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Tag Archive: Michelle Williams


Review by C.J. Bunce

For a movie that had some pretty rough previews, including Tom Hardy as a journalist with some indecipherable dialogue and a scientist who mispronounced a key word in the story, the end result may come as a surprise: Venom is actually a pretty good movie.  Do we credit a great post-production and re-shoots, including a complete redo of the strange “symbiote” explanatory scene, or does Sony need to simply work on improving its movie trailers?  Frankly all that matters is what made it to the screen.  Fans of the comic book anti-hero and villain, of alien invasion movies, of that unique character design from co-creator artist Todd McFarlane, of Tom Hardy, and non-traditional superhero movies, you’ll have to work to find anything wrong with this movie.  It’s a good Halloween month monster movie and you don’t need to know anything about the character or Marvel Comics to jump right in.  But you just might want to check out the comics after you see it.  Like Frank Miller caused Daredevil to become popular, McFarlane made Venom big in the 1980s.  Unlike McFarlane’s movie Spawn, an R-rated film that was too dark for mainstream audiences, the PG-13 rating for Venom makes this movie accessible to everyone.

A mix of the classic alien invasion flick, the horrifying McFarlane character look, with the grimy city vibe like the Detroit of Robocop, Venom has elements that make it feel like it belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, regardless of its origin as a Sony film.  As for quality and delivery, it falls somewhere above Blade, Iron Man 2 and 3, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk movies, and Spawn, X-Men 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse, and somewhere below Hellboy and Deadpool.  For most fans of adaptations of comic books on the big screen, that will be enough.  Full of good humor moments, the film doesn’t take itself seriously.  We meet the archetype from 80 years of superhero comics with Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, an Everyman, a down-and-out guy who can never get a break who gets caught making a few mistakes.  Usually this archetype ends up captured by Batman (or insert other superhero here) and thrown into the slammer, but this time he encounters a body shifting alien presence that merges with him, blending the best and worst of both beings.  Beginning with a crash landing as a SpaceX-inspired ship returns with some specimens from outer space, we eventually meet four alien beings, the lowliest of rank who calls himself Venom.  Merged with Eddie, Venom needs to eat living lifeforms to continue on and he doesn’t grasp the subtleties of only killing bad guys just yet.  Audiences will get to watch these aliens, the symbiotes, body-shift through several random characters (like Denzel Washington’s character in the movie Fallen), including the key cast and an animal or two–and it’s mostly great fun.

Venom is probably a rare time audiences will see Michelle Williams in a stock role.  Usually every part she takes on results in an Oscar-worthy performance, but it’s nice seeing her do something less dramatic.  And she gets some great scenes directly with Venom (including an Easter Egg scene that points straight back to the origin of the character originally discussed between Marvel Comics editor Jim Salicrup and writer/co-creator David Michelinie).  This may be Tom Hardy’s best role since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (where he was the only good thing in the movie), as he at last gets to play a spectrum of emotions and demonstrate a broad acting range.  Despite what we heard in the movie trailers, his regional American accent is spot on in the final cut and his dialogue is delivered clearly–none of that crazy speech we saw him bring as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises Not hiding behind make-up or masks as in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, or Star Trek: Nemesis, Hardy again proves he’s one of the best actors around.  The sound department gets it just right–Hardy’s voice is also the voice transformed into the monstrous, demonic sounding Venom, and it’s unique and effective.  No doubt some elaborate work went on behind the scenes for Hardy-as-Eddie to be arguing with Hardy-as-Venom.  Some of the best lines, and laugh-out-loud moments come from Venom, reminiscent of Gollum and Sméagol.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It was a bit of an oddity this year to have a choice of watching on television or at the movie theater what might have been a forgotten footnote to the strange 1970s life styles of the rich and famous.  In many ways the only real value of the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to the once richest man in the world, is the almost Aesop’s Fables inspired punchline of the movie title, All the Money in the World.  Mark Wahlberg as security man Fletcher Chase gets to deliver the goods to Getty at film’s end:  It doesn’t matter how much money the billionaire Getty had, it didn’t bring him happiness.  Based on John Pearson’s book, Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, the film is now streaming on multiple platforms.  This year’s television series Trust, featuring Donald Sutherland as the senior Getty, offered up the same story over a much too long 10 episodes.  Sutherland’s Getty is shown as far more disturbing than in the movie, and other than providing an example of Sutherland in another creepy role, the show had very little to offer.

All the Money in the World, the film version of the story, features a showcase of acting talent in a script that is almost up to the task.  Christopher Plummer is Getty I, the grandfather who in 1973 refused to pay his grandson’s ransom, even after those who kidnapped him cut off and mailed-in the young man’s ear.  Plummer stepped in late in production after Kevin Spacey was ousted from the film because of Spacey’s sexual misconduct scandal.  The result proves that at any age Plummer can create a compelling character, even if the real man behind the character seems far less interesting than one might think.  Wahlberg is playing what has become one of his stock character styles–this is the brash Boston cop in The Departed and the decisive marksman from Shooter.  Wahlberg plays the tough guy well here, in a role that echoes private investigator Jay J. Armes’ rescue of Marlon Brando’s kidnapped son just one year before the events in the film.  Young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) is Getty’s grandson, an atypical twist on the typical troubled youth character.  French actor Romain Duris is compelling as a member of the captor group who helps keep Getty alive during is confinement.  Always delivering a strong performance, Oscar winner Timothy Hutton unfortunately is underutilized as Getty’s loyal lawyer Oswald Hinge.

Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie is similar in execution to last year’s Steven Spielberg historical drama The Post.  The film has themes in common with Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, but Scott didn’t opt to add any memorable style as Welles did with his classic story of a man acquiring possessions to the exclusion of family or love.  It’s not great, but it’s a solid drama.  But the biggest success of the film comes through via its lead actress, four-time Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams.  Williams portrays the grandson’s mother not as an emotional wreck but a determined mother who works frantically to negotiate her son’s release, with no help from the elder Getty or her disaster of an ex-husband.  And she couldn’t justify those Academy nods any better than balancing an affected accent, the billionaire family lifestyle, and that single mom angst as she attempts to reflect a parent handling a tragic event most people will never have to encounter.

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The Marvel Comics character Venom is a creature of the 1980s, and not having the benefit of 50-70 years in the histories of comicdom like so many superheroes in movies these days, mainstream audiences know very little about the character.  Well-known genre actor Tom Hardy is taking on the role of the once villain/now anti-hero Eddie Brock, seen only once taking on the black tar-like goo suit before by those who made it to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3.  That film featured That ’70s Show’s Topher Grace in the role.  Kids in the 1980s first witnessed the genesis of the character in the wildly popular Marvel Comics mini-series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Issue #8, by writer Jim Shooter and artist Mike Zeck.  Most kids appreciated the new look.  Originally intended to give Spider-man a new black and white costume, the story became one about a symbiotic suit that attached to Spider-man, which went on to attach to Eddie Brock, who became Spidey’s Public Enemy #1 as the very Todd McFarlane-styled character known as Venom in later stories.  But don’t look for images of that guy just yet.

The first teaser for Sony Entertainment’s film is out, showcasing more of the noir look of the film and Tom Hardy’s established acting talent than anything typical of most superhero tales.  In other words, no look at Venom yet.  It’s long for a teaser, but reveals little about the plot or character.  Hardy has earned his sea legs in genredom.  He was only one of a handful of actors to play a Star Trek villain in the movies, starring as the Captain Picard clone Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis.  He reprised Mel Gibson’s Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road, and in that other giant comic book franchise he played the B-team villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  Along the way he proved himself in several dramatic roles, in the likes of Band of Brothers, Black Hawk Down, Layer Cake, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and as the World War II flying ace of the current Oscar-nominated film Dunkirk.  

  

With Venom Hardy takes on another comic book B-team character, but without a full face mask as in The Dark Knight Rises and instead with his face covered in only part of Venom as in Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe Hardy will have a greater opportunity to make an impact and make this character his own.  This is Sony’s first follow-up to their successful redux of Spidey in Spider-man: Homecoming, and word is out that new Spidey Tom Holland was on-set for Venom, possibly doing some filming.  Four-time Oscar nominee and star of the current Oscar-nominated film All the Money in World, Michelle Williams plays Eddie’s ex.  Solo: A Star Wars Story co-star Woody Harrelson also has a role in the film.

Check out this brief teaser for Venom:

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When a movie director can re-create the right look and feel of a time and place, the film can take audiences in a darkened theater into the past as well as any time machine.   This year the re-creation is July 1973 and the place is Rome.  The subject is a celebrity family kidnapping that has faded in the memories of most and unknown to the rest, the kidnapping of oil baron and “The Richest Man in the World” J. Paul Getty’s grandson, and the efforts taken to get him back.  All the Money in the World is based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson, with a script by David Scarpa (The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)).  The real-life account of the kidnapping is the stuff of great drama, full of strange decisions and bizarre actions by all involved.  The kidnapping is best known for the ear that was put in the mail–and delayed by a postal strike in Italy–sent by the kidnappers to press the Getty family to pay the ransom.  The story has plenty of room to illustrate the bumbling and the Reversal of Fortune-esque actions of the uber-wealthy that occurred along the way.

The film is directed by Ridley Scott, and stars young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher Plummer) as J. Paul Getty III.  Michelle Williams portrays Gail Harris, mother of the kidnapped Getty.  Kevin Spacey looks believable as the aged and eccentric billionaire Getty and Timothy Hutton plays his lawyer.  And Mark Wahlberg, the highest paid actor in Hollywood, portrays the preposterously–but actual–named Fletcher Chase, a “tall, craggy-faced American” who was an ex-CIA operative from San Diego sent by the billionaire to assist in the release of his grandson.

The 1970s era (although the early part of the decade instead of the later) and a key role by a single hardened CIA-trained operative echoes Ben Affleck’s 2012 Best Picture Academy Award winner Argo.  The 1970s look and feel in All the Money in the World is provided by Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max (Gladiator, Blackhawk Down, The Martian, Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus) and set decorators on several productions featuring Italy of the past, Letizia Santucci, Cristina Onori, and Gianpaulo Rifino.  The film also features acclaimed genre cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Martian, War Machine, Dark City, Alice in Wonderland, Alien: Covenant, and the 1980s best rock videos from Aerosmith and Van Halen to The Bangles and Suzanne Vega).

Check out this first trailer for All the Money in the World:

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Oz the Great and Powerful fireworks

Happy New Year!

Disney is back again trying to replicate the success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland with a similar classic fantasy effort, Oz the Great and Powerful.  If you’re not a fan of prequels you will probably avoid this one as it is a prequel to the greatest fantasy film of all time, The Wizard of Oz.  The plus is that this film will adapt L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz so those loyal to the fourteen Oz novels may appreciate this effort.  The other plus is that it will be helmed by director Sam Raimi who knows fantasy films as well as anyone, having directed the Spider-man film trilogy and serving as producer of Timecop, Hercules the Legendary Journeys, Xena Warrior Princess, and Legend of the Seeker.

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

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