Joker

Joker is a masterpiece.

I didn’t know what expect from the previews or the warnings issued the Department of Defense (of all agencies) that incels might use screenings of the film as an opportunity to shoot up a theater as one such unhinged freak did previously at a screening of The Dark Knight. As it happens, there’s a sports shop at the end of the mall opposite of the theater that sells the AK and AR style assault rifles and ammo but there are plenty of other things to shoot in my neck of the woods (literally) so I wasn’t too worried.

The film ended up being a breath of fresh air from start to finish. No spandex. No CGI. No product placement or branding bullshit, unmolested by studio executives or focus groups — which is amazing in and of itself. Just great shots at real locations, brilliantly written and performed.

Joker is the antithesis forgettable, Skittle-vomit, superhero flicks I’ve been totally burned out on. Appropriate, given that it tells the story of an anti-hero and not a superhero. In fact, rather than losing everything that typically kicks off the hero’s journey, Joker begins at the bottom with a beaten-down, impoverished, mentally ill man, Arthur, looking for belonging and seeking to define himself in and in spite of a world that shits on him when it notices him at all. Strangers attack him, family denies him, friends betray him, public services fail him and his heroes humiliate him. He wants to do good, to make people smile. He tries to be that. He perseveres against each setback as they compound and almost seem to conspire against his steadfast goal of becoming a stand-up comedian. But it isn’t enough. He loses to become something else instead.

I found Joaquin Phoenix’s performance of Arthur very relatable, easy to empathize with. Through him, I could feel Arthur’s anguish, embarrassment and exhilaration. Every one of his victims is someone who’s hurt him and has more power or means to have done so. He becomes a symbol of empowerment, punching up against those punching down. And it’s delicious! The movie ends with Joker embracing the chaos that’s embraced him and coming into his own. I left the theater feeling great for a pleasant change.

Brightburn

As is too often the case, the editors who cut together the trailers for this movie should’ve been the ones who cut together the movie itself — maybe scripted and directed it too. Because then I might’ve left the theater with what I came for: the story of a tormented alien child discovering his power and struggling with the choice between doing good by the loving family who raised him or giving in to his destructive impulses.

Continue reading Brightburn

Mortal Engines

While the trailer did intrigue me somewhat, I didn’t watch this movie. Because, in spite of the novel concepts, there’s no mystery. Nothing to discover. It’s all presented up front, described by exposition and sweeping, perfectly lit, detailed vistas of these monstrous cities on the move.

And, like any good monster movie, they should have been revealed in parts or obscured from being viewable in their entirety from perspectives and situations that emphasized their terrible enormity. Instead, it’s more Skittles-vomit CGI that I, personally, am sick of. Even if that’s what they were intentionally going for, it happens to be competing with any number of animated features this season of it’s opening for which Skittles-vomit is the stock and trade.

Also, all the dialog in the trailer is boilerplate “Hurry!”, “Wait!”, “No!”, “Find them!” generic story-drivel. The 1980s action movie one-liners were cheesy but you remembered them and the characters and movies they were from, seared into your mind forever. But this, meh! Nothing stood out.

Maybe the books this movie is based on are better (as they so often are)?

Annihilation / Wondrous And Horrifying

I don’t often post public reviews unless I’m really quite impressed or disappointed by some consumed thing. Serendipitiously, Annihilation climbs into the former category.

Basically, a 12th team comprised of scientists enter a shimmering, expanding area (the “Shimmer”) from whence the previous 11 teams failed to return to make their way to whatever it is precipitating this mysterious phenomenon located at the lighthouse in the center of it.

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Death by Disney / Losing Star Wars to The Dark Side

So I fulfilled my destiny and gave Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi not a watch so much as a long (2.5 hours), concerned stare. And it is with sad disappointment that I must say it continues what’s become a trend in this saga of sucking mightily; which, in and of itself, wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t shitting all over something of priceless sentimental value.

Continue reading Death by Disney / Losing Star Wars to The Dark Side