Venom – Review

It’s quite fitting that the first movie I review here is about a guy coping with multiple personalities while running around in a mask. One that suspiciously looks like Spider-Man headwear. Okay, before we dive into the Venom review, we need to address the Spidey Elephant in the room. Venom without Spider-Man is like The Joker without Batman. Well, they’re gonna do that soon enough so we can try our best to move past it.

Let’s face it kids, if a person like me who has spent large chunks of his adult life wearing modified Spider-Man masks can get over the altered origin story, you should try too. But I’ll not lie, the film was always going to struggle with such constraints. The problem is Sony losing its balls. Their best Spider-Man was the amazing Andrew Garfield. Had they carried on with those movies, this Venom could have been the proper version.

Instead, we relocate to San Francisco but retain Eddie Brock as a New Yorker. He had to move to get away from some trouble. You know, the trouble of your origin story joining the MCU without you. Thankfully the strong chemistry between the leads, Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams, means we soon forget about webslingers.

What we have is an alien symbiote that needs a host. Evil baddie Carlton Drake is trying to assimilate humans and the aliens, Venom – as he becomes known to us – escapes and chooses Eddie. What follows is decent action and a fun ride. Picture The Mask but with adult violence, superheroes and a good love interest.

It deserves a sequel and hopefully some Sony exec will grow a pair and bring the best Spidey back for a showdown.

7/10

Justice League – Review

“You can’t save the world alone.” Great tagline. You might not be able to save the world alone, but you can destroy the universe (in this case, the DC Extended) by not having a singular vision.

DC’s problem with this shared movie experiment has been having the confidence to stick to its guns. Batman v Superman wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Fine, that’s what makes the world go ‘round – differences.

Marvel has its successful onscreen identify, DC used to have one too.

Justice League begins with the promise that Zack Snyder has mastered the darker but deeper roots of his characters. The Batman scenes work especially well and when the team are finally assembled there’s a Watchmen feel, which is no bad thing.

But there’s no getting away from the cut-and-shut feel of having two directors helm the movie. It’d be unfair to assume Joss Whedon tried to shoehorn his Avengers style on a near-finished product. The meddling obviously came from the studio.

We’re left with an opening that retains the best parts of Dawn of Justice, with the new members adding the correct amount of light. Ezra Miller’s Flash being the standout find. His humour is always on point, his quirkiness the balance the squad needs. Wonder Woman has been the world’s favourite new hero this year – Flash is the best.

It all starts well, from recruiting a reluctant Cyborg (Ray Fisher has his work cut out bringing this character to life), to the grisly and instantly at ease Aquaman. His backstory is teased in preparation for the solo movie and Jason Momoa looks more than capable of carrying that flick.

Gal Gadot is excellent again and acts as the light to Batman’s darkness (a role usually reserved for Superman). She’s the heart in what becomes a big soulless action mess.

The plot is Wonder Woman in style. We’re dealing with hidden boxes of godlike power that are being targeted by intergalactic CGI-baddie Steppenwolf. It’s pretty weak and lacking depth for a DC movie, and the CGI is terrible, but it’s okay. It’s all okay, until…

Superman returns. This is when a great movie with seeds planted in Batman v Superman (remember that Bruce Wayne/Flash “dream” sequence where he saw the world run by an evil Superman?) absolutely bottles it.

A hint of the Superman befitting with the plot is quickly discarded, the rewrites harder to hide than the poor CGI.

Cinematographer Fabian Wagner has admitted he even filmed shots with Henry Cavill in the famous black Supes outfit. It should have been a different return to the blue suit than a quick tantrum and a creepy scene with Lois Lane in a field.

If Superman was unlikable compared to Ben Affleck’s Batman in the previous meeting, he’s a complete turnoff now. The movie sinks the second he appears.

After a good build, fans are left with a sham of a movie. Neither taking the best of the previous instalments or becoming a copy of its rival.

This should have been a part one of two and was silently cut down to one movie. At this rate, Warner Bros. will call time on the whole botched affair and return to making successful and critically acclaimed stand-alone movies.

That’s if there’s any justice in the world.

5/10

The Mummy (2017) – Review

If we gave awards out for trailers, Logan would win an Oscar, The Mummy wouldn’t even get a Golden Raspberry. Those responsible would be on criminal charges. The misrepresentation has doomed the franchise launch of Universal’s Dark Universe before it had chance to gain traction.

As we’ve said before here, these days you need a shared universe. You’ll be forgiven for missing the fact that The Mummy is a way to bring the classic monsters of the golden age of cinema back to life. Had this been pressed in the build-up to the release, people wouldn’t have written this movie off as Tom Cruise trying to reboot an average Brendan Fraser flick.

It couldn’t be further removed from 1999’s The Mummy. And there’s no danger of the next Dwayne Johnson pitching up in a sequel as the Scorpion King.

Before writing this review, a consideration was given as to mention the “reveals.” Failure to talk candidly would make Simms View as guilty as the poor marketing team. So, no secrets to be held back. Like: Russell Crowe is in the movie playing Dr Jekyll and – yes! –  Mr Hyde.

Full props to Universal, too. In this age of everything needing to be bigger to the point of ridiculous, and CGI’d to within an inch of its life (but beyond all credibility), his Hyde is how the character initially was conceived. Strong but still a man. Not some beast or monster.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We get to Dr Jekyll ­– who happens to running a modern-day London facility that captures, contains and studies the paranormal, bizarre creations and the facts within ancient mythology – by way of his assistant.

She is tracking Tom Cruise, known as Nick Morton, an American soldier in Iraq. On the side he is looking for buried treasures to capture in the war torn country and sell on the black market. He has a trusty sidekick, Jake Johnson’s Corporal Chris Vail.

Together they happen across a buried pyramid, we already know to be the tomb of Princess Ahmanet, who killed her own father and attempted to bring the spirit of Death alive in human form. A living god was her idea.

Thousands of miles away from Egypt, disposed of in Persia, the idea was to keep her buried. Instead Jekyll’s assistant Jenny Halsey – annoyed that Cruise seduced her and then stole the map to the location – decrees the mummy of the hidden princess is be brought home to London.

Cue massive plane crash, one that kills Morton but he somehow finds himself alive afterwards. As for the Princesses, her body goes missing . . . then walkabout.

Morton is conflicted about his perceived role. He has become the Princess’s new chosen one but this means he’ll be killed during a ritual. After which, he’ll have powers of a deity but be something else altogether – potentially the thing that ends mankind.

There are obvious jokes to make here how Tom Cruise started a franchise to reaffirm his position as a box office god. As if being an actual one within Scientology wasn’t enough.

He holds the movie together though, and deserves to head the new Dark Universe.

Universal have managed to tap into the spirit of the classic monster movies and still modernise them. There is a casual humour throughout and some people in the cinema even jumped in parts. It ticked all the boxes set out before it.

Bad press, which led to less word-of-mouth, has doomed The Mummy at the box office but it should, over time, garner enough praise and interest to keep the larger concept of the Dark Universe alive.

Worth checking out…

7/10

WWE Battleground 2017 – Review

Let’s get a few things straight from the start here, this isn’t going to be the sort of look back that slates Battleground. There has been quite enough of that from different quarters already. Also, they’re wrong to do so. Nobody moans more than me when a show masquerading as a PPV is no better than the weekly programme. But it wasn’t the case here.

Likewise, it wasn’t the best example of a premier event either. It was average. But PPV average.

Picking out the highlights here should illustrate the point. Does this mean missing half the card goes against it? Perhaps. But we all need toilet breaks and stock up supplies when watching live, or parts to skip when watching on catch-up.

The most positive reaction from the crowd on the night went to The New Day taking gold from the Usos. A fine match lead to cheers and it shows how over and valuable the trio are.

The Fatal 5-way for the Women’s belt once again failed to live up to its name: not one person died. Nor did the women exactly kill it but the result was a fresh direction. Remember a while ago, yours truly moaned that Natayla should have been given the Money in the Bank briefcase, somebody in the halls of WWE must have been listening. Or thought so themselves or planned it. But the idea of WWE Creative planning so well in advanced is far-fetched. There’s more chance that Vince McMahon personally reads every word I write and follows my career avidly.

It means Natayla can use her experience to carry the SummerSlam match with Naomi.

Based on the 5-way on display here, the bar does need raising.

As does the United States Championship. The Miz, an often-derided Superstar, continues to elevate Raw’s secondary title (as he did with the belt on SmackDown), yet two of the most lauded wrestlers in the business have further devalued the gold in question.

It should be impossible for AJ Styles and Kevin Owens to be slightly above mediocre. It seems the Land of Opportunity can make anything happened and they’ve pulled it off.

Who now cares about the man holding the US Title?

Still, it was cool to claim Owens and AJ had a good match and slag off John Cena versus Rusev.

Sure, we all knew Cena had to win. Rusev has had solid pushes crushed by this opponent before, so he can absorb this defeat. What it does is highlight the regard Cena has for the Bulgarian. He knew they could put on a good match and they did.

The stipulation gave us a reason to go up the ramp which in turn meant we saw some big hits. Cena needing props to see off Rusev does the loser no harm. It was almost like John was putting someone over. Almost.

Jinder Mahal against Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match drew more groans than sounds of excitement from the WWE Universe. To be fair to the former jobber, WWE should have moved his story on from Orton by now.

Again, they proved to be good methodical workers but in a match already viewed as a crammed concept, it didn’t go down well.

Then the inevitable happened followed by genuine shocks.

As expected the Singh Brothers interfered. They’d been hiding beneath the ring and prevented The Viper from escaping. For their troubles Sami Singh took a bump from high up through an announce table. It was a bad landing, almost as bad as Tom Philips’ commentary.

Still, even when it looked like Orton would prevail, we knew he couldn’t. What prevented this was a shock. Down the ramp walked The Great Khali. In a time when we have to accept Mahal as WWE Champion, it’s not a stretch to pretend Khali is a threat again.

He placed his gigantic hands through the cage and choked out Randy – Indian Interference Outta Nowhere – to allow his kayfabe countryman slowly climb and ascend to victory.

Brace yourself for Cena squashing Jinder sometime soon.

5/10