Charlie’s Cinematic Odyssey – Incredible Crazy Rich American Predator Venom

The Incredibles 2

The Incredibles

Tying up the lose end from the first movie – The Incredibles are involved in a high stakes battle with The Underminer. Saving the day, they cause a lot of collateral damage in which they lose their only source of income. Struggling to make ends meet, Mr and Mrs Incredible are approached by a company who are looking to relaunch super heroes to the world in the hopes to influence legislation that will relax the laws on superheroes and make our world a safer place.

From there, the Incredibles 2 essentially tells the same story as The Incredibles, with Mrs Incredible instead taking centre stage. She becomes the hero the organisation looks up to as the lynchpin of their campaign. She is seen as a smarter and safer gamble than her husband who would prefer punching problems into the sun. Whilst she fights a new super villain called the Screenslaver, Mr Incredible is forced into life as a stay-at-home dad, trying to handle his son’s maths homework and his daughter’s boy problem, whilst looking after baby Incredible who’s super powers are only just beginning to manifest in new and unexpected ways.

It’s funny and entertaining, and I loved the crimson toned silver aged aesthetic that permeates the character and world design. Indeed, this level of imagination and creativity is what anyone expects from Pixar at this point. At times, it feels as if the film is going out of it’s way to explain what the film is actually about through lengthy dialogue scenes that feel a little on the nose, maybe even jarring to a child audience. Whilst the likes of Inside Out, Up or any of the Toy Story films tackled similar complex themes it did so in a way in which children and adults could understand. For that reason, I don’t think The Incredibles 2 reaches the level of Pixar’s greatest movies, but it is a solid follow up to the first movie.

That said the introductory short Bao is worth the ticket price alone.

American Animals

From the start American Animals affirms itself as not being based on a true story, but rather is the actual true story. It retells the events of a real life robbery perpetrated by a group of students from Kentucky in 2004, but with a twist. Centring on art student Spencer Reinhard (played by Barry Keoghan last seen in Dunkirk) who becomes fixated on this antique picture book kept in the special holdings section of the library along with a number of other prominent first editions. Spencer feels as if his life has no meaning, and holds this belief that all the great artists were sculpted by a singular big event or traumatic experience that made them into the artist they became renowned for. Buoyed on by his friend Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), the two begin to hatch a plan to steal the book worth up to 12 million dollars. The more they talk about it, the more committed they become to pulling off the heist. Eventually being joined by two other students, aspiring FBI agent Erik Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and getaway driver (Blake Jenner). All our bright young men with a bright future ahead of them, so why pull off a heist and risk jail in the first place?

Because it’s there…

The heist movie is one of the oldest of the popular film genres. Just this year, we’ve already had Ocean’s Eight reigniting the slick and stylish aesthetic of those movies with an all female cast. Currently out at the cinema is King of Thieves, another true crime story surrounding the Hatton Garden Safe Depositary Burgalry of 2003. Whilst American Animals is a heist movie, it’s one with a twist – a hybrid heist movie, the conventional cinematic story playing alongside interviews with the real criminals now all in their 30s. At times their testimony comes in to colour events, sometimes even discolour it. There is a degree of unreliable narration within this ‘true story’. Initially, the criminals come across as charismatic and affable and it starts off as something of a goofball comedy, these young men getting high and watching old heist movies. But the more they talk, the more committed they become and what starts as something quite goofy begins to float on darker currents.

I really liked American Animals, as with all good heist movies it keeps you guessing – will they pull it off? At the same time, you are always in two minds about whether or not you do actually want to see them pull it off. On one level it’s a commentary about the heist movie or why we are so obsessed with villainy and criminal centric films. I guess it’s because we get to relish in the fantasy of being on the wrong side of the law, to do the bad thing. This is very much how the movie starts off, but it is that level of commitment of going through it that takes American Animals to the next level. It’s a thoroughly fascinating insight into what it takes for human beings to become criminals, or to cancel it down to it’s base denominator why people can be motivated to do bad things.

On another level it’s an arresting exploration of the white male American psyche and this nihilistic Fight Club esque mentality of committing or being subjected to mandatory violence as a means of being shaped as a man. The book the kids intend to sell is an art book by a prominent frontiersman collecting the different bird life encountered in the push West. It’s full of colour and represents a time where the lives of men were perceived to be defined by adventure. In modern times, where there are no more frontiers each of the characters start believing that this heist will be a turning point in their lives, something that will elevate them beyond their mundane setting of Lexington Kentucky, all shot in down to earth tones, beyond the disappointment of the lives of their parents, beyond the safety of where their future lives are destined to transport them to.

It’s funny, extremely well acted and a masterclass in editing. Definitely seek it out.

The Predator

The Predator is the latest attempt to reboot everyone’s favourite big game hunting alien. I say ‘everyone’, I really mean those people that like to collect replica samurai swords. Here’s the thing about Predator – at the pre-Terminator 2 height of Schwarzeneggers 80s heyday, it was created as the ultimate antagonist to battle Arnie. He had already killed about a zillion people on screen in Commando, he had been the ultimate cyborg villain in the terminator. By 1986 he needed an adversary that would stand up to him.  The predator was created by Stan Winston with some input from James Cameron – the idea of an alien big game hunter who hunts humans, or even Arnie, for sport with a triple laser sighted shoulder cannon. Why would the ultimate alien bad ass hunt things with optical camouflage and a massive laser cannon?

Oh shit… I don’t know.

After we had John McTieran’s original classic – the predator would soon venture into the ‘great! Now what?’ territory that befalls many franchises of its ilk. See all Alien sequels proceeding Aliens. So we had Predator 2, which saw it face off against Danny Glover in the concrete jungle of future LA. It sowed the seeds for the Alien Vs Predator films. When that didn’t work, they did the Aliens thing and went plural with Robert Rodriguez’s Predators and now we’ll just stick a definite article in front of the word Predator because shit I don’t know what we’re doing here with this franchise anymore. The wave is rising, the time is right for another Predator film – we’ve got just the right amount of distance from the last one before it becomes irrelevant again.

The the implies that this is the predator and therefore the most important predator. If only that were true.

The plot will sound like I’m drunk writing this. But I’m not. In the present day, super hard sniper soldier encounters the alien menace during a secret mission deep in the Central American jungle. Things escalate quickly and all his team are killed by a Predator. Snipey McGoo gets the better of the predator and then makes off with the predator’s helmet and shoulder cannon and for some reason mails them back to the home of his estranged wife and autistic son in LA. He comes back to America and is immediately incarcerated by the US government over his close encounter – put into contact with Sterling K. Browns villainous government agent seeking to capture predator tech for humanity’s own war effort. Snipey McGoo is put on a bus with a bunch of other military dissonants including bickering old couple Thomas Jane and Kegan Michaels. Meanwhile Olivia Munn brings the science to the group as they attempt to track down the Predator. Mean-meanwhile, the predator itself is being hunted down by another predator, a giant predator big boy that is basically Predator Schwarzenegger and is presumably THE predator the title is referring to. And our rag tag group of jokers with guns must kill that predator too.

God forbid, Snipey McGoo’s son and wife don’t become involved in the whole debacle.

Spoilers – of course they do.

Shane Black writes and directs The Predator after having had a fleeting role in the original movie as one of the crack commandoes within Arnold Schwarzenegger’s team. Black went on to write some of the best action movies of the 90s and became one of the most sought after screenwriters in Hollywood. , He then played a big part in the revitalisation of Robert Downey Jnr’s career in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which went full circle in directing Iron Man 3 (still one of the better Marvel movies). Most recently, he came back with The Nice Guys which was effectively a retread of the pulpy LA orientated PI schtick of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but set in the 70s. When that movie was coming out, he was out on the press circuit earnestly telling people to go watch the film and tell their friends, because as good as the movie is, selling these kinds of mid range movies is so much harder in this day and age. It was kind of depressing to see how the mighty had fallen, and going into The Predator, I can’t help but feel it’s a case of Shane Black attaching himself to a big franchise movie as if it’s the only for him to make movies anymore.

Go into this movie anticipating a new Shane Black action comedy and you’ll have fun with it. It’s a movie of quips and zingers . Go into it to watch a tense action thriller in the vein of McTiernan’s Predator movie and you will be disappointed. For this is a movie where everything is mostly played for shits and giggles. There is plenty of predator violence but it never feels completely central to the plot, so scenes in which the alien cuts people’s heads off feels more like hitting a  quoata than having anything of meaning.

I didn’t mind The Predator, but it’s probably not worth your time, the original Predator will always be THE PREDATOR movie. The sound mixing could be better as I couldn’t make out what some of the characters were saying. I don’t know where I refer that piece of constructive criticism…

Crazy Rich Asians

crazy-rich-asians

Black Panther bucked the trend earlier this year by being a big Western superhero movie featuring a predominantly African cast. Crazy Rich Asians pulls off a similar feat, a fairly conventional romantic comedy with a predominatly Chinese cast. In most movies, Chinese characters are usually portrayed in a certain way – wise and zen like Mr Miagi or deranged and crazy like Ken Jeong in the Hangover movies.

As it happens Ken Jeong is actually in this movie.

Beginning in New York, we have American-Chinese professor Rachel (Constance Wu) who specialises in game theory, who is all loved up in her relationship with Nick (Henry Golding). Nick is to be best man at his friend’s wedding back in his home city of Singapore – so the two jet off East, where Nick will finally introduce his girlfriend to his family. Unbeknownst to Rachel, Nick comes from an incredibly rich background – crazy rich even – and is air to billion dollar fortune – his family basically considered Chinese royalty. And so the plot is very much focused on Rachel as she enters this world of obscene affluence and begins to wonder how she can ever be accepted by her boyfriend’s family headed by Michelle Yeoh as the mother of the family, a cold and shrewd woman who represents the values of Chinese family and ancestry.

If you have all the money in the world but can’t can you ever be happy?

Well… centuries of storytelling across the globe would tell you otherwise!

Crazy Rich Asians a fairly standard romantic comedy when you get down to it, young virtuous women must appeal to her prince charming’s fiendishly wealthy family for acceptance. Along the way their relationship is tested and stumbles during the third act. It’s big on sentimentality and big romantic gestures, the onscreen affluence is often staggering.

The Asian setting does reinvigorate the plot which plays out. It’s funny in the way a Richard Curtis rom com is funny, with lots of colourful side characters to give respite from the central drama. Come to Singapore! Where street food vendors have Michelin stars, where we build this whole city upon three skyscrapers far above the floor – look at this thing! You thought Dubai was cool? It’s crumbling into the sand. There’ll be no Dubai soon. Come to Singapore instead! We made a river in the wedding aisle for the bride to walk down. It’s insane.  Because it’s so important that you get married and your marriage day is so perfect.

Venom

venom

What if you took Spiderman but crossed him with HR Giger’s Alien, but in actuality he just looked like a slimier version of a member of Kiss? Venom the new comic book superhero starring Tom Hardy, taking the fan favourite spider-man villain, one of the few Marvel characters that Sony still hold the rights over, and creating an all new standalone adventure, that will hopefully lead to *fingers crossed* a franchise or even better *fingers and toes crossed – whisper it ever so gently* a film so good that Venom is accepted into the glorious MCU. The ultimate destination for all sentient life at this point.

Tom Hardy is Eddie Brock, an in your face investigative video journalist who has a reputation for sticking it to the man and exposing conspiracies and corruption in and around the bay area of San Francisco. Whilst investigating shady antics of Riz Ahmed’s super secret, super amoral science experiments, Brock becomes attached with an alien symbiote known as Venom. Which obviously gives him super strength and agility a huge appetite and also a voice in his headsplit personality. Together they must team up and stop something before it all blows up. Can man get his life back together despite being host to an alien parasite that likes to eat people? Heaven forbid, they have to team up against a greater evil and stop something before it blows up or something. Which is the plot of Venom. A movie.

So Venom was last seen in Spider-man 3 played by Topher Grace, infamously crowbarred into the movie by the producers to appease the fans, despite the reluctance of director Sam Raimi. Spider-man 3 effectively made Sam Raimi dust his hands of big studio films and cinema is MUCH poorer because of it. But numbers are numbers and Venom still is still a clear fan favourite. He still has appeal. He still has the potential to do big numbers that could in turn result in big box office numbers. I mean he eats bad dudes. Haven’t you always wanted to eat bad dudes? Stare your problems in the face and just devour them. Haven’t you always wanted to be the T-Rex?

I guess everyone still remembers Spider-man 3 for evil Peter Parker strutting down the streets and getting really into jazz. Sadly, I don’t think anyone will remember this movie. Which is called Venom by the way.

I don’t really know why. He’s not exactly poisonous is he?

The plot is very thin as it is with most of these kinds of movies. It’s not really about what happens in the grand scheme of things. It has nothing particularly interesting to say about anything. The action and special effects are average at best. People get their heads eaten in bloodless fashion. The main highlight of the movie is Tom Hardy as Venom and Eddie Brock. I cannot say that I abjectly hated the movie, there is a kiss scene – the connotations of which are hilarious and then we have Mr Hardy who is doing the best he can with the material given to him. As Eddie Brock he is a skittery loser speaking in this not very convincing American accent. As Venom, Tom Hardy uses Dolby enhanced ‘big’ voice and seeing the two bicker between one another is amusing in spots. One feels great stretches of the movie were ad-libbed, the part where Venom describes to an unfortunate victim how he will turn him into a ‘turd in the wind’. According to Hardy – at least 40 minutes of his favourite material were left on the editing floor, presumably this will be collected with a dustpan and brush and emptied into the DVD release for all the Venom fans.

During the credits scene, there is setup for a *fingerscrossed* sequel involving another notable actor. The notion of which, feels so outlandish yet earnest – that this movie would even get a sequel – and almost feels like a Deadpool esque parody of these kind of sequel baiting post credit scenes. Before there is even a script or a vision, here’s a basic concept Sony are trying to sell us on. But wait there’s more!  If you spend just 7.99 more you’ll get these authentic Texan steak knives made out of real metal!

It would be too easy to say that Venom is a parasite of a movie looking at the superhero genre, or a slimey shape shifting symbiote masquerading as a movie. It would even easier to call this movie a real ‘turd in the wind’. But life is too short to think too hard about one or even two of these movies in a deeper regard.

So I guess what I’m really trying to say is… one big sustained fart noise for Venom.

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