Screening Room: A Little ‘Venom’ Goes a Long Way

Tom Hardy in Venom (2018)

A hybrid superhero-antihero misfire that wastes Tom Hardy in a should-have-been great role, Venom is somehow even less fun than when he played both Kray twins a few years back in the London gangster epic bomb Legend.

Venom is playing now pretty much everywhere. My review is at Film Journal International:

There are plenty of characters from the Spider-Man universe who could manage having a movie all to themselves. Eddie Redmayne as the Green Goblin. Maybe Tilda Swinton as a gender-reversed Doctor Octopus; just imagine the goggles. In theory, Venom should be perfectly able to handle a story all on his own. Despite serving as a somewhat weak anti-Peter Parker in the mostly forgotten Spider-Man 3, the ravening parasitic alien being seems like a perfectly good villain to set loose on an unsuspecting world…

Screening Room: ‘London Road’

londonroad1

The adventurous musical London Road was a smash hit in its brief run at the National Theatre. Now it’s a film, and for just a couple minutes, one can hear Tom Hardy do his level best at singing.

London Road is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International.

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Revenant’

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' (20th Century Fox)
Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’ (20th Century Fox)

The Revenant, the new film from Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Gravity, Birdman), is a revenge epic based on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel and starring Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterIt’s opening on Christmas Day in limited release and will expand wider in January. My review is at PopMatters:

A spiritual view of the natural world clashes with the animalistic drives of a fallen humanity in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s operatic wilderness survival tale,The Revenant. This freewheeling adaptation of Michael Punke’s novel about fur trappers, Indians, and soldiers tangling in primal ways on the Western American frontier in the 1820s stretches the limits of endurance in more ways than one. Inarritu’s film pushes against known boundaries of art, suffering, and revenge tale…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Legend’

Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy in 'Legend' (Universal Pictures)
Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy in ‘Legend’ (Universal Pictures)

Back in the 1960s, the Kray twins were a couple of the flashiest, most press-hungry gangsters that London’s East End had ever seen. In Brian Helgeland’s take on their story—based on John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence—Tom Hardy plays both Krays because, well, he’s Tom Hardy and there’s no good reason to think he can’t.

Legend is opening this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

By the time Legend starts, its real-life East End gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray(Tom Hardy, each time) are already the toast of Swinging 1960s London. BrianHelgeland’s crime epic dispenses with any rise to power, presenting us with these men already hitting peak power. They swagger though town as though they were ten feet tall, mocking the hapless cops detailed to follow them, knowing that fear and the East End’s tribal loyalties will keep anybody from informing. There is nowhere for them and the film to go, in other words, but down…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: Chaos Reigns in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Vroom, vroom - 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (Warner Bros.)
Vroom, vroom – ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (Warner Bros.)
madmaxfuryroad-posterIt’s been three decades since George Miller’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Things have changed. No more Mel Gibson, for one. Also, the postapocalyptic subgenre that Miller’s series helped sparked off has practically gone full mainstream. Sadly, no Tina Turner. Now, here comes Mad Max: Fury Road, with Tom Hardy in the driver’s seat.

Mad Max: Fury Road (aka, the fourth one) is playing pretty much everywhere now. My review is at Short Ends & Leader:

A demolition derby of a chase scene occasionally interrupted by scraps of crackpot wit and Aussie slang-strangled dialogue, Mad Max: Fury Road burns through ammunition and fuel with abandon. You would think that the characters were video-game avatars possessed of endlessly replenishable digital supplies, not the starving and sickly remnants of humanity barely surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Unlike many action films, though, where such profligacy is determined by need for trailer-ready action beats, here it’s central to the film’s story and message…

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fight the future (Warner Bros.)
Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fight the future (Warner Bros.)
Here’s the trailer, dig it:

New on DVD: ‘Life Itself’

The writer at rest: 'Life Itself' (Magnolia Pictures)
The writer at rest: ‘Life Itself’ (Magnolia Pictures)

One of the better documentaries that ever-so-briefly graced screens in 2014 was Life Itself. Directed by Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and based in part on Roger Ebert’s memoir, the film is a fascinating and curiously life-affirming story about ambition, creativity, and getting on with things.

lifeitself-posterLife Itself is available on DVD today; my review is at Film Racket:

James takes Ebert’s 2011 memoir as his source document. From there we get Ebert’s memories of growing up as a precociously verbal only child in downstate Illinois. (“My mother supported me like I was the local sports team.”) He describes himself as not just a born writer but a born journalist. This was not a kid who wanted to just write for high-brow publications. He wanted to be read and heard by as many people as possible. Thus the career that arced from working-class daily paper to syndicated TV show and appearances on Carson and Letterman. When called upon he could pen a learned piece for Film Comment (as he did in response to a Richard Corliss piece that called him out as an egregious “thumbs up/thumbs down” simplifier and bottom-racer). But as much as he admired the Pauline Kaels and Andrew Sarrises of the world, that was never going to be him…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: Tom Hardy in ‘Locke’

Tom Hardy in 'Locke' (A24)
Tom Hardy in ‘Locke’ (A24)

In the summer of 2014, a little film named Locke came and went from a few cinemas in an eyeblink. It’s not hard on the surface to see why: The secretive trailer promises only a one-man show: Tom Hardy in a car for about an hour-and-a-half, grousing and pleading on the phone. Just as audiences failed to find it, the Golden Globes also ignored the film, as most likely the Oscars will too.

Do yourself a favor and check out Locke, which is available on DVD and VOD now. My review is at Short Ends and Leader:

The prospect of spending an hour and a half with an actor in a car while they sweet-talk and argue with people on the phone would normally be straight tedium … But when the actor is Tom Hardy, it’s a different story. In Steven Knight’s spellbinding Locke, Hardy darts through the tense screenplay with such graceful ease that his work feels more like something lived than performed. By the time this downbeat nail-biter is done, it feels justified to finally go ahead and say that Hardy is easily one of the greatest actors of his generation…

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘The Drop’

Tom Hardy, faithful dog, and Noomi Rapace in 'The Drop' (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Tom Hardy, faithful dog, and Noomi Rapace in ‘The Drop’ (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

With a screenplay by Dennis Lehane (Mystic RiverShutter Island), an Oscar-nominated director (Michaël R. Roskam, for Bullhead), and an Oscar-worthy turn by Tom Hardy, The Drop would seem to have plenty of ability to overcome its status as a run-of-the-mill crime drama about a mob-linked bar in Brooklyn. Whether it does or doesn’t is up for debate; the genius of Hardy’s performance shouldn’t be.

The Drop is playing in most markets around the country now. My review is at PopMatters:

The response of your average cineaste, upon hearing the words “In Brooklyn…” in a film’s opening narration, is to look for the nearest exit. What follows is too frequently more mythologizing than storytelling. The borough is transformed from specific place to psychic landscape, full of tribal loyalties and tight bonds, where the begrimed and as-yet ungentrified street scene indicates bootstrapping and self-policing pride. Cops not needed here.

However, if you follow your instincts and bolt at the start of Michael R. Roskam’s sturdy and bleak noir The Drop, you miss Tom Hardy creating a thing of beauty yet again…

You can see the trailer here: