Friday, December 10, 2021

Worth Mentioning - Soon Come Chaos

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

A Marvel adaptation, new comedy, and '80s horror.


I wasn't really a fan of the 2018 film Venom, which brought the Marvel Comics character to the screen with an origin story that excluded Spider-Man, who has very important history with the character in the comics, because Spider-Man is currently wrapped up in the deal that puts him in Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and Venom was a Sony production that exists outside the MCU. The movie was goofy as hell and didn't have enough Venom in it for my taste, and even when Venom was involved I thought the action was underwhelming. So when the sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage was announced, I didn't have high hopes for it. I just hoped it would be better than its predecessor. And I think it succeeds at that.

Directed by Andy Serkis from a screenplay by Kelly Marcel (who crafted the story with star Tom Hardy), Venom: Let There Be Carnage is still not my ideal version of a Venom movie - and not just because Spider-Man isn't involved. It not only retains that goofy tone the previous movie had, it goes even further with it, while also feeling really small and inconsequential. It speeds through a silly little story and wraps up in just 90 minutes. I think Venom movies should be bigger and better than this... but judging by the box office, they're working just fine for the general audiences as bite-size, big budget B-movies.

The sequel improves on the original because we have the alien symbiote Venom inhabiting the body of journalist Eddie Brock (Hardy) right from the beginning, while the first movie took forever for these two to get together. Their odd couple interactions as they try to get along while sharing the same body are played for over-the-top comedy, but at least there's a whole lot more Venom this time around. 

The first movie's mid-credits scene had showed us that incarcerated serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) was interested in talking to Eddie for some reason, and this film continues on from there - and thankfully Harrelson was given a better wig than the clown wig he was wearing in that credits scene. As it turns out, Cletus is trying to use Eddie to send out a message to his lost love Frances (Naomie Harris), a mutant-powered mental patient he fell in love with years earlier. Unfortunately for him, Venom spots a clue in Cletus's cell that reveals where the bodies of his victims are buried, a discovery that gets him put on the fast track to execution. But before he can be killed, Cletus bites Eddie's hand... and gets a mouthful of symbiote instead of blood. Now Cletus has an alien symbiote of his own that coats his body and takes on the name Carnage.

In a standout sequence, a Carnage-coated Cletus busts out of prison, killing a whole lot of people on the way out. From there, he's reunited with Frances, who is also known as Shriek because her mutant power is the ability to let out some very powerful screams. Which makes her a bad match for Carnage, really, since the symbiotes' weaknesses are fire and loud noises. So it doesn't go very well when Shriek shrieks in Carnage's presence. Even with that issue, they manage to cause a lot of trouble so Venom and Eddie have to put aside their differences (Venom is upset that Eddie won't let him eat human brains) and work together to stop this maniacal symbiote and his homicidal host. And Shriek.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage feels rushed and falls short of its potential, the action is hectic and unengaging, but the actors - especially Hardy, who is into this whole thing to a shocking degree, and also Michelle Williams as Eddie's ex Anne (who Venom wishes he was still with) - make their characters fun to watch. The movie is mindless and loud, but it also provides some chuckles and the opportunity to see symbiotes slither across the screen and smack each other around. So it's an okay way to spend 90 minutes.

Another mid-credits scene opens the door to a sequel that the world will go nuts for, but I still don't have faith that Sony is going to handle it correctly.


Released through the Hulu streaming service, director Clay Tarver's Vacation Friends is another in the long line of comedies about an uptight person who learns to enjoy life better by coming in contact with wild and free people who at first turn their life into a nightmare, but then they see the person's (or peoples') merit. The movie also has a long line of writing credits: Tom Mullen, Tim Mullen, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, and Tarver all worked on the script.

In this case, the uptight person is Marcus, played by Lil Rel Howery, who really seems like he should be playing the wild and free person. Marcus has meticulously planned a vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend Emily (Yvonne Orji), and plans to propose to her while they're there - despite the fact that Emily's father Harold (Robert Wisdom) and brother Gabe (Andrew Bachelor) both hate him, for their own reasons. Marcus's plans immediately fall apart, but he does still go through with the proposal - and from then they're taken in by fellow vacationing American couple Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner). Ron and Kyla are over-the-top people who make a constant stream of inappropriate comments, put cocaine around the rim of their margaritas, shoot liquor bottles off of their heads... The opposite of Marcus and Emily, but the two couples have a blast partying together for a week straight.

But they're vacation friends. There's no room for people like Ron and Kyla in Marcus and Emily's home life. So while Ron and Kyla want to stay in contact, Marcus and Emily hope to never see each other again. Then Ron and Kyla crash Marcus and Emily's very stuffy and serious wedding seven months later, and a lot more wacky things ensue.

Vacation Friends is familiar and formulaic, but I didn't watch it to see something different. I wanted to see another version of an old story play out again, brought to the screen by a group of actors I enjoyed watching, and that's what I got. I don't see this as an enduring classic, but I think there are things about it that will stick with viewers, like Ron's ability to know exactly when a bird in flight is about to defecate.

There are plenty of funny moments and some strong comedic performances on display, with the four actors at the heart of the film each doing a great job in their roles. Hagner was a standout for me - I have seen her in other movies, like Palm Springs and Ingrid Goes West, but she really shines in this one. This isn't the sort of character you see in many movies (for good reason), so I'm glad that a sequel has been announced just so we'll get to see Hagner play Kyla again.


Directed by Tom Daley from a screenplay by producer Warren Chaney, The Outing (a.k.a. The Lamp) is an obscure '80s horror movie that slipped under my radar for decades; I never heard about this until it started getting DVD and Blu-ray releases around thirty years after it first came out. I don't feel like I was missing a whole lot by not having seen it sooner, but now that I have watched it I'm glad I did.

The story begins in 1893, showing that something connected to an old lamp and a bracelet has wiped out almost all of the immigrants come across the sea on a ship to America. Jump ahead nearly one hundred years and the sole survivor of that ship is now a very old lady who has the lamp and bracelet hidden away in her house. Then a trio of rednecks (two men and a woman) come busting in to her house to rob her and end up murdering her in the process. They don't mind getting their hands bloody. Seconds after killing the old lady they're joking and laughing again, and the woman decides to go skinny-dipping in their victim's pool with one of the guys. That's when the supernatural entity that killed all of those people on that ship is unleashed from the lamp and kills these people as well.

The lamp and bracelet end up in a museum, where we meet our teen heroine Alex Wallace (Andra St. Ivanyi) as she's visiting her dad (James Huston), who works there. It doesn't take long for Alex to say she wishes her dad were dead, but given that he has just chastised her for "ruining her body" with junk food, it's kind of understandable. And it has to be noted that her dad's middle-aged co-worker enthusiastically agrees that Alex's body is not being ruined, in an awkward moment. By the end of the scene, Alex has slipped that bracelet on, and we know that's going to mean trouble for her down the line.

That trouble comes when Alex and some friends decide to sneak into the museum after hours and spend the night in there. The supernatural being from the lamp - and let's just say it, this is a movie about a killer genie, made well before Wishmaster - starts knocking off Alex's friends one-by-one... and unlike the Wishmaster, this genie doesn't need them to make a wish before it kills them. Other potential victims include an opera-singing security guard and Alex's violent, racist ex-boyfriend Mike Daley (Mark "Red" Mitchell), who has also snuck into the museum with his sidekick to ruin Alex's night. But the genie ruins it first. And it's weird that a despicable character like Mike shares the director's last name.

I didn't find The Outing to be anything mind-blowing, but it made for an entertaining 89 minutes and features some cool practical effects. It also features a death scene that involves snakes that really made me cringe. Before the cringing, I was squinting in doubt because those snakes happen to attack a person who's in the museum's staff bathtub. Yes, when one of Alex's friends feels she should wash up, she's told there is no shower in the building, but occasionally staff members will take a bath in there. This seemed unlikely to me, but it helped the movie show some gratuitous nudity.

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