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Winter Sleep

The running time of his new picture Winter Sleep, three hours and change, suggests weight, but at it happens, this movie struck me as both…

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Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Who Venom is and how he/it got into Spider-Man 3

From Ali Arikan, Istanbul, Turkey:

I am glad that you reviewed "Spider-Man 3" – I was afraid you might give it a miss seeing as it is a pile of pants. I was doing my military service in North Eastern Turkey when the second film came out – and I remember reading your review at an internet café and lamenting that I would not be able to see the film for a few months.

Anyway, the reason I am writing to you is to give you a bit of a background on the character of Venom. You see, in the comics, that black goo that envelopes Peter is actually a multi/extra/insert-your-own-prefix dimensional symbotic alien (as you and I both know, being merely alien in comics is not enough – you need multi-syllabled adjectives for true terror). The "alien suit" has a mind of its own, though, and can connect with the thoughts of its current host, also adopting their abilities, and keeping the ones he likes as it moves to other hosts. Which is why it can do all the things you enquire about – such as the alien's sartorial choice or its turning Eddie Brock into a spider-man clone.

Trust me when I say this (and you will get heaps and heaps of letters that argue otherwise) but Venom has always been a terrible character. A true product of the 1980s pop-culture zeitgeist, Venom embodied everything that was going wrong with the comics as the decade progressed: bigger muscles, a lack of human emotions, pointless gore and violence, etc. In fact, the character became so popular that Marvel Comics turned him into a hero. Apart from discovering, you know, higher forms of art, this was one of the reasons I gave up comics. The sense of joy, the sense of wonder and awe, disappeared in mainstream comics in the 1980's, and Venom (and his popularity) is a sad reminder of that.

Interestingly, Sam Raimi has gone on the record as saying he never wanted to include Venom in the movie (and you can see why). But there was studio pressure because "people love him." To quote Phil Connors, "People love blood sausage, too. People are morons."

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