Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review

There’s a sequence in Venom: Let There Be Carnage where Woody Harrelson’s serial killer villain engages in mayhem with his crazy girlfriend (Naomie Harris). The deadly duo wreak their havoc in a ’66 Mustang and, for a moment, I was reminded of the actor’s appearance nearly 30 years ago in Natural Born Killers. Call it Muckey and Mallory this time as the amount of extraterrestrial goo is easily doubled in this sequel.

Speaking of natural born killers, it’s an apt description for the title character. The alien symbiote longs to bite humans heads off, but he’s mostly under control due to his human host Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). Poor Venom has to settle for chickens. Continuing the banter that was the highlight of the original, Carnage still allows for Hardy’s bizarre but oddly effective comedic performance.

For those who forgot (and 2018’s Venom was a bit forgettable), Eddie is a San Francisco based journalist whose expose into scientific experiments stuck him with the black liquid alien that now lives in his body. Our loony reporter is put on assignment when Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham) tasks Eddie with extracting evidence from death row condemned psycho Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson).

Their jailhouse interview leads to chaos and Carnage – as in the name of a Venomous offspring that invades the already crazed Cletus. And there’s the aforementioned love interest played by Harris. Confined to the Ravencroft Institute (where we first met Cletus in a Venom post-credits bit), Frances Barrison can manipulate sound to get herself out of sticky situations. This earns her the moniker Shriek due to those deadly decibels.

Andy Serkis is in the director’s chair (replacing Ruben Fleischer) and he keeps Carnage short, light, and full of CG action. The screenplay strains a little to justify bringing back Michelle Williams as Eddie’s ex-flame. I suppose someone’s gotta get saved by the hero in the third act. Reid Scott reprises his role as her boyfriend and there are a couple of humorous moments with his character.

I couldn’t quite recommend Venom though I came close solely based on Hardy’s batty work. This is no comic book masterwork and even the great Harrelson’s villainous turn is passable at best. Yet I more or less came around with Carnage. I give it props for foregoing a bloated running time (it’s just an hour and a half). It’s hard to not be entertained by Hardy and his skull chomping companion. In the constantly growing universe of comic book based franchises, it’s getting common for the sequels to improve upon the originals. The first entries always have to go through the origin story while the follow-ups can be a little more fun. That applies here.

*** (out of four)

October 8-10 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (10/06): I have revised my No Time to Die prediction from $104.1 million down to $94.1 million, which would still set a COVID era record.

After the absolutely fantastic and record breaking performance of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, James Bond looks to set his own high mark this weekend with the 25th 007 adventure No Time to Die. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

No Time to Die Box Office Prediction

Daniel Craig’s fifth and final contribution to the storied franchise has been climbing up with my estimates. Early last week, I figured it would do $72.1 million (good for second in the series after the $88 million achieved by Skyfall). By Friday, I went with $84.1 million. Following what Tom Hardy’s superhero sequel did, I am now figuring this will be the first Bond feature to debut north of $100 million.

There are potential obstacles. It certainly has a longer runtime than Venom. We would be in new territory for this franchise with a gross that enormous. That said, no one foresaw the Venom follow-up hitting $10 million more than its predecessor. I also believe the hoopla surrounding Die being Craig’s swan song (and the solid reviews) will only help.

The original Venom fell 56% in its sophomore in October 2018 to $35 million. Competition this time around is steeper and I do believe a 60% or more dip is certainly possible (thought it could continue to confound expectations).

After a decent debut, The Addams Family 2 will be third and I’d look for a drop in the mid 40s range (similar to its predecessor from 2019). Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings should hold the 4 spot with The Many Saints of Newark (after a subpar showing) in the 5 position.

Here’s how I envision the chart playing out:

1. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $94.1 million

2. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $33.7 million

3. The Addams Family 2

Predicted Gross: $9.2 million

4. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Predicted Gross: $3.4 million

5. The Many Saints of Newark

Predicted Gross: $1.8 million

Box Office Results (October 1-3)

I’m pretty sure the number $58.7 million is going to haunt me for awhile. That’s what I said Venom: Let There Be Carnage would gross out of the gate and, umm, I was a little low. As mentioned, the Tom Hardy sequel set a pandemic era best haul with a cool $90 million (topping the $80 million of part 1 and the COVID times best $80 million achieved by Black Widow). I think it’s safe to say get ready for part III as champagne corks are popping over at Sony.

The Addams Family 2 couldn’t come close to the $30 million start of part 1, but it wasn’t expected to. The $17.3 million output is right in line with the best of expectations and slightly ahead of my $16.6 million projection.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was third with $6.1 million (I was higher at $7.6 million) for $206 million total. It’s the first pic to reach the double century milestone domestically since COVID.

Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark was a theatrical dud at just $4.6 million for fourth. I went considerably north of that with a $8.6 million projection. Look for this to fade fast as HBO hopes its Max subscribers stream it on their service.

Dear Evan Hansen tumbled badly in weekend 2 with $2.4 million. Again I was generous with $4.2 million. That’s a troubling 67% decline after a weak opening and the tally is $11 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Predictions – Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Tom Hardy is back to his dualistic ways in Venom: Let There Be Carnage this weekend. The sequel to the 2018 Marvel Comics property officially had its review embargo lifted today and the results are a bit surprising. While plenty of critics aren’t being overly kind, the 58% Rotten Tomatoes rating is an improvement over its predecessor’s 30% score.

Sony is hoping audiences are primed for more of Hardy and his black goo. The only awards possibility lies in the Visual Effects race. And if part 1 couldn’t manage a nod, I doubt this will either.

There is serious competition with other comic book based pics including Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the upcoming Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s also a safe bet that Dune and The Matrix Resurrections will make the cut. Perhaps Carnage will surface in the ten finalists vying for five slots, but I wouldn’t count on it getting in. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

October 1-3 Box Office Predictions

An October filled with potential heavy hitters begins Friday with the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Tom Hardy’s sequel to the 2018 comic book blockbuster. We also have spooky animated sequel The Addams Family 2 and Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the trio here:

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Box Office Prediction

The Addams Family 2 Box Office Prediction

The Many Saints of Newark Box Office Prediction

One thing seems certain: the September long reign of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will cease with the arrival of Venom. I don’t envision it approaching the $80 million premiere achieved by its predecessor, but a high 50s forecast has it ruling the roost.

The two other newbies are also both available for home viewing (Addams for general rental, Newark on HBO Max). Addams should have no trouble snapping into the 2 spot. I’m projecting it earns a little more than half of the original’s $30 million.

Newark is a bit of a head scratcher. It stands to reason that many Sopranos devotees may have a Max membership and simply choose to view from their couch. I’ll say it gets close enough to double digits to just outdo Shang-Chi in its fifth frame (though it could be close).

After a muted debut, Dear Evan Hansen should drop in the low to mid 40s for a fifth place showing.

Here’s how I see the top 5:

1. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $58.7 million

2. The Addams Family 2

Predicted Gross: $16.6 million

3. The Many Saints of Newark

Predicted Gross: $8.5 million

4. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Predicted Gross: $7.6 million

5. Dear Evan Hansen

Predicted Gross: $4.2 million

Box Office Results (September 24-26)

As anticipated, Shang-Chi made it a September clean sweep as it remained #1 for the fourth weekend and became the highest grossing domestic earner of the COVID era. With $13 million (I overshot at $14.9 million), the impressive take is $196 million.

The musical drama Dear Evan Hansen couldn’t get most critics or crowds on its side. It underperformed with $7.4 million, falling shy of my $8.6 million prediction. Its A- Cinemascore rating could mean small declines ahead, but fans of the Broadway show may have already rushed to view it (just not as many as the studio hoped).

Free Guy was third with $4.1 million compared to my $4.5 million projection and it’s up to $114 million.

Candyman placed fourth with $2.5 million. My guess? $2.5 million! Total is $56 million.

Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho rounded out the top five in its sophomore frame with just $2 million (I said $2.8 million) for $8 million overall.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Box Office Prediction

Arriving one year after its COVID delay, Tom Hardy returns as the Marvel Comics title character in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The sequel includes returnees Michelle Williams and Reid Scott along with newcomers Naomie Harris, Stephen Graham, and Woody Harrelson (who did briefly cameo in the original’s post credits scene). Andy Serkis, certainly no stranger to CG effects, takes over directorial duties from Ruben Fleischer.

Three years ago, Venom surpassed expectations with a then October best opening weekend of just over $80 million. That record was beaten a year later by Joker. The overall domestic gross of $213 million guaranteed a follow-up.

After witnessing the recent robust performance of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Sony actually pushed up the release date by two weeks.

Carnage kicks off a month where studios are hopeful for pleasing returns with heavy hitters like No Time to Die, Halloween Kills, and Dune. I don’t envision this getting to $80 million like its predecessor. A more realistic expectation would be part II nabbing about 75% of what part I achieved out of the gate.

That would be $60 million and I’ll say it goes just under that.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage opening weekend prediction: $58.7 million

For my The Addams Family 2 prediction, click here:

The Addams Family 2 Box Office Prediction

For my The Many Saints of Newark prediction, click here:

The Many Saints of Newark Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Capone

Originally scheduled for a theatrical release prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Josh Trank’s Capone hits the VOD circuit tomorrow and reviews are out. The biopic casts Tom Hardy as notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone during the last illness ravaged years of his life. The supporting cast includes Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Kyle MacLachlan, and Matt Dillon.

While it currently sports a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating, the number does not quite tell the tale. Some critics are simply savaging it while others are far more kind. It’s probably safe to say that Capone will spur much chatter on both sides. The director became known to many moviegoers based on 2012’s well-received sci-fi tale Chronicle before his 2015 Fantastic Four reboot that was a commercial and critical flop.

Much of the review space has centered on Hardy’s work. Similar to his performance in Venom, some writers are calling it an inspired and somewhat bonkers portrayal. Others say it is just plain bonkers. A Supporting Actor nominee for 2015’s The Revenant, don’t expect a second nod here.

In fact, the level of vitriol from some makes you wonder if Capone could be a contender for some Razzie nods at the end of 2020. As for Oscar contention, the enthusiasm is steered in a different direction. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Way Back Box Office Prediction

Director Gavin O’Connor is known for his sports dramas like 2004’s Olympic hockey recounting Miracle with Kurt Russell and the MMA pic Warrior starring Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. The filmmaker is back in the genre next weekend with The Way Back, which centers on Ben Affleck as a basketball coach struggling with addiction. Costars include Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Janina Gavankar, and Glynn Turman.

O’Connor’s biggest box office opening came outside the genre in 2016 with his thriller The Accountant, which also starred Affleck. That pic surprised prognosticators with a debut of nearly $25 million. Miracle had the Disney marketing machine behind it (and a well-known story about a game that just celebrated its 40th anniversary). It made nearly $20 million. On the other hand, Warrior struggled with just over $5 million.

The Way Back, despite Affleck promoting it all over sports media, is not expected to be a breakout success. Solid reviews (not out yet) could help it achieve more than the expected  range of high single to low double digits. As of now, that general forecast appears likely.

The Way Back opening weekend prediction: $8.3 million

For my Onward prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/27/onward-box-office-prediction/

Venom Movie Review

A comic book origin story that often masquerades as an otherworldly buddy comedy, Venom will likely be remembered for the weirdly inspired performance of Tom Hardy and not much else. We’ve seen the title character before with Topher Grace in SpiderMan 3. The alien creature made of black goo played as a superfluous extra villain in that picture. Now Venom is ready for his closeup.

Hardy is Eddie Brock, a San Francisco investigative reporter with a lovely DA fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams) and a penchant for asking one too many questions. He does just that with gazillionaire inventor Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who’s a beloved mogul in the community. He’s also, unbeknownst to the masses, experimenting on poor people with a mysterious alien life form that his company the Life Foundation discovered in outer space. Eddie’s inquires into these practices lead to his firing as a journalist and the dissolution of his romance.

A few months later as Eddie is down on his luck, one of Drake’s scientists spills the beans to him about further tomfoolery at the Foundation. This leads to a break-in at their research facility and one of those nasty and gooey extraterrestrials attaching themselves to Eddie. It turns out these visitors intend to destroy Planet Earth.

Yet we also find out that Eddie’s new inhabitant of his vessel has a sense of humor. And Hardy’s performance filled with strange noises, facial tics, and general bizareness makes for an often memorable duo. Venom himself is inside Eddie’s head constantly with what sounds like Christian Bale’s basement octave range from The Dark Knight series. I’m really not sure if Hardy’s work here is what you’d call good, but it’s definitely not forgettable. He seems committed to whatever the heck he’s decided Brock/Venom is and that itself is fun.

Unfortunately there’s lots of other forgettable aspects to the movie itself. This would include lots of the dialogue, the action sequences, Williams as the love interest, and Ahmed as the bad guy. Important stuff generally. It’s also amusing how crystal clear it is that director Ruben Fleischer (who’s done better with Zombieland) and the screenwriters so want this to be rated R. I assume Sony said otherwise, but the script has to reach the absolute highest level of profanity and heads being bitten off without achieving the restricted tag. I will give the writers a thumbs up for setting this in San Francisco and avoiding the umpteenth climactic battle at the Golden Gate Bridge.

I can’t deny that Hardy’s bewildering and bewitching and sometimes annoying acting nearly make this worth of the price of admission. There’s just a bit too much muck attached to it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Venom Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures hopes to kick off a franchise and set an October opening record next weekend when Venom debuts. The picture’s namesake is an anti-hero spawned from the Spider-Man comics. Moviegoers first saw him in the form of Topher Grace in SpiderMan 3. That rendering of the character didn’t sit too well with comic book aficionados.

The studio hopes this version changes that. Ruben Fleischer, best known for Zombieland, serves behind the camera. Playing Venom and his alter ego Eddie Brock is Tom Hardy. Costars include Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, and Woody Harrelson.

Sequels and spin-offs are hoped for and the marketing campaign has been pervasive. The reaction to trailers has been mostly positive, but word is that reviews won’t be published until the day before release. That’s not always a good sign. Similar buzz greeted Suicide Squad (among others) and it managed to meet expectations and gross $133 million in its first weekend. That stands as the largest August debut ever.

The correlation is that Venom could do the same in October, but estimates aren’t as high here. This is expected to gross between $60-$70 million. Even if it reached the low-end of that spectrum, this would top October record holder Gravity at $55 million. I’ll note that Halloween (out October 19) also stands a solid shot at exceeding that.

My feeling is this will meet projections, but on the lower end of the spectrum. How it performs in subsequent weekends will be dependent on buzz and that may be the biggest indicator on whether Sony gets its longed for cinematic universe.

Venom opening weekend prediction: $62.5 million

For my A Star Is Born prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/25/a-star-is-born-box-office-prediction/

Dunkirk Movie Review

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk has moments and plenty of them which are simply breathtaking. We expect the director of The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar to serve up a visual treat as he enters the war genre and he does. Yet I didn’t quite anticipate occasional moments of emotional resonance and the tight running time that keeps it moving at a brisk pace. This is an often epic experience in a truncated frame. That decision by the director and his editors allow Dunkirk to capture the fierce urgency of warfare told from three perspectives.

The film recounts the Battle of Dunkirk in Northern France in 1940. The British and their French allies are on the losing side of this particular conflict with the Nazis and evacuation plans are underway. Nolan chooses not to tell the events in a traditional or linear manner. Three stories are highlighted – by land, sea, and air. I list them in that manner because the land piece develops over a week’s time. Our action on the water happens in a day. The air portion is a matter of just an hour.

On land, we meet a number of soldiers desperately searching for escape while trying to help their wounded fellow countrymen. We also listen in on the strategies of the military higher-ups, led by Kenneth Branagh’s sturdy commander.

On the water, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) answers the call to take his own boat to help pick up soldiers from the extraction area. He brings his son (Tom Glynn-Carney) and friend (Barry Keoghan) along with him. On their way to their destination, they come upon a lone soldier (Cillian Murphy) who is experiencing shock from a U-boat attack.

In the air, Tom Hardy’s Air Force pilot and two fellow fighters must furiously try to down Nazi planes bombing those waiting in the evacuation region, while keeping an eye on their own fuel.

All of this activity unfolds in just over 100 minutes in a picture you’d expect to run closer to three hours. Character development is at a minimum but that’s not a demerit. Dunkirk captures the hectic nature, uncertainty, and chaos of war. With Nolan at the helm and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema behind the lense, it’s also filled with beautiful imagery on a beach filled with soldiers, on the expansive ocean, and in the clouds. The screenplay gives us just enough focus on its characters to make certain situations emotionally resonant. This especially holds true with the sea portion and Rylance’s determined skipper and Murphy’s battle weary soldier.

The time jumping element is one that would make Tarantino proud. That aspect adds an often fresh perspective to the well-worn WWII genre and its glorious and inglorious tales. By its conclusion, we marvel at personal acts by humans caught up in impossible situations in the fog of battle. In a week, a day, and an hour, Dunkirk expertly shows it.

***1/2 (out of four)