Venom (2018, Directed by Ruben Fleischer) English 6

Starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze

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(6-Good Film)

Campy. Silly. Fun.

Occasionally, not often, I’ll watch a film that makes me question my own cinematic taste. I’ll watch Blade Runner 2049 and be bored to tears, or, on the opposite end of the pole, I’ll thoroughly enjoy a film like Venom. Torched by critics, who, to be fair, only reaffirmed my belief that the Tom Hardy, superhero vehicle would be a massive waste of time, a box-office dud, and an embarrassing cash-grab by Sony, I was surprised five minutes in to find myself intrigued by what was going on, and shocked by the end to find I liked what Sony did with the movie. Does that make it a good film?  I decided to let some time pass. Maybe I was influenced by the natural high I sometimes achieve eating Walgreen’s candy at the movie theater. Best to keep my opinion to myself, I thought. But I couldn’t keep it to myself. I texted a dozen people that Venom was, against all odds, a good film, and now, two days later, I feel confident enough to put it in writing. Venom is a good film.

Eddie Brock leaps from the comic book pages onto the big screen in a solo film that not many people thought would ever happen, and even fewer felt he deserved. Played by Tom Hardy, in a bewildering performance best described as Nicholas Cage-esque (I’m leaning towards that being a compliment), Brock is a hot-headed, investigative reporter who runs afoul of corporate thug, Carlton Drake (Ahmed, an odd but entertaining choice), resulting in him losing his job and his fiancée, Anne (Williams). Drake has some kind of sinister, shady plan afoot involving symbiotes from outer space (more interesting to watch than to explain; the film, to its credit, recognizes this), and Brock ends up merging with one of them. The symbiote, named Venom (I don’t remember why the symbiotes speak English but they do) inhabits Brock and can communicate with him through thoughts. Venom has seemingly unlimited power, though we learn his weakness is fire and high-pitched noise. Brock, as he grows accustomed to the powers, goes after Drake who’s planning to take over the world-typical super villain stuff-and Venom’s motivation for helping him ends up being quite funny rather than perfunctory.

Sony and the filmmakers eschew the problems of most super hero origin stories. Venom is never boring. It’s not dark and brooding, which, I know a lot of people were upset that this isn’t R rated. Maybe a dark and reflective Venom could have worked (it worked so well for Ang Lee’s Hulk), but this Venom is funny (usually intentionally), fast, cheesy, over-the-top, fresh, silly, and fun. At its core, it’s a compelling bromance between Eddie Brock and his symbiote friend, Venom, and it took me by surprise.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959, Directed by Ed Wood) English 2

Starring Bella Lugosi, Vampira, Gregory Walcott, Duke Moore, Tom Keene, Paul Marco, Tor Johnson

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A U.F.O, grave robbing aliens that look like humans, and zombies that look like vampires fill the scattered narrative of Ed Wood’s infamous film, but basically it’s about evil invaders from a more advanced planet who want to wipe out humanity. Besides being amateurish and inept in several aspects of filmmaking, Plan 9 is also awfully hard to follow. There’s no discernible character development, introduction, or suspense to speak of, and only towards the end do we get a sense of character motivation. Ed Wood was just as woeful at script writing as he was at directing. Incompetent. Silly. Confusing.

Mac and Me (1988, Directed by Stewart Raffill) English 3

Starring Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Martin West, Danny Cooksey, Jade Calegory, Lauren Stanley

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(2-Atrocious Film)

Third-rate. Shoddy. Laughable.

A young alien, given the nickname Mac (mysterious alien creature), crash lands on Earth, separated from his family. Discovered and befriended by brothers Eric (bound to a wheelchair) and Michael, Mac looks to reconnect with his family. If this premise sounds awfully similar to E.T: Extra-Terrestrial, it’s because Mac and Me is a blatant rip-off of that classic, released just six years prior. Add to that, Mac and Me is a lousy rip-off, devoid of any imagination, and damned by poor design for the central alien figure. There are two especially bad scenes: one where Eric loses control of his wheelchair and falls off the side of the cliff, and another set in McDonalds, where everyone begins a choreographed dance number. The latter is mind-blowingly bad. Baffling, really, and not the only embarrassing moment of product placement. The former is unintentionally hilarious. Surprisingly, the acting is professional, keeping Mac and Me out of the seventh circle of movie hell where The Room and Troll 2 live.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(52)

Spider-Man 2 (2004, Directed by Sam Raimi) English 8

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, J.K Simmons, Donna Murphy, Rosemary Harris

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“A hundred cares, a tithe of troubles and is there one who understands me?” The first two Spider-Man films centered around Peter Parker’s burden. The idea that he has to sacrifice his personal desires in order to fulfill his duty as Spider-Man. In Spider-Man 2, everything’s a mess in Parker’s world. He (Maguire) loves M.J (Dunst), but feels that he can’t be with her without putting her life in danger, and spends most of the movie disappointing her in some way or other, as she settles for another man she doesn’t love. Parker’s best friend, Harry (Franco) wants Spider-Man dead for killing his father in the first film. On top of that, Parker can’t pay his rent. Director Sam Raimi gave the character compelling problems, and a sense of humor that didn’t take away from the drama. Actually, this film is largely a melodrama with misunderstandings, unrequited love, twists. Doctor Oc is the main villain in this picture, and there’s a fantastic scene of him and his robotic attachments Wreaking havoc in a hospital wing (a memorable homage to classic monster movies, I feel). The film starts out with one great scene after the other, and by the end, I was happy to find, that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 remains one of the really good super hero movies. Engaging. Inspired. Fun.

Real Genius (1985, Directed by Martha Coolidge) English 6

Starring Val Kilmer, Gabriel Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, William Atherton, Jon Gries, Robert Prescott

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15-year-old genius, Mitch (Jarret), gets accepted into a prestigious private university where a devious professor, Jerry Hathaway (Atherton), uses his students to develop a top secret weapon for him. While there, Mitch falls in with the brilliant but underachieving Chris (Kilmer), who shows the young prodigy how to have fun. Entertaining, Real Genius appeals more as a college dormitory movie rather than as a serious science fiction film. Led by Val Kilmer’s quick-witted prankster, the characters of Real Genius are quirky and original.

Innerspace (1987, Directed by Joe Dante) English 6

Starring Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Robert Picardo

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A hotshot marine officer, Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Quaid) is miniaturized for a government science experiment where he’s to be placed inside the body of a test rabbit, but, due to an attempt from rogue agents looking to steal the work, gets placed  inside the body of a hypochondriac named Jack (Short) instead. Jack and Tuck team up to return the latter to his normal size, as well as keep him out of the hands of mercenaries. Along the way, Jack becomes smitten with Tuck’s girlfriend, a reporter named Lydia (Ryan). Goofy, fast-paced with some excellently performed gags and stunts, Innerspace is more about the individual scenes than the picture itself. Promoted as a “what if” type picture wherein a Dean Martin type gets put inside the body and the head of a Jerry Lewis. They might have done well to push that idea further, but as it stands, Innerspace is a fine adventure.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018, Directed by Peyton Reed) English 6

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Walton Goggins, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Randall Park, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Judy Greer, T.I, Bobby Cannavale, Hannah John-Kamen

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Scott Lang (Rudd) seems to have burnt his bridges with Hank Pym (Douglas) and Hope (Lilly) after going rogue with Captain America back in Civil War (2016). On top of that, he was sentenced to two years house arrest. As he closes in on his release date, Hank and Hope see a chance to rescue, Janet (Pfeiffer), the former’s wife and the latter’s mother, from the quantum realm she was lost to decades ago. Unfortunately for everyone, Scott appears to be the key, forcing a reunion and putting Scott in danger with his parole officer. Meanwhile, an enigmatic figure known as Ghost materializes at every turn. Fun film and a 180 from the heavy, substantial Avengers: Infinity War. Ant-Man and the Wasp is slightly better than the first one. Often funny, with some cool ideas involving shrinking and growing. It does, however, feel like a modest entry in a series of films that all run through the same machine in my opinion. The end result is always nice, but never extraordinary. Add to that, Ant-man, or, more specifically, Scott Lang, is a second-tier hero, largely dependent on Hank Pym.