Saturday, February 16, 2019

Three Films Make A Post: World War III Begins on Your Toy Shelf

Venom (2018): Well-liked at least by the better nerd critics and surprisingly successful, I’m the odd man out who just loathed this thing by Ruben Fleischer. But then, I had no time for the director’s Zombieland either and feel that the two films share the same problems: scripts that never develop any kind of dramatic pull; a lead character who is a whiny self-centred little shit (Tom Hardy of course doing his whiny little shit with an accent) who never learns anything from his mistakes; jokes that never hit for me and supposedly dramatic scenes that make me snigger sarcastically. Add to Venom’s problems Riz Ahmed’s generically boring and unfunny villain and action scenes that are in the lower third of contemporary superhero spectacle, and you really find my puzzled about what I’m supposed to like here? Okay, the film does have more to do for its non-powered female lead than typical and has the good taste to cast Michelle Williams, but that’s all I found to enjoy here. It’s still better than Deadpool, mind you.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018): And the bad mood cinema continues with Sony’s attempt to make the first movie again, but cheaper and worse. So the script is a worse budget version of the first one with less interesting ideas, fewer fun set pieces, and no clever bits at all; Jack Black’s worse; the rest of the cast is so unmemorable, they make the decent one of the first movie look brilliant by comparison; the moral is more treacly; the PG horror more PG and less horrific; and Ari Sandel’s direction shows about as much personality as (please imagine me looking around my apartment for the thing in it with the least personality) a door knob.

Apostle (2018): Compared to the other two films in this entry, Gareth Evans’s worst film, a Netflix production about a man (Dan Stevens) with a laudanum habit going undercover on a cult-owned island to rescue his kidnapped sister and encountering worse things than just cultists, is sheer brilliance. Well, actually, it isn’t, really, but at least it is a film with certain ambitions that more often than not demonstrates actual interest in the art of filmmaking. The acting is generally strong (with Stevens, who is often relegated to clear-cut guys with little personality but can do quite a bit more when he’s allowed to, a fine stand-out), the script provides an interestingly skewed tale of guilt, redemption and responsibility, the cult and what it does turns out to be rather made for the lover of Weird Fiction, and Evans creates a fine mood of dread and paranoia. The film’s big problem is its sluggish pace, with too many scenes reiterating things the audience has already understood, slowing things to a crawl for no good reason on more than one occasion.

It’s still a worthwhile film, mind you, but shave at least twenty minutes of its 130 minute running time, and you might have a great one.

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