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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”.

Snowden

Unless you never watch the news or have been hiding under a rock for several years, you’ve probably heard of Edward Snowden. A gripping documentary called Citizen Four was made about him in 2013 and won the 2015 Oscar. Here’s what I said about that film:

In January of 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras began receiving emails from a mysterious person who only identified himself as “citizenfour” and who had information about US government surveillance on a scale unheard of in history. A few months later, after a number of encrypted email exchanges, Poitras headed to Hong Kong along with journalist Glenn Greenwald to meet the sender. The rest is history. Waiting for them in a hotel room was Edward Snowden who would hand them evidence of massive citizen surveillance and data mining by the NSA and other government agencies, and would expose our global cyber-spy program.

Oliver Stone’s new movie Snowden begins in that hotel with Poitras (Melissa Leo) and Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and flashes back to Snowden’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tortured path to this clandestine meeting. The film succeeds in telling its story without becoming a typical Oliver Stone polemic. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Big Short

I’m behind on my Oscar nominees viewing, but I finally caught this one. I’d expected it to be more like Margin Call, but thankfully, though its subject matter is kind of similar, it is by turns funny and horrifying. Adapted from Michael Lewis’s non-fiction bestseller “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” it tells the story of how a small group of money men saw what was happening in the housing market in 2005 and set about shorting the market and making a killing. Along the way, they tried to wake banking regulators and the wider market to their realization that it was all about to go bust, but were totally ignored by those who were making money hand over fist on bad loans. It is a morality tale, very well told.

Prisoners

This one’s tough. The performances are excellent, but I kind of wanted my two-and-a-half hours back. Prisoners is intense and plodding and psychologically taxing, and every parent’s worst nightmare. Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a desperate father who decides to take matters into his own hands when his young daughter and a neighborhood friend go missing. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead detective whose entire life revolves around his job.

Oblivion

Tom Cruise plays quintessential Tom Cruise (aka a heroic guy named Jack) in this epic post-Armageddon sci-fi fantasy flick about a drone repairman who goes rogue in an effort to save humankind. You go, Jack! There’s more to the plot, of course, but good luck trying to figure it out. Perhaps it should have been called “Oblivious”. The movie is a bit like Top Gun meets Independence Day – set in the future. Cruise plays a pilot, and aliens are out to destroy the Earth. Oblivion is quite loud, with an overabundance of musical crescendos. But it’s also visually impressive, with lots of sweeping vistas of raw devastation and pristine beauty. Put it all together and you’ve got an engaging yet perplexing movie.

Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus has Fallen is the movie that the producers of 24 probably wanted to make, eventually, and that a Die Hard 6 may aspire to be, someday. But Jack Bauer and John McClane may want to pack up and go home, ‘cause there’s a new anti-terrorism badass in town. And his name is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). Olympus Has Fallen is a superficial but satisfying thriller that I really liked when I wasn’t averting my eyes. So, I guess that means I really liked about two-thirds of the movie. Or maybe it was one-third. I’m not really sure. Seriously, I haven’t looked away from a screen so much – and for so long – since the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. The carnage is that intense. But strip away the mass amount of destruction, bodies, bullets, bombs and bloodshed, and you’ve got a good ol’ fashioned entertaining action flick. Maybe even a good date movie! Yup, here’s why:

The Fighter

Every once in a while a movie comes along that has a little something for everyone. I think The Fighter is one of those movies. In fact, I think it may be my favorite movie of the year. It’s the total package: A really good story (based on a true one), a powerful mix of drama, romance, humor and heart, and stellar performances across the board. You don’t have to be a boxing fan to step into the ring for this one. It’s a chick flick wrapped in a sports drama.