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Film Review: Venom

“Look In My Eyes, Eddie. The Way I See It, We Can Do Whatever We Want. Do We Have A Deal…?”

With Topher Grace’s long-awaited big screen portrayal of Eddie Brock/Venom in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 opening to a rather mixed response from critics and fans alike, eleven years later, Marvel aficionados finally have the chance to witness a “true” depiction of a character renowned for allowing a more darkened approach to the notion of what makes a “superhero” with the simply named, Venom, which sees Tom Hardy (Dunkirk) take the leading role of the investigative journalist who quickly becomes infested with an alien parasite with a knack for murder and a constant hunger for human flesh. Helmed behind the camera by Zombieland director, Ruben Fleischer, Venom is the latest 15-rated Marvel release after the likes of Deadpool, its’ recent, and better, sequel, and the ever-impressive and staggeringly violent Logan, and whilst not strictly under the bracket of the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to Sony Pictures still reserving the rights to the Venom character amongst others not yet hooked into Kevin Feige’s land of visceral wonder, Fleischer’s movie has been touted as the kickstarter to a fresh new comic franchise or “shared universe” which reportedly has enough love and support from the MCU to be green-lighted in a day and age when, let’s face it, comic-based movies are more constant than time itself.

In a similar way to the Tom Cruise led The Mummy however, a film which seemingly rendered the so-called “Dark Universe” dead in its’ tracks, Venom is equally as messy, convoluted and downright disappointing, a move so wildly inconsistent in tone you wonder if the BBFC were bribed in order to make the film seem darker than it actually is by slapping a 15 rating on top of it, and with all the discussion regarding the dark-natured antithesis of a character such as Venom alongside the success of more “adult” themed comic movies in recent times, Venom is thoroughly and fundamentally frustrating due to a obvious sense of indecision from the filmmakers to head in one tonal direction or the other. Because of this, Venom as a film simply cannot handle the constant switch of tone, ranging from trashy horror to comedy whilst remembering the need for woefully dull CGI action set pieces because of its’ place in the superhero genre, and with underdeveloped, indistinguishable characters, the waste of brilliant talent including Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler) and Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea) is filmic sacrilege of the highest order. With Hardy trying his best to inject some life into the character, it is the Brit’s performance which sort of makes parts of the movie worthwhile, with the constant bickering interchanges between himself and the growling voice of the infested symbiote sporadically entertaining, but upon leaving Venom, the previous hour and a half ultimately felt meaningless and forgettable, resulting in returning home to admire Netflix’s Daredevil, a comic adaptation with a much darker, much more complex and rewarding tone than anything within Venom, a movie with so much potential which has ended up just bland and cliched. Shame.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Dunkirk

“There’s No Hiding From This Son, We Have A Job To Do…”

The release of a new Christopher Nolan movie is always the time for utmost rejoice, a filmmaker who fundamentally adores the classic ways and means of cinema, and more impressively, a director who, like a modern incarnation of Steven Spielberg, is a guaranteed win for both box office and critical success, something of which each and every one of his films have achieved since his early work all the way back in 2000 with Memento. After the brilliance of Interstellar, a film which although may have been slightly divisive with critics, undoubtedly remains up there with the best work Nolan has offered up so far in terms of spectacle, the London-born filmmaker returns this week with Dunkirk, a live-action blockbuster focusing on the infamous titular evacuation which took place during the early stages of the Second World War and a movie which holds extra levels of kudos for being filmed in the heart of my very own hometown in sunny, sunny Dorset. Whilst you can expect nothing less than a movie with many different levels of wonder from a director such as Nolan, Dunkirk still manages to exceed the already vertigo-esque levels of anticipation which preceded it, and to put the experience of watching Dunkirk into words is a staggering undertaking in itself but what Nolan has ultimately accomplished can only be regarded as a masterpiece of spectacle, sound and sumptuous levels of tension, resulting in the best film to be released so far this year.

Avoiding completely the notion of a stereotypical, singular, character-driven wartime epic in the vein of Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, Nolan’s determined decision to focus on the triage of land, sea and air narrative threads means that although we are in the company of many different characters throughout each of them, their really isn’t time to discover backstory for any of the respective characters before the real power of the movie starts to come to fruition. From the first opening shot, screeching bullets and the tick-tock of Hans Zimmer’s unbelievably stunning soundtrack grip you in a contortion of spellbinding unrelenting tension, with the face of Fionn Whitehead’s youth-inflicted Tommy at the heart and centre of peril for most, if not all, of the time you share his particular journey of death and destruction, all caused by the unseen entity of the enemy soldier. Whilst Zimmer is renowned for being the brains behind classic musical soundtracks of the past, Dunkirk is undeniably up there with his best work to date, using Nolan’s own personal fob-watch at the heart of the metronome-esque piece of music which fuels the rising anxiety which encompasses the main thrust of the narrative, and by utilising his work hand in hand with the simply stupendous sound design, Dunkirk is the type of movie which is crying out to only be watched on the biggest screen possible in order to truly experience the craft at the heart of it.

With the film’s cinematography being left in the hands of Hoyte van Hoytema, whose previous works includes Her, Spectre and Nolan’s own science fiction epic, Interstellar, it comes as no surprise that Dunkirk is absolutely beautiful to behold, and although the particular screening in which I was in was the normalised digital approach to projection, if you are lucky enough to get the chance to witness Dunkirk in IMAX 35mm or 70mm, take it, with scenes of tantalising air to air battles and sweeping camera shots of soldier infested beaches showcasing an artist at the top of his respective game. Whilst pretenders such as the likes of Michael Bay believe the best use of IMAX cameras is to showcase how endless amounts of pointless explosions look within the format, thank god for the likes of Christopher Nolan, a filmmaker who is grounded completely in the epic grittiness of practicality and more importantly, a director who believes wholeheartedly in the importance of film. Dunkirk isn’t simply just a movie, it is a masterstroke of spectacle and a work of artistic tendency, and a film which not only results in the best blockbuster of the year and perhaps, even the past decade, but is the finest of examples of why cinema is so darn integral and important to those who truly love to witness a filmmaker at the peak of his powers. Nolan is just that, and in spades.

Overall Score: 10/10

88th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actor

Here we are once again… The 88th Academy Awards is upon us, swiftly bringing with it a rafter of talent, talent that has simmered and shone throughout a cinematic year in which bears have been fought, evil deeds exposed and Mexican drug-lords being dispatched quicker than you can whisper Sicario. Beginning Black Ribbon’s venture and exploration into the realms of Oscar Nomination goodness is the category of Best Supporting Actor, an award currently clutched onto by the majestic J.K Simmons for his electric portrayal of Terrence Fletcher in last years Whiplash, Black Ribbon’s favourite film of 2016. Aiming to steal the limelight from under Mr. Simmons’ shoes is a string of actors well accustomed to critical acclaim in the past with theatre legend Mark Rylance being nominated for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies, Christian Bale for Wall Street comedy-drama The Big Short, Tom Hardy for his role in the sublime The Revenant, and of course, Mark Ruffalo for the equally brilliant Spotlight. Oh yeah, and there’s Sylvester Stallone for Creed. 

Looking at the bookies and by word of mouth on the movie grapevine, favourite this year for winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor lies on the shoulders of both Mr. Stallone for Creed and Mr. Rylance for Bridge of Spies, with both being successful at previous movie ceremonies; Stallone at the Golden Globes and Rylance at the BAFTA’s. As for those who may have been overlooked, both Benicio Del Toro for Sicario and Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation would have been potential winners for their roles in two superb films, whilst the fear of Oscar white-washing isn’t helped by the fact that the cast from Straight Outta Compton was completely ignored, particularly Jason Mitchell for his role as Eazy-E. It maybe just me, but the inclusion of any of these overlooked talents may have made this years’ ceremony a bit more thrilling. Anyway, here are the nominations:

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

Christian Bale – The Big Short

Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Next Time: Best Supporting Actress!

Film Review: The Revenant

“I Ain’t Afraid To Die Anymore. I’ve Done It Already…”

Within the space of just twelve months, director Alejandro G. Inarritu has swiftly become the toast of Hollywood, a man whose last film Birdman generously took home the best picture award at the Oscars as well as slowly but surely imprinting it’s own brilliance upon myself after an initial bout of skepticism and uncertainty. Continuing such critical success is The Revenant, Inarritu’s adaptation of Michael Punke’s novel of the same name which focuses on the real-life story of American frontiersman Hugh Glass and his quest for revenge. So after the success of Birdman last year, what on earth would you expect Inarritu to do in order to try and replicate such critical attention just one year on for his latest pet project? Keep to what you know and love of course, with the commanding presence of Inarritu being sent aid from the returning duo of cinematographer and two-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki as well as editor Stephen Mirrione, and it is this triplet that once again leads to success with each upping their game and becoming the sheer backbone of The Revenant, a film in which not only has a undeniable film-making sense of beauty but one that surely, surely, surely finally wins Mr. DiCaprio his long-awaited Oscar.

Although slightly stealing tactics originally from Hitchcock in Rope, Inarritu’s much acclaimed use of the seemingly one-take tactic of Birdman is ditched within The Revenant yet the Sergio Leone-esque desire to shove the camera right into the face of each and every actor that was prevalent within Birdman makes it’s way instead, with Inarritu choosing to place the viewer right into the heart of the danger and chaos that ensues throughout the many set pieces within the film. This particular way of filming is undeniably breathtaking and creates a sense of pain-staking realism on a entirely new level, resulting in being the first film in a long time to physically make me turn away and close my eyes from what our man DiCaprio has to endure in order to survive. Of his miraculous tale of sheer human endurance is the much talked about bear attack scene, a scene in which, although CGI designed, is without limits in showing the sheer brutality of such an attack. It’s a scene reminiscent of the velociraptor hunt within Jurassic Park but with an added R rating, and a scene which sets up the tone for the entire movie. It’s hard to watch, but beautiful nonetheless.

With twelve Oscar nods on its’ side already, The Revenant is undoubtedly a classic in the making. A dark, desperate revenge thriller that feels as claustrophobic as it does epic thanks to the sheer brilliant cinematography by Mr Lubezki, a man set to win yet another Oscar, whereby the breathtaking wilderness is gorgeously examined all within the backdrop of natural light, a time-consuming yet worthwhile tactic that has resulted in in The Revenant being a true cinematic experience, one that should most definitely be witnessed on the biggest screen possible. Understandably, all the talk has all been pointing towards the performances of both DiCaprio and Hardy, with the former literally going through hell in order to adhere to the realistic feel of his surroundings, and even though it is a performance of little speech, it is one of sheer brutality, one that brings with it a sense of sympathy for a man who so clearly wants to collect that prestigious academy award. Don’t let DiCaprio’s performance be the only thing you take from The Revenant however, it is a film made with exquisite skill and talent, a film that creates a world of dark, desperate despair and a film that, Hardy’s sometimes inaudible dialogue aside, is pretty much perfect. A excellent example of modern cinema.

Overall Score: 9/10

Film Review: Legend

The Twin Dilemma

When looking at lists of the greatest movies ever made, films like The Godfather, The Godfather: Part Two, and Goodfellas always seem to be strongly cemented into such, with Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful crime epics particularly usually chopping and changing between who rules the cinematic world (The first one is the best one IMO). What links these movie masterpieces together? Gangsters. Lots of gangsters, a topic so undeniably infamous that it is no surprise some of the greatest films ever deal with mass murdering, foul mouthed, psychopaths for the sake of the gracious cinematic audience who seem to swoon at the sight of sharp suits and even sharper tongues. Whereas the syndicate of crime families in the US has been well and truly examined through such films like Goodfellas etc, the UK crime scene tends to be wholly seen as an afterthought in the terms of crime movies on the level of The Godfather etc. My own favourite UK gangster movie? Well, I undeniably have a huge soft spot for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ dark comic humour and twisty plot, but Gangster No.1 also stands out as a solid cornerstone of UK crime films, and it is here where Brian Helgeland’s new crime biopic Legend seemingly takes solid ground from.

Following in the footsteps of actors such as Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers (Ha.) is Tom Hardy as the Kray Twins, the infamous crime-infused brothers who rise and fall in the 1960’s East-End has already been examined through a wide range of documentaries and fiction, no more so than in ITV’s Whitechapel which for me, was my introduction into the criminal enterprise of one of, if not, the, most notorious English gangsters ever. With Hardy already portraying one of the most notorious jailbirds in the form of Charles Bronson in the magnificent Bronson, Hardy’s famous motif for portraying characters of a more physical demeanor suits the role of Ronnie and Reggie to a T, with the differences between the two being strongly played upon by Hardy’s natural born talent whilst scenes in which we witness each brother lose their cool and unleash their violent streak undeniably terrifying, presenting the fear and hostility of the Krays’ criminal reign in the 1960’s. Where the film ultimately fails however is the criss-crossing between the fearfulness of the Krays’ and the emotional core between their relationships with each other and other external factors, resulting in a division of views from the filmmakers in whether sympathy or hate is the main response towards the actions of these notorious criminals.

Of these external factors is Emily Browning as Frances Shea who presents herself as the viewpoint of the audience by having a front-row seat into the world of guns and geezers that Reggie places upon her, much to her distaste, and although the film bases itself on the notoriety of the Krays, it almost feels as if Browning takes the lead with her own rise and fall at the hand of both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Whilst more of Browning would have been more than sufficient due to her humanity and role as a walking conduit into the Krays’ livelihood, at least her screen presences is more than that of Christopher Ecclestone’s Leonard Nipper, whose presence as the hell-bent police detective seems overly shoe-horned in in order to examine they way in which there was an overly bad side to the workings of they Krays. Aside from Ecclestone, both Thewlis and Bettany both have roles that subside themselves with being utterly pointless on the face of it in terms of their pedigree as actors, with the only reason I can think of of their inclusion is their involvement in Gangster No.1, a film that although Legend takes a lot of solid ground from, ultimately doesn’t scratch the surface of in terms of quality and culty appeal. Legend does indeed deal with the violence and terror of the Krays in the 1960’s but it does it in a by-the-numbers approach with outbursts of quality which presents remorse at a version of a film which could have been much much more.

Overall Score:7/10

Triple Whammy Review! – Mad Max: Fury Road – SPOILERS

Dan –Mad Max 2

In a time where remakes and sequels are in constant supply, regardless of the demand, it would be fair to say that George Miller has fully deserved the chance to release another addition into the world of Max Rockatansky, with 30 years passing since the the release of Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome, where back then Mel Gibson was still slightly sane, Everton and Liverpool were the dominant footballing sides in England, and Queen were blowing minds during their performance at Live Aid. So now, in 2015, we have Mad Max: Fury Road, with the wonderful Tom Hardy replacing Gibson in the titular role, as well as Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult in supporting roles. With Miller himself stating in an interview with Empire Magazine that Fury Road was set to be “big on action and low on dialogue,” it would be foolish to believe that this latest addition to the Mad Max saga was going to be anything other than spectacle. And boy, is it. And some.

Still suffering heavily from the loss of his wife and daughter from the first film, our titular hero Max (Hardy) is captured by the War Boys, the violent army spawn of King Immortan Joe, whose teachings and tyranny have forced the people of the Citadel into poverty and sickness. Once captured, Max becomes a blood bank for illness-strapped War Boy, Nux (Hoult) who follows Joe and the rest of the War Boys into battle with Imperator Furiosa (Theron) after hijacking a war rig secretly containing King’s Joe’s “wives”, each of whom are used for the purpose of breeding. First off, as you can tell from my very short plot synopsis, to say Fury Road is mad would be doing it a huge injustice. It is a film wrapped in a straight jacket whilst shock-therapy treatment is being applied to it throughout. Seriously, what other film includes a guitar-yielding mad man playing heavy metal riffs on top of a truck whilst his equally mad colleagues set about causing endless destruction, all at the speed of 100mph? That’s right, none. The sheer madness of Fury Road is one that shouldn’t alienate the audience at all and instead, should be admired for the sheer bravery of it to not just be another quirky action movie and instead, stick to its’ guns and be something completely different, much like the original was more than thirty years ago.

If ever there was a cult/B-movie hidden in the form of a summer blockbuster, Fury Road would undoubtedly be it, with the violence turned up way past eleven, and the post-apocalyptic view of the Earth being one totally lost in the face of craziness, of which, is worse than any vision of the future that has ever been seen before in Mad Max universe where ironically, Hardy’s portrayal as the slight-spoken titular character is the calmest thing within it. Hardy has always had a knack of brilliantly portraying characters in films that focus on the physical aspect of their demeanour, whether it be Charles Bronson in Bronson or even Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and it is no surprise that such a gift is fully formed within Fury Road where although there is little in terms of dialogue from Hardy, the sheer physical demands he adheres to from Millers’ 21st century take on Max is more than enough to warrant standing up and applauding.  Applause is needed too for the overall look of the film, with the colour palette ranging from the gorgeously vast sand-induced emptiness of the day to the dark, moonlit shadow of the night, whilst the CGI and stunts seemingly outdoing themselves as the film progressed throughout its’ more than satisfactory two-hour runtime.

There was a personal fear of Mad Max: Fury Road being just another action film before I had watched it, but this potential downfall was put to bed as soon as the film started. What Miller has created here is not just another action film, it is one of the greatest, yet strangest and completely bonkers, action movies of recent times and is easily the best yet in the Mad Max canon. If this is the result of a thirty year wait for a sequel, then I am more than happy to wait just as long for the next. Simply brilliant.


Josh –

I have to say I made a huge mistake before watching Fury road and that is not watching any of the previous Mad Max movies. I would have enjoyed this film so much more if I knew about the earlier Films in the series. So keep in mind that this review is based solely on what I have seen in Fury Road. Fury Road threw me into detailed apocalyptic baron wasteland, Our protagonist, Max has been captured By a group known as the “War Boys” which serve the Warlord “Immorton Joe”. Immorton Joe is somewhat the god of the citadel and controls the only water source in a vast desert wasteland.

Fury Road shouldn’t be labelled as an action film, it should be “THE” action film. This is exactly what action should be a Chaotic symphony of destruction with cars, flames and blood! Despite most of the action taking place around what is initially a truck the fight choreography is amazing and brutal especially to old ladies. What really makes the action shine is the creativity of the vehicle designs and how they use some of the unique design features to fight on.

Mad Max 5Something I really enjoyed about this film, was the detail in the culture of the War Boys and their Valhalla worshipping towards Immorton Joe. It seemed that every action that one of the war boys took whether that be my Nux or other War Boys added more to the insanity and brainwashing by Immorton Joe for example spraying their teeth silver to look “shiny and chrome” before trying to become suicidal martyrs in the hopes they will be carried through the gates of Valhalla.

Though Max was intended to be the main character, there seemed to be very little character development throughout the film with Max being a man of very little words however definitely made up for it with thrilling action scenes. However in my opinion he was out-shined by Furiosa mainly because she is what starts the events throughout the film with her stealing Immorton Joe’s wives in the hope of taking them to the “Green Place”.

The only negative I had when I was watching the film was the CGI. Luckily there was very little of it apart from the enormous dust storm which did look amazing, however near the end of the film they used a CGI steering wheel that was coming towards the camera as a transition between shots and it really broke my immersion not only because the CGI looked awful but it just wasn’t necessary they could have just faded to black or had rock cover the screen and it would have been perfect.

As you can tell I loved this film yes there was little character development for Max, apart from what we assume is the death of his daughter however nothing else was needed. All we needed to know was that he is awesome and bad ass. The action is amazing creative with raw destruction and apart from a few CGI issues there was nothing wrong with this film and I look forward to watching the previous films and new ones to come.


Drake –

I’m in the same sinking boat as Josh. A member of the audience with no experience of the original trilogy and I’m ashamed that I never got around to watching it. I’d call it excusable but now, I’m excited to get my teeth in. Aware of the story and basic points of its predecessors, the reveal trailer for this monster had me excited (wink wink). Tom Hardy, explosions, gore, violence and incredible vehicles had me drooling from the start and if you’re reading this and have yet to see this movie, you should probably have left half way through Dan’s introduction.

Rather than babble on, lets get down to business. Fury Road brought a soap box to the convention of movie goers, threw it as Sylvester Stallon and his loaf of bread, pissed on his foot all while making him their little bitch. Expendables? Pffft. Rambo? Pfffft. George Miller isn’t afraid of you. He’s got Mad Max. A crazy SOB with a predisposition to kill shit.

The movie rocks. It rocks harder than Dwayne Johnson. The action is like nothing I’ve seen before. The practical effects were incredible and it must be said, the stunt crew must drag their nuts around in wheelbarrows because the shit they were pulling is next level. Often the difference between CGI and practical is difficult to distinguish which is incredible work by the department, apart from the 80’s transitional effects of Max’s daughter. That stuff was a little weird and outdated in context. I can’t actually pick a favourite between any of the visual effects. The microsecond glimpse of someone’s ribcage opening, the crazy costumes, the big balled stunt crew or the astonishing selection of vehicles. Its a V8 ratters wet dream and I want to be part of it, so much so, I’m going to buy myself one…So click that big Razer sign to the right and fund my new hobby!

Ahem, enough of this plug. The guys have given you a stellar report of the movie. I’m tagging in merely to extenuate their points. Visual effects were top gear, the acting was perfect and the characters were just insane, in a good/bad kinda way. A man with elephantiasis repping a dapper waistcoat with nip holes for his blinging nipple tassel hip-hop chain and dude who should really be DC’s newest Joker what’s not great about that!? But lets be honest, those milk udder women were just plain freaky.

Sure, there are a couple things I have issues with. Its suffered from the Hobbit 2 syndrome where it went from Ultra Mega 8 Billion K cameras to a crappy 10MP compact with dust on the lens and a scene where Max tells the crew to move on while he goes Hulk only to return to the exact spot a cut later. Otherwise, what else can I complain at? Well, apart from the fact that it ended.

In an unpredictable story of survival, Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie that won’t last for just a year. It’ll drop into the books as one of the biggest and best movies of our generation and cement Mad Max at the top of the food chain. BRING ON THE SEQUELS!

Overall Score – 9/10


Mad Max 7