Venom Review

With only a few weeks till Halloween, I was expecting to review more seasonal movies this time of the year. Instead, I’m stuck reviewing yet another divisive superhero movie to split critics and audiences right down party lines. It comes as no surprise that this divisive movie was made by Sony and is their loose interpretation of the fan favorite Marvel character Venom.

Venom tells the origin story of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a renowned investigative journalist who hits rock bottom after doing a hit piece on a notorious businessman, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). While investigating one of Drake’s scientific investments, Eddie becomes fused with an alien entity known as Venom. Now filled with a dark and twisted split personality, Eddie must try to control his new superhuman powers as Venom slowly consumes his identity.

The mood of Venom was a weird blend of dark and goofy, an immediate indication that this film wasn’t taking itself seriously.  Some scenes are frightening and given as much raw intensity as it’s PG-13 rating can muster. Police and criminals are thrown about, killed, and eaten, all in a somewhat mild manner. Other scenes simply have Tom Hardy going bananas. Throwing rage-filled tantrums and engaging in bizarre dialogues that were so perfectly timed that I couldn’t help but laugh. The tone of the writers tended to ape this humorous sentiment, leading me to assume that the film was supposed to be bizarre.

Major continuity issues plagued Venom from start to finish. Poor day and night consistency, unusual (or nonexistent) character arcs, and characters being in two places at once are just a handful of examples displaying the botched editing job. I’m not sure whether the studio or the filmmakers are at fault for these problems, but on several occasions they became a hindrance to the enjoyment of the film. I was left scratching my head when an important scientist in the film appeared in two back to back scenes in different locations, all with no indication of a time-lapse.

Venom was a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I can see where people would be disappointed with the turnout of the film, it basically being one big comical farce. Nothing is taken seriously, some characters don’t have story arcs, and some people just duck out of the movie altogether.

On the other hand, I rather enjoyed the nonsense of Hardy’s “symbiotic” relationship with Venom. The unpredictable antics and wild outbursts of Hardy were laugh out loud hilarious, and the personality of Venom provided a nice contrast in the overall tone. I never found myself too bored with the film and I quite enjoyed some of the action, despite the sub-par editing that made certain scenes confusing.

I wouldn’t recommend that typical superhero movie fans go and see it, but Venom definitely doesn’t deserve the harsh feedback it’s received from critics. Venom differentiates itself enough from the Marvel “happy-go-lucky” blend of movies for those craving something a little unorthodox.

The Verdict: C+

-Zachary Flint

Deadpool 2 Review

After a rather unexpected turn of events, Wade Wilson (our favorite merc with a mouth Deadpool) finds himself in a life-altering crisis. Following a brief stint with the X-Men, he meets a young and impressionable orphan named Russell (Julian Dennison). When Russell becomes targeted by a mysterious cybernetic supersoldier from the future (Josh Brolin), Deadpool assembles a team of power-challenged heroes to protect Russell and earn some self-respect.

Deadpool 2, much like its predecessor, keeps to the theatricals. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool lets the jokes fly in the best of times, and worst of times. Most of which elicit strong reactions from the audience.

He’s even thrust into the ranks of the X-Men, further allowing the audience to associate him with the X-Men Universe. This encounter is of course brief, as things inevitably go south quick (as humorously depicted in the film).

Deadpool goes as far to create his own superhero squad titled the X-Force. That’s because the name X-Men to him is appallingly sexist. This whole X-Force bit is by far my favorite moment of the film, and really highlights why people love Deadpool in the first place. The humor kept piling on and raising the stakes; and my laughter became more uncontrollable as the joke went on. One moment Terry Crews is slamming into a bus windshield, followed by a guy parachuting into a woodchipper. I typically wouldn’t think something so stupid would be this funny, yet here we are.

Overall, I guess I don’t really have much to say in terms of Deadpool 2‘s diversity from other superhero movies (hence why this review was pushed off for many months). It’s good, it’s funny, but there isn’t much to discuss at this point.

Deadpool was among the first films I ever reviewed; and now three years later – after countless more superhero movies – I feel like a broken record discussing very similar movies on repeat.

All I’ll say it this: being sucked into the strange, macabre, comical world of Wade Wilson is not a hard feat. All the obscure, bizarre references to related (and unrelated) pop culture practically acts as a magnet to mainstream movie-goers. Those who go to see Deadpool 2 will be getting exactly what they expect, and I mean that in the most entertaining way possible.

The Verdict: B

-Zachary Flint

Justice League Review

The Justice League film finally makes its debut into theaters, featuring plenty of hollow performances, bad camera work, and one rushed incredibly story.

With signs of a great evil upon them, Batman (Ben Affleck) decides to assemble a team of individuals with superhuman powers. This includes the likes of The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). They together must learn to work together to stop the evil Steppenwolf (no, not the band, but I wish it was) from taking over the world.

Our extensive cast of superheroes are given very little time to build chemistry and learn to work together, which was oddly the whole message of the movie. One second they will genuinely dislike one another, then suddenly for no reason at all (other than for the convenience of the screenwriter) they were working as a team and cracking jokes. It was almost as if there were scenes missing from the movie that involved the bonding of the Justice League. But what we were left with was the sloppy edit version.

This aspect was sadly compounded by the hollow characterization, as the audience really has little point in caring for characters like Cyborg and Aquaman. Both had hastily rushed introductions that didn’t really fit the story. Even the introductions of Wonder Woman and The Flash were disappointing and drab.

One of the most abysmally embarrassing topics surrounding this flick was the comic relief, mostly provided to us by The Flash (a character I found to be revolting). The entire theater remained dead silent for the whole film. Occasionally there’d be a light chuckle or a halfhearted laugh, but the majority of the crowd was unamused.

And at the conclusion of the film, about five or so individuals stood up and applauded enthusiastically, with a few others who reluctantly joined in on the celebration. The rest of us sat there, quietly mourning what could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve been.

While some moviegoers may prefer this over perhaps Man of Steel or Batman V. Superman, I believe Justice League to be the worst out of the bunch. The story is a messy, rushed, paint-by-numbers version of the Avengers. Many of the action sequences were as incompetently filmed as Batman V. Superman, only the characters were twice as bored while doing it. Even Batman, my favorite in the series thus far, looked about as tired and disinterested as the audience I saw Justice League with.

The Verdict: D

-Zachary Flint

Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thankfully taking a rather lighthearted look at this dark and drab series, Thor: Ragnarok is a satisfyingly fun and adventurous film.

Imprisoned in a gladiator contest on the furthest side of the universe, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is pitted against his old Avengers ally the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). With time working against him, Thor must escape his captures in order to stop Ragnarok, the prophesized destruction of his home world and Asgardian civilization. Full of unique and entertaining characters, Thor embarks on one of his biggest journeys yet, literally across the universe.

Visually, Thor: Ragnarok was noticeably more bright, colorful, and vibrant than previous Thor movies. Perhaps the stylistic successes of Guardians of the Galaxy inspired the Thor creators to take a more imaginative route. Whatever the case may be, the beautiful color palette and crafty costumes and character designs give Ragnarok the kind of sci-fi look that I love.

Also nicely designed was Cate Blanchett’s character the evil goddess Hela, who reminded me a lot of Rita Repulsa from the underwhelming Power Rangers remake. Only she didn’t chew the scenery so much (and is in a much better film). I think the writing of the character was a bit bland and not really that menacing. A lot of her dialogue, while communicated terrifically by Blanchett, was very inconsequential and insignificant. Hela said and did a lot of things any typical supervillain would do, and I sadly think her character is the least memorable of the bunch.

This is especially true when it comes to the colorful group of individuals we meet on the planet of Sakaar (where the film predominantly takes place). These entertaining, yet very quirky characters are a pivotal part of Thor: Ragnarok‘s identity, and help make the film as fun and lighthearted as it is. My favorite of these characters would have to be that of Jeff Goldblum, who is hilariously charming every second he’s on-screen.

The humor in Ragnarok was particularly well written, with the comedic timing almost always right on the money. Witty jokes at the perfect times kept the audience laughing throughout a good portion of the film.

Scenes attempting to tie Ragnarok into the Marvel Cinematic Universe were the weakest features of the film, as they usually are for these flicks. Take the Doctor Strange cameo for example. It was funny and well written, except it felt entirely too forced and tonally out of place. As if the studio big wigs told director Taika Waititi that he had to somehow shoehorn this scene in, so Waititi did the best he could.

Thor: Ragnarok isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, as many critics would have you believe. It is however, a solid, colorful, and stylish film that often felt less like a superhero movie and more like a straight sci-fi adventure.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming, an exciting and well-acted entry into the Marvel Universe, manages trim the fat from your usual superhero origin story, and gives fans of Spidey the film they all wanted to see.

Presuming that audiences are exhausted with Spider-Man origin stories (as this is the sixth Spider-Man film in fifteen years), the film jumps right into the part that viewers want to see. Taking place shortly after his fight with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has returned to Queens, New York to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Here we see Peter as he attempts to prove himself capable of joining the Avengers, as he takes on local neighborhood crime while also keeping his social life in balance. Peter’s days of crime fighting quickly escalate when he gets wrapped up in the affairs of the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

The action scenes, dialogue, humor, and characters, are all pretty much everything you would expect from a Marvel film by now. While these details have become a typical, standard package that you get with every entry in the series, this doesn’t really hinder how well-executed Spider-Man: Homecoming is.

The comedic timing of the dialogue and jokes in the film are spot on, as Marvel filmmakers continue to perfect their quickly-timed humor.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man is probably as good of an on-screen Spidey that we’re ever going to get. The film goes very in-depth into how Peter’s role as Spider-Man impacts his personal life, and we see these struggles portrayed very well by Holland. The best part of it all, is that he still behaves and looks like a young kid. He’s oftentimes arrogant, impatient, and awkward, yet still strives to do the right thing (even with serious risk to his own well-being). With a little help from Tom Holland, Peter Parker is as charming of a character as ever.

Michael Keaton as the Vulture was everything I wanted it to be and more. His performance was incredibly strong, playing a very bad man who, deep down, may still have some good intentions. His excellent acting is complimented nicely with just how well his character is written. Instead of creating an elaborate backstory for the Vulture that takes an hour of screen-time to develop, the audience is given a brief summary of his motivations and even gets to see him in his costume, all within the first ten minutes. Again, it seems the filmmakers knew exactly what the audience wanted to see out of Keaton as the Vulture.

This being a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, the weakest moments of Spider-Man: Homecoming happened to be its connections to the ongoing series. A lot of scenes shared between Tony Stark and Peter Parker are unnecessary, serving as detours that the film doesn’t need. Spider-Man: Homecoming is very competently directed, and can stand perfectly on its own as an independent piece. It’s not imperative to include Avengers tie-ins every few minutes, as this type of screenwriting is more likely to hold the film back from reaching its fullest potential.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a well-calculated crowd-pleaser that I found to be very exciting and a lot of fun. Both Tom Holland and Michael Keaton give really strong performances, and share some of the tensest sequences in a Marvel film to this day. Unlike the previous two Spider-Man series, I feel that this interpretation of everyone’s favorite web-shooter will be the most universally loved and respected.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Wonder Woman Review

Gal Gadot wholeheartedly rose to the challenge put forth by DC Films, delivering a strong performance in their first film to be coherently structured. With a strong story, good characters, and a surprisingly well crafted message, Wonder Woman has the marks of a well-made, quality film.

The film starts out with the back story to our main protagonist, Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot). Before going by the name of Wonder Woman, she was known as Diana, princess of the Amazons. The Amazons being a race made up of only women who live on a remote island. As princess of the Amazons, Diana lives a rather peaceful and sheltered life, well-trained in combat but free of any conflict. Everything changes when an American pilot named Steve (Chris Pine) crash lands on the island, who tells Diana about the escalating war going on in the outside world. Very concerned with the well-being of others, Diana then decides to leave her home for the first time. And with the help of her new friend, Diana thrusts herself into the heart of World War I, determined that she can help end the fighting.

The character of Wonder Woman isn’t how she appeared in Batman v. Superman, where she came off as unnecessary, weak, and relatively boring. In this picture, everything is actually reversed. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman gives young girls the opportunity to have a good film role model, someone with robust morals and the will to always do good. Wonder Woman also knows how to fight, and takes part in some fast-paced and engaging action sequences.

The action, taking place mostly in a WWI trench warfare setting, remained as gritty as a PG-13 rating could allow. We see some of the real life repercussions of war, including amputee soldiers and homeless civilians. This was a neat addition that I didn’t expect to see, one that works fittingly with the message Wonder Woman has to offer.

Wonder Woman isn’t without its flaws, just like all superhero films. Now and then I’d come across a character with little to no point, other than to serve as some unneeded comic relief or to supply some obvious plot information. These few characters felt unnecessary to the overall story, and were more of a hindrance or distraction than anything.

One little touch that I really enjoyed about this film is that it has very little to do with the rest of the DC Universe, and makes no attempt to connect with future installments. In doing this, Wonder Woman stands much better on its own as an independent piece to the series. This is an area that, unfortunately, Marvel Studios often lacks in with its films.

Wonder Woman isn’t a masterpiece of cinema, as some people would have you believe. And few superhero films are! What Wonder Woman really is, is a step in the right direction for future DC projects. It’s a fun, well-shot, and structurally sound movie, with a truly admirable protagonist.

The Verdict: B

-Zachary Flint

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

There is a phenomenon occurring within some superhero movies today. The phenomenon of attempting to cram as many plot threads, characters, and exposition into a single superhero film. In some instances there are films like Batman V. Superman and the Amazing Spiderman 2, which were so overloaded with content that the film was bogged down.

A more positive instance of overloading a superhero movie is Captain America: Civil War. The movie had a long runtime with many characters (some new) and multiple plots, but the end product was really enjoyable.

The very best example of cramming as much into a film as possible is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

Out of the Shadows takes place sometime after the events of the first Turtles movie. Shredder (Brian Tee) is broken out of prison by his foot clan, and is approached by another villain Krang (Brad Garrett), an alien from another galaxy that wants to take over the world. It is now up to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to stop them and their plan for domination.

Many characters, both old and new, are introduced into Out of the Shadows. So many were introduced that it would be difficult for me to recall and explain each and every one. One particular pair of new characters introduced were Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus), the henchmen of Shredder. Bebop and Rocksteady are both goofy characters with cheesy and silly dialogue. These are the kind of characters that some will love because of the goofiness, and others will hate for the sheer stupidity of the madness. I personally seemed to like Bebop and Rocksteady more than most, however I seem to be part of the minority on this one.

The Turtles themselves struggle throughout the film with the idea of working together as a team. This is the exact same problem they dealt with and fixed in the first film, as if they have learned nothing. Leonardo is bossy, Raphael is too aggressive, and overall they can`t function as a team. But when they put their heads together, the Turtles can defeat the bad guy. I believe reusing the same plot thread for both films is not only stupid, but also redundant. Unraveling what little development with the characters was made in the first film.

I must say that Out of the Shadows took a big leap forward with its character of April O’Neill (Meghan Fox). April seemed more meaningful and useful in this film. She had important tasks and was integrated into the Turtles team much better than the last movie. I actually enjoyed watching Meghan Fox act as the character of April.

Another positive note is the look of the turtles. The producers of the film must have heard the harsh criticisms about them looking like gross aliens because the CGI is much more appealing to the eyes. I can actually look at the turtles now and see what I am meant to see, giant mutated turtles. Alas, a few positive changes from the last Turtles movie aren`t even enough to make this a good flick.

The biggest and most devastating problem with Out of the Shadows is its plot. Too many characters and ideas are shoveled into the film, which will leave many overwhelmed. I think there was at least five or six main and minor villains to keep track of, as well as about a dozen protagonists. This was way too much to ask the audience to keep track of, given the overused and dull plot.

Even the final fight scene with the Turtles, Krang, the Shredder, and the Technodrome is extremely underwhelming. A huge two hour build up for very little payoff. The fight scene is very quickly over and the villains are defeated without much struggle. What a disappointment.

I wished for the Turtles films to succeed. While I like Out of the Shadows much more than the last Turtles film, it still had many shortcomings. Out of the Shadows is a film mostly children and young teens will love. Die-hard fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might want to tread lightly when entering these waters.

Zachary Flint