MOVIE REVIEW: Venom


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: June 3-9

LESSON #1: TOXIC FANDOM IS ONE OF THIS INDUSTRY’S LARGEST UNCHECKED PROBLEMS— What used to be little nit-picky pissing and moaning no more imposing than the Comic Book Guy character on The Simpsons is turning overly voluminous, hurtful, egregious, and flat-out unnecessary.  The latest ugly example came this week when months of harassing and abusive social media actions led Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kelly Marie Tran to delete her Instagram.  Notice in the title of the lesson that I said “industry.”  This fanboy immaturity and hate isn’t exclusive to Star Wars fans.  This kind of abhorrent behavior fueled by internet troll courage lights up with comic book films, gaming culture, TV shows large and small, and many other sources far too often and far too loudly.  Let this school teacher tell you that all this bitching about fiction and entertainment is fruitless and unhealthy.  No piece of entertainment is worth any level of the hate and consequences leveled to Ms. Tran.  The support around her is positive but more must be done.  If you claim these pieces of pop culture are core influences of your formative character, then you don’t have a very good core and need help in the form of interpersonal relationships not rooted in fantasy.  I know its the few ruining it for the behaved majority, but turn off the screens, take off the cosplay, put away the toys, grow up, and go engage in real relationships.  At an industry level, accountability is needed, and I love this NBC News piece from Ani Bundell and this Forbes editorial from Scott Mendelson as highly recommended reads.  No matter how you cut it, this is bullying and it’s time to employ the “see something, say something” practices we tell school kids nowadays.  Help report and block improper behavior.

LESSON #2: EACH FILM STARRING WOMEN OR MADE BY WOMEN IS NOT REQUIRED TO ADVANCE FEMINISM— From one torch-bearing subject to another, I referenced a junket interview from the Ocean’s 8 press tour in my review of the film where the leading ladies are tired of answering questions large and small about gender roles.  They made Ocean’s 8 to have fun.  Let Ocean’s 8 be marvelous for what it is (namely a proper heist film) and not curved by who is in it and which chromosomes they have. When someone adds the marginalizing and labeling descriptors of “all-female,” “women-centered,” or, worse, “chick flick,” their narrow vision becomes part of the problem. That goes both ways. Not every film for or including women has to carry a torch and a battering ram for the #MeToo movement.  Let something fun be fun.  Furthermore, in a second interview piece and connecting to Lesson #1, Ocean’s 8 star Sandra Bullock also drew alarming comparison to the flaq the Ghostbusters reboot cast received two years ago.  The wave of hate for that film was off-the-charts higher than what Ocean‘s 8 is receiving, which shows the fickle hypocrisy of toxic fandom.

LESSON #3: THE RIGHT DOCUMENTARY CAN MAKE A FLASHIER DRAMATIZATION UNNECESSARY AND OBSOLETE— This one is more a prophecy than a lesson.  One of my many reactions and takeaways after watching (my full review) the incredibly detailed, moving, and impactful documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is that I, for one, absolutely do not need an upcoming movie biopic version of Fred Rogers’ life story.  There is tangible spirit and a magic watching the real personality of the late TV personality that comes out in Morgan Neville’s film that speaks rightly true and cannot be translated into a glitzy newfangled narrative using dramatic license.  I don’t care how wholesome and loved Tom Hanks is or how immensely talented his is as one of the finest actors walking the planet.  Even he cannot suspend disbelief to become Fred Rogers.  The genuine article is too singular, too unique, and, to borrow his favorite word, too special.  Fred’s central mission and message is strong enough on its own and demands full reality.  Flattering imitation, in my opinion and even cited in the documentary itself with recaps of impersonations done by Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, SCTV, and In Living Color, would take away shine from the gleaming legitimacy of what Fred Rogers stands for.  There is more value to both nostalgic audiences and neophyte discoverers of Fred Rogers to see his actual self in Won’t You Be My Neighbor? than the diluted Hollywood version to come.  Let a documentary become a summer blockbuster for a change.  Get some truth out there and see this film.

LESSON #4: A VENOM CHARACTER NOT IN THE CURRENT MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE IS NOT A REAL VENOM AT ALL— I was right there with you salivating at the idea of Tom Hardy playing a brawny Eddie Brock and his beastly alter-ego of Venom.  Throwing looks and Daily Bugle character history out the window, you couldn’t cast a more imposing threat for an emerging Tom Holland Spider-Man than Hardy.  The problem I’ve always seen has been timing.  Pulling off a Venom film is cart-before-the-horse too soon for a brand-new teenage Spider-Man. Now, the problem has increased to misalignment with the news that the Venom film will not be a recognized part of the MCU.  I know I just talked about toxic fanboy culture earlier in the column, but, I’m sorry, Venom is not Venom without Spider-Man.  What looked to already be an impatient cash grab by Sony to stay relevant with its Marvel character properties now looks to be an expensive and possibly pointless waste of resources entirely.

LESSON #5: YOU CAN’T WASH THE STINK OF MICHAEL BAY OFF THAT EASILY— Much like Venom in a way after its recent trailer surprises, I don’t care how good that Bumblebee trailer looked this past week (and yes, Mr. Ignore-All-Trailers over here did see it).  It’s going to take more than a decent teaser or two and a whole heap of deeper narrative work from Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight on the final product to improve this tainted franchise.  Hope is there with Knight’s reputation, but plenty of films, when manipulated correctly with marketing magic, have duped us before.  I will still preach tempered expectations for Bumblebee.  Michael Bay’s cinematic skunk spray is still all over this.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

Episode 105: Warrior

We square off in the octagon (aka Google Hangout) this week to talk Gavin O’Connor’s incredibly powerful fight film, Warrior. Its story of brothers chasing the same goal for very different reasons is told with an emotional depth that makes it stand out among similar films and evokes a powerful response from us both.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:29

(Aaron – Michael Mann and anime fever)
(Patrick – Jiro Dreams of Sushi)

Warrior Review – 0:20:22

The Connecting Point – 1:09:30


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 083: Black Hawk Down

This week, in honor of Veteran’s Day, we are talking what we consider to be one of the most affecting war movies ever made, Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the Mark Brown account of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. This episode is a bit more somber than usual because there is nothing funny about this film. It is unflinchingly brutal in its depiction of war and its effect on those who wage it. We have a frank discussion about the ferocity of war, courage, and ultimate sacrifice.

Black Hawk Down Review – 0:01:29

The Connecting Point – 01:28:23

Mogadishu Mile Memorial Run: https://www.facebook.com/Mogadishumile/

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Episode 068: Dunkirk

War film? Rescue film? Horror film? Or all three? We tackle Christopher Nolan’s latest movie and discuss whether the film’s unique narrative structure and immersive sound were positives or negatives. We also try to answer what we think a Christopher Nolan movie is, which is no easy task. Nolan may be our favorite director but Dunkirk was an experience we had to linger on. We hope you enjoy as we talk our way through how the movie made us feel.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:32

(Aaron –  Oats Studios)
(Patrick – 48-Hour Film Project Screenings)

Dunkirk Review – 0:19:14

The Connecting Point – 1:07:31

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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What We Learned This Week: July 2-8

ALL SPIDER-MAN SPECIAL!

LESSON #1: CAST TEENAGERS TO PLAY TEENAGERS— Sorry, makeup artists specializing in the Hollywood Fountain of Youth, but if you want your movie to have convincing teenagers, cast teenage performers.  I don’t care how young somebody looks.  You can tell they are too old when they’re too old.  Take Spider-Man: Homecoming as an example.  Tom Holland was 19 when cast as the web-slinger and he was finally a convincing high schooler after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both well into their twenties playing the character.  His best bud Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is the same age, as is The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Tony Revolori playing Flash Thompson.  The girls were 50/50.  Zendaya was the same 19 playing Michelle, but then 27-year-old Laura Harrier soars past the mark as #1 crush Liz.   Earlier in the year, 27-year-old Britt Robertson feigned playing 18 in The Space Between Us.  Casting agents, dive deeper and younger.  There’s plenty of talent out there.

LESSON #2: NO ACTOR OR ACTRESS DESERVES DEATH THREATS FOR ANYTHING— Speaking of Tony Revolori, one tremendous and progressive aspect of Spider-Man: Homecoming is the casting diversity.  However, when you get enough terrible Comic Book Guy-types from The Simpsons bearing silly and short-sighted torches, stupid and nitpicky crap occurs.  Revolori recently revealed that he received death threats when he was cast as the typically white jock character of Flash Thompson.   I don’t care what someone does to butcher a character or an entire movie (which Revolori doesn’t, by the way).  No one deserves death threats.  It’s a movie and supposed to be simple entertainment.  The film and the people making it have zero effect on the balance of life.  Tony Revolori may have parents of Guatemalan descent, but he was born-and-raised in Anaheim, California.  He’s as American as you or I.  The same goes for the Hawaiian Batalon, the African-American Chicago native Harrier, and the biracial Zendaya from Oakland.  If you want to complain about immigrants or foreigners, kindly remind yourself that the Tom Holland you are watching and loving as Spider-Man is as British as an English muffin.  He’s the least American thing in the entire film.  Wipe the racism off your face and leave everyone else alone.

LESSON #3: SPIDER-MAN IS SO MUCH BETTER WHEN HE DOESN’T CRY— Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had their chances and, for what it’s worth, had their merits for their interpretations of Spider-Man.  Their films asked for angst and the actors gave them angst.  That said, it is so incredibly buoyant and refreshing to have a Spider-Man that doesn’t cry like a big baby multiple times a film.  Tom Holland plays the kid with stresses and troubles, for sure, but with a gumption to weather the moments.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t ever cry.  I’m just saying stories should save that for real loss and we’re not there yet.  No “Tobeyface” is an awesome thing!

LESSON #4:  DEAR SONY, PLEASE DON’T MESS UP THIS GIFT YOU RECEIVED FROM MARVEL FILMS— Sony Pictures wisely put aside studio rivalries to allow Spider-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War and, even further, Marvel Films to co-produce Spider-Man: Homecoming to fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  They fixed what Sony ran into the ground TWICE with over-stuffed franchises.  Spider-Man: Homecoming smartly scaled the character and setting down to New York and essentially a single villain instead of two or three as has happened in the past.  That’s the right pace.  Yet, we’re still watching Sony not be able to help themselves by announcing a Tom Hardy-led Venom film before our shiny new Spider-Man even works for the Daily Bugle and encounters an alien symbiote costume.  The future introductions of Carnage, Kraven, and Mysterio were also announced.  In addition, director Jon Watts is talking Morbius, Chameleon, and even an MCU version of Blade in his ideal future (which should send Wesley Snipes’s agent into a tizzy). Spider-Man 3 aside, all of those villains, like Michael Keaton’s Vulture, are untapped characters for the big screen and would make excellent stories… but in due time.  Sony, please take your time.  Slow play this and milk every dollar.  There’s no need for a quick score.  You’ve got a young Spider-Man and you’re set to make a billion bucks on his first film.  This windfall could last a decade or more with patience. Don’t screw this up.  While we’re at it, I hope big-wigs at 20th Century Fox are watching how this plays out.  Deadpool was a nice success, but your X-Men films are lacking.  Hop on the Marvel bandwagon and unite families together

LESSON #5: MARVEL KNOWS WE LOVE POST-CREDITS SCENES AND THEY ARE BEGINNING TO MESS WITH US— When you see Spider-Man: Homecoming, you’ll know what I mean.  Face it.  They have us trained.  No one leaves the theater of the MCU film until the projector turns off and the lights come on.  Post-credits scenes have been a Marvel signature since Iron Man and they are fun little details, even when they are not important or essential.  The final post-credits scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming trolls our trained behavior so hard.  You will see and I, for one, applaud them for messing with us.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.