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Review: ‘Joker’

We’ve heard this joke before.

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(c) Warner Bros.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Joker tells the story of man doomed to fall into insanity.

3.9 / 10

Joker is a Batman spinoff of our favourite cackling, murderous and perhaps a little overplayed comic book super villain. A standalone movie that acts as a possible origin for the eponymous clown, about a man’s dive off the deep end as he experiences a bad week and a particularly bad day.

It’s just unfortunately disappointing that despite a game cast and cinematographer, Joker really has nothing say about it that hasn’t already been said before in other movies it’s inspired by, and even other better movies about him.

In the film Arthur Fleck, Played by Joaquin Phoenix, a depressed mentally ill man living with his mother Penny Fleck, (Frances Conroy). He’s living a fairly unhappy life as a clown for hire, constantly breaking out into uncontrolled laughter at inopportune times due to a mental condition.

He dreams of being a stand up comedian and admires TV show host and comedian Murray Franklin, played by Robert De Niro. Unfortunately, due to various hardships across Gotham City, his week only gets worse and worse, until he begins to tear at the seems and becomes an icon to be remembered.



The cast is exceptional here, especially Phoenix, who plays Arthur Fleck/Joker with a subtle sadness and viciousness. Any moment he could snap and it would feel completely in character. He’s able to make the role his own, standing along side Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger, one of the great Joker actors.

The rest of cast also act the heck out of what they’ve got, leading to some compelling performances by De Niro, Conroy and Zazie Beetz, who plays Arthur’s “love interest” of sorts.

However, other than additionally gorgeous cinematography by Lawrence Sher, the rest of the movie suffers due to its direction, story, dialogue, message and setting.

Throughout the ordeal, the film cannot decide whether Arthur’s actions are to be sympathized with or not. There will be scenes where something clearly awful is going on, but from moment to moment, the tone and attitude of the film will shift on wether or not The Joker was heroic in his actions.

Sometime into the film, Arthur commits a gruesome act of violence after getting abused, the film waffling back and fourth on wether or not he was in the right afterwards

Certain characters will behave in ways that might seem to be rude or just wrong, but given the circumstances these scenes happen in where someone may have done soemthing inappropriate, the message is again, confused.

In addition to the problem with its message, Joker also hits a snag: it’s story incredibly mundane and unoriginal. The ideas the film communicates have been done in other films many times before. Taxi Driver springs to mind, which was allegedly an inspiration for the film.

Joker even takes from other Batman comic stories and movies staring the Joker. The Dark Knight constantly springs to mind throughout, but rather as a pale imitation, missing the nuance and originality of that films portrayal of the villain.

Instead, the standalone movie opts to basically lift the feel and outlook of Christopher Nolan’s film wholesale without the subtleties, even if the performances are something new and commendable. The Joker’s face painted look even takes cues from Heath Ledger, right down to him using it to scare people. It’s one thing to be inspired by a movie’s tone and style, it’s another to copy someone else’s and not even pick a point to come too.

There was one other issue that came up unexpectedly: the setting. It appears that in an attempt to make Gotham city look rundown and mundane, it ends up feeling generic. No discernible landmarks, no sense of history and no sense of style. Just a generic city that appears grimy and depressed. Or at least the parts of it we see.

If it were to have lifted anything from previous Batman films, perhaps it could have lifted from Batman Begins, where Thomas Wayne explains to a young Bruce the significance of the monorail line and the history behind it. Joker has nothing in the way of this, making Gotham appear to be just another city, when settings are characters in and of themselves, and serve as reflections to our protagonists emotional state.

Joker is a joke that we’ve all heard before. A once funny joke told with enthusiasm and drive, but now being told by a bland, inferior comedian, lifted from other talented people and confused at what the punchline was meant to be, or even if he wanted a proper punchline at all. ■

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‘The Mandalorian’: Chapter 2 review

1×02 of ‘The Mandalorian’.

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© Lucasfilm

After fighting his way through a compound of enemies, the Mandalorian has made a surprising discovery.

Spoilers

With the bounty droid IG-11 dead and our main character having discovered an infant alien that heavily resembles Yoda, the hunter runs into a bit of trouble when a batch of Jawas have dismantled his ship and made off with the parts.

This episode for me didn’t have the same gravitas as the first episode and felt very much like a filler episode to showcase Baby Yoda’s powers. Yes, internet and viewers of the show have dubbed the small, green infant Baby Yoda, but the nickname seems to stick a lot more now that this baby can use the Force!

In saying that, however, don’t mistake this as a terrible episode overall as so far, the series is managing to maintain its high level of quality. The episode begins to focus on the fact that this bounty hunter will look out for Baby Yoda at any cost which is of course a trope that is all too familiar to a western-styled movie or series.

In a showdown with a large horned beast, the Mandalorian seems done for as the creature charges, however Baby Yoda manages to suspend it in the air using the Force. This brings about a whole new slew of theories as to who or what this infant is. Is it Yoda reborn? An offspring? Does Yoda’s species (who, by the way, are not named canonically) all possess Force abilities?

As the Mandalorian is able to repair his ship and leave the desert planet, he takes Baby Yoda with him. What purpose does Baby Yoda serve? Is he in fact Yoda or is he just of the same species? Lots of questions that will hopefully be answered in the coming episodes. ■

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Review: ‘Charlie’s Angels’

New girls, same action.

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© Paramount

Yet another reboot has arrived, only this one comes to us from the 1976 series and early 2000 movies known as “Charlie’s Angels”, and it’s not as terrible as you would expect it to be.

Charlie’s angels trailer

7/10

The era of spy thrillers may be long past, but a good spy movie is almost always welcomed. The Mission: Impossible franchise has maintained its force and actually gotten stronger as each movie has progressed, but long before Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne were household names, one man owned a team of spies, or angels, to carry out the impossible tasks.

This time, the angels consist of Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska with Elizabeth Banks as Bosley, and the chemistry between these three girls is so fun.

They bounce off of one another’s quirkiness, intelligence and insanity so well. Kristen Stewart may have a bad wrap from the Twilight films, but she is not as terrible as you might expect. Banks plays the team’s boss, Bosley, and also directs the film.

Banks had previously directed Pitch Perfect 2, and in my opinion, it was a solid movie that did well to honour the first film while moving the story forward. Here, Banks is able to better hone her craft as a filmmaker and her talents are certainly on the rise.

What the film does fall short is in suspense, alongside minor writing qualms. While it’s fine to honour the cheesiness of the 70s spy movie, it’s always a good idea to try and move past it and improve on it. Some moments in the film offer dialog that the cast cannot salvage and it is somewhat jarring.

The twists in the film were decent, if not predictable, but the execution of said twists is smooth enough that I found myself looking past how cliched and overused it was. In all fairness to Banks and writers David Auburn and Evan Spiliotopolous, there’s very little room for innovation in genres that have existed for as long as the spy movies have.

What the film also does well is not overly sexualize the main girls. Is flirtation a tool they harness to kick butt? Absolutely. Is it a point of focus for the audience? Absolutely not. It was refreshing to see for the series and helps push female characters forward more.

Now while the review may sound overly positive, make no mistake that the film is not a masterpiece. It is worth the price of general admission and is a lot of fun, but, it fails to reach the heights of other spy franchises.

I am not, however, opposed to a sequel or even two more films to make a trilogy, provided the script is good enough and not as a cash grab.

In the end, a movie with three great leading ladies and a director who is far from green makes for an entertaining time at the movies if you’re not looking for anything too deep. ■

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Mark Wahlberg joins ‘Uncharted’ movie

Mark Wahlberg joins the hunt.

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© Variety.com

Mark Wahlberg will join leading star Tom Holland in the first live-action film based on the acclaimed gaming franchise.

After what seemed to be a dead-end for the project, the Travis Knight directed film based on the video game franchise of the same name is finally adding more names to its cast list in the form of Mark Wahlberg who will be playing Victor “Sully” Sullivan – a mentor to Nathan Drake.

Wahlberg will join Tom Holland who will portray a younger version of Nathan Drake, the titular character of the Uncharted franchise. Holland’s involvement with the project was somewhat unclear during the period of time where Sony and Disney had parted ways over their shared rights of Spider-Man. Following their reunion in September, Sony continued forward with their adaptation of Uncharted.

The video game series began in 2007 with the first instalment Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune which was developed by Naughty Dog and has sold 41 million copies to date.

The film is directed by Travis Knight (Bumblebee) with a script by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. The story is set to act as a prequel to the first game but no other details surrounding the film have been released. Sony is expected to take the film to camera in the next couple of months and meet its release date of December 18, 2020. ■

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