1) Venom is ‘a generic and dated comic book movie’

Despite his status as one the most iconic and beloved comic book villains ever created, Venom has just the one big screen appearance to his name. Back in 2007, he was one of three villains to be crammed in to the sloppy Spider-Man 3, poorly portrayed at the time by Topher Grace. But eleven years on from what is still regarded as one of cinema’s biggest blockbuster misfires, Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote return for their own $100 million feature.

However ultimately, Venom fails to deliver. At times entertaining, this is nevertheless a missed opportunity due to a lousy script, uninspired action sequences and a feel that this movie was made ten years too late.

With how advanced cinema now is, and recent superhero movies such as Infinity War raising the bar for what can be achieved on the silver screen, a film such as Venom just feels dated and out of place. You have to applaud Sony for creating a story-driven origin such as this, but it’s a slog to sit through and when the action finally arrives, it barely gets the pulse racing and is totally forgettable.

The story follows TV journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who is investigating the suspicious background of scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), a rich and highly regarded man who Brock doesn’t trust. After sneaking into Drake’s lab, Eddie’s body merges with the symbiote known as Venom, but with these new-found powers can Eddie finally find a way to stop Drake’s master plan?

Tom Hardy is one of Hollywood’s elite actors right now, and him signing on to lead a new comic-book franchise was tantalising, but I can’t help but feel he was miscast. Hardy is likeable and charming in the lead, but he is never believable as this down on his luck journalist. By no fault of his own, he is just too good looking and cool to ever convince as this character.

Riz Ahmed is the standout here, delivering a fun and mischievous turn, even if his motives as a villain were sadly far-fetched and unoriginal. Sadly, the always reliable Michelle Williams was wasted on love-interest duty.

The tone of this movie is chaotic and confused, with the first half delivering a mysterious horror-like vibe to proceedings, before Eddie’s alter-ego Venom finally appears and turns this into a poorly judged comedy-driven movie. Venom’s ‘relationship’ with Brock is mostly played for laughs, with very little of it coming even remotely close to funny.

There is some fun to be had, with a chase sequence involving Hardy on a motorbike being particularly moronic yet enjoyable, but Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) lacks a strong hold on the action and relies on too much CGI and quick cuts. You never truly feel invested in what is unfolding, especially during the terribly rushed third act.

In the end, Venom will not be remembered as a success or a disaster, it will simply be remembered as just a disappointment.

Verdict: Despite the best efforts of the cast, Venom is a poorly written, disappointingly hollow take on a classic comic-book villain. A more consistent tone and better action is needed for the inevitable sequel.
Best Moment: The opening title sequence was moody and enticing, setting up a far better film than we got.
Rating: 5/10

2) A Star is Born ‘perfectly captures the magic of music and the power of love’

For 2018’s remake of A Star is Born, we have a female pop icon who is seeking validation as a leading actress, while an established actor turns to a change of scene, going behind the camera for his directorial debut. Will Lady Gaga succeed where Madonna so conspicuously failed and will Bradley Cooper at least match or surpass the efforts of his contemporaries such as John Favreau and Ben Affleck?

The answer is yes. Any causes for concern will be dismantled within the first 30 minutes, when Gaga goes on stage with Cooper’s Jackson Maine and sings a breathtaking original song titled Shallow. Not only are the vocals jaw-dropping, Cooper’s directing is equal to it. Displaying genuine emotion through her voice, it also gives the viewer a real feel for actually being there on stage with them both. The live performances throughout the movie are staggering, shot with real beauty but anchored by two exceptional voices, the other being Cooper himself, who had extensive vocal training for his role

As his age and drinking problem sends his career into a downward spiral, Rockstar Jackson Maine (Cooper) discovers a young singer and actress (Lady Gaga) who may be the answer to his problems.

If the Academy Awards are right, both Cooper and Gaga will be nominated for their performances. Cooper is terrific, completely convincing as this problematic musician who finds a new lease of life once he meets Gaga’s Ally. Gaga too is a sensation, delivering a powerful and authentic turn, surely to leave not a single a dry eye in the house once the film reaches its climax. The leads have such a strong chemistry, one which really showcases their characters love for one another.

This is the biggest musical to hit cinemas since the award winning masterpiece La La Land, but anyone expecting the same level of magic will be left disappointed. This is a much more bleak and genuine experience, making the film far more emotionally moving.

Cooper has also really surprised here as a director, exhibiting strong confidence for his debut feature. Never afraid to let a scene breathe, he knows at all times where to place the camera perfectly. Working as a producer on some of his own movies in recent years must’ve really helped him learn the ropes, especially working with talents such as David O. Russell and Clint Eastwood.

It is also a very interesting take on the music industry as a whole, with insights in to how the industry is run, the struggles as a celebrity and the power of staying relevant. The only downside to this is that it all struggles to register, with the middle act in particular feeling rushed. After a strong set-up, Ally’s transition to stardom feels somewhat hurried, a real feel that the editors had to trim the film down to stop it from feeling too bloated.

Overall, this is a charming and touching picture, driven by stellar performances and stunning original music. A gorgeous piece of cinema, surely to be a serious contender come Oscar season.

Verdict: If a little rushed, A Star is Born is a powerful and raw tale of true love, following your dreams and battling your inner demons.
Best Moment: Gaga joins Cooper on stage for the first time. Pack tissues.
Rating: 8.5/10