Joker (2019) Review

Joker (2019)

Directed by Todd Phillips

Based on Characters by DC Comics

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Music by Hildur Guðnadóttir

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
An origin story set in 1981, the film follows Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill failed stand-up comedian who turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City.

My Opinion:

I guess it’s about time I review this? As it came out in October, I didnt review it as I was only posting horror movie reviews. Plus I didn’t really have the energy to review it while everyone was freaking out about it on Twitter. While people were using the phrase “toxic white males” yet again (as if ALL humans aren’t toxic pieces of shit) and while America was freaking out about people potentially being shot in cinemas showing Joker since America allows everyone to walk around like armed vigilantes. Do I swear too much?! When I tried typing “cinemas” just now my spellchecker changed it to “cuntbags”. Anyway, while things have calmed down a bit, I’ll now review this. Can’t wait for the next Shitstorm when this is up for Oscars!

This is a good film with a great performance. Is it a masterpiece? Not in my opinion but I wouldn’t argue with those who did love it as I can see the reasons why. I have to admit I’m sick of “comic book” movies but especially sick of Batman & the Joker. I haven’t really liked either character since Tim Burton’s versions in 1989. I’m even almost starting to hate Christopher Nolan’s films as they’re SO overhyped by obsessive fans (although I did think Heath Ledger was very good). Okay – I don’t know Mark Hamill’s version but do love the guy so would likely enjoy his Joker. I have NO knowledge of the comics or these characters beyond what’s been shown in movies. I admit that. This review is based only on my opinion as a lover of film.

What I did like, not being a comic fan, is that Joker didn’t feel at all like a comic book or DC movie. Hell, it barely felt like the Joker character to me. It truly is more like a Martin Scorsese film (specifically The King Of Comedy, as everyone knows). I think Scorsese’s films are very good, although he’s not a favorite director of mine as his movies aren’t usually my type of thing. I did a Scorsese Top Ten list (HERE). I do really like my top five or six and The King Of Comedy is one of them, so I did enjoy Joker’s homage to that film and its brilliant use of Robert De Niro. I liked the film’s tone and its score was perfect for it. I did think Joaquin Phoenix was fantastic and absolutely deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for his performance (even if it sounds like he’s a pain in the ass diva to work with). Yeah, yeah – Actresses aren’t allowed to be “difficult” while actors are called brilliant when they behave that way. I totally agree there’s a double standard there and it’s unfair. I think all artists should be allowed to be difficult (within limits, obviously) if it produces great results. I guess it worked in the case of Joker as it’s certainly Joaquin’s performance of a lifetime. I don’t care – I’ll never work have to work with him! I preferred River Phoenix anyway (R.I.P. – I’ll forever be sad about that one the way younger people still aren’t over Heath Ledger).

I suppose I better address some of the controversy. I’m still a little baffled by it. I can see people thinking the movie may encourage people who feel fucked-over by society to engage in violent and destructive behavior. But movies like this one have existed for years. Why are we suddenly worried that a movie will push some people over the edge? Or is it because of social media that we just hear the complaints more these days? I remember it being controversial but did people freak out quite as much when Natural Born Killers came out?

I think the issue here may be that people think the Joker was portrayed as a sympathetic character and one who disturbed people may see as a sort of hero. I admit that I did feel somewhat sympathetic toward his character to start with. But that was gone by the end. People don’t like that the movie is blaming society for the seeming rise in violent & dangerous men. But, well, it IS to blame. Is it not? Gotham City in this film looks and feels no different than any big American city now. The movie is also trying to make a point about failing those with mental health issues.

Well. Whatever. I don’t give a shit about any controversy. I think there are far more offensive and far more destructive films out there. This is probably the best movie that has the Joker it it. I just wish it wasn’t the Joker. I’d rather it was a regular, non-comic book guy who gets pushed too far. But it’s a very good film. It’s better than most comic book movies. The fact that it is still a comic book movie to me probably keeps me from seeing it as an instant classic the way some people are seeing it. Maybe I’m snobby like Scorsese.

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (Book Review)

**Well, this isn’t much of a “review”. This is a re-post of my very brief thoughts when I read this book in December 2017. I thought I’d do a quick post as the movie adaptation is out today. While I couldn’t fully get into the book, I did think at the time that it could make for a good film. We’ll see! I think they’ve chosen the right actors for these roles.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn’t share his brother’s appetite for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm’s gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living-and whom he does it for.

My Thoughts:

This strange Western was interesting. I have to admit that I picked it up (for 50p in a charity shop) based 100% on that cool ass cover up there.

I didn’t love it but it’s not exactly my sort of thing. I did like it, though, and found the story refreshingly original. The characters were also really well developed and I especially liked brother Eli (who will be played by John C. Reilly in the movie and who I think is perfect for the role). The movie will also star Joaquin Phoenix & Jake Gyllenhaal and I think it has the potential to be made into a thoroughly entertaining film. I recommend reading the book first if you like the sound of the movie. It’s probably quite different from anything you’ve read before.

My Rating: 3/5

The Sisters Brothers film was directed by Jacques Audiard & stars John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed & Rutger Hauer.

Here’s the trailer:

Gladiator (2000) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of Raging Fluff. He also reviewed North By Northwest HERE. Thanks so much for the reviews, Niall! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Gladiator, IMDB rank 63 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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Gladiator (2000)

*Spoilers That Echo In Eternity

What’s it about? Maximus is a Roman general who’s rather good at decimating bands of Goths (the tribe, not the pale waifs who listen to depressing music). Frail old Emperor Marcus Aurelius loves him like a son, which pisses off his actual son, evil Commodus (inventor of the toilet?). Commodus kills Marcus, betrays Maximus, and for good measure kills his wife and child. Maximus escapes, wanders the earth for a bit (you know, like Kane in Kung Fu), then becomes a gladiator – a gladiator who’s very popular with the mob; his fans are Maximaniacs. He makes his way to Rome for the Superbowl World Series Cup Final Bloody Slaughter Championship and plots his revenge.

In a Tagline? It’s Spartacus meets Wrestlemania.

Number of Times Watched? IV or V (see what I did there?)

Verdict? Duos Pollices (Two Thumbs Up)

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, David Hemmings.

For a film generally remembered as a rather shouty, violent, and gory sword and sandals revenge tale, it is worth noting that Ridley Scott’s Gladiator begins with a shot that wouldn’t be out of place in Little House on the Prairie: a hand moving across a field of wheat. The pastoral image – bathed in gold – will return at the film’s end when the hero is killed. Is it a memory of his beloved farm that he has not seen for many years or a premonition of his death? Is it, in fact, a vision of the Elysian Fields?

Gladiator was bestowed with all sorts of critical and commercial praise when it was released in 2000, and the film was a high watermark for most of those involved. It remains the biggest box-office success of Scott`s career; it marked the beginning of a working relationship between director Scott and actor Russell Crowe; it made Crowe a star and earned him an Oscar; it confirmed Joaquin Phoenix as a fierce talent; it introduced audiences to Djimon Hounsou; and it provided Oliver Reed with one of the best roles he ever had, and was his swansong.

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I have no idea how accurate Gladiator is as history, but I`m not sure I care. I`ve watched it several times and let myself be caught up in its sweep and enjoyed it for what it is. It`s no Spartacus, but it`s a whole lot better than most films of this type, mainly due to the performances and the craft with which it`s put together. Scriptwise, it`s a bit daft: it`s a rather simple tale that perhaps takes itself a little too seriously, and has a protagonist seemingly incapable of smiling (usually a bad thing). In fact, the film really only has one good joke, and it`s a film-trivia inside one: Maximus has the figures of two horses on his breastplate, and he tells young Lucius they are called Scarto and Argentio: that`s Trigger and Silver.

The film chiefly concerns fathers and sons, and much of the dialogue is rather ripe but would earn an A+ at the Hollywood School of Greco-Roman Studies. Luckily, it has actors who know how to nibble at the scenery rather than devour it: take note, Gerard Butler.

As Maximus, the betrayed general turned gladiator, Crowe had to carry most of the film and got most of the attention. I found him less interesting here than in his previous films – watch Romper Stomper and Proof  if you want to see him young and bursting with talent – in spite of the whole “Are you not entertained?” bit. He adopts the plummy voice he would use in other roles when he wishes to sound dignifed, and he falls back on his acting trick of staring into middle distance and frowning (it’s his go-to expression for sorrow, confusion, grief, and despair). Mind you, when he’s hacking off limbs and heads, he has a grand old time of it. He has become such a stodgy old fart these days, it’s worth seeing him here when he was young and in good shape and hungry.

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Phoenix gives the standout performance of the film for me. His Commodus is psychotic, vain, petty, childish, and cruel. Another actor might have played it over the top, but he manages the difficult trick of being a soft-spoken, sexually confused tyrant, and finds the tragedy in the character. Watch how he plays the scene where he kills his father, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), and you can see the self-loathing in his face (the scene is very reminiscent of Roy Batty killing Tyrell in Blade Runner).

And then there is Oliver Reed as Proximo, the former gladiator who buys and then mentors Maximus. Reed was twice -blessed as a young actor in the 1960s; he had a foot in the door by virtue of being the nephew of Carol Reed, and he had an earthy, brutal sexiness at a time when many of his peers were fey. He squandered his talent in booze and many shitty films, but he is magnificent here: he plays the part as an old athlete on the sidelines – a coach who still yearns for the thrill of going on to the pitch (“win the crowd, and you’ll win your freedom”) – and when Reed drops his voice to a whisper, it’s haunting.

The action scenes are very well done, even if the tiger special effects look a bit naff at this point. Hans Zimmer’s score owes a bit of a debt to Gustav Holst, but it’s still one of his best, helped largely by his choice of instruments and by the ethereal voice of Lisa Gerrard.

As with anything by Scott, the film looks incredible, with detail and lighting that other directors seem incapable of. Scott has been criticised often for his poor storytelling, and of being more interested in the surface aesthetics than in any depth of character, but here I think he did a great job of delivering a grand old-style sword and sandals epic.

Niall McArdle

http://www.ragingfluff.wordpress.com

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Her (2013) Review

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Her (2013)

Directed by Spike Jonze

Starring:
Joaquin Phoenix
Amy Adams
Rooney Mara
Olivia Wilde
Scarlett Johansson

Music by Arcade Fire

Running time: 126 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Her is a 2013 American science fiction romantic drama film written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze. The film centers on a man who develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system (OS) with a female voice and personality.

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My Opinion:

Finally! Finally this came out in the UK! Then I just barely managed to see it as it played for one week then pretty much disappeared from all local cinemas. So annoying! Anyway – I was really looking forward to this and went to it with pretty high expectations, which isn’t always a good thing. Well, it was actually even better than I’d been expecting.

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I’m writing this as I watch Captain Phillips as I’m so behind on this blog and on watching all these nominated movies before the Oscars. I’m distracted so I’ll keep this short. I wondered before watching this what sort of direction they could possibly take with what seems like a pretty simple (if unusual) concept. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things they did with this story. I (like all of us) watch lots of movies so most are totally predictable but this one did leave me guessing and did surprise me a couple of times, which was great.

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As for the “relationship”, I didn’t know beforehand if I’d be able to buy into it. But I did. It’s very well written (as I expected from Spike Jonze) and, thanks to great performances from Joaquin Phoenix & Scarlett Johansson, I totally did believe they were in love. Funny thing is that I normally find Johansson’s voice really annoying yet in this I thought it was perfect. Actually, I think this was probably the best performance we’ve ever had out of her. I’ve also never exactly been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix but he’s great in this! It’s a shame he’s not up for an Oscar. I’m glad the film & screenplay are up for Oscars as I think they’re certainly deserving of the nominations although I know wins are very unlikely. I’d love to see this win for screenplay at the very least as it’s very clever & I wish films like this got made more often. And, again – this is another best picture nominee that’s better than American Hustle! All that I’ve seen so far have been.

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The film looks beautiful, everyone gives a very good performance (especially the two leads), it’s dramatic yet has really funny moments (Alien child cracked me up!), it’s clever and very well written, and it does a good job exploring all the different kinds of love and how wonderful and painful it can be. I loved little things like the safety pin. But god those pirates are being REALLY mean to sweet Tom Hanks! Okay – I’m too distracted. I’ll just finish this review by saying: I loved Her and I wish there were more films like it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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**I’ve finished Captain Phillips before this is scheduled to post so I’m going to rank the only best picture nominees I’ve seen. Because I’m anal like that! Starting with my favorite:

1. The Wolf Of Wall Street
2. Her
3. Gravity
4. Dallas Buyers Club
5. American Hustle
6. Captain Phillips

(2 & 3 are close – I may change my mind. I do that a lot.) 🙂