Thunder Force (2021, dir. Ben Falcone)

Mismatched former best friends become superheroes after a laboratory mishap. Perhaps the most perfunctorily-plotted movie in recent history. McCarthy reprises her brash/embarrassed working class schtick, and there’s a few decent song-based jokes. A strong cast helps: Jason Bateman’s enjoying himself.

Here’s the trailer.

Echo Boomers (2020, dir. Seth Savoy)

A young man is recruited by this Chicago-based cousin for a series of art heists. Okay though too-slick-for-its-own-good thievery thriller, enlivened by a Michael Shannon supporting role and by some confidence in its execution, despite a lack of actual story.

Here’s the trailer.

The Sting (1973, dir. George Roy Hill)

A street-con artist teams with a veteran conman to get revenge for a murdered mentor. Splendid Depression-era heist comedy, with just enough darkness to give it some grit amidst the sparkle of a smart twisty script and enjoyable performances. Lots to recommend it, not least a terrific score.

Backdraft 2 (2019, dir. Gonzalo López-Gallego)

A Chicago arson investigator tracks down the causes of a series of fires intending to cover a larger crime. While the reveal doesn’t quite work, this is mostly a superior DTV sequel which improves on the soapy early 90s original. And yep, Donald Sutherland pops up again, in a slightly enhanced reprise of his Lecter-ish firebomber.

Carmen Jones (1954, dir. Otto Preminger)

A free-spirited woman compels a once-clean-cut GI to go AWOL. A World War II-era retelling of Bizet’s Carmen with an all-black cast, retaining the music but with updated lyrics. A film version of a famous stage adaptation; this sacrifices drama for a lighter touch until the third act, but is nevertheless an engaging oddity.

Running Scared (1986, dir. Peter Hyams)

Two Chicago cops vow to bring down a drug dealer before their early retirement to Florida. None-more-80s buddy cop comedy-thriller, bolstered by engaging leads with real charisma, and with great cinematography. Dated in places, and the script’s riddled with genre and other cliches.

Death Wish (2018, dir. Eli Roth)

After his wife is murdered in a home invasion, a mild-mannered doctor turns vigilante. Tonally-inconsistent remake of the 70s Bronson flick. Horror and black comedy elements along with the violent action, and flirtation with Willis/Kersey as psychotic. Not uninteresting in its way.

Want another opinion? Here’s Xussia’s take.

 

Rampage (2018, dir. Brad Peyton)

A zoologist and a renegade scientist team up to stop genetically-enhanced animals rampaging. Perfunctory and slightly po-faced monster mayhem, with only Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s man in black entering properly into the tongue-in-cheek fray.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation [AKA National Lampoon’s Winter Holiday] (1989, dir. Jeremiah Chechik)

The Griswolds invite their extended family for Christmas, triggering an escalating comedy of errors. The best of the Vacation movies, this balances slapstick and subversion, with enough dark moments to give the movie substance.

The Relic (1996, dir. Peter Hyams)

An ancient creature is let loose in a Chicago museum. Fun SF/horror monster movie with its tongue in its cheek, supported by good casting and by director Hyams’ great cinematography. No classic, but a good job well done.