Bro-Reviews: Venom

Venomous to the comic book film genre.

Since his introduction in 1988, Venom has held a special place in the hearts of “Spider-Man” and Marvel Comics fans alike. Venom reached iconic status, becoming one of Spider-Man’s most frequent adversaries and even reached anti-hero status in later iterations of the character. With his place in comics history cemented, many yearned for Venom to appear in film. That wish came to fruition when Venom made his film debut in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”, but Venom’s appearance yielded mixed results at best. Sony took this in stride, however, attempting to make a solo outing for Venom despite the disastrous results of their “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, resulting in Marvel Studios acquiring some of the rights to Spider-Man. While Sony could have chosen to partner with Marvel Studios to make a solid film adaptation of the beloved symbiote fans deserved, Sony chose to bring us “Venom”, the first in what they hope will be a universe building film adjunct to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Spider-verse. 

“Venom” sees Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a sleazy ambush journalist with a checkered past based in San Francisco, investigating a start-up company called the Life Foundation, headed by CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). When Brock receives help from Dr. Dora Smith (Jenny Slate), a scientist working with Drake, Brock discovers the Life Foundation has been conducting illegal experiments on humans to bond human bodies with an alien substance called “symbiotes”. Eddie becomes infected by one of these symbiotes, and with Drake and the Life Foundation coming after him and everyone he loves, Brock’s symbiote alter-ego “Venom” awakens to wreak havoc.

There is no doubt Tom Hardy is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, and is more than capable of pulling off the legendary villain/ anti-hero. Hardy gives it his all, and one can tell he is having fun and definitely committed to the role. Venom himself is also an impressive special effect, as he is able to pull off a couple of cool action sequences and does manage to deliver some of his trademark quirky humor that made him a beloved character. 

Unfortunately, that’s where all of the positives end in this atrocity that would’ve been considered outdated in 2004. “Venom” features one of the most uninspiring stories in comic book film history, as having the focus of the film center on a shady organization conducting unethical experiments with the intent of saving humanity is an insult to the word cliche. And although comic book movies have made a habit of altering their heroes’ origins, so much of Venom’s origin is severely misguided without the presence of Spider-Man. For the uninitiated, the symbiote attempts to bond with Spider-Man/ Peter Parker, but Parker rejects him, leading the symbiote the attach to Eddie Brock, who has an axe to grind with Parker, instead. Without Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, “Venom” feels bereft of important story elements and character developments, rendering the symbiote’s first solo outing borderline pointless. 

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Tom Hardy in Sony’s “Venom”.

But the problems for “Venom” don’t end there. Most of the film’s secondary characters add nothing to the film, in particular Michelle Williams, who plays Brock’s ex, Anne Weying. Williams and Hardy have zero chemistry on screen, yet much of the film’s’ first half before we even get to Venom himself focuses on their real action ship along with other pointless aspects of Brock’s life. Those familiar with HBO’s “The Night Of” know what Riz Ahmed is capable of, but in “Venom”, his attempts at selling the crummy material he’s given make him come across as trying too hard. Combine these aspects with an anticlimactic final boss fight riddled with special effects, unexplored story pieces regarding Venom being a “loser” on his planet, and jarring tone shifts from serious action to slapstick comedy, and “Venom” is a total mess.


(WARNING: The following paragraph contains spoilers for “Venom”. Please skip this paragraph if you do not wish to read any spoilers).

“Venom” could’ve just been an outdated, trashy comic book movie a la “Daredevil”, but the film’s mid credits scene makes it one of the biggest wastes of time and potential in comic book movie history. In the scene, Eddie Brock travels to San Quentin State Prison to interview an incarcerated serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, who wears a red wig that makes him look like Carrot Top). Kasady claims that once he breaks out of prison, there is going to be “Carnage”. The audacity of Sony to tease a sequel and universe with Venom as the main character is beyond insulting, and those who are interested in a sequel or further developments of this universe should be required to wear dunce caps in order to highlight the fact they have no taste in films. 


“Venom” is a disaster that could have been avoided. Sony could’ve waited and teamed up with Marvel Studios to bring Venom to life in the new “Spider-Man” series that is part of the MCU. This way, not only would the character get the big screen adaptation he deserves, but would also allow Sony and Marvel Studios to makes millions or perhaps billions of dollars in the process. Instead, Sony’s greed clouded their judgement and resulted in them making a misguided project that should have never been green-lit and will make fans look back at Venom in “Spider-Man 3” more fondly than they could have ever imagined. “Venom” is an entry that represents the worst the comic book film genre has to offer, and one that continues to highlight Sony’s incompetence that resulted in them having joint custody of their beloved web slinger. Should the response to “Venom” be poisonous enough, that joint custody could extend to this beloved villain/ anti hero sooner rather than later. 

Rating: 1/4 Stars. Stay away.

“Venom” Stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, and Woody Harrelson. It is in theaters now.

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Bro-Reviews: Avengers: Infinity War

The Marvel to end all marvels.

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe thrilling us again and again with each new release. Over the last decade, Marvel Studios has meticulously built their universe to the point where each new release wasn’t just an event to behold on the silver screen, but also a necessity to see. Marvel’s gamble seemed to have paid off large dividends with the release of their first team up film, 2012’s “The Avengers”, breaking numerous box office records at the time and came with the promise that bigger and better was coming. Even with the disappointment of 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, audiences have waited in anticipation for Marvel’s promise to bring every single Marvel Cinematic Universe character and film together in “Avengers: Infinity War”. Even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the envy of Hollywood to the point multiple studios have tried copying the formula but to less than stellar results (*see the DC comics extended universe and Universal’s Dark Universe*), could the mighty MCU crumble under their own ambition of assembling most, if not all, of its heroes into one feature length film?

“Avengers: Infinity War” takes place immediately after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok”, where Thanos (Josh Brolin) is on a quest to collect the six infinity stones in order to restore balance to time and space. With the threat of doom to mankind and the universe at stake, it’s up to the heroes of earth and the galaxy to team up and stop Thanos before he accomplishes his task and the cosmos are affected.

Marvel has once again aptly sown all of its unique, intricate pieces together into the class of super hero movies. Much credit must be given to the superstar directing team of the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joseph, who have yet to make a bad MCU film. It’s wonder how the directors of “You, Me, and Dupree” have made arguably two of the best MCU films, “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Captain America: Civil War”, and yet have somehow outdone themselves once again by tackling the most ambitious and perhaps even the most expensive films ever made.

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Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Infinity War”.

The stakes couldn’t be higher in “Infinity War”, and the film definitely illuminates the catastrophic consequences. One of the benefits of building a universe for a decade is the audience is attached to all of the intertwining characters and story lines, so there’s a true sense of loss and despair when the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther and company come face to face with impending doom. In regards to the film’s central villain, Josh Brolin’s Thanos may come with some trademark villainous background, but he’s easily one of if not the most complex and interesting villains the MCU has ever seen, and the exploration of his relationship with his adoptive daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) packs an emotional punch. But the film is not bereft of laughs at all, as Marvel’s trademark timely humor is also ever present and as belly aching as ever, a welcome necessity considering the dire outcomes facing the heroes we have come to grow with and love.

As mentioned early, the Russo brothers are somehow able to make sure every seemingly single character we’ve come across in the MCU over the last decade gets their time to shine. This lends itself well to the action sequences, which are breathtaking to say the least. The constant shifting from set piece to set piece could come across as jarring for most, but it feels like a natural progression in “Infinity War”. There’s no doubt the film is exhausting at two and a half hours trying to include everyone, but it feels almost necessary for the film to be this way, and the film’s ending cliffhanger leaves audiences asking questions and yearning for answers.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is the Marvel to end all marvels. Its blending of every single major Marvel Cinematic Universe film and character into one cohesive story that serves as only a part one to what should be a tremendous book end to an incredible era nearly tops 2012’s “The Avengers” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight” as the best comic book films ever made. Nobody does it better than Marvel Studios, as they have once again changed the game in terms of not only the genre of film they make, but Hollywood blockbusters in general. Sure, by the end of it you may feel distraught, begging for answers, and perhaps even needing a nap, but “Avengers: Infinity War” isn’t just a marvel to see unfold on the silver screen, but a tremendous achievement that sets a new standard in blockbuster filmmaking.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

“Avengers: Infinity War” stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Lettia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleson, Idris Elba, Karen Gillan, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Peter Dinklage, Carrie Coon, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, and Josh Brolin. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Spider-Man: Homecoming

A friendly neighborhood homecoming.

Spider-Man is not only one of the most beloved comic book heroes of all time, he’s also one of the most prized possessions in Hollywood, with Sony and Marvel Studios/ Disney currently sharing custody of the web slinger. How we got to this point is simple, Sony kept making awful movies (*Cough* Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *Cough*) in an effort to retain the rights to the property, and fans and movie goers alike eventually rejected the films. Not only did these films lead to Sony cancelling plans to their planned spideyverse with The Sinister Six, but also led Marvel Studios/ Disney to finally step in and show Sony how it’s done. After a spectacular debut in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man has returned for another solo outing in the re-boot Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man: Homecoming sees high school prodigy Peter Parker struggling to remain interested in his mundane high school life while wanting to expand his reach as the popular super hero, Spider-Man. He sees an opportunity to prove himself as a capable hero to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) by going after Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a former salvaging company owner who turns to selling weapons made by the Chitauri aliens from The Avengers, including creating his own vulture suit, to make a living.

There’s little doubt the change of setting to high school makes Spider-Man Homecoming the funniest Spider-Man film to date. This is thanks mostly to Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who has many laugh out loud moments in the film. Zendaya also has quirky moments as Michele, and proves herself to be an up and coming starlet. Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is probably the best in terms of the high school version of the character, as his nerdiness and awkwardness are captured brilliantly particularly when he attempts to win the attention of his love interest Liz (Laura Harrier). This could be because the entire film takes place in this setting whereas the previous films didn’t spend much time focusing on Peter’s high school experiences, but it’s still nonetheless done well.

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“Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Even though most of the jokes surrounding her are “wow look how hot she is”, Marissa Tomei gives a solid performance as Aunt May. She may not reach the tear-jerking levels of Rosemary Harris, but Tomei does a fine job of portraying a caring, worrywart aunt we all have. Michael Keaton (*A.K.A. Batman*) delivers a menacing performance as the Vulture. Keaton is undeniably likeable as the little guy who’s just trying to stick it to the man, and It’s a delight to see him take on villainous roles at this stage of his career. If his turn as the central villain proves anything, his career renaissance has taken yet another legendary turn.

During the first act, however, I was relatively unimpressed with the film. The angle of Parker being the young hotshot who wants to have more responsibility is a trope we’ve seen played out over and over again. On top of that, lackluster action sequences weren’t helping the film either. To be honest, the film during the first act felt like an exercise Marvel Studios/ Disney was doing just to cash-in. It didn’t have the same handcrafted feel Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man had back in 2002. And Holland, while very good, comes nowhere close to Tobey Maguire’s expert performance as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man.

Once the stakes are raised during an impressive action sequence on-top of the Washington Monument, Spider-Man: Homecoming knocks off the cobwebs and swings into high gear. It’s during the second and third acts we see more of Keaton, who comes across as the best spidey villain since Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Also, the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker is expanded during these acts, and Robert Downey Jr. is not only as snarky as ever as Stark, but is also a great motivator and father figure to Peter in the film. The action sequences get more consequential and exciting as the film goes on, as the battle on the ferry and the climatic battle serve as impressive scenes that showcase Spider-Man and Vulture’s tremendous action chemistry.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is without a shout of a doubt better than the last four Spider-Man movies. It’s funny, contains great performances, and filled with enthralling action. However, due to it’s familiar themes, it never quite reaches the levels of the near perfect 2002 Spider-Man. While it’s definitely the second best Spider-Man film released to date, by its own merits, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a step in the right direction for the previously entangled web slinger.

Rating: 3/4 Stars: Pay Full Price.

Ranking the Spider-Man Films

Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has had quite the film history.

Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters this weekend. Critical buzz surrounding the film has been nothing but positive, but the same cannot be said of all of Spidey’s films. With five films to his name, here is the definitive ranking of the web slinger’s films.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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“The Amazing Spider-Man.”

It had been just five years since the last release of a Spider-Man film, but that didn’t stop Sony from wanting to go to the bank again. In an effort to retain the rights to the hero or risk losing him to Disney’s Marvel Studios, Sony hired 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb to direct a re-boot of the web slinger. Andrew Garfield was cast as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, and Emma Stone was cast as Peter’s original love, Gwen Stacey. While all of these elements should’ve made for a compelling film, The Amazing Spider-Man was a woeful misfire. From boring a villain (*Rhys Ifan’s Lizard was nothing short of a mini-Godzilla knockoff*) to a love story that made the Twilight films’ love triangle look eventful by comparison, The Amazing Spider-Man is a prime example of a soulless studio film made to retain the rights to a popular property in an effort to cash in. Many believed Marvel Studios/Disney and Sony should team up after the lack of success for the film, but that didn’t happen until after the release of…

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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“The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

The Amazing Spider-Man is marginally better than The Amazing Spider-Man thanks to Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Max Dillon/Electro. Yes, the filmmakers made up his powers as the film went along, but he’s one of the coolest comic book villains to ever appear on screen. Otherwise, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a prime example of franchise fatigue. The Green Goblin appears as a villain once again, the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey reaches embarrassing new heights despite ghost dad Captain Stacey appearing numerous times to warn them of their doomed relationship, to the blatant product placement, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mess. Sony’s plan of creating their own cinematic universe/ spideyverse by teasing the costumes of the Sinister Six, Spider-Man’s arch rivals, fell through due to the film’s lack of commercial and critical success, leading to them sharing custody of their beloved hero with Disney/ Marvel Studios.

3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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“Spider-Man 2.”

*UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT.* Spider-Man 2 is not a good movie. Why does Doctor Octopus rob a bank when he could just steal the equipment needed to re-do his experiment of creating a mini-sun? Why is Peter Parker, a scientific genius, turned into an idiot who can’t deliver pizzas on time and doesn’t realize he could sneak through a window to see his girlfriend’s play? Why do Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson fall into the typical romantic comedy trope of not communicating and have relationship problems? Why is Doctor Octopus fat? Call it nit picking, but Spider-Man 2 is not one of the best comic book movies ever. Turning Doctor Octopus into a sympathetic figure was a mistake, having Spider-Man’s powers start to fade due to Peter’s complicated life made little sense, and the climatic battle sequence was one of the biggest yawn inducing affairs of all time. Had it not been for the subway action scene, Spider-Man 2 might have placed even lower on this list.

2. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

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“Spider-Man 3.”

Director Sam Raimi wanted to have the Flint Marko/ Sandman be the main villain. Sony interfered and wanted Eddie Brock/Venom. As a compromise, both were included in the movie. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom and the lack of Venom in the movie, he served his purpose. While making Flint Marko Uncle Ben’s killer was a big-middle finger to the audience, his back story was still well done. Mary Jane Watson continued to be the worst girlfriend ever, but those signs were seen back in Spider-Man 2. Yes, the ending is terrible. But the action sequences deliver and are thrilling. The rivalry between Harry Osborne (*played by a gleefully over the top James Franco*) and Peter Parker is palpable. Peter Parker’s battle with the black suit/ symbiote personality is compelling and sees one of the most comical moments in super-hero film history as a dressed in all black Peter Parker dances around New York City to James Brown. Many will disagree with me and say Spider-Man 3 is an awful film, but I believe Spider-Man 3 is misunderstood and should be regarded as one of the better films in the series.

1. Spider-Man (2002)

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“Spider-Man.”

Spider-Man to this very day rests towards the top of my all-time comic book movies list, easily making it the best Spider-Man film to date. With the exception of having Mary Jane Watson appear as Peter Parker’s first love, the origin of Spider-Man is done perfectly. From Peter taking down school bully Flash Thompson all the way to his heroic display at the World Unity Fair, Spider-Man’s origin was done correctly. Tobey Maguire’s portrayal as the web slinger is still one of the best super hero performances of all time, and Kirsten Dunst gives Mary Jane Watson the “girl next door” vibe that would’ve melted any man’s heart. Cliff Roberston’s Uncle Ben had the emotional resonance needed to propel Peter into the life of a hero. While many scoff at his costume, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is frightening and intimidating, making him one of the finest super villains ever. It’s a wonder how in their first attempt at one of Marvel’s most popular heroes that Sony was able to make a near perfect super hero film. One can only wonder what could’ve been had the other two sequels lived up to this first film and had the franchise not been re-booted far too soon.