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If nothing else, I appreciate what Joker stands for in the context of a Hollywood comic-book movie. I like the idea that a filmmaker in the MCU era can take one of the most popular characters in fandom, strip that character to their basic roots, and reinvent them for a new genre. I know the "gritty reboot" aesthetic is basically a joke now (hell, there's an entire YouTube channel dedicated to parodying it), but "Taxi Driver starring the Joker with sprinklings of The King of Comedy" isn't the worst movie pitch I've heard. Granted, even in the most unforgiving circles of fans, the Joker has more leniency in adaptation changes because there is no set backstory for the mysterious clown.
At a glance, the film is agreeable enough. The seventies were one of the most visually rich times for cinema (yes, I know it takes place in '81) so the film, which prides itself on being inspired by that era of film, has a great attention to detail. It's always refreshing to see a superhero movie not set against the backdrop of a larger universe(or so we're told), and even though I would have been more excited if DiCaprio stayed on board (he would have been PERFECT), Joaquin Phoenix is a equally gifted and interesting actor worthy of taking up the mantle.
The appeal of the movie, both from what I got and why it's been such a success, is the throwback style. I love looking at this film. The lighting alternates between elegant and grungy, and the camera compositions are lovingly set-up. But the costume design, including a refreshing centerpiece costume not making use of the iconic green and purple color scheme, must not be overlooked, as well as an amazing soundtrack (score AND soundtrack).
But despite, or perhaps because of, the obvious technical competence on the stage, it never quite comes together. The film often falls victim to the bits where the film has to stop being it's own thing and has to remind us why we know who the Joker is at all, as if being a prequel was the only reason to justify its existence. At first it's handled well with the presence of Thomas Wayne, which is actually surprisingly clever, but an extended sequence featuring one of the most recognizable voices of the whole franchise tips it over.
I actually think I enjoyed the film more when I saw it at a digital screening at a Marcus theater instead of the 35 mm screenings now playing at select indie theaters, probably because it made the film seem less pretentious. Watching it at the Oriental made it seem like a gritty, Taxi Driver riff that never fully gets off the ground, but the digital screening makes it seem like a good example of a mainstream superhero movie.
Also, I know I'll get some flack for bringing this up, but elements of Joker's marketing build-up ended up seeping into how I interpreted the film, but not in the way you might expect. The week before it came out, director Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy, Due Date, War Dogs) gave an interview in which he blamed "woke culture" (sigh) on why he stopped making comedy movies. Now that's not a line of thinking I agree with, but on a more personal level, it's not a community I feel particularly welcome in. And later in the film when the Joker goes on a talk show (no spoilers) and rants that "...the system...decide(s) what's right or wrong the same way that you decide what's funny or not", it was impossible not to think of Phillips comments and roll my eyes.
Joker is well-made and endlessly interesting, but notably imperfect. The thing I like most about it that it opens the door for more unconventional comic book movies. Hopefully one that succeeds in being truly subversive.
Putting my hat in the race.
I think your enjoyment of Star Wars: The Last Jedi will largely come down to your willingness to put your trust in writer-director Rian Johnson. This is a film that definitely uses the Star Wars brand to tell a new story, and as such, it tests the characters we love unforgivably. Some story decisions, like where certain characters end up, will spark endless discussion on whether they actually work or not, while others like Rey's parentage are handled perfectly. In both style and storytelling and even editing, Rian Johnson clearly has not been afraid of putting his own creative fingerprints on the saga loud and proud, even if it will rub certain fans the wrong way.
Those who were worried about the film just being a retread of Empire can rest easy. Not only does the film wisely avoid visual similarities with the past entry(with the exception of the ATAT walkers and Jedi training, both of which are done very well), but it also deals with entirely new themes like grief and acceptance, the powers and dangers of turning your back on the past, and the importance of hope. I was constantly in the dark about where the story would go, and during times where I thought I knew where the film was going, it turned around suddenly and surprised me. Even when I was initially unsure of the direction the film was going in, I still always had one foot in Johnson's vision.
On the action and entertainment side, it's solid. The cast is still fantastic, new members like Kelly Marie Tran and Laura Dern do great jobs, the space dog fights still haven't lost their impact quite yet, and the script is really funny too. On top of it all, the climatic scene is a classic example of how do a scene that's action-packed, emotional, and beautiful to look at at the same time. I do wish that there was more focus on some of my favorite supporting characters from the previous film. I'm not sure if this is necessarily a detriment of the movie, as the movie never loses sight of it's main story and themes, but it did disappoint me. Lupita Nyong'o gives as fantastic a performance as she did her last outing, but she's only in one woefully short scene near the beginning. I also have mixed feelings about where certain characters end up, but that's spoiler talk that I don't want to get into right now.
I'd argue that Last Jedi gets across its message of the importance of hope better than Rogue One did. Part of that is almost certainly because the stakes are higher in this entry because we know who these characters are and want them out of danger. The ominous threat of death, sacrifice, and truth is constantly over our heads. But it also works because it takes time to acknowledge the true power of persistence and remembrance, showing that it really is where true strength comes from. It's this mixing of thrills and dimensions that make you glad this franchise is back, even if it's not perfect.
All this makes for a one of a kind Star Wars experience.
On one last note, Carrie Fisher is fantastic in this. Her death may almost certainly be a factor here, but it really is a great performance. For how sarcastic and self-deprecating she was in interviews, she took her work in these movies 100% seriously, and they always remained an important part of her life. We'll always be incredibly grateful for her for this. May the force be with you Carrie. Always.
See it for Curtis, the climax, and Carpenter's score.
Halloween (the 2018 film, continuing a strange trend since Ghostbusters (2016) of reboots to franchises just having the exact same name as their older counterparts) is a mix of genuine scariness, great acting(Curtis especially is captivating, even though I had little doubt about that), rebooting a series respectfully with little franchise-maintenance, respectable direction by David Gordon Green that's faithful to the original (even though there are some moments were a different choice would've been more effective), and some writing that never goes beyond well-intention-ed ideas.
The reason it doesn't get past "good enough" is because it feels like a film made by genuine fans of the original who want to have it both ways, i.e. do things we've never seen in the franchise that seem like natural directions the series should have gone in, but also keep things from getting too far out there so that the hardcore fans won't feel like they've broken too many supposed rules. This became clear to me in a character twist at the end of the second act that not only gives the series welcomed connections to the horrifying but continually fascinating psyches of serial killers, but hints that it's building towards a new exploration at what's driving Michael Myers, and who he is. But because it would have lead to moments that would probably be loved by casual moviegoers but hotly contested by really hardcore fans of the series, it's only ever explored in the aforementioned twist scene.
Also a bit too much padding in the second act with too many killing teenager sequences. They're well-directed, but they over-stayed their welcome too much for my liking. One or two do their job reminding us how much we liked them in the original, but eventually you're wishing it'd get back to the story of the film.
Having said that, yeah, Jamie Lee Curtis really is great. In reboot sequels these days, there's been a lot of "take the hero or heroine of the series and turn them into a loon" in reboot/sequels to mixed success, but it really works with Laurie Strode. Seeing the babysitter next door turn into a slightly crazed gun magnate is the most interesting drama in the film. There's also a great bit in the climax paying homage to a famous scene in the original, and the reason it works is because it actually does twist it around.
See it for Curtis, the direction, and John Carpenter's new score. Being just "good-enough" should not be taken to mean it's bad.
But nothing can top the original.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
A worthy, if not slightly weaker installment in the Marvel film franchise.
"Thor: The Dark World" is the Marvel film that made me realize the element of the franchise's success. It's the movie's preference to not take themselves too seriously. Sure, there's still good character development and drama, but the movies still know that the premise is nothing that serious, and manages to have fun with itself, and in the process, lets the audience get in on that fun too. They are as much fun too laugh at as they are to be entertained. Despite not reading any of the comics, I liked the first "Thor" movie, so I looked forward to seeing this one. This movie takes place in London (a decision I find pointless, but that's just me). Jane Foster, while awaiting the return of Thor, discovers that she's possessed by a mystical element known as the ether. Because of this, a group of dark elves from the titular dark world, are sent out to kidnap Jane and use the ether's power to rule the world. Now it's up to Thor to stop the elves, all the while trying to decide what to do about his brother, Loki. Something I find that the film does a very good job at is telling a three-act story. The first third of the movie reintroduces as to all of our favorite characters, and the dilemmas that they're all facing. None of it is boring, and I was content in seeing where it would be going. Unfortunately, the second act doesn't shine as much. After Thor saves Jane, he takes her back to his home world, Asgard. Here, we take in the lavish art direction by John Bush, almost reminding me of the "Ave Maria" sequence from Fantasia. And yet, I still feel bored. This goes on for awhile. It finally starts to pick itself up during a well paced fight scene between the asgardians and the dark elves, and, without giving too much away, someone dies. One of the other characters had previously built up drama between them, leading to some actual drama. And finally, the final act gives us practically what we want. A great final battle, well paced action, and plenty of brushed on humor. "Thor:The Dark World" is a worthy, if not weaker, edition of the Marvel film franchise. The plot is very engaging, the comic relief for the most part is very funny, and as always, the action scenes are some of the best I've ever seen. It's proof that the movies still like to have fun with their premise, like any good action movie should.
InAPPropriate Comedy (2013)
Not the worst film I've ever seen, but still pretty bad.
Last night, I was hanging out with my cousin. We had gotten two movies from Red Box, this movie, and "The Purge". We had previously watched "Scary Movie 5" to see what it was like (it turned out to be god-awful, as well as one of the worst movies I've ever seen), so you can imagine I was not looking forward to watching this film. I begged her to watch "The Purge" first, but she wouldn't listen. So we sat down, and turned it on. And yeah, it was pretty horrible. It's not the worst film I've ever seen, but it's still pretty bad. The acting is stiff, the skits aren't interesting, and above all, it's just not funny. Have you ever heard of a "humorless comedy." This is one of them.
The Truman Show (1998)
Not your average Jim Carrey.
"The Truman Show" isn't your average Jim Carrey film, as it doesn't show Carrey using his usual schtick as he does in other movies. And those are the Jim Carrey films that I love to see, because when you take away his comedic appeal, you can get a very dramatic and emotional actor. Carrey plays a man who is unaware that his entire life is a television show. He has been on the show ever since he was an infant. Despite having kept this a secret for 30 years, Truman soon begins to suspect something different about his perfect life, despite the shows clever and hilarious lengths to keep him uninterested in the world outside of him. Where does Truman want to go? Well, in a very interesting subplot, we learn that Truman wants to visit Fiji. Why? Because the girl of his dreams, (previously an extra on the show, now an activist living in the real world with an ambition to free Truman with the help of political activism) was taken away by her supposed father, who hastily replied that they were going to Fiji. Now Truman wants to go to Fiji to reunite with the love of his life, and escape his blond and boring wife. If there's one thing that holds this film together, it's the acting. Not just from Carrey, but from the supporting cast, which has an exceptionally difficult job of being a good actor when portraying a good actor, and they pull it off flawlessly. One of "The Truman Show's" themes is feeding into ones anxieties. It carries this off by having Truman live in a world where travel is frowned upon and made to seem to dangerous and too expensive. There's a really funny and well done scene where Truman goes mad, and attempts to drive to anywhere in America, and the show tried to retail irate by presenting Truman with controlled dilemmas like traffic, forest fires and chemical leaks. It makes me happy that I didn't see it when I was younger, because it surely would upset me. But even still, Truman still attempts to escape, giving the character a sense of courage. And that's what makes "The Truman Show" work. The character is great. The character is relatable. He represents a great film character. And what great film character would be complete without a great film. "The Truman Show." Check it out.
You're Next (2011)
A missed golden opportunity.
One of the most disappointing things about "You're Next" is that it has a lot of things going for it in the first half of the film that every good horror film should have; a great set-up, TWO intimidating antagonists, a brooding atmosphere, and, most importantly, brilliant scares. So how can anyone make a movie with so much potential built up for it, and make it so bad? I don't know, but they sure as hell succeeded.
The movie is about a family who travels to Missouri for a reunion. During their stay, strange things start going on, and soon, they, you guessed it, are soon in danger of being murdered. By who you ask? Two mysterious figures wearing a sheep and wolf masks, and like all great horror villains, the creepiness of the figures makes you not care how silly the outfits may be. But if you don't mind me nitpicking, why couldn't they choose any scarier animal masks, like a pig or something like that. I think that that would have made it a whole lot scarier.But again, I'm just nitpicking.
So why do I dislike this film. Well, the biggest problem with it has to be the acting. The scary scenes in the beginning for the most part. For 10 minutes, they're all just yelling at each other. During that time in the theatre, I kept asking myself, "Am I watching a horror movie, or a Halloween special of 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians'?
Around thing that the film has are a lot of plot holes. For example, earlier in a scene, they set a trap for the killer by putting barb wire near the opening of the door, and later, one of the male characters is decapitated by it while making a run for it. And these little things are everywhere! So it makes it really hard to take the film seriously.
But is this there anything my pretentious little mind likes about this film? Yes, the scares. With just the right moments, just the right pacing and just the right pitch of the score, the scares in this film are amazing. It's a film that will leave you cringing in your seat. Another reason they work so well is the way they work off the scares with the films atmosphere and intimidating villains. But sadly, like a lot of horror films, the scares have to be set aside for the film's other element, like the so-called drama. And, like other scary movies, it just takes you off the hook.
Then again, maybe I'm looking at this film the way that it's fan base looks at it. I mean, critics are always talking how much humor is in it. Maybe all the plot holes and hokey acting are what gives the film it's humor. Maybe it was trying to an unintentional spoof of horror movies. I don't know. I'd probably watch it again on Halloween or something like that, but if I were you, I'd wait for it to be out on video.
How Tim Burton Saved Batman.
In a time where superhero movies are considered by critics as golden opportunities for directors to make their film a dark, poignant thriller that adults will love as much as children, it's hard to believe that back in the late eighties, that idea was almost completely frowned upon by critics and concerned parent societies. Back when even PG-13 had to be family friendly. So when Tim Burton directed this film, critic and parents were mostly polarized. Don't get me wrong, it made over 411 million dollars at the box office, which is almost a billion dollars by today's standards, but this was the first time a Batman film had been dark and edgy, the way that we're used to it being today. And it sure does hold up pretty well. The story line is very adult and intense, the acting is good (especially from Jack Nicholson as the Joker), and Tim Burton is great at producing the films sets and atmosphere. If I were to give one complaint, the pacing of the movie could be better, especially near the climax. Other then that, I say see it.
Corpse Bride (2005)
A very well done work by the master himself.
Yesterday at school, I watched Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" for the third time I think. Lately, I've had Burton's work on my mind lately. I've been thinking about a lot of his movies, like his dark "Batman" films, the enchanted Christmas classic, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (which recently celebrated it's 20th anniversary) ,and "Edward Scissorhands", one of my all-time favorite movies. So watching his work again makes me realize what an interesting and talented director he is, even if he might be stating to decline slightly. And watching this movies again really captures the beauty and elegance of his works like none of his other films. The premise of the film centers on a shy, nervous man played by (who else?) Johnny Depp. He is engaged to be married to a lovely women named Victoria, played by Emily Watson. However, after getting cold feet during the rehearsal, he accidentally marries a dead women instead, played by (again, who else?) Helena Bonham Carter, who takes him to the land of the dead, to marry her. There are so many things to admire in this film. I guess the best place to start is the animation. It is simply beautiful. The character's eyes are made bigger, in order to make make them more expressive. And Burton makes the smart decision to make the living world black and white, and once we get to the world of the dead, it becomes very colorful. Not only that, but he chooses to keep the living people black and white when they are in the world of the dead. And it's clever little quirks like that make the film a great Tim Burton film. Burton uses clever uses of cinematography, tilted shots and things like that. His sense of art direction is very good as well, with nice designs done for the buildings and characters. And speaking of the characters, they are interesting, and their actors do fine. You admire how smart, sophisticated, funny, or just kind they can be, which make them all very memorable. The music is also really beautiful. Danny Elfman returns to score the movie, and creates some nice songs for the characters to sing, as well as some quiet piano music to accompany other parts. "Corpse Bride" is one of Tim Burton finest films. It is beautiful, funny, inspirational, and has great attention to detail. Check it out if you haven't already.