“SAS: Red Notice” stars Sam Heughan, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Noel Clarke, Owain Yeoman, Ray Panthaki, Anne Reid, and Tom Wilkinson. Released in the United Kingdom on March 12, 2021, the film has a Special Forces operator battling an army of mercenaries.
The film was directed by Magnus Martens, who also directed “United” and “Jackpot”. It is based on the novel of the same name by Andy McNab. I’m supposed to start this review off with something remarkable about this film, but unfortunately, I have no idea how. So let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? This weekend sees a lack of well-known big movies for me to check out, possibly due to the pandemic forcing studios to play musical chairs with their release date changes. To fill that void, I decided to take a look at a film that not a lot of people have noticed, especially me. This latest action thriller is an adaptation of one of the fictional novels written by Andy McNab, a former British Army infantry soldier. So there might be some authenticity within its world of Special Air Service. It made its debut in the United Kingdom last month by Sky Cinema, followed by a U.S. release this weekend. Luckily for me, my closest cinema was one of the very few theaters to get it. This was one of the perfect excuses for me to go check it out, with the other being the fact that I was in a mood for some thrills. With that said, let’s see if this mission is a success or a colossal failure.
The story centers on Tom Buckingham (Heughan), a Special Forces operator who is taking his girlfriend Dr. Sophie Hart (John-Kamen) to Paris via train to propose. What seems to be a smooth and relaxing trip through the Channel Tunnel immediately transitioned into a stressful and dangerous one. A team of heavily armed mercenaries, lead by Grace Lewis (Rose), infiltrate the train and hold its passengers hostage. They threaten to blow up the Channel Tunnel and expose the British government’s secrets if their ransom demands are not met. With no weapons at his disposal and no counter-terror team by his side, Tom will have to outsmart Grace and her team and rescue the passengers, including Sophie. There’s no denying that the plot has the same formula as the other thrillers that involve terrorists hijacking something. Think of it as an unofficial “Die Hard” film, but instead of Bruce Willis coming in to save the day, it’s Jamie Fraser from “Outlander”. I will admit that the film accomplished its mission in providing some thrills in its formulaic scenario, but sadly, it didn’t offer anything else beyond that. After getting off to a promising start, the film quickly derailed itself into mediocrity with a narrative that’s unnecessary overlong and surprisingly underwhelming. For a movie that’s as simple as cracking an egg, I don’t think it needed to be two hours long. I would be okay with it being an hour and 40 minutes, but two hours? Especially with a script that’s both subpar and a bit convoluted? That’s going to put a damper on those who wanted a fun and straightforward action thriller and nothing else. Even the characters themselves didn’t carry that much of an interest. The cast managed to do what they can with their performances, including Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose as Tom and Grace, respectively. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough to inject some depth into their uninspiring characters, especially the relationship between Tom and Sophie. Not even the great Andy Serkis can help save his character from being dull. Admittedly, I will give it some credit in delivering some suitably directed action sequences. None of them were highly memorable, of course, especially when taking the cheap-looking explosion near the third act into account. Still, they were thrilling enough to watch due to the editing and camerawork.
Overall, “SAS: Red Notice” has its share of thrills, as one would expect from a Special Forces-related action film. Sadly, its execution towards its by-the-numbers story makes this mission easily forgettable. It’s not the worst film I’ve seen as I thought the cast and the action were tolerable at best, but it’s also not a fun watch, either. With its formulaic plot, mediocre characters, and stretched-out runtime, the film failed to rescue its audience from the dangers of blandness. This is something that might’ve been more appropriate if it was released on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu instead of in theaters.
“Thunder Force” stars Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Jason Bateman, Bobby Cannavale, Pom Klementieff, Kevin Dunn, and Melissa Leo. Released on Netflix on April 9, 2021, the film has two best friends using their super abilities to save the world.
The film was written and directed by Ben Falcone, who also directed “Tammy”, “The Boss”, “Life of the Party”, and “Superintelligence”. Superheroes have been the pure dominant draw in film since the early 2000s, whether they’re from Marvel or DC. This weekend sees two new superheroes that are neither from those two popular brands. They’re pretty super, but the “hero” part still needs work. It didn’t take us long for Ben Falcone and his wife Melissa McCarthy to reunite once again to either make us laugh or bore us to tears. For their latest collaboration together, they’re taking on the concept of, you guessed it, superheroes. While I was curious to see McCarthy become a superhero, I was also cautious about the film giving Falcone’s track record as a filmmaker. His last film, “Superintelligence”, was a massive disappointment in my eyes in terms of its execution and story, and I feel that he might repeat his mistake with this one if he’s not careful. I guess the only way to know for sure is to watch the sparks fly for myself.
The story is set in an alternate reality where criminals with superpowers known as the Miscreants rule over the city. Luckily, one person has the solution that’ll help combat these dangerous threats. Enter Emily Stanton (Spencer), a scientist who created a serum that can give regular people incredible abilities. When her estranged childhood friend Lydia Berman (McCarthy) accidentally gave herself the serum, she and Emily will have to use their given powers to protect the city from the ruthless supervillain, The King (Cannavale). An unsurprisingly fitting plot for a superhero origin film, don’t you agree? This is another movie that combines two of my favorite genres: superhero action and comedy. I always find it fitting to see superheroes save the day and deliver some chuckles along the way. With the proper execution (and an appropriate budget), this could be another grand slam for McCarthy fans and people who want to watch powerful characters beat each other up. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. “Thunder Force” had a bunch of talented actors and plenty of super-powered potential under its utility belt, but it never got the chance to put them to good use. Admittedly, it seemed like the actors were having some fun working on this. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for me. Similar to what happened with “Superintelligence”, Ben Falcone took a promising concept and covered it with a script that’s painfully generic and characters that tried way too hard to be humorous and likable. His direction on the action sequences was okay for the most part, but everything else was lazily tame. I guess they should’ve called it “Blunder Force” instead because of how many blunders this film carried. If you enjoyed McCarthy’s brand of humor in her other films, which is physical comedy and awkward dialogue, chances are you might not be disappointed with her latest outing. I thought she did all right in her role as Lydia, even though her humor bits were pretty forgettable. It’s one of those cases where the script didn’t have enough clever material for a comedian to work with and just gave them some random junk to say or do and see what sticks. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t always work. As much as I appreciate Octavia Spencer in her other films, I felt that this wasn’t suitable for her. Out of all of the performances I’ve seen from her so far, I hate to say that her role as Emily was the weakest, in my opinion. She did what she could to carry the film, and I respect her for that, but the way she delivered some of her dialogue just sounded a bit wooden to me. Jason Bateman and Bobby Cannavale were also okay with their performances as The Crab and The King, respectively. But again, Falcone’s screenplay failed to give them enough good material to work with. The biggest upset that forced the film to hang up its cape so soon was the humor. Five movies in and Falcone still hasn’t cracked that comedy aspect yet. I think that may be his superpower. He can suck the laughs out of every film he touches. A couple of scenes almost got me to chuckle a bit, and that’s about it. Not only did the jokes rely way too much on the physical slapstick and corny dialogue to get some laughs, but it also failed to take full advantage of its concept. “Shazam” nailed the humor perfectly by poking fun at the superhero tropes and injecting some intelligence and charm into those jokes. Here, it’s just, “Oh, look at McCarthy falling in love with a criminal with crab arms. Isn’t that funny?” Short answer: I don’t think so, and I’m pretty sure almost everyone else will feel the same way.
Overall, “Thunder Force” is neither super nor heroic enough to stand alongside the likes of The Avengers or the Justice League. I honestly didn’t think that Ben Falcone could go that much lower than “Superintelligence”, but here we are. This is a mediocre imitation of every superhero film we’ve seen before that lacks three crucial qualities: comedy, wit, and, more importantly, fun. Despite a few okay moments here and there, its cliched screenplay, subpar cast, dull jokes, and Falcone’s poor sense of direction are the big pieces of kryptonite that quickly sent the film down to Earth faster than the Man of Steel himself. Now I’m not going to be the type of person who talks about how bad of a filmmaker Ben Falcone is because I’m better than that. However, I would say that he should go back to directing regular comedies and leave these types of films to someone who understands them better. If you like McCarthy and Spencer in their other films, this film may or may not be suitable to your liking. You’re better off waiting for “Black Widow” instead.
"Godzilla vs. Kong" stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, and Demián Bichir. Released on March 31, 2021, the film has humanity getting caught in an epic showdown between Godzilla and King Kong.
The film is directed by Adam Wingard, who also directed films such as "A Horrible Way to Die", "You're Next", "The Guest", and "Blair Witch". It is the fourth film in the MonsterVerse. We've seen the Man of Steel take on the Dark Knight. We've witnessed the super-soldier battle the egotistical iron man. Heck, we even experienced a confrontation between an unstoppable murderer with a hockey mask and the king of nightmares. Now, it's time for a different kind of showdown. This time, it's the giant lizard with an atomic breath versus the big ape from Skull Island. We've been waiting for this pivotal moment ever since we saw the cave painting from "Godzilla: King of the Monsters", and after experiencing a couple of delays in its release schedule, it has finally arrived to refuel our kaiju pleasures. Let's hope that the wait is worth it. This wasn't the first time that these two humongous icons shared the same screen. In 1962, the world was introduced to "King Kong vs. Godzilla", which saw Godzilla go toe-to-toe against the "Eighth Wonder of the World". Sure, it looked pretty cheesy in terms of the quality and visuals, but it was seen as one of the most incredible things that audiences have ever experienced back then. Two monsters from two other classics battling one another for supremacy. What more could you ask for? Many years later, Hollywood is now reviving this riveting battle for modern audiences as part of its ongoing MonsterVerse that started with the 2014 "Godzilla" reboot. Was it epic enough to get audiences back into theaters? Let's find out. Better get your nostalgic pants, people. This is going to be a wild ride.
The film focuses on two groups of humans: one that protects King Kong and the other that sides with Godzilla. "Team Kong" consists of geologist Nathan Lind (Skarsgård), anthropological linguist Ilene Andrews (Hall), and her adoptive daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who forms a special bond with the ape. "Team Godzilla" consists of Madison Russell (Brown), conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Henry), and Madison's friend Josh Valentine (Dennison). As Kong's protectors journey to find him a new home, they ran into a peeved-off Godzilla who, for some reason, decides to destroy everything in his path instead of protecting them. Madison, along with Bernie and Josh, goes on a cross-country journey to investigate Godzilla's mysterious behavior. As the two titans clash with one another in a "last monster standing" match of the century, the humans discover a much bigger threat that could spark the end of humankind. There are two major things that the films in the MonsterVerse have in common. They have giant monster fights and plenty of human interactions that happen in-between. While these films succeed in delivering the epic monster beat-em-ups and lots of destruction, they usually forget to allow stronger storytelling and fully developed characters to coexist with their visual flair. This was the case for 2019's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters", which I found to be the weakest in the franchise despite its enjoyable moments. "Godzilla vs. Kong" appears to be no exception as it replaced narrative depth with blockbuster-level action. Whether it's a painfully obvious flaw or not will depend on your expectations towards it. If you don't care that much about the story and want to watch a giant lizard battle a 4,000-pound ape, chances are you'll easily have a blast with it, whether you're watching it at home via HBO Max or in a theater with the biggest screen possible. If you're hoping for a plot that's as emotional as the one in "Captain America: Civil War", however, you might as well give up after the first act. This is a simple and sometimes far-fetched kaiju film with the human characters doing stuff to help their favorite monsters. No more, no less. I thought it was a solid improvement over "King of the Monsters" regarding the action and some of its story elements. But it still has some issues that carried over from the previous installments. As I mentioned before, the film placed its focus on two groups of people instead of one. So you get two different stories for the price of one. Out of those two groups, I happened to have a soft spot for the one that protects Kong. While I didn't mind watching the Godzilla group in terms of the cast, I felt that the film's screenwriters, Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, managed to put a bit more effort into some of the heartfelt moments for the Kong group. Particularly the bond between Jia and Kong. The execution towards this direction was far from perfect, but it did give me a good reason to root for the ape's survival. Team Godzilla was only there to uncover a conspiracy, and that's basically it. The only element that helped make those elements entertaining was the performances. Millie Bobby Brown once again delivered a respectable performance as Madison, who is more confident and courageous than ever, and Julian Dennison was a fine addition as Josh. I also want to point out that Brian Tyree Henry was surprisingly one of the film's best parts. I wasn't expecting him to have plenty of comedic moments under his belt. Still, his performance as Bernie managed to impress me by providing a good mixture of humor and drama without being a dreaded nuisance. Skarsgård and Hall were also solid in their roles as Nathan Lind and Ilene Andrews, respectively. As for Bichir as Walter Simmons, his performance was fine, but his character was weak. But what about the action sequences, you may ask? The main attractions in every MonsterVerse installment in existence? To no one's surprise, they were nicely choreographed and immensely riveting. In other words, they were awesome! They might be the best monster sequences ever to be put on the big screen. Combined with its visual eye candy, lighter tone, and Wingard's direction, the action was just as energetic and destructive as any kaiju fan would expect it to be. Instead of all of the fight scenes only taking place at night like "Godzilla" and its follow-up, "Godzilla vs. Kong" has a couple of fight scenes that take place during the day. This resulted in the scenes being a bit easier to see what's happening on screen. The Hong Kong fight between the two titans was the only sequence that occurs at night, but the lighting helped make this intense showdown clearer to follow. I would also give the filmmakers credit for making Godzilla and Kong evenly matched despite their appearances. The other flaw I had with the film, aside from its story and characters, was its third act. Without giving too much away, I felt that the finale was predictable and a bit too safe narrative-wise. Admittedly, it was a cool sequence to watch and would cater to anyone who grew up watching the classic "Godzilla" films. When taking the story into consideration, it did feel like an obvious cop-out, in my opinion.
Overall, "Godzilla vs. Kong" is a matchup that's true to its word without being anything more, for better or worse. It's epic, it's visually breathtaking, and it's a lot of fun. The human aspect is still the thorn that irritates the franchise's back, but the action aspect remains a huge draw that never disappoints. With its entertaining cast, Wingard's direction, superb visuals, and fantastic action sequences, the film marks another solid chapter in the flawed yet highly entertaining MonsterVerse. It intends to be a mindless popcorn flick and nothing else, which may not impress everyone but will cater to those who need one. As of right now, there seem to be no plans from Hollywood to continue the franchise after "Godzilla vs. Kong". If the MonsterVerse does happen to continue, then I wouldn't mind going along with it as long as it keeps using the formula that worked in the previous installments. If not, that's also fine. This franchise has come a long way since 2014's "Godzilla", and I'm glad to see that it's still going strong despite its shortcomings. Now when are we getting a Godzilla/Pacific Rim crossover?
"Nobody" stars Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd, RZA, and Aleksey Serebryakov. Released on March 26, 2021, the film is about a husband who must defend his family from a vengeful drug lord.
The film was directed by Ilya Naishuller, who is known for directing the 2015 film "Hardcore Henry". He may look like an ordinary family man on the outside, but on the inside, he's a ruthless killer filled with rage. After impressing a ton of fans as lawyer Saul Goodman in "Breaking Bad" and its spin-off "Better Call Saul", Bob Odenkirk is now taking on the challenge of being an action star. This latest action film comes from musician/director Ilya Naishuller, the founder of the Russian indie rock band Biting Elbows. He made his directorial debut with the first-person action thriller "Hardcore Henry" six years ago, which I thought was surprisingly entertaining. His next film sees him moving away from his experimental filmmaking to directing a modern action film that's somehow replicating the "John Wick" films in terms of style and tone. I should know because one of the film's producers is the stuntman who directed "John Wick" with Chad Stahelski, David Leitch. Whenever I see Leitch's name in the credits, I know that I will be in for a treat. I mean, look at the other films he directed and try to prove me wrong. This guy knows how to make the action vastly entertaining in his filmography. Based on the trailers, this film appears to be no exception, but does it provide more than just a series of stylistic R-rated violence? Let's find out.
The story follows Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk), a mild-mannered family man who's spending his ordinary days with his family, which consists of his wife Becca (Nielsen) and their two children Blake (Gage Munroe) and Sammy (Paisley Cadorath). One night their home was invaded by two thieves. Instead of defending himself and his family, Hutch decided not to intervene to avoid any complications, resulting in his family drifting away from him, including Blake. His guilt towards his actions reawakens the dark secrets of his past and his suppressed set of skills. He used his skills to save a stranger from a group of punks, which grabbed the attention of a Russian drug lord named Yulian Kuznetsov (Serebryakov). With his family in danger yet again, Hutch must do what he should have done in the first place: protect the ones he loves and beat the living crud out of the bad guys. This is basically what "John Wick" would've looked like if the character has a family and a few imperfect skills under his belt…and doesn't have a dog for the vile people to kill. So dog lovers, feel free to sigh in relief. It's unsurprisingly easy to tell that the film has many similar cliches from the other action movies that came before it. It's just a simple and visually stunning beat-em-up thriller with plenty of bloody violence that'll make you either wince or smile with delight. In cases like this, that's all I could ask for. Instead of being a "John Wick" rip-off, it wound up being a "John Wick" inspiration that combines its fun R-rated action with a story that's as caring as the main character. Naishuller has proven himself to be a respectable director in terms of the action genre as he managed to make every action scene as stylish and focused as possible. The editing was suitable enough to capture the explicit violence, and the action choreography had a satisfying mixture of realism and absurdity. Those sequences are best described as valuable rewards for those who are patient enough to watch through the first act. The drama scenes were also respectable enough to make me feel invested in the characters, especially Hutch, who is determined to protect his family. As I mentioned before, Bob Odenkirk steps into new territory in the form of an action star as he portrays Hutch as an ordinary husband with a secret past. To its credit, the film did a decent job at balancing this character's personality. You can tell that even though Hutch is still the type of guy that'll beat someone to a pulp, he also has a sense of vulnerability and rustiness in his fighting skills. This type of personality usually helps in making the action scenes look a bit more realistic and intense. As for Odenkirk's performance, he was a joy to watch. Not only did he provide a proper balance between humor and seriousness into his role, but he also managed to prove that he's capable enough to stand alongside other famous action stars like Jason Statham and even Liam Neeson. RZA and Christopher Lloyd were also solid in their roles as Harry Mansell, Hutch's half-brother, and Hutch's father David, respectively. I honestly wasn't expecting Lloyd's character to do that much throughout the film, but surprisingly, it was able to prove me wrong. It would've been even nicer if the film explored the family dynamic between Hutch, Harry, and David a bit more. Maybe they'll do that in a possible sequel? There's nothing unique about the antagonist Yulian, but Aleksei Serebryakov did seem to have a good time portraying the character.
Overall, in terms of its concept, "Nobody" seemed to be a "John Wick" knockoff on paper. On screen, however, it's a well-directed and entertaining thriller that used the "John Wick" formula to give it a new coat of paint instead of copying and pasting it. It's far from original when it comes to its story, but there's no denying the fact that I had a fun time watching the action unfold. The cast was good in their roles, Ilya Naishuller's filmmaking style was quite impressive, and the action scenes were both bloody and enjoyable. Based on my experience, It's evident that both Naishuller and David Leitch will have a healthy future in the movie business, especially for the action genre. Maybe down the road, they could do a crossover with this film and "John Wick"? It sounds unlikely now, but I will pay money to see it in a heartbeat if it actually happens.
"Bad Trip" stars Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish, and Michaela Conlin. Released on Netflix on March 26, 2021, the film has two friends going on a road trip to New York City.
The film was directed by Kitao Sakurai, who is mainly known for producing several episodes of "The Eric Andre Show". Road trips can be fun and all, but they can also be quite rough when things don't go as planned. According to one of the laws in road trip films, anything that can go wrong during these trips will go wrong. Unsurprisingly, this film is no exception. This was another film from 2020 that was pulled from the schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that was the least of its problems. The film was accidentally released digitally on Amazon Prime Video for a while until it was removed. Of course, someone had to download the movie and leaked it onto the internet as soon as it was available. Curse those online pirates. Fortunately, the film was able to find new life when its original distributor, Orion Pictures, sold the distribution rights to Netflix. So I guess you can say that its trip to its release was far from bad. Now that it's here for us to watch at home, is this trip fun enough for its viewers to add to their watch list?
The film centers on two best friends, Chris Carey (Andre) and Bud Malone (Howery). After discovering Chris's high school crush Maria (Conlin), they decided to take a road trip to New York so Chris can declare his love for her. They get caught up in some unusual predicaments during their journey while being chased by Bud's criminal sister Trina (Haddish) due to them stealing her car for the trip. The story combines the stunts and pranks performed by the actors with a loose narrative, a similar structure used for other hidden camera films like "Borat" and "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa". So if you enjoy watching people hurt or embarrass themselves in front of a bunch of unsuspecting people, "Bad Trip" is the film for you. However, if you're expecting it to have an award-worthy story about friendship to go along with Eric Andre's distasteful gags, you might want to look elsewhere. The narrative was unsurprisingly generic as it was just two guys going from point A to point B and pulling off some ridiculous pranks along the way. There were also a couple of moments that lacked a proper balance between seriousness and silliness. Those were a bit hard for me to take seriously when most of them were just pranks. I also had a minor issue with the film's sound mixing, which was inconsistent at times. I could hear the main cast just fine, but not the actual people. The film does have subtitles so that the viewers can understand what the reactors are saying, but they're not always reliable. Despite its flaws, the film delivered what the concept suggested: a road trip filled with real pranks, real people, and real hilarity. Not only was it highly hilarious from start to finish, but it also had a suitable amount of charm in its cast. Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery were both very entertaining as Chris and Bud, respectively, when it comes to their chemistry. I've only seen Andre in supporting roles, so I guess this film was my first experience seeing him in the leading role. Based on what I saw, I believe he has what it takes to star in more roles like this in the future. I also have to give major props to Tiffany Haddish for going all out as Trina. That woman knows how to make these types of characters both energetic and aggressive. As for the pranks themselves, they're what you expect in terms of the film's R rating: shocking, dirty, offensive, and highly amusing. What made the humor in these pranks work for me was the shock value, particularly from the people witnessing them. It's those situations that you never expect to happen in real life but wound up happening anyway. It's those situations that I couldn't help but laugh at because of how idiotic and messed up they were, which is all thanks to its likable cast and Kitao Sakurai's direction.
Overall, with all of the crazy shenanigans that it carried in its trunk, "Bad Trip" is anything but bad. It's a raunchy and hilarious road trip that overshadows its flawed story with Eric Andre's brand of humor. With its entertaining cast, Sakurai's direction, and its well-executed comedy, the film is a suitable addition to the hidden camera prank library and a good experience for people to take their minds off of the harshness of reality. Trust me. You might need it if you're having a rough day. For those who enjoy prank shows and movies, this is one trip that they will not mind taking.