Thunder Force: Good Idea, Terrible Execution – Netflix Review

This movie has some amazing parts, but mostly mediocrity.

SUMMARY

In 1983, a mysterious beam from outer space gave superpowers to random people, but only those who were genetically predisposed to sociopathy. These people are dubbed Miscreants. In the present, Lydia Berman (Melissa McCarthy) is the former best friend of billionaire geneticist Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer). When meeting with Emily for their high-school reunion, Lydia accidentally gets injected with Emily’s newest creation, a serum that can give normal people super strength. Emily, meanwhile, has given herself invisibility. Together with their advisor Allie (Melissa Leo) and Emily’s daughter Tracy (Taylor Mosby), the two become the superhero duo Thunder Force. They’re out to fight against the forces of the Miscreants Crab (Jason Bateman) and Laser (Pom Klementieff), led by their boss The King (Bobby Cannavale). 

Surprisingly little is made of the fact that Octavia Spencer is a supergenius.

END SUMMARY

So, this marks the fifth movie in which Melissa McCarthy has been directed by her husband Ben Falcone. Almost all of those movies have been mediocre and relied too much on awkward humor, strange metaphor breaks, and hoping that McCarthy’s unbelievable charisma can power through the low periods (to her credit, she almost can). Unfortunately, the movies, while they often contain a number of very funny scenes, usually don’t seem to hold up when viewed as a whole. This is no exception to that. About 20 minutes of this movie is fall-down-laughing funny. The rest of it ranges from mildly amusing to a complete whiff. 

There’s a running gag about unwashed suits and it sucks.

The best parts of this movie, hands down, are the scenes with Jason Bateman. It’s not even because of Bateman himself as much as how well he and Melissa McCarthy play off of each other. They’re both doing the same kind of subdued awkward humor, really almost anti-humor, and they both do it so well that it becomes absolutely hilarious. The fact that one is a superhero and one is a supervillain only makes it that much better. Some other good scenes are when McCarthy and Spencer are really just being themselves and palling around as opposed to trying to be superheroes. The scenes of Melissa McCarthy fighting are actually pretty great, because they make her a physical powerhouse despite her not looking like a traditional superheroine (a thing that is already ridiculous because superpowers don’t require you to actually be ripped to be strong).

He’s half-crab, which makes him lethal to people with shellfish allergies.

The pacing in the film is not great, but the forced stupidity of the characters is probably its greatest weakness. The film exaggerates and drags out the “training” and origin story phases, but doesn’t do anything particularly original or entertaining with them, beyond a few small laughs. The villain is brought in and proceeds to be the absolute dumbest human being imaginable and somehow the heroes take almost no reasonable steps to stop him. Despite apparently being a secret mastermind at first (which would make his villainy a twist if the trailer didn’t feature it), The King actually walks in and tells the heroes his plan. AFTER THEY FOIL A SINGLE ROBBERY OF A MINI-MART. They don’t even have a reason to suspect that there IS a boss of supervillains. He then states that no one would believe them if they tried to go to the police. Except, they’re superheroes that don’t wear masks, make public appearances, and Emily is a billionaire and a public figure already. They have a LOT of credibility. Even if the police didn’t believe them, they should still have reported him and they could easily have just testified to the public that The King is a criminal. Instead, both sides just keep tossing the idiot ball back and forth so that the plot doesn’t get resolved until the end.

Also, Thunder Force is terrible at arresting people.

Overall, it’s almost worth watching for the 20 minutes of amazing comedy, but the rest of the film is hard to get through at points. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Ozark (Seasons 1-3): The Best-Acted Crime Drama on Television

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star as a couple who are forced to work for a drug cartel.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free for Season 3)

Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) is a financial advisor who has been laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. His partner Bruce (Josh Randall) is caught skimming millions of dollars. Facing his own execution, Marty tells the cartel that he has a plan to launder millions of dollars in the Ozarks. The cartel gives him a short time to replace all of the money that Bruce stole, so Marty moves with his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and his children Charlotte and Jonah (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner) to the Ozarks and sets up buying properties to launder money. He hires local criminal family member Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), is pursued by FBI agents Petty and Evans (Jason Butler Harner and McKinley Belcher III), and tries to work with local drug growers Jacob and Darlene Snell (Peter Mullan and Lisa Emery). Eventually Marty and Wendy set up a casino in the Ozarks to increase the amount they can launder.

Ozark - 1Byrdes
That feeling when you have to launder money in the middle of nowhere or die.

END SUMMARY

I should start by saying that I was almost certainly going to like any show that included both Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in the cast. I think that they are both unbelievably good dramatic performers who also can deliver killer laughs when the occasion calls for it. Putting them together in a dark crime drama allows for a wide range of performances, including playing very strongly into Bateman’s deadpan comedy moments that he did so well on Arrested Development

Ozark - 2Byrdes
He’s a much better father on this than Arrested Development

However, even though they are both amazing, the supporting cast in this show really brings it to another level. Julia Garner’s performance as the abused outcast of her redneck crime family is phenomenal, as is Janet McTeer’s performance as Helen Pierce, the cartel’s ruthless attorney who shows up in Season 2. Everyone has very well defined motives and watching all of them interact never ceases to create amazing scenes. 

Ozark - 3Julia
She’s just the right level of redneck. 

The writing and pacing of the show are both amazing. The show frequently escalates the stakes and changes the status of the characters, but it always feels appropriate and organic. Similar to Breaking Bad, we see the members of the Byrde family forced to take greater and greater measures to protect themselves from the cartel and the FBI, but we also see that they start to enjoy aspects of the dangerous lifestyle. 

If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend it strongly.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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45) Development Arrested (Arrested Development)

Arrested Development, the story of a family going through trying times, is the comedian’s comedy. Jokes come at you at every angle. Some are sight gags, some are puns, some are jokes on pop culture, some are jokes on absurdly obscure references, some are all of them at once. Often, a punchline won’t be delivered to a joke for several episodes. This is why the show did terribly when it was on television, honestly. It takes at least 3 viewings per episode to get even the majority of the jokes. Sometimes you will overhear a fact or piece of pop-culture trivia in real life, and suddenly get a joke on Arrested Development. Fox never understood this. Netflix did, and let us all be glad Netflix paid to continue the show and hope they allow for the other scripted movie and additional season the team is looking for.

ArrestedDevelopment-1Hand
This is a huge handful of foreshadowing. 

SUMMARY

“Development Arrested” was the original finale of Arrested Development. In the episode before that, most of the plotlines in the show had been wrapped up, allowing the Bluth family to go back to normal-ish. Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), the main character (of the first 3 seasons), has finally gotten the charges against his father dismissed, and the family business is starting to turn around (Jim Cramer moves it from “Don’t Buy” to “Risky”). If this was a normal show, we might have just seen a wrap-up and a send-off (the show even teases it by having the episode start in a mirror of the scene at the start of the series), but Arrested Development refused to go out like that. After all, they had some jokes they’d set up in Season 1 that still had punchlines waiting to drop.

ArrestedDevelopment-2Banner.png
First episode to last episode, the Banner gags continued.

At the beginning of the series, the SEC showed up on their boats (yes, they have boats) to arrest George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor), the Bluth patriarch, on charges of both embezzlement and treason. As it turns out, George’s charges were largely fraudulent, as he had been working for the U.S. government to spy on Saddam Hussein (who we didn’t actually catch, just his impersonator). However, the embezzlement charges had some merit… it just happens that they picked the wrong Bluth. It turns out that Lucille (Jessica Walter), George’s wife, and the mother of the family, was the one actually behind most of the shady business deals. She is ratted out by her adopted Korean son Annyong (Hello in Korean)(Justin Lee) who reveals his true name as Hal-loh (get it?). He had been a mole on the Bluth family for his entire run on the show, in order to get revenge on behalf of his Grandfather, whom Lucille had ruined by deporting to Korea. Believe me when I say, all of these twists were hinted at a full season, or more, in advance. The show ends with Michael running away from his family, Lucille stealing the ship The Queen Mary, powered by male strippers, and running from the SEC. The epilogue shows the series being pitched to Ron Howard (the narrator of the series), who suggests they make a movie out of it.

ArrestedDevelopment-3Shirt.png
He’s a mole, and his shirt has a mole on it, and he has a mole on his cheek, and you get it.

END SUMMARY

It was a sad ending, because the show really hadn’t dropped at all in quality, it just wasn’t meant for television (especially with Fox’s complete lack of faith in shows that take time to build an audience *cough* Firefly, Family Guy, John Doe, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, Futurama *cough*).  Hopefully Netflix will allow it to keep going now that they’ve revived it, because the last season, while not having any particularly mind-blowing episodes, was the epitome of what Arrested Development was about – A show that requires an investment, but has a huge humor ROI.

PREVIOUS – 46: South Park

NEXT – 44: The X-Files

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.