Without Remorse

★★★

I’m an unabashed fan of actor Michael B. Jordan. “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights” are two of my favorite television shows of all-time. “Creed” and “Just Mercy” are two of my favorite films of the past 10 years. I’m also an action movie devotee and a casual fan of Tom Clancy. I haven’t read a single one of his books, but I’ve seen every filmic adaptation, religiously played “Splinter Cell” in the early aughts and am current on the Amazon Prime series “Jack Ryan.”

Given all of this I should’ve been in the bag for Italian director Stefano Sollima’s adaptation of Clancy’s 1993 novel “Without Remorse” (now streaming on Prime), but I can assure you it hews much closer in quality to “The Sum of All Fears” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” than it does “The Hunt for Red October” or “Clear and Present Danger.”

Jordan stars as John Kelly, a Navy SEAL who’s returned home with the promise of private security work offering higher pay and better hours that’ll allow him to spend more time with his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London). This dream is cut short when John and his fellow SEALs (among them “Never Back Down” baddie Cam Gigandet) are targeted and largely terminated by Russian operatives as retribution for their roles in a recent mission ran on bad intel from CIA spook Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell).

The hit on John isn’t successful, but it tragically leaves Pam and the baby deceased. John receives sympathy from compassionate SEAL colleague Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith of “Queen & Slim”) and Defense Secretary Clay (Guy Pearce). They give John intel on Pam’s killer – a man named Viktor Rykov (comedic actor Brett Gelman) – so he can better and sooner exact revenge.

Much of what makes “Without Remorse” work is Jordan. He isn’t given anything nearly as emotionally meaty as “Creed” or “Just Mercy” to sink his teeth into, but he throws himself into this physically-taxing part with gusto. (I saw Jordan on last night’s episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” where he charmingly relayed that he took on the role due to his childhood love of the “Rainbow Six” video games.) Jordan is ably backed up by the talented Turner-Smith (it should be fun to see where her character’s familial bond to Wendell Pierce’s Jim Greer from “Jack Ryan” leads) and a mercurial but ultimately likable Bell.

Not all of the performances register however. Anyone who’s seen Pearce in a movie within the last 10 years knows exactly how his character’s going to play out. This man’s a good actor who deserves different and better material … perhaps a different and better agent too? Gelman isn’t bad in the picture, but his presence is amusingly distracting.

I wanted so much to like “Without Remorse” … and to a degree I do, but a lot of it reads as cheap. This feels less like a movie and more like an extended pilot episode for a new television series. The script by Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario,” “Hell or High Water”) and Will Staples (“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3”) doesn’t  bear the complexity that much of Sheridan’s work has and more so calls to mind the world of video games from which Staples hails.

I wasn’t nearly as impressed by Sollima’s “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” as I was by its predecessor, but overall I ever-so-slightly preferred that flick (fucked-up politics and all) to “Without Remorse.” What Sollima brought from that movie to this one is a mixed bag of action sequences. When this shit clicks (such as in a prison-based fight where John takes on a gaggle of prison guards in riot gear or during a lengthy shootout in a Russian apartment building that seems to account for a quarter of the film’s runtime) it fires on all cylinders. When the action goes astray (John setting a car ablaze and promptly sitting inside it – stupid!, an unconvincing airplane crash) it misses the mark altogether.

“Without Remorse” kinda calls to mind last week’s “Mortal Kombat” in that it feels like a tease to something better in the future.

Things Heard & Seen

★★★★

Actress Amanda Seyfried (or Amanda Seafood as my former podcast co-host calls her) seems to have a thing for movies in which she plays a character who moves to a haunted country home with her husband and daughter of late between last year’s “You Should Have Left” and “Things Heard & Seen” (now streaming on Netflix).

“TH&S” has been referred to as a horror film, but I’d call it more of a supernatural thriller. Either way, it’s an improvement over writer/director David Koepp’s “YSHL” – a movie I also enjoyed well enough. What’s so commendable about “American Splendor” filmmaking duo (and married couple) Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s adaptation of Elizabeth Brundage’s novel “All Things Cease to Appear” is that not only is it an artfully-made genre picture, but it explores just how terrifying marriage can be. Art as therapy, folks!

It’s 1980. New York City artists and academicians Catherine (Seyfried) and George Claire (James Norton) move with their daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Heger) to the Hudson Valley in order for George to take a teaching position at the fictional Saginaw College.

Their new home is situated on an old dairy farm. Catherine and George hire two of the house’s former occupants, youthful brothers Eddie (Alex Neustaedter) and Cole Vayle (Jack Gore), to be their groundskeepers.

George adjusts well to the move and his new vocation – he’s popular with his students, has drawn the attention of Eddie’s attractive gal pal Willis (Natalia Dyer) and made fast friends with his mentor Floyd DeBeers (F. Murray Abraham). The relocation hasn’t sat so swimmingly with Catherine and Franny – who hear and see apparitions that George cannot … though all parties can smell some sort of phantom car exhaust as they’re trying to sleep. George diminishes Catherine’s curiosity and fears – luckily she receives support from Floyd and Justine (Rhea Seehorn), another educator at Saginaw.

Springer Berman and Pulcini direct their game cast – which is further filled out by Karen Allen as Catherine and George’s realtor and Michael O’Keefe (Noonan!) as her husband and the local police presence – to some truly accomplished performances. I’m a fan of Seyfried’s – she’s the main character, the biggest name in the cast and turns in reliably good work, but the performance I responded to most was that of Norton. I’m not especially familiar with Norton having only seen him in 2017’s “Flatliners” remake and Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of “Little Women,” but the dude undeniably has a presence about him. Norton’s George is like a Russian nesting doll of crappiness or an onion that’s revealed to be rotten with each layer peeled. His exaggerated handsomeness only serves to exacerbate the character’s terribleness.

“TH&S” is smarter and classier than your average genre exercise. It embraces its collegial atmosphere and is chockablock with art and literary references while simultaneously being a deconstruction of gaslighting and toxic masculinity. It’s not especially violent save for a scene late in the film and mostly earns its TV-MA rating via language, sexual content and drug use. There’s an East Coast upper crustiness to the proceedings that’s attractive and yet keeps the audience at a distance. It’d make great fodder for a Friday night date over pizza and a bottle of wine.

Here Are the Young Men

★★½ 

What the world needs now is yet another movie about disaffected, angry, young white dudes … and along comes “Here Are the Young Men” (now available on VOD).

“HAtYM” takes place in Dublin in 2003. The fellas in question are Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman), Kearney (Finn Cole, “Peaky Blinders”) and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, “Vikings”). The trio has just finished secondary school and they’re engaging in celebratory drugging and vandalism – going so far as to smash up the car of their Headmaster (Ralph Ineson, “The Witch”) with a crowbar.

Rolling around in a drug-fueled haze, the lads witness a little girl get hit and killed by a bus. The incident causes them to question their own mortality, but each guys’ response to this quandary varies significantly. Matthew gets a job at a tire factory and begins dating childhood friend Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy) in earnest. Kearney jets off to America to escape his abusive father (Conleth Hill, Lord Varys on “Game of Thrones”), visit his ne’er-do-well brother (Chris Newman), shag a bunch of birds and possibly kill a homeless man like he’s Patrick Bateman or some shit. Rez, now seeing life as pointless, unsuccessfully attempts suicide by throwing himself into a canal.

“HAtYM” is an adaptation of Rob Doyle’s novel and is written and directed by Irish actor-turned-filmmaker Eoin Macken. (Macken’s “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” director Paul W.S. Anderson serves as an executive producer.) There is much to admire about “HAtYM.” Having been to Dublin, I enjoyed seeing the Irish city on screen. The acting is universally pretty solid. I didn’t like Chapman much as Tommen on “Game of Thrones,” but he’s really grown and come into his own in films such as “Blinded by the Light,” “1917” and this. Cole is captivatingly unhinged calling to mind performances such as Robert De Niro as Johnny Boy in “Mean Streets” or Robert Carlyle as Begbie in “Trainspotting.” My crush on Taylor-Joy only intensified with her work here. Jen is pretty much the only character with any sense of decency. Her Irish accent is impressive as well.

I’m ultimately fairly conflicted about “HAtYM” as a whole. Ineson’s Headmaster tells Matthew, “You are defined by what you do.” There are posters for the movie sporting this quote as well. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but if it holds water then these titular young men are almost entirely repugnant and unrepentant. The picture doesn’t celebrate these fellas and their actions … nor does it condemn them. The audience is left to languish with and make heads or tails of them. Additionally, there’s a fantastical framing device in which the lads appear on a talk show Kearney’s Dad watches, which doesn’t work in the slightest. Travis Fimmel of “Vikings” plays the show’s host in a truly bizarre and off-putting performance.

“HAtYM” is well-made and well-acted. I just wish I knew what specifically it’s attempting to say. I’m not sure who the movie is for save for fans of TV shows “Game of Thrones,” “Vikings” and “Peaky Blinders” and the movie “The Witch” as there’s so much cast overlap.

Mortal Kombat

★★½ 

I have a long and storied history with the intellectual properties of “Mortal Kombat.”

I initially played the coin-op at the Aladdin’s Castle inside the Tippecanoe Mall and in an arcade attached to a café that was a mile or so from my house. My buddy and I would bicycle there and also play Aerosmith’s “Revolution X” and Capcom’s “Alien vs. Predator” and “The Punisher” (side-scroller beat ‘em ups that were essentially the same game only reskinned).

When it came time to update my Nintendo Entertainment System, I opted for a Sega Genesis as opposed to a Super Nintendo so I could enjoy the bloodiest console port of “Mortal Kombat” possible. (A-B-A-C-A-B-B, y’all!)

I really wanted to see Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 adaptation of “Mortal Kombat” theatrically despite the fact that it was only PG-13. My Mom being cool as shit opted to take my younger brother and I to the R-rated “Dangerous Minds” and “Desperado” instead. I eventually caught up with Anderson’s flick on VHS at a friend’s sleepover. The movie was underwhelming aside from the Immortals’ tune “Techno Syndrome” (“Mortal Kombat!”), a coupla cool fights between Scorpion and Sub-Zero and seeing Bridgette Wilson in something else after “Billy Madison.”

(The night was ultimately much more memorable due to the fact that I also saw my first porno as well – Ron Jeremy pounced on a woman sleeping on a pool chaise lounge … klassy! I eventually opted to shoot pool with our Mormon buddy who totally abstained from the smut. One of my friends also chased another one of our friends around with a shotgun like a worst case gun control public service announcement. We all survived … thankfully.)

My “Mortal Kombat” fandom continued into adulthood as I picked up and played “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” and “Mortal Kombat” (2011) for Xbox 360 and “Mortal Kombat X” and “Mortal Kombat 11” for Xbox One. My nerdy ass has been playing “11” all week long leading up to the release of debut director Simon McQuoid’s “Mortal Kombat” (available in theaters and on HBO Max beginning Friday, Apr. 23).

Hyped as I was, it’s with a heavy heart that I break the bad news … if you’ve seen the red band trailer for the flick, you’ve seen most of what “Mortal Kombat” has to offer.

“Mortal Kombat” opens with Bi-Han (Joe Taslim, “The Night Comes for Us”) murdering the wife (Yukiko Shinohara) and son (Ren Miyagawa) of Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada, “The Twilight Samurai”) in feudal Japan. Hasashi goes to Hell where he’s transformed into Scorpion. Bi-Han lives on in eternity to become Sub-Zero.

We pick up some 400 years later with Cole Young (Lewis Tan), an unneeded character who was invented for this already overstuffed movie. He’s a down on his luck mixed martial artist whose best fighting days are behind him. He’s got a wife (Laura Brent) and daughter (Matilda Kimber). He also has a familiar/familial dragon emblem on his chest that he was born with, which means he’s destined to be a participant in Mortal Kombat and puts him square in the icy crosshairs of the immortal Sub-Zero.

Sub-Zero is doing the bidding of Shang Tsung (Chin Han), the leader of Outworld. Tsung wants all of Earth’s “kombatants” vanquished to ensure that Outworld will win its 10th consecutive Mortal Kombat giving him control of the planet and all its inhabitants.

Aiding Cole in his fight against Tsung and Sub-Zero are Jax (Mehcad Brooks of “True Blood” and “Supergirl”) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee from “The Meg”). They eventually lead him to Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano, Hogun from the “Thor” flicks), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) for training and guidance.

Not all fighters are born with the mark like Cole; Blade’s captive Kano (Josh Lawson, recently seen playing Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, in “Bombshell”) received his by killing marked man Kabal (embodied by Daniel Nelson and voiced by Damon Herriman AKA Dewey Crowe in “Justified” and Charles Manson from “Mindhunter” and “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”) thus inheriting the emblem.

There’s as much to dig about “Mortal Kombat” as there is to dislike about it. Let’s start with the positive. The picture is unapologetically R-rated, which is just about all I’ve wanted ever since I was 12. There’s a Fatality involving Kung Lao’s hat that left me unabashedly clapping and laughing. The fights that begin and end the picture between Scorpion and Sub-Zero and Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Cole are pretty cool. Lawson as Kano is the acting MVP of the picture – he has the best lines/delivery and gives off a distinctly Vernon Wells as Bennett in “Commando” sorta vibe.

Now for the bad: almost everyone other than Lawson is kinda bad. Tan as Cole (ostensibly the picture’s lead) is a good-looking dude, but not an especially capable actor. Han is a good actor, but he’s miscast as Shang Tsung. Why not just bring back Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who was so boss in the role? I like Brooks as a performer, but would’ve much preferred the filmmakers bring back Michael Jai White from the “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” web series as Jax. The fights generally aren’t very well done – they’re all filmed too tightly and cut to all holy hell. I would love to see this material handled by a filmmaker adept at capturing martial arts choreography such as Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Isaac Florentine or Jesse V. Johnson. Many of the special effects are as bad or worse than those featured in “Mortal Kombat” ‘95. The script by first-timer Greg Russo and Dave Callaham (experienced with lackluster video game adaptations after “Doom”) is shakier than Kano after a dozen brewskis.

Much of “Mortal Kombat” seems like it’s setting the table for future installments. I want to see further adventures in this world – I just want them to be better acted, scripted, rendered and choreographed. Continue bringing on the blood – just have the guts to elevate the material.

Jakob’s Wife

★★★½ 

I’ve been a fan of actress Barbara Crampton ever since as a teenage boy I saw the severed head of David Gale’s Dr. Carl Hill almost perform cunnilingus on Crampton’s Megan Halsey in director Stuart Gordon’s gory 1985 cult classic “Re-Animator.”

Between ’85 and now Crampton has appeared on numerous soap operas (“Guiding Light,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless”) as well as in a handful of other horror highlights (“Chopping Mall,” Gordon’s “From Beyond” and “Castle Freak,” “You’re Next,” “The Lords of Salem” and “We Are Still Here”). Crampton was lovely in the ’80s and she’s lovely still. Her latest effort is “Jakob’s Wife” (now available on VOD and in theaters – including locations in Indiana such as Brownsburg, Lebanon, Mooresville and Lafayette), a vampire flick that takes a bite out of the institution of marriage.

Crampton stars as Anne Fedder, wife of Pastor Jakob Fedder (horror stalwart Larry Fessenden). Anne doesn’t live for herself so much as she does for her husband. If he says jump, she asks how high. Living in subservience has grown stale for Anne. She is enlivened when presented with a business opportunity to remodel the town’s old mill by her high school sweetheart Tom Low (Robert Rusler of “Weird Science” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge”).

When perusing the property, Anne gives into temptation and kisses Tom. Given a sudden case of conscience, Anne ceases kissing Tom before it can escalate into something more. Almost instantly after their make out session is halted, Tom is attacked and killed by a pack of vampiric rats (strangely subbing in for bats here, which puts a new spin on the subgenre). Anne herself is bitten by The Master (Bonnie Aarons, also the titular Nun of “The Nun”) and thus begins her transformation.  

Jakob instantly notices and is concerned by the changes in Anne. She promptly gets a new haircut and wardrobe. Anne isn’t as concerned with making sure breakfast is on the table prior to Jakob going to work opting instead to exercise. Speaking of eating, Anne visits the grocery store and purchases as much blood as she can from the butcher. Jakob vents to his brother Bob (Mark Kelly) and sister-in-law Carol (Sarah Lind of “WolfCop”).

“Jakob’s Wife” is a fun and funny horror flick that has astute things to say about marriage. I seriously disliked producer-turned-director Travis Stevens’ feature debut “Girl on the Third Floor.” (If I never see semen pouring out of an electric socket ever again it won’t be soon enough.) “Jakob’s Wife” is a HUGE improvement. Stevens and his co-writers Kathy Charles (she scribed the recent “Castle Freak” remake) and Mark Steensland deserve props for penning a part that the 62-year-old Crampton (who also served as a producer) could really sink her fangs into. (It also doesn’t hurt that Crampton has a gamely funny Fessenden to play off of.) I suspect Stevens’ films are only as good as his leads are – and Crampton is a much better performer than professional wrestler-turned-thespian C.M. Punk – he appears in a much smaller role here as Deputy Colton. I also find it curious that both of Stevens’ features focus prominently on infidelity. Is this dude a cheater or has he been cheated on?

Though it’s somewhat slow to start, “Jakob’s Wife” is a fun throwback to the ‘80s heyday of practical creature features. Makeup artists Mary Czech, Marcus Koch and Jessie Seitz deserve serious kudos for their slimy, squishy work. The picture also gives curious viewers an answer to the timeless question, “What happens when vampires have their teeth whitened?”

Honeydew

★★★

Indie/art horror flick “Honeydew” (now available on DVD and VOD) structurally echoes works such as “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and stylistically calls to mind “TTCSM” as well as the works of Stan Brakhage.

Young couple Sam (Sawyer Spielberg, son of Steven and actress Kate Capshaw) and Rylie (Swedish actress Malin Barr) are camping in rural New England. He’s an aspiring actor who can’t remember his lines. She’s a graduate student whose thesis about a fungal infection in wheat that caused gangrene and insanity in cows and humans drew them to the area.

Sam and Rylie are chased off their campsite by Eulis (Stephen D’Ambrose), an aged farmer who accuses them of trespassing. Unfortunately, their car battery is dead. The couple seeks refuge in the nearby home of Karen (Barbara Kingsley, real-life wife of D’Ambrose) and her brain-damaged son Gunni pronounced “Goonie” (Jamie Bradley).

Karen offers Sam and Rylie a meal and a place to stay for the night. The house is decrepit and seemingly has a TV playing old Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons in each and every room. The longer the couple stays in the home the more strange cravings and hallucinations befall them.

The actors kinda carry the day here. Spielberg has presence enough that I’d be curious to see future performances from him. Mumblecore staple Lena Dunham turns up in a humdinger of a supporting role. The standout of the bunch however is Kingsley whose manic energy and bug-eyed batshittery are the stuff nightmares are comprised of.

Written, directed and edited by Devereux Milburn from a story by Milburn and cinematographer Dan Kennedy, “Honeydew” is effectively disturbing (justifiably so with its depictions of cannibalism, autocannibalism, lobotomies and amputations) but overstays its welcome at 106 minutes. The movie would make a greater impact and be less repetitious at 90 minutes. In spite of this I was impacted by John Mehrmann’s bizarrely jangly score, Milburn’s use of Brian De Palma-inspired split screen, a cavalcade of misleading edits and the 1970s-esque title cards at the front and back of the picture.

I presume “Honeydew” is trying to say something about consumption or more specifically overconsumption, but I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is. It did make vegetarianism seem appealing however.

Thunder Force

★★

Normally, I’d expect a comedy like “Thunder Force” to end up in the bargain bin full of $2 movies at Wal-Mart.

The only reason that this Melissa McCarthy vehicle won’t end up with that fate is because it’s streaming exclusively on Netflix.

The comedy veteran actress is back with another comedy directed by her husband Ben Falcone. They’ve now made five movies together, all pretty much bashed by professional film critics. In 2020, they collaborated on a comedy called “Superintelligence” that premiered exclusively on HBOMax. But their three movies they made together that had theatrical runs actually made quite a bit of money, despite their disdain from movie reviewers. “Tammy” made quite a few “worst of” lists in 2014 but it made $100 million on a $20 million budget. Margins like that have kept Ben Falcone working as a director.

And it doesn’t hurt that he’s married to a two-time Oscar nominee in McCarthy. Despite the majority of her leading roles being dubbed as “rotten” by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, McCarthy’s movies (for the most part) make money.

McCarthy has been at her funniest when she’s in films directed by Paul Feig, such as “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” “Spy” and “Ghostbusters,” all of which are “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.

With Falcone? Not so much.

But with “Thunder Force,” I actually think it’s her funniest collaboration with her husband. That’s not saying much though.

Basically, the premise of this film is: “What if two plus-sized middle aged women became superheroes?” The idea came from the fact that McCarthy and Falcone have been longtime friends with Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer. They’ve known each other back when Spencer was waiting tables and McCarthy was doing improv.

It’s actually refreshing to see two women like McCarthy and Spencer as the leads for a movie like this. Both worked in Hollywood for many years, taking small bit roles before their big breaks. They aren’t the kinds of actresses that usually earn such stardom and they both seem quite likable.

And it’s refreshing because we have larger women who don’t fit into the usual ideas of what a female superhero should look like and the movie itself isn’t just a bunch of fat jokes. In a way, it’s a body-positive kind of movie.

The story itself isn’t anything to rave about. The world has been ravaged by genetic mutations that create superpowers, but only in individuals with sociopathic tendencies. They’ve been termed “miscreants” and it’s a world with all villains but no heroes.

Lydia (McCarthy) and Emily (Spencer) are friends who have been estranged but reunite decades later. Emily was the smart one in school who has been determined to create a way for ordinary, good-hearted people to develop superpowers after her parents are killed by the miscreants. She brushes off Lydia, the loud and crazy one, because she thinks she’s holding her back from her life’s purpose.

Lydia surprises Emily at her lab one night and accidentally gets injected the super-serum that is finally complete, giving Lydia super strength. Quickly moving on from any anger and frustration, Emily trains Lydia and then eventually gives herself the power of invisibility. They team up to fight super powered bad guys in Chicago. Yada, yada, yada.

Pretty standard stuff. It’s definitely better than superhero comedies like “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” “Blank Man” or “Meteor Man” but not as zany or lovable as “Mystery Men,” “Super” or “Shazam!”

The problem with most comedies about superheroes is that the studios feel the need to fill it with action sequences and special effects take away time for funny jokes. The action sequences aren’t as good as a regular superhero movie and the jokes aren’t as good as any usual comedy. Same can be said for action comedies like “Date Night” or “The Lovebirds.”

The special effects in “Thunder Force” are not amazing and I gained nothing from watching the action sequences.

There are a few moments that are worth a few laughs in “Thunder Force.” Jason Bateman steals every scene he’s in while playing The Crab, a hilariously bad villain with giant crab claws for hands. It’s such a stupid role that after they introduced him I was sure that he’d only be in it for five minute. But he kept showing up! I have to admit that I became more interested when he was on screen. Yes, it’s dumb. But sometimes you need that to coax a few laughs out of an otherwise mediocre comedy.

McCarthy is relegated to playing the slob character again, a variation on a role she’s played too many times before. It just doesn’t pack the same punch anymore.

Spencer is in most of the movie as the co-lead, but basically plays the serious one and doesn’t get anything funny or challenging to do. She’s either reacting to something that McCarthy does or she’s explaining something science-y. Many of her lines are just explaining the plot. She’s given a daughter to try to give her character some depth but it feels rather tacked on.

Bobby Cannavale, who usually impresses in everything he does, isn’t that great as the villain. He’s cartoonish, but not cartoonish enough, if that makes sense. He would have been better off if he overacted and went overboard. Apparently he’s married to Rose Byrne, who’d been in a few comedies with McCarthy and they’re friends, so that explains why he agreed to be in this.

In the end, if you can’t stand Melissa McCarthy, this movie won’t convert you into a follower. If you like her work, you know what to expect and will probably be mildly amused. Very mildly.

“Thunder Force” isn’t something I’d venture to a movie theater to see but if you’re bored and need something to watch, it’ll be good distraction in the background as you fold laundry. You might even laugh once or twice like I did. But I’ll probably forget about this movie all together rather quickly.

Voyagers

★★★

“Voyagers” (now playing in theaters) is like “Lord of the Flies” meets the 2016 Jennifer Lawrence/Chris Pratt vehicle “Passengers” … only hornier.

It’s the early 2070s. Colin Farrell plays Richard, a scientist who accompanies 30 children on a space mission (Eat your heart out, Ms. Frizzle!) to a faraway planet in order colonize it and continue humankind after Earth’s grown almost uninhabitable due to global warming. These kids were bioengineered in laboratories using the genetic makeup of our best and brightest. The journey will take 86 years, which means the crew will need to reproduce aboard the ship and the children’s children and grandchildren will be the ones to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Ten years into their trip the kids have grown into young adults. Their most primal urges are kept at bay using a solution referred to as “The Blue.” The crew is told this is a vitamin supplement, but it’s actually a drug that suppresses their hormones and a whole gamut of emotions including love, hate, anger and fear. Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead of “Dunkirk”) discover this deception and cease taking “The Blue.” Without the drug each of the young men’s interests are piqued by Sela (Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny), the ship’s Chief Medical Officer. Other crew members follow suit and soon they’re all fucking and fighting like it’s Woodstock ’99.

Much of what makes “Voyagers” work is its game cast. Farrell brings a palpable paternal energy to the proceedings. I’m predisposed to liking Sheridan as he was in two movies I love as a youngster – those being “The Tree of Life” and “Mud.” I also think Sheridan is the best on-screen incarnation of the X-Men’s Cyclops to date. (Seriously, check out his action sequences in “Dark Phoenix.”) Sheridan brings a lot of the nobility and stoicism inherent to Cyclops to the role of Christopher. This is probably the best Depp’s been during her burgeoning career. That’s not saying a whole lot as “Yoga Hosers” is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen and her last role in “Crisis” consisted mostly of being tied to a bed by Armie Hammer. It’s kinda eerie watching Depp work as she looks so strikingly much like her Mom (French singer, model and actress Vanessa Paradis) and especially like her Dad, but she reads as smart and likable here.

As good as these folks are the standout is clearly Whitehead. I absolutely detest the character of Zac, but Whitehead plays him skillfully. Zac reminds me of our last President in that he thinks he can grab women when and where he wants and uses peoples’ fear of the “other” in order to have them do his hateful bidding.

Not all of the actors are gifted such juicy roles. Isaac Hempstead Wright AKA Bran Stark is about as useless here as he was on “Game of Thrones.” The talented Viviek Kalra of “Blinded by the Light” is given an absolute nothingburger of a sacrificial lamb character.

“Voyagers” is written and directed by Neil Burger (“The Illusionist,” “Limitless”). Burger’s a competent filmmaker and this is an entertaining enough movie, but the tale unfolds in a highly predictable manner. Much of the runtime is spent depicting Burger’s good-looking cast sprinting through corridors – it half made me wanna do my best impression of a curmudgeonly elementary school teacher and holler, “Stop running in the hallway!”

“Voyagers” pushes the limits of its PG-13 rating with hints of sexuality and violence, but it ultimately feels like a young adult novel and somewhat akin to something like Burger’s “Divergent.” (Burger has suggested that the film initially received an R rating and that he’s interested in releasing a director’s cut at some point.) Burger and his collaborators should be applauded for the diversity of their cast, but the PG-13 rating hamstrings them with solely straight couplings. (There are 31 people on this ship and not a one of ‘em is gay? I don’t think so!) I’d be curious to see what somebody like Gregg Araki would do with this material. Paul Verhoeven could certainly do something compelling combining sex and violence in space too … in fact he already has … a coupla times.