Film Review: Venom (dir. by Ruben Fleischer)


VenomPosterAbout 20 years ago, a friend and I walked out of a movie theatre for some pizza. On the way to the Pizzeria, I raved about the movie we just watched.  The effects were awesome, and the main character was bad ass. My friend didn’t share the same sentiment, and over the dinner, he went on to explain everything that was wrong with the film. Bad CGI (for its time), 2 Dimensional Characters, and a pretty simplistic plot. By the end of my dinner, all of my joy was sucked away. I wanted to believe, deep down that I walked into a quality production, but there was so much room for improvement.

That film was Mark Dippe’s Spawn.

I mention this because after seeing Ruben Fleischer’s Venom, Spawn was the first film that came to mind. That makes sense, given that a lot of Venom’s genesis is from artist Todd McFarlane, who also created Spawn (and gave Spider-Man some of the best webbing I’ve ever known). There are parts of Venom I truly enjoyed, and I can say that there isn’t much of a problem with the acting on anyone’s side.  However, the levels of boredom in the film’s first hour will have you wanting to bring in a highly caffeinated drink to sip on, just to stay awake. The lady next to me yawned, which made me yawn and it just cycled through the audience. The good sequences are already visible in the trailers.

Here’s a clip of Venom from the Ultimate Spider-Man Video Game (easily recommended) to give you a rough idea of how he is.

From a plot standpoint, Venom does a good job in giving us a story for how Eddie Brock and his Symbiote meet without factoring in Spider-Man at all. Comic readers remember the Secret Wars, where Spider-Man lost his suit and picked up a symbiote replacement. When the Symbiote proved dangerous, Peter Parker got rid of it and it fell into the hands of his former Daily Bugle nemesis, Eddie Brock. Together, they formed Venom, a beast with all of Spider-Man’s powers and Brock’s hatred of Parker. Venom plagued Spider-Man, who was incredibly dangerous because he was one of the few villains that didn’t set of Parker’s Spidey Sense. He could sneak up on him at any time, assume the likenesses of other people, and Parker would never see him coming.

The Sony Spider-Man series changed this up in Spider-Man 3, replacing the Secret Wars with more of a Blob-like story. Symbiote crashes to Earth, finds Parker. Parker decides to rip it off and it finds Brock.  In this new version of Venom, symbiotes already exist in space, and a corporation lead by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) are trying to bring them to Earth to intermingle with humans. When investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) stumbles on the corporation’s evil plans, he accidentally joins with a symbiote and finds himself with a near insatiable hunger for the living.

You have the best 2 in 1 team up since Leigh Wannell’s Upgrade. I would not be opposed to a sequel for this if they tightened up the writing. Maybe that’s my problem. Both Upgrade and Venom are similar, but only one had an interesting character that looked like Tom Hardy (sorry, but Logan Marshall-Green does bear a resemblance).

Ruben Fleischer’s (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) direction is okay here. With Cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Iron Man, Black Swan) at his side, Venom doesn’t have many problems there. With the exception of the final confrontation, the shots aren’t too blurry or hard to track when the action starts. Even though Venom is a visibly dark character, I couldn’t complain that scenes weren’t well-lit.

For me, the problem with Venom is that at an hour and 52 minutes, it feels like the first hour is just waiting for that symbiosis to occur. Eddie Brock doesn’t really become interesting until Venom appears (also voiced by Hardy), and that’s a rough thing to say, given the cast involved. We’ve both seen Hardy, Ahmed and Michelle Williams in better roles, but they really aren’t given any real meat here. The dialog is a little shaky in some places. Hardy pushes himself hard here, and you see how disjointed Brock gets as he adjusts to the changes. Brock as a character, however, doesn’t really have a lot going for him. Neither did Peter Parker or maybe even Steve Rogers, but there were elements about who they were that helped you to appreciate who they be became as superheroes.  Steve Rogers was a weakling with a good spirit, which made him a better Captain America. Peter Parker was a chemical whiz kid and came up with his own web-fluid. Brock just…well, reports. There’s a lot of boredom in that first hour. The best scenes are the interactions between Venom and Brock, full of cute banter. It’s like having an unwelcome guest wanting to meet your parents. It just took so long to get to that point. When it does, however, the movie improves. They do manage to get a lot right about what Venom can do.

The CGI in Venom is definitely good in some places. It stands as the best argument for another remake of The Blob. The symbiotes are creepy in their design and motion, slithering up walls and making their way through vents. Venom, in all it’s glory, is quite a sight to behold, towering over humans. It goes a little overboard over the last 3rd of the film. I can’t say I knew for sure what it was I was looking at, but that’s to be expected with some superhero films.

If you see the film, stay for the mid-credits scene, which teases a future character. Also stay for a near 5 minute sneak peek into Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.

Overall, if you feel you have to see it in a theatre, by all means, do so. If you can wait for it to come out on Digital, that may be the best route.

Teaser Trailer – Venom


You’ve heard of Venom, haven’t you?

Remember Spider-Man 3, and that weird character Topher Grace played? Or maybe you’ve read the comics over time, played the character in countless videogames? With the latest teaser trailer for Venom, Sony is betting that you already know the character so well that they don’t have to show him or his name. He’s just that popular, and you should already know. Unfortunately, the trailer isn’t that thrilling (not to me, anyway). It’s not a teaser unless you tease something, and all I’ve truly seen are tidbits that could be pulled from any other movie Hardy’s ever done. I feel like Venom pulled on purpose what the Deadpool 2 Teaser joked about, with the CGI not being ready. I sure hope that isn’t the case.

Of course, we’ll need to get a little more and hope that some of the basic questions are answered here. Former Daily Bugle worker Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) will don the suit made from an alien symbiote, but will Spider-Man be seen or mentioned? The worst mistake they could do here is to give Venom a story without at least touching or hinting on Spider-Man’s existence. Still, it’s just a teaser, and perhaps way too early to form any conclusion.

Venom, starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams will be released in theatres this October 5th.

Here Are The Typically Strange Golden Globe Nominations!


“I’ll show you a pair of golden globes!”

Yes, I know, I know.  I say that every year.  I’ll probably say it next year as well.  There’s no joke that I can’t run into the ground.

Anyway, this year’s Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning and they are as strange as always.  I have to admit that I kinda hate the Golden Globes.  At least in my memory, there’s never been a year that the Golden Globes haven’t felt somewhat unsavory.  The general agreement seems to be that the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press will nominate anyone who is willing to come have a drink with them.  And yet, the Golden Globes continue to have such an outsized influence on who actually gets an Oscar nomination.

This year, the biggest shocks were:

  1. The Big Sick getting totally snubbed in every category, despite the fact that the Golden Globes specifically split their awards into Drama and Comedy categories and…
  2. …the totally unexpected strong showing of Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World.  It picked up nominations for Best Actress (Michelle Williams), Best Director (Ridley Scott), and Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Plummer, who just finished filming his role a little less than a month ago).

So, does this make All The Money In The World a sudden Oscar contender?  Maybe.  But then again, maybe not.  It does make both the film and Plummer a part of the conversation.  If, in a few days from now, Plummer picks up a SAG nomination, he will definitely start to look more like a probable contender.

Anyway, here are the Golden Globe film nominations:

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Call Me By Your Name
Dunkirk
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
The Disaster Artist
Get Out
The Greatest Showman
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

Best Motion Picture – Animated
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
A Fantastic Woman, Chile First They Killed My Father, Cambodia
In the Fade, Germany
Loveless, Russia
The Square, Sweden

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Meryl Streep, The Post
Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Tom Hanks, The Post
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul
Helen Mirren, The Leisure Seeker
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes
Ansel Elgort, Baby Driver
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Best Director – Motion Picture
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk”
Ridley Scott, All the Money in the World
Steven Spielberg, The Post

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Lady Bird
Molly’s Game
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Home,” from Ferdinand
“Mighty River,” from Mudbound
“Remember Me” from Coco
“The Star” from The Star
“This is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Here Are The Oscar Nominations!


oscar trailer kitties

Here are the Oscar nominations.  La La Land tied Titanic’s record with 14 nominations and I’m going to predict right now that it’ll win nearly everything that it’s been nominated for.  Amy Adams was totally snubbed.  Meryl Streep was technically nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins but we all know it was actually for her Golden Globes speech.

I may have more to say about this later but until then, here are the noms:

Best Picture

  • “Arrival”
  • “Fences”
  • “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • “Hell or High Water”
  • “Hidden Figures”
  • “La La Land”
  • “Lion”
  • “Manchester by the Sea”
  • “Moonlight”

Best Director

  • Mel Gibson – “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Kenneth Lonergan – “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight”
  • Denis Villeneuve – “Arrival”
  • Damien Chazelle – “La La Land”

Best Actor

  • Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Andrew Garfield – “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Ryan Gosling – “La La Land”
  • Viggo Mortensen – “Captain Fantastic”
  • Denzel Washington – “Fences”

Best Actress

  • Isabelle Huppert – “Elle”
  • Ruth Negga – “Loving”
  • Natalie Portman – “Jackie”
  • Emma Stone – “La La Land”
  • Meryl Streep – “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight”
  • Jeff Bridges – “Hell or High Water”
  • Lucas Hedges – “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Dev Patel – “Lion”
  • Michael Shannon – “Nocturnal Animals”

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis – “Fences”
  • Naomie Harris – “Moonlight”
  • Nicole Kidman – “Lion”
  • Octavia Spencer – “Hidden Figures”
  • Michelle William – “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Original Screenplay

  • “20th Century Women”
  • “Hell or High Water”
  • “La La Land”
  • “The Lobster”
  • “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • “Arrival”
  • “Fences”
  • “Hidden Figures”
  • “Lion”
  • “Moonlight”

Best Animated Feature

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • “Moana”
  • “My Life as a Zucchini”
  • “The Red Turtle”
  • “Zootopia”

Best Production Design

  • “Arrival”
  • “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
  • “Hail, Caesar!”
  • “La La Land”
  • “Passengers”

Best Cinematography

  • “Arrival”
  • “La La Land”
  • “Lion”
  • “Moonlight”
  • “Silence”

Best Costume Design

  • “Allied”
  • “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
  • “Florence Foster Jenkins”
  • “Jackie”
  • “La La Land”

Best Film Editing

  • “Arrival”
  • “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • “Hell or High Water”
  • “La La Land”
  • “Moonlight”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • “A Man Called Ove”
  • “Star Trek Beyond”
  • “Suicide Squad”

Best Sound Mixing

  • “Arrival”
  • “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • “La La Land”
  • “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
  • “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Best Sound Editing

  • “Arrival”
  • “Deepwater Horizon”
  • “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • “La La Land”
  • “Sully”

Best Visual Effects

  • “Deepwater Horizon”
  • “Doctor Strange”
  • “The Jungle Book”
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Best Original Score

  • “Jackie”
  • “La La Land”
  • “Lion”
  • “Moonlight”
  • “Passengers”

Best Original Song

  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from “Trolls”
  • “City of Stars” from “La La Land”
  • “The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
  • “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”

Best Documentary Feature

  • “Fire at Sea”
  • “I Am Not Your Negro”
  • “Life, Animated”
  • “OJ: Made in America”
  • “13th”

Best Foreign Language Film

  • “Land of Mine”
  • “A Man Called Ove”
  • “The Salesman”
  • “Tanna”
  • “Toni Erdmann”

Best Live Action Short

  • “Ennemis Interieurs”
  • “La Femme et le TGV”
  • “Silent Nights”
  • “Sing”
  • “Timecode”

Best Documentary Short

  • “Extremis”
  • “4.1 Miles”
  • “Joe’s Violin”
  • “Watani: My Homeland”
  • “The White Helmets”

Best Animated Short Film

  • “Blind Vaysha”
  • “Borrowed Time”
  • “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
  • “Pearl”
  • “Piper”

The Hawaii Film Critics Society Embraces La La Land


la-la-land

On January 16th, the film critics of Hawaii (and who wouldn’t want to be a member of that group?) announced their picks for the best of 2016!  They really, really liked La La Land!

BEST FILM:
La La Land

BEST DIRECTOR:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
BEST ACTOR:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
BEST ACTRESS:
Viola Davis, Fences
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water (tie)
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Tom Ford (Based on the Novel by Austin Wright), Nocturnal Animals
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Linus Sandgren, La La Land 

BEST EDITING:
Tom Cross, La La Land
BEST ART DIRECTION:
Austin Gorg, La La Land 
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
BEST MAKE-UP:
Bill Corso, Deadpool
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Arrival (tie)
Doctor Strange
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Justin Hurwitz, La La Land 
BEST SONG: 
Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, “Audition (Fools Who Dream),” La La Land  (tie)
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
BEST ANIMATED FILM:
Kubo and the Two Strings (dir. Travis Knight) (tie)
Zootopia (dir. Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush)
BEST DOCUMENTARY:
OJ: Made in America (dir. Ezra Edelman)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
The Handmaiden (dir. Chan-wook Park), (South Korea) (tie)
Neruda (dir. Pablo Larrain),  (Chile)
BEST HAWAII FILM:
Moana (dir. Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker and Chris Williams)
BEST NEW FILMMAKER:
Dan Trachtenberg,  10 Cloverfield Lane
BEST FIRST FILM:
10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
BEST OVERLOOKED FILM:
Hell or High Water (dir. David Mackenzie)
BEST SCI-FI/HORROR FILM:
Arrival (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
BEST STUNTS:
The Magnificent Seven 
BEST VOCAL/MOTION CAPTURE PERFORMANCE:
Charlize Theron/ Kubo and the Two Strings
WORST FILM OF THE YEAR:
Fifty Shades of Black  (tie)
Zoolander 2

The North Texas Critics Association Names La La Land The Best of 2016!


la-la-land-full-poster-image-691x1024

I have to admit that I’m starting to reach the point that I always reach during Oscar season.  This is the point where I say, “How many different groups of critics are there!?”

Anyway, the North Texas Critics Association have announced their picks for the best of 2016!  There are my people (in that we all live in North Texas and probably make a lot of jokes about pasty yankee tourists coming down from the North and sweating like pigs) and they picked La La Land as the best of the year.  I’ll be seeing La La Land this weekend so I’ll let you know if they were right.

Best Film
1. La La Land
2. Manchester by the Sea
3. Moonlight
4. Hacksaw Ridge
5. Loving
6. Arrival
7. Captain Fantastic
8. Nocturnal Animals
9. Jackie
10. The Birth of a Nation

Best Director
1. Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
2. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
3. Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
4. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
5. Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Actress
1. Natalie Portman (Jackie)
2. Emma Stone (La La Land)
3. Amy Adams (Arrival)
4. Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train)
5. Ruth Negga (Loving)

Best Actor
1. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
2. Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
3. Denzel Washington (Fences)
4. Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
5. Don Cheadle (Miles Ahead)

Best Supporting Actress
1. Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
2. Viola Davis (Fences)
3. Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
4. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
5. Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures)

Best Supporting Actor
1. Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
2. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
3. Dev Patel (Lion)
4. Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
5. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Cinematography
1. Linus Sandgren (La La Land)
2. James Laxton (Moonlight)
3. Simon Duggan (Hacksaw Ridge)
4.  Bradford Young (Arrival)
5. Stephane Fontaine (Jackie)

Best Animated Film
1. Zootopia
2. Kubo and the Two Strings
3. Sing

Best Documentary
1. Gleason
2. 13th
3. Tower
4. Wiener
5. The Eagle Huntress

Best Foreign Language Film
1. Elle
2. The Handmaiden
3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
4. The Salesman

5.  Toni Erdmann

The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Picks La La Land As the Best of 2016!


la-la-land
The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle has announced their picks for the best of 2016!
Best Picture
La La Land
Best Director
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Runner Up: Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Best Actor
Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
Runner Up: Denzel Washington – Fences
Best Actress
Amy Adams – Arrival
Runner Up: Emma Stone – La La Land
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Runner Up: Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Best Supporting Actress
Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea
Runner Up: Viola Davis – Fences
Best Animated Film
Zootopia
Runner: Kubo & The Two Strings
Best Documentary
OJ: Made In America
Runner Up: Weiner
Best Foreign Film
The Handmaiden
Runner Up: Elle
Best Ensemble
Manchester By The Sea
Runner Up: Moonlight
Best First Feature
The Witch
Runner Up: The Edge Of Seventeen
Best Original Screenplay
Manchester By The Sea
Runner Up: Hell Or High Water
Best Adapted Screenplay
Arrival
Runner Up: Moonlight
Best Body of Work
Amy Adams
Runner Up: Michael Shannon
Top 10 Films
La La Land
Moonlight
Manchester By The Sea
OJ: Made In America
Arrival
Hell Or High Water
Jackie
Green Room
Kubo & The Two Strings
Sing Street