This weekend, we’ve got a symbiotic bromance (Venom: Let There Be Carnage, starring Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson), Tony Soprano’s coming of age (The Many Saints of Newark, starring Michael Gandolfini and Alessandro Nivola), and a festival-favorite shocker (Titane, starring Agathe Rouseelle and Vincent Lindon). What are the critics saying?
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
It’s still a bit unclear what Sony’s ultimate plans are for the various Spider-Man characters they currently hold the rights to, but while we — and possibly they — try to figure it all out, the studio continues to move forward with Spidey-adjacent solo films. The latest is Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the sequel to 2018’s Venom, focusing on the popular comic supervillain-turned-antihero personified by Tom Hardy, who both voices the alien symbiote Venom and plays the journalist who inadvertently bonded with him, Eddie Brock. In this follow-up, Eddie/Venom faces off against a similar villain in Woody Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady, a serial killer who offers his life story to Eddie and, thanks to a few drops of Eddie’s blood, ends up with a maniacal alien parasite of his own. The first Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer, wasn’t a critical darling by any means, but a not insignificant portion of the moviegoing audience appreciated its off-kilter humor and willingness to go to some weird places. Andy Serkis takes the reins for Let There Be Carnage, while Hardy himself helped pen the script, and the pair double down on the insanity of the first film to deliver something that feels more akin to a buddy comedy than a superhero blockbuster. Critics say the final product is bizarre and unapologetically silly but also clearly aware of its quirks, and it should appeal to fans who enjoyed the first film, as well as anyone who appreciates a gonzo Tom Hardy performance.
The Many Saints of Newark (2021)
It’s been nearly a decade and a half since we witnessed the end of HBO’s iconic series The Sopranos, but even that controversial series finale wasn’t enough to tarnish the legacy of what’s still regarded as one of the greatest television shows ever. And if you were going to attempt to build on the legacy of Tony Soprano, immortalized by the late, great James Gandolfini, there would be worse ideas than to set your project before the events of the series and cast Gandolfini’s own son, Michael, in the role his father made famous. The Many Saints of Newark is that project, a feature film prequel that charts the childhood of young Tony Soprano as he comes of age amid racial tensions and violent conflicts in late-1960s New Jersey. But how is he, and is the film any good? Critics say Many Saints is a largely effective and evocative companion piece to The Sopranos that incorporates plenty of nods to the original series — it doesn’t hurt that creator David Chase wrote the film and series regular Alan Taylor is behind the camera — and makes the most of its talented cast, which includes Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga, and more. It doesn’t quite achieve the heights of its source material — how could it? — but it feels familiar, and fans will be happy to return to that world for a couple of hours.
It was clear Julia Ducournau was something special when the French writer-director released her feature film debut, 2016’s Raw, to widespread acclaim. We had to wait five years for her sophomore feature, but the wait seems to have been worth it; Titane, which opens in limited release this week, has already made Ducournau just the second woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The film, which is probably best classified as mystery thriller-meets-body horror and touches on elements of the surreal, follows its central character Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) through a series of unpredictable situations that defy easy description, ranging from bloody murder to literal “auto erotica.” It would be rather unfair to deprive viewers of the magical, horrific surprises to be found within Titane, so we won’t do that here, but critics who have seen it say it’s just as bold, stylish, and exciting as it is mystifying, messy, and weirdly gross. Suffice it to say this is not going to be everyone’s cup of antifreeze, but those who give it a chance are in for a wild ride.
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