Thursday, November 29, 2018

Widows (a movie review post)

There are times when I read a book or watch a movie then refer back to the blurb about the work and wonder if the person who wrote that blurb actually partook of the material. I've come to decide that the answer to that is "no." The writer of the blurb watched, maybe, the first 10 minutes of the movie or read the first chapter or two of the book, enough to give them an idea of what they assumed the work was about, then wrote the summary based on that. And, you know, maybe that actually works for some material, maybe even most material, but, for anything complex, it does not. So, despite the talk to the contrary, Widows is not a heist movie [and, just to say it, The House on the Corner is not a haunted house story (or a heist story)]. Sure, it has a heist in it, but that doesn't make it a "heist movie."

What, then, is the movie about? In a word, I'm going to say that the movie is about betrayal. Betrayal and the far-reaching effects of it. I would say more, but anything else would be all spoilery, and you should really see this movie without it being spoiled for you. I mean, Gillian Flynn co-wrote it, so you know it's gonna have some twists in it, and I don't want to ruin those for anyone.

The movie does begin with a heist, a heist gone wrong. Tragically wrong. Which is what sets in motion the events of the rest of the movie, as the widows of the men killed try to pick up the pieces of their lives. The women, all of them, are interesting and complex characters and each is extremely well acted.

The movie rests on the very capable shoulders of Viola Davis, whose character, Veronica, is dealing with two tragedies plus the threat of violence against her. She is cold and hard and determined, and every part of Davis exudes these characteristics. She is more than believable in her role.

As may be expected by Steve McQueen (remember, he made 12 Years a Slave), the movie deals with themes of racism, while not actually being about racism. It's also politically relevant, pitting Jack Mulligan (played by Colin Farrell), who could pass for a somewhat progressive Democrat (at least, he's trying to do things for the betterment of the people whom he wants to represent), against his father, Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall), a flaming racist Republican who only wants power for the sake of the power and not allowing African Americans the chance to have any. There's a great scene between the two of them... Well, that's all I'm going to say about that.

Also, I'll admit to having a Duvall bias. Between The Natural and Lonesome Dove, I came to love him as an actor while I was a teenager. And I tend to always think that Colin Farrell doesn't get the attention he deserves. He's not necessarily great at picking roles, but he's a great actor.

On the other hand, Liam Neeson has become a cardboard cutout of himself. Fortunately, this is another of those roles for him where he just gets to be that same kind of guy. Which is to say that he was just fine and did everything that was required of him in the movie.

Of the movies being talked about for Best Picture nominations this year, this is not my pick. However, of the movies my wife and I have seen so far of the probable nominations, this is the one we have talked about most since seeing it. I'm telling you, this movie has layers. It is the only one that we've decided that we actually must see again (though that will likely not be in the theater) because, now, knowing how it ends, we want to see some scenes again with that knowledge in our heads.

Also, I don't know that I'd say this is a "must see" movie, but it's very good and worth seeing. At least it is if you like movies that aren't quite as straightforward as they may seem and that will make you think, because this movie is likely to make you think. You probably can't ask more of a movie than that.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody (a movie review post)

To be honest, this is going to be less a review and more a reflection. Just so you know.

I was never into Queen when I was growing up. It wasn't my kind of music. I grew up in a house where almost all the music that was played when I was a kid in the 70s was 60s folk music. Until I was about 15, my musical world mostly consisted of Simon and Garfunkel; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and Bob Dylan. With a little bit of Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, and "Believe It or Not" thrown in. It didn't help that the church we went to held to a view that rock music was of the Devil. I don't know that that was ever explicitly said (at least not until I was a teenager and started to listen to a bit of rock), but the attitude was pervasive enough that I didn't have trouble picking up on it.

That said, songs like "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" made me uncomfortable at best. However, it was "Another One Bites the Dust" that was the first of their songs that really entered my world. One of my best friends (who was a two grades ahead of me and someone I really looked up to) was really into Queen and that song in particular. A song that was the target of the religious Right as containing a secret backmasked messaged about the fun of marijuana. My friend had the album on vinyl, so we spent a not inconsiderable amount of time spinning the record backwards trying to hear it. Yeah, we never did.

Of course, that was only the precursor to the debate over Mercury's sexuality. One of many of similar debates including Elton John, George Michael, and, well, never mind... There was no debate over Boy George; everyone had already made up their minds, whether it was true or not.

Maybe if I had been more invested in the music of any of these people, then I would have cared more about the "discussions," but I didn't need to defend my listening choices against the attempted vilification of these people and their music by the "church." Not that I thought it should matter. Whether I liked the music or not had nothing to do with whom the singer (or members of the band or whatever) was fucking, and, if I liked it, I didn't much care what other people had to say about it, as was entirely apparent when I did discover rock music at 15. I didn't understand why it should matter to anyone.

But it did. To the point where my friend, the one who loved Queen, got into an actual fist fight over whether Freddy Mercury was or was not gay. It was very (very!) important to him that Mercury not be gay. The other boy was just taunting him over it. Imagine his surprise...

Needless to say, I have a much greater appreciation of Queen at this point in my life. Both for the band and for their music, even if "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" will never be among my favorite songs. I have an even greater appreciation for Freddy Mercury and who he was as a person. He may have been a musical genius, at least when he was in collaboration with his band mates, and he died too young. He was younger than I am now, which is difficult for me to grasp for some reason.

The movie was great. I won't go back to the theater to see it again (because there are too many movies we need to see coming out right now), but I am going to see this one again. Rami Malek was incredible. I'm not familiar enough with him to know how incredible, but he was outstanding. All of the actors playing the band members were great. By my standard of knowing a good movie by whether it makes my wife cry, this movie was great. I think she spent a solid 15-20 minutes in tears toward the end of the film.

I think this is one of those "must see" movies. If you like Queen, it certainly is. I think if you don't like Queen, it probably should be, too. There are too many struggles highlighted in the movie that we are still dealing with today for people not to see it. Of course, the people who probably ought to see it most, won't; because that's how that kind of thing goes. It doesn't mean they shouldn't see it, though, just that they are too closed-minded and uncaring to understand.

Oh, and I just have to say, the bit with Mike Myers over the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" was epic.

Here's my closing thought, one I had during the movie:
What if I'm not pretending to be someone I'm not but pretending to be someone I'm not yet.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (a movie review post)

My question as I'm sitting here staring at my screen and thinking about this movie is this:
Are comedians somehow more -- "qualified" is not exactly the word I want to use, maybe "adept"? -- more something, at any rate, than other actors in dramatic and tragic roles? They certainly seem better at disappearing into those roles than other actors. But, then, comedy has tragedy at its heart, so I suppose it makes sense.

What I know for certain is that Melissa McCarthy is great in her role as Lee Israel, a down on her luck author who turns to literary crime to support herself. I bet you didn't know literary crime was a thing, did you? At least not a thing you can make money at, but, then, you can look at some of the best sellers and see that, sometimes at least, crime really does pay. Of course, that's not the kind of crime I'm talking about here. Israel's crime was forging letters from famous, deceased authors and actors and selling them off to collectors.

To its credit, the movie did make me want to read the book it's based on... or, at least, it made me want to want to. Knowing myself, I know that I will never actually read it because I'm not quite curious enough to follow through on that, but, if I had the book right here in front of me, I would give it the chance to suck me in. After all, it is by and about an author and her author journey. Sort of.

Anyway... Melissa McCarthy. She's great. Funny, funny lady. We, my wife and I, love her, though I'm sure my wife loves her more. I'm not sure I would have been interested in seeing this movie without her in it. It's an interesting story, but McCarthy makes it captivating. Obviously, I never met Lee Israel, but it seems from the things I've read about Israel and the things she said about what she did
that McCarthy really captured her spirit. She's worth the movie, which is good since she's the star.

Richard Grant, who plays Israel's sidekick (of a sorts), is also wonderful. Charismatic and charming and, again, tragic. He captures it all. They're a good team. And their relationship is heartbreaking.

It's not my pick for Best Picture, but I do hope it gets nominated. And McCarthy for best actress. She deserves it. And she may be my pick for that category. You should probably see it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Shadow Over Innsmouth (a book review post)

As I've mentioned before, Lovecraft was not very successful in his day. In fact, he was decidedly unsuccessful. Fans of Lovecraft like to say that it's because he was before his time, but, no, really, it was because he was a bad writer. He had interesting ideas, but his writing was mostly shit. No one would know who he was if this other author hadn't come along after he died and had the thought, "Huh. I can do something with this Cthulhu stuff." There's a reason Shadow Over Innsmouth was Lovecraft's only published book.

Part of me wanted to like this one. Lovecraft spent some time and really built this one up. He made it seem as if it was going to be something. Go somewhere other than where Lovecraft usually goes. You've got this student interested in architecture travelling through New England in order to take in the sights and see the buildings. He doesn't have much money, so he's travelling as cheaply as possible and, thus, discovers Innsmouth as a cheap detour to get to where he really wants to go. But he's intrigued because the people of the neighboring towns don't like Innsmouth or the people who live there.

Of course, in true Lovecraft style, this is all flashback. The protagonist is telling a story from his youth that was so horrifying that he hasn't shared it with anyone since it happened... until now. And, this, actually, is what causes the story, ultimately, to fail.

Yes, there will be spoilers. You should be able to tell by this point that I didn't care for Innsmouth which may be all you need to know. If you don't plan to read it, though, you may as well read on.

Lovecraft has a severe issue with logical inconsistencies. I suppose this isn't an issue for people who don't think about what they're reading, but I do, so his inconsistencies tend to stack up for me as I read until his stories lose cohesion. I suppose that's what makes his shorter works somewhat easier to take: They're not long enough for him to contradict himself too much or stick in very much information that just plain doesn't make any sense.

For instance, when the protagonist arrives in Innsmouth, already set against it due to the driver of the bus he arrived on and his reception at the hotel (or whatever it was), he seeks out some non-natives...

Wait a minute; this already doesn't make any sense. Everyone in the surrounding towns hates Innsmouth and there are no people from outside of it who live there. The town is dirt poor with no economy, so there's no plausible explanation for anyone to be commuting into Innsmouth for work... And, yet, there is a boy from one of the neighboring towns who works at a grocery store in Innsmouth. On the flimsiest of reasons. But Lovecraft needs this non-native boy as a plot device so inserts him and tries to brush it off with a lame excuse.

Basically, he needs the boy to up the creepy factor by offering an exposition on what life is like inside the town. Then he has the boy sketch out a very detailed map of the entire town, including all of the street names, in just a moment or two, a map which the protagonist refers back to throughout the story and that Lovecraft uses as a device to give the protagonist an almost clairvoyant knowledge of Innsmouth. You know, something like he would have had if he'd lived there all his life. I was annoyed every time he pulled out that map.

The thing that breaks the story, though, is Lovecraft's insistence on the twist ending. Where did that even come from? Was it Lovecraft? I don't know. I just can't think of anyone who wrote earlier than him that did that shit. Forcing in the twist endings doesn't work out in the long term, just ask Shyamalan.

Anyway, the twist ending in this one is so out-of-context from the events in the rest of the story that it broke the whole thing for me. It makes the rest of the story, basically, a lie -- not on the events themselves but in the frame of mind in the narration -- and made me feel like I'd wasted my time. Oh, wait, I wasted my time! Because I did.

Which is not to say that the whole Lovecraft experiment has been a waste of time, but the experiment itself has been valuable. More on that when I finish the last few stories I have to read. And, boy, am I ready to be through reading them! Like I said, Lovecraft is mostly a shit writer.

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Star Is Born (a movie review post)

Bradley Cooper may be the best actor of his (my) generation. Which is saying a lot, I know, but he's able to become a character in a way few other actors are ever able to do. Daniel Day-Lewis, but he's always been hampered by how far into a character he goes to be able to portray that character, taking him years to re-emerge after a role. And that's less about acting than it is about just becoming some other person for a time. Like a deep undercover agent.

Christian Bale has always been willing to go to whatever physical extreme for his roles, like dropping to something around 90 lbs. for his role in The Machinist, but he always just seems like Christian Bale as far as the actual acting goes.

Bradley Cooper seems like something else entirely.

Or maybe I'm just biased. I've liked Cooper since Alias. At the time (wow, that was more than 15 years ago!), I told my wife that he was going to be somebody. Not that she paid any attention to what I was saying. I mean, why should she have? The comment wasn't even worth disbelieving; it was flung out into the cosmos like a piece of rock from an asteroid collision.

Despite Cooper's burst into stardom a few years ago, it's with this movie more than any other (except, maybe, American Hustle (with Christian Bale, no less)) where Cooper really shows the full range of his skills. Sometimes, he's hard to watch on screen. It's painful.

And I'm not even talking about his adoption of Sam Elliot's voice, but wow! I've done voices, and I've done voices that have hurt and damaged my throat, and I'm beyond impressed that Cooper was able to pull off that voice for such a sustained amount of time. Oh, and fun fact: He decided on that voice before they'd actually cast Elliot as his brother, so it was sweet that they got him and amazing to hear them exchange dialogue.

But this isn't really about Cooper; it's about the movie. Which he also directed. So, yeah...

The movie is great. I haven't seen the original nor have I seen the Streisand remake of the 70s. Or, at least, I have no memory of seeing it, though it's possible I may have actually seen that as a kid, because my mom was a huge Streisand fan. All of that to say that I'm looking at this film on its own merits without any comparisons to other iterations. I really enjoyed it. It almost brought me to tears on a number of occasions but didn't quite manage to cross that line. I don't know if that's a plus or a minus.

Lady Gaga was also amazing. This isn't really her debut role as an actress or anything, but it also kind of is. I think she was perfect. And believable. What more can you ask?

I already want to see the movie again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Rebels: "Iron Squadron" (Ep. 3.08)

-- "The Iron Squadron doesn't run."

Ever want to see the Dunning-Kruger effect in operation? Well, in fictional operation, at any rate. This is a good episode for that.

What we have is a group of rebels evacuating from a planet that the Empire is coming to... cleanse...? of its rebelliousness. Most of the rebels do the smart thing and leave before the Empire's task force arrives. However, one group, Iron Squadron, refuses to leave. According to their leader, Martin, Iron Squadron doesn't run.

Of course, Iron Squadron doesn't really know what they're dealing with. When they manage to take out an Imperial transport ship -- a transport! -- Martin believes they've taken out a Star Destroyer and won't listen to anything that says otherwise. Not that he doesn't believe that it wasn't a Star Destroyer, he just doesn't believe there's any conceivable difference between the Star Destroyer and what he just destroyed. Until he runs up against a light cruiser and... loses. Only then does he begin to understand.

It's an interesting exploration into ignorance and touches on why some people don't flee from natural disasters. Or, well, vote for things that do they harm, like Republicans. They're so uneducated as to think that the transport ship they're facing is a Star Destroyer.

Good episode.

"Good luck with Iron Squadron..."
"Sounds like a ship full of Ezras!"

Friday, November 9, 2018

Rebels: "Imperial Supercommandos" (Ep. 3.07)

-- "Strategy is an art. Maybe I'm luring you into a false sense of security."

Oh, wow, it's been a while since I've done one of these. I've just been busy, I guess.
But this was a good, and exciting, episode to jump back in on.
Of course, the Mandalorian stuff is always good. Or, at least, interesting. This one was both.

This episode ties back to... oh, I don't know, some episode or other, back in season two, I think. Another Mandalorian episode, but I'm not going to go look it up, right now. At any rate, in the earlier episode, the Rebels cook up a deal with a Mandalorian outpost for safe passage through their system.  But that outpost has gone silent, so Ezra and Sabine, along with a "guest," go to check it out. They fear the Mandalorians may be setting a trap for Rebel ships passing through the system. Oh, the deal? Well, it wasn't exactly reached by choice on the part of the Mandalorians.

When they get there, though, the find that the base has been wiped out, everyone killed. Those responsible? Imperial Supercommandos. And they are pretty cool looking, let me tell you. They are also traitor Mandalorians who joined the Empire, which is part of why they're so cool. They're like hybrid stormtrooper/Mandalorians. And what kid didn't want that action figure back in the 80s?!?! Or now, probably.

The episode is actually a lot more complex than what I've gone into here, but, hey, no spoilers, right? Well, I guess I kind of did give a spoiler about the commandos... excuse me, supercommandos! But, hey, it's in the title, so I'm going to give it a pass.

And, well, we find out a thing about Sabine, and I think that's going to come back to haunt her. Or us. I am writing this on Halloween evening, so I'm going with the haunt... Hey, you know what? No one ever goes trick-or-treating as a ghost anymore. Did Charlie Brown ruin it for everyone?
Maybe no one ever went as a ghost? Except me... Because I did, sort of, when I was 11: the ghost of Scooby Doo. Yeah, I'm not going to explain that.

"What took you so long?"
"I was using strategy! It takes longer!"

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Arabella (an opera review post)

All right, so, remember back to my review of Elektra where I said that it kind of put me off Strauss and that that might not be fair? Of course, you don't, which is why I put in a link so that you can go back and look. As it turns out, it wasn't fair. Not that I like Elektra anymore than I did at the time, but I thoroughly enjoyed Arabella, one of Strauss' comedies, a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy with those Shakespearean kinds of mistaken identities going on.

And the music was much better.

Not to do a plot synopsis (because you can look that up if you want to know what it's about), but I'm going to give you a little of the set up... because it's funny, and you can probably figure out where some of the humor in this piece will come from once I tell you.

Count Waldner has come down in the world, and he and his family are living out of a swanky hotel. Which may not sound like he's doing too terribly, but that means he's had to sell off his ancestral home and, evidently, he's behind on what he owes to the hotel, too. Through the course of the opera, we learn that he has a gambling addiction; maybe not the actual original source of his family's financial woes, but he's certainly not helping anything.

The count and his wife have two daughters, but daughters are expensive to bring out into society, so they have raised the younger daughter, Zdenka, as a boy, at least as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Which includes Zdenka's best friend, Matteo, who believes Zdenko (notice the spelling difference) is his bro. The count and his wife are trying to marry Arabella off to some rich suitor so that they can get some money out of the deal. Of course, Arabella wants none of that; she wants to marry for love.

To complete matters, Matteo is in love with Arabella, whom he used to "date," or whatever you'd call what they did, but Arabella is over him and has no interest in him. However, Zdenka is in love with Matteo, who thinks she's a boy.

I'm sure you're getting the picture.

And I haven't even mentioned the guy who shows up in love with Arabella after only seeing a photograph of her! But that's handled relatively believably, so it wasn't a problem.

For once, I wasn't really impressed with the set. It was interesting in its versatility, as they used the same main two set pieces (large pieces!) in different configurations to make the different rooms and things, but it all seemed a little too elaborate to me for something that could have been much less so. I mean, if there was ever an opera that could have gone for a minimalist set design, this was it. Basically, the set overwhelmed the preforms, especially since most of the time there are only one or two people on stage.

The cast was good, especially the father and the daughters. Richard Fink (Count Waldner) was delightful as the card-obsessed, gambling dad who was constantly trying to figure out where he could get some money and get back into the game. His expressions were great, meaning he was a good actor on top of being a good singer.

Ellie Dehn (Arabella) and Heidi Stober (Zdenka), both of whom I've mentioned from other operas, were great and worked well together. Great sister chemistry, even with one of them dressed as a boy. Which kind of makes me wonder, now, how old Zdenka was was supposed to be, considering that she's referred to as a "boy" in the opera and Arabella is only at the age of being presented to society (so I'm kind of thinking that Arabella must be something like 16 or 17?). And Matteo is a soldier and trying to woo Arabella, so I'm thinking he must be around 20? But his best friend is still referred to as a kid, basically. And, well... Well, that would be telling.
Boy did I digress...

Anyway! Dehn and Stober are great together. And great individually.

What this opera did for me for sure was change my opinion on Strauss. At least as a composer. My thoughts on him as a person are bit more conflicted, but that's a story for another time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Love, Belief, and Why It Doesn't Matter

Have you ever been in love? I mean really, really infatuated. Remember that feeling?
Oh, wait... Actually, have you ever known anyone who fell in love? Have you watched him go through that phase when all he can think about is her? Have you watched her go through that phase when he can do no wrong?
Have you ever watched anyone fall in love with someone who was bad? Not just a bad match but a bad person.
Did you try to tell her? Did she listen to you?

You don't need to answer that question, because I already know the answer.
Of course, she didn't listen. He didn't either.
Because when you're in love, you don't listen. That's the curse of being in love.

I could go into all of  the neurochemical reasons for this, but I'm sure most of you aren't interested in the actual science behind love and, if you are, you can do your own research. It's all really quite fascinating. What it boils down to, though, is that "love" masks all the faults of the person who is the subject of the emotion. Even if that person were to stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, the person "in love" with the shooter would vote for him anyway.

Belief (or faith) is just like that. It creates the same sort neurochemical response in the brain, a response that overrides reason.

Basically, love makes people stupid. So does belief.

I could also go into why religious fanaticism is so much worse these days, and widespread, than it was, say, 50 years ago -- which has to do with religions shifting their focus to making sure that the "customer" has an emotional experience -- but it's not important at the moment. And, again, most of you probably don't actually care. Well... either you understand the situation and don't need the information, or you're bought into the religious system and will start making excuses for the Fifth Avenue shooter.

The point is this:
When someone is in love, you can't talk them out of it. There's no amount of objective data you can give someone that will convince them that the person they're in love with is going to damage them. Even if that person is doing it at that very moment.
"He beats you."
"But he loves me."
"If he loves you, he wouldn't beat you."
"It was my fault. I deserved it."
"You never deserve that. He beats you!"
"But he loves me."

Or whatever scenario you want to use.

I'm writing this post on November 5. It was supposed to be my post for today, but I didn't get it finished in time, as you can see by the fact that it has posted after the elections. The election has put this topic in my mind, because this is why you can't talk to Republicans. It's why you shouldn't bother. You can't talk them out of their abusive relationship with Trump (#fakepresident), and that's precisely what it is. He does harm and damage to the people who voted for him right along with everyone else, but they make excuses for him because they are "in love." And it's worse because the vast majority of them have it wrapped up in their fanatical religious beliefs.

This is where the exhortation to get out and vote was going to be (because, I'm sure, at this point, I don't have a lot of Right-leaning readers left (a few, yes, but not a lot), so I hope you did. I have my ballot right here next to me, and my wife and I are going to drop ours off as soon as she's home (remember, it's Monday for me). I'm kind of in holding-my-breath mode to see what happens.

Anyway... I'm in rambling stage, so I'm just gonna go now.
I'm sure I'll have something to say about the election at some point, just not today because I'm out of town.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

Venom (a movie review post)

Where do I even start with this? I mean, a Venom movie without Spider-Man? How do you even? Just the idea sounds insane. And with Tom Hardy... I'm sure I've mentioned how not a fan of Tom Hardy I am.

But it's Venom, so I went to see it. Which is not to say that I'm some huge Venom fan, at least not of what he grew into, but, back when he was first introduced, he was a pretty cool and innovative character.

So let's start there, at the beginning. Which is to say that Venom has a very... problematic... origin.
An origin that I'm not going to get into, right now, because it has nothing to do with the movie. I only bring it up because when Venom was first introduced as a character outside of the comics (back in one of the animated Spider-Man shows from the 90s), they needed a non-Secret Wars origin for the symbiote, so they chose to have it be from outer space. Which you can't really argue, anyway, because when the "suit" was first introduced, no one knew it where it came from other than that it was on the Beyonder's war planet.

All of that to say that the origin in the movie is derived less from the comic books and more from a previously established pop culture origin story that more people are probably familiar with than the number of people who know that actual origin of the alien symbiote. That part of it, I can give a pass.

I'm less comfortable with the part of it where Venom is part of an alien invasion force. That coupled with the human names for the symbiotes (oh, yes, there are more than one!) gave that aspect of the movie a bit of a Transformers feel.

And I miss the spider on Venom. That feels to me as if it is part of the character and leaving it off (because in this origin without the involvement of Spider-Man, why would there be a spider?) takes away somewhat from the character.

Overall, though, they did a fine and decent job with coming up with an origin for the character, and I do hope Venom and Spider-Man end up in a movie together... Well, this Venom and the current Spider-Man under Marvel's control, because I think that would turn out to be... great? Yeah, probably great.

Which brings me to Tom Hardy. He was surprisingly good. They made the Eddie Brock character a bit more... I don't know. In the comics, Brock was a loser. Just a loser. A wannabe. He had a beef with Parker because Parker wouldn't work with him, which was because Brock was a no-talent loser. This iteration of Brock starts him out at the top, not just competent but exceptional, then they bring him down and make him a loser. Washed up. Hardy played both ends of that spectrum believably, so I have to give him kudos for that. And he pulled off playing against a disembodied voice, so I have to give him credit for that, too. Maybe Hardy just needs to quit working with Nolan, because Nolan seems intent on making Hardy into nothing more than a mumbling pair of lips.

Then there's Michelle Williams who is a bowl of boiled noodles. Just the noodles with nothing on them. Not even butter. I suppose there are some people out there who like plain noodles, but they don't taste like much and have no flavor or character. Neither does Williams. She's good at delivering her lines, but there's nothing much to her. She's always the same, and she felt more like a placeholder here than anything else.

It was, however, nice to see Jenny Slate, who was so... normal in this role that I kept questioning whether it was really her.

My final analysis is that this movie is better than every single DC movie that has come out. Hands down. In fact, the DC movies don't even get close. No, it's not as good as the Marvel Studios movies, though I'd say it holds its own against Fox's X-Men films, but the only DC movie that's even on the same playing field is Wonder Woman. So, yeah, I'd go see another Venom movie -- and they teased one in the clip in the credits -- though it's unclear whether it will get a second one since it seems to be under performing a bit. Well, you know, you leave out Spider-Man and it loses a lot of its draw. Tom Hardy isn't a big enough name to get people into the theaters on his own, and most people's only experience with Venom is Spider-Man 3.

All of which is to say that you're not going to be missing out if you don't watch this. Unfortunately. It's a pretty standard superhero kind of movie even if this particular "hero" does have a taste for eating brains. But it doesn't tie into anything else, not at the moment, anyway. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens with Sony's non-Spider-Man Spiderverse to know if this is a critical movie or not.