Venom (2018)

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Well it’s fair to say this superhero flick has been scooping up a lot of negative attention as the months rolled closer to its release date; not getting the universe or Spider-Man cameo they wanted, early reviews comparing it to ‘Catwoman’ levels of bad and star Tom Hardy himself stating his favourite 40 minutes were cut, but is ‘Venom’ actually all that terrible?

Eddie Brock (Hardy) is an investigator/journalist happily engaged to attorney Anne (Michelle Williams), but when he’s sent on an assignment to interview Life Foundation owner Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Brock asks hard-hitting questions about the rumoured dark side of Drake’s company, which is harbouring alien symbiotes that crash landed on Earth. It isn’t long until Brock comes one with this planet devouring thing and they unite as Venom.

In all honesty, I have no idea whether this film is a joke or not. The inconsistent style of t the writing is wildly skittish, jumping from silly humour to darker, dramatic tones which make for a seriously unbalanced movie. When you have three writers on board who have credits for past features like ‘High Fidelity’, ‘Jumanji’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ working on the screenplay it’s not that hard to see why it’s a plot that feels like a chaotic mix of comedy and anti-heroism.

The film has a horrendous amount of messy VFX, even Venom himself is nasty looking and not in a good way. A creature feature showdown is a massive garbage storm of excessive CGI and frantic editing which makes the entire event a damn dud, a total misfire of which there’s nothing to engage with because it just washes over you with loud noises and awful visuals.

It says a lot when the scene arriving after all the credits, is the better than what came before them. ‘Venom’ just feels like it is rushing around, never really developing any interesting ideas of the bond between man and alien. This head biting fan is meant to be a villain and anti-hero at times but he teams up with a guy who can handles his influence and tame him rather quickly, they replace grittiness with goofiness and it doesn’t really work.

Tom Hardy is utterly bizarre throughout this swift Sony Marvel death, his performance is as scruffy as Brock becomes, his hunched look and mannerisms are weird. Michelle Williams is also odd, she seems to have gone under some alarming possession making her turn in this one of the worst roles I’ve seen her do. Riz Ahmed starts of alright in the beginning with enough big business menace but when the wrath of the slick black symbiote takes over then he too falls under a curse of laughable actions which all come to a supremely quick conclusion.

In a peculiar way, I can see this movie turning into a silly cult film or a dumb guilty pleasure but for myself it’s neither dumb or silly enough to make me want to remember I’d seen this turd of a movie rolling in the wind.

4.5/10

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The Meg (2018)

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Swallow a load of this monstrous shark movie, which on trailer and prior buzz alone looked to be the perfect summer popcorn flick of ridiculousness, but upon viewing it doesn’t quite reach that fabled height of silliness but comes close enough to make ‘The Meg’, a grin-inducing creature feature.

Backed by the financial might of Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), a diving team are hoping to discover an entire new layer underneath the Mariana Trench. As bad luck would have it they stumble upon the hungry jaws of Megalodon and the surface crew need to rein in the help of rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who can hopefully stop the toothy villain from killing them and many more.

Director of the National Treasure movies, John Turteltaub sure knows how to call the shots with a rough and ready lead and provide fun thrills, so he’s a handy choice for this shark based feature. Once the film really gets kicking, then the enjoyment factor breaks through the shark cage roof but there are some moments that are, dare I say, a little slow and I wanted more blood-soaked action and some sense of silliness which the narrative set up sorely lacks.

Perhaps the 12A rating doesn’t help this movie either, if it had have been bumped up to a 15 it could have elevated the nastiness and nightmarish situation of a beastly water-dweller stalking populated waters but aside from this weakening classification and a mildly boring first act, this is a film that hints at deathly danger enough to whet the adrenaline-taste buds and survive as a dumb but fun family film.

Shark films obviously have a hard time living up to the famous dread which was sustained throughout ‘Jaws’, but as a B-movie sci-fi outing, this manages to provide two if not three sequences that are tense and have you fearing for the characters and fearing more the chomping nature of this gigantic prehistoric fish, for example, a beach swarming with happy go lucky people is a short but brilliant bite of joyful shark bait tension and features a true underdog!

Jason Statham on board is always a stonking good casting choice, if he’s knowingly setting himself up for meme culture and silly dialogue then it’s a film to revel in. Seeing The Stath taking on something, be it Cranky syndicates or the man-mountain that is Dwayne Johnson is never not a delight and in this movie he takes on something just slightly bigger than The Rock with great gruff determination.

This is a fun film that could have benefited from starting a little earlier in it’s knowledge of being a tongue-in-cheek blast, but once the fearsome creature surfaces than so does the entertaining ride.

7/10

Skyscraper (2018)

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Juggernaut action star Dwayne Johnson is back for his second blockbuster of the year, after ‘Rampage’. This time around he’s tackling terrorists, Hong Kong cops and a star-piercing blaze.

Former FBI Hostage Rescuer Will Sawyer (Johnson) now assesses security, which has landed him and his family a stay in the new residential section of the worlds tallest building. The Pearl is meant to be perfectly safe but whilst Will is out and about, a group of terrorists storm the skyscraper and start a fire in the hope of smoking out something valuable and Will’s children and wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) are also trapped inside.

Director of ‘We’re the Millers’ and writer/director for ‘Dodgeball’, Rawson Marshall Thurber is in charge of this summer action movie. He’s clearly handled comedies well before but this film feels like a strange combination of trying to be serious and gritty yet also self aware of it’s ridiculousness. Saying that, he manages to ensure the film which clearly echoes ‘Die Hard’ has some of it’s own cool set pieces to sell.

In terms of spectacle, ‘Skyscraper’ has a good couple of stand out examples. The crane sequence is finely executed if not totally unrealistic, a makeshift bridge within The Pearl racks up some fiery suspense and the inner workings of the spherical top to the building itself provides us a Truman Show-esque shot of Sawyer over a city skyline and this same venue becomes the backdrop for a genuinely great sense-meddling final act battle.

All the visual effects team deserve mention because they’ve made this humongous skyscraper feel somewhat believable, plus the cinematic quality of The Pearl’s design are massively sleek and hands the film an awesome visual flair. Even with this futuristic, gleaming quality I felt that the movie wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as I’d expected, it’s not overly fun or silly like it should have been. The attempts of tension and strained family drama never hooked me in. It’s almost like they were shooting for a genuine disaster movie with tongue in cheek aspects duct taped on, which feels a bit off for me.

The rocky mountain himself provides that expected charm that he’s proven over and over. It’s also nice to see Mr. Johnson playing a character with a physical flaw and being someone that can actually get hurt and pushed around instead of the usual indestructible roles he’s become the poster boy for.

Some flashy visuals and a handful of action don’t do enough to stop the film suffering from not being as heart poundingly engaging as it deserved to be. Turn your brain off and don’t turn it back on again to enjoy ‘Skyscraper’ to the fullest.

6/10

Rampage (2018)

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As you’d now come to expect from films headlined by Dwayne Johnson, this one doesn’t break from the loud, action filled ridiculousness template. Sadly, it does crack at the fun element and feels like more brain-dead than ‘San Andreas’; if that’s somehow possible.

Davis (Dwayne Johnson) is a primatologist who luckily happens to be more an creature fan than a people person. He’s friends with an albino gorilla called George, but one night George is exposed to a pathogen that blends animal genes which makes him bigger and angrier. As George and two other monstrous beasts make a beeline for Chicago, it’s up to Davis and Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to try and stop them.

The plot is gigantically stupid and I know it’s vaguely based on a video game, but it’s still hilariously silly and utterly convenient when it needs to suit a point or keep The Rock alive like a powered up console character. It’s definitely a film where you need to switch off your brains to fully enjoy the spectacle but it still could have been a numbing dud but thanks to the charisma of Johnson; again playing a character he could act in his sleep, we have a movie that’s rocky but an enjoyable blast.

It’s a visual film, not in the way of being dazzling or creative, but more in the usual blockbuster sense of carnage and seeing lots of things tossed around. Helicopters and people become playthings for the animals as they rampage across Chicago. So if seeing buildings crumble, Dave and Busters getting busted and vehicles getting ripped like shreds of paper is your bag, then this is right up your street. It’s odd that even with all this destruction, the film does feel slightly long and almost reaches a tired slog.

Some of this tiredness may stem from the poor attempts at comedy littered lazily through the movie. Normally in a Dwayne Johnson-led vehicle, the zingy one liners do indeed zing, that isn’t really the case with ‘Rampage’. Aside from an amusing reference to his song in ‘Moana’, the repertoire and jokes don’t land well and seem achingly forced. Even the initially interesting, nice built up comradery between Davis and George get muddied and mined for predictable middle finger gags.

Johnson, as stated, is a solid lead playing firmly to stereotype but delightfully so. Harris can do so much better but seems to be having a proper good time opposite Dwayne. Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy present a weird sibling dynamic and their evils could have been more realised and less hammy, but at least Akerman’s character is gifted the brains of the pair and commits an unexpected action. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a government agent with a delicious Texan drawl that is also hammed up and has him spieling like Lotso Huggin’ Bear as he helps the film and Davis rock on.

‘Rampage’ may be as dumb as a brick but I can’t say I didn’t get a kick from watching it.

6.5/10

The Babysitter (2017)

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Released on spooky Friday the 13th  this adolescent horror comedy never really gets to grips with either the horror or comedy element. It can; I guess, be viewed as entertaining at points but it’s nothing I’d rush to see again or make a friend see. It belongs where it sits – on Netflix where a late night scroll could end you up watching this tackily made brash trash.

Frequently bullied twelve year old Cole (Judah Lewis) is excited that his parents are off to a hotel because that means the babysitter will be round. He may be the only schoolkid with one, but he has a fun and good relationship with Bee (Samara Weaving). She looks out for him and they share similar interests but one night after goaded by neighbour Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind), Cole keeps himself awake to see just what it is that Bee gets up to when he’s usually asleep. The answer may surprise and shock Cole leaving him experiencing a strangely bloody night.

I knew there was a horror/blood-soaked element attached to this film but I didn’t really look into what the plot was about so I won’t spoil what happens to kick things off or what goes down but yes…wow…there’s a literal WTF moment, those very words even pinged onto the screen seconds after I’d said them aloud to myself! This is when Cole, and the audience, realise what hell may be unleashed and it certainly is unexpected.

So, I guess that element of genuine surprise is a nice touch but before that occurs, the set up of the narrative and characters feels like it’s been transplanted out of that MTV music channel vibe. It’s as if the movie is souped up on a concoction of drugs; the editing and sounds all crackling and switching speeds like the post-production crew had one too many energy drinks. There are titles on screens, random frozen snap shots of moments and a general aura that this film is trying hard to be cool.

Unlike ‘It’ or my favourite TV show of the moment – ‘Stranger Things’, the child acting in this is quite poor, especially between a trio of bullies and Cole. The actor playing Cole does get slightly better but nothing to write home about. On the note of performances, Bella Thorne as yellow costumed cheerleader Allison is cringe, you see her laughing during her ‘panicked’ reaction to the aftermath of police entering the residence. Weaving is believable and I guess I kind of bought into the change of her character but everyone feels like an over the top parody of horror films as if the writer and director are badly spoofing horrors because they don’t like the tropes they come with.

The movie begins quickly descending into mad carnage but the Bee/Cole pairing was already a maddening awkward dynamic, his boob watch and their party time spent together with Stacy’s Mom inspired pool scene felt like unnecessary gratification for the teen audience, further proven by the Weaving/Thorne girl on girl smooch. It’s not just the obvious sexual edge they try hard with, Brian Duffield the writer seems to attempt comedic tension at times but fails with both.

‘The Babysitter’ is definitely not taking itself too seriously and I get that, but that doesn’t mean I can totally forgive it for having its tongue well and truly shoved in it’s cheek. Immaturity is a word I’d use to describe the tone of this release, there’s not much in here to satisfy comedy or horror fans but I’d imagine fourteen year old lads would be happy.

Looking at the above poster, like a GTA one-sheet or visually inspired by ‘The Guest’, it’s sad to say it doesn’t hold the latter’s synth-horror or skewed drama-comedy bite, it feels more like the underwhelming and juvenile ‘Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse’. Yet with all this negative talk, I in fact found myself enjoying this 2017 film more and more, if enjoy is the right verb to use. I felt the “see you C and bye bye B” sign off is quirky and cute and I liked it. The movie switches into a semblance of ‘Home Alone’ but R rated and I actually grew to like the film as it went on, it is trashy but it’s like a stupid joyride that you know you should jump out of but want to carry on with.

5/10

Captivity (2007)

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Arriving in ’07, this is a poor excuse for a horror film and a poor excuse for a film generally. It’s not even a torture porno genre that’s in any way smart, fun or scary like ‘Saw’ for example, it’s just lame.

Model and A Lister Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert) gets abducted one night and wakes up finding herself in a locked cell and subjected to random torturous tests by a bulky masked man. Eventually she finds hope in the scratched walls by seeing next door is another cell inhabited by Gary (Daniel Gillies). Together they try and escape but more may be going on behind the scenes.

All in all this is such an insanely dumb film. Writing and just sense wise, how is a celebrity famous enough to sell products with just her first name not kept secure or even have an entourage with her; I mean as if she’s clubbing alone or wandering down a horror looking alley by herself. She’s a character with no personality and even attempts to shed light on her through TV interviews feel stupidly obvious to try and relate the next scene to her fear etc.

The room is a million miles away from being atmospheric or synonymous like the dingy ‘Saw’ bathroom. It’s like some go-go gadget cell that seems to be able to cater to anything the captor wants. How on earth he can control a locker or drawer to shut when he’s not there is anyone’s guess. At one point she’s on top of a building mass of sand which feels less claustrophobic and more silly, she ends up willingly dressing in clothes given to her or having sex with Gary simply because he’s there and put himself in the death line ahead a couple of times.

Let me go onto the  whole ‘twist’ idea, which is so horrendously stupid and may be something quite unexpected but that’s because you just don’t care enough to get into the film. As if random past successions of girls got kidnapped and all wind up having sex too. Also Gary says things like she doesn’t know if Jennifer’s real, but they’d already tried escaping out of a crawlspace together, as a common note – dialogue is trashy and ill thought through creating no energy or interesting spark.

The film possesses a pathetic female character and sadly the gorgeous Elisha Cuthbert dwindles in a role that sees her doing little more than whining, screaming or banging on clearly solid walls in a vain attempt to get out of a bricked space. She’s there to look gorgeous and that’s it, a scream queen she ain’t. If you want smarts then look to the Mary Elizabeth Winstead character from ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ to see how females in similar situations are better acted/written.

It’s just disgusting at how bad this film is more than anything, not even the slightest hint of threat or horror like tension settles in and what you’re left with a weak and utterly dull dumb flick.

2.5/10 – 2 of these points are because Cuthbert was in it.

Swordfish (2001)

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Attempting to be cool and clever, this action film about computer crime becomes anything but those two things. Instead it feels incredibly cheesy, logically rubbish and at times plain dull. The forced sex appeal of making one of their stars go topless for even more insane fees does nothing to make the film better.

Top hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is offered a deal by Ginger (Halle Berry) to assist the plans of her boss Gabriel Shear (John Travolta). The problem is Stanley is a wanted man and can’t touch a computer again but wanting to see his daughter again and not anger the touchy dangerous Shear, he realises that he must hack money out of government funds.

It could have been a good film, there is plenty of room to make this plot stylish and tense but instead it feels like a washed up 90’s action crime flick without much action or indeed crime. Aside from a couple of so-so moments including the opening scene reveal to who Gabriel is surrounded by and the interrogation room shooting, this film tries outlandish ways to excite the audience and heck, even a bus soaring through the sky by helicopter can’t save it.

Dominic Sena, who had previously directed ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ tries revving back into gear with this technological film, but there isn’t any sleekness or glossy captivation to be found. Sena seems to miss the point and brushes over scenes that could hold more interest to paint a clichéd narrative with no excitement.

Of course this isn’t all his fault as Skip Woods, the screenwriter skips on logic to bash together a barmy shortcoming that he probably believed as explosive entertainment. There are explosions but aside from making Michael Bay happy, they don’t do much to stop this film from being average. It’s as if Woods was trying to be calculating and smart when writing the antagonist, but Travolta’s opening monologue is not a patch on the wit of Tarantino styled speech and when he mentions Hollywood being unrealistic, well boy this film fits right into that bill.

Hugh Jackman shows us the earlier potential he has now proven but aside from grimacing at having to go back to a life or crime or staring at many screens he doesn’t do much as an engaging protagonist. John Travolta, however hammy he may be as the villain actually is a breath of fun, there’s a clear sense of danger to his character and he seems to be enjoying every line. Halle Berry and her first topless scene become the biggest thing she does in this movie as she doesn’t do much apart from possibly being something and then not. Don Cheadle may as well be on auto-pilot playing an FBI agent as he doesn’t having anything extensive to do, maybe rolling down a huge hill with Jackman like a cartoon disaster would have been something, acting surprised that none of them broke their legs.

It’s beyond ridiculous, but it rises with a good set-up and a enjoyable villain before slumping with uninteresting typing, far-fetched sequences and a dire script that got a green-light somehow. Perhaps Skip Woods is an advanced hacker.

4.5/10