Thunder Force (2021)

Let’s face it, there was always a chance this was going to be awful (and the fact I’m using that as an opening line is an indication as to my feelings about this film), I mean, let’s look at the evidence:

  • Direct to netflix
  • No marketing
  • Nobody is talking about it
  • Melissa McCarthy.

Now I don’t hate McCarthy, I just heavily dislike a lot of her characters. I think that’s the most frustrating thing about her. She can be really good, but then there are times where it seems like she’s phoning it in and attempting to go as broad as possible, and when she’s doing that it’s normally not a good thing to watch. The things is, I can’t tell whether that’s entirely down to her, or just the characters. Is there a way to make some of her worse characters likeable in any way? Is it her performances damning the characters, or is it the characters damning the performance? Until somebody does a shot-for-shot remake of one of her films, replacing only her, we will never know.

For this? I feel it’s the writing that lets her down. Someone can only do so much with the material they’re given. You can’t give someone rancid vegetables and then expect them to be able to make a great dinner out of them. And this film is almost entirely composed of a soggy lettuce of a script, mouldy tomatoes of dialogue, and bitter salad dressing of effort. And this all combines to the worst salad you have ever eaten. I may have lost the metaphor a bit. The croutons of concept was pretty good though.

A big problem with this film is how immediately dated it feels. It came out this year and yet feels like a relic from the 90s. This is seen in not just the way it treats superheroes, but also some of the humour. Some of the jokes are basically the main character bullying someone, but it’s okay as they’re socially awkward. That really doesn’t work with this kind of character. You can’t do a “main character makes fun of this socially awkward person” and then have her be the standard bad McCarthy character who ignores social cues. You don’t get to deliver the lines “beam me up scotty beep boop bop” and “i speaken ze english” then make fun of what others say. It just makes the character seem like a hypocritic asshole.

Now back to how it treats superheroes. It doesn’t feel like this film has realised that they’ve moved on since the Bat-toys and Robin Nuggets Happy Meal days of the 90’s. Comic books have always had mature themes, dating back to the horror comics that were essential in establishing them as a form of media, all the way through to Watchmen, and even modern classics like Clean Room (maybe not considered a classic by most people, but it really fucking should be). Even the traditional comics have had storylines with mature themes. But despite that, the general consensus of them was “people in brightly coloured tights being silly” because that’s what was presented in mainstream depictions and how it was defined in other media. But with the Dark Knight Trilogy, Logan, and the MCU, everybody knows that comic books have moved beyond that now. Very few people view superheroes in the same way as they did in the past. In fact I’d argue it’s the opposite, and if a comic book movie DOESN’T deal with genocide, existential angst, and other mature themes, then people deride it.

You may have noticed I haven’t technically talked about the film that much in this review (in fact, you could be forgiven for forgetting this was a review at all, and not just the random ramblings of someone who takes this kind of shit far too seriously), but if the film was better, I’d talk about it. This film is nothing, it’s a bowl of unflavoured tofu, but with food colouring to make you think it’s more than it is. There’s something I think was supposed to be a twist, but was so obvious to anybody who has ever seen a movie. The visuals are nothing to write home about and the film makes some, let’s call them questionable choices in regards to music. Most notably, choosing just after what was supposed to be an emotional scene, to play AC/DC, so even if you were emotionally effected by it, it lasted no more than 2 seconds.

Really I can only recommend this film for the performances of Taylor Mosby and Jason Bateman. Even Octavia Spencer doesn’t shine in this movie, that’s how weak the script is.

Game Night (2018)

I saw this as the final film in a 3-film binge at the cinema which also included I, Tonya and The Shape Of Water. So it was a weird contrast, started with two films which have pretty much swept all the awards this season, and then ended with one that definitely didn’t. So it came as a surprise that I was really impressed with a lot in this. Visually it did more than I expected it to. A lot of the establishing shots were set up and lit so that the houses looked more like toy models on a board game. It’s a great visual trick and one that wasn’t actually needed, which makes me appreciate it even more. They could have just done them normally, but the fact they did, was cute and added to the film. This film is actually a lot better in a cinematic sense than you expect, not just with the aforementioned establishing shots, but also the action scenes. They’re not quickly done, the action lingers on and is really well constructed. Shout out has to go a scene involving the characters playing keep-away with a Faberge egg. A seemingly one-shot scene that tracks all the way through a house and involves all the characters at different locations in the house. A remarkable achievement and one that will surely land in my “best scenes of the year” come years end.

So onto the rest of the film. This wasn’t the best film I’ve seen, but it was very very good. Was funny, had more twists than a pretzel, and the performances did what they needed to. It’s basically the cinematic equivalent of a burger, it won’t change your life, and you won’t rush out to consume it again, but it is incredibly enjoyable whilst it lasts, and you will have fond memories of it.

Back to the performances; Billy Magnussen, in particular, was impressive. From what I saw in the trailers, and from his opening scene, I assumed his performance would be “Poundland Alan Tudyk”, but it was a great performance. So more like the Pepsi to Tudyk’s Coca-Cola, not quite the same but enough similarities where you like it anyway. His character is basically a smart idiot, which is always a great character for comedy. Actually, the entire thing is full of well-developed characters. 10 characters are given extensive screen time, they all have their own personalities and quirks. Whilst the film itself doesn’t really lend itself to a sequel, the characters do.

I feel special mention has to go to Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. Not only for their performances on their own but also their on-screen chemistry. They make an easily believable onscreen couple, which makes it easier to root for them. Also, thank God this film doesn’t go with the traditional “couple fights after a misunderstanding” sub-plot. No matter what goes on in the film they’re a tight couple, it’s actually genuinely heartwarming and sweet to see such an idyllic vision of love and relationships in modern cinema. The montage where we see their relationship develop and grow is a brilliant piece of relationship-building, very good, very funny, and incredibly sweet.

So, in summary. I’d highly recommend this film, a welcome piece of comedy to watch during the overly serious Oscar season. A fun caper that you can lose yourself in briefly. Buy on DVD if you see it in a 2 for 1 deal.