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Films I Neglected To Review: Itt Follows
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "The Addams Family 2," "Stop And Go" and "Venom: Let There Be Carnage."

Although I know that I saw "The Addams Family," the 2019 film that returned the eternally popular creations of illustrator Charles Addams to the big screen, I do not readily recall any of the particulars of the plot and I suspect that it may well have been negligible at best. That said, I do recall kind of liking it regardless, mostly because animation--go figure--proved to be a good artistic medium for capturing the droll ghoulishness of the characters and the voice casting, which included Charlize Theron as Morticia, Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday and Nick Kroll as the inimitable Uncle Fester, was pretty much spot-on for once and didn’t feel like it was governed by the need to include famous names who could promote it on talk shows. Now comes "The Addams Family 2" and I find that my reaction is pretty much the same. The plot--in which the family goes on a cross-country road trip while being pursued by a multi-billionaire (Bill Hader) who claims that Wednesday is actually his switched-at-birth child--is so flimsy and contrived (see if you are able to notice the very subtle product placement for Progressive insurance that turns up at one point) that it might have struggled to pass muster as a lesser episode of the old TV show, the kind that even the little kids who are the target audience may grow restless with long before it ends. However, when the film elects to ignore the plot and concentrate simply on the characters and the gags, it begins to liven up considerably. It contains just enough decent-size laughs to keep one amused for the duration and the vocal contributions from Theron, Isaac and Moretz are still entertaining as well. "The Addams Family 2" is no masterpiece and you will have pretty much forgotten everything about within a day or two of seeing it, but it has a certain nutty low-key charm to it and as cinematic ways of passing 90 minutes with the whole family in a reasonably painless manner, it gets the job done.

"Stop And Go" originally debuted earlier this year under the title "Recovery" but by any name, it proves to be one of the less-inspired examples of the glut of COVID-19-related cinema to come along. Set during the early and chaotic days of the pandemic, the film begins with sisters Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake (Mallory Everton) going to paranoid extremes to prevent exposure to the disease, only to learn that their beloved grandmother is in a Washington nursing home where COVID is running rampant, the staff is bailing on the place in droves and one especially lecherous patient is roaming the halls. After their ditzy older sister (Julia Jolley) offers to pick her up from the home after disembarking from her cruise vacation, which she got for a bargain, Jamie and Blake realize that the only thing they can do is brave the outside world by taking a road trip in order to rescue their Nana from any number of certain dooms. Since it is a road movie, you will not be surprised to discover that the trip proves to be more than a simple straight shot and that the two sisters will come across a number of oddballs along the way, including a loopy guy who makes wine out of interesting ingredients, a one-night stand that Blake is trying to reconnect with via text throughout and a motorcyclist who ends up doing something especially unspeakable to Jamie during a road rage incident. There are a few moments in the early going that will clearly strike a chord with those who all too vividly recall the panicky early pandemic days but the screenplay by Call and Everton (the latter also co-directed with Stephen Meek) feels more like an extended array of vaguely connected improv bits than an actual story and even at a brief 80 minutes, it will most likely leave you thirsting for more. As an artifact commemorating the wild early days of the pandemic in cinematic terms, "Stop and Go" may have some value down the line as an artifact. As a comedy, not so much.

"Venom" (2018), the first feature film centered on the brain-eating alien symbiote that has proven to be one of the odder characters in the Marvel Comics stable, was a prime example of one of the stranger offshoots of contemporary cinema--a film that no one, not even the generally easy-to-please fan base for anything Marvel-related, seems to have liked but which still made so much money that it was only a matter of time before a sequel came around. That time is now, the sequel is "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" and while I cannot quite recommend that you see it, it at least proves to be a somewhat funnier and freakier affair than its utterly forgettable predecessor. At the center of the film is the decidedly strange relationship between down-on-his-luck reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and the creature living inside of him (voiced by Hardy in a way that suggests the world’s most malevolent monster truck rally announcer)--Eddie is resigned to being stuck with a creature that lives inside him and who regularly wrecks his apartment, Venom is annoyed that he has been reduced from his usual brain-eating to a diet of chickens and chocolate and both of them are still in love with Eddie's ex-girlfriend, the newly engaged Annie (a less-than-engaged Michelle Williams, presumably making a cash grab so that she can afford to do more Kelly Reichardt projects down the line) with Venom actually being more obvious and ardent about his affections. While all this is going on, Eddie gets a huge break when he is chosen by notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, doing a PG-13 version of his "Natural Born Killers" schtick) to interview him--the result puts Eddie back on top and lands Cletus an immediate execution date. Through circumstances too complicated and silly to go into, Cletus acquires a symbiote of his own dubbed Carnage, breaks out of jail and begins leaving a trail of destruction throughout San Francisco while searching for Frances (Naomie Harris), his equally psychotic childhood sweetheart who has superhuman screaming powers--a potential deal-breaker for any relationship with a symbiote since loud sounds and fire are the only things that can stop them.

With its goofball plotting and abbreviated run time (it clocks in at about 80 minutes before the end credits begin and yes, there is a bonus scene to be had there),"Let There Be Carnage" often feels like a super-expensive B movie that has been quickly slapped together in order to get something in front of the cameras before contracts can expire. In a weird way, it makes for a refreshing split from the usual Marvel output, which tends to be so focused on expanding its storytelling universe that everything else falls by the wayside. Speaking of refreshing splits, the scenes involving the curious relationship between Eddie and Venom are the best of the bunch, especially when Venom decides to seek greener pastures at one point and finds an unusual degree of acceptance at a local rave. If the whole movie had been about that and if it had given Williams more to do, I might have actually enjoyed the whole thing. However, all the stuff involving Cletus, Carnage and their subsequent carnage is pretty dumb and while director Andy Serkis is clearly trying to evoke the live-action cartoon feel of the early films of Sam Raimi throughout, it just doesn't quite come off (I was more distracted by the strained attempts to make Harrelson look younger than he is) and the whole thing eventually devolves into one of those run-of-the-mill CGI orgies in which supposedly astonishing things happen before your eyes but none of them wind up sticking in the mind. Still, "Let There Be Carnage" is undeniably an improvement over its predecessor and while that still isn't enough to fully recommend it--though fans will presumably turn out in droves anyway--it does leave me slightly more enthusiastic about the prospect of a third "Venom" film than I was before seeing it, especially if the filmmakers decide to kick all the explosions and super villains to the side and make it an Eddie-Venom buddy comedy instead.

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originally posted: 10/02/21 00:51:17
last updated: 10/03/21 04:16:09
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