Ben is Back

Ben is Back Still.png

Ben is Back takes on a pressing issue in our society, the onslaught of opioids that have flooded our communities, as drug overdose deaths have tripled since 1990. This morning I was reading an article, “Massachusetts Attorney General Implicates Family Behind Purdue Pharma in Opioid Deaths” about a company so obsessed with sales that it paid 600 million in fines for intentionally misleading the public about the addictive qualities of OxyContin. The kicker being that even after that admission and pay out the company expanded its efforts, sending even more sales reps to convince doctors, nurses and pharmacists to prescribe even more Oxy. Why? For perspective, one company memo details how through overprescribing just two doctors made the company 800,000 in only two years. 

I believe Ben is Back will find an audience with the people and families who most need a message about addiction. Even though it plays like an extended Afterschool Special, with implausible situations that make you ask yourself, what exactly are the elements of an interminable movie? After a moving Christmas Eve mass scene, the plot shifts gears into modern day parable territory. A Dante’s Inferno meets Dickens’ A Christmas Carol mash up. It’s a good technique for the story but the pretext motivating the plunge back into the depths of Ben’s utterly messed up and devastating life choices seems flimsy at best for one so easily triggered. One character says out loud, “This doesn’t make any sense. What we are doing is not worth it.” I understand characters’ statements like this as a verbal agreement between the filmmakers and the audience. It goes something like, “We don’t actually expect you to suspend disbelief but if you don’t leave we can tell you what we have to say, which you will agree is a good message.” 

I am not saying that I could have come up with a more convincing story. Or that telling a story like this is easy. I actually sympathize with this film and feel like the filmmakers and actors were trying their absolute best. The film does boast powerful performances by Julia Roberts as Holly, Ben’s ever hopeful and grieving mother, Kathryn Newton as Ivy, the skeptical with reason sister and Lucas Hedges as a convincingly angsty Ben, who knows that there is little he can do in the face of this crippling curse, his addiction. The situation is as terrifying as A Quiet Place but even more so because we all know that this national scourge and personal tragedy is happening in real life as we speak.

In spite of the strength in the acting, production value and sentiment in this film, the parts don’t ever come together to form a greater whole. The cause is a meandering story that strains plausibility and telegraphs its plot points miles ahead of when they occur. However, this is an intelligent film with a lot of heart that also has the possibility of spurring on conversations around this most critical of social issues. It may not rise to the level of a classic family drama as say Ordinary People but Ben is Back will provide a powerful message for those closely dealing with the problem of addiction and as a cautionary tale for many others. 

Vice

L&D took advantage of some Marcus Rewards to see Vice on bargain Tuesday,  and after some minor hiccups with the cashier, we made it in to see an alarming trailer of an upcoming Topher Grace film, Breakthrough.   In good trailer tradition, we now know the plot pretty much exactly, and L&D will likely be able to skip that one altogether.

Of course, we were there to see Vice, writer-director Adam McKay’s portrait of former Secretary of Defense and Vice President, Dick Cheney, and we thought we pretty much knew what was going to happen in this movie, too.  So, really, we were there to see if Christian Bale’s portrayal is all that it’s cracked up to be — it is, he’s brilliant and gets it right, the pause, the sneer.  Bale is not the only big, big star here, with Amy Adams playing Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, and Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld.   Adams is very good and Carrell starts out really strong and fades a bit, while Rockwell doesn’t really get much to work with beyond something just above an SNL-type portrayal.  Good work if you can get it.

The movie is fine, really, funny in parts — the first end-credits bit was pretty clever — but ultimately it turns into a polemical hit piece on Cheney.  This is somewhat amusing because the film makers were obstinate that this was based on the facts.  Even if that were true, which it probably isn’t, there are many facts that are omitted, on the one hand, and many connections that are somewhere between tenuous and ridiculous.

On the first part, consider the complete omission of the Iraq war under President George H.W. Bush.  It was during that war that Cheney and General Colin Powell emerged as a tandem with real star power.  Here’s the take of Slate’s, Fred Kaplan, who certainly knows plenty about Cheney’s career:

The film …barely mentions the first Gulf War, during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when Cheney was secretary of defense. This is no small matter: The fact that the elder Bush won that war but left Saddam Hussein in power had an influence on how the younger Bush and Cheney viewed the second Iraq war a decade later.

Another reason for McKay’s brush-off of the first Gulf War may be that dealing it would have forced him to confront the fact that, even by the estimate of his critics (including me), Cheney oversaw that war—and handled his duties as defense secretary broadly—with open-minded professionalism. McKay begins the film by having his narrator say that when Cheney became vice president, nobody knew much about him. In reality, he’d emerged from the Gulf War an admired celebrity. In his many press interviews at the time, he came off as an emblem of cool competence…

This is why so many people who observed Cheney under Bush Sr. (including me) were so stunned and puzzled by his fanatical turn under Bush Jr.  What changed? Had the three heart attacks blocked some of the oxygen to his brain? Was it the sheer scare of Sept. 11? Was it his belief that, in the wake of its Cold War victory and the Soviet Union’s implosion (an important contextual event the film ignores), the United States could get away with a more aggressive foreign policy and, therefore, should? In the film, from the time of his ascent to high power on, he undergoes no change and thus there’s no need to explain it.

That is my emphasis in spots, because I really couldn’t agree more with those quotations.  I lived in DC during the bulk of the first Gulf War, and remember watching the Cheney-Powell show with some legitimate DC insiders.  He was masterful and definitely admired from both sides of the aisle, regardless of what your thoughts on that war were.  That entire Kaplan piece is a pretty good summation of my view on the “facts” in this one.

As far as the second point goes — some of the conclusions the film makers seem to draw about Cheney’s influence — it seems unlikely that Cheney is responsible for political polarization, ISIS, global climate change, the California wildfires, and the rise of Fox News, but I suppose it’s possible.  The expansiveness of the indictments and the black-hat, white-hat nature of the narrative is degrading to those in the audience with cerebral capabilities.

In the end, you might enjoy it no matter your politics.  I talked to someone today who said that their conservative father thought the movie was “satire,” rather than a biopic.  It has its moments.  It certainly has more than it’s share of star firepower.

The Mule

598168050_XS

After battling off illness and a last-minute cancellation last week, L&D finally made it out to see The Mule at the fabulous Marcus $5 Tuesday special.  As we are both on pre-holiday diets, we bypassed our free popcorns and headed straight into a reasonably crowded late showing.

The verdict?  Well, to paraphrase Lloyd Benston, it’s no Gran Torino (HT: L). In the plus column we have some very good and probably memorable performances by Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper, the former in the title role and the latter the FBI agent out to get him.  After that, the movie just isn’t that compelling. If you’ve seen the trailers, you probably have a reasonably good idea how this all unfolds.  The third lead, Ignacio Serricchio as Julio, the handler, doesn’t get his own subplot and consequently doesn’t quite add up. Laurence Fishburne and Diane Wiest are each given one note to play and are uninteresting.  That said, we did like Andy Garcia as the affable cartel head, much better than those meanie thugs that want to replace him, that’s for sure.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to like.   In addition to the solid lead characters, the production is pretty crisp and the movie has more than its fair share of tension.  Unfortunately, the back stories and supporting casts — Eastwood’s family, Cooper’s family, the Cartel drama — don’t add up to a story that will stay with us.  Indeed, the movie is based on a newspaper article, which isn’t terribly surprising given the strong central story line and the less fleshed out supporting material.  My guess it’s staying power will be about as great in your memory — you’ll remember the headline and a few details, but more as an anecdote than as a thesis.

So, solid fare, over the $5 bar, nice enough, but it’s no Gran Torino.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? & Green Book

CYEFMAGB.png

There are a lot of commonalities in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Green Book, though it may not be apparent on the surface. For starters both are period pieces, early 1990s and 1950s respectively, at least in part both are New York stories, both depict the real life of an LGBT person without their sexual identity being the focal point of the story and they are buddy movies about artists. 

Another aspect these films share is that the trailers are absolutely useless. Even the great zingers in these films build up over time. The writing is fantastic and the laughs are meaningful, not forced from an armlock. YOU’RE LAUGHING, RIGHT? 

Performance-wise Melissa McCarthy shows off an impeccable range. It’s a devastating, funny and realistic performance. You don’t doubt her portrayal of author and literary forger Lee Israel for a single moment. 

Mahershala Ali’s performance is spot on as sophisticated piano virtuoso, Dr. Don Shirley and his Odd Couple routine with ever impressive Viggo Mortensen brings out the real humanity and depth of both of these characters. “I understand that life can be complicated” says Mortensen’s Tony Lip, a man otherwise known more for his knuckles than his compassion. Their adventures on a music tour in the segregated deep south of not so very long ago America brings our history to light in a truthful and in between the laughs, heartbreaking way. 

These films are Oscar worthy in various artistic and technical categories. If you are looking for funny, deep, thought provoking, well-crafted, historical and yet personal films to watch, I recommend Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Green Book to you. 

The Front Runner

The-Front-Runner-YouTube-730x410.jpg

How could any film honestly dealing with the life of Gary Hart not be called Monkey Business? Even if there were already several other films about him titled Monkey Business, that would be no excuse. As Chappaquiddick is to Kennedy, Monkey Business is and always will be to Hart. 

That these filmmakers chose to call this movie The Front Runner set me up to viewing it skeptically. They must be Gary Hart apologists, I thought. And it does seem that way as the film bends credulity in trying to have you somehow sympathize with a man who after becoming the lead candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1987, decided to charter a boat, Monkey Business, for a week long trip to Bimini. Here he openly has an affair with one Donna Rice. It comes at a point in American culture when suddenly the private lives of public figures like politicians were fair game for the traditional press. This could be due to the rise of cable TV, the 24 hour news cycle, the perception that the tabloid press was becoming more mainstream, all of the above and perhaps even other factors. The point being that Gary Hart flaunted his indiscretion and simply shrugged it off. 

After his affair is revealed, Hart doesn’t get the implications and completes several tone deaf moves like arguing with the editor of the paper that exposed him at the podium of what was ostensibly an economic forum and coming up flat in his response to a press conference question, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?” Defining moments for his candidacy. 

The film is especially annoying in that you are supposed to somehow feel that Hart is an anti-hero who is trying to protect all of our privacy rights. When in the end it is Hart who is calling for the spotlight on himself. At one point daring the press to follow him. So what did he expect and what are we left to think about him and his sense of judgement and character?

There is one great opening shot, a fantastic oner that floats around an on-location TV broadcast outside Hart’s hotel and captures the milieu around a presidential race. Otherwise, the film generally clunks along cinematically.  If you are a political wonk, or get into films where people take shots at each other while doing logistics and PR  around a table, some of this film might work for you. Or maybe you are a history buff and are simply curious about this episode in American political and pop culture. Okay, I can see that. But otherwise this film doesn’t do anyone justice and is the visual equivalent of stubbing your toe.

Even the casting is way off here as Gary Hart was never so buff and Hugh Jackman seems like he is about to sprout Wolverine’s metallic fangs at any moment and gouge a few reporters. Instead of maybe taking his foot off the protein powder pedal and transforming more into the actual physique of the character, Jackman doubles down including a moment where Gary Hart is doing push-ups at a meeting. It’s laughable, in the worst way.  Instead of watching Monkey Business, why not toss a few National Enquirer copies on the yule log this holiday and fire up Three Days of the Condor?

Free Solo

freesolo.jpg

Free Solo is a movie that sneaks up on you. It’s a National Geographic documentary so you might at first be like, “Meh. How entertaining will this possibly be?” But it’s extremely entertaining and thought provoking. Suffice it to say that at an utter fraction of the budget of the next film we saw, Bohemian Rhapsody, Free Solo has enough raw intensity and emotion to make ten rock bio-pics. 

It actually took me a day or two to process everything I saw and experienced watching Free Solo.  I won’t say more because I don’t want to give anything away. There is one Achilles heel in the film for me and it’s the portrayal of the main characters’ girlfriend. There is a lot of drama built up around her, suggesting she is a bad influence or some type of bad luck that for me is unnecessary. Attempting the ultimate free solo, i.e. climbing the face of El Capitan in Yosemite without the aid of ropes, seems like more than enough of an obstacle for drama. She does however suitably relieve the intensity of the climb preparation in comical scenes where they contrast one another. For example, the scene where they buy a house in Las Vegas is pretty classic. You see Alex Honnold for the wild man he is, eating food out of a pot with a wooden spoon and talking about how he would be happy to sleep on the floor. 

If you take the time to watch this movie it’s something that will actually give back to you and enrich your life. There are not many movies you can say that about. And definitely catch it in the theater so you can truly appreciate the scale of this almost unimaginably epic undertaking.

Hunter Killer

hunter-killer-lg

Hunter Killer is nostalgic.   It’s nostalgic for some of the great submarine drama films like Das Boot and Hunt for Red October and Grey Lady Down (one of the first movies I can remember seeing in the theater; it gave me nightmares).   It’s nostalgic for a time when men were men and were at one with their careers.   And, it’s nostalgic for the time when people thought Hillary Clinton would win the presidency.   That’s a lot of nostalgia for just $5!

The movie stars Gerard Butler (no relation) as Joe Glass, a tough-as-nails, salt-of-the-earth, macho man first-time submarine captain — but not so heartless that he would put an arrow through a mama caribou out for a walk with all her little cariboos.  Joe takes the helm of a submarine en route to the icy waters of eastern Russia (or was it western Russia?), where he is to investigate the mysterious disappearance of another American submarine.   He explains to the crew that he is one of them, a career man, worked his way up from swabbing the deck and cleaning tubes and that he has saltwater in his veins.  This is a central point of the movie.

Glass’ counterpart on the Russian sub is also a career man who has dedicated his life to his underwater duties. This is clearly explained to us at least one point in the film, possibly four.  The Russian commander is decidedly shorter than Glass.

Meanwhile, back on terra firma, we have a team of rugged Navy SEAL-like characters, led by Toby Stevens, kicking ass and kicking more ass.  They are going to get  dropped into the s-h-you know what and things are going to get hot.  There is some great commando action for sure.  Stevens, it turns out, has also dedicated his life to the cause.

Back in Washington, we have Gary Oldham, who inexplicably shares top billing with Butler here.  This is not inexplicable because Oldham doesn’t have Butler’s acting chops; it is inexplicable because his character is so poorly written.  Oldham spends most of his time on screen pretty mad, possibly because he got cast in such a lousy role.  If you told me he was playing the role because he got drunk and lost a bet with Gerard Butler, that would make more sense than whatever actually happened to get him to waste his talent here.

Oldham is joined by, among others, Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini) in the military intelligence corner of the film.  Although Norquist is not in uniform, she does have a higher level of security clearance than her uniformed counterparts in the room.  But despite her elevated egghead standing, she has not dedicated her life to the cause, arriving at the crisis center war room straight from one of her kid’s school events.  The movie does not give you the sense that double duty as a mother is a mark in her favor.

Finally, in the fourth corner of the movie, we have some action taking place just off the icy waters of western Russia (or was it eastern Russia?) involving the Russian President (Alexander Diachenko) and assorted military personnel.   This is pretty interesting and not terribly generous to the Russians, perhaps explaining why the film distributor is having trouble releasing it in Russia and the Ukraine.   That’s probably a pretty interesting story in and of itself.  Google it and let me know.

Despite my objections to some of the cliches, the wooden story lines, and the pervasiveness of retrograde mentality, the story is compelling and the throwback action is generally fantastic.   If you long for a movie with some great scenery and lots of military tech on display, I’m guessing you will find a lot to like here.

As for the thematic elements, there is a guest appearance by a would-be Hillary Clinton-type presidential character (Caroline Gooodall), suggesting that production started prior to the 2016 election!  I suppose there is something interesting to be said about a movie that longs for days when men’s identities were at one with their careers would tacitly imagine a Clinton victory in 2016.   I’m just not sure what that is.

Overall, above the $5 bar for a fun story, good action in many “theaters,” a couple of compelling characters, and pretty awesome visuals along the way.  It won’t join the canon of awesome submarine thrillers, but the location scouting was magnificent, and this one should be enjoyed on a very large screen somewhere.

The Old Man & the Gun

MV5BOTk3NjU5MjIxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU0OTU2NTM@._V1_.jpg

I wish more movies were made like this. The Old Man & the Gun is a simple story, told by a cast of superstar actors in the most understated yet intensely dramatic way.  

The cast alone is a joy to behold as they light up the screen. Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits and Robert Redford in what is supposedly his last screen appearance  — we shall see. I actually worked on a movie with Danny Glover once called Supremacy. It was pretty cool being on set with him. He is a sweet dude. I can only imagine it was a kind of enchanted set with these greats just riffing away on some solid writing. 

There is a certain theme in TOM&TG which is, “Why are some people compelled to destructive behavior even in the face of their own eternal happiness?” Perhaps because your idea of eternal happiness is not theirs, even though they would like it to be…life would be much simpler and enjoyable for them that way. 

In the canon of heist films TOM&TG doesn’t tout the madness of Dog Day Afternoon, no chants of “At-ti-ca! / At-ti-ca!” here. Or the violence and naturalism of Hell or High Water. The crime itself isn’t the main point. It’s a fait accompli. Some of my favorite moments were things like the Tom Waits monologue about Christmas or Redford and Spacek’s first time sitting down for coffee, just shooting the breeze while we know he’s on the lam— and her calling him on his crap. It’s genuinely smart and amusing and real in its own right. It’s not Acting but acting and its great.

It’s interesting that as a period piece, TOM&TG is also filmed in the style of the period. In other words, it tells a story from the early 1980s with the same style or look films had in that general era. You almost feel like you are in a Three Days of the Condor fever dream. To that end, the film also comes through with some seriously laudable art direction.

So do yourself a favor and catch this one at some point when you want to watch a good film. 

 

Bad Times at the El Royale

BAD-TIMES-AT-THE-EL-ROYALE_POSTER-e1535472118923.jpg

You know you love the movies when you are able to watch the first few innings of your favorite baseball team in the MLB playoffs and figure well that’s that it’s movie night and I’ll find out who wins when I get out of the movies. Then, when the movie lets out you discover it’s the 11th inning and that the big and I mean enormous screen in the lobby of the movie theater is still paying the game. I was rooting for the Dodgers and everyone else was a Brewers fan, including one sweet old lady next to me who by the 12th inning, around 1:AM, was like, “Someone get a run I gotta go home and get some sleep.” All to say that it’s fun to have some extra community at the movies. One of the best things about baseball is going to the game and just being with people. I like to keep score at baseball games and there is always an oddball like me in every section to commiserate and compare notes with. I suppose you could say that I also like to keep score at the movies i.e., this blog. And as to the oddball I commiserate with, well…have you ever met D? 

Now how about Bad Times at the El Royale? We here at L & D are well known to rock our theater entrance perfectly after the trailers…since we can’t stand trailers. For this film in particular we were off and sadly saw various versions of trailers over the past several months. It certainly affected my experience. Are trailers before a movie passé, now that you can watch a trailer on demand on your smartphone?  

One thing that watching Bad Times at the El Royale sprung at us almost immediately were the similarities to an L & D all time favorite, Francis Ford Coppola’s undisputed masterpiece, The Conversation. If you have never seen The Conversation, please stop reading here. I will make a makeshift digital bookmark for you so that you know where to come back to once you have seen it. Okay here is the bookmark IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII ….So how was it? Pretty awesome, right? Now you see what the big stink is about Gene Hackman, right? So the first thing we noticed was the floorboards get torn up, just like the last scene in The Conversation. Then, a suitcase is opened with all the accouterments necessary for wiretapping, and many bugs are discovered in the room.  That’s two. Three, the suit which another character wears is a see-through rain jacket, exactly like the kind Hackman wears. Four, a confession to a priest occurs. There are more than likely other Conversation inspired aspects we didn’t pick up on in this viewing. When we checked with our confidential informant at the front desk, they did mention to us that the film had many Pulp Fiction like aspects. This must be a reference to the non-linear story. But the Tarantino film it reminded me more of was The Hateful Eight, with most of the action taking place in a remote mountain lodge. Of course, no suspense film would be without its Hitchcock references. Here most plainly to the Bates Motel in a rain storm in Psycho and to Rear Window with the voyeurism involved and even in the composition and literal framing of the inner workings of the El Royale.

The film can boast many positives, the acting is fantastic. Jeff Bridges is at his best. Cynthia Erivo drops a powerful, moving and at times jump out of your seat thrilling performance. The set design deserves an Oscar nomination and on down the line. The film is incredibly well-crafted and easy on the eyes. As I mentioned, the non-linear, at times repeating narrative certainly worked for me. As D openly rooted for the film at the start, the totally perfect set up needed to be continued. But after the untimely death of one of the main characters and then the addition of a not so believable character, the film flounders. Several people are killed in this film in a sort of so what type of way. But a lot of this blasé emotion is rescued by some biting dialogue and fierce acting.

Overall, I enjoyed Bad Times at the El Royale and though it may not reach the heights of the other films I referenced in this review, not many films do. At the same time it’s at least as good in terms of acting as The Hateful Eight so I would recommend it on that alone. Huzzah to Writer/Director Drew Goddard and DP Seamus McGarvey who also happened to shoot another favorite of mine, High Fidelity, which takes place in Chicago. D is Cubs fan. 

Venom

tom-hardy-battles-for-control-of-his-body-in-new-venom-scene-05-1

“Box Office Don’t Lie” is a favorite aphorism of my favorite movie review partner, and our feature this week appears to be a case where the 35 rating on Metacritic is perpendicular to the audience reaction.  Indeed, Marvel’s newest offering, Venom was the dominant offering over at the Marcus Cineplex the night we attended, and yet we sat in amidst a packed house to see last Tuesday night’s late screening.  To the extent that east central Wisconsin has its finger on the pulse of the box office, this one is headed to blockbuster status.

To those non-aficionados of the comic-book genre, Venom is an alien life form that instigates a symbiosis with a human carrier to elicit truly terrifying results.  That human is typically Peter Parker’s nemesis at The Daily Bugle, Eddie Brock, and we last saw the character in Spiderman 3, played by Topher Grace (and Parker himself also got venomized for a spell in that movie).  Spiderman 3 was a disaster of a movie that brought that particular story arc to a screeching halt (there there have been two more major studio arcs since, for those of you keeping score).  And, in the spirit of if at first you don’t succeed….

In this Venom incarnation, we don’t get any mention of Spidey, but we do get Eddie Brock, living in San Francisco having been chased out of Gotham some eastern city.  Brock finds himself as the investigative vlogger for the San Francisco paper / media concern, while living with his gorgeous lawyer girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams).  And it is Brock, played by Tom Hardy, that is pretty much the sole focus of the film — not as Hardy-centric as, say, Locke, but I would bet Hardy takes up over half of the screen time.  In contrast to the typical portrayal of Brock as a sniveling little weasel, Hardy plays it up more as a somewhat misguided urban hipster, lovable, but prone to bad judgement.  And once Brock and Venom become one, his back and forth with the alien symbiote push this one well over the $5 bar, even without the popcorn.  Indeed, I would argue that Hardy’s brilliant acting definitely undermines the credibility of the consensus panning of this one.

In fairness to the critics, there is plenty to complain about here.  First and foremost, the villain is weak.  If there is no Spidey to stop Venom, what exactly is going on in this movie?  And that is pretty much the rub.  The film trots out Riz Ahmed as the mad scientist, sort of an Elon Musk type who we also see loosely in Tony Stark and Norman Osborn and Lex Luthor, among others — the Big Brain, megalomaniac, world-conquerer type. Above the law and making his play to improve on the human condition.

Well, as we have remarked before, the villain / foil is really a key to a good action movie (e.g., Hans Gruber, the Joker, the Wicked Witch, Sam Gerard), and this movie doesn’t have it.  The best that can be said about the Ahmed character is his house on the banks of the Pacific just over the Golden Gate bridge is pretty cool, even if it does look remarkably like Tony Stark’s house further on down the coast in SoCal.  So, score one for the critical consensus on this front.

I suppose you could argue that Venom is Brock’s foil, and this relationship worked pretty well.  Kudos for that.  The audience repeatedly erupted in laughter from the alien commentary.   And, on that score, give it up for Tom Hardy.   His comedic, Men-in-Blackish portrayal of the alien’s host is good theater.  And, Hardy has now played two of the greatest comic book villains that DC and Marvel have offered up, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and now Venom in Venom.   It is too bad the idiotic story lines in both of these efforts failed to keep pace with his considerable talents.

With all that said, it is no big surprise that this is one that audiences love and critics hate.  For this coming Tuesday’s showings, our local Marcus Theater is presenting 15 Venom showtimes, compared to 16 combined for Bad Times at the El Royale and First Man.  Box Office don’t lie, indeed.   I guess when you are sizing this one up you have to ask yourself:  if you had been newly endowed with superpowers, would you take a leap off a tall building, or would you take the elevator down?   L&D recommend that you take the leap on this one.