Review: Thunder Force

The latest action-adventure comedy from celebrity couple Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy is not exactly a Thunder Force to be reckoned with. It’s barely watchable. So don’t be fooled by its cute trailer and impressive roster of actors. Thunder Force is a dud that takes way too long to get to what might be considered the good stuff if you’re in a forgiving mood… and happen to have a Netflix account… and managed to find some escapist value in critical bombs like Superintelligence, Tammy, Life of the Party, and the The Boss — all starring McCarthy and co-written and/or directed by Falcone. Seems their talents are far better served by other people’s material. And Octavia Spencer? The Academy-Award winner seemed to have far more fun playing super bad in the 2019 creepy horror movie Ma, and that wasn’t exactly a film to write home about.  Here, she’s a newly-minted superhero out to save the world — or at least Chicago — from genetically-altered supervillains known as “miscreants”.

Review: Slalom

Competitive sports are hell on the body and the mind. Even more so when you’re a teenager with no support system. In Slalom, Lyz (Noée Abita) is an ambitious and talented young skier who eyes the fulfillment of her dreams when she’s accepted at a prestigious ski training school in the French Alps. She’s just 15-years-old and still in high school, and pretty naive about the world. But ski pro-turned-coach Fred (Jérémie Renier) sees something in her and takes her on as his special case, training her hard and pushing her to be the best. And it works. She starts winning all the big prizes. But that’s not all he wants from her. He’s a predator, a control freak, and a sleaze. And she’s too young to have to deal with that, especially when her mother is nowhere to be found. Writer-director Charlène Favier, herself a former competitive skier, says the film isn’t exactly autobiographical, but it depicts the uneven power dynamic between athletes and their coaches that can and has crossed the line all too frequently in the sport. It’s a powerful #metoo film with great performances.

Review: Quo Vadis, Aida?

Talk about a film that’s hard to watch! This Oscar nominee from Bosnia and Herzegovina tells the horrifying story of the days leading up to the 1995 massacre of 8,000+ Bosnian Muslim men and boys from the town of Srebrenica. The central character is Aida (Jasna Duricic), a school teacher from the town and also a translator for the UN peacekeeping forces there during the wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia. When the Bosnian Serbian army rolls into town, despite the fact that the United Nations had declared it a UN safe area two years earlier, the Muslim citizens flee to the nearby UN camp looking for shelter and safety. Aida’s husband and sons are among those fleeing. But as she can see from inside, the UN troops are left high and dry by the UN command in New York, and they’re outgunned by Serbian Gen. Ratko Mladic (Boris Isakovic) and his army. And as the time ticks by Aida does everything she can to save her family, though if you know the history, you know it cannot end well.

Review: TINA

To say that Tina Turner is a music icon is a huge understatement. She’s the original Queen of rock & roll and a force of nature. I was too young to appreciate her when she was with Ike and first made her name.  But when she made her comeback after leaving him in the 80s, I saw her on stage and she was electrifying! She was pushing 50, but she owned that stage, strutting up and down stairs in platform heels with the energy of someone half her age. I was in awe and kind of in love.  Not only was she a performer like no other, but her stage presence was that of a kind person who adored pleasing us all.  This new documentary from Oscar-winning directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin leads its audience through her turbulent life and career through interviews with Tina, and her friends and family, some never before seen video, and fabulous performance footage that makes you love her all the more. It’s the story of one of music’s greatest female performers who thankfully rose from the ashes after years in a violent relationship.

Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 12

This week I chose a comedy thriller, a political thriller, a classic screwball comedy, a wartime romance, a storybook romance, a Japanese existential drama, and a loving ode to an Italian childhood.

All of them received Oscar nominations and several of them were big winners. Three of them were up for the Best Foreign Film award.

 

This week’s picks are: Sleuth, My Man Godfrey, Casablanca , The Princess BrideWoman in the Dunes, Z , and Amarcord .

 

 

Review: Nobody

Don’t mess with ‘nobody’. He’s got skills – in a John Wick meets Taken sort of way. Nobody stars Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul,” The Post, Nebraska) as Hutch Mansell, a seemingly mundane, anti-confrontational dad stuck in a routine: go for a morning run, make breakfast for the family, punch a clock at work, eat dinner, make small talk with the wife and kids, go to bed. Repeat. Every day. No muss. No fuss. Living life under the radar…

Review: Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal

We’re all familiar with the celebrity-driven headlines: “Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman Busted for Paying Beaucoup Bucks to get their Kids into Prestige Colleges!” But they weren’t alone. Dozens of rich parents whose names you’ve never heard of were doing the same. All aided by a sleazebag named Rick Singer who built a lucrative career as an expert manipulator of a college admissions system all too eager to make exceptions and turn a blind eye – if the price was right. There’s plenty of blame and shame to go around.

Review: The Courier

This is another “based on true events” film. The story begins in 1960 as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev is threatening to bury the West. The CIA and MI6 are scrambling for ways to get some inside info on the Soviet nuclear program, and to that end they make the unlikely decision to recruit a British salesman, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch). He’s done business for some time in Eastern Europe so heading to Moscow wouldn’t be a red flag to Soviet intelligence. And he’s not expected to do anything except be a courier for leaked intel. Former Soviet military intelligence colonel, now trade minister Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) has already made contact. He has unfettered access to all the crucial intelligence, and he’s got a conscience. He may be a believer in the Soviet Socialist system, but he’s willing to work against it to stop the march towards what he sees as inevitable nuclear war. And together Oleg and Grenville save the world. Really.

Review: Dark Web: Cicada 3301

This cyber-comedy/thriller takes its premise from a very real internet mystery. According to Wikipedia: “Cicada 3301 is a nickname given to an organization that, on three occasions, has posted a set of puzzles to recruit codebreakers from the public … It has been called ‘the most elaborate and mysterious puzzle of the internet age’ and is listed as one of the ‘top 5 eeriest, unsolved mysteries of the internet.'”  Connor (Jack Kesy) is just a brilliant hacker working as a bartender when he stumbles into the Cicada mystery. With the aid of hot librarian and fellow hacker Gwen (Conor Leslie, “Titans”, “Man in the High Castle”) and his best friend and art expert Avi (Ron Funches, Trolls, “Black-ish”) he follows the clues, outruns the NSA who are also trying to get to Cicada, gets in more than a few tight spots, and finally gets an invite to Cicada’s exclusive party in London. Of course it isn’t everything he hoped. 

Quickie Review: YES DAY

Who can say no to a YES DAY? This movie is as simple as its premise, and that’s okay. It’s family-friendly entertainment that gives adults and kids alike pause – and cause – to ponder the boundaries of responsibility, and the joys of embracing a ‘can-do’ mindset. Within reason.