Licorice Pizza – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie and Skyler Gisondo
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Length: 134mins

If Quentin Tarantino has set a precedent of highly established directors creating fun and stylised films about the period they grew up in with ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’, then Paul Thomas Anderson has just released a great addition to the collection. Like George Lucas’s ‘American Graffiti’ and Richard Linklater’s ‘Dazed and Confused’ before them, everything’s cool in these films – it’s just teenagers running around, having a good time and getting into trouble. Set in 1970’s L.A, ‘Licorice Pizza’ follows fifteen-year-old Gary Valentine, a successful child star, as he grows up hoping the girl he’s in love with might be won over by his charm, whilst also somehow seeming to get involved in just about everything that was going on in the valley at the time.

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are brilliant as the two lead characters. Despite it being the feature debut for the both of them, their chemistry onscreen is effortlessly engaging. Whether they’re arguing about pinball machines or making up over water beds, the constant highs and lows of their relationship is central to the story of ‘Licorice Pizza’, and captures everything that’s exciting about being young in a beautiful place like San Fernando.

Looking back through his filmography, it’s hard to argue that Paul Thomas Anderson is anything less than a modern master of filmmaking. His style is unique, but adapts with each new story he tells, whether that be the early twentieth century oil industry, or the trappings of dressmaking in Britain. ‘Licorice Pizza’, although arguably less direct in its storytelling, doesn’t disappoint. Scenes pass by effortlessly as a result of Anderson’s excellent direction, hailing back to the films which established his career like ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Magnolia’, where the camera moves with grace, whilst capturing everything around it. When the kids are excited about some new business venture or plan they’re about to lay into action, so is the camera, moving with a degree of its own energy that you can’t help but be drawn in by.

There are some absolutely brilliant moments within the film. Bradley Cooper lights up every scene he’s in, not only because of the blindingly white outfit he’s wearing, but also from the energy and intensity he dedicates to every small detail. Benny Safdie’s role as a candidate for the local mayoral position brings a great level of sincerity to the film, showing that not everything is bright and cheerful in the world of the characters. Although the narrative is fairly loose, jumping from one moment to another with little explanation, the choice to play the film out in this way works as a reflection of the energetic and impulsive way in which Valentine’s mind functions. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that this is a nostalgic film for Anderson, reflecting on the times in which he grew up with a great amount of fondness, which, like a memory, is thought back on like a patchwork – some things are more vivid and others aren’t.

‘Licorice Pizza’ is exactly the kind of fun and relaxing film that could do really well at the cinema these days. It looks beautiful, the characters are engaging, and it transports you back to the feeling of excitement you had when you were a kid and the summer holidays were in full swing, even if that wasn’t in the 1970’s L.A. It’s not without its flaws, but as a fun trip out to the cinema, you can’t fault it.

Tick, Tick…BOOM!  – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry. Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda Written by Steven Levenson (screenplay by) and Jonathan Larson (based on the musical by) Length: 115mins

Tick, Tick…BOOM is a heartfelt tribute to Broadway talent Jonathan Larson, played here by Andrew Garfield. A show written by Larson himself to tell his story and express his struggle, adapted by screenwriter Steven Levenson from Larson’s autobiographical piece that came just before Rent to tell the story of his first major musical project: a wildly ambitious futurist fantasy called Superbia that almost no one seemed to get. In short; it’s a musical about making a musical based on an autobiographical one man show…

This film is explicitly theatrical, going back and forth between Larson’s story and his one-man show of him telling that same story. This will undoubtedly not be to everyones taste, however I feel like this film was created for a certain audience; then if others enjoy it then its a bonus. It’s a true love letter to musicals and the artists that create them, with a wider scope of anyone who is grinding for a career in the arts. Tick, Tick…Boom throws its audience into the Larson’s ordeal of the quarter-life crisis, the first glimmers of approaching mortality and the realisation that options are closing down, something that particularly afflicts those approaching their 30s in the creative arts who don’t seem to be making it. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda saw Rent on his 17th birthday, he saw that musicals could be about every day people in places and situations that he understood..two years later he started writing his tony award winning show‘In The Heights’. It’s a really great to see a director take on a movie about someone who directly impacted his life – Larson was the composer who inspired his own creative awakening. Miranda, who also starred as Larson in a theatrical performance of this, directs the film with a deep understanding of the passion, struggle, and ebullience of an artist committed to an art form that requires a lot of money and a lot of other people to be brought to life.

Some people will be frustrated by Larson’s sense of his own importance and neglect of those around him. But theatre kids of all ages will appreciate that it’s not his own importance he’s excited by, so much as the importance of the stories he wants to tell, even if they are not yet awards worthy.

This film is really stylised which fits perfectly with the somewhat chaotic narrative and you can see how much heart has been put into it’s creation. As stated earlier I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but it’s an opportunity to get a glimpse of struggle demonstrated on this particular path of life. Had this film been based around another subject matter, I probably wouldn’t have connected to it to the same degree, but for what it is, I think it’s brilliant.

Jonathan Larson died at 35, just before the opening night of Rent, an almost unbearable metaphor for the backstage heartbreak of musical theatre. This film helps remember him and his creativity in a beautiful way. 

The Power of the Dog – Review

Rating: 12
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie
Written by Steven Knight
Length: 116mins

Available now both in cinemas and on Netflix, Jane Campion’s latest feature film has an impressive amount of awards buzz around it already – and for good reason. The Kiwi director has shown time and again that her films aren’t to be taken lightly, and once again, ‘Power of the Dog’ delivers an incredible story which is both deeply complex, and yet deceptively simple.

The film features a brilliant cast all at the top of their game. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers the captivating and cruel character of Phil Burbank, a ranch owner who has his own small army of followers amongst his workers. Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons also match each other’s energies excellently, allowing their on-screen relationship to rise and fall completely naturally throughout the film’s runtime. Perhaps the highlight of the film when it comes to the acting, however, would have to be Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon, a seemingly unemotional aspiring doctor who simply wants to see his Mother happy. The perfect poker face, Smit-McPhee appears to know exactly when to reveal a truth, and what to hide for later in the story, maintaining a measured and cold outlook throughout.

Jonny Greenwood delivers an incredible score which heightens the tension and intrigue of the storyline through his use of music. Benedict Cumberbatch’s character of Burbank demonstrates his abilities as a banjo player on multiple occasions, and even goes as far as to use the instrument to mock others and establish his power over them. As a result of this, Greenwood’s decision to incorporate similar sounding stringed instruments into the soundtrack unconsciously reinforces Burbank’s status as the all-seeing, all-hearing ruler of the land, and it’s this small detail, amongst many others, that have lead to the Radiohead guitarist being considered a modern master when it comes to composition.

Bringing her love of natural landscapes across from previous works such as ‘Top of the Lake’, Jane Campion proves once again that the setting of a film can be a character entirely of itself. For her latest project, Campion makes frequent reference through Ari Wegner’s beautiful cinematography to the vast and yet inescapable mountains which surround the ranch which comprises most of the film’s backdrop. The Montanan setting plays a great variety of roles within the film, at times as an escape for some characters, whilst also being shown as a threat to those unequipped to deal with its treacherous pathways. Furthermore, there’s also a brilliantly written scene in which two previously contrasting characters solidify a strong bond after they realise that their perceptions of the landscape are the same, and yet so different from everyone else’s. Through her depiction of rolling hills and river streams, the director develops a complex and mysterious character out of the setting alone.

‘The Power of the Dog’ is an incredible film and definitely one worth seeing. Any opportunity to go and see it at the cinema should definitely be taken, but if not a watch on Netflix is absolutely worth it too.

Spider-man: No Way Home – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina. Directed by Jon Watts. Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. Length: 148mins

After a Covid affected shoot and postponed release dates, the fans finally flocked to cinemas to see whether the long awaited third instalment of our present day Spider-man lived up to the hype. No Way Home seemed to have heaps of extra pressure piled onto it’s release, fired by casting rumours, teaser trailers that made the most restrained Marvel fan squeal and of course, the long wait to finally see the film released. Fear not, as per the ‘Active Spectator way’, this will be an spoiler free review, so if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s safe to continue reading…

So, the end of the second film ended with the big reveal – that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. That was the perfect springboard to start the third film with high energy, allowing the audience to focus in on what was to come. From here we see the issues that Peters fame brings, how it impacts his life and the lives of those around him, which leads to him approaching Dr Strange in the hope that he would cast a spell which would cause people to forget that he was Spider-Man. The spell doesn’t go quite to plan and we see from the trailers that some familiar villains come crashing into Peters world, and a multiversal drama ensues… 

The plot is full on. We have action, humour and heartbreak around every corner and, even if an audience member wasn’t a full blown fan, I think it would be difficult to not enjoy. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is so endearing, he’s funny and Holland does such a great job in committing to the character that he’s built. Even though he’s been Spider-Man for years now and has appeared in several films within the MCU, Holland really maintains the fresh, youthful feel of the character, which at this point in his Spider-Man career, could easily slip. This film is so full of talent, you can’t even comment on them all. Every single cast member brings it, the nostalgia of seeing the familiar faces has such a power on an audience; particularly around a film with such a committed fan base. It would be easy to allow sloppy writing when playing the nostalgia card but I don’t think that was the case, everything fit with the atmosphere that they created. 

One thing that is worth commenting on, is the ‘moment’ that a lot of audience members find themselves, known as ‘Superhero fatigue’. The feeling that we’ve just had SO many superhero films thrown at us over the last few years, taking away some of the initial excitement and wonder that the earlier films brought. If that is how you feel, then maybe you need to take a break and come back to this one. It’s full of everything you might expect and relies on an audience that has kept up to date with all of the previous films and TV series…you need to go in to this with a level of anticipation and openness for accepting what it is.

I’ll be honest, I went into this film a little bit hesitant. I was aware that so many people had such high expectations and I was nervous that it would completely miss the target. I didn’t need to worry. Spider-Man: No Way Home hits all the right notes, both as a part of the MCU as a whole, and within it’s own little Spider-Man world. Full of emotional beats, witty one liners and stellar performances, I would go as far as saying it’s one of my favourite Marvel films so far. With concerning news headlines around Covid back in the limelight, it’s a perfect opportunity to step into your imagination, escape from the real world and support your local cinemas. 

Spencer – Review

Rating: 12
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Jack Farthing, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall and Sean Harris
Directed by Pablo Larrain
Written by Steven Knight
Length: 116mins

Rising to mainstream prominence in 2016 with the release of his political biography concerning Jackie Kennedy, ‘Jackie’ put Pablo Larrain on the map as a promising filmmaker, and many were keen to see what else he had in him. Now returning to the same genre in which Larrain made a name for himself, ‘Spencer’ promises a deep exploration into the mind of Princess Diana over the course of three days in the early nineties, from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. Though this time of year is seen as something to be celebrated by most, for Diana the idea of spending three days locked away with the Royal family, along with all the whispers and secrets they enjoy, is enough to invite in waves of anxiety.

When the title of any film is shared with the lead character’s name, it’s no surprise that all eyes will be on the actor who takes up the titular role. In this case, Kristen Stewart, known by some as the star of the ‘Twilight’ franchise, but to others as a more recent star of indie and arthouse cinema, ‘Spencer’ was an opportunity for Stewart to make a name for herself as a top flight actress. In this regard, there’s no denying her excellence. Disappearing into the role of Diana and emerging as a true personification of the royal, the actress ensures that even the smallest of motions – from the poised uncertainty of a head twitch, to the unsettlingly consistent shake in her voice – works to bring the prolific public figure to our attention once again.

Slowly developing into arguably one of the greatest musical talents working today, Jonny Greenwood takes up the role of composer for ‘Spencer’, and delivers one of the most anxious and detailed scores heard this year. Dealing frequently with scenes of heightened emotion, Greenwood was able to implement dissonant and anxiety-inducing compositions which perfectly match the tone of the scene, whilst ensuring that the presence of his music never overwhelms or distracts.

The cinematography from Claire Mathon delivers some incredible images, particularly prevalent in their ability to summarise the exact emotion of any scene. The way in which recurring symbolic themes are used to highlight certain ideas from the script such as authority, power and tradition, is both extremely captivating and thought-provoking, with many such notions only needing to be seen rather than heard. Lighting is also successfully used in this way, with frequent juxtaposition delivering further uncertainty, such as scenes of unflinching illumination being the ones in which both the audience and Diana herself wish to hide away the most.

Although Diana’s may be a familiar story to many, Pablo Larrains captures a very small moment in time and brings it to life as a pivotal series of events for the young royal. There may be some oddities and absurdities within it’s story, but ‘Spencer’ does a great job of delving into what made Diana who she was, as well as creating further excitement amongst audiences for what Pablo Larrain will do next.

King Richard – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyaa Sidney and Demi Singleton. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green Written by Zach Baylin Length: 144mins

King Richard follows Richard Williams, as he executes his long imagined planned for two of his daughters, Venus and Serena, to become tennis champions. The genre of this film isn’t explicitly clear – it’s sort of a sports flick, sort of a family drama, but I’m not sure it matters. The brilliance of this film is the fact that it’s based on reality, with both Venus and Serena Williams serving as executive producers on the movie which relieves concerns about the use of too much artistic licence. As well as this the flawless cast that bring the characters to life; Will Smith, a fan favourite, leads the charge and certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Smith, who is arguably the main draw of the movie, plays a man who refuses to acknowledge anything besides his own opinion, yet he is hauntingly effective when forced into silence.

The scenes where he shows Williams’ vulnerability have a damaged quality that lingers long after the moment has passed. The silence and the subtext are so powerful in this film and Smith lands them expertly, allowing the audience to capture a glimpse of the wounded man under all the bravado. While she doesn’t feature quite as predominantly as Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, matches Smith in screen presence in her portrayal as Brandi Williams. She brings a warmth and dignity as well as expressing a quiet power that she isn’t afraid to release when necessary. The scenes where she stands up to her husband, are some of the more powerful scenes in the movie and Ellis is flawless. It would be unfair to comment on the actors without a nod to Sidney and Singleton, who play Venus and Serena; they both shoulder the responsibility of mimicking two of the greatest athletes with absolute class. They do well to match the pressure on their characters against the warmth of their youth and lives within their family, it’s a pleasure to watch their work.

Reinaldo Marcus Green’s direction is wise, he clearly knew that the strength of the storytelling is in the acting, in trusting his cast to carry the story. He manages to hit the beats that you want without falling into melodrama, allowing the fact that it’s the telling of a true story to resonate with it’s audience. The most frustrating element of this movie for me, is the marketing, which is know is a bizarre aspect to comment on. I have spoken to so many regular cinema goers who haven’t even bothered to give it a look in due to the name – many people assuming that it’s Shakespeare or a period drama of some sort, while also commenting that the poster isn’t particularly eye catching. It just seems a shame to know that people are missing such a brilliant film due to relatively simple problems.

I don’t say this lightly, but I truly believe that King Richard is one of, if not, the best film released in 2021 (so far). Obviously everyone has different taste and that is to be celebrated but I really do feel that most people would enjoy; or at least take something from this film. It’s a shame that it seems to have flown somewhat under the radar but I really do encourage you to watch this film in a cinema if you can, but definitely at home once it’s been released for the ‘small screen’. 

Eternals – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan and Kit Harrington
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Written by Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Chloé Zhao and Matthew K. Firpo
Length: 157mins

Heading into the 26th installation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a point where you begin to wonder just where these films can possibly go next. However, ‘Eternals’ seemed like the first in a little while where there was a promise of something new and exciting to be offered. From the trailers, audiences were excited to be put in the hands of one of the most exciting directors working today – Chloé Zhao, as well as seeing a diverse cast of characters and an interesting storyline that seemed to focus more on the way in which superheroes interact with the culture and history of their world, rather than the usual action sequences that comprise a large amount of these films.

Whilst there were some moments of stunning cinematography, where the framing and stylistic choices greatly benefitted the emotions of a character or scene, it can’t be said that there’s any sort of consistency when it comes to these moments. Though it’s recently been revealed that a large amount of the film was shot on location rather than using the usual green screen approach, it’s hard to truly appreciate these moments of naturalism when most of the screen is being overwhelmed by large CGI creatures. For this instalment, they’re known as ‘Deviants’, and as usual, put up a fight good enough to show off the Eternals powers, without there being any sort of moral conflict surrounding the physical altercation taking place.

With seven-thousand years of humanity’s history to work with, the writers do well to pick out some interesting and pivotal moments to place the Eternals within, testing their willingness to remain obedient and maintain impartiality over human conflict. Through these flashbacks, we’re able to better understand what makes each of the Eternals unique, exploring what drives and motivates them. There’s some interesting moments of both humour and conflict between the group, but many of these conversations are fairly exposition-heavy, simply serving as a cutaway to provide more information for when we catch up to the modern world. For a two-and-a-half hour film, there doesn’t feel as if there’s much time when the story is able to simply slow down and let scenes play out naturally or with ambiguity – a stylistic trait that Zhao has become known for, but I imagine the Marvel producers are not so supportive of. You definitely felt the length of the film around the halfway mark, but by the end it seemed as if it needed another fifteen minutes just to simply round off the story in a more impactful way. Final goodbyes felt as if they were cut for time, and many characters had only a small conclusion despite playing a pivotal role in the film – but I suppose when it comes to Marvel there’s no need for goodbyes, as there’s always a sequel around the corner.

If you’re a fan of Marvel then you won’t need my recommendation to get yourself a ticket, but if you aren’t such a big Comic fan, I imagine you might find ‘Eternals’ a bit of a stretch to get through. Despite that, it’s always enjoyable watching these superheroes fight it out on the big screen, so if you’re just looking forward to a fun time, you can’t go too far wrong with this latest instalment in the MCU.

The Harder They Fall – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield and Idris Elba. Directed by Jeymes Samuel Written by Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin. Length: 139mins  

When outlaw Nat Love discovers that the man who murdered his parents in front of him as a child is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to take revenge. What more could you ask for? A revenge Western packed with memorable characters played by brilliant actors, each scene and moment staged for power and authority. 

This movie caught my attention while scrolling through Netflix, mostly thanks to the big name cast. The trailer presents a very accurate snapshot of what it is, a contemporary Western, which is an interesting concept in itself. Now the plot is relatively basic, but the content is just so interesting to watch. You can see a lot of Jeymes Samuels influences within the film, it feels very Tarantino at times and is a really artistic film. The framing and the camerawork is beautiful, the colour palette is vibrant and the music is something else. While the general aesthetic is classic western,  there are quick-draws, large-scale gunfights, horse stunts, and chases, a train robbery, bank robberies, and a couple of hand-to-hand brawls with several cliches that we would expect in a Western; bottles smashed over heads, fights with pitch forks, men thrown out of windows etc…the soundtrack and fight sequences are the main elements that keep it feeling modern and fresh.

The Harder They Fall is Jeymes Samuel’s debut feature film but his CV boasts experience of working with some incredible talent. In this film he gifts his actors with precious moments where their characters are allowed to listen to each other and quietly glance at each other. It truly feels like a ‘filmmakers film’ and I can only imagine that the cast leapt at the opportunity to be a part of it. While the whole cast is strong, lead by the brilliant Jonathan Majors, there are a couple who stand out. Idris Elba, unsurprisingly, brings a cool, mysterious quiet to the high energy of the rest of the cast and Regina King who we all know delivers in every single role. King brought everything that her character required, moments of vulnerability countered with absolute brutal, no nonsense reactions.

Now the film does feel quite long, the plot isn’t particularly captivating and some of it is fairly predictable, but it’s very difficult to criticise a film that really does feel like art. Yes, it wont be to everyones taste, but it really is worth the watch for all of the heart that comes through in its presentation. While speaking to GQ, Samuel said  “I always loved Westerns, but they would always present a very narrow scope in those stories. They’d be very white male-centric. They wouldn’t even show women with any power in those stories.” and I think you can really feel his words in this movie, he explores human nature, gives voices to powerful women and explores a genre that he clearly cares so much about.

Dune – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Charlotte Rampling
Directed by Denis Villenevue
Written by Frank Herbert (Adapted from the novel by) Denis Villenevue, Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts
Length: 155mins

Often described as an ‘unfilmable’ novel, Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic has seen many directors try, without much success, to bring its story to life on the big screen. Most notably attempted by Alejandro Jodorowsky in the 70’s, and then later converted into a major blockbuster by David Lynch in the 80’s, who felt deeply unsatisfied by the final result due to studio interference, it seems that to take up adapting ‘Dune’ has always been a doomed task. However, if there was any director who might have a chance of turning a great text into a great film, it’s Denis Villenevue – the man responsible for some of the most original and creative blockbusters this side of the 2000’s. 

Garnering widespread attention from early in it’s production, ‘Dune’ stirred up a lot of conversation not only due to its ambitious source material, but also because of the incredible cast that the filmmakers appeared to be assembling. Timothée Chalamet, fresh off the heels of ‘The French Dispatch’ being released earlier in the week, takes up the lead role of Paul, the youthful son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), leader of house Atreides – one of the key families who rule over the universe. Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), however, is also from a powerful bloodline, being an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit, a female order whose advanced physical and mental abilities are unmatched. One of the many things which I admired about ‘Dune’ was its focus on a Mother-Son relationship to lead the film, as such dynamics are rarely explored on these large scale productions. Together, Chalamet and Ferguson put in some brilliant performances, and the complexity of their relationship develops along with the narrative, drawing on moments of uncertainty as to whether they each have the best interests of the other at heart. 

To talk about ‘Dune’ and not mention its visuals would not do the film any sort of justice. Greig Fraser’s camerawork is absolutely breathtaking at times, delivering everything you’d want from a sci-fi blockbuster, and more. The colour palette consistently plays around with yellow and orange tones, painting each scene with its own beautiful composition. Furthermore, the costume and set design on display are just as incredible. There’s a clear divisiveness between the futuristic setting and the traditional values and styles upheld by the characters that never needs to be mentioned aloud by anyone, as the art department does such a brilliant job showing this juxtaposition visually. Despite being two and a half hours in length, no shot ever feels unnecessary, and no shot ever seems to let down the intriguing and meticulous aesthetic which is established throughout. 

The first of two parts, Denis Villenevue absolutely made the right decision when it came to adapting Herbert’s eight-hundred page novel. Despite going into ‘Dune’ knowing that it would ultimately end on a cliffhanger, I never felt that the film served only to lead into the second. Character and story arcs were established and developed within the space of the film in a captivating and gripping manner. The way in which Villenevue is able to introduce each character and perfectly encapsulate their personality within minutes is a talent that was required when working with such an all-star cast, and as a result the film’s pacing is absolutely perfect. Each sequence works not only within its own space, but also to serve the greater narrative. ‘Dune’ is a masterclass in filmmaking on perhaps the biggest level, just as all of Villenevue’s films are, and I imagine Part Two will be no exception to the rule. We can only wonder how our own stories will have changed when we sit down for the next installation in two years time.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Stephen Graham Directed by Andy Serkis Written by Kelly Marcel and Tom Hardy Length: 97mins

In Venom: Let There Be Carnage we rejoin Eddie Brock (Hardy), a struggling journalist and host to the cheeky, gravel-voiced alien ‘symbiote’, Venom, seemingly living their now entangled lives. The plot revolves around serial killer Cletus Kasady (Harrelson), who Eddie interviews in hopes to reignite his career. Throughout the action Kasady is infected with his own symbiote, Carnage, who wreaks havoc and sets his sights on destroying Venom while searching for Kasady’s mutant girlfriend.

It sounds as ridiculous as it is…but if you buy into the world then it’s definitely an easy and somewhat entertaining watch. Venom and Brock are somewhat lesser known ‘anti-heroes’ but after the success of the first film, fans were keen to jump back in and see which stories were left to tell. What I really enjoy about this film, is the lack of backstory. Serkis doesn’t feel the need for overcomplicated world-building. It seems that you either buy in, and accept what you’re being told, or you don’t and that your enjoyment will likely hinge on that level of acceptance.  Searches dispense with the detailed explanations and instead amps up the humour, leaning into the more goofy dynamic between Venom and Brock.

What is interesting about this film is the level of absolute talent interwoven. Tom Hardy really creates a wonderful character dynamic between his human character and alien counterpart, while the humour is at the forefront, there is a connection that the audience can see, he creates a brilliant emotional core that shows itself at intervals throughout the action which can’t be an easy task to undertake. Woody Harrelson jumps straight in and throws all of his energy at his part, Kasady is an interesting serial killer, if slightly predictable at times. Supporting characters including Eddie’s ex, played by Michelle Williams and Kasady’s girlfriend Frances, played by Naomie Harris don’t really get much of a look in. Harris is fun but underused, and Williams is really just brushed over. It’s a shame to have such talent in a film without really needing or using them. 

This quirky sequel is lighthearted, action packed and amusing. You’ll know if you’re going to like it, probably from just looking at the poster. It’s an easy, short watch that will allow you to escape reality if you can get behind it. If you didn’t enjoy the first film, you’re unlikely to enjoy the second. Take it as it is and it’s a fun way to spend 90 minutes but if you’re looking for stirring plot points or world changing revelation then it’s not for you.