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

Dunkirk Review

In May of 1940, near the start of WWII in the European Theater, Nazi Germany broke through Allied lines in France, trapping all Allied soldiers on the French beaches of Dunkirk. In what became one of the largest military evacuations in history, hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers were methodically rescued from the beaches using any and all civilian and naval vessels possible.

And to pay tribute to this very important piece of history, we get the newly released film Dunkirk, a worthwhile flick that portrays Allied soldiers at their strongest and weakest points. Turning out many captivating performances, Dunkirk portrays the evacuation from many key points of view.

Director Christopher Nolan, a filmmaking purist who prefers to shoot on film over digital, displays remarkable talent in his ability to capture the chaos and grit of warfare. With Nolan’s films, especially Dunkirk, you get a sense of genuineness in what happens on-screen, that what you see is exactly what you get. You can tell the film hasn’t been filtered or altered a million times over in post-production, and that most of the stunts pulled off are completed using practical effects.

The camera work in Dunkirk reminded me a lot of Saving Private Ryan, in that the camera itself gets up-close and intimate with the actors. This gives the audience a firsthand view of the tragedy and disarray, which is much more compelling and rousing than seeing it happen from far-off angles. There is one scene in particular that exemplifies this well, and it’s when a British ship is hit by a German torpedo. In a typical war film, we might see the Germans actually launch the torpedo, then watch as it glides through the water and impacts the ship, causing a large explosion. In Dunkirk, we see an indiscernible object about twenty feet from the boat, somebody yells “Torpedo!”, and the boat is struck with an ear piercing sound. And instead of seeing the explosion from the outside, the audience is given a view from inside the ship, as the soldiers struggled to make it to the deck and avoid drowning. Again, this style of up-close and personal camera work gave a certain level of realism to the picture that few war movies successfully achieve.

Another thing I noticed in particular about Dunkirk was just how loud the film was. From the first bullet fired, everything sounded much louder than most movies you see. I feel that this may have been done intentionally, as too give a more realistic impression of warfare and just how loud the battles are. A nice little touch that many will find obnoxious, but I found necessary.

Dunkirk manages to flawlessly depict Allied soldiers at their most heroic (and feeble) moments during a crucial point in WWII history. While the film does take several liberties, neglecting several important aspects of the evacuation (like the heavy involvement of French soldiers), I still feel that Dunkirk does its best to be historically accurate. The film exhibits a powerful cast, a strong sense of realism, and displays the talents of a director who knows how to functionally make a movie work. Giving audiences an intense experience that all war movies should strive for.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

From veteran director George Miller comes not only the best action movie of 2015, but arguably the best Mad Max film to date. I found every minute of Mad Max: Fury Road an exciting, fast paced, and action-packed masterpiece.

Fury Road takes place in a dystopian future ruled by a dictator named Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Bryne). Joe has control of the only source of nearby water, as well as all vehicles, weapons, and gasoline. So when the warrior Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) aids in the escape of Immortan Joe’s slave wives, he sends his entire fleet of vehicles after her. Forming an alliance with a drifter named Max (played by Tom Hardy), Furiosa attempts to outrun Joe’s army in an oil tanker and escape to freedom. All resulting in a deadly car chase across the desert Wastelands.

Mad Max: Fury Road is quite literally, a nonstop adrenaline rush. Rarely does the film slow down to deliver long-winded expository dialogue. Instead, the viewer is locked into a two-hour car chase full of shooting and explosions. In many scenarios, this level of continuous action would get mind numbing and boring. However in Fury Road, the camera work, color scheme, and musical score help to engage the audience and keep us entertained.

Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy both worked wonders together onscreen. They both played characters that were straitlaced and battle-hardened, all while remaining completely shrouded in mystery. At no point did I see them as Tom Hardy or Charlize Theron, as their acting was overall top-notch and very convincing.

I also enjoyed the post-apocalyptic style and tone that Fury Road lays out perfectly. It pays enough homage to earlier Mad Max titles, while also putting its own spin on things. The costumes, the weapons (like the giant explosive sticks), and the vehicles all added to the testosterone-filled excitement Fury Road offers to its audience.

One minor nitpick I’ve heard from people is how often things in the film go unexplained. Throughout the film Max has visions of individuals from his past, people he most likely failed to save at some point or another. These visions come and go occasionally, and nothing is ever explained or even significantly hinted at. You could argue that not explaining every detail adds to the mystique, and I would somewhat agree with that sentiment. I hate that every film nowadays has to lay out and explain every detail, as if the audience is made up of only toddlers. Regardless, this nitpick is really only a minor issue. An issue easily forgotten, as the film doesn’t even give you a chance to stop and think about the little things.

It’s hard for me to emphasize in words alone how much fun Fury Road is. This is an experience in science fiction entertainment that I would have to recommend to just about anyone. Full of great post-apocalyptic scenery, a fantastic cast, and some of the best shot action sequences in years, Fury Road is sure to go down as one of the action movie greats.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint