Quick Hit: A bit lame for a movie about a giant 90 foot shark.
I’m actually a fan of Steve Alten’s novels. It’s a very particular brand of story that essentially comes down to being scientists vs. monsters of lore – some of them real (take Meg for instance) and some of them probably not (The Loch comes to mind about a scientist who was convinced as a boy that Loch Ness monsters are real due to an experience as a boy). But he tries very hard to convey history, science, and even a bit of other cultures into his books at the same time. The Meg does take a step in this direction, but at the same time, some things are not meant to play out on a movie screen rather than a book.
What this movie boils down to is some people get stranded on a submarine and they need Jason Statham to rescue them. In a moment he cures rampant alcoholism that has been raging within him since his last rescue dive and jumps back into the water. In doing so, they release the beast that had destroyed the submarine he was saving on his last rescue dive – The MEG (hereafter only typed in all capital letters when referring to the shark), a megalodon. And she’s a hungry girl for sure (and a clever girl, because we might as well reference Jurassic Park because it borrows heavily).
The best things that this movie has going for it is the set design, which really makes submarines look like submarines and makes the beach look awesome, particularly when the MEG is sliding under the water near everyone. The movie also has Statham, who has a penchant for appearing in ridiculous movies (see Crank, Crank 2, Transporter, The Expendables, etc) and making them seem at least remotely plausible. He continues that here, delivering lines with just enough seriousness that the movie could be taken for real, but also at times putting his Limey tongue firmly in his cheek to deliver lines. It’s a good performance in a film that probably deserved more.
Some of the images in The Meg are pretty good, but a lot of the movie is just blah. In particular, the action sequences, which are full of CGI shark, leave a lot to be desired. There’s just not a good way to make this believable, and it robs the shots of a lot of the tension they should have. There’s one in particular that is better than the others, which is when Statham is miraculously outswimming a 90 foot shark. But other than that, the visual style isn’t as promising as you would have hoped. There’s also the matter of the fact that the movie has very little that makes the violence believable. Outside of The Shallows, there’s been very few movies about sharks that don’t have a decent amount of blood and gore, and so despite the huge size of the shark, there isn’t much there. Personally, a way around the gore would have been to just have the MEG swallow people whole, but that’s just me.
And there’s the running time of The Meg which feels as bloated as the shark. It’s almost two hours long, and a lot of it is filled with sadness for the cliché characters that have died. I’m not saying that characters shouldn’t mourn their losses, but at least remember what type of a movie you’re in. The same goes for the scientific explanations that occur throughout the first hour of the movie that want so hard for you to believe that the MEG is really out there under an oceanic trench, waiting to eat us all. It’s as if the movie had two tones that just don’t mesh well, and so the movie ultimately fails.
If you love Statham, you probably won’t leave totally disappointed, but otherwise, I don’t see a lot to recommend this average shark film. I’m giving it a “C-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Just absolutely bonkers.
I will be the first person to tell you that Venom is not a good movie. Having just recently scrolled past my rating, I’m sure you’re wondering how I can rate something as high as I did and start a review that way. But here’s the think – Venom is nuts. I mean flat out, pedal to the medal bonkers at times. It’s fascinating in the way it’s fascinating to watch nature documentaries about predators. Here, my intelligence is probably the prey, and Venom the movie, and the character is here to eat my brain.
Venom stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a bro (it sure seems like it anyway) who runs his own program uncovering things in a newsy type way. He’s dating Anne (Michelle Williams), who is eventually run off by the fact that Eddie is more into his job than his relationship with her. Eventually, he runs afoul of Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), an Elon Musk stand-in that doesn’t like when Eddie starts poking around in corners. Eventually Eddie loses his job, and the then whistleblower Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) contacts him about some homeless that have gone missing from the area. This leads Eddie to encounter Venom, who is a parasite from another world.
There’s a lot of crap going on this movie on. The dialogue is fairly awful at times, and Drake comes off like a cartoon. There isn’t a whole lot of reason for Michelle Williams existence besides to be a spur for Hardy. But the movie really gets a kick when Eddie starts hearing voices – and some of the best moments of humor within the film come from the Odd Couple relationship between Brock and Venom. Hardy, who voices both, goes totally to the mats with his performance. He sells everything, even a poorly written obsession with tater tots that never quite makes sense within the context of the story. The movie is fairly violent but far short of what I would have enjoyed seeing from Venom, who is shockingly violent in the comics. I mean, we’re talking about a character that eats brains – what would you expect?
The end of the movie turns into the normal hero fights a villain with the same power set but stronger type that we’ve seen too much of, and it’s here that Venom is at its worst. I can partially excuse cartoon characters, and even the cliché ending of it all. But the fact that at this point, the effects, which had been serviceable on the border of good, downgrade into a mixture of shadow and movement that almost doesn’t make sense to your eyes. There’s very little that I was happy about at this point, and that’s unfortunate, because there’s enough around the edges to make Venom good, if not great.
The biggest thing I can say is go in with low expectations and you’ll probably leave happy. Venom can be wildly entertaining, if only from the perspective of watching Tom Hardy go nuts for two hours. I’m giving it a “C+”. If you want to check out a better version of this movie with a similar looking actor, go watch Upgrade.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: A beautiful portrait of race relations and young love.
Barry Jenkins exploded onto the scene with the Best Picture winning Moonlight two years ago. In it, he painted a chronological picture of a gay black man as he went through several phases of life. In it, he showcased a poetic, colorful style of filmmaking. He continues that in If Beale Street Could Talk, a film adaptation of James Baldwin’s book of the same name.
Tish (Kiki Layne) is in love with Fonny (Stephan James). Their love is slow but beautiful, giving a total picture of their relationship, and that of their family’s reaction – particularly when the audience discovers that Tish is pregnant. It’s not an unwanted pregnancy, but it is a surprise, and complications arise when Fonny is arrested for a crime that it was impossible for him to commit, geographically at least. This means that the film spins off in a way that shows the Rivers family attempting to exonerate Fonny for the crime her never committed.
Jenkins tells the story in a way that radiates out from the center of the story and moving backwards and forwards in time to tell it. It’s an interesting choice that may have sprung from the novel, but it allows a lot of surprise and intrigue to build with the story. I’d also like to highlight Jenkins’ continued use of color within the film. Outfits and costumes are there to reflect the colors that Jenkins has chosen to reflect mode, and bright greens and yellows abound throughout the film, particularly reminiscent of Moonlight’s use of the color blue.
There are a lot of great performances in this one, but Regina King holds titanic over them all as Sharon Rivers. Her performance inspires other great reactions, but she continually holds the emotion in the scene. It’s an amazing performance that stands apart, and she was well deserving of the Best Supporting Actress she received on Sunday.
Overall, it’s a well-crafted film. I’m giving it a “B+”.
For more on this form, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"