Venom: Let There Be Carnage

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/14/21;
Sony Pictures;
Action;
Box Office $212.5 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99, Blu-ray, $45.99 UH BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material and suggestive references.
Stars Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Peggy Lu.

The follow-up to 2018’s Venom is even more bizarre than its predecessor.

The sequel finds journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) continuing to co-exist with Venom, the alien symbiote from Marvel Comics that has bonded with him and occasionally takes over his body. Brock is asked to interview death-row inmate Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who was introduced at the end of the last film, and with Venom’s help is able to uncover where Kasady hid the bodies of his murder victims.

During one meeting, Venom is provoked into attacking Kasady, who bites Brock’s hand and absorbs some of the symbiote, which evolves into a new being named Carnage.

During Kasady’s lethal injection, Carnage emerges and helps him escape from prison. Kasady then seeks out his long-lost love Frances (Naomie Harris), who was separated from him when they were kids because she can scream destructive sonic blasts, earning her the nickname Shriek.

Meanwhile, Venom and Brock have a fight because Venom needs to eat human brains and Eddie won’t let him chow down on bad guys, so Venom detaches from Eddie and starts exploring the world with other hosts, though they aren’t as compatible with him as Eddie was and burn out quickly.

As Brock helps the police track own Kasady, Carnage and Kasady vow to destroy Brock and Venom, setting up a brutal final showdown.

Let There Be Carnage doubles down on all the quirks of the first film, particularly Hardy’s offbeat performance.

Directing duties for the sequel were taken over by Andy Serkis, and the process of making the film is covered in the seven-minute “Let There Be … Action” featurette on both the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the movie.

The Blu-ray also includes several additional interesting featurettes, such as the 10-minute “Eddie & Venom: The Odd Couple,” the five-and-a-half-minute “Sick and Twisted Cletus Kasady,” and the four-and-a-half-minute “Concept to Carnage,” about designing the new villain. Also included is the five-minute “A Fine Romance: Cletus & Shriek,” and the four-and-a-half-minute “Tangled Web: Easter Eggs,” which tracks the films’ references to the comic book source material.

The Blu-ray also includes a three-minute blooper reel, eight-and-a-half-minutes of select scene pre-vis sequences, and six deleted scenes that run a total of nine-and-a-half minutes, mostly including alternate and extended versions of scenes, and an alternate ending.

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The Irishman

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/24/20;
Criterion;
Drama;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language and strong violence.
Stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Stephen Graham, Harvey Keitel.

Lest anyone accuse Martin Scorsese of glamorizing gangsters, he presents The Irishman, a screed against the criminal lifestyle.

The film is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, a recounting of the life of mafia hitman Frank Sheeran, the man who claims to have killed Jimmy Hoffa, the union boss whose disappearance in 1975 became one of the 20th century’s great mysteries.

The subject matter is fodder for Scorsese, who assembles a cast of mob-movie all-stars to deliver another highly entertaining trip into the inner workings of the criminal underworld. This includes usual Scorsese collaborators such as Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (who was coaxed out of retirement to appear). It is somehow also the first teaming of Al Pacino with Scorsese despite both being famously associated with the mafia movie genres.

The film, which earned a slew of Oscar nominations after debuting on Netflix in 2019, is lengthy at three-and-a-half hours, but is briskly paced enough to hold one’s attention. Of course, the nature of home video also allows viewers to pause the movie whenever they want, giving Scorsese plenty of leeway to indulge himself.

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De Niro stars as Sheeran, the ‘Irishman’ of the title, a truck driver who gets drawn into the mafia as an enforcer. He eventually becomes a trusted ally of Teamster president Hoffa (Al Pacino), a friendship that comes to a head when Hoffa’s actions run afoul of the mafia’s leadership.

The extended running time not only allows the audience time to get to know the characters, but it also allows Scorsese to hone in on an aspect of criminal life that wasn’t central to his earlier works in the genre: What happens to the violent gangsters who manage not to get killed and end up growing old? Was their life of crime still worth it once they realize what they had to leave behind to achieve it?

As if to carry the point home, Scorsese makes a point to pause the introductions of several minor characters to display an on-screen graphic describing their fates, which usually involves a horrific, violent death.

On the subject of aging, the film famously made extensive use of de-aging visual effects software in order to allow the elderly stars to play the younger versions of their characters since the film spans several decades. Scorsese in the Blu-ray’s bonus materials says the technology was vital to his deciding to direct the film, as he didn’t want to have to cast younger actors for the earlier scenes and only work with De Niro for half the movie. The results are subtle if not always perfect, but they don’t hamper the effectiveness of the film at all.

Because of the film’s length, Criterion has made the Blu-ray of The Irishman a two-disc set, with the entirety of the movie presented as the only content on the first disc. All the bonus materials are on the second disc and they do a good job of taking viewers behind the scenes of the film. Both discs come in a handsome fold-out slipcover with some beautiful painted artwork of De Niro and Pacino, plus a booklet with an essay about the film.

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In addition to the film’s trailers, the extras include a 36-minute “Making The Irishman” featurette that covers all the aspects of the production.

Film history fans will get a kick out of the 19-minute “Table for Four” featurette, a roundtable conversation between Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci as they discuss their careers and how they came together for this movie.

Also interesting is the 21-and-a-half-minute “Gangsters’ Requiem,” a video essay about the evolution of Scorsese’s career and how his previous works are reflected in The Irishman.

A five-minute “Anatomy of a Scene” video features Scorsese providing commentary on the Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night scene.

The film’s visual effects techniques are expanded upon in the 13-minute “The Evolution of Digital De-Aging as Seen in The Irishman” featurette, which was originally a Netflix promotional piece.

Finally, there are a couple of archival videos that the filmmakers used in re-creating historic events: a six-minute interview with an elderly Sheeran, and a 17-and-a-half minute news profile of Hoffa by David Brinkley in 1963.