Venom

Directed by Ruben Fleischer best known for 2009’s Zombieland and 2013’s Gangster Squad, Venom is a surprisingly lackluster standalone superhero movie based on the Marvel Comics Spider-Man villainous character Venom, and, despite the efforts of the terrific Oscar nominee Tom Hardy, it feels very much like an unfinished project that has trouble staying on course. The plot revolves around a journalist named Eddie Brock, played by Hardy, who achieves superpowers after being infected with an alien symbiote brought to Earth by Elon Musk-like billionaire Carlton Drake, played by Emmy winner Riz Ahmed best known for his role in the 2016 HBO miniseries The Night Of. Drake is the overly ambitious CEO of a bioengineering firm called Life Foundation based in San Francisco, and he becomes so desperate in his secret research that he authorizes extremely dangerous human experiments using the alien lifeforms. At the beginning of the film, Brock is engaged to a high-powered lawyer played by Golden Globe winner Michelle Williams, but she loses her job after Brock uses some of her classified documents to help expose Drake. Brock’s suspicions about Drake are confirmed after he gets in contact with a Life Foundation scientist played by Jenny Slate who does not approve of Drake’s experiments. It is at this point that Brock is joined with one of the alien symbiotes that becomes known as Venom and develops unusual capabilities when Venom takes over his body. Drake and his army of security guards try to locate Brock and extract Venom so that it could be used for further trials. The movie then shifts into high gear with a series of CGI action sequences in which Venom talks to and takes control of Brock who is easily able to fend off the heavily-armed forces of Drake. There are elements of humor in the sarcastic interactions between the largely bewildered Brock and the malicious Venom; their relationship is a bizarre Jekyll and Hyde in which their polar opposite personalities struggle against one another. Overall, I found the movie only appealing for the performance of Tom Hardy who is one of my favorite actors, and I was quite frankly surprised at how abrupt the film ended and left the audience scratching their heads. The problem was that it did not know what kind of movie it wanted to be: a more humorous comic book adaptation like Guardians of the Galaxy or a more serious superhero movie like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

mission_impossible__fallout_ver3_xlgThe sixth installment in the Tom Cruise-led Mission: Impossible film series starting with its first movie in 1996 and, in turn, based on the TV series of the same name that ran from 1966 to 1973, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a terrific spy action thriller that is one of the best, if not the best, Mission: Impossible film as a result of its spectacular stunt work and well-written script filled with satisfying twists. The story takes place two years after the previous film and follows Ethan Hunt, played by action star Tom Cruise, who is a secret agent in the fictional American spy agency IMF, Impossible Missions Force. The mission that he chooses to accept is to recover three stolen plutonium cores that could be used for portable nuclear weapons and are in the hands of a new shadowy criminal organization known as “the Apostles” that is an offshoot of the terrorist group known as “the Syndicate” led by the now imprisoned terrorist and anarchist Solomon Lane, played by the devious Sean Harris. Ethan works with his usual team of the IMF technical field agent and comic relief Benji Dunn, played by comedic actor Simon Pegg, and the IMF agent and Ethan’s closest friend Luther Stickell, played by the muscular Ving Rhames. However, the new CIA director Erica Sloane, played by Angela Bassett, who replaced Alec Baldwin’s character Alan Hunley, now the new IMF Secretary, does not entirely trust the IMF so she sends a CIA agent and assassin named August Walker, played by Henry Cavill best known for his role as Superman, to ensure that Ethan’s team stays on mission. In order to intercept the plutonium, Ethan poses as the buyer John Lark who is told by the intermediary known as White Widow, played by Vanessa Kirby best known for her role in the Netflix series The Crown, that Ethan must help his one-time nemesis Solomon Lane break out of police custody. Ethan learns that he must rescue Lane from a heavily-guarded police motorcade in the streets of London so the audience is taken on a thrilling and intense action sequence with a car chase and gunfight. Over time, Ethan and the team discovered that not everything is as it seems and that they cannot trust certain people as working for the same side. The end of the film turns into a brilliantly executed race against time to prevent the detonation of the nuclear weapons, and Ethan finds himself on a terrifying and exciting helicopter race in order to stop a global catastrophe from happening. Overall, I found it to be one of the better action movies I have seen in a while, which can be credited to the awesome action scenes and believable acting performances, especially from Tom Cruise who is in his action superstar best.

The Meg

Directed by Jon Turteltaub who is best known for 1993’s Cool Runnings and 2004’s National Treasure, The Meg is a silly summer blockbuster about a gigantic shark and the action-filled attempts to hunt it down, making for an entertaining B-movie experience. The movie begins with the skilled deep sea scuba diver Jonas Taylor, played by action star Jason Statham, on a mission to rescue the crew of a submarine. The story continues years later after the operation did not completely succeed and follows a group of scientists working at a new underwater research facility funded by an overzealous billionaire played by Rainn Wilson. Eventually, a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon is unwittingly released. The horrific underwater monster escaped the deepest recesses of the Pacific Ocean after an exploratory mission led by Dr. Zhang, played by Winston Chao, along with his oceanographer daughter Suyin, played by Li Bingbing, and the rest of the scientists, including one played by Ruby Rose. The retired Jonas is called upon to help save members of the team who are trapped as a result of the Megalodon damaging their submersible. The thrilling and oftentimes ridiculous acts of heroics by Jonas take up most of the rest of the movie, interspersed with some rather stale cheesy moments. The number of people attacked by the shark rises throughout the film as the humongous sea creature rapidly approaches a heavily populated beach on the coast of China. Overall, I found it to be a good mindless fun cinematic experience that resembles much more of a Sharknado shark movie that does not take itself too seriously and is very much unlike the classic Jaws that relied much more on psychological and non-violent terror.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

antman_and_the_wasp_ver2_xlgThe sequel to the highly successful 2015 movie Ant-Man and the twentieth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a highly entertaining and creative film that takes itself less seriously than a majority of the other superhero movies and thereby is filled with much more humor and fun. The story takes place several years after the original in which the protagonist Scott Lang, played by the humorous Paul Rudd, is under house arrest after a mission as his superhero alter ego Ant-Man. He is a more sympathetic and well-rounded superhero because of his poignant relationship with his young daughter and having fairly usual problems in real life. Just days before his house arrest is over, he is in clear violation by getting in contact with the brilliant inventor of the Ant-Man outfit Hank Pym, played by Oscar winner Michael Douglas, and his smart and beautiful daughter Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, whose superhero alter ego is the Wasp. Hank discovers there may be a way to rescue his wife Janet, played by Golden Globe winner Michelle Pfeiffer, who is stuck in the subatomic quantum realm, and he must enlist Scott to become Ant-Man again to help develop a device to enter the quantum realm. However, the trio find themselves in trouble after trying to broker a deal with the black-market dealer Sonny Burch, played by the villainous Walton Goggins, who double-crosses them in order to steal Hank’s advanced technology. To complicate things even further, they encounter the mysterious Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, who is suffering from quantum and molecular instability and is desperate to find the technology to alleviate her problem. Throughout the movie as the characters engage in the typical action sequences of any comic book superhero production, Scott along with his buddies, especially Michael Peña’s character Luis, bring a certain levity to the story through their often ridiculous and hilarious antics. Much of the humor derives from the conceit of the film: the filmmakers play around with the ability of the characters to shrink and enlarge themselves and everyday objects, including an entire building shrunk down to the size of a briefcase and a life-size Pez dispenser that becomes a weapon. Overall, I found it to be one of the more enjoyable cinematic experiences found in the innumerable Marvel superhero movies as a result of its lighthearted approach while still retaining thrilling CGI-enhanced action scenes.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise which started with the release of the original in 1993 and was rebooted in 2015 with the first Jurassic World movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fairly typical popcorn summer blockbuster that provides some over-the-top thrills but ultimately feels unnecessary and obviously cannot rise to the occasion like the original Jurassic Park directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Following on the heels of Jurassic World in which the revamped amusement park featuring live dinosaurs closes under disasterous conditions, a rescue operation to save the dinosaurs is underway by a team of mercenaries under the guidance of Jurassic Park’s co-founder Benjamin Lockwood, played by Oscar nominee James Cromwell, and the head of Lockwood’s foundation Eli Mills, played by the conniving Rafe Spall. Eventually, former head of the park Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, and Velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, are brought in to help track down the remaining dinosaurs before the island where they are kept is destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption. Like the other films, there are a few action sequences in which the characters are running away from gigantic fearsome dinosaurs and this time is further intensified as the humans try to escape as the island literally explodes in stunning CGI sequences. Towards the middle of the movie, Claire and Owen along with a small team of dinosaur advocates realize that their objective in rescuing the dinosaurs is not for entirely altruistic aims as they were initially promised. Much of the action transitions to Lockwood’s large estate in Northern California where the protagonists must fight once again to save their lives and protect the dinosaurs. As a desperate attempt to bring back nostalgia for 1993’s Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s iconic character pops up in a superfluous Congressional hearing about the dinosaur’s fate. Overall, I did find it a fairly entertaining cinematic experience that brought back memories of the original that was released during my childhood; unfortunately, it did not add much to the first film’s originality and thereby the Jurassic Park series feels like it has run its course.

Incredibles 2

The long-awaited sequel of the wildly successful 2004 animated superhero movie The Incredibles, Incredibles 2 is yet another excellent Pixar Disney movie that comes close to the original with its unique retro style and family-friendly fun. Set shortly after the first movie, the story follows the Parr family in which each family member has a superpower but have not been able to publicly remain superheroes since they have recently been outlawed. In a publicity ploy to help legalize superheroes by the wealthy tech entrepreneur Winston Deavor, voiced by Emmy winner Bob Odenkirk, along with his brilliant sister Evelyn, voiced by Oscar nominee Catherine Keener, Helen who is the superhero Elastigirl, voiced by Oscar winner Holly Hunter, is recruited to serve as a positive image of a superhero saving lives. Her husband Bob who is the superhero Mr. Incredible, voiced by Emmy winner Craig T. Nelson, begrudgingly becomes a stay-at-home dad and is unable to use his superhuman strength in public because it is deemed too destructive. He is depicted as a stereotypical father who is in over-his-head while also dealing with three kids who happen to have superpowers. Violet, voiced by comedian and writer Sarah Vowell, is your typical teenage daughter with the exception that she can become invisible and project a protective force field. The middle son nicknamed Dash is a rebellious middle schooler who has superhuman speed. The most entertaining and funny moments occur with the baby Jack-Jack who we find out has some fairly unusual superpowers that are both cute and dangerous. Eventually, Elastigirl heroically fights off a new supervillain named Screenslaver who is hypnotizing citizens and ultimately other superheroes to commit crimes. Towards the end of the movie, we discover that the true villain is actually somebody completely unexpected. Overall, I found it to be a highly entertaining computer animated family movie that appeals to both kids and adults alike as a result of its exciting and sometimes funny action coupled with creative writing and look.

Ocean’s 8

A spin-off of the Ocean’s 11 trilogy first released in 2001, Ocean’s 8 is an entertaining heist movie that follows the formula of the first films but with the unique twist of having an all-female cast. The movie involves the planned robbery at the highly fashionable Met Gala in which a 15 million dollar diamond necklace is to be stolen from a pretentious actress named Daphne, played by Oscar winner Anne Hathaway. The elaborate heist is devised by the sister of Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney in the trilogy, Debbie, played by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, who was just released from prison after 5 years. Like almost all heist movies, the beginning introduces the audience to the cast of characters making up the team: Oscar winner Cate Blanchett plays Debbie’s former partner-in-crime Lou, Emmy winner Mindy Kaling plays the jeweler Amita, Golden Globe winner Sarah Paulson plays the surburban mom and stolen goods salesperson Tammy, Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter plays the disgraced fashion designer Rose, Grammy winner Rihanna plays the hacker Nine Ball, and Awkwafina plays the pickpocket Constance. The rest of the movie follows the group as they get ready for the heist that involves penetrating the high security surrounding the extremely valuable Cartier diamond necklace and the Metropolitan Museum of Art on its most glamorous and exclusive night. The film is a fairly rudimentary heist movie complete with unexpected events that could derail a successful operation and surprise twists of who else is involved. What sets it apart is its female focus by having the protagonists be highly capable women who target an over-the-top high fashion event full of self-absorbed socialites and actresses. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable cinematic experience that provides mindless entertainment, but it falls short of the original Ocean’s 11 and its sequels that helped redefine the heist narrative.