Film Review: VENOM (USA 2018) ***

Venom Poster
When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life.

Director:

Ruben Fleischer

Writers:

Jeff Pinkner (screenplay by), Scott Rosenberg(screenplay by) | 5 more credits »

Discounting SPIDER-MAN, VENOM is the first of the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Comics.  The filmmakers ensure that there is some brand distinction from the Warner Brothers (DEADPOOL, BATMAN vs. SUPERMAN) and Disney (THOR, IRON MAN) Marvel collaborations, so it is of no surprise that VENOM comes out like a hybrid of the existing Marvel action hero or anti-hero films.  VENOM is quite good and more to come would be welcome.

Ruben Fleischer who made ZOMBIELAND, makes a clear stamp in VENOM, which in truth is a horror story.  There is an alien parasite than inhabits the host, our hero and a nasty one at that – a shapeless gelatine blob looking like black jello gone bad.

Shot in both New York City and San Francisco, director Fleischer makes sure the audience is reminded of the filming locations.  There is a scene where the infected Eddie Brock freaks out on a cable car ride.  There is an elaborate chase involving cars and a motorcycle compete with special effects that is reminiscent of one of the best car chases in film history – Peter Yates’s BULITT.  What makes the car chases in past films stand out is their continuity.  This is missing in VENOM’s vehicle chase, but it is still pretty impressive.

Tom Hardy, the English actor who has proven his acting chops in LOCKE and LAWLESS and who has been in everything from DUNKIRK, INCEPTION to the MAD MAX reboot is a perfect choice for the antihero.  In plain clothes, he is Eddie Brock, the TV reporter  who has a hot show ‘The Eddie Brock Report’ who wants to do the right thing and expose the very bad people.  One of these bad people happens to be Drake (Riz Ahmed) of Life Enterprises who has just brought back parasites from outer space.  Drake has a weird and unbelievable (but, hey, this is a comic book film) plan of bonding human and parasite to inhabit outer planets when Earth fails.  Trouble is the humans and parasites do not match and the humans die.  But Brock makes a good fit.  Brock has a girlfriend, Annie (Michelle Williams) who help him when he is infected.

VENOM is largely harmless entertainment.  The monster does possess an enormous tongue, which the filmmakers cannot deists but use in a kissing scene.

VENOM contains lots of brilliantly executed action scenes all with pyrotechnic explosions and special effects combined.  Comic and action fans should be content.  There are also some crazy scenes, like the one Eddie, when first infected dunks himself in the lobster tank of a posh restaurant and starts munching on the raw crustaceans.  Williams and Hardy make good romantic chemistry.  Hardy is sufficiently versatile enough to pull off a crazy anti-hero performance, in fact one of his best.  Riz Ahmed, one of my favourite actors makes a sufficiently sinister villain.  Stan Lee makes his usual cameo appearance.

Audiences are advised to stay right to the end of the closing credits as there is a last surprise scene involving VENOM.

VENOM is an entertaining enough action hero movie and one should be eager for the next instalment.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Mv98Gr5pY

Happy Birthday: Tom Hardy

tomhardy.jpgTom Hardy

Born: September 15, 1977 in Hammersmith, London, England, UK

[acting tip on a movie or play] Whatever character you play, remember they are always doing something. They are not just talking. They are alive; going through a drama in which they will go through some sort of dramatic human experience. Keywords: Alive and Experience. It is your job to make them become so. Anything you do on stage or film has a direct relation to something you have experienced in one form or another in real life. Use your imagination to exaggerate or lessen that sensation. Then, disguise it in characterization and don’t forget to make lots and lots of mistakes, and look like a complete asshole. You’ll do fine.

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Movie Review: LEGEND (UK 2015)

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legend_posterLEGEND (UK 2015) ****
Directed by Brian Helgeland

Review by Gilbert Seah

The second film about the notorious Krays, (the first was called THE KRAYS in the 80’s directed by Peter Medak) the gangster twins that terrorized London the 50’s and 60’s is given a glossier more modern approach.  But just as violent.  The Kray twins in LEGEND are both played by Tom Hardy.

Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL his best film) and based on the book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John Pearson, the film is told from the point of view as well as narrated by Frances Shea (Emily Browning) the wife of Reggie Kray.   She met Kray at 16 and married him aged 22 in 1965 . She committed suicide in 1967, and narrates the film from beyond the grave.  “It took a lot of love to hate him the way I did,” were her famous words.

When the film begins, the Krays are already established gangster princes.  The script does not detail how they got to be such prominent gangsters except by having them usurp the turf from Charlie (Paul Bettany) and his brother Eddie, childhood friends of the Krays and the leaders of notorious south London gang (also known as the Torture Gang).  That was when Reggie met Frances.  The film that goes on to deal with the further rise and fall of the Kray twins; the relationship that bound them together, and charts their gruesome career to their downfall and imprisonment for life in 1969.  And all from Frances’ angle.  

LEGEND is necessarily violent.  The best segment is the well executed fight between the two brothers (made trickier to shoot as both brothers are portrayed by the same actor) which is guaranteed to make you cringe in your seat.

The script is set up to have the audience take the side of Reggie, the sane brother.  The other, who is ultra violent and homosexual and certified insane not once but twice is the script’s set up for the downfall of the Kray’s empire.

Hardy does an exceptional job playing the Krays, definitely proving to be Oscar material here.  He creates two very different characters in the Krays, one sane and the other insane.  Though the film uses the tactic of Ronnie’s glasses to distinguish the twins apart, Hardy creates different nuanced behaviour for each.  Of the other performances, David Thewlis stands out as the Krays business and lawyer connection who wants to make the business more legitimate, thus running foul with Ronnie.

Ronnie’s homosexuality is treated in the film with campy seriousness.  He justifies his gay sexual acts by claiming to be the giver and not the taker.  One difference between the two KRAY films is that Medak’s dwelt on the Kray’s doting mother’s influence, the mother played by Billie Whitelaw in THE KRAYS.

The 50’s and 60’s London atmosphere is effectively created, complete with the period posh suits, vehicles and Burt Bacharach songs like ‘The Look of Love’.

Hard to fault, LEGEND belongs to the genre of excellent British crime thrillers of the 70’s that used to be popular.

 

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