I was dubious about Venom, because I knew Spiderman/Peter Parker couldn’t even be mentioned because of Sony’s deal with Marvel. I felt that you could probably make a Venom film without Spiderman, but I couldn’t figure out how you’d make an Eddie Brock film without Peter Parker. Because it’s Brock’s obsession with Peter Parker that leads to his downfall. He fixates on Peter to try to hide his own shortcomings from himself. Hating Peter Parker becomes his raison d’etre.

The film worked round this in way that was quite clever. First, they have an unspecified New York incident move him away from Peter Parker, the Daily Bugle and events in New York, then they move his knee-jerk dislike to Carlton Drake (or I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Elon-Musk*), and finally, they actually have Eddie admit his faults. I actually liked Eddie Brock!

A good chunk of that was due to Tom Hardy, who appeared to be having all of the fun. He’s got charm enough to burn, and can do lovely but feckless so extremely well. And he’s good enough to sell you on Eddie Brock’s repentance. Which is just as well, because some serious repentance is required. And I like that. The film makes it clear that Ann is right to be angry with Eddie. It’s a film where actions have consequences, no matter if those actions come from good or bad intentions.

I also like that Doctor Dan is a good guy. The minute he sees that Eddie is ill, he immediately tries to help him. All hail Doctor Dan.

Other actors who seem to be having all the fun include … Tom Hardy as Venom. Venom’s alienness makes the occasional FX weakness easier to take, as does the way Tom Hardy makes Venom completely different to Eddie Brock (and I wonder if that challenge was how they got him to sign up for a minor superhero film). The other interesting thing about how they do Venom is the sound just before he appears, which is (probably deliberately) reduced as Eddie and Venom get more used to each other. The falling sensation some people experience as they’re drifting off to sleep that catapults them awake is called a hypnic jerk but some people get sounds as well/instead. Mine sound just like the noise of Venom’s appearance. Which led to an interesting if peculiar cinema experience. I know it’s coincidence but I’d love to know why that particular combination of sounds was chosen.

The end fight, although weak as tends to be the case in minor superhero films, had some enjoyable details in the lead up to it, like Venom using a dog as his way to get out of hospital, and then Ann letting him use her to bodysurf to Eddie. I also liked that Ann:

1 – remembered stuff
2 – did fight dirty. She got that Drake/Riot had to be stopped, by any means necessary.

Basically, I just liked Ann.

As well as finding the end fight underwhelming, I didn’t like one of the two end credit scenes. Not “Into the Spiderverse” which looked amazing, but the Carnage one. I think it’s because that’s not what Cletus Kasady sounds like. It’s not Woody Harrelson’s fault. He’d make an excellent Cletus Kasady given the opportunity, but they seem to have told him to play it that way.

So in short, Venom was good, stupid fun and far better than it had any right to be.

*I know Drake is a scientist in comics, and it’s not Elon Musk’s fault that a lot of his plans sound like supervillain schemes, but … it’s a remarkably close portrait.


Film Locations

Yes, this was supposed to be done at the start of August but everything this year is late. It covers all films mentioned on the blog up to March 2nd 2016.

All non-fictional locations:

All real locations 2019

UK and US located films make up more than half of the films, although the exact percentages have gone down since the last time.

Including fictional locations:

Including fictional locations

This trend of fewer films set in the US/UK or more films set elsewhere also occurs if you take fictional locations into account. Last time US and the UK locations made up more than half of those as well, but it’s now the US, UK and France make up half of locations.

It would be interesting to see if the locations change over time as more films need multiple production companies and those sometimes require non-US/non-UK locations as part of the agreement for funding. Not sure how I’d measure that since obviously the films I watch are a very small microcosm of all films.

UK-based films:

Where the UK films are set

Are still all England and Scotland and mostly England.

The three big Comic Con trailers have not sparked joy!

The two of the three big trailers from Comic Con have left me underwhelmed. I was worried that I was being impossible or nostalgia was blinding me, because the one I quite enjoyed is the one where I don’t know anything about the source material but I don’t think that’s the case.

Let’s start with that one I enjoyed. The Witcher looks like perfectly serviceable nonsense. And let’s be honest, they had me at “people with swords”. I am a simple creature.

Cats does not look like perfectly serviceable nonsense. I did wonder whether I felt that way because it didn’t live up to my expectations but no, I think even a completely disinterested observer would go, “nah, that looks terrible.”

It looks like someone has spent a lot of money on SFX that are not up to the job.* I know that the only way we will ever get SFX that are up to the job is through failures like this, but I’d much rather they’d fail on something I am not fond of.

Because I am fond of Cats. I went to see it for a birthday party when I was little, and will still happily belt out random bits of songs for no good reason. As someone who does like it, this looks godawful. None of the characters look right and I do not even want to know WTF they have done to my beloved magical Mr. Mistoffelees. He is supposed to look magical and mysterious, not like Charlie Chaplin Cat! I am sure Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench will be having all the fun in their roles so it does at least have that going for it.

I am somehow even less impressed by the new Watchmen trailer than I am by the Cats trailer.

It’s not like Watchmen is my favourite Alan Moore comic. Promethea is (yes, I know). But I have long since given up on ever getting any film or TV version of Promethea (mostly because of the yes, I know).

But there is already an Alan Moore comic about a violent police state with people running around in masks. It’s called V for Vendetta. But I can imagine it is hard to raise funds for a TV show where a fascist is brought to power with help from the religious right, and then puts people in cages. Obvs. too far-fetched (and yes, I know it’s set in the UK).

Either which way, I have no interest in watching Damon Lindelhof’s dark future AU fic of the Watchmen! Mostly OCs with a few canon characters appearing.

Not least of all because he suffers from JJ Abrams problem of “dude, I have seen the same films as you, that is not anything new!” For instance, I suspect we’re supposed to be shocked, shocked I tell you that FBI lady is Laurie when we find out somewhere in episode 13-17.

If they do decide to give him any depth, Jeremy Irons will knock (possibly spoilery character) out of the park. Plus, he gets to practise his German again. I am intrigued, just a little, by how they will handle (spoilery character) because, yeah, I had problems with how the film did him. I have no idea if that’s because I read the character differently to everyone else, or because the film decided to simplify his character, which ruined a lot of the glorious ambiguity of (spoiler) but either which way, (spoiler) is the only thing that interests me about it.

I would prefer to be thrilled by Comic Con trailers!

* There is a reason why everyone is posting that image from What We Do In The Shadows.

Some thoughts about the Keeper, having only seen the trailer.

I should be happy.

There is a German main character, played by a German actor.
This German is the hero of the film, yet he’s not played by a Dane or a Swede.

The actor they have chosen actually looks, more than slightly, like the real life person he is portraying.

I *should* be happy.

Unfortunately, this time it’s the English half that’s causing the problem. Bert Trautmann was associated my English home town. And I’ve made my peace with them not using the two-up two-downs that are still there to film in. What I can’t make peace with is the accents. We don’t sound like that!

St. Helens’s accent is somewhat peculiar (an example – our beloved rugby league club captain who is born and bred) and varied, but it is very much ours and is significantly less Mancunian/East Lancashire than John Henshaw’s. I wouldn’t make such a fuss, but my Grandmother, who was around at the time, said that you could narrow down where someone lived to within 3 streets, just from the way they talked – and she could, which was terrifying.

Mostly I worry that my home town is going to be portrayed as the place with the bad people who are mean to our lead character, which it really isn’t and wasn’t. Read any interview with Bert Trautmann for evidence of that. He would always say how open and welcoming St Helens was, especially given the circumstances.

It’s a truth that matters to me, because I think biopics should reflect reality, and because it’ll be my home town that gets it in the neck!

Mission Impossible: Fallout is solid, but the fight scenes are exceptional

Because I am going to focus on the fight choreography, there will be heavy spoilers throughout.

As I said in the first part, the fight scenes in Mission Impossible: Fallout are exceptional, and fight choreography is clever. I don’t just mean how crisp it all looks, and the pleasing sense of barely controlled chaos, but the characters all fight the way someone with training and with their physical attributes should fight.

I’m going to use the John Lark fight as the example of this:

Right, now, if you could all tear your eyes away from Henry Cavill and instead focus on John Lark as embodied by Liang Yang.

You’ll note that he is the smallest guy in this fight. Normally films will have everyone in a fight scene fight in the same way. You might occasionally get one of them doing something cool and different to normal, particularly if the film is a film about fighting (e.g. Bloodsport). Most of the time though, you get guy A fights in style A, guy B fights in the same style and the same way, no matter what differences in height/weight/strength. This is particularly annoying when it’s clear that if B does that, B is going to lose, and lose painfully, but we’re still supposed to believe B knows how to fight.

This fight is different!

There is a smaller, shorter guy who fights like someone who has spent his life being the smaller, shorter guy. You’ll see how every time Lark gets a chance to get a hit in, he goes for throat or ribs (including one of the best uses of piping in a fight you’ll ever see). In the immortal words of my jiu-jitsu sensei, “everyone’s got to breathe”. It’s the sensible thing to do if you’re in a fight where people are bigger than you.

The other thing Lark does is that, every chance he gets, he shoves away one of the two people attacking him. That’s also what you’re supposed to do, because it means you have fewer people to deal with at any one time. It’s so nice to see in a film.

It’s interesting to contrast how Lark fights with how Ethan Hunt fights. Now, while, in real life Tom Cruise is of average height, if not slightly below, we accept that Ethan Hunt is taller than him and stronger than him because he’s the lead character. And so he fights more like a lead character. But, as another sign of the thought has gone into the staging of the fight sequences, they deliberately never have him face off mano-a-mano against August Walker so that we don’t ever have to question that. They let August Walker be obviously bigger and taller, because Cavill is enough bigger than Tom Cruise that it’s hard to hide. And then in the big end fight, they make it clear that Ethan Hunt wins by being sneaky, clever and lucky. Which are always better than being bigger and stronger!

The other character with an interesting fight style is Ilsa Faust. The interesting thing about her fight style is that it’s that of someone whose been taught to fight. Too often female characters who get to fight do so in a very flippy-flippy, kicky-kicky style, which leaves you open to counter-attacks. Ilsa doesn’t. She fights like someone who’s been taught how to hurt someone without being hurt yourself. It’s very simple, very direct, very effective. In the last fight against Solomon Lane, the way she slices through his hamstring is poetry because it’s so simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re the weaker person in the fight if the other person can’t reach you to cause more damage.

Everyone in this film fights with superhuman strength, power and resistance to damage, but it works because they fight in a way which is plausible within their characters. We still feel the tension and the danger because there is a desperation in the way our heroes fight. There’s risk and being worn down till only the things beaten into you during training are left. It makes it a very different film in feel to a lot of blockbusters.

Mission Impossible: Fallout is a good, solid film

This is very much a review of two halves so I have split it into two parts. The first is a more general review of Mission Impossible: Fallout, and the second is me raving about the fight choreography in the film.

The plot of the film is significantly baroque, with lots of frills and twists and twiddly-bits. I think they realised that they had a lot of set pieces and not a lot of plot and back-filled from that to try to link them together.

The bit with Wolf Blitzer is very like the series in a way the films often aren’t, but it’s an example of how the film is very bitty. There’s a cool bit, tenuous link, another cool bit and so on. Every bit works, but I’m not sure they all hang together.

One thing I liked was the sense of place. Yes, there is no way there is that little traffic in that part of Paris at any time of day or night but it’s still recognisably Paris and not just tourist Paris. It’s something they did well in the last one too. Although I know you can’t actually run that quickly along the route in London (or drive across part of the race through Paris), I acknowledge their attempts at realism with joy, especially as they choose some of the less obvious bits of London and Paris (and Vienna in Rogue Nation).

What I also liked about the Paris bit is how many of Ethan Hunt’s problems were brought about by aspects of his character that were established all the way back in Mission Impossible 2.

The acting was uniformly solid, even if Wes Bentley playing nice but dull husbands makes me feel old. Very old. The film-makers make good use of their solid cast. I think having Tom Cruise helps, if you’ve got him, you know the anchor of your film will be sorted so you can concentrate on giving other people stuff to do. When those other people include Sean Harris, good things ensue.


An example of how the film-makers give every character their own thing to do, is the ending in Pakistan.

The tech boys were so happy to see Julia, while recognising how awkward it is going to be for Ethan, referencing their shared history. Meanwhile, Ethan and Julia were all “hi, I still love you but we’ve both moved on and it’s kinda awkward and kinda great at the same time,” which reinforces what the rest of the film has said about Julia being important to Ethan. There’s a reason his subconscious has Solomon Lane threatening her as his worst nightmare. The other characters also got nice touches such as Erik knowing Julia is lying about something and more or less guessing correctly what it is. Then you have Julia and Ilsa both recognising who the other is or was to Ethan immediately. Although really, Ethan Hunt has a type and he has a type hard, because I can’t tell the actresses apart without a few clues. If she’s kicking someone, it’s probably Ilsa.

On team bad guy meanwhile, you get August Walker and his determination to see his plan through while thinking enough of his accomplice to ask if he’s sure about being left behind. It’s a nice touch, he’s a professional genocidal maniac. He likes to work with good people. He sees someone with whom he shares goals and methodology. There’s also that lovely bit of business earlier with August Walker, when he talks about Hunt’s motivation for turning traitor in the particular direction of the Apostles. It’s really his reason and there’s enough of a frisson that it’s obvious to us what is really going on, while it might not be to other characters.

Solomon Lane gets the moment of zen calm that is normally associated with heroes. He really doesn’t care what comes next as long as everything Ethan Hunt loves dies with him. It’s disconcerting in its totality. From this, we know that there’s is nothing the bad guys won’t do to win, and that if our heroes don’t succeed, they will be the first to be vaporized.

I was able to watch this in the cinema, so I got to see audience reactions. This time, watching this in the cinema gave me a better understanding of the whole “we all watch different films” thing. It was the bit the start where the bad guys are threatening Luther. My reaction was “oh no, they’re going to kill off a secondary character I am fond of to make the hero feel bad.” I was a bit miffed, because I think it’s a cheap ploy in films and I’m quite fond of Luther. In front of me were a bunch of enjoyably rowdy black teenagers who were, justifiably, more pissed off, because once again, it was going to be the black guy that got killed. They were very pleased when Luther did not get killed off. Pleased and amazed. Dear Hollywood, note the amazed there and maybe do something about it.
In short, most of Mission Impossible: Fallout is enjoyable and solid.

But the fight scenes are exceptional.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Antman 2, or to give it’s proper name “Antman and the Wasp”, is a cuddly jumper of a film, with likable characters.  And that’s fine, because that’s what I wanted it to be.  It doesn’t seek to revolutionise the genre or do anything different, it just gives us the further adventures of Scott Lang and his friends.

The only down side is that it doesn’t give us enough Wasp-time.  What Wasp-time there is is glorious, but I could have done with more.

I’m not sure how much any of it would have worked if you hadn’t seen Antman 1.  It’s very much chickens coming home to roost, for both Antmen.

Spoilers for the film underneath

Scott Lang’s impulsivity caused his original imprisonment, and another impulsive (if honourable) decision has caused his present house arrest, undoubtedly risked his present happiness (because Hope has every right to be cheesed off with him), and damaged everyone around him.

In Hank Pym’s case, if he weren’t quite so impossible, would one of his co-workers have gone rogue?  Would Bill Foster have hidden Ava’s condition from him?

The one interesting thing it does is have an antagonist for each of our heroes, but two of them really aren’t villains.  They all have their own motivations and character.  It means you don’t get that “too much plot, not enough film” thing you get with some superhero films.

Agent Woo is a dork, with less than zero people skills, but he’s only doing his job and he’s being even-handed doing it.  When the other agent tries to sell the good guys out to the bad guys, you know Woo would never do that.

Ava is not a villain.  She does bad things, but only because she’s desperate and it’s literally life or death.

Sonny Burch is a villain, and not just because he’s played with glorious relish by Walton Goggins.  But he’s very small time, he’s in this for the money, he doesn’t want to destroy the world.  I think they’ve deliberately dialled down the stakes for this film after how big they went with Avengers: Infinity War.

The thing I really liked (other than the SFX which were as good as expected) was that the reason Ava was saved was something she chose to do.  She could have gone ahead and killed Janet but she chose not to and that is why she was saved.  Doing the right thing worked!

Cassie Lang remains adorable, and the lengths that Scott Lang will go to in order to keep her happy is one of the reasons you understand why the other characters forgive him for being an impulsive idiot.  Even if he will never fix that character trait.

Team Minor Criminal remain in one piece (did I mention I am excessively fond of Luis, because he tells stories the way I do), which is all I asked of this film.  Even if they also wanted to scream at Scott for being feckless.  I did love the bad guys choosing completely the wrong guy to use truth serum on.

While we didn’t get enough of either Wasp, we do get to see how much they both mean to Hank, complete with some excellent ‘show, don’t tell’.  I loved the scene at the end where Hank grows the house because yes, he really does have everything he needs now.

It’s not brilliant but it is solid.

Spoilers for the film, the stinger, Avengers: Infinity War and the Avengers: Endgame trailer underneath

I knew someone would get wiped, but the way they did it!!!  We’ve just had a film and a half of how bad it is to get stuck in the quantum realm and that Janet only survived because she was made of awesome, in a way that, bless him, Scott Lang probably isn’t.  And we leave our hero in there with no way out, because everyone that knows he’s down there (and all but one of the people that can get him out) has been wiped.

That’s evil!!!

It’s also why I was so happy to see Scott in the Endgame trailer.  It means he got out (hopefully).