Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Venom (15)

And so the Marvel universe continues to expand, this tile with a little help from Sony as super-villan and part-time Thunderbolt Venom hits the big screen.

In giant 3D Imaxery to boot, if that's your thing.

Although to be honest I don't think it would improve anything.

To say I was looking forward to this film would be misleading, but I wasn't NOT looking forward to it. I love the character in Thunderbolts and it might be OK.

I mean, it can't be Hulk bad, can it?

Thankfully, no.

But you could not watch it and have about the same experience we did.

The story, such as it is, centres on Eddie Brock, a maverick journalist never afraid to ask the tough questions even when explicitly asked not to by the man who employs him.

He is chasing science guru and man who wants to emigrate to space, Carlton Drake — a man who can end Eddie's job in a heartbeat.

He's also planning to wed lawyer and cat-loving girlfriend Anne Weying, just as long as he doesn't do anything stupid like steal classified information while she sleeps and throw it in Carlton's face.

Oh whoops....

From here we have Things that happen for Reasons, one thing leads to another, and before we can say hungry Eddie is Venom and the fun really begins.

And the CGI team really earn their burgers.

In essence, the plot matters not a jot — which is probably just as well — as the whole point of the early part of the movie is to get to the Venom bit and then have a lot of running about and fighty-fights.

And in these bits, the film delivers.

You get a lot of bang for your overly-inflated buck, and I would imagine one scene in particular comes into its own in 3D. even more so on an Imax screen.

But therein lies the real problem with this film.

You see, when you watch Avengers, or Guardians, or even a Spidey flick, the plot is the basis on which everything is built.

Yes, there's a lot of CGI wossinames flying about, but the characters have a clear narrative within which they are working.

But in Venom...

For a start, Eddie's about as believable a journalist as Amy Adams is in the Superman films.

And as for his relationship with Anne, there are more convincing couples in the late night films Channel 5 used to specialise in.

And this is all a problem in the writing.

The lead cast of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed are about as good as any working today, and yet their characters are so badly drawn you really struggle to engage with them.

Which actually makes Venom the best character in the film.

That said, this film is not without its moments.

The audience in our screening laughed out loud a whole once, and the moment with the dog is great — but those are slim pickings for a big-budget super hero film in a world already owned by Marvel.

And when the final end-credit sequence is literally a trailer for a cartoon that's coming out at Christmas, you realise the producers of Venom have really missed the point of, well, everything.

There are worse super hero films out there, largely because no one seems willing to stop Zack Snyder from damaging DC's legacy, but when that's one of the better things about this film...

My hope is that we are heading towards Thunderbolts The Movie.

My other hope is that the other films, should they surface, are better than this.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A Star Is Born (15)

"Remind me again why we are going to see A Star Is Born..."

"Because you usually choose and I want to see this."

Well, you can't argue with that. And to be fair, the trailer actually looked good. And the stars were a laugh on the Graham Norton Show. It's bound to be fine.

Part way through the film, I was genuinely thinking I'd buy the soundtrack.

By the end I never wanted to be reminded of this film again.

To be honest, I'm only writing this because I have to.

Although I'm still struggling to get a handle on what about it has made me so angry.

The fact this is the fourth version of this film is a part of it — this one being more a remake of the 1954 Judy Garland version than the 1976 Barbara Streisand classic.

I mean, yes, sure, we're begrudgingly getting used to stories being re-told, but a fourth time? Really? Was there nothing else in the in tray?

And it's not the performances, either.

Lady Gaga as the young Ally, stumbled upon by a drunk Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who also stepped behind the camera to direct this version) in a New York drag club, is both captivating and believable.

I mean, sure, they're kind of telling her story here, and it could have been called A Gaga Is Born without changing the essential plot — but she still had to act, and she does it damn well.

And Cooper's easy on the eye. Not great at playing a drunk (his eyes still sparkle), but one hell of a singing voice on him which makes the concert footage a lot more believable.

And the supporting cast — not forgetting dog Charlie — are all up to the job and bring depth to the story....


And it's not the songs. Both Maine's country-rock tracks (penned by Willie Nelson's son Lukas) and Ally's poppier noodlings (Lukas worked with Gaga on these) have great hooks and are played with conviction.

And again, the live footage is good.



Look, let me stress the positives again.

Two fine leads, Gaga is great (I've already backed for for an Oscar nomination) and the live music stuff really captures the vibe and atmosphere of the two different genres.

And Cooper has an eye for a shot. He makes this film look good.

But he's no storyteller. And here in lies the first of the problems.

As good as the music is, the film as a whole feels like a few videos with a loose narrative holding them together.

There are issues with some of the scenes (at least two should have been cut as they have no actual place in the film) and the final quarter should have been thrown into a bin and set on fire.

If you know any of the previous films you'll know what happens, but if you don't I won't spoil it for you here.

Suffice to say Cooper needed a far defter hand, a far lighter touch, than the one he went with.

It's unnecessary and it's where the anger started.

The I got to thinking more about the film, A Star Is Born.

Not, as it should be called, Man Makes It All About Him.

Now, I don't know if I'm being particularly sensitive on this subject given world events — and granted my viewing companion said she didn't really notice ("but then I guess I'm kind of used to that by now") — but it feels less a film about Ally rising to fame and more a film about how this makes Jackson feel.

And, yes, while that may mirror the modern world, and yes there are elements of that in the previous versions, it would have been nice here at the arse end of 2018 if we could have tweaked that a smidge.

As I said, this could be an over-sensitive moment, but it felt more like a showcase for toxic masculinity.

And we get enough of that here in the real world.

And given we were both discussing what light and frothy TV nonsense we could wash our minds with to get rid of the bad taste this film left behind, I suspect I won't be alone in thinking this.

As remakes go, this one doesn't need to exist and doesn't do anything the other three don't already do.

The songs are good, Gaga is good, but it's a mess of a movie with no clear sense of what the focus should be.

Dog's cute though.