuable. “We are really, filthy, stinking, fucking rich,” Mabel says in the video. Some of the family members immediately want to go to the property to hunt for what they think might be hidden treasure and possibly find it before the other family members. Bill can be heard in a voiceover saying, “Nothing like an inheritance to get the family greed boiling.”

Mabel’s other shocking revelation is that she says one of the family members who is a sibling is actually not a biological sibling. Mabel refuses to go into any further details and tells her family members that they have to figure out this secret on their own. This family secret actually makes “Family Squares” more interesting than it could have been, so it’s one of the main reasons why the movie can hold people’s interest.

There are other family secrets that are revealed during these calls, but they are somewhat mild in comparison to the one about who are the real biological parents of the person who’s “not a sibling.” There’s also the matter of who else in the family knew about this secret, which could threaten to destroy relationships in this family. Judith admits she knows the secret, but she tells everyone: “It’s not for me to say.”

In a movie with very talented cast members, it’s hard to go wrong with their performances. Greer and Martindale stand out the most because not only do their characters of Dorsey and Diane have outspoken personalities, but they also have the most emotional depth. All of the other cast members perform well in their character roles, which at times can get a little two-dimensional and can reduce them to stereotypes.

Laing gives mostly solid direction to “Family Squares,” which could have done without some of the slapstick shenanigans between Chad and Robert that cheapen the quality of the film. A few of the characters, such as Cassie and Bret, are a bit underdeveloped. Because there are so many family members and so many conflicts, at times “Family Squares” seems a little overstuffed. The first third of the movie tends to drag, the middle of the movie is a little scattered and unfocused, but the last third of the movie makes up for the story’s shortcomings.

Screen Media Films released “Family Squares” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on February 25, 2022. The movie was released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 5, 2022.

Review: ‘Werewolves Within,’ starring Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, Catherine Curtin, Michaela Watkins, Michael Chernus, Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén

July 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise, from left: Catherine Curtin, Milana Vayntrub, Harvey Guillén, Cheyenne Jackson, George Basil, Sarah Burns and Sam Richardson in “Werewolves Within” (Photo by Sabrina Lantos/IFC Films)

“Werewolves Within”

Directed by Josh Ruben

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Beaverfield, Vermont, the horror film “Werewolves Within” features a mostly white group of people (with one African American, one Latino and one biracial Native American) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A newly appointed forest ranger arrives in Beaverfield, a rural city that’s in turmoil over a fracking debate and speculation that a killer werewolf is on the loose.

Culture Audience: “Werewolves Within” will appeal primarily to fans of the “Werewolves Within” video game and to people who are interested in memorable horror comedies with quirky characters.

Michaela Watkins in “Werewolves Within” (Photo by Sabrina Lantos/IFC Films)

There’s a particular art to blending horror and comedy that “Werewolves Within” achieves with goofy and quirky charm. It’s a well-cast movie that has obvious influences—namely, filmmaker brothers Joel and Ethan Coen 1996 dark comedy “Fargo” and filmmaker Edgar Wright’s 2004 zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead.” However, “Werewolves Within” (directed by Josh Ruben and written by Mishna Wolff) still keeps the wacky spirit of the Ubisoft video game on which it is based. It’s one of the few video-game-to-movie adaptations that isn’t an embarrassment to the video game.

“Werewolves Within”—which takes places during a snowy winter in the fictional rural city of Beaverfield, Vermont—has a wisecracking tone throughout the film but still maintains an aura of impending doom, as the body count begins to increase. When newly appointed forest ranger Finn Wheeler (played by Sam Richardson) arrives in Beaverfield to start his new job, he arrives in a city that’s plagued by divisive tensions over a fracking controversy. There’s also speculation that a wild animal (possibly a werewolf) is responsible for a recent bloody death of a hunter in the woods, nearly a month earlier.

Finn has his own personal issues going into this job. He’s very insecure about being perceived as a wimp who’s too nice. The first time that viewers see Finn is in his car, as he’s driving to Beaverfield. He’s listening to a self-help motivational podcast or audio recording to learn how to be an assertive alpha male. During the course of the movie, viewers will see that Finn (who was transferred to Beaverfield by the U.S. Forest Service) has to battle his own inner demons and insecurities, as well as the major problems that he comes across in Beaverfield.

“Werewolves Within” moves at such a quick pace that within the first 15 minutes of the film, Finn has met all of the characters who will be in this story. They are:

  • Jeanine Sherman (played by Catherine Curtin), the mild-mannered owner of the Beaverfield Inn, where Finn is living.
  • Sam Parker (played by Wayne Duvall), an arrogant executive from Midland Gas, the company that wants to buy land in Beaverfield for fracking purposes.
  • Cecily Moore (played by Milana Vayntrub), a friendly and talkative mail carrier from the U.S. Postal Service, who lives at the Beaverfield Inn rent-free in exchange for assisting with the inn’s cleaning duties.
  • Dr. Jane Ellis (played by Rebecca Henderson), a politically liberal, serious-minded sociologist and environmentalist who is vehemently against anything that she thinks is damaging to the environment, such as what Midland Gas wants to do.
  • Emerson Flint (played by Glenn Fleshler), a gruff and reclusive animal trapper who is the subject of a lot of the town’s gossip.
  • Devon Wolfson (played by Cheyenne Jackson), a vain millionaire who founded a tech company and who gave up life in a big city for a more laid-back lifestyle in Beaverfield.
  • Joaquim Wolfson (played by Harvey Guillén), Devon’s flamboyant and sassy husband who owns a yoga studio in town.
  • Trisha Anderton (played by Michaela Watkins), an uptight neurotic who has a passion for crafting and is the owner of Anderton Farms, which has been in her family for 90 years.
  • Pete Anderton (played by Michael Chernus), Trisha’s politically conservative, lecherous husband who has a wandering eye and wandering hands when it comes to women who aren’t his wife.
  • Gwen Sieczkowski (played by Sara Burns), a tough-talking mechanic who had a somewhat secret affair with Pete.
  • Marcus (played by George Basil), Gwen’s boyfriend who is unemployed, financally broke and very dimwitted.

These residents of Beaverfield have various opinions of what Midland Gas wants to do in Beaverfield. Beaverfield Inn owner Jeanine is reluctant to sell her property to Midland Gas, even though the company is offering her a lot of money to sell. Devon and Joaquim, who identify as progressive liberals, are inclined to be against what Midland Gas wants to do.

Meanwhile, Trisha, Pete, Gwen and Marcus think that Midland Gas will bring a lot of business to Beaverton, and they want to profit from it as much as possible. Cecily hasn’t expressed a strong opinion one way or another. But she does tell Finn that she likes her living arrangement, and that she hopes that the Beaverfield Inn won’t be sold to Midland Gas, which would demolish the inn for fracking activities.

The first time that Cecily and Finn meet, it’s at the inn, and there’s an immediate attraction between them. Finn isn’t as obvious about his attraction to Cecily when they first meet, because he tells her that he has a girlfriend named Charlotte, who’s in the city where he used to live. Charlotte is never seen in the movie, but her phone conversations with Finn make it clear to viewers that she likes to nag and henpeck Finn and doesn’t really respect him.

Finn decided to transfer to Beaverfield as part of his goal to be an alpha male, by taking on a challenge outside of his comfort zone. His relationship with Charlotte is somewhat in limbo because he doesn’t know how long he might be in Beaverfield. Meanwhile, Cecily notices that Finn and Charlotte’s relationship is on shaky ground. Cecily isn’t afraid to tell Finn what she thinks about it.

Because she’s a mail carrier who knows a lot of the personal business of the Beaverfield residents, Cecily is Finn’s main source of information and gossip about what’s been going on in Beaverfield. She tells Finn that Jeanine’s husband left Jeanine to run off to Belize with another woman. Cecily is also the one to tell Finn about Pete and Gwen’s affair, which appears to be over. Pete’s wife Trisha and Gwen’s boyfriend Marcus don’t know about the affair.

Finn doesn’t get a friendly welcome from Emerson. Immediately after Finn arrives in Beaverfield, Cecily gives Finn a written complaint about Emerson from Dr. Ellis, who has accused Emerson of illegal trapper activities in her complaint. When Finn goes over to Emerson’s cabin to investigate, Emerson (carrying a rifle and wearing wolf hide with the wolf’s head still attached) angrily chases Finn off of his property.

A huge snowstorm soon hits the area, leaving all transportation to and from Beaverfield temporarily suspended. Somehow, everyone in this story except for Emerson ends up at the Beaverfield Inn for shelter. And that’s when the killings start with a vengeance.

“Werewolves Within” has such distinct characters that it’s very easy to tell all of them apart from each other. The movie has fun with spoofing stereotypes. Dr. Sherman is an unsmiling, “gloom and doom” type who might or might not be a mad scientist. Gay couple Devon and Joaquim are fussy and argumentative. Trisha and Pete are superficial, materialistic and show hints of being racist and homophobic.

Although there aren’t many set pieces in this movie, which takes place in a very confined area, the production design is done well for this low-budget film. (“Werewolves Within” takes place in Vermont, but the movie was actually filmed in New York state.) Of particular note is the Axe Den, a recreational room that’s on the Beaverfield Inn property. It’s Cecily’s favorite place to hang out, and she introduces Finn to an empty Axe Den during the snowstorm.

The Axe Den is a kitschy place filled with vintage arcade games and a jukebox that has mostly pop songs from the 1990s. Ace of Base’s hit “The Sign” is prominently featured in “Werewolves Within,” with great comedic effect. And it should come as no surprise that the Axe Den is where the movie’s biggest showdown happens.

The very self-aware comedy of “Werewolves Within” doesn’t come at the expense of delivering a genuinely engaging mystery. Dr. Ellis has been able to determine in her makeshift lab at the inn that a wolf-like animal is responsible for this killing spree. However, some of the people trapped at the Beaverfield Inn aren’t convinced. Who or what is the real killer? The answer is revealed at the end of the movie.

All of the cast members handle their roles with aplomb, even though some characters verge on parody. Most of the emotional core of the film is with Finn and Cecily, who have to navigate their attraction to each other during the growing terror about the killer on the loose. Richardson and Vayntrub have believable chemistry as a would-be couple caught in this precarious situation. Their comedic timing is one of the highlights of “Werewolves Within.”

The comedy in the movie isn’t for everyone, because some viewers might find it to be too glib or too on-the-nose. But for everyone else—especially for people who like horror comedies with a cheeky tone— there’s a lot that’s appealing about “Werewolves Within.” This movie would make a great double feature with 2020’s “The Wolf of Snow Hollow,” another werewolf horror movie that combines comedy with a murder mystery.

Ruben’s direction of “Werewolves Within” keeps it at a brisk pace (the movie’s total running time is 97 minutes), so there’s little chance of boredom setting in with viewers. The movie doesn’t over-rely on slapstick comedy but instead derives a lot of comedy from how the cast members interpret the snappy dialogue. “Werewolves Within” is the type of horror film where it’s very entertaining to watch these characters for the entire movie, even if you’d never want to be stuck in snowstorm with most of them.

IFC Films released “Werewolves Within” in select U.S. cinemas on June 25, 2021, and on digital and VOD on July 2, 2021.

Review: ‘Hooking Up,’ starring Brittany Snow and Sam Richardson

March 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sam Richardson and Brittany Snow in “Hooking Up” (Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

“Hooking Up” (2020)

Directed by Nico Raineau

Culture Representation: Set in Atlanta, Dallas and various other U.S. cities, the sex comedy “Hooking Up” has a diverse cast of characters (white, African American and Asian) who represent the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A man and a woman who are almost complete opposites find themselves going on a personal and sexual journey with each other.

Culture Audience: “Hooking Up” will appeal primarily to viewers who like low-concept, slightly off-kilter raunchy comedies with questionable humor.

Sam Richardson and Anna Akana in “Hooking Up “(Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

In an attempt to set itself apart from other sex comedies, “Hooking Up” has some bizarre plot elements that actually lower the quality of this already lowbrow movie. It isn’t until the last third of the film that the movie gets better. But by then, it’s too little too late.

“Hooking Up” is the feature-film debut of Nico Raineau, who co-wrote the movie’s uneven screenplay with Lauren Schacher. It begins, as many sex comedies do, with people having sex. In this case, the sex scene is with a nymphomaniac in her 30s named Darla Beane (played by Brittany Snow), who’s doing the deed very loudly with an older guy named Charlie (played by Rob Moran). The two of them are in Atlanta and are going at it in an empty elementary school classroom, of all places. And it’s clear from their encounter that Darla is a very bossy and selfish lover.

As Darla abruptly gets up and leaves the classroom, she accidentally bumps into 30-year-old nice guy Bailey Brighton (played by Sam Richardson) in the hallway. He asks her what she was doing in the classroom, and she sarcastically replies that she was there for a parent-teacher conference. Is Darla a parent or a teacher? Neither. She’s a sex addict and she’s at the school for an after-hours group therapy meeting with Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA).

It’s her first SLAA meeting, and Darla isn’t thrilled to be there at all, because she’s only there under a court order. What did she do to get in trouble? It’s not really made clear, but it’s hinted at later in the movie. As Darla angrily tells a member of the group, she doesn’t belong there because she’s not an addict.

Just when Darla has made it abundantly clear that she’s not interested in making friends in the group, in walks the group leader: It’s Charlie, the guy she had sex with moments before. Darla and Charlie both look surprised to see each other, but viewers shouldn’t be. After all, how many group therapy sessions are taking place after hours at the same time in this school?

As it turns out, there’s another group-therapy session taking place in another area of the school. It’s for a group of cancer survivors. And Bailey is one of them. He has testicular cancer, and it’s resulted in the removal of his left testicle. Bailey’s group already knows that he’s had this procedure.

And unfortunately, viewers know about it too because Bailey’s genital area is constantly used for ongoing crude jokes in the movie. This type of humor (especially for people who’ve had body parts removed because of cancer) is bound to make some people uncomfortable and possibly offended because the jokes really aren’t that clever or funny.

Soon after viewers see Darla and Bailey in their respective group therapy sessions, we see what Darla and Bailey do for a living. Darla works as a sex columnist for a local women’s lifestyle magazine called ATL Style. And viewers see that Darla isn’t just rude and abrasive at therapy sessions she doesn’t want to go to—she’s rude and abrasive all the time.

Bailey works in a lowly position at a gym. In a FaceTime chat that Bailey has with his loving but overbearing parents—Ron Brighton (played by Bryan Pitts) and Cindy Brighton (played by Vivica A. Fox)—viewers see that Bailey’s father is a successful gym owner who is expanding his business in their hometown of Dallas.

The movie goes to great lengths to show how opposite Darla and Bailey are. While Darla openly watches porn on her work computer, Bailey is moping around at his job because he’s nursing a broken heart over his recent breakup with his high-school sweetheart Elizabeth “Liz” Cartwright (played by Anna Akana), whom he still stalks on Instagram. Later in the movie, Bailey reveals that he moved to Atlanta because Liz moved there too.

Bailey is so stuck on Liz that he calls her and asks her out on a date, even though they’ve broken up. It’s in this scene that viewers find out that Liz was the one who dumped Bailey. She tells him that their breakup is for the best and that he should move on and meet new people, because that’s what she’s doing. Later, she stops by the gym to give Bailey a box of his belongings that he hadn’t bothered to pick up after their breakup. It’s clear from their interactions that Bailey’s life revolved around Liz, and now he feels lost without her.

And then, Darla and Bailey each gets bad news. Darla gets fired because her boss Tanya (played by Jordana Brewster) thinks that the quality of Darla’s work has gone downhill. Tanya is also tired of putting up with Darla’s shenanigans, which included Tanya having to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit that was brought against Darla, who has a habit of hooking up with co-workers.

Darla also had sex with a male intern in an empty conference room and recorded the encounter on video. Bizarrely, the video is played on the TV screen in Tanya’s office while Darla gets fired. It’s meant to be a funny part of the movie, but it’s downright creepy to have a boss watch a sex video of an employee while the employee is sitting right in front of the boss. Darla begs Tanya not to fire her (Darla shouts, “I’m the Oprah of orgasms!”), but Tanya is unmoved.

Meanwhile, during a visit to his doctor, Bailey finds out that the testicular cancer that he thought was in remission has now returned with a vengeance. A lump in his right testicle shows that his right testicle will have to be removed too. Feeling anxious and depressed, Bailey shows up unannounced at a restaurant where Liz is (he knows she’s there at that moment because she did an Instagram Story about it) and finds her at a table that’s set for two people. Viewers can see from the items that are on the table that she’s there with a date (who stepped away for a few moments), but a distressed Bailey doesn’t see these visual clues and plops down at the seat opposite from Liz, drinks from a nearby wine glass,  and says he needs to tell her something important.

Liz is visibly annoyed and starts to lecture Bailey about how he needs to move on with his life. She also lets it slip that she’s going back to their hometown of Dallas for her mother’s retirement party. Before Bailey can tell her about the bad news about his medical condition, Liz’s date shows up and that’s the end of the conversation.

At another SLAA meeting with Darla and the rest of the group, they’re each given a map of the U.S. where, as a therapy exercise, they have to mark places on the map where they’ve had sex. It’s another weird element to this movie that doesn’t make sense, but it’s used as a basis for the plot. At this SLAA meeting, Bailey suddenly shows up very drunk and blurts out to the entire group that his right testicle is going to be removed because of the cancer. Eventually, Bailey makes his way to his cancer therapy session. The only purpose of this “drunken outburst” scene is to set up the “coincidence” that happens when Bailey and Darla see each other later and she already knows about his testicular cancer.

The map gives Darla the idea to take a road trip, relive her sexual encounters at as many places where she’s had sex before, and write about it. She contacts her ex-boss Tanya to pitch the idea for the story. After some persistent begging, Tanya reluctantly agrees that Darla can blog about her experiences for the magazine’s website, but she won’t be paid for it. Darla eagerly agrees, which shows you how desperate she is.

While at a bar, Darla and Bailey see each other and strike up a conversation. Darla already knows about Bailey’s recent troubles, but she doesn’t tell Bailey what’s going on in her life. All she’ll say is that she’s a writer, but she doesn’t mention that she writes about sex and that she’s recently been fired from her job. Even though Bailey works at a gym, his dream job is to be an illustrator artist, but he tells Darla that his parents discouraged him from having this dream because it’s very difficult for artists to make a solid income. (Bailey’s artwork in the movie is very much like what one would see in a comic strip.)

When Bailey sees Darla’s map, he asks her what it’s for, and she tells him. She also mentions that she wants to recreate her sexual experiences on a road trip and invites Bailey to go with her on the trip. Bailey is very reluctant at first, but then says he’ll go on the trip with Darla, on the condition that they make a stop in Dallas at some point during the trip. And so begins the road trip that takes up about 60% of the movie.

Even though Darla and Bailey had a “meet cute” moment when they first met in the school hallway, it’s important for viewers to know in advance that “Hooking Up” isn’t much of a romantic comedy because there’s very little romance in the movie. Darla and Bailey, who end up being “no strings attached” sex partners on the trip, aren’t really friends for most of the story, and they’re definitely not falling in love with each other.

In fact, Bailey is still hung up on Liz and is posting photos of himself and Darla together on his social media, in the hope that Liz will see the pictures and get jealous. He wants to go to Dallas to show off Darla to Liz. Meanwhile, Darla is using Bailey by blogging about their sexcapades, including details about what it’s like having a one-testicled man as a sex partner. The movie wants viewers to believe that for most of the trip, Bailey and Darla don’t know about each other’s online/Internet activities.

On the trip, Bailey finds out that Darla has a thing for having sex in places (public and private) where she might get caught. (It probably also explains why she ended up being in court-ordered sex-addiction therapy.) But the movie takes Darla’s sex re-enactment quest to a weird tangent when more than once in the story, Darla and Bailey break into someone’s private home to have sex.

Up until this point, Bailey is so straight-laced that when Darla asks him how many sex partners he’s had in his life, he confesses to Darla that he’s only had sex with two people: his ex-girlfriend Liz and Darla. Meanwhile, Darla (who says she’s had sex with 169 people and counting) responds when she finds out that Bailey has had sex with only two people in his life: “That’s the most terrifying thing I ever heard, other than ‘Smell this rag’ and ‘I think I love you.'” That’s what passes for a joke in this movie.

But once Darla and Bailey start breaking into people’s houses, it’s when the movie will probably start to alienate viewers because the break-ins are just so bizarre and unrelatable. Even if the house is empty, what if someone who lives there comes home? What if a neighbor sees them and calls the police? Darla is not that much of a prize (she’s a very troubled and angry woman) and there’s nothing for Bailey to gain by risking a possible arrest for breaking-and-entering or trespassing.

Even though it’s believable that Bailey would start to loosen up around Darla, it’s a bit of an unrealistic stretch that he would gleefully start sneaking into people’s houses just to have sex with her. But that’s what happens, and it doesn’t ring true that he would go through such an extreme transformation in such a short period of time. (And he’s not intoxicated when he makes these decisions.)

It’s during one of these break-ins that the movie takes a very dark turn when Darla confesses a secret about the previous sexual encounter she had in the house. It’s the first time that viewers see that Darla has a heart, because she actually cries with guilt over a tragedy that happened because of what she thought was a meaningless escapade. But then, after that emotionally raw scene, the movie goes back to its silly, slapstick-ish tone. It’s like trying to throw in a scene that wants to be Meryl Streep in an Adam Sandler comedy.

As the two main characters, Snow and Richardson don’t have much chemistry together, although Richardson has better comedic timing than Snow. But then again, they’re playing two mismatched people who start off in a very awkward situation, which continues for the vast majority of the movie. Some of the best acting in the movie is not from the two lead actors but from supporting actors Akana (as Bailey’s ex-girlfriend Liz) and Amy Pietz, who plays Darla’s mother Betty in scenes that somewhat explain why Darla turned out to be such a hard-edged nympho. The screenplay is what’s most problematic about this movie, because some of the dialogue and situations in “Hooking Up” are just plain dumb and cringeworthy.

“Hooking Up” has a somewhat predictable ending, but it’s not as predictable as people might think it is. The first two-thirds of the film are pretty awful, and the last third is actually watchable, but it can’t quite make up for the movie’s beginning and middle. It’s like trying to use air refreshener to cover up the stink that comes from something rotting in the room.

Saban Films released “Hooking Up” on digital and VOD on March 20, 2020.

2019 Primetime Emmy Awards: presenters announced

September 11, 2019

The following is a press release from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences:

The Television Academy and Emmy Awards telecast producers Don Mischer Productions and Done+Dusted announced the first group of talent set to present the iconic Emmy statuettes at the 71st Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 22.

The presenters include:

  • Angela Bassett* (9-1-1 and The Flood)
  • Stephen Colbert* (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
  • Viola Davis* (How to Get Away with Murder)
  • Michael Douglas* (The Kominsky Method)
  • Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
  • Terrence Howard (Empire)
  • Jimmy Kimmel* (Jimmy Kimmel Live)
  • Peter Krause (9-1-1)
  • Seth Meyers* (Late Night With Seth Meyers and Documentary Now!)
  • Billy Porter* (Pose)
  • Naomi Watts (The Loudest Voice)
  • Zendaya (Euphoria)
  • The cast of Game of Thrones: Alfie Allen*, Gwendoline Christie*,
    Emilia Clarke*, Peter Dinklage*, Kit Harington*, Lena Headey*, Sophie Turner*, Carice van Houten*, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau*, and Maisie Williams*

September 17, 2019 UPDATE:

More presenters have been announced for the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards:

  • Anthony Anderson* (black-ish)
  • Ike Barinholtz (Bless the Harts)
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Neighborhood)
  • Max Greenfield (The Neighborhood)
  • Bill Hader* (Barry)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus* (VEEP)
  • Cast of VEEP: Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Clea DuVall, Tony Hale, Sam Richardson, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Sarah Sutherland, Matt Walsh
  • Gwyneth Paltrow (The Politician)
  • Amy Poehler* (Duncanville and Russian Doll)
  • Maya Rudolph (Bless the Harts and The Good Place)
  • RuPaul* (RuPaul’s Drag Race)
  • Lilly Singh (A Little Late with Lilly Singh)
  • Ben Stiller* (Escape at Dannemora)
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge* (Fleabag)
  • Cast of Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner

The 71st Emmy Awards will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, September 22, (8:00-11:00 PM ET/5:00-8:00 PM PT) on FOX.

For more information, please visit Emmys.com. Find out Where to Watch.

*71st Emmy Awards Nominees

 

https://www.emmys.com/news/awards-news/emmy-presenters-190911

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