Venom

October 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams
Directed by: Ruben Fleisher (“Zombieland,” “Gangster Squad”)
Written by: Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) and Kelly Marcel (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) and Will Beall (“Gangster Squad”)

Do you remember the old days, post-Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, when comic book movies were these weird standalone things, and studios were pulling out all the stops to try and get them to stick? We got mediocre to terrible movies like “Hulk,” “Daredevil,” and “Ghost Rider” out of the deal that each had to build a world where the main character was humanity’s first superhero. It sucked.

Apparently Sony, with their Tom Holland Spider-Man on loan to the MCU, looked back fondly on this era and realized they had the rights to Spider-Man’s arch nemesis Venom and thought “fuck it, let’s just make a ‘Venom’ movie with no Spider-Man whatsoever – that should be fine.”

It isn’t. “Venom” is the opposite of fine.

Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a hotshot investigative journalist in San Francisco with a hit TV show who dresses like I imagine Tom Hardy dresses all the time. When he’s given the chance to interview rocket-obsessed tech billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after his latest spacecraft crashes on re-entry, Brock instead sneaks into the email of his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams, paying for a new vacation house, I guess) and notices people are dying in some human trials Drake is conducting (because, you see, Anne is one of his lawyers).

Anyway, instead of asking Drake about the spaceship (that, oops, brought back violent alien “symbiotes” that take over people’s bodies), Brock grills him about the human testing and promptly gets thrown out on his ass from the interview, his job and his relationship. Six months later, a down-and-out Brock is approached by Dr. Skirth (Jenny Slate), a whistleblower in the company who wants to put an end to Drake’s experiments. She sneaks him into the company headquarters (on property overlooking Horseshoe Bay that will apparently once become Starfleet HQ) where, in an effort to save a woman he knows from being experimented on, Brock becomes infected with a wise-cracking, head-eating symbiote known as Venom.

While “Venom” nakedly wants to be like “Deadpool,” the way it’s been clearly hacked into a PG-13 rating and the weird desire to turn the inky black monster into a do-gooder almost immediately blunts the whole thing from the start. Still, Hardy gives a wonderfully batshit if dimwitted performance at times, but alas that’s nowhere near enough to overcome the utter stupidity of Drake’s motivation or the unintentional comedy peppered throughout the film, be it an odd push in on a background scientist’s troubled reaction or making four-time Academy Award-nominee tenderly deliver the line “I’m sorry about Venom.”

No, Michelle, Sony is the one who should be sorry about Venom.

Fifty Shades of Grey

February 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson (“Nowhere Boy”)
Written by: Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks”)

It’s no secret E.L. James’ best-selling book-of-smut, now adapted into what will inevitably be a major blockbuster, has about as much intellectually-stimulating substance as the Kama Sutra (or Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham). It’s one of those shameful fads in the entertainment industry that 10 years from now people will look back on with the same contempt as sharknados or William Hung. With that said, the movie version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t the trainwreck it should’ve been, especially since it’s based on some incredibly mindless original text. In fact, screenwriter Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks”), at least for the first hour or so, manages to create a cinematic environment that is flirty and intentionally funny. Apparently, this ends up being a chore for Marcel and director Sam Taylor-Johnson (“Nowhere Boy”) to keep up with since the tone in the second half of the film devolves into something that resembles tedious, melodramatic daytime TV where whining and fawning and swooning take precedent over everything else (including the sex, which promised to be racy, but barely even registers).

Providing every ounce of personality in “Fifty Shades of Grey” is actress Dakota Johnson (“21 Jump Street”) in the role of porn name-worthy Anastasia Steele, a subdued English literature major who steps in for a sick roommate to conduct an interview for the school paper with wealthy businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan; more like dormant). When Anastasia asks Christian if he has “any interests outside of work,” she has no idea his extracurricular activities consist of the practice of sadomasochism – a world Christian will introduce her to soon enough, but not before he takes her on a helicopter ride (double entendre!), sweeps her off her feet, and opens up his cold, black heart to her like he’s never done for anyone before. Groan.

Try to ignore annoyances like Anastasia constantly biting and pursing her lips and Christian dully delivering every line of dialogue. What you can’t overlook, however, is Johnson’s natural charm, which surfaces from her meek character with just enough humor and silliness to almost make anyone forget she’s about to get spanked in the ass with a leather-tipped riding crop. Still, once Christian decides to have his way with her in his “playroom,” it’s a disappointment. We weren’t expecting Lars von Trier-level deviance here, but “Fifty Shades of Grey” is so tame, Anastasia’s punishment in the film’s anticlimactic finale is something one might get for stealing an Oreo from the cookie jar before dinner.

During the most amusing scene in the movie, Anastasia negotiates with Christian about the finer points of a contract specifically drawn up so women are aware of his sexual fetishes (thanks LegalZoom!). She asks him to scratch out “anal fisting” and he obliges. Scoff. And they say romance is dead.