(2 1/2 Stars) When it was revealed Sony/Marvel was going to try their hand at a stand-alone Venom movie, two things ran through my head: Was it going to be rated R and would it have any connection to the Marvel Universe (mainly Spider Man)? The answer to both was no, so as long as you are able to stomach both of those going into the theater and think of Venom on its own, your experience should improve. However, if you are a die-hard fan, this is going to rub you the wrong way in nearly every facet.
"Get through the first 20 minutes and it will be easier to stomach" is the most common comment I shared with many of my friends. Not a good start. Tom Hardy plays our lead character, Eddie Brock, who was forced from New York due to "an incident", but that's about the only connection we are allowed to anything outside of San Francisco and a potential Marvel Universe inclusion. We all know Hardy is British, but even this faux Boston/New York/North Eastern mashup of accents he tries to pull off is off putting. The problem with the character of Brock as far as Hardy's portrayal goes is he is so uninteresting. The basis for this entire film is flimsy at best, and it struggles to make sense of its plot, which felt totally contrived for the movie's sake and not the other way around.
The graphics, shape-shifting, action sequences, and fight scenes are all well done, but with the PG13 rating, all the jokes, violence, and dialogue come across as simple or hand fisted. The absence of blood when people's heads are getting bitten off and the one solitary F-word inclusion at the dumbest possible time are laughable considering how violent the character of Venom is known.
I think there were legs here, and the end of the film and the teaser afterward give us a bit of hope thinking if they allow a second film to follow the first, we might actually get something worthwhile. But until they find a way to connect the character with the audience outside of Brock's boring background story delivered via dialogue, there's no real reason to root for this supposed anti-hero.
You're it! TAG came from first-time director Jeff Tomsic with a plethora of over-qualified actors to tel the semi-accurate story of a group of buddies who play a universal game of Tag over a single month. While the movie timeline takes place over the entire month of May, we time jump considerably through the story to basically put us in the final week. The premise? Tag the only guy of the group who's never been tagged.
What really works for Tag is how committed everyone seems to be over such a silly plot. Ed Helms takes the 'lead' role while Jon Hamm, Hannibal Burress, and Nick Johnson fall into supporting roles all while Jeremy Renner plays the 'villain'. There's no diddle-dallying on anyone over the other, and we get a pretty clear-cut picture of who each of these characters are through small introductions into their current lives at the beginning of the film. Tag wastes no time in setting the goal.
So while pacing is never an issue, how goofy and how serious and how demented this film wants to be, its identity, certainly is one. There are times where the plot gets pretty dark and twisted at least two times I can remember, and with a film about a kids game and staying young and all that jazz, it weighs heavily on the audience.
In the long run, there was absolutely no need to make this movie, but because it seemed like everyone was on board and ready to commit, we get a pretty enjoyable experience. It won't win awards and it may not surface again after it leaves theaters, but for a fan of the actors and a mostly light-hearted affair, you can't go wrong.
It has taken on average 3.5 years for Tom Cruise to release Mission Impossible movies since the first came out back in 1999. For my money over the last 20 years, this is the best action franchise in Hollywood still making movies. I stated it after I saw Ghost Protocol and again after Rogue Nation; Tom Cruise - love him or hate him - is Hollywood's best action hero. Much like those other two film I just mentioned, Fallout earns its 5-star rating and cements the franchise as one of the best.
Cruise is an anomaly. Both revered for his acting chops but seared for his off-camera beliefs and actions in his private life, I think he has mostly leveled out as a pretty genuine guy since he left the day-to-day spotlight a handful of years ago. He is the best action star Hollywood has for this generation. He's a self-proclaimed perfectionist. Every stunt (all done himself), every thread, and every interaction in the movie is tailored to his vision. The movie is a mirror to Cruise as an actor: exhilarating, cool, humorous, and a bit dangerous. His stunts are breathtaking. From the HALO jump in the opening third to the car chases, foot chases, and motorcycle chases in the middle to the unbelievable helicopter fight scene in the final third, Cruise leaves it all out on the table. There's a point where he says to his team on the ground he won't let them down. I have full confidence he meant for that to be a nod to the audience as well.
Also back for the first time is repeat director and famed Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie. He filmed Rogue Nation, so it was only right he return to wrap up a story over the two films we saw begin in the former.
While I won't harp on the plot too much, we get a brief recap of what the team has been up to in the two years from the end of Rogue Nation to the start of Fallout. After that, it's off and running with twists, turns, dips, and dives of a classic spy thriller to keep track of where everyone stands.
Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rames, Simon Pegg, and Alec Baldwin are all back. The only conspicuous actor missing was Jeremy Renner due to a scheduling conflict, but I found it a tad off putting he wasn't even mentioned because he did survive Rogue Nation. Also back is the villain, Sean Harris, as the vile Solomon Lane. We get introduced to three new players as well: Angela Bassett as a CIA big wig, Henry Cavil as her CIA operative, and Vanessa Kirby as a new broker for bad guys (pay close attention to her story for those easter eggs). All of them are tremendous in their roles.
Overall, if you are looking for the summer blockbuster that was promises but hadn't delivered because of a slow and tired Hollywood output, look no further. MI6 continues to bring the pain and will almost certainly lend itself to a seventh film down the line. It's just a shame we have to wait another 3.5 years to get the next.
From one of Hollywood's new screenwriter/producers of the Pitch Perfect series turned first-time director Kay Cannon, Blockers was a nice little fluff comedy rooted in a pretty familiar cause plaguing homes filled with graduating teenagers, which actually creates some good physical comedy to say the least. The Kehoe brothers, Jim and Brian, show their hand in their first big film. Not surprisingly, with Leslie Mann attached, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan (and probably a smidge of Judd Apatow) are present in the credits. If you pick this up for anything, let it be their track record.
John Cena has done the complete opposite route of The Rock Dwayne Johnson. Instead of clamoring for major action pieces, Cena has gone the route of comedy more often than not. It suits him well. While his role as overbearing sports father is a little one dimensional, he plays the part with aplomb despite not having much range. Mann is always the rock-solid member of the cast in smaller films like this, and she rises again to the motherly role among some fresh, young actors from Cena to the kids they cast. Ike Barinholtz is mostly here for slapstick, but he nestles into his role quite easily having also been a veteran in comedy movies like this. While these three certainly are the bulk of why you see this movie, the three teens don't quite get to be seen enough to be the stars. Blockers is clearly built to have the adults as the main characters.
The plot is pretty straightforward. Teenagers want to have sex on prom night and parents try to stop them once they learn of the plan. I would classify this as a soft comedy with sparks of smartness; it really touches on a myriad of different familial styles like single mothers, single fathers, and a traditional nuclear family.
With some wisps of laugh-out-loud humor, a few goofy cameos, and a trio you can back from the start, Blockers is an enjoyable enough Sunday Funday film. It will leave you wondering what could have been had someone with more experience behind the pages and camera had made this film, but the skeleton is there.
(3 1/2 Stars) After all the heart pounding, tear jerking, and shock and awe that came with Infinity Wars, Marvel decided to step away from the chaos and deliver yet another solid, if not expected, franchise follow up to Ant Man by adding The Wasp. I think this film's intention was two fold: offer the audience a reprieve from Infinity War's upsetting revelation and set us up for the quantum realm.
From a standalone perspective, this movie wasn't really useful. However, we know Marvel is all about the larger picture, so Ant Man and the Wasp is specifically placed where it is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to make a point: the quantum realm is going to be important come Avengers 4. Sure we get to see Evangeline Lilly's character take up the Wasp mantel and we are finally informed on what Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) was doing sine he wasn't actually in Infinity War, but the whole point of this film was more of a side quest than anything else. It takes place three days before the 'snap' from Infinity War.
I'm almost disappointed to say I was left a bit empty walking out of the theater. We were introduced to a few new villainous characters such as Walton Goggins tech/arms dealer Sonny Burch and the main baddie, Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen. Goggins' Burch was unnecessary (though he as an actor in any roll never is) and all John-Kamen's Ghost ended up being was an catalyst for the main point of the film: get Janet van Dyne home from the quantum realm.
Michelle Pfeiffer is a damn-fine addition to the MCU, and her and Michael Douglas add the necessary gravitas to their respective roles. I still have yet to really see a casting decision made by Marvel go sideways.
If you are a fan of Rudd and Lilly and enjoyed the first Ant Man as much as I did and are even slightly curious as to why he wasn't in Infinity War, go see this installment. If you're just a one-time movie-goer who is hoping for a fully-realized story self contained in the 2 hours of run time, go in knowing you'll have fun and laugh along the way, but it'll just leave you a bit hollow when you walk out.