Movie Review: Venom

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Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) prepares for a joy ride in Venom, the standalone featuring the iconic antihero. (Source: IMDb)

Remember Topher Grace’s rendition of Venom, the black-gooed villain, in Spider-Man 3? Remember how disappointed comic-book fans were on how limited his screen-time was? Is it hard to believe it would take this long for a standalone film featuring Marvel’s most iconic villain? Maybe so.

However–neither Sam Raimi nor Marc Webb took it into account. Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Zombieland) and three screenwriters decided it would be a good time to bring him back into the spotlight, with Tom Hardy playing the titular role while leading an excellent cast in a film so derivative, dull, and preposterous that an R-rating wouldn’t have made any difference.

Eddie Brock (Hardy) is San Francisco’s most successful journalist. He has his own show called The Eddie Brock Report, where he attempts to tackle the city’s most corrupt corporations, and a beautiful fiancee named Annie (Michelle Williams). Everything seems to be heading in the right direction. Right?

After an interview with Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the CEO of the Life Foundation, goes horribly wrong, Brock loses his job and the love of his life. He later learns from Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) about Drake’s experiments with symbiotes, a form of black alien goo taken from a crashed spaceship, to bond with humans. When Brock becomes infected with the symbiote, he gains super-strength and healing powers, as well biting people’s heads off (of course, they occur off-screen).

Hardy is one of Hollywood’s toughest actors. Whether he’s a con-man entering the subconscious in Inception, fighting against Joel Edgerton in the ring in Warrior, a survivor saving six women after the apocalypse in Mad Max: Fury Road, or fighting off German bombers in Dunkirk, he can do it all! He is–without a doubt–familiar with the superhero genre, not to mention playing the villain Bane in Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to The Dark Knight trilogy. He has barely starred in a bad movie. In Venom, he does his best with his American accent. But–he’s trying too hard. When Brock keeps hearing voices in his head once the symbiotes take over his body, it goes into Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde mode; resulting in some unintentional hilarity.

Marvel has had a fair share of bland villains over the years. Few of them have been effective. Ahmed’s Drake is nothing but the same stereotypical villain whose discovery of the symbiotes might destroy humanity. It doesn’t do any good by the end when he and Venom have their climactic fight by the bay. Williams, Slate, and the rest of the cast feel absolutely wasted.

Speaking of action sequences, the movie contains one of the most thrilling chases through the streets of San Francisco early on. Afterwards, everything begins to fall apart. The tone goes all over the place, the humor–either intentional or not–feels contrived, and there are enough plot holes to drive a cable car through.

It’s a shame since Marvel has been on a roll this year–from Black Panther to Deadpool 2. Venom is easily the worst of its kind since the infamous Fant4stic. It’s worse than Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and even Spider-Man 3 (to be fair, this makes the Venom in the latter look intimidating). With it ending on a cliffhanger, we might get more from the antihero after all. Woo-hoo.

1/4

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Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

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Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) looks after his nephew in Manchester by the Sea. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

Over the years, the State of Massachusetts has become one of the most popular filming locations. Particularly there are a lot of great films set in Boston; such as Good Will Hunting, The Departed, Mystic River, The Town, and so on. As a New Englander (Maine, to be more specific), the settings in those films are so familiar to me and the characters remind me of the people I meet on a day-to-day basis. Movies not only set but filmed anywhere in New England area feel just as authentic as its culture.

From receiving unanimous praise since its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Manchester by the Sea is also generating Oscar buzz. I can certainly see why.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is working as a janitor at an apartment complex in Quincy. Living by himself in a studio apartment, he spends most of his time drinking at the local pub. One chilly winter day, he gets a phone call about his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dying from congestive heart failure. Lee sorts out plans for his brother’s funeral while looking after his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges, Moonrise Kingdom), who plays on the high school hockey team and has two girlfriends—Sylvie (Kara Hayward, also from Moonrise Kingdom) and Sandy (Anna Baryshnikov). Once he returns to his hometown, Lee’s past begins to creep up on him.

Kenneth Lonergan has written and directed a raw, funny, affectionate work of art centering on one man’s grief. Casey Affleck’s Lee may be stubborn and selfish, but he tries to connect with his nephew like he did years ago. It’s hard not to sympathize with him. Accompanied by a haunting score by Lesley Barber as well as segments from Handel’s Messiah, the audience sees him go through a lot after his brother’s death. The audiences learn about how and why he left for Quincy through a series of flashbacks—then, having to come back. In one scene, Lee meets his ex-wife Randi (the lovely Michelle Williams) on the street, and cannot make a conversation while she’s expressing her heartache. As devastating as that scene is, it makes up for it with its deadpan sense of humor. Especially when Patrick asks Lee what happened to his hand, Lee tells him he cut it by smashing a window. “For a minute there, I didn’t know what happened,” Patrick replies.

2016 has been a spectacular year for movies. I’ll be happy if Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight takes home the big prize. But, this is a movie about life. Best film of the year!

4/4