‘Venom’ Review

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Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writers: Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel and Will Beall

Cast:  Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, Peggy Lu, and Reid Scott

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

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

 

There’s a lot to say about Venom before even watching the movie. A solo movie has been in the works for a while, and of course we got a version of the character in the god-awful Spider-Man 3 (not all of it was bad, but a good chunk of it), we know have a solo movie with a great lead in Tom Hardy. This version, of course, was caught in a storm of “is it or isn’t it connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?” Of course, the answer was a big ol’ nope, but apparently it is left open for the possibility of being connected – which is why the movie is PG-13 – well, at least one reason. There is also Hardy’s comments that the movie cut thirty to forty minutes, but he later backed off those comments, and the early reviews saying the movie isn’t good.

Then the theory that A Star is Born lead Lady Gaga’s fans are saying negative things about Venom to help her movie get the better of the weekend – which is honestly dumb to even think, but whatever – so all of that said, where does Venom actually land? Well, for me, it’s a very, very mixed bag.

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Venom follows Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a journalist who has made a name for himself by exposing the dirty stories. His next assignment leads him to Life Foundation founder, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who is secretly running experiments on people with alien parasites called symbiotes. When Eddie pushes Drake with the tough questions, Eddie loses everything; his home, job and fiancée Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Eventually, he gets the opportunity to expose Drake, with the help of Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), and while he finds evidence of Drake’s nefarious ways, Eddie gets a symbiote called Venom (which he also voices) attached to him, and everything gets much worse.

Like I mentioned, Venom is a very, very mixed bag. On paper, Venom was set up for success with the talented cast and a character that comic book fans love. Unfortunately, Venom drops the ball with pretty much everyone involved, and while the hate or dislike for Venom is very strong online, I can clearly say that Venom is not as bad as some would have you believe. Is it a great or good movie? No, not really, but Venom is somewhat entertaining when it decides to let loose.

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Of course, everyone joked about Hardy playing Eddie Brock/Venom because he has a career of voicing characters that are hard to understand or what-have-you. That said, Hardy does the role justice for what he’s given. There are some moments as Eddie that are borderline, but for the most part he’s rather controlled. It’s voicing Venom that may divide some fans as the relationship between the two is somewhat odd at first, but as the movie keeps going, it becomes pretty cool to see them play off each other, even though it is Hardy basically talking to himself.

That being said, Venom also deals with a huge tonal problem, and some of it relates to the character of Venom himself. The movie tries to interject some humor in scenes – most of it doesn’t quite land – and when it comes to Venom, there are times were he’s a cold-blooded killer, and then starts cracking some humorous jokes. I’m not against adding some humor, but the execution of it doesn’t land at all.

Going back to the cast, the supporting cast is pretty much wasted here. While it’s cool to see Riz Ahmed play a bad guy, Carlton Drake just wasn’t the villain role for him. The character comes off as a mustache twirling villain at times, and his transformation to the big bad in the last act is extremely underwhelming and rushed. Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate and Reid Scott as extremely underwritten with Williams’ Anne playing a glorified ex-flame, and while she has one standout scene, it’s not enough to make up for her nothing character. Speaking of nothing characters, Reid Scott plays Dr. Dan Lewis, Anne’s new boyfriend after breaking up with Eddie and doesn’t really serve any purpose other than being the other guy. Lastly, and unfortunately, Jenny Slate gets the worse end of it as she serves as an exposition character informing us and Eddie why Drake is using the symbiotes. Her character should have been more important, given that they give her a reason for doing what she does, but we don’t see it.

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When it comes to everything else, the special effects are just okay. Venom himself is arguably the best looking visual effect in the movie, but it’s not saying much when everything else either looks muddied or okay. The final fight between Venom and Riot is hard to watch, not because it’s bad or rushed, but because it’s hard to sometimes know who is who. The action is also not that bad, with an escape/chase sequence in the streets of San Francisco and a showdown with police being the standouts. Finally, the rating really shows. The movie is rather bloodless considering how certain characters die, and Venom biting people’s heads off on some occasions. I’m not that concerned with a movie’s rating most of the time, but it clearly shows here.

All in all, Venom is a mix bag of everything, and missed opportunity to do something great, and start Sony’s Marvel Universe strong. There are some good things, some bad and some downright awful, but watching Tom Hardy do his thing could be enough for you to sit through the whole thing and not regret it. Regardless of that, it should be interesting how Sony moves forward with this.

Venom

3 out of 5

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‘Hotel Artemis’ Review

Director: Drew Pearce

Writer: Drew Pearce

Cast: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto and Jeff Goldblum

Synopsis: Set in riot-turn, near-future Los Angeles, ‘Hotel Artemis’ follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Hotel Artemis, the directorial debut of Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce, has been on my radar since it was announced. Sure the movie drew comparisons to John Wick right off the bat, so the question was what was the movie going to do to stand out? Well, Hotel Artemis does do enough to make it stand on its own, but unlike its spiritual counterpart – for the lack of a better phrase – Hotel Artemis would rather build up the tension for a grand finale.

Set in Los Angeles in 2028, the city is rioting over the lack of water, but during all of that, two brothers (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry) pull off a bank heist that doesn’t go as planned. After Henry’s character gets injured, Brown’s character takes him to the Hotel Artemis, a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals to go to get patched up and lay low. There, they met The Nurse (Jodie Foster), who runs the establishment with her head of security, Everest (Dave Bautista). The Nurse gives everyone there nicknames according to their rooms; Brown gets Waikiki, while Henry gets Honolulu.

As Waikiki’s brother gets patched up, we meet other occupants of Hotel Artemis in a loud and foul-mouthed businessman Acapulco (Charlie Day), the French assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella), and a cop played by Jenny Slate. Things look to be going smoothly until The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) enters the picture, and things go to hell pretty fast from there.

While the trailers and TV spots focus on the action in Hotel Artemis, you’ll be surprised – maybe disappointed if you were absolutely looking for that – that Pearce shows a lot of restraint and keeps the action to a minimal until the very end. What Pearce does instead is build up these characters and world before unleashing the action scenes, which is actually kind of refreshing.

Also, the fact that Pearce was able to get a cast like this on his first feature is quite the coup. Everyone nails their roles to a tee. Jodie Foster, despite being behind-the-camera for years now, reminds us why she was such a great actress. The Nurse is the most fleshed out character out of everyone, reaching every emotion available, and while he’s not as colorful as other characters like Day’s Acapulco, her character doesn’t lend to that anyway.

Sterling K. Brown’s Waikiki is a man with a plan for everything, and more level-head than anyone involved including his mess-up for a brother. Sofia Boutella’s Nice is arguably the most dangerous of them all, and has a history with Waikiki that sadly doesn’t play out the way Pearce probably intended it when he wrote the script. Dave Bautista’s Everest is what you’d expect from a Dave Bautista role by now, and that’s okay in my book. Charlie Day looks to be having some fun with his role, but it doesn’t quite click for me. Finally, Jeff Goldblum’s The Wolf King, the man that runs L.A., is really nothing more, sadly, than a glorified cameo. And while his short time on screen is great, it does lead to some important events for the rest of the movie.

Another thing that sets Hotel Artemis apart from other similar movies – yes it does have some sequel bait/world building – is the impressive production design by Ramsey Avery. We are told by The Nurse, that she has worked for the Artemis for twenty-two years. The halls and rooms look old, but some way they look like a room you’d find in nice hotel. Combine that with the cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung, who did It, and you got yourself a great looking movie.

All in all, Hotel Artemis is a solid action thriller that’s worth your time. What Drew Pearce was able to do with his familiar concept, and what he was able to get from his impressive cast for his first feature is impressive. Despite promotion making you think the movie is a shoot ‘em up action thriller, Hotel Artemis takes you down another road that is actually worth it. With a slow build for a big finale, great character development and fleshed out characters, and great production design and cinematography, Hotel Artemis is something to check it out, and something I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to.

Hotel Artemis

3.5 out of 5

Podcast – Fast & Furious 9 Delayed, Hobbs/Shaw Spinoff On, Tyrese Drama, Pacific Rim: Uprising Trailer & More

The Movie Pit Podcast is up!

I’m a little late to post it here – obviously – but I still wanted to pass it along. So sit back and enjoy everybody. Also check out the podcast on iTunes as well (link – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-movie-pit-podcast/id1249582608?mt=2) and please subscribe and leave a review. It will really help me out.

 

‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ Review

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Director: Chris McKay

Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, & John Whittington

Voice Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate, Mariah Carey, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ellie Kemper and Billy Dee Williams

Synopsis: Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

No one knew what to think when The LEGO Movie came out, and then we watched it, everyone (okay not everyone) fell in love with it. Something many agreed was the standout was LEGO Batman, so when it was announced that LEGO Batman would be getting a spinoff, it seemed right and logical. And before you ask, no, you don’t have to watch The LEGO Movie in order to watch The LEGO Batman Movie, in fact, the film stands on its own. So was the gamble worth it? Yes, yes it was.

The LEGO Batman Movie starts off with a pretty lengthy and action-packed opening where Batman (Will Arnett) takes on what looks to be his entire rogues gallery lead by The Joker (Zach Galifianakis). Afterwards, he returns to Wayne Manor on Wayne Island where he essentially lives by himself with the expectation of Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), and lives his life as a lonely man. However, that changes when Jim Gordon retires and his daughter Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) is bought in to be the new commissioner and wants to work with the Batman to finally end crime in Gotham, which of course he doesn’t like. Add on the fact that while be distracted as Bruce Wayne, he unknowingly adopts an orphan in Richard Grayson (Michael Cera), or as the other kids in the orphanage call him, Dick. What follows is Batman bringing Dick into the fold and discovering what it means to work together and be a part of a team.

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While the film may be for kids, there is enough here for hardcore Batman fans. The film really digs deep into the core of the character and what makes him tick. The film makes fun of how long the character’s been around, but at the same time it brings up the obvious questions fans, and non-fans, bring up about him. It never gets to the point that it brings the character down – as it shouldn’t – but just enough to make you really think back and criticize the character and his actions. However, it all wrapped up as a huge love letter to Batman and it works on much a personal and ambitious level, and all done in LEGO form.

The voice cast is pretty spot on with Will Arnett, once again, being the highlight once again. He has this ability to tap into Batman that makes him comes off as both a jerk at times, but also a charming character. Michael Cera is a close second to stealing the show from Arnett as Dick Grayson/Robin as he’s equal parts naïve, adventurous and funny, moreover he’s the perfect opposite to Batman. Ralph Fiennes is pretty spot on as Alfred, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon does the best with what’s she’s given, and is a nice non-villain foil/love interest to Batman.

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Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, which I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sold on when he was casted does a great job. Seeing him be down on the dumps when Batman tells him he’s “fighting around” is both hilarious and a bit heartbreaking in its own way. To go a bit nerdy, hearing Billy Dee Williams voice Two-Face –albeit in a small role – was still cool to hear. The rest of the villain cast don’t really have big moments like Joker, and some other villains Joker recruits – which leads to a fun introduction and funny moments – so I won’t get too much into them. Finally, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return to voice Superman and Green Lantern in a fun cameo appearance.

While I’m sure many will find some things wrong or misplaced with the film, the film lags for a only a bit, The LEGO Batman Movie nows who the audience is. One thing I do love about the film is it stands on its own. Despite one moment in the film, it stands on itself and doesn’t rely on The LEGO Movie to keep it up – not that it really needed it – I mean, come on, it’s LEGO Batman for crying out loud.

All in all, The LEGO Batman Movie is all around fun. Whether you’re a hardcore Batman fan or not the film has just about everything for everybody watching. More importantly, the film knows and understands the character, which makes the film feel like the ultimate love letter, and the perfect one.

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The LEGO Batman Movie

4.5 out of 5