03 December 2021

First Impressions: No Time to Die

Believe it or not, I watched No Time to Die (2021) as a double-feature at a drive-in with Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021). That was two months ago. Let's talk about it! SPOILERS for every Bond movie ever from here on out. To sum up - I liked it. Now let's get into details.

First, superlatives and history and all that stuff. Dan Craig is the longest-tenured Bond by a wide margin, having played the role for the better part of 15 years now. And even if NTTD had come out in 2020 like it was supposed to, he would have still held on to it for longer than Roger Moore, who played the role for a mere twelve years. However, he only made five films, which is well short of both Moore and Connery (even if you count Never Say Never Again [1983] or not). Is it weird that Never Say Never Aagain came out the same year as Octopussy (1983)? Can you imagine having like, a Pierce Brosnan knock-off Bond also coming out this year?

Anyway, the less movies in more years thing is assuredly a product of modern movie-making that takes quite a bit longer than just throwing up whatever on a sloppy green screen. This film feels like it's fighting for attention and relevancy amidst all the other modern blockbusters, while it's always good to remember how Bond lead blockbuster filmmaking in so many ways. It was the original franchise, of course, and continually smashed box office records in the 60s and 70s. Somewhere along the way it assuredly started chasing trends rather than creating them - from Moonraker (1979) trying to be Star Wars (1977) to Casino Royale (2006) trying to be The Bourne Identity (2001) you see it over and over again. So, No Time to Die comes at an interesting crossroads - it is both the culmination of the Daniel Craig era, but it's also trying to acknowledge that the Daniel Craig era was an important thing amidst the simultaneous Era of Reboots, Era of Superheroes, Era of Disney Hegemony, and hell, Era of COVID!

The Craig Bonds seemed to eventually find their niche by just making really good movies. It's the Planet of the Apes method - just straight competency porn. Now, I am actually pretty divided on the Craig Bonds - all the odd ones are pretty good, and the even ones are pretty not. They exist in this weird zone where there's actually an attempt at a coherent storyline through all of them, but through a combination of not having a plan, forgetting the plan over fifteen years and four directors, or just the audience forgetting what the hell happened last time (or we didn't know we were supposed to be paying attention), this all got muddled. How many times can we reveal a secret bad guy that has an even more secret and more badder organization than last time? Every time. That's what's up.

No Time to Die centers around Bond and some French woman who I vaguely remember from S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (2015) combatting a dude worse than S.P.E.C.T.R.E. who wants to kill S.P.E.C.T.R.E. There's some fun here and the latest movies have certainly struggled to find a way to bring Bond out of the 60s and into the modern age. That was always the weirdest part of SkyFall (2012), how the progressive female M was killed to pave way for an old fashioned man to take back control. That's a really great movie but the ending is insanely regressive.

Anyway, remember when Bond was old and washed up in SkyFall? That was like nine years ago and he just keeps trying to either retire or die. I love when he's shot on that desert wall and he doesn't care. Like he's been shot so many times it's just annoying to him. But this movie pulls out all the stops and finds a way to be very Bond-like but also break a lot of the mold. He has gadgets and fun tricks, which have creeped their way up through the Craig Era as it became less ashamed of its pulp, but also Bond has a kid, loses his 007 designation, and then also he dies. Spoiler, although I think he plausibly escaped. Or at least this iteration of Bond is dead forever. Someone keenly pointed out it's the exact same ending as The Rock (1996), which is just great.

So, Rami Malek is a poison-loving dude who makes a nanobot virus that insta-kills specifically coded DNA in close contact. There is some fun when he gets revenge on S.P.E.C.T.R.E. when you think S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is going to kill Bond, although for a major villainous organization that's been supposedly behind everything in this whole franchise, they go out like a bunch of punks. So does Blofield, but I was never that hyped about Christoph Waltz being Bond's long lost brother, so whatever. Bond has to save the day, but for once in his life there isn't an escape. There's no raft to make out with the girl in as it floats away. It's very clear that Craig is so done with this franchise and unabashedly had no desire to return. But also, it's certainly been long enough.

It makes me consider the Era as a whole, and like I said, most of these films have been very good. But Casino Royale feels downright ancient. Remember when they just tried to capitalize on the poker craze? Poker and parkour with a ton of shaky cam - that is such a mid-2000s escapade. I mentioned the competency, this, SkyFall, and to a lesser extent S.P.E.C.T.R.E., really reveled in breathtaking vistas, unique lairs, and a huge sense of scope that I REALLY noticed after watching Venom 2. SkyFall probably still has an edge, but NTtD is easily the second-best looking cinematic Bond of all time, which is saying something for this franchise that is not dying any time soon.

So, how did everyone do? Daniel Craig is fine, he really knows the ins and outs of this character by now, and I've liked the bent that this series has taken where we're not totally letting Bond get away with his trauma and alcoholism. There are the wry one-liners of course, but in this context he's always hiding some significant pain that creates this underlying sadness. Or you can just take the surface level fun.

Lea Seydoux is fine. I guess. It's not much of a role and she's mostly pouty. Ana de Armas is so underused, she really just bursts in, kicks a bunch of dudes in a slit dress and then bounces. I don't totally know why she was even there, but I will always take some Ana de Armas in my life.

Let's spend a little time talking about Lashana Lynch, tho - she takes over the 007 mantle from Bond, and she's fine and all, but I never really got the sense that she was suave or charismatic enough to handle that responsibility. I didn't think she was that great in Captain Marvel (2019), either and thought she was a weird choice here. Now, it's become tough to criticize this diversity move, and I am sure that I will come off as an old racist, but if Lynch is the person to pull this off, the film never gave her a chance to show what she can do. It's ultimately another regressive film flaunting its diversity in an attempt to appear progressive. She even kowtows to Bond near the end, rescinding her 007 designation back to him, which was wholly unnecessary. She needed a bit more to do if she was going to earn this mantle transition. Ultimately the movie was just too packed with Craig goodbyes to make it a transition film, and I'm not sure that's even what they wanted to do.

I don't think they are moving towards having a black woman Bond, I mean, I guess they could, but what makes Bond Bond is the fact that he's a privileged womanizing asshole. I mean...Archer. And I'm not saying this as a way of complementing the character or saying his maleness and whiteness are sacrosanct, but they do inform that specific character, for better or worse (and the Craig Bonds have done a better job highlighting the worse), and it'd be hard to have the same character played by a different gender or ethnicity. I know I'm going to get in trouble for this. That's okay. A black female spy movie would be great, but create a character that's informed by that background. Ultimately it comes down to brand awareness more than anything, so we as loyal manjamunching consumers need to just consume a product with a new character and we'll be all good.

Finally, there's Rami. He's a good actor, I guess, but even though he's a great natural villain, he seemed miscast here. I think the producers were excited to get him hot off an Oscar win and again, he was just born to be a Bond Villain. But he's a little too young here, especially for someone who supposedly encountered Lea Seydoux as a young girl. Malek is only four years older than Seydoux. I remember that's what took me out of Oldboy (2003), too. The ages just don't line up. Also, Malek is 40?! I lowkey thought that dude was like 25, although yeah, I guess he's been around for a while.

But I also struggled to understand his motivation, like, yeah he was pissed at Blofield for killing his parents, but why did he want to destroy the world? They kind of brush past that, and it never seems that strong. Or how he got his face scars. I guess he got burned at some point. Probably got too close to some hamburgers on the grill and they jumped up and got his face.

So, anyway, I really liked this movie. It looked great, it had an engaging, if not convoluted plot, but this is James Bond after all. The character work is solid, even though I complained, and they find a way to make a sixty-year old regressive dinosaur character feel relevant and interesting. It's cool. The Craig Bond just spanned so many eras of blockbuster filmmaking, and we're headed into the murkiest post-COVID world yet.

02 November 2021

I Watched Every Treehouse of Horror in October

Last year we reached a momentous occasion - with 32 seasons of The Simpsons, we finally had enough Halloween Specials that you could watch one every day for the entire month of October! I forgot to do that, but THIS year I watched every single Treehouse of Horror, 1-32, plus Season 27's "Halloween of Horror," which is the only canonical episode to actually take place on Halloween.

Now, I'm not going to rank the shorts or anything, because there's 96 of these, and that's always kind of redundant. The classics are better, what do you want from me? But I'd like to dig into some trends I noticed.

Little Things

So, we all know that there were a handful of traditions that were dropped because they became too exhausting, like the amusing tombstones and the wrap-around stories. The scary names have actually come and gone a handful of times, but seem to have latched on. But what's weird is that the on-screen title was "The Simpsons Halloween Special" and then the roman numeral up until Season 14. That's crazy long.

Regarding the wrap around story, this was actually an interesting departure. Leaving it behind freed up the writers to dive more into parody, often generic (and tragically dated) parody. The first few episodes were ostensibly stories told in-universe by the characters themselves. I found myself a bigger fan of this kind of groundedness. The best stories felt like they could have happened in the actual Simpsons universe, just one step removed. Like, Homer could have bought a homicidal doll, or yeah, there was a space between a bookshelf no one explored before, or suddenly sounds in the attic.

There are obvious exceptions - "The Raven" of course, which is an extremely bold choice that you can believe would never have been done today (or at their peak for that matter). "King Homer" in Season 4 is the earliest movie parody that takes place in a wholly separate universe until "Easy Bake Coven in Season 9. To contrast, we don't get another until Season 12. So we had four in the first twelve seasons. That doubles in seasons 13-24, Season 25 has two in the same episode, and then we get eight more from then to present.

Reused Stuff

I'm not sure if any Simpsons writer is as big of a fan as the fans are. I don't mean this negatively, just that I think we tend to get obsessive. The writers may not necessarily realize the similar themes they use over and over again. There are a handful of odd ones.

Maggie gets possessed in three segments, which would be less jarring if it weren't in Season 29 and 31, which is almost back to back. In XXX, she is in an extended prologue parodying The Omen (1976), which went so long I thought it was the first short. She's also a victim of attempted kidnapping by a demon in Season 24, which feels a lot like "The Exor-Sis" segment of 29. And for the record, I find listing by season a bit easier than deciphering the roman numerals, so that's what I'll go with.

They really like people with two heads. There's "If I Only Had a Brain" early on in Season 3, which ends with Burns' head attached to Homer's, which inverses slightly at the end of Season 16, where Homer growns large inside of Burns, but they still share a body. Then Bart's head is attached to Lisa's body in Season 25. It's largely bizarre how often they revisit this.

It also seems to be a requirement that large figures eat people. King Homer does it, Homer as the Blob does it, the 50-foot eyesores do it. Stampy does it. The Grand Pumpkin. I guess it makes sense, but it seems like they specifically always eat people instead of just stepping on them or something. It's definitely funnier.

I also generally enjoy the trend that whenever they have an alien movie to spoof, they always use Kang and/or Kodos, which is great because of their intrinsically awkward design. They substitute for ET, Na'vi, War of the Worlds, and the Gillman from Shape of Water (2017). It's a solid consistency that I really enjoy.

Zombies appear early on in Season 4, then again in Season 21, but the presentation is radically different, and I consider both to be pretty strong. It's actually pretty fun to see how they adapt to how Zombies have shifted in pop culture during that time to fast Munchers instead of the classic Return of the Living Dead (1985)-style campy shuffling dead.

Likewise, I enjoy how the did King Kong early on, and then Godzilla 23 years later. The Godzilla parody gets real weird, though, and ends up being a film that is then re-made, but then a real Godzilla wakes up? So many of these just...don't know how to end. Let's get into that stuff:

Trends Through Time

The Treehouse of Horrors have always been a nice check-in on the general attitude of the show through time. The early years during the classic seasons are reliably great. There isn't really a bad segment from Seasons 2-9. I think the Itchy & Scratchy segment in Season 10 is a little weak, although it has its share of great gags. Like the show itself, these still have plenty of classic moments but the cracks are starting to show.

The first straight up bad sketch is undoubtedly "Wiz Kids" from Season 13, which is their Harry Potter parody. A lot of that stems from the fact that the writers admittedly just straight up didn't read Harry Potter beforehand. So it's a parody, but doesn't actually know anything about the source material, so it's more a parody of what they thought Harry Potter probably was. It ends up being generic magic jokes instead of making any interesting connection between Hogwarts and Springfield Elementary, which should have been ripe territory. I still like that Death Frog.

Around this zone The Simpsons always seemed to be trying to prove itself. Suddenly the genre it had created was becoming saturated and they were trying really hard to stand out and be relevant. There are a lot of forced jokes and frankly sloppy attempts at political satire (looking at you Season 18 / Iraq War critique). It took them awhile to get out of their own way and settle into the legacy they assuredly had established.

Then we get to Season 21. Treehouse of Horror XX is fucking spectacular. There are individual segments that stand out in later seasons, but from start to end, XX is just an amazing feat. It ignores trying to live up to legacy and just concentrates and writing and every short stands out.

As the 20s go on, it occasionally gets really weird, they get into super body horror with "Coralisa" and "Mmm...Homer" which I still have difficulty watching. These were actually from the same episode, in Season 29. "Coralisa" is good but it ends so abruptly and without catharsis. More episode analysis later.

They seem to be even more cavalier with casual violence than the early years. Looking back, there really aren't that many episodes that feature massive deaths until Season 4 with "King Homer" and the zombies. But there is more casual violence played for laughs in "Mr. & Mrs. Simpson," "Telepaths of Glory," and jeez, all of Season 28.

To be clear, I'm not making any kind of moral judgment, but it does feel odd that they swing so hard into torturing their characters without a ton of motivation or more importantly, humour. These segments definitely get rough and most of them end up not going anywhere, which is typical for short sketches that can't get all they want in, but again, somehow those classic seasons condensed The Shining (1980) into seven minutes.

"Mr & Mrs Simpson" is probably the first really random parody, spoofing Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), which is just not a horror movie...at all. It's also two years late. Then they did a Transformers parody the next year, Jumanji (1995) a few years after that (15 years after that movie came out, which is bizarre), AVABAR (2009), Back to the Future (1985), Chronicle (2012), The Hunger Games (2012), Kingsman (2014), Jurassic World (2015), The Shape of Water, Into the Spider-Verse (2018), and the worst of all, Toy Story (1995), which I guess is still culturally relevant through its sequels, but still feels so damn out of place in an episode coming out in 2020.

Also as we go on, I was surprised about how often Homer took on the villain role when needed, especially in later episodes. He's the assigned big bad in the parodies "Freaks no Geeks", "Moefinger", and "Oh The Places You'll D'oh" in addition to being the general focus of evil when he becomes the blob, Godzilla, kills celebrities, or eats himself.

Stand Out Segments

Fine, you want a ranking? Let's do a quick Top Five. Listen, it's not fair, because the Classic Episodes are going to win. Let's break it down by era with a quick synopsis so you remember:

Classic Years (Season 2 - 8)

#5: "Citizen Kang" The Clinton / Dole Kang and Kodos
#4: "The Devil and Homer Simpson" the one with devil Flanders
#3: "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" Willie the Freddy
#2: "Dial Z for Zombies" "He was a zombie?
#1: "The Shinning" Don't be readin' Willie's mind between 4 and 5 THAT'S WILLY'S TIME

Transition Years (Seasons 9 - 14)

#5: "Hell Toupee" Homer gets a Snake hair graft
#4: "Send in the Clones" Homer has a hammock that clones him
#3: "Life's a Glitch, then You Die" Tom Arnold eating peaches
#2: "The Homega Man" Homer is the last man on earth
#1: "Night of the Dolphin" snorky

Crap Years (Seasons 15 - 20)

#5: "You Gotta Know When to Golem" the one with that golem
#4: "I've Grown a costume on your face" The town of Springfield becomes their costumes
#3: "The Ned Zone" Flanders can foresee deaths
#2: "Frinkenstein" Jerry Lewis is Frink's wacko father
#1: "Stop the World I Want to Goof Off" Bart and Milhouse have a watch that can stop time

Redemption (Seasons 21 - 25)

#5: "Freaks no Geeks" 1930s carnival parody
#4: "Master and Cadaver" Homer and Marge are on a boat and kill a guy - whoopsie!
#3: "The Greatest Story Ever Holed" There is a black hole in Springfield
#2: "Don't Have a Cow, Mankind" Munchers!
#1: "Dial M for Murder or Press # to Return to Main Menu" Criss-Cross!

Eating Itself (Seasons 26 - 33)

#5: "School is Hell" Bart excels in Springfield Hellementary
#4: "BFF RIP" Lisa's imaginary friend kills people. Sergeant Sausage!
#3: "Be Nine, Rewind" Lisa is Happy Death Day
#2: "Multiplisa-ty" Lisa is Split
#1: "Wanted: Dead, then Alive" Sideshow Bob Halloween!

General Episode Thoughts:

Here are some random thoughts about specific episodes for you. Let's start beyond the Classic years, because those are just great and I have nothing really insightful to complain about.

XI from Season 12 is pretty weak, except "Night of the Dolphin just elevates it so high.

"Reaper Madness" from Season 15 is exactly like Family Guy when Death sprained its ankle and Peter Griffin took over. But I think that Family Guy came first so who is really at fault for that Clone bit?

Season 17 has great premises that are so rushed. It also has the weirdest ending ever, with the town turned into pacifiers, but what's weird is that Dennis Rodman as a pacifier shows up and talks about the importance of literacy.

Season 20 is the most 2008 episode of television ever. It opens on Homer at the voting booth choosing between Obama and McCain, then goes into Transformers and Mad Men parodies. I have never been a Charlie Brown Halloween fan, and this series has pushed the Great Pumpkin hard into its historical mythos. There is also a solid amount of homophobia in this episode, which is surprising for a generally progressive show like The Simpsons when it comes to this topic.

XXIII from 24 is probably the second most all-around solid episode from the modern era, besides the flawless XX. This is sandwiched between two pretty rough installments.

The by far best part of XXIV from Season 25 is the Guillermo del Toro opening. The episode then immediately grounds to a screeching halt with an out of no where Cat in the Hat parody. I was so high on this after remembering that opening, but I failed to remember how bad the rest of this episode was.

As far as openings go, this might be a reason why some of these sketches are so rushed. VI from Season 7 had Krusty as the Headless Horseman. That's it. Season 27 has a very solid animation from John Kricfalusi. Season 28 strangely has both a lengthy opening featuring famous Simpsons villains, and then an additional lengthy Planet of the Apes parody couch gag that doesn't have anything to do with Halloween. 29 has a Pixar-style CGI candy bit. 30 features Homer out-doing Cthulu in an Oyster-eating contest. I enjoyed that one, but it's long enough to be its own segment!

I wanted to talk about Season 30 more. The Apple stuff claims it's not being paid (and sure, they don't actually say Apple), but it's definitely weird. Especially because The Simpsons is old enough to have made fun of fledgling Apple Computers in the 90s. I really like watching Lisa cut loose in the Split parody, that's very fun. But then the Old People as Dinosaurs in "Geriatric Park" just makes so little sense, it's such a stretch that it wrecks the whole episode. Other than that, it's actually pretty good.

Finally, Season 33 (yeah, the one that came out just a bit ago) actually dramatically broke precedent. Wikipedia claims it has five segments, I don't think that's really true. It does open with a Bambi (1942) parody, and at this point I was confused if I had clicked the right show on Hulu or not. It's not good. There are still three main segments in here, but in between the second and third is a lengthy poem read by a faux Vincent Price ("Quiet, Jody, you're not helping!"). None of this is bad if it were funny, but the episode is a bit of a dud.

Anyway, I could talk at length about each segment, and I promised I wouldn't. In general, if you're looking for episodes to watch, I - VIII deliver, IX - XIV definitely have their moments, starting around XV they really start tripping over their endings and get wonky, but we have solid entries from XVII, XX, XXIII, XXV, XXVI, XXIX, and XXX after that.

See? I told you the roman numerals were tough. Now on to "Thanksgiving of Horror!"

29 October 2021

First Impressions: Venom Let There Be Carnage

Oof. I saw this a while ago and October has been a fairly wacky month, so just getting to it now. What can you say about this? I liked it...sort of...but it was certifiably a bad movie. Let's just dig into this right away with SPOILERS everywhere for Venom Let There Be Carnage.

So, most of my complaints are just going to come out of nerdiness. I was a Carnage fan as a kid (okay, maybe that's weird to say), but he was red and fun and creative, and the movie doesn't even really get any of that right. Hopefully if you read through this blog you'll know that I am never one who gripes hard about films that ignore the source material, but the replacement material has to be equally as compelling. Carnage is pretty much just an edge character, but there are bits in there that are interesting and dangerous, which this film heartedly avoids, and the end result is disappointing.

Let's get into it. Venom (2018) always felt like a fun throwback movie, and by that I mean something like a pre-MCU superhero film like Daredevil (2003) or Ghost Rider (2007). It wasn't connected to anything, wasn't building anything, was dark and sloppy, and didn't really care about the source material. But that was all, fine, it was a stupid movie, but pretty fun, and Tom Hardy is somehow super game for the kitschy material. People gripe about the Venom model, but I enjoyed the take that the symbiote was a bit of a buffoon and tongue-in-cheek evil. It's campy and fun! Now, that movie had a ridiculous amount of problems, mostly due to its Big Grey Villain at the end, inscrutable visuals, and weak character arcs. But it's pretty fun, and never sacrificies that.

Originally, Venom was really designed as a beefier, suped up doppelganger to Spider-Man. And then Carnage was a beefed up, supier doppelganger to Venom. And then they also had a literal doppelganger named Doppelganger who teamed up with Carnage. In many ways, Let There Be Carnage is the Carnage to the previous Venom. It doubles down on what worked, namely, the nonsense, tries to be bigger and badder at everything, and loves its life on edge.

There isn't a story here. Or, there is one but it's relatively incomprehensible. Eddie Brock is impossibly bad at his job as an investigative journalist. I mean that quite literally, he sits there, seeming to not understand anything that Venom is trying to tell him as it pieces clues together about Cletus Kassidy's murders. But it's always unsatisfying because none of this ever really goes anywhere. Eddie finds Cletus' bodies but so what? We don't see that help the victims, Eddie's career, or change what Cletus was ultimately going to do. It's a lot of noise signifying nothing.

And how did Carnage work, anyway? Cletus bites Eddie and swallows his blood, so that's just how symbiotes spread? It just seems like Eddie would bleed a lot and leave bits everywhere. Venom proclaims that he's "a red one" like that's something bad, but we don't know what they can do or how they're different. I guess it has more tendrils? But it doesn't seem tougher than Riot. There is a logic here that's difficult to follow.

But again, my gripe is just nerdy. They seem to have made Carnage too powerful, so they try to neuter him down by removing the biggest difference between him and Venom in the comics - the bond between that symbiote and Kassidy is so powerful that they refer to themselves as "I" and not "we." That's an important distinction. Venom is always a team, but Carnage is a singular menace and that's what makes him so dangerous. The film just decides to go in the complete opposite direction and signifies that Venom and Eddie's bond is stronger so they win. They also reach this destination without doing any of the character growth necessary to get there. They just kind of...are, which is the same theme from the last movie. It just feels like a cop out, that instead of finding a creative way to solve a problem of fighting a stronger opponent, they just win because the Carnage symbiote is an idiot who can't stop trying to kill Shriek.

Who is fine. Shriek was never that well developed in the comics and this movie gets credit for creating a fleshed out character out of her. However, she ultimately doesn't do all that much, except be a motivator for Carnage. This just could have been a bigger ordeal. The obvious title choice, first of all, is Maximum Carnage, which is the most famous run of the character. Maybe they're waiting for Disney to buy SONY and throw Spider-Man into that one. But Maximum Carnage had like, Kassidy and Shriek taking over NYC on a mass murder spree that totally decimated the heroes trying to stop it. Maybe that was too much for a film like this that is trying to have a fairly limited scope, since at that point we need to bring in a few more heroes to deal with it all. But eh, it's nothing that Deadpool 2 (2018) didn't pull off.

Anyway, there is a disturbing lack of murders here. Like, we are supposed to understand how bad this dude is, but we never quite get that sense. He feels like the writers watched a show about serial killers and then wrote all his dialogue. He never really gets under your skin. Some of that is casting Woody Harrelson, who feels like Natural Born Killers (1994) here, which by the way, came out when he was 33 years old, or two years before we see the boyhood flashback for Cletus. That casting was always off. Why not Jackie Earle Haley? Hrmm...as I look him up he's actually exactly as old as Harrelson. Oh well.

But we never really feel the danger of Kassidy. The whole premise of the movie is that Eddie doesn't like Venom eating peoples' brains and is always trying to resist the immeasurable power the symbiote offers him. That's also what always made Carnage a compelling villain - here was a mass murderer suddenly paired with unstoppable power and an alien voice who encourages all his homicidal predilections. We just don't really get that here. And he's red! Why didn't they make him red!? Look at that RED. I did always like the idea that his tendrils were always bubbling around him, like he was so psychotic that he couldn't be contained. This movie does that a little bit, mostly in the first scene when he bursts free, but it kind of calms down after that.

And then he dies! Just like an old movie that finds no reason to keep its villains alive, Carnage just straight up dies. Now, he's been killed many times in the comics, notably when the Sentry took him into space and ripped him in half, but it always just seems like you're burning up your best characters instead of setting up repeated encounters.

Venom himself is well done. Hardy brings it yet again, even if his character is dumb as hell. This Venom is doofy and childlike in his alienness, and I particularly like his hunger for brains, although I wanted to see him eat more. Like, we didn't get a single brain chomp. The whole movie was building to that and we really didn't get anything satisfying. Venom needs to walk that anti-hero line a little bit, and despite the build up to Lethal Protector, we don't really ever see that. The movie seems to be trying really hard to not make its protagonist a homicidal brain-eating maniac for some reason. I understand that that is how they can create the tension between the characters, but I just wanted to see more brain eating. Throw the alien a bone! A skull bone!

Now, I said I was split on this movie, right? See, there are enjoyable bits. Besides all that crap I just said, the movie is wonderfully fast paced, and wastes no time at all worrying about overexplaning anything. Sure, I complained about that, but this film does do what so few contemporaries don't - KNOW WHAT IT IS. It definitely knows it's a weird fun romp and doesn't worry too much about making sense. I just contend that you can have a goofy movie that's still competent, but there are scenes like Venom in the club that largely work. The plot zooms so fast and it's a pretty crisp 90 minutes. That's all that we want from this - it totally doesn't overstay its welcome. Now, the fact that that's definitely an issue and I wouldn't want it any longer is its own problem. Like I said, it's bigger and badder than Venom. It's funnier, meaner, louder, and faster. Everything Venom did right, this movie dials up. That's as good of a good thing as it is a bad thing.

I watched this as a Drive-In double feature with No Time to Die (2021), and the difference was extremely jarring. It was nice to remember that a big blockbuster CAN look good when they want to, and the pacing felt like a screeching halt. But yeah, VLTBC is really a dark, ugly mess without any regard to cinematography. And I truly only say that because I saw Bond right after, which was trying really really hard.

Lastly, should we talk about the post credits? The symbiote seems to have some multi-dimensional powers, or maybe it's just funny business from Loki or WandaVision or Doc Strange, but for whatever reason it seems like we'll see Tom Hardy go against Tom Holland. While that's weird for a lot of reasons, namely, this incarnation of Venom has no reason to hate Spider-Man, it's jarring to see an old man beat up on a young boy, and they tried really hard to make Venom the hero here, so what's going to happen next? At any rate, I'm definitely excited. The Topher Grace venom really wasn't there.

Despite everything this movie was fun. It's a great rainy day throwaway film and I do like this interpretation of Venom, if not Carnage. Go see Bond!
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