REVIEW: JOKER (2019)

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JOKER (2019)

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Joker is a daring and provocative origin story from DC tracing the beginnings of one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, back to one Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Fleck is a man with issues of mental illness who lives with his mother, Penny (Frances Conroy), goes to therapy and works as a clown at a low level entertainment company. Arthur has dreams of being a stand-up comedian and delusions of grandeur, like being on the Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) Show. Arthur has a hard life and is picked on and beaten up by the thugs in a lawless Gotham City. Things start to change for Arthur, both good and bad, when he uses a gun he’s given by a coworker to defend himself, against three young and abusive Wall Street types on the subway. An uprising of the haves vs the have-nots ignites in Gotham over the incident, with clown faces as the symbol of those deprived of a better life. This fuels Arthur’s inner rage and delusional nature and starts him on the road to becoming the clown prince of crime we all know.

Joker is exceptionally directed by Todd Phillips and written by he and Scott SIlver and is a disturbing and dark take on the origins of a super villain. Phillips makes the movie all the more effective by keeping it grounded and the lack of an over-the-top comic book style, makes the portrayal more realistic, thus relatable, and intense. Gotham is not a Blade Runner-esque city, but a New York of the early 80s with crime, decadence and filth at an all-time high. Arthur is disturbed as it is, but is constantly pushed, picked on and preyed upon by Gotham’s dirty underbelly and apathetic elite. Arthur’s mental illness is treated head on by the script and we do feel bad for him as he grew up in an environment with a single mother with her own mental issues, along with her abusive boyfriends. The city of Gotham pushes him till he snaps and a madman is created. Fans fear not, as the links to the Dark Knight are there. Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is running for mayor and not only is Arthur told the delusion by his mother that he is Wayne’s illegitimate son, he also meets young Bruce (Dante Pereira-Olson) when he tries to talk to his “dad” at Wayne Manor. The death of Bruce’s parents is also part of the goings on and signals what is to come for both young Mr. Wayne and Arthur who comes to want to be known only as “Joker”. It adds up to a dark and fascinating look at abuse, mental illness and how it drives one meek fellow to becoming a violent and quite unhinged psychopath. It’s a unique take on one of the comics greatest villains and an intense and sometimes shocking comic book themed film. Be warned, there is graphic violence and it is treated without humor unlike in the R-rated Deadpool flicks.

Joaquin Phoenix is simply brilliant as Arthur Fleck/Joker. From his mannerisms, body movements and overall performance he is riveting as first a pathetic and sad man trying to exist in a world completely unsympathetic to his mental issues, to a man who finally finds his smile committing horrific acts. It is a career defining performance from an actor already known for his eclectic performances. Simply a brilliant portrayal. De Niro is good as talk show host Murray Franklin who sees footage of Arthur’s terrible stand-up and wants to exploit him for laughs. Zazie Beetz is sweet as his single mom neighbor whom Arthur’s forms a delusional attachment to. Brett Cullen is solid as Thomas Wayne, a man who the film boldly portrays as a bit of a rich a-hole, when he is far more saintly in other portrayals. The various supporting players including Frances Conroy as Arthur’s ill and fading mom Penny, are all top notch. A great cast!

In conclusion this is a powerful film whose bold and daring portrayal of a legendary comic book character’s beginnings makes it one of the most unique comic book themed films thus far. It features a masterful performance by it’s leading man and by using a grounded approach to the material, makes it far more real and thus ultimately frightening. Men like Arthur Fleck do exist outside the comic books. A great movie. One of the best of the year!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) clown masks.

 

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REVIEW: DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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Sequel finds our wise-cracking, anti-hero suffering a devastating personal loss and turning suicidal. With his powers of regeneration, that doesn’t work out so well and so Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) tries to help by recruiting him to the X-Men. That doesn’t work out so well either and Wade a.k.a. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself sent to the Ice Box, a prison designed for mutants, along with a powerful, troubled boy named Russell (Julian Dennison). When a cyborg from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) comes to kill Russell, Deadpool sees saving the boy as a way to prove he is capable of doing the right thing…but is he?

Deadpool 2 is this time directed by David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) from a script by returning writers Paul Wernick, and Rhett Reese, along with star Ryan Reynolds. It doesn’t quite have the edge or energy of the first film, but is still good, naughty, bloody fun. The film is filled with the now traditional pop culture references and shots taken at other Marvel and DC properties, including The Merc with the Mouth telling Brolin’s Cable to “Pump the hate breaks Thanos at one point. The flick is a bit larger scaled with the action, no better example than an especially fun sequence with Deadpool and his team of misfits, including ‘lucky’ mercenary Domino (Zazie Beets), trying to stop Cable’s assault on an armored convoy. It’s bigger than anything seen in this series so far and gives Reynold’s co-stars a piece of the action, too. The flick has the usual humor-laced graphic violence and there are plenty of raunchy jokes with just enough wit behind them to make them work. A sequence with Wade regenerating his lost legs is especially hilarious. In fact while the flick seems to take itself a bit too seriously at times, in the first half, the second half comes alive with what we came for…including some hysterical post credit scenes. Like the first film, not everything works, but does succeed more often than not. The new characters of Cable and Domino are welcome to the Deadpool universe and we get returning familiar faces like Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Weasel (T.J. Miller) and Wade’s ever-loving girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). It’s a fun time and while the hi-jinx aren’t exactly new, they are still fairly fresh here thanks to the creative team and the actors getting the tone of the material perfectly.

Ryan Reynolds is born to play this part and he does so like a boss. He delivers his lines with the same deadpan confidence as he did last time, while unafraid to equally poke fun at himself. Josh Brolin’s Cable may not quite be up to his Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War, but his second Marvel character this summer is still a solid villain that avoids being two dimensional, all the while having a deadpan sense of humor of his own. Zazie Beetz is a sexy delight as Domino. A mercenary who claims her superpower is luck and she’s an ass-kicker and can be quite funny herself. Julian Dennison is good as Russell. At first we feel sorry for his picked-on and abused mutant, but also start to see the power and rage which will become a problem in Cable’s future. Morena Baccarin is back as sexy, sassy Vanessa and we wish she had a bigger part. Colossus is again fun as voiced by Stefan Kapičić,  still amusingly portraying the metal encased X-Man as a big metal boy scout. T.J. Miller is still fun as Wade’s buddy Weasel. Brianna Hildebrand is back as N.T.W. and with a new look and a mutant girlfriend, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna). Leslie Uggams is also back as Wade’s roommate Blind Al and Karan Soni returns as faithful cab driver and assassin wannabe Dopinder. There are also some great cameos that won’t be spoiled here.

In conclusion, it may not quite have the edge that the first film had, but it is still raunchy, bloody, sarcastic fun. There are some welcome new characters to add to the returning familiar faces and some bigger action set-pieces to throw those characters into. Reynolds is perfect again as the “Merc with the Mouth” and there are some fun post credits scenes to stick around for. Not exactly an equal, but an entertaining sequel that, in a way, is it’s own thing! As usual there is a soundtrack of cool songs included in the mayhem.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 unicorns…like last time.

deadpool rating

 

 

 

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