Film Review: JOKER (USA 2019) ****

Joker Poster
Trailer

In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: “The Joker”.

Director:

Todd Phillips

It seems unlikely that the director of mostly comedies like WAR DOGS, THE HANGOVER movies and OLD SCHOOL be the one to create this odd but original DC comic Batman villain JOKER.  But is this really the JOKER villain that challenges Batman so many times, or is he the inspiration for the real villain.  The age difference between this joker and  Bruce Wayne appears so, but director Phillips leaves the answer ambiguous.  As such, JOKER is an intelligent enough alternative Marvel Universe movie that concentrates on a villain as the protagonist.  The graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) was the basis for the premise.

The joker is a real loser in life.  Born poor with a mental disability, this sorrowful soul (Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck/Joker) is a mentally ill, impoverished stand-up comedian disregarded by society, whose history of abuse causes him to become a nihilistic criminal.  The illness causes Arthur to occasionally break out into uncontrollable laughter.

Phoenix has starred before in movies with a similar character, a loser as in YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE and INHERENT VICE, films that did not make great money but with this character immersed in a Marvel Universe, JOKER has made Warner Bros. an unexpected amount of money.  Arthur’s inspiration is talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) who allows Arthur on his show though later berates him causing Arthur to take immense offence and revenge.  De Niro is superb here.  When De Niro and Phenix appear together, De Niro steals the scene from Phoenix ( as evident in the first scene together, showing him to be what can be classified as a great actor.  The script takes De Niro from an early character in Martin Scorcese’s THE KING OF COMEDY where De Niro plays an upcoming comedian stalking successful comedian star played by Jerry Lewis.

JOKER is not a pleasant watch, since the often disturbing film deals with mental illness, depression, violence and the underworld of Gotham City (the film is shot in New York).  But it is a superbly crafted film going deep into the recesses of Arthur’s demise.

The camera work is nothing short of stunning.  Arthur’s chase of the young hooligans who steal his sign down the streets of the city is expertly shot.  The segment where the ambulance carrying Arthur’s mother Penny (Frances Conroy) screeches through a tunnel with the shearing lights doubles up on the madness of the situation and Arthur’s mental state.

Director Phillips gets the audience on Arthur’s side when he kills three yuppie criminals who beat him up on the subway train.  The audience feels sorry for Arthur, a vigilante at this point, but his behaviour also prevents the audience to feel sorry any further.

JOKER won the Golden Lion when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival.  It is also the number 1 R-rated box-office champion of all time.  JOKER is a film that demands to be seen, especially for cineastes.  The film should come away with a few Academy Awards in 2020.

Trailer: https://ca.video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-dcola-005&hsimp=yhs-005&hspart=dcola&p=trailer+joker#id=1&vid=b8d5e4cd2b8612f20aaba3cc8156ea6d&action=click

Film Review: LUCY IN THE SKY (USA 2019)

Lucy in the Sky Poster
Trailer

Astronaut Lucy Cola returns to Earth after a transcendent experience during a mission to space, and begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small.

Director:

Noah Hawley

Writers:

Brian C. Brown (story by), Elliott DiGuiseppi (story by) | 3 more credits »

      In short, LUCY IN THE SKY is the story of a crazy woman.  But how the journey gets to this point is quite the intrigue.

            The film begins with a stunning look of an astronaut in outer space.  Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) is told: “Warp it up, you are going home.” To which she answers “Just give me a few more minutes.”  The film also flashes on the screen ‘Based on real events.’  The term real instead of true indicates events that are likely disturbing.

            After returning to earth, an obsessive astronaut (Natalie Portman) begins to question her place in the universe — including her relationships with her gentle husband (Dan Stevens) and her alluring crewmate (Jon Hamm.  When she returns, all Lucy wants is to go back to space, at all costs.  er modest family life loses its allure and the comforting support of her gentle husband Drew (Dan Stevens) is suddenly less appealing than the masculine charisma of a fellow astronaut, Mark (Jon Hamm), a divorcee disconcertingly eager to encourage an affair.  As she determinedly trains for her next mission, her growing dissociation threatens to dismantle both her personal and professional lives.  Hawley shows all the ugliness of Lucy’s obsession.  The sympathy goes to the poor husband.  The only reason Lucy can give her husband for her erratic behaviour is: “Can’t you see I have changed.”

  Director Hawley cannot resists using the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.  In fact the title is probably taken from the song as well.  That sequence is artistically done in a surreal sequence Lucy in the foreground and images of her past changing in the background.

LUCY IN THE SKY is not a very good film. Director Hawley takes too much time to set up the film’s premise resulting in a very slow and ponderous first half.  It does not help that the character Lucy is an extremely annoying and unlikable one.  But Hawley pulls a good twist in the last third of the film when the audience finally realizes that the story is about a crazy lady that they are not supposed to sympathize with. 

The cinematography of outer space, courtesy of cinematographer Polly Morgan is nothing short of stunning, especially at the start of the film.

The film includes a few ridiculous bits like one part where Lucy picks up a wig for disguise.  Since when do they ell wigs in a hardware store?  The ending with the bees also makes little sense to the story.

Ellen Burstyn has a small role as Lucy’s mother.  Burstyn steals every scene she is in, with her bitter and somewhat sarcastic dialogue on life, something more of what the film needs.

There event that film is ‘inspired’ by is the story of Lisa Nowak, an astronaut who tried to kidnap another NASA colleague at the Orlando airport.

LUCY IN THE SKY is a dull disappointing drama disguised as a space movie.  It might have worked if the material were given a twisted twist with some black humour.  LUCY had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival but to general lacklustre reviews.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQP-L2pJzmk

Film Review: DEADPOOL 2 (USA 2018) ****

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Deadpool 2 Poster
Trailer

Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA. Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy of supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling mutant, Cable.

Director:

David Leitch

 

DEADPOOL 2 arrives 2 years after the first DEADPOOL, the 11th film in the X-Men film series.  The important question on everyone’s lips is how this film fares with regards to the first DEADPOOL and the recent Marvel films like BLACK PANTHER and AVENGERS INFINITIY WAR.  Well, it is different and notably raucously hilarious. Co-written by star Ryan Reynolds himself who did a bit on his own character’s dialogue, there are lots of swearing, so be prepared to be hearing lots of vulgarities like “fuckshit”.

DEADPOOL (Reynolds reprising his original role) is the wisecracking Marvel Comics mercenary with accelerated healing but severe scarring over his body after undergoing an experimental regenerative mutation.   He forms the X-Force, a team of mutants, most of which hilariously die while unsuccessfully parachute landing in an attempt on the job to rescue Russell (Julian Dennison), a boy Deadpool befriended while in prison.  Foremost in the story is the character of Cable (Josh Brolin) a time travelling cybernetic mutant soldier who wishes to kill Russell.  It should be noted that DEADPOOL 2’s humour is in the extreme, from fake opening credits to ridiculous subplots to senseless dialogue.  To the credit of everyone making this movie, it actually works.  It took me a while to get into the film’s groove, admittedly a full 15 minutes or so (I initially hated it, thinking it all too silly, but the tactic grows into you quickly and the effort is soon appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed.)  The laugh-out loud jokes are too many to innumerate but there are prize one like the inside joke on Disney’s Frozen (since Disney has recently bought over Fox) and a running joke that makes no sense on the progress of dubstep.  The soundtrack that includes two new songs: “Ashes” by Céline Dion and “Welcome to the Party” by Diplo, French Montana and Lil Pump are especially inventive.  Those who have seen/heard “Ashes”, released as the lead single on May 3, 2018, along with a music video of the vocalist singing the song will still be laughing.

Star Ryan Reynolds is perfect as the hilarious Deadpool.  He makes the character including the dialogue he wrote.  He was given large creative control over this film after the success of the first one that resulted in the leaving of the original’s director Tim Miller due to artistic differences.  Josh Brolin plays Cable marvellously, as Brolin does in all his roles.  Brolin was also in the last recent Marvel film AVENGERS INFINITY WAR playing the main villain Thanos.  Fortunately, the makeup of Thanos results in Brolin hardly recognizable or that would have been a problem with Brolin being in two Marvel stories.  Familiar characters from the first DEADPOOL like Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, Karan Soni as Dopinder, the taxi driver, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al (the fake opening credits has her listed as the film’s cinematographer) and T.J. Miller as Weasel, Daedpool’s best buddy bartender who has absolutely no loyalties are in the sequel.  Miller is good in this movie but was almost removed from the film due to alleged sexual misconduct and calling in a fake bomb threat during the movie filming.

DEADPOOL 2’s looks very expensive with great CGI and special effects.  The fight scenes are particularly stunning with humour always present.  Action and hilarity mix well in the funniest of the Marvel franchise.

Make sure to stay for the closing credits as they include a few extra scenes including surprises such as who is listed playing “Vanishing Man.”  The film also sets up for the next continuing film X-FORCE which may or may not be a direct sequel to DEADPOOL 2.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D86RtevtfrA

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