“VENOM” BITES SUPERHERO GENRE; “MILLION THINGS” ON TV

“VENOM” BITES SUPERHERO GENRE; “MILLION THINGS” ON TV

A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley

 

VENOM (Rated PG-13) The best thing that “Venom” has going for itself as a superhero film in the Marvel Comics universe is that the titular figure, a creature of a lab experiment gone horribly wrong, does not take himself seriously. Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a muckraking journalist who delights in being a contrarian, relishes annoying the editor of his man-on-the-street video interviews with his brash indifference to any boundaries.

Anxious to take down the haughty Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), a shady corporate titan modeled perhaps after Elon Musk, Gary blows up his romance with Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) by taking confidential information about his target from her computer. True to his hell-bent nature, the motorcycle-riding Eddie turns a puff piece assignment of an interview with Drake to a full-blown inquisition about rumored lab research that resulted in wrongful deaths, and this ends up sending him to unemployment.

Cast adrift and struggling to find work, Eddie encounters Drake’s disgruntled scientist, Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), and then penetrates Drake’s secret lab outside San Francisco where he’s exposed to a powerful symbiote that transforms him into alien creature Venom. The alien invasion of his body turns Eddie in a schizophrenic character that goes on some hilarious rampages, such as jumping into a restaurant’s lobster tank and feasting on live crustaceans to the horror of the dinner patrons. Even zanier is the riffing that Eddie has to endure with the alien symbiote who constantly mocks his host, egging him on to reckless behavior that winds up with thrilling chase sequences on the San Francisco streets. There are satisfying moments when Eddie uses the unwelcome guest in his body to right some wrongs.  His transformation into a grotesque monster saves the cashier at his favorite bodega from a menacing, gun-toting extortionist.

To a great extent, “Venom” is about Eddie’s endless stream of one-liners with the bantering Venom who turns nasty when he gets hungry and anxiously bites the heads of assorted bad guys.“Venom” takes a bite out of the superhero genre, but one could reasonably ask if Eddie as Venom truly fits the mold or is he just an antihero fighting to protect civilization in spite of his predilections for mayhem.  There is something to be said, however, for the fact that Riz Ahmed’s Drake is a wealthy, self-absorbed psychopath who justly deserves to be on the receiving end of alien parasite destruction. “Venom” delivers, at least, on the righteous revenge.

 

“A MILLION LITTLE THINGS” ON ABC

 

When one television network discovers the success of a new format for a series, it’s inevitable that competitors will search for their own version to capture a receptive audience. Arguably, that’s the case with “A Million Little Things” on the ABC network, where the similarity in theme and execution draws the almost inescapable conclusion that it is patterned, even if loosely, after NBC’s “This is Us.” The basic story is about four guys that became friends after the ordeal of being trapped in an elevator, but one of them, Jon Dixon (Ron Livingston), soon departs this mortal coil when he inexplicably commits suicide in the first episode. During the summer TV press tour, show creator DJ Nash told the assembled critics that he wanted to do a show “about a group of people who are all stuck in life,” which is appropriate as the four friends all met when they were stuck in an elevator.

Of this group of middle-aged friends that find common cause as die-hard fans of the Boston Bruins hockey team, Ron appears to have the most success as a developer with his life mostly in control, though he’s apparently unaware of his wife Delilah’s (Stephanie Szostak) infidelity. Meanwhile, David Giuntoli’s Eddie Saville, a stay-at-home dad, and musician put on a good façade while engaged in a steamy affair and planning his escape from an unrewarding marriage to Katherine (Grace Park), an intense workaholic attorney.

Rome Howard (Romany Malco), even though happily married, is an unfulfilled commercial director who yearns to use his talents on a feature film.  He comes close to downing pills in a suicide attempt aborted only by persistent phone calls from Gary Mendez (James Roday). As the fourth member of the band of friends, Gary probably has the best reason for pessimism given that he’s the very rare case of a male recovering from breast cancer and fearing the disease won’t stay in remission.

Moreover, Gary has the most personality given his wry sense of humor and his cavalier attitude toward everything. He’s connecting with Maggie (Allison Miller) in the breast cancer support group and brings her on a date to Jon’s funeral. “A Million Little Things” should have surprises in store as the friends try to figure what Jon meant in his usual mantra that “everything happens for a reason.” To that end, we may anxiously await to find out why Jon’s assistant Ashley (Christina Ochoa) is hiding the blue envelope that Jon left behind just before jumping off the balcony of his office patio.

     

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