Venom

An interstellar spaceship carrying parasites, known as Symbiotes , crash lands in Malaysia, and one of the Symbiotes escapes.  The flight is funded by tech billionaire, Carlton Drake. (Riz Ahmed)   Intrepid television reporter, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) gets an interview with Drake and asks him about some experiments that Drake is doing with the Symbiotes.  Brock gets this information surreptitiously from his girlfriend, Anne Waying (Michelle Williams) who is a lawyer working on a class-action lawsuit against Drake’s company.  For his efforts , Brock gets fired from his job, loses his girlfriend, and ends up washing dishes to earn a living.

Without looking for information, the Drake story follows Brock.  He gets an unsolicited tip from Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate)  a scientist working on Drake’s lab experiments, who tells Brock that people are dying as a result of  Drake’s experiments.  Brock visits the lab, and sees one of his friends, a homeless woman named Maria, (Melora Walters) is dying from the experiments with Symbiotes, Brock tries to save Maura but she dies, and the Symbiote escapes.  Where did it go?  Does Eddie Brock stop Carlton Drake’s experiments on people?

There is one word for this movie and it is disappointing.  I waited 8 months for this movie and the result is an ultra-conventional superhero movie, with lots of chase scenes, and special effects and little in the way of character development or plot development.  The plot is threadbare, and the characters are so thin they are see-through.  The writers don’t have a simple understanding of parasites or symbiosis.  Symbiosis is supposed to create a mutually beneficial relationship for both organisms, and a parasite can’t live without its host.  Do the writers of this movie have even a basic understanding of science?  Science fiction fans will swallow anything if they like this movie.  To top it off the ending is underwhelming.

I love Tom Hardy, he is the reason I went to this movie, he genuinely tries to pump some life into his lonely, sad-sack, wimpy, loser, character, but the awful script ties his hands.  He has more fun with the Venom character and uses his voice to great effect, but this role is largely a wasted opportunity, the writers traded box office cash for real depth of character and plot.  Michelle Williams is also wasted as nothing more than a hollow love interest.  Riz Ahmed’s character is a little more interesting, he plays an evil Elon Musk character, but his execution lacks emotion, he sounds detached and uninterested.  Three really good actors can’t pump life into this movie, what does that say about the writing?  Not much. All the actors deserved better than this pedestrian script.

The director Reuben Fleischer directed Zombieland, which I liked, but this is a very vanilla directing effort.  There are the requisite action scenes, the requisite special effects, the requisite chase scenes, but there’s nothing iconic here.  He keeps things moving along, but doesn’t do anything to make this movie special.

Venom:  Should be box office poison, but won’t be.

Advertisements

hereditary_ending_explained_paimon - Copy

Annie (Toni Collette) struggles with the death of her mother, who became estranged from Annie’s life as she got older.  Annie’s daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) misses her grandmother and tries to bring her back through mystical incantations.  Charlie reluctantly agrees to go to a party with her brother, Peter. (Alex Wolff)   Charlie eats some cake and starts to choke, Peter in his rush to get her to the hospital, gets into an accident and kills Charlie.

Unable to cope with both her mother’s and daughter’s deaths, Annie goes to grief counselling sessions and meets a women named Joan. (Anne Dowd)  Joan says Annie can talk to her dead daughter by holding a séance.  Annie, desperate to deal with her grief, agrees to hold a séance with a family.  What happens at the séance?

Hereditary reminds me of another recent film I saw called A Quiet Place.  Both films examine the effect of a traumatic event on a family, one family in these movies is more dysfunctional than the other, and neither movie is all that frightening.  The writer of Hereditary can’t seem to decide on what direction to go, he leads the viewers in one direction, and then another direction, before finally settling on a course for the movie, which only serves to add to the confusion. Hereditary tries to turn up the fear with lots of scary music and fire, but for its climax, Hereditary relies on one of the most overused and hackneyed plot devices ever in the horror genre, the séance. There are other gimmicky polt devices in the film, that are annoying. The ending  seeks to tie up several loose ends, but only if the viewer pays close attention and in the end,  the story still lacks cohesion.

The acting is ok, just ok.  Toni Colette swings wildly from a person trying to cope with loss, to someone in full-fledged mania, that’s a little too much ground for even a good actor to cover.  Gabriel Byrne is wasted here, and his Irish accent is noticeable.  He doesn’t have much to do, but be a skeptic. Alex Wolff is given a difficult role, his character either has anxiety stacks or some kind of asthma, either way, he doesn’t get to do much besides abuse himself.  Young Milly Shapiro acts like a zombie for most of the movie, and make an annoying clucking noise with her mouth, she was told to act that way, no doubt.

The direction is full of visual flourishes, colors, and camera angles, a model of a house dissolving into a real house, but the pacing is very slow, and the direction of the kids is awful.  I’ve not seen Ari Aster’s other work, and I don’t want to at this point.

Heredity:  Toni is no tigress in this movie.

 

upgrade

In the near future, Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) makes a living as an auto mechanic selling souped up cars to people like technology whiz Eron Keen. (Harrison Gilbertson)  One day, Grey’s self-driving car, takes him and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) to a seedy part of town.  Criminals kill Grey’s wife, and severely wound Grey, and disappear into thin air.  Doctors save Grey’s life, but he is a paraplegic, who is limited to a life in bed.  One day, Eron visits Grey and gives him a proposal, he proposes to implant a chip called STEM, into Grey’s back.  Eron tells Grey that the chip will relay signals from his brain to his body and allow him to walk again.  The chip works, and Grey decides to  try to find the people who killed his wife.  But there are several things Grey doesn’t know about the chip or Eron.  What surprises lay in store for Grey as he pursues his wife’s killers?  Does he find them and does he get revenge?

For all its futuristic references to technology, Upgrade relies on a very old formula.  A man’s wife is dead, the police and helpless, and so the man hops into action and become a vigilante.  For all its promise with the premise of a disabled man becoming able bodied again, this film is nothing more than a cross between Death Wish and Robocop.  The police in this film are not corrupt, just inept, despite having cameras and drones everywhere. The dire warnings about technology are not new either, Hollywood has been stirring up fears of technology since Sandra Bullock starred in The Net. Upgrade often substitutes violence for actual plot, something else that is common in Hollywood, and the violence is grisly.  The writers of Upgrade try to keep the audience guessing about who killed Grey’s wife, but the final answer to that question is disappointing.

The acting is pretty good considering that all these actors are relatively unknown.  Logan Marshall Green handles the humorous quips well, until the violence in the script overwhelms him. Harrison Gilbertson is suitably annoying as the tech geek, or maybe he’s just annoying in person, who knows?  Betty Gabriel from Get Out  is suitably intense as the police officer.  The script really betrays her.

The direction is pretty good, Leigh Wannell wrote and directed this film, the pacing is good, he mixes both exposition and action in the film, but his script is a little too clichéd, and entirely too violent.  His credits will explain the violence, he directed Insidious 3, and wrote the Saw and Insidious movies.

Upgrade:  Degrades quickly

trevor noah

Trevor Noah is just starting to be recognized as a major comedic star.  He is the host of the Daily Show, taking over for Jon Stewart and author of a book about his mother called Born A Crime.

I saw Trevor Noah live in concert recently and it was an interesting show.  Being the host of The Daily Show, I expected a lot of political humor and jokes about the current president of the United States.  I was both relieved and disappointed that Noah didn’t do a lot of political humor and even less about the current president. The lack of political humor showed his versatility, but he’s so good with political humor that I wished there was more.  The show concentrated on cultural differences between America and Europe and his own culture.  Noah’s ability to mimic accents comes into play, and the ease in which he switched accents enhanced his material. Noah’s funniest routine had to do with gender differences.  The only drawback of Noah’s set was it was a little short, I wish he had stayed on stage a little longer.

His opening act was Latino comedian Angelo Lozada, he also does the audience warm up for The Daily Show.  Most of his jokes came from interaction with the audience, which means he had to be quick on his feet, but it was also limiting, because he didn’t have another style to fall back on.  He had one funny punchline that I can remember.  He needs more material, if he wants his comedic career to reach the next level.

Trevor Noah:  His career arc is going upward.

isle of dogs

In the Japanese archipelago, 20 years from now, a vicious strain of the Dog Flu has broken out, in order to protect the humans from the flu, the Mayor  of the Prefecture, Mayor Kobayashi , (Kunichi Nomura) has deported all the dogs to Trash Island.  Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) a 12 year old distant relative of the mayor, flies a plane to Trash Island, in search of his dog, Spots. (Liev Schreiber)  The plane crash lands on the island.  The leader of the dogs on Trash Island, Chief (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t trust humans, but decides to rescue Atari.  Atari then sets out to find Spots.

At the prefecture, Professor Watanabe  (Akira Ito) thinks he has come up with a cure to the Dog Flu, but something happens to Watanabe after he eats some sushi.  At the same time, the Mayor finds out that Atari is alive on Trash Island, and he sends his men to find him.  Mayor Takashi easily wins re-election, but exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) suspects a rigged election.  Does Atari find Spots?  Do the Mayor’s men find Atari?  What’s happened to Professor Watanabe?  Is the election on the up and up?

It’s impossible to watch this movie and not draw parallels to the political situation in America over the past two years.  A power hungry politician deports dogs to a distant place in the name of national security.  The election of the politician is called into question, as the politician faces dissension from the populace.  At the heart of it, Isle of Dogs is a story about a boy and his dog,   it’s also story of possible redemption for a jaded dog, who doesn’t like humans very much, and has become something of a recluse.  It’s interesting to see how all the different elements of the story come together in the end of the film.

The acting is very good and it has to be because all the emotions have to be conveyed through the voice.  Kunichi Namora is very good as the corrupt politician, he wants to stay in power at all costs.  Bryan Cranston is excellent as the lead dog, tough on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, yearning for someone to love him.  Koyu Rankin is also good as Atari, vulnerable but determined.  Greta Gerwig was funny as the angry exchange student.

Wes Anderson did a great job directing and co-writing this movie.  The stop motion animation was terrific, the ha;; where Mayor Kobayashi gave the speech reminded me of the scene from Citizen Kane,  where Kane gave a speech, Trash Island was suitably grungy, and the use of symbolism, Atari wearing white, his dog being a white dog, Chief becoming a white dog after Atari gives him a bath, it was all very well done.  The pacing was fast, the performances were good, I don’t know how much of a role Anderson played in that, these are all skilled veteran actors, except for the boy who played Atari. This film and Moonrise Kingdom are his best work to date.

Isle of Dogs:  Biting satire.

 

Movie Review: Hostiles (2017)

Posted: September 16, 2018 in Drama
Tags: ,

hostiles

In 1892, Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is ordered by Colonel Abraham Briggs (Stephen Lang) to transport Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) to his native home in Montana.  Yellow Hawk is a member of the Cheyanne tribe, dying of cancer and wants to be buried in his native land.  The directive to transport Yellow Hawk came from President Benjamin Harrison himself, but Blocker initially refuses to obey it because he thinks of Yellow Hawk as a murderer.  Briggs threatens Blocker’s pension, so Blocker reluctantly agrees.  Blocker put together a team and starts toward Montana.  On the way he finds a widow named Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) whose husband and three children have been killed by Comanche, who burned her house to the ground.  She is traumatized and in a state of shock.  Blocker sympathizes with the widow, helps her bury her children, and takes her along with them. One night, Rosalie and the Native women are kidnapped by fur traders.  Chief Yellow Hawk offers to help Blocker rescue the women.  Does Blocker take him up on his offer?

Hostiles should have been the story of two psychologically traumatized people living in the old West.  The second half of the movie becomes something else entirely, and the movie stops working on any level.  The writers should have left the main characters alone, and the movie would have been much better. There’s already a movie like this, it’s John Ford’s classic The Searchers, John Wayne plays a bigot, who hates Native Americans, but has to go into Indian territory to save a little girl.  The villains in this movie are also Comanche, don’t know what the Comanche ever did to traumatize Hollywood writers, but they’re the heavies again.  The point is, John Wayne’s character never changed in The Searchers and didn’t have to, Hostiles should have followed similar character development. The climax of Hostiles violent and unnecessary, the whole movie is a wasted opportunity.

Christian Bale is one of the best actors in the world, he’s been acting well since he starred in Empire of The Sun as a 13 year old.  In Hostiles, however, Bale underplays the character so much that he’s barely noticeable.   The script doesn’t help him either, he’s asked to play the character one way for the first half of the movie, and another way during the second half of the movie.  Rosamund Pike has the opposite problem, she overplays the traumatized Rosalie to the point of hysteria, she was not good in Gone Girl either.  Wes Studi plays Yellow Hawk as a sympathetic character, but it’s a small role.

This movie was written and directed by Scott Cooper, who directed the awful Black Mass, and the good Out of The Furnace.  I am hesitant to watch movies written and directed by one person,  because the writer thinks his dialogue is great, so he rambles on, and the director thinks the writer is great, so he doesn’t edit any of the scenes to pick up the pacing.

Hostiles:  Christian should have Bale-d out on this movie.

early-man-movie3

In the Pleistocene Era, Stone Age Man learned to play soccer when a comet falls from the sky.  By the Bronze Age, Stone Age men have forgotten their soccer skills and spend their time hunting rabbits.  A small band of Stone Age people are invaded by the Bronze Age men, and their valley is taken away from them and the Stone Age people are imprisoned.  One member of the Stone Age village is captured by the Bronze Age people, and so he sees what the Bronze Age Society looks like.  Dug, (Eddie Redmayne) the Stone Age captive, learns that the Bronze Age people are very good at soccer.  The Bronze Age Ruler, Lord Nooth  (Tom Hiddleston) is a greedy despot, only interested in collecting bronze coins from the overflow crowds at the soccer game.  Dug challenges Nooth’s team to a soccer game, but the Stone Agers have forgotten everything that they ever knew about  soccer, can Dug, and a female Bronze Age  named Goona  (Masie Williams) help the Stone Age team, beat the Bronze Age team?

Early Man is a tongue in cheek look at the history of soccer, going back to prehistoric man.  The story seems a little padded, there is not only one montage where the Stone Age team learns to play soccer but two .  The use of French accents for the Bronze age players is smart and funny, underscoring the Anglo French rivalry in Europe.  The reason why Dug goes back to the Bronze Age stadium is dumb, but the introduction of Goona is a welcome change from the mostly male cast.  There are lots of jokes, soccer jokes and non-soccer jokes, enough to sustain the film.  The climax is exciting and expected.  Early Man is slightly less enjoyable than Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run, but I enjoy Claymation animation so I enjoyed this movie.

Tom Hiddleston is a very funny guy, and anyone who’s seen his film probably wouldn’t know that, but in this movie he exploits his comedic timing and voice.  He is a large reason why I like this movie.  Hiddleston should make more comedies.  Eddie Redmayne is ok, as Dug, he’s really a straight man, allowing Hiddleston to go over the top with his character.  Masie Williams is good as the soccer enthusiast who wants to be part of a team, but can’t make the Bronze Age team.  She pairs well with Redmayne.

The direction is ok.  It is difficult to animate clay, so bonus points for that, the pacing is slow and disjointed to begin with, but it gathers steam and builds to a nice climax.  The climactic soccer game is filmed well.

Early Man:  Make it a gooooooal to see it.