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New Escapist Video! On “Venom” as a Superhero Throwback…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday’s article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Venom. It’s a bad movie, but an endlessly fascinating one. More than that, it feels like a conscious throwback to an older style of superhero movie, one that predates the modern blockbuster template.

New Escapist Column! On “Venom” as a Superhero Throwback…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the pending release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Venom.

Venom is not a good movie. It is a mess of a movie. It is chaotic, random, unstructured, nonsensical. However, it is interesting. What is particularly interesting about Venom is the way in which it feels like something of a throwback to an era of a different kind of superhero movie. Venom recalls the superhero movies from the turn-of-the-millennium, films that played faster and looser with their established characters without worrying about fidelity or faithfulness. There’s something interesting in looking at Venom as a superhero movie out of time.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

229. Mad Max: Fury Road (#206)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Grace Duffy and Deirdre Molumby, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Through the ruin of the world stalks the ruin of the man. In a world that has descended into anarchy and chaos, a lone nomad finds himself embroiled in a brutal chase sequence across the wasteland. However, the characters quickly discover that the past is the one thing that they can’t outrun.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 206th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! On “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the Arbitrary Lines Between High and Low Culture…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, with the renewed and ongoing debate between “high” and “low” culture, between “art” and “content”, it seemed like a good time to take a look at one of the more fascinating films to straddle that line. Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth entry in a long-running franchise, a film essentially built around a long car chase and explosions. However it’s also as pure a piece of cinema that has ever been made. It demonstrates the fungibility of those perceived boundaries.

218. Warrior (#162)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior.

Brendan and Tommy are two brothers that have lived very different lives, but find themselves on a collision course. Brendan is a struggling teacher who is going to lose his family home, while Tommy is a war veteran with a mysterious past who seems to need a mechanism to work through his trauma. Both men find themselves embroiled in a brutal mixed martial arts tournament with a life-changing prize fund. However, the two might need to go through one another to earn it.

At time of recording, it was ranked 162nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #38!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast! A somewhat bumper edition this time.

This week, I join Jason Coyle, Grace Duffy and Luke Dunne from Film in Dublin to discuss the week in film. As usual, we talk about the top ten and the new releases, as well as what we’ve watched this week. In this episode, Grace discusses her love of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and encourages a Bruce Springsteen singalong, Jason blazes through a twelve-film week and contemplates the seventies fetishism of A Star is Born, and Luke discusses Maniac and the strange intoxicating allure of Venom. Complete with mumbly Tom Hardy impressions.

The top ten:

  1. Crazy Rich Asians
  2. Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation
  3. A Simple Favour
  4. Aida at Met Opera 2018
  5. Black ’47
  6. The House With A Clock In Its Walls
  7. Night School
  8. Johnny English Strikes Again
  9. A Star is Born
  10. Venom

New releases:

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.

Non-Review Review: Venom

Transformative trauma is a cornerstone of the superhero genre.

Sometimes that trauma is emotional; the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the loss of Uncle Ben, the explosion of Krypton. Sometimes that trauma is physical; having piping hot metal coated over your bones as your memory is wiped, physically mutating into something unrecognisable as human, having your entire body turn to trauma. To misquote Stan Lee, “with great power comes great responsibility.” More often than not, it also comes with great suffering.

Back in black.

In its best moments, Venom seems to realise this. At the core of Venom is the traumatised character of Eddie Brock, who has watched his entire life fall apart and who suddenly finds himself sharing his body with a murderous alien entity with monstrous appetites. Brock is played by Tom Hardy, one of those rare actors with both immense physical presence and incredibly vulnerability. Unshaved and scruffy looking, with faded tattoos and wearing clothes that look like they haven’t been washed, Eddie looks like he’s been through hell even before his transformative experience.

There are moments when Venom almost plays as a weird psychological thriller about a character experiencing a real-time break from reality, a reporter who is losing his fragile grip on reality after suffering one too many personal and professional setbacks. As the situation gets worse, Eddie starts hearing voices in his head and losing control of his body. He finds himself in a situation where terrible things happen, but he is able to disassociate himself from the brutality and violence. Venom never quite commits to this idea, but it simmers through the story.

Wall’s well that ends well.

The first two acts of Venom are ropey and uneven, suffering from a fuzzy lack of detail and no strong focus on any of the film’s central ideas. Nevertheless, the film survives largely on the strength of Tom Hardy’s performance and the weirdness of the concept. However, things fall to pieces in the third act. Part of this is because Venom feels the need to transform into a regular superhero movie as it reaches its conclusion. Part of this is because Ruben Fleischer cannot direct action. Part of this is because of collision of clumsy exposition and muddled computer-generated imagery.

Venom loses what little control it has of itself as it reaches its climax.

MRI are we here?

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Non-Review Review: The Revenant

The Revenant is a beautiful and visceral piece of work.

Sporting a troubled production history, The Revenant is surprisingly straightforward film. Based on the tale of famed fur trapper (and tall-tale-teller) Hugh Glass, The Revenant charts one man’s journey from near-death back to civilisation against the harsh and unforgiving American wilderness. The Revenant is essentially a journey in a straight line, as Glass struggles to find a way back to security and revenge himself upon his colleagues who left him for dead. The film’s biggest structural issues lie in a desire to distort or convolute that straight line.

therevenant6

However, the fairly linear and straightforward plot is really just a framework for director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to present the audience with striking vistas and symbolism that ranges from blindingly obvious to wilfully obtuse. The film is absolutely stunning, capturing its tone perfectly and presenting any number of memorable images and moments. Even when the visual trips sideways or backwards feel indulgent or unnecessary, they are still beautiful.

The Revenant is perhaps a little too fixated on over-complicating what is a fairly straightforward narrative, with a script that can seem unexpectedly obtuse for what is basically a single long chase movie crossed with a classic “man against nature” survival film. Nevertheless, the result is a striking piece of work that is awe-inspiring in visual (and visceral) terms.

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Non-Review Review: Legend

Legend is a nostalgic gangster film.

Sure, it embraces its sixties aesthetic with relish. After all, setting a film in sixties London all but assures impressive production design. Legend looks and sounds quite lavish, evoking not so much the sixties but the cultural memory of the sixties. The film likes its loud blues and rich browns, but it also draws quite skilfully from the sounds of the era. Appropriately enough for a film adopting the title Legend, the film feels like it owes more to some hazy collective recollection than the concrete reality.

"Whoa! Let's READ the review first..."

“Whoa! Let’s READ the review first…”

However, Legend‘s nostalgia runs a great deal deeper than that. After all, writer and director Brian Helgeland has some experience with crime-based period pieces. The trailers to Legend loudly trumpet Helgeland as the writer of L.A. Confidential, and it’s an obvious comparison in terms of visual style. However, the narrative and structure of Legend feel a lot older. At its heart, Legend is an old-fashioned gangster biography, offering a broad and sweeping (and occasionally episodic) historical travelogue through the meteoric rise and catastrophic fall of the Krays.

It is an approach that has fallen somewhat out of style in recent years. The technique certainly has its weaknesses, particularly when applied by hands less skilled than those of Martin Scorsese. It is too much to suggest that Legend measures up to Goodfellas or Casino, but Legend makes good use of its format. It starts with enough energy to sustain its two-hour-and-ten minute runtime through the ebbs and flows of a familiar plot structure, allowing Tom Hardy enough room to craft two separate stunning performances.

Twin town...

Twin town…

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Non-Review Review: Mad Max – Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is a live action cartoon in the best possible sense.

It is a movie that seems like an incredible gamble. Warner Brothers essentially gave director George miller $150m and let him loose in the Namib Desert to make a belated follow-up to his cult Mad Max trilogy. There is precious little sanitation here, no sense of order. It seems like Mad Max: Fury Road was never screened in front of focus groups, as if Miller never really received any studio notes that weren’t ringing endorsements or encouragement. Mad Max: Fury Road would be a strange film under any circumstances, but it’s a particularly strange summer blockbuster.

Just deserts...

Just deserts…

But it works.

Mad Max: Fury Road is gloriously gonzo, an extended two-hour car chase across a desert wasteland where it seems like dialogue is a commodity as scarce as oil or water. The script is surprisingly light on exposition, trusting the audience to pick up everything that it needs from descriptive nouns like “the Bullet Farmer” or “the People Eater.” The film makes no real nods towards conventional popcorn film-making, but is all the more effective for it. It is a movie that is utterly unashamed of its pulpy sensibilities, offering a live action post-apocalyptic Wacky Races.

Front and centre...

Front and centre…

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