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Venom (2018)
Venom (2018)
2018 | Action, Sci-Fi
This is the worst kind of relatively big budget popcorn tease – the kind of film that knows its demographic will flood to it regardless of quality, so let’s not even bother trying to make it good. The first sign of this type is a script that is such gibberish you almost start to wonder if you are having a stroke, and Venom has that in spades! Just when you think you have a handle on it, off it goes on a tangent that has nothing to do with anything other than setting up the next CGI shot. Which is the second sign – CGI good enough to pass, but quite obviously not the cutting edge stuff we have already seen years ago in better films. Cheap and nasty. The third sign is a director that can bung a few thrills in the mix but has no care whatsoever for characterisation, pace, plot or sensible motivation. Well done Ruben Fleischer for being the first director to have two films included in my BMTBs, following Zombieland Double Tap – I really can’t split them. The only fun to be had here is watching Tom Hardy amuse himself with a comic book characature so far over the top it hurts. Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed are horribly wasted and should be ashamed. Just awful stuff!
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
2019 | Action, Comedy, Horror
I ended up enjoying this film
I really enjoyed the 2009 Horror/Comedy ZOMBIELAND - a truly unique and original film that blends the trendy (at the time) Zombie genre with really smart comedy populated by some truly charismatic comedic performers and a GREAT surprise cameo.

So...I greeted the news that there would be a sequel - 10 years later - with a shrug. Why would they want to revisit this tired (at this time) genre with performers that have (for the most part) gone on to "bigger and better" things (including a few Oscar nominations and 1 Oscar win). But...I enjoyed the first, so I figured I'd check it out. And...for the first 20 minutes or so of this film, I sat there with my arms folded across my chest thinking "they are just trying too hard to replicate the first film". And then an interesting thing happened...

I chuckled to myself. Then I chuckled some more, and then I started laughing out loud and at about the 1 hour mark, I realized, "I'm really enjoying myself".

Credit, I think, has to go the charm, charisma and chemistry between the 4 returning leads - Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin and Woody Harrelson. It was like running into 4 old friends and old, comfortable, patterns re-emerge (kind of liking eating comfort food). These are ably assisted by good, fun turns by the likes of Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. Special mention has to be made of Zoey Deutsch's turn as blonde air-head, Madison. This could have easily been a one-note, annoyance. but she brings something more to role that makes her endearing, not cloying.

The original creative team - Director Ruben Fleischer and Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick - are back as well, so the style and humor are similar to the first film - not really bringing much new to the proceedings, but not just "getting a paycheck" either.

This film is "nothing new", but I enjoyed it anyway - so if you liked the first Zombieland, you'll like this one as well. ONE NOTE - there is a "credits scene" as well as a "button scene" at the end of the credits that are MUST WATCH. So stick around for those, you'll be glad you did.

Letter Grade: B+

7 1/2 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
2019 | Action, Comedy, Horror
Ten years is a long time in Hollywood. Ten years ago, to this day Avatar was yet to be released to the unsuspecting masses, with Titanic still reigning supreme over the global box-office and debutant director Ruben Fleischer surprised the cinema-going public with Zombieland.

Made on a tiny budget of just over $20million, it went on to gross over $100million globally and received unanimous praise. A sequel was widely expected in the years that followed but never materialised. That’s probably down to a few things; one being Emma Stone’s meteoric rise to fame, Jesse Eisenberg starring in some of the biggest and most celebrated films of the decade that followed and Woody Harrelson, well, being Woody Harrelson (that’s not a dig, we love you Woody).

Fleischer meanwhile went on to direct 30 Minutes or Less, Gangster Squad and Venom among a couple of other projects. The time for a Zombieland sequel came and went with the film’s core fanbase hoping that one day they’d get what they desired.

That day is now here with the release of Zombieland: Double Tap. With a cast of returning characters and the original director at the helm, things certainly look promising from a technical point of view, but has the ship sailed on getting this franchise off the ground?

Zombie slayers Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus (Eisenberg), Wichita (Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) square off against a newly evolved strain of the undead as well as combatting their own personal demons in an effort to survive the ongoing zombie apocalypse.

Despite the popularity of the film’s actors since its predecessor, it’s nice to see all of the lead cast slot back into their roles seamlessly. Granted they’re a little older than we last remember them, and a little wiser too, but these characters still retain the charm and humour that made the last movie such a success.

Harrelson remains the standout and that’s mainly down to a nicely written script, penned by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham. Between them they’ve worked on films like Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, Ant-Man, Deadpool and its sequel and Life. That’s a pretty impressive roster of films it has to be said.

Eisenberg and Stone are also nicely written with a good character arc that means we get to see opposing sides to their roles. Unfortunately, Breslin is underused throughout, reduced to a part that feels much more like a support role. Of the new characters introduced, Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch are thinly written but reasonably entertaining.

The movie makes a big deal out of introducing some new breeds of zombie flesh-eaters, but doesn’t really do anything with them
Thankfully, the script remains a real highlight over the brisk 99-minute run-time with some genuine hilarity. The screenplay’s attempts at emotion work reasonably well but fall flat on a couple of occasions – the basis of the previous film was its humour and no surprises, this is where the sequel excels.

It’s a nice film to look at too. While some of the landscapes look a little too artificial, the sweeping shots of desolate buildings and roads add a sense of scale that was sometimes lacking last time around. The opening sequence inside the White House is great to watch and sets up the rest of the film well.

Zombieland: Double Tap works best when our band of characters is bouncing off each other and it’s a good job as the zombie action is fleeting. Some action pieces are well choregraphed but for a film about the world being overrun by the undead, there’s a distinct lack of them. The movie makes a big deal out of introducing some new breeds of zombie flesh-eaters, but doesn’t really do anything with them until the final act and that’s a bit of a shame.

Nevertheless, Zombieland: Double Tap remains easy-to-watch and likeable throughout with a cracking cast of characters. Unfortunately, the world has moved on from 2009 and zombie films, TV shows and books are ten-a-penny nowadays (something nicely referenced at the beginning of the film) and while Zombieland 2 does an awful lot right, in the end it’s a decent sequel to a great film, and nothing more than that.

Stick around for a post-credits sequence that follows on from the predecessors “greatest cameo ever”.
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
2019 | Action, Comedy, Horror
It is hard to believe it has been ten years since audiences were introduced to the hysterical yet violent Post-Apocalypse world of Zombieland; but thankfully the crew is back again with the highly enjoyable “Zombieland: Double Tap”.
The story begins with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), bringing the audience up to speed on what has happened since the last film. The Zombies have evolved into different classes of abilities and Columbus and his ersatz family have taken up residence in The White House.
Columbus and Wichita (Emma Stone) are still dating; well at least as best as one can do in a Zombie Apocalypse which is painfully short on options. This situation does not seem to bother Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), as he is happy to work on his loaded vehicle dubbed “The Beast” but for Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), the situation has become intolerable.

Little Rock is eager to find someone to have a relationship with and when her frustrations combine with Wichita’s insecurities; the girls take off leaving the men to fend for themselves.

While Tallahassee has no issues with this, Columbus is a moping mess and even a trip to the local mall cannot lighten his mood. Things change when they meet the ditzy and clueless Madison (Zoey Deutch); who steals her scenes with her Clueless Pop Culture Princess who is as oblivious to their situation as a person can be.

When Wichita returns to tell them that Little Rock has run off with a guy she met, the crew load up and take to the road to save the day but are blissfully unaware of the new dangers waiting for them.

This is the rare sequel that is as good if not better than the original. The cast works very well with one another and the introduction of new characters brought some additional comedy to the film as well as enhancement to the action sequences.

While the film is at times very gory; it is done in a humorous way that balances the dangers the characters are in with a wink and smile to let the audience know that this is still an Action/Comedy that is light on the darkness and big on the levity.

The film has some great continuity with the original film without repeating itself as Columbus’s rules for survival still pop up when they are used and we also get some hysterical new updates to the coveted Zombie Kill of the Week.

Director Ruben Fleischer knows what audiences want and does a great job giving them more of what he gave them in the first film without being gratuitous or heavy handed with the material.
The new cast works well with the returning players especially Rosario Dawson and the previously mentioned Zoey Deutch who fit seamlessly into the comedic Zombie mayhem.

You will want to make sure to stay into the credits for a fantastic bonus scene which puts a great capper on the film which was one of the best times I have had at the movies in recent years and one of the better movies of 2019.
Hopefully this is not the last outing for the crew as I would love to see further adventures in Zombieland but hopefully we will not have to wait 10 years for the next chapter.

4 stars out of 5
Venom (2018)
Venom (2018)
2018 | Action, Sci-Fi
Hardy, Williams elevate mediocre material
I had lowered my expectations when entering the new Sony film VENOM for I had heard that this non-MCU Marvel film wasn't really a Marvel - or a Spiderman - film, even though it features one of the more famous characters from the Spiderman Universe, which is, of course, a Marvel property.

Confused, yet?

Well, don't be. Because this knowledge is not needed, nor (quite frankly) is it wanted as the filmmakers of Venom made a film that centers on the titular anti-hero with no real regard to his place in the Marvel Universe.

And this works well...enough. True, the plot, dialogue, situations, special effects and gadgets of this film are middle-of-the-road at best, but with the two folks at the center of this film, I started to forgive this film it's many flaws and enjoyed two Oscar-caliber Actors having a good ol' time in a Supehero movie.

Venom, of course, tells the story of...Eddie Brock..who becomes - through a merging of his body with an Alien symbiotic creature (don't worry about it, just roll with it) - becomes the titular VENOM. A being that wants to eat live creatures (most notably human heads) while the good part of Eddie tries to keep him in check and help him fight bad guys.

In lesser performance hands, this character could become silly and stupid, but in the more than capable performance by the great Tom Hardy (Bane in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES), Eddie Brock/Venom is an intriguing figure to watch on-screen. His simultaneous ability to look unnerved and hunger for live flesh while looking for a nice cool bath caused me to smirk on more than one occasion and I ended up rooting for him throughout the film.

Matching him is the great Michelle Williams (she of the 4 Oscar nominations, most recently in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA) as Eddie Brock's ex-Fiance Anne Weying. Like Hardy, Williams is elevating mediocre material to something better than the mediocrity it was destined to be. The chemistry between Williams and Hardy is evident in their bi-play with each other and I couldn't help but think "get these two into an Oscar-caliber film together and watch the sparks - and the awards - fly."

Unfortunately, Riz Ahmed as bad guy Carlton Drake is not able to rise above the material and when he is playing opposite Hardy and/or Williams, he pales in comparison and I began to realize just how weak the script by the trio of Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel is. Clearly, two of them were brought in to re-write the original (I have no idea who did what) but none of them were able to elevate the proceedings.

Nor could Director Ruben Fleischer (ZOMBIELAND) elevate things. His Direction is pedestrian at best. There is nothing really interesting going on and when the going got tough he just started to rely on the quick cut/edits that is so "en vogue" these days - and it grew tiresome.

But when I started to grow weary of the events on the screen, Hardy and Williams would show up and I began to forgive things again, even thinking during the credits scene (where they introduce the Villain for VENOM 2), I want to see Hardy and Williams play against (name deleted so as not to spoil) as the new Villain - that might be cool!

So, I'm "in" for Venom. It was "good enough" and I will come back for the next installment - and based on the Box Office of the opening weekend, there WILL BE a next installment.

Letter Grade: B

7 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
Venom (2018)
Venom (2018)
2018 | Action, Sci-Fi
Do you like time travel
“It feels like a movie born from a different era.” That is the thought that immediately flooded my brain upon leaving the cinema after watching Venom. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing of course. Hundreds of amazing films have been born well before superhero films became the successful genre they are today.

Nevertheless, in Venom’s case, what we have is a film that struggles to create a consistent tone throughout its rather succinct running time. But is the film still a success for Sony?

Journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is trying to take down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom – leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fuelled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.

Director of the absolutely brilliant, Zombieland and its upcoming sequel, Ruben Fleischer seems like the perfect choice to helm a solo movie for Peter Parker’s arch nemesis, but the result is muddled – speckled with excellent moments that are lowered by frequently jarring editing techniques and a brawl for identity. Whether that’s down to studio interference or just a misunderstanding of the source material is up for debate.

Let’s start with the best bit: the cast. Venom’s cast is of such a high quality, it really needs reeling off to be believed. We’ve got Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed all in lead parts. Hardy is his ever-charming self in a role that is vastly different from his portrayal of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. His ‘bromance’ with Venom is by far the standout of the entire film with witty dialogue and amusing physical comedy. In particular, one scene set in an lobster restaurant had the audience in stitches.

Unfortunately, Michelle Williams, one of our most talented actresses is wasted in a thankless role as Brock’s girlfriend, Annie. She’s supposed to be a lawyer, but apart from a few lines of dialogue explaining that fact, she’s completely by-the-numbers WAG. Riz Ahmed suffers a similar fate. His Carlton Drake is so pantomime villain-esque, you half expect him to start twirling a moustache.

Then there’s the film itself. The special effects rarely rise above adequate and the cartoonish CGI used to create Venom himself is frankly, quite poor. You’re never under the illusion that the symbiote could be real, it just looks far too machine generated. With a budget of $100million, this is wholly unacceptable. It’s also noisy and pretty ugly to look at, constantly murky with a muddy colour palate that tries desperately to be edgy and cool – it fails.

Venom feels totally and unequivocally outdated and from a different age
The plot is typical origins story which is to be expected, but there’s very little to thrill or surprise and the first hour is poorly paced. It’s not until we see Venom in his full form that things get out of the gate and Venom finds its footing.

Part buddy-comedy, part superhero flick and part body horror, Venom struggles to maintain a consistent identity. Much like the titular antihero, the film feels like a parasite, latching onto different genres until it finally finds one that fits its needs.

This is a real shame as there are moments of brilliance here. The dialogue between Venom and Brock is great and while the story isn’t anything out of the ordinary, an origins plot for an antihero rather than a traditional superhero is an inspired choice. The lack of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker really doesn’t matter too much, though I can’t help but be disappointed that these two may never meet on film.

Finally, the bizarre decision to aim for a PG-13 rating in the US has inexplicably landed it with a 15 certification here in the UK. 15 rating superhero films include Deadpool and its sequel, Logan and Watchmen. If you’re hoping for gore to the standard of those, you’ll be very dissatisfied. Despite all his head-chomping glory, Venom doesn’t even have a hint of the red stuff.

In the end, despite its best efforts, Venom just comes out very ‘meh’. In a world populated by standout superhero movies like Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, Venom feels totally and unequivocally outdated and from a different age. Thankfully, it’s not Catwoman levels of bad, maybe X-Men: The Last Stand levels of average.