Tuesday, October 26, 2021

No Time to Die (2021)


James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter, (Jeffrey Wright) shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail back to a past love Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) and her connection to a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) who's armed with a dangerous new bio-technology.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)


Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) struggles to coexist with the shape-shifting extraterrestrial Venom. While on the verge of splitting up, deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) also becomes host to an alien symbiote that amplifies his psychotic behavior. Brock and Venom must put aside their differences to stop his reign of terror as Cletus strives to reunite with his long lost love Shriek (Naomie Harris).

The review below contains spoilers regarding the post-credit scene. 

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was honestly one of my most-anticipated movies of the year because I enjoy the first one so much. The bar wasn't set necessarily low, to be honest, even in the wake of all of the terrible reviews since its release this October. I wanted more of Eddie and Venom's relationship, or double the Tom Hardy, and I got it. There were more than enough scenes where his real tattoos were peaking through his shirt collars, so that alone made me happy. But more than that, his performance as Eddie and Venom remained hilarious and heartfelt. Harrelson and Harris' relationship was sorely under-developed but offered enough layers for their crazy-love story to explode from the screen. And the action scenes featured some cinematography that manages to be refreshing in the ever-expanding comic book genre. As a movie goer, I'm at a point right now where I would rather choose an imperfect movie and enjoy its flaws, rather than suffer through boredom and tears to a formulaic film trying to be perfect. I couldn't help but imagine and looking forward to watching this back-to-back with the first film.

However, setting that aside, this is deeply flawed. Three different plots are taking place - Cletus Kasady's crimes, the cover-up of Shriek's death and her origins, and Ed/Venom's floundering relationship. Despite the fact that there's plenty of material to go-around, it's truly only the latter that's given room to grow. For everything else, the movie doesn't have time to flesh them out. The dialogue is spoken so fast it's like a tape-recorder stuck on fast-forward or the script assistant was holding a stop-watch. Once you settle into one scene, it's propelling to the next. The first two acts whirl by, that when the third act copy-cat battle from Spider-Man 3 hits, the pacing finally becomes steadier but tremendous whiplash kicks in. It's tough to recollect how much of the story leads to the ending because it feels like two seconds ago you  arrived to the theater.

In comparison, Venom's running time is about two hours, where its sequel barely hits 97 minutes. The former was far from complicated with its paint-by-numbers origin story. But still, directing an actor talking to himself and trying to convey that he's half controlled by symbiote isn't an easy feat. And that running time lets Eddie and Venom's coupling grow stronger against their feud against Carlton Drake. Serkis' direction picks up where Ruben Fleischer left off with dry humor and CGI-packed action that the tone between the two films is almost seamless. Serkis aimed for the film to be lean to be as lean as possible, but if anymore of the story had been edited, there wouldn't have been a plot. Kelly Marcel's script doesn't feel it's the culprit as much as it could've been. Her script maintains the same vibes as the first film, which she was a co-writer on. She's helming this material as the solo writer and doesn't have trouble reigning in the different threads so they come together in an explosive showdown. But, it's that editing prowess that hinders what could've been.

But after everything is said and done, once the post-credit scene arrived with Tom Holland's Spider-Man, the race through the entire movie became somewhat clearer - Marvel wanted to plug in Spidey's next installment releasing this Christmas. Granted, the pandemic hasn't made movie-making or movie-going easy. Plenty of movies' production schedule and release dates have been bumped up, delayed, rinse, repeat. Venom: Let There Be Carnage wasn't an exception. But, Marvel is known for pulling in audiences with its cliffhangers for the past decade. And someone lost confidence in the film on its own to take its time to do what it needed to do for its fans before jumping into Marvel's ill-conceived timeline for phase 4. Now with the semi-average streaming machine of the Disney+ shows, What If?, and Black Widow (I have yet to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings or The Eternals), there's nothing inventive or spectacular about Marvel right now. Marvel's going through the paces of keeping up with its own trajectory, and now other titles are getting hit with the consequences. 

Now, I'm not saying Venom was a game-changer, but it did carve its own space, even as a movie that critics loathed and fans loved. Somewhere along the way Venom: Let There Be Carnage starts cutting corners, sprinting between Brock or Kasady moving from place to place, and intention to intention, to the point that there was smaller in-between moments left on the editing room floor for no reason. Any semblance of scenes would've slowed down the pacing. It's more understandable for a film to be over two hours long and to know which scenes need to be cut than for a movie to barely graze the 90 minute mark and clearly see gaping holes where more could've filled in. The subsequent headlines and critics aren't talking about what the film had to offer or the potential it had outside of the post-credit scene like it did for the first installment - only what Kevin Feige has to say about the post-credits. The merge between Sony and Marvel's different worlds isn't going to be as seamless as one used to hope. And that's disappointing. Venom: Let There Be Carnage getting caught in the middle is a result of that.

Rating: ★1/2☆

Sunday, October 17, 2021

10 Favorite Frames From New The Batman Trailer

Before my embarrassing well-documented obsession with Captain America, Batman was my #1 superhero. Like so many, I've been reading comics and seeing his flicks in cinema since I was a kid. Of which, compared with almost all other dudes donning a cape and mask, Bruce Wayne has appeared in almost thirteen live-action adaptations - at least nine are his own films. When it was announced that director Matt Reeves would helm another iteration, a part of me thought UGH, AGAIN. Especially, since I'm not always on board with the current state of the DCEU. #blasphemy 

As the casting came together for the next film, that same doubtful part of me grew infinitely intrigued. First, they had me at Robert Pattinson. If you follow me on twitter or my letterboxd reviews of his films, you know of my love for his odd charisma. Then, the perks kept piling up - Zoe Kravitz joining on as Catwoman years after facing casting treatment for a previous Batman film, Colin Farrell as The Penguin, Paul Dano as The Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth.

After a year the teaser was released online, the trailer (watch it in 4K!) finally dropped during this years DC FanDome. And Holy Here We Go Again, I'm counting down for 2022 and thought it'd be fun to highlight some of my favorite frames. The cinematography by Greig Fraser left me jaw-dropped. What are your favorite shots from the trailer? Are you excited for Matt Reeves film?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks - Halloween Edition: Folk or Urban Legend

Wandering Through the Shelves hosts Thursday Movie Picks. It's a weekly series where bloggers post and share various movie picks every Thursday. 

The rules are simple: based on the theme of the week pick three to five movies and tell us why you picked them. For further details and the schedule visit the series main page here.

This week's theme is Halloween Edition: Folk or Urban Legend.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Cured (2021)


Coming out has never been an easy feat. Identifying to the LGBTQ+ community can provoke ignorance as well a loss of job opportunities, marriage equality, and health rights. As much of a struggle as it is today for many, great strides have been made to ensure that pride isn’t just an annual celebration in June – but a generational one that continues to unfold and grow stronger.

In the award winning documentary Cured, directors Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer shine a light on the campaign that lessened the stigma of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. In the first edition of “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality under mental illnesses – more specifically, sexual deviation.

Using their standard of what was ‘morally acceptable,’ it led the church to deem homosexuality a sin, a crime by the government, and as a neurotic disease by psychiatrists. With these motions in play, millions of individuals struggled with the shame of being found out, forced into inhuman cures and conversion ‘therapies’, and overall treated as second class citizens.
Nothing makes you sick like believing you are sick. - Ron Gold
Until activists and psychiatrists started to fight back. With archival photos and footage, the directors thread the line of multiple organizations rallying to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from its directive. Interviews with activists who experienced these events firsthand – Charles Silverstein, Rep Magora Kennedy, Barbara Gittings and her partner Kay Lahausen, Frank Kameny – further show the lengths of frustration, passion, and purpose to transform the ‘status quo.’ Their efforts as well as the influence of Dr. Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker's research to ratify liberation with demonstrations and shifting the public narrative of mental health with allies became a campaign to reform the APA. As more waves of freedom-forward activism for civil rights, women's rights, and against the Vietnam gained ground, and two decades of advocacy work around the United States, the APA made a landmark decision to finally remove homosexuality as a mental illness from its directive in 1973.

Cured delves into the voices who vied to be heard, as well as the surprising duality of psychiatrists using “scientific” diagnosis to provoke and solidify false claims of mental illness. The documentary takes its time to cover as much ground as possible in a chronological effort, weaving in the wide range of activists who were all charging towards the same cause. However, it can’t help at times to feel that the topic could be further explored at length in a docu-series. Still, the film curates a range of a powerful account from several leaders before they passed away and for those who are still fighting to be heard. Even though the community still faces challenges, the activists’ revolution remains an inspiring catalyst to create a more compassionate and accepting world.
If you want to call attention to an issue and you want to make a change, take it to the streets. - Rep. Magora Kennedy
In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11th 2021, Cured will open PBS' Independent Lens series for the upcoming fall season on Monday night at 10:00 pm. This review was provided via a screener.

 ★★1/2☆

Friday, October 8, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks - Halloween Edition: School

Wandering Through the Shelves hosts Thursday Movie Picks. It's a weekly series where bloggers post and share various movie picks every Thursday. 

The rules are simple: based on the theme of the week pick three to five movies and tell us why you picked them. For further details and the schedule visit the series main page here.

This week's theme is Halloween Edition: School.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Black Widow (2021)


It's hard to believe that Black Widow was a central part of The Avengers team for almost ten years...and yet we learned so little about her. She wanted to wipe the red out of her ledger. Something happened in Budapest. She was forced to go under a hysterectomy under her 'training' in the Red Room, and was always cleaning up after the boys. Now, after her permanent demise in Avengers: Endgame, Marvel finally put through her own solo flick. It's a shame that we finally learn more about Natasha Romanoff, but that it feels too little, too late.

Set after Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) teams up with her long lost sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) to take down the Red Room's mastermind Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and his number one assassin The Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko). As SHEILD hunts Natasha down for overstepping The Accords, she'll have to confront the darkest parts of her past to finally clear her name with those who love her most.