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Overrated/Underrated: Beware of ‘Venom,’ and another goodbye to Kiss

Captain Comics
Tom Hardy plays Spider-Man villain Venom in a movie without Spider-Man. “Venom” premieres Oct. 5.
(CTMG Inc. / TNS)

UNDERRATED

Nicole Holofcener: A longtime master of richly detailed characters and the often small yet poignant moments that can reveal or upend them, this filmmaker has brought a reliably humane touch to such critically lauded movies as “Lovely & Amazing” and “Please Give” as well as episodes she directed of TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” “Enlightened” and “One Mississippi.” Her latest film, the Netflix-delivered “The Land of Steady Habits,” switches from her usual perspective by centering on a former stockbroker (an understated Ben Mendelsohn) who begins to confront the barren selfishness in his life in a story that gracefully balances heart and humor.

Allison Miller and Carmen Staaf’s ‘Science Fair’: A combustible meeting between musicians with ties to the West Coast, this album marks the debut of a project co-led by two strong voices. A recent graduate of L.A.’s Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, pianist Staaf teams with a rising star behind the drums in Miller — known for her raucous group Boom Tic Boom as well as a few heavy-hitting turns as bandleader on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” — for a set that mixes impressive individual turns and dynamic interplay. Factor in stirring cameos from Ambrose Akinmusire and Dayna Stephens and “Science Fair” is an experiment worth repeating.

OVERRATED

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Another Kiss ‘farewell’: The closest disco-era embodiment of Spinal Tap this side of Harry Shearer and Michael McKean, this proudly loud band of Detroit Rock Citizens announced last week that it is hanging up the Kabuki face paint and platform boots for one final tour of delirious caveman rock. Long goodbyes are an inevitable stop in a rock ’n’ roll journey and one familiar to Kiss after already staging a lucrative run of supposed farewell shows some 18 years ago. (Devotees may note that was the farewell for the band’s “original” lineup, and they can buy in again for one more last chance to see their heroes — at least until the next one.)

The prestige veneer of ‘Venom’: The violent story of a shape-shifting alien with a toothy jack-o’-lantern grin and, puzzlingly, a Gene Simmons-esque tongue, this movie will probably please its intended audience of die-hard comic fans, but that’s not quite enough for Marvel. Releasing the movie on Oct. 5 — a time typically reserved for more awards-angling fare — the cash-printing studio has also girded the film with high-caliber actors in Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed and, somewhere behind that goofy mask, Tom Hardy. Can a movie about a tongue-wagging monster and its mild-mannered alter ego be high art? In 2018, anything is possible.

chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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