Venom (2018)

Venom

The plot of Venom is more slippery than infectious.

It isn’t that Venom is a terrible movie, but it most certainly is a disappointing one, especially when you have a great talent like Tom Hardy in the lead role. He himself is really the only thing worth seeing in this film (and, admittedly, some unexpected laughs I was not expecting).

Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a reporter who one day is in over his head as he tries to uncover the mystery behind a suspicious company of scientists (or something like that) run by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). He blows the assignment, is fired by his boss (Ron Chephas Jones from This is Us), and is dumped by his fiancée Anne Weying (the always reliable Michelle Williams). He is given a second chance when one of the doctors (Jenny Slate) sneaks Brock into the facility, where the mysterious goo (the symbiote) meshes with Eddie and makes him become the title character.

Eddie is clearly down on his luck but I am not sure if I would call him a total loser. He does try to do the right thing, even if he fails at it, such as being there for the local store clerk Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu) after she is being harassed by a gang member. Still, despite the very good performance by Hardy, I can’t help but wonder how much better this Venom would have been if he were the villain of the MCU (where his enemy Spider-Man now resides).

Speaking of villains, anyone will tell you how a comic book movie baddie needs to be great if the film can have some success, and that is easily the biggest flaw of the film. Riz Ahmed (who is a good actor I am sure) approaches his character with no charm or menace, two of the most important things a cinema comic book character needs.

Another problem I had was with some of the special effects. When Venom does appear, it is (for the most part) convincing, yet the action sequences are so fast paced that we don’t get much time to revel at them. I am referring to a specific car chase scene. I truly would hate to fault director Ruben Fleischer, mainly since he made 2009’s highly underrated Zombieland. There is a fight scene, however, in Brock’s apartment that is rather fun to watch.

Parents, while the movie could have easily been given an R rating (Venom’s appetite has nearly no limits), the PG-13 rating is mainly for horrific images (for kids) and swearing (some S words, plus one F bomb). Nothing sexual (though some kissing), so I would say middle school and up. Maybe younger.

I can say without a doubt that Venom is not the worst comic book movie ever (I would take Tom Hardy over Topher Grace in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 any day of the week), but I just can’t recommend it. I only wish the studios would get along so we could get all the characters in one universe, but that is wishful thinking.

No surprise that the film does have a post credit scene, suggesting that there will be a sequel (Hardy has apparently signed on for two more films). While I am not sure it will happen, I do totally support the actor they have as the next villain. Especially if they moved this to the MCU.

 

Again, just wishful thinking.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk

Soldiers await their fate on Dunkirk

I can’t think of many directors with a solid stretch of quality films other than Christopher Nolan (some even to the point of masterpiece). His latest, Dunkirk, is surely one of his best. Forewarning: if you suffer from aquaphobia, I would advice being careful, because Dunkirk has some of the most intense scenes at sea I have seen this side of Jaws.

Set to a rousing score by immaculate composer Hans Zimmer, the movie starts right at the beginning of the end of the battle that happened in Dunkirk, France in 1940. The first thing we notice about the film is that (like in any battle), we do not know when a gun shot will ring out. There is hardly any warning to any firearm of any kind throughout the whole movie. Nearly every one that did occur made me flinch.

As any Nolan movie, the film does not rely on star power so much as acting. Most of the soldiers are new, upcoming actors, but we see some familiar faces as well. We get some veteran thespians such as Oscar winner Mark Rylance as a civilian helping with the rescue, Cillian Murphy as a soldier, Kenneth Branagh as a commander, and one actor as a fighter pilot who I will not reveal because it is quiet a nice surprise.

My only flaw in the movie was that the interceding timelines were a little off-putting. Foolishly, I forgot to remember that, as is the case of many Nolan films, one ounce of lack of attention could lead to confusion.

Parents, this is one of the few war movies that I can think of being rated PG-13. Nolan goes more for artistic than he does complete realism (at least when compared to other movies like Saving Private Ryan). The action is still intense, but there is no real amounts of blood and gore. It is mainly for the intense action sequences and some swearing (I think I remember two F-Bombs). Middle school and above should be fine.

Clearly, Dunkirk is one of the best movies of 2017, and will surely be up for many an Oscar nomination in the spring (hopefully Nolan gets his long overdue nomination for Best Director). While it is not the best of all war movies (nothing in my mind tops Apocalypse Now!), Dunkirk is surely among some of the greats.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

 

 

The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”.

 

It is clear that some are good celebrities and some are good actors. It is the chose few that are good at both that we always like the most. Some names today include Hanks, De Niro, Pacino, Streep, Blanchett, Cruise, and Day-Lewis. Another name that fits that is DiCaprio.

I first saw him as a teenage hearthrob in Titanic, then saw him spread his acting wings in the early 21st Century in films like Gangs of New York and The Aviator. Now, he is one of the most famous, talented actors on the planet. All that is missing is an Oscar, and I think The Revenant will give him that.

The Revenant is based off of a real life frontiersman named Hugo Glass (DiCaprio). During a fur expedition, he is mauled by a bear (a scene that will defy belief for any viewer). Others in his company are set to press on, but some stay behind, including his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), Bridger (Will Poulter), and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).

(Warning: The following paragraph does have vo, but I feel to mention them because they are in the trailer.) Glass is so mutilated that Fitzgerald feels it is right to just end his life quickly, but Hawk does not agree. Eventually, Fitzgerald kills Hawk, Glass’s only family, and leaves Glass to die.

The rest of the film is the journey back to living for Hugh Glass. What surprised me a lot was how little dialogue Leonardo Dicaprio has in the film (although after the bear attack, I assume his vocals would be near extinct). It is just another way for us to remember how great an actor Dicaprio is.

The film also is more proof of how wonderful an actor Tom Hardy is (he does not have the star power of the names I mentioned before, but he is getting there). He is one of a handful of actors up for Best Supporting Actor consideration.

Now I get to the visuals, which are among the most dark, beautiful, and haunting you will see in a theater. Director Alejandro G. Inarritu (fresh off his Oscar win for Birdman) is as responsible for it as is the uncanny cinamatography by Emmanuel Lubezki, who won back to back Oscars for Gravity and Birdman. The visuals give the film its own layer of spirituality and grace.

Parents, there is a little nudity (two men from far away) and one soldier raping an indian woman (we just see thrusting, no nudity). Still, the R rating is for the violence. I know that Leo was not attacked by a bear, but I had to remind myself at times it wasn’t real. The R rating is justified.

For those who can handle The Revenant‘s grit, realism, honor, grace, spirituality, and dark harshness, it is definetly one of the best of 2015.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars ****1/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron team up in Max Max: Fury Road

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron team up in Max Max: Fury Road

One of the best things about Mad Max: Fury Road is that is can work even on people like me who know nothing about the original films.

The remake here stars the highly underrated actor Tom Hardy as the title character. He lives in a desert wasteland which is ruled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He is in charge of the water supply that he gives to the people when he feels like it (He states “Don’t get addicted to water”). He also keeps mothers to supply them with milk, and other women to birth him more sons.

One of his best soldiers, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is driving these women of his (one of whom is pregnant) and decides to revolt. She eventually teams with Max and they search for what is called the green place.

Which characters live and die, I will not say. What I will say is there are some breathtaking action sequences that will boggle the mind. There is a word to describe them and it is the same one to describe the movie: Wow. There is also really well done acting here ( which should not surprise us, since it is Hardy and Theron in the main roles). My only issue with the film was that it did not have any added humor (I know it is a serious thriller, but you think it could add a LITTLE humor).

Parents, High School and older. This is NOT an action film for kids (there is a good about of violence, but what I liked was that it was not terribly gory). Although there is no sex scenes, there is some nudity.

Still, if you are looking for an action movie that is fun, thrilling (with the help of a brilliant musical score by Junkie XL), and beautiful (it gives desert scenes that reminded me of Lawrence of Arabia), look no further than Mad Max: Fury Road. It is one of the best movies of the year.

Overall: Four Stars and a Half  **** 1/2