Tom Hardy is a web-slinging anti-hero!

A few weeks ago, Sony Pictures announced that the Marvel character and Spider-Man antagonist Venom would be featured in a standalone spinoff set to arrive in theaters sometime next year. The fan-favorite character has already made his big-screen debut in the disappointing blockbuster Spider-Man 3, portrayed by Topher Grace, but this project is seen as an opportunity for Sony to get the character right and potentially usher in a new anti-hero universe based on Spider-Man’s rogues gallery.

News has broken that names have now been confirmed to sign on for the spinoff. Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer will direct and Oscar nominee Tom Hardy is set to star in film.

Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner, the latter of whom worked on 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, wrote the script for Venom. Plot details are being kept in the black but Hardy, who is said to be a Venom fan, will play Eddie Brock, the character who first became Venom.

Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach are producing along with Amy Pascal.

The internet is calling this casting a coup and I can’t help but agree. Hardy is an excellent actor who is a year removed from his first Oscar nomination in The Revenant and has starred in action and drama movies a plenty including Inception, Warrior, has a superhero movie under his belt already portraying the sinister Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, rode through the wasteland in Mad Max: Fury Road and will star in the upcoming Dunkirk; I can’t help but be impressed by Hardy’s body of work thus far and I look forward to seeing him give life to this tragic and deadly character. Venom is set to snare an audience on October 5, 2018.

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Thor: Ragnarok Lands Director

Image by Marvel

Phase 3 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, is on the horizon with Captain America: Civil War ready to light the fireworks next summer. The characters Captain America and Thor will see their respective solo franchises come to a close in the Phase 3 lineup; Captain America with Civil War and Thor with Thor: Ragnarok. Some of the Marvel films have already secured directors and are moving forward in the pre-production phase, while others haven’t started the development phase or settled on a director yet; Thor: Ragnarok has shifted from the latter to the former now that Taika Waititi has officially signed on to direct.

Flight of the Conchords director Taika Waititi is in negotiations to direct Thor: Ragnarok for Marvel, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.
Waititi beat out Ruben Fleischer for the coveted job of steering the comic book movie sequel. He follows in the footsteps of Kenneth Branagh (Thor) and Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World).

Image by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Waititi has experience as an actor, writer, director and producer with experience dabbling in both film and television. Credits include Flight of the Concords, What We Do in the Shadows, Eagle vs. Shark, Boy and an acting role in Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds. Like Spider-Man director Jon Watts, he falls under the category of a small-time director with enough potential to handle something larger than anything he has experienced before. He’ll now inherit Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Jamie Alexander, who will reprise their roles as Thor, Loki and Lady Sif in the superhero sequel, slated for a July 28, 2017 release date.

Review: Gangster Squad

In 1949, a ruthless East Coast gangster has the city of Angels in the palm of his hand, lacing its lifeblood with crime, violence and vice, and the only thing standing in his way is a small squad of undercover Los Angeles cops known as the “Gangster Squad.”

Josh Brolin (right) and Sean Penn (left) are at war for 1949 Los Angeles in “Gangster Squad”

Director Ruben Fleischer’s (“Zombieland”) period piece stars Academy Award winner Sean Penn (“Mystic River,” “Milk”) as Mickey Cohen, a power-hungry gangster who sees Los Angeles as thriving criminal enterprise with promise in the areas of illegal betting, drugs, and prostitution and himself as the sole executive worthy of running this enterprise.

Cohen practically has the entire Los Angeles law enforcement in his pocket except for LAPD Chief Bill Parker, played by Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte (“The Prince of Tides,” “Affliction”), because he is the only high-level lawman who sees that Los Angeles needs to be liberated from the tyranny of Cohen and his criminal influence.

Parker realizes that there is only one cop who shares his perception of Los Angeles and that is Sergeant John O’Mara, played by Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin (“Milk,” “No Country for Old Men”), a WWII veteran and expert in guerrilla tactics turned cop, who believes that Los Angeles is heading down the wrong path and something needs to be done.

This isn’t a crime wave. It’s enemy occupation. I need you to wage war against Mickey Cohen.“-Nick Nolte as Chief Parker.

At the behest of Chief Parker, O’Mara is given permission to assemble a small squad to dismantle Cohen’s criminal enterprise but in order to do so O’Mara and his squad must work outside the law.

O’Mara’s squad includes Sgt. Jerry Wooters, played by Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling (“Half Nelson,” “Blue Valentine”), Coleman Harris, played by Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”), Navidad Ramirez, played by Michael Peña (“End of Watch”), Conway Keeler, played by Giovanni Ribisi (“Saving Private Ryan”) and Max Kennard, played by Robert Patrick (“Walk the Line”).

Cohen’s operations are now on notice as the Gangster Squad seek to completely destroy Cohen’s franchises throughout the city but Cohen intends to fight back and fight back hard. The future of Los Angeles will either be in the hands of the law or the corrupt.

A cop that’s not for sale is like a dog with rabies. You just gotta put ’em down.“-Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen.

Ruben Fleischer has delivered a slick gangster flick in “Gangster Squad.” It isn’t perfect but it is mildly entertaining.

The film reads nicely, is visually appealing and is ripe with action and drama but it isn’t entirely overwhelming but it is quite satisfying.

Emma Stone (left) and Ryan Gosling (right) just ooze on-screen chemistry in “Gangster Squad”)

The cast of the film is decent. Every actor performed their roles well but what is disappointing is that no one truly stood out from a crowd. If there is a disappointment in the ensemble it would probably be Emma Stone’s (“Easy A,” “The Amazing Spider-Man”) Grace Farraday; she is solely a pretty face with nothing significant to contribute until the end of the film.

The screenplay from Will Beall (“Logan’s Run”) is fairly average in allowing the story to transpire but the action in the film is what makes the movie pop and worth seeing.

“Gangster Squad” has very stylish action but that is pretty much it. The acting, directing and the writing of the movie is decent and entertaining but not really special to remember.

Movies of the week: Gangster Squad and Zero Dark Thirty

A battle for the soul of 1949 Los Angeles and the greatest manhunt in history kickoff 2013 at the movies.

Josh Brolin leads a small squad of cops to save Los Angeles from crime in “Gangster Squad”

This week features Ruben Fleischer’s crime drama “Gangster Squad,” starring Academy Award winner Sean Penn as ruthless Brooklyn mob-boss Mickey Cohen, who takes his enterprises to the west coast. Cohen’s rise to power eventually leads to a virtual conquest of Los Angeles and Cohen’s rule is unchallenged until a small squad of LAPD cops, led by Sgt. John O’Mara, played by Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin, go undercover to completely dismantle Cohen’s illegal operations. O’Mara’s squad wages war against Cohen’s criminal rule for the salvation of the city of Los Angeles.

Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow brings the story of the decade long manhunt of 9-11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden to the big screen in “Zero Dark Thirty.” The film stars Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain as Maya, a dedicated CIA operative leading the charge in locating Bin Laden leading to the Navy seal’s May 2011 raid on Bin Laden’s compound.

What am I expecting to see?: Ruben Fleischer is stepping away from his usual comedic style to deliver something gritty yet stylized in a film-noir type of film such as “Gangster Squad.” Sean Penn looks as if he is bringing his A-game to the role of Mickey Cohen, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Nick Nolte look good in the supporting cast and the film overall is just dripping with intense drama that earmarks the gangster film genre. I’m expecting “Gangster Squad” to begin 2013 with a bang.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is a serious award contender  this year

“Zero Dark Thirty” is a serious award contender this year

As for “Zero Dark Thirty,” this movie has been gaining incredible award momentum and justifiable critical acclaim and I’m expecting that acclaim to live up to the hype. Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are carrying their trademark quiet tension that brought their previous Oscar-winning film, “The Hurt Locker,” such widespread recognition and prestige. Jessica Chastain is garnering much praise for her performance and this film is truly winning over the attention of audiences because of the main subject of the film and Bigelow’s name and reputation. The combination of the two makes “Zero Dark Thirty” a film that can’t be missed.