Movie review: Venom

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie I thought was better than everyone else did. This is Venom!

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

Writing

Venom was written by Jeff Pinkner (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Dark Tower, Jumanji), Scott Rosenberg (script doctor on Spider-Man), and Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr.Banks and Fifty Shades of Grey) and their script was okay (better than it had any right to be, looking at the mish-mash that is these writers collected filmography). This film was truly an origin story, so it was quite by the numbers but executed well enough. The set-up was successful and the movie did have callbacks to the things it set up. The science fiction ideas (and the villain’s plan) were definitely more fiction than science but its a comic book movie, so we should not expect anything else. I was quite impressed with the romantic plotline and thought that the dialogue between Hardy’s and Williams’s characters was really good. The jokes were also decent.

While Venom started out as a villain, he has become more of an anti-hero in the comics (so I have heard, haven’t read much of it). He was definitely an anti-hero type in this movie. My one gripe in the film was actually his switch from being a villain to a hero of sorts: I didn’t necessarily find that change of heart believable. Mostly because it wasn’t really explained fully.

Directing

Venom was directed by Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer and he did quite a good job. First, I would like to applaud him for telling a comic book story in under 2hours. Venom was around 100 minutes long and that was perfect: not too short (and rushed) and not too long (and dragging)! The action was good too but not particularly original. Venom vs Riot fights were cool but messy and hard to follow. The CGI of all the symbiotes was okay: really good in some scenes and a bit messy in the scenes of heavy action. The soundtrack of the film had a lot of hip-hop and rap music and that came across to me as the film trying a bit too hard.

Acting

The cast was certainly the best part of this film. Tom Hardy (Mad Max, Dunkirk, The Revenant, Legend) was a great lead: he was both a believable everyday-man but also had that charisma of a Hollywood star. Michelle Williams was also great and it was nice seeing her in a more pop-corny film as she usually does more high brow films (Manchester by The Sea, The Greatest Showman, All the Money in the World, I Feel Pretty). Riz Ahmed (Rogue One, Jason Bourne) was also a great villain – he delivered a sleek performance of a self-controlling maniac.

Mid and Post Credits

Mid-Credits scene was a teaser for a Venom sequel and a promise that a certain character will show up in the sequel (celebrity cameo included!). Post-credits scene was a bit of a disappointment as it was a teaser for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. The trailer for that movie also had just come out and was actually showed before Venom. So, a trailer before the film and a teaser after seemed like a bit of a heavy-handed marketing/advertising strategy.

In short, Venom was an entertaining enough comic book movie. I didn’t have many expectations, therefore, I was able to have a good time.

Rate: 3.8/5

Trailer: Venom trailer

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Movie review: Hacksaw Ridge

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before the year ends, I’m desperately trying to see all the movies I’ve missed and all the films that might make my top 10 list. Well, I just came back from the cinema where I saw a strong contender for it – Hacksaw Ridge.

IMDb summary: WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

Writing

TV writer Andrew Knight and playwright Robert Schenkkan wrote Hacksaw Ridge’s script and did a very good job. They managed to tell a very personal story in the context of a huge global event – WWII – and have given a unique perspective on it. This film, similarly to The Birth of a Nation, was not only a war drama but a religious picture too. The power of belief and religious dogmas were contrasted to the horrors of war. The writing for the main character was really good and extensive: his upbringing and personal background really helped the viewers to sympathize and even identify with him. I especially liked the contrast between his quite violent childhood and the feeling of innocence that he maintained in his adult years before the war (the sweet flirting scenes showcased that the best). These varying scenes made him into a fully rounded character and set up his character journey neatly. The truly heartbreaking and inspiring part of his story was the fact that he managed to keep his goodness when faced with the evilest thing in the universe – war.

The most compelling part of the film, to me personally, was the second act. I found it really interesting to see how this man struggled to even get to war. The court speech was one of my favorite pieces of dialogue (the other one being the line from the 3rd act ‘Help me get one more’). The debate on whether rules or beliefs are more important was interesting too.

When watching this movie’s narrative unfold on the big screen, a couple of questions popped into my mind. The first one revolved around bullying in the army – we all know that that happens in real life and we all have seen the countless movie scenes with the Sergeant shouting at the Privates. This type of a scene has become a cliche in both the reality and in cinema. The question that bothers me is why? Why is bullying in the army seen as accepted and normal rite of passage? The second, more general movie question, has to do with war dramas. Every year, at least one WWII or WWI film reaches theaters and they all usually do pretty well, both financially and critically. I’d like to know when are we going to run our of real (and fictional) war stories to tell? When is humanity’s fascination with world wars is going to end? Maybe if one starts in real life, there won’t be any need to look for this kind of horrific violence in the cinema.

Directing

After a 10 year hiatus, Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ) came back to directing and did a magnificent job with Hacksaw Ridge. I loved how he realized all the different parts of the story (upbringing, training, and war) and how he paced them: the movie was quite slow and long but I didn’t feel like it dragged unnecessarily, the balance between drama and action was good. The way the actual war sequences were actualized was just spectacular. They were graphic, violent, and uncomfortable to look at – everything a war scene should look and feel like. From start to finish, Gibson crafted a solid and well-constructed motion picture, which was cleverly completed with the inclusion of the real life counterparts of the film’s characters. I always appreciate these real world tie-ins in the biographical dramas.

One last note before I move on to acting – I would really like to praise the sound designers of this film – their aural effects accompanied the striking visuals of war and really made an impact, this time around. The first few bomb explosions in the first few scenes of the war action really startled me – they were extremely effective.

Acting

  • Andrew Garfield played the lead and did an absolutely spectacular job. After he was replaced as Spiderman, Garfield has really turned his career around and focused more on serious and indie films rather than blockbusters. He started and produced 99 homes and was also in Scorcese’s Silence (which was yet to be released widely).
  • The supporting cast of the film featured so many familiar faces: Vince Vaughn (True Detective Season 2), Sam Worthington (Avatar, Everest), Luke Bracey (Point Break), Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, LOTR, V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas), Rachel Griffiths (Saving Mr. Banks), Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge!)Teresa Palmer (Point Break, Triple 9) and Nathaniel Buzolic (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals) had roles of varying sizes. All of them delivered great and realistic performances. One aspect in which the film lacked realism was the physical look of its soldier characters – the majority of them looked like male models rather than soldiers, but, this is Hollywood, so I should not have been that surprised.

To conclude, Hacksaw Ridge was a very strong WWII drama – the best one in recent years – coming close to even the likes of Saving Private Ryan in its levels of quality. This film had a truly amazing and unique narrative at its core, which was nicely brought to life by the main actor – Andrew Garfield –  and the main man behind the camera – Mel Gibson.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Hacksaw Ridge trailer

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Movie review: Irrational Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review, this time, it’s Woody Allen’s Irrational Man starring Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix.

Woody Allen started making films in the 1960s and 5 decades later, he is still going strong and I couldn’t be happier about it since I’m a fan of his. True, I haven’t seen all of his films (I don’t think that’s humanly possible), but I love his newer films, which are set in various European cities. 2005’s Match Point and 2006’s Scoop are set in London, 2008’s Vicky Christina Barcelona shows the beauty of one of Spain’s cities, 2010’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger travels back to the capital of the UK, while Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love depicts the life of France’s and Italy’s crown jewels respectably. 2013’s Blue Jasmine brings Allen back to the US, where Irrational Man is set as well.  If you want to read the review of the previous Allen film – 2014’s Magic in the Moonlight, which set in France during the Inter-War Period – you can find it here.

IMDb summary: A tormented philosophy professor finds a will to live when he commits an existential act.

Directing and Writing

Allen is one of a few auteur directors in Hollywood. He has always been famous, but he never went full mainstream and I adore him for that. His films are always quirky, a bit controversial and have a distinct point of view. Irrational Man is a story about a depressed man and his journey to redemption. Sadly, the main character chooses wrong weapons for the fight against his own mind. And although his actions might seem inhumane and just plain crazy, Allen makes you understand and even feel pity for this character. I never get so many mixed reactions, when watching an Allen film and that makes it unique.

From the visual perspective, the movie looks great. Warm tones and soft colors make the motion picture seem old school, but also turns it into a refreshing break from shiny and metallic blockbusters. Irrational Man is also a pleasure to the ears because the soundtrack is amazing. Happy and upbeat songs mismatch the depressing and quite tragic actions that are happening on screen, but these contrasting opposites complement each other quite nicely. My favorite tracks from the soundtrack are The ‘In’ Crowd by Ramsey Lewis Trio and Over The Waves by Paul Eakins.

Acting

The main story revolves around two characters – Joaquin Phoenix’s Professor Abe Lucas and his student Jill played by Emma Stone. 

This isn’t the first time that Emma Stone stars in Woody Allen’s film: they worked on  together. In that film and in this one, Emma’s character gets involved with a much older man and, while that may seem creepy or at least controversial in other movies, Woody makes it work somehow. Also, W. Allen is known for sticking with the same actress throughout a few projects (for example, Scarlett Johansson in Scoop, Match Point and Vicki Christina Barcelona), so I’m interested to see if Stone will work with Allen again. She is an amazing actress and I have been a fan of hers since Easy A and I cannot wait to see what she does next,especially after receiving her first Oscar nomination last year for Birdman. Currently, Emma is filming the musical comedy-drama La La Land with Ryan Gosling (they previously teamed up for Crazy Stupid Love).

While I can practically name all of Emma Stone’s films, I can’t say the same about her costar Joaquin Phoenix. I loved him in Her and I really want to watch Inherent Vice – his latest film before this one. Moreover, at one point, Phoenix was in talks to play Doctor Strange for Marvel but that role already went to Benedict Cumberbatch, so I’m interested if Joaquin Phoenix can land a different high profile project or is he destined to play in the small leagues and be an awards’ darling, but never a mainstream celebrity.

All in all, I adored the latest addition to the already impressive Woody Allen’s filmography. The acting was great and the visual appeal of the film was wonderful as well, while the story was relatable to me personally. Even when I was a kid, I got these existential thoughts before going to sleep. I still remember myself as a 7 years old, lying in bed and thinking why do I exist? On a more upbeat level, the movie has a lot of dialogue lines which are true words of wisdom. I even added one of the quotes from the film – Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom – on my mood/inspiration board.

Have a nice weekend!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Irrational Man trailer

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