Joker (2019) Movie Review

Director: Todd Phillips

Writer: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver (Screenplay)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Shea Whigham, Brett Cullen, Brian Tyree Henry

Plot: A gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society.


Tagline – Put on a happy face.

Runtime: 2 Hours 1 Minute

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Dark Twist on the Origin Story

Story: Joker starts as we meet want to be entertainer Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), he works as a clown through a range a roles, though he does have a reputation for being difficult, he lives in a rundown apartment with his mother Penny (Conroy), with dreams of making it as a stand up comedian, with his idol being Murray Franklin (De Niro) the host of a daily show.

As Arthur starts to see certain parts of his life fall apart, he sees a blossom relationship with his neighbour Sophie (Beetz) until he learns the truth about his past and learns to put on his happy face to become Joker.

Thoughts on Joker

Characters – Arthur Fleck is a loner that has been struggling for work, he wants to be an entertainer and is working on his own material to try his luck at stand-up comedy. He starts a new relationship and thinks his life is going in a new direction, until he learns the truth, becoming the icon we know. Murray Franklin is the host of his own talk show, he handles the comedy of the real events and is the man Arthur sees as an idol, he sees one of the clips of the stand up and puts it on his own show. Sophie is the neighbour and single mother that starts a relationship with Arthur, showing him in a better life. Penny is the mother of Arthur, she sees only the good in the richest man in the town and writes to him often waiting for a reply from her former employer. While most of the characters do have more about them, though most details will contain full spoilers.

PerformancesJoaquin Phoenix gives us a wonderful performance, showing his commitment to the role, which will be one people will talk about when award season hits. Robert De Niro is joy to watch as the charismatic talk show host. Zazie Beetz is good to watch, though she just doesn’t get enough screen time. Frances Conroy is strong to through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a man that has been failed by the society and the mental health system, which sees him struggle to deal with reality and begin his path to become one of the most iconic comic villains. This is much like Venom, a strange choice for a character to bring to the centre stage because we shouldn’t be backing a villainous character, but this time we do get everything connecting to why Joker became who he is. By stepping into how mental health can be brushed aside at times forcing people to fall through the cracks, not being treated the correct way to help them. If you are expecting any sort of comic book movie, you will be lost in this one because nothing we see has anything that couldn’t become a reality, which is what could make the film feel unsettling in places. This is also a story that could have been told without needing to throw a big character name like the Joker in around it and it might have been even better if it didn’t rely on the familiar name.

CrimeThe crime side of the film shows how Arthur starts by being a victim, before he starts to try and show just how far he will go to stand up for himself.

SettingsThe film does use the settings brilliantly, showing how Arthur has come from the bottom, never been given a thing in life, which does reflect just how we would see a Batman figure born with wealth.


Scene of the Movie – Talk show time.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – I didn’t like the laughing stuff, it would include spoilers to why though.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting a dark spin on the world for one of the biggest names in comic book history, without making it feel like a comic book in anyway.

Overall: Dark and as Twisted as You Would Imagine.

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Naomi Watts Weekend – The Book of Henry (2017)

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writer: Gregg Hurwitz (Screenplay)

Starring: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Sarah Silverman, Dean Norris, Lee Pace, Maddie Ziegler

 

Plot: With instructions from her genius son’s carefully crafted notebook, a single mother sets out to rescue a young girl from the hands of her abusive stepfather.


Tagline – Never leave things undone.

Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Sweet Little Tale

 

Story: The Book of Henry starts as we meet 12-year-old Henry (Lieberher) who is the brains in the family with his little brother Peter (Tremblay) and single working mother Susan (Watts). Henry is a genius and knows how to support the family with his stock tips.

When Henry starts to suspect his neighbour Glenn Sickleman (Norris) of abusing his stepdaughter Christina (Ziegler) he wants to solve the problem, though none of the adults will listen to him. Henry writes a book on how to save Christina, which Susan finds and goes out to complete his work and save her.

 

Thoughts on The Book of Henry

 

Characters – Susan is the mother of the house, though she doesn’t have the full responsibility in the house as she lets her genius son Henry handle the finances in the home. She is a single working mother that does everything she can to help her kids, enjoys a drink with her best friend Sheila and videos to release the stress, she must go through a difficult process when Henry becomes sick and wants to follow his book to do the right thing. Henry is a genius 12-year-old boy, he keeps his family together while trying to leave his own legacy, he knows how to work the stock market which keeps the family a float and when he sees wrong in the world he wants to help change it, this brings him to write a book to stop the abuse of his neighbour by her stepfather. Peter is the younger brother to Henry, he always looks up to him and wants to help him with his innocent being the only thing that lets Henry have fun.  Sheila is the best friend and work colleague of Susan, she enjoys herself a drink and has great banter with Henry. Glenn is the neighbour and police chief living next door to the Carpenter family, he has a stepdaughter that he is abusing though he position of power makes it nearly impossible for him to get investigated. Dr Daniels is the man that must treat Henry, he must help the family through the difficult decision.

PerformancesNaomi Watts in the leading role is great through this film, we see how her character needs to develop after what happens to Henry. Jaeden continues to show us he is a fast-rising child star along with Jacob Tremblay who are both going to be talked about as a couple of the best of the current generations. Silverman, Morris and Pace give us good supporting performances throughout the film too.

StoryThe story here follows a genius son that helps run the family to help take the pressure of his single mother, he plans long term and wants to make the world a better place, though when sees abuse he wants to step in and help. He doesn’t expect the short term though, leaving his legacy to his mother to help solve the abuse he sees the neighbour going through. We do have moments that make the children feel like they are in ‘Pay it Forward’ which does have a better message about, doing something to make the world a better place, this story does get that message over and does make you want to help bring calm to the world. if I was being honest with the way the story is told, I feel it would have been nice to mix the planning Henry does with the actual plan rather than showing his plan before the incident.

CrimeThe film does have a crime base to everything going on, we get to see how Henry sees a crime being committed and the only way he can solve it is to have someone commit a crime for him.

SettingsThe film shows us the simple life the Carpenter family are currently living and how Henry is happy with this even though he can make them rich with a blink of an eye, he wants family over anything.


Scene of the Movie –
Take the shot.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The kids are way to talent in the talent contest.

Final ThoughtsThis is a film that has taken a beating by the critics and sure there are a couple of weaknesses in this film, but the core of the story is one of the most interesting ways to show a child genius doing the right thing in life, well-acted and one people should be giving a chance too.

 

Overall: Nice story about leaving a legacy.

Rating

 

 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

Director: Fede Alvarez

Writer: Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez, Steven Knight (Screenplay) David Lagercrantz (Novel)

Starring: Claire Foy, Beau Gadsdon, Sverrir Gudnason, LaKeith Standfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Carlotta von Falkenhayn, Stephen Merchant

Plot: Young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.


Tagline – The Past Never Forgets

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Lifeless Thriller

Story: The Girl in the Spider’s Web starts as Lisbeth Salander (Foy) is still fighting the victims of abuse, showing she isn’t afraid to go after even the biggest targets. Lisbeth’s latest assignment from Frans Balder (Merchant) is to retrieve his firewall from Ed Needham (Stanfield).

When Lisbeth is targeted by the people she has stolen from, she must turn to Mikael Blomkvist (Gudnason) the only person she can trust to put the item back in the right hands, while getting involved with a deadly group known as ‘The Spiders’ which contains her long thought to be dead sister Camilla (Hoeks).

Thoughts on The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Characters – Lisbeth Salander is the famous hacker that will stand up against any man that is causing a woman abuse, she will leave her brand on them. She is called for difficult hacking jobs, which sees her take something from the Americans, this makes her a wanted suspect in Sweden and her on the run looking for answers to clear her name. Mikael Blomkvist is still the only person that Lisbeth will trust, he tries to operate from a distant and investigates the trust behind what is happening. Ed Needham is the American that has his system hacked, a government man, he heads to Sweden to get it back and finds nothing but barriers from the Swedish government. Camilla Salander is the long lost sister of Lisbeth, she thought to be dead, but now she is involved in a criminal gang known as The Spiders, targeting Lisbeth for what she wants.

PerformancesClaire Foy does feel mis-cast in this role, she doesn’t seem to have a tough enough look to make this character effect as the two previous stars. Sverrir Gudnason had large shoes to fill and he doesn’t do a strong enough job in the Mikael role, while Sylvia Hoeks does what she can with her role without being anything overly special, while LaKeith Stanfield doesn’t seem to feel like the character he is meant to be playing.

StoryThe story here is the fourth story in the Dragon Tattoo world, the second in English and is the first not written by the original author. We follow Lisbeth who once again finds herself needing to take on secret organisation that what something that could put the world in danger and this time it becomes more personal, with her sister being the enemy. This story does feel like it has borrowed from many other films and while it still puts Lisbeth is an anti-hero role, we only seem to find ourselves in one direction where Lisbeth is always one step ahead of everything happening, despite the fact we get to see just how twisted the Spiders are, it paints one image of them only to leave us facing a different softer enemy.

Action/CrimeThe action was pretty much all given away in the trailer, we have the motorbike chase across the ice, the car chases and shoot outs, each feels very similar and doesn’t have the suspense required in a thriller.

SettingsThe film does try to bring everything back to Lisbeth’s backstory with the settings showing the off the grid life she current lives compared to the one she could have lived, the snowy roads add a little to the chases, but not that much overall.


Scene of the Movie – Ice lake escape.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The Spider’s not hinting at wanting to do to what they did to the guy without a nose, to the new Lisbeth group.

Final Thoughts This does feel like a cash grab on a franchise that has never taken off on the American side of things, we get everything scaled back leaving us feeling disappointed by the end of the film.

Overall: No thrills to be seen here.

Buffalo ’66 (1998)

Director: Vincent Gallo

Writer: Vincent Gallo, Alison Bagnall (Screenplay)

Starring: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Ben Gazzara, Mickey Rourke, Rosanna Arquette, Jan-Michael Vincent, Anjelica Huston

 

Plot: After being released from prison, Billy is set to visit his parents with his wife, whom he does not actually have. This provokes Billy to act out, as he kidnaps a girl and forces her to act as his wife for the visit.


Tagline – Billy Brown just got out of jail. Now he’s going to serve some real time. He’s going home.

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Dull

 

Story: Buffalo 66 starts when Billy Brown (Gallo) is released from prison, his parents never know that he has been to prison, he heads to town where he ends up kidnapping Layla (Ricci) forcing her to pretend to be his wife when he visits his parents.

As the two are spending more time together, we learn why Billy is acting this way, why he was in prison and just what his plan is now he is out of jail.

 

Thoughts on Buffalo 66

 

Characters – Billy Brown has just been released from prison, he has had his own problems which led to him being in prison and it isn’t long before he goes to the extremes to impress his family. He is painted as an aggressive man that believes that woman are just objects and has built his world in lies. Layla is the tap dancer that gets kidnapped, she starts to play along with what Billy wants and even enjoy his company the more time they spend together. Jimmy and Jan are his parents that have both been either distracted or strict in raising Billy, as he wants to impress them now. The Bookie is the man that put Billy in jail as a result of the debts he owed him, he gave him a choice with jail being the only one that didn’t hurt anyone.

PerformancesVincent Gallo doesn’t bring us a very interesting character, it isn’t written well or directed to make us interested in him, he just can’t make this character work. Christina Ricci was trying to break out of the child star roles by now, this is different to what we had seen before, though she does look bored through the film. the rest of the cast struggle too, it is just poorly written to give the actors a chance.

StoryThe story follows a gambler that had paid the price for his addiction and now is free, he wants revenge only he spends the time with his kidnap victim as we get to see the difficult life he has had which led him to the life of crime. Well I think that is what we are meant to be seeing, the story does drag along at an awfully slow pace with nothing much happening, trying to make us believe the two could be falling in love, though he is abusive with his actions and spends more time running around looking for a toilet than showing any sort of emotion.

Comedy/Crime/RomanceIf this is meant to be a comedy, the jokes miss big time as you will struggle to get a laugh out of this film, while the crime only seems to focus on the kidnapping, which she could have escaped from with ease plenty of times, so that never feels like a threat, the romance just feels awkward for the most part of the film because there is zero chemistry between the two.

SettingsThe film is set in the Buffalo area, which is meant to be about the passion of the locals, it could easily be any town with a big American football team.


Scene of the Movie –
The first look at the dinner table makes it a clever shot, until it gets boring.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We spend more time looking for a toilet.

Final ThoughtsThis is just a dreadfully dull movie that has no direction in anyway, it fails to capture any attention from the audience with a truly unlikeable main character.

 

Overall: Dreadfully boring.

Rating

 

 

She’s Just a Shadow (2019) Movie Review

Director: Adam Sherman

Writer: Adam Sherman (Screenplay)

Starring: Tao Okamoto, Haruka Ade, Kihiro, Kentez Asaka, Mercedes Maxwell, Marcus Johnson, Haruna Ayane

Plot: A beautiful Japanese madam and her ladies. A deranged, drug-addled Tokyo gangster and his crew. A sadistic serial killer on the loose. The intersection of these stories, and the interior world of the characters, plays out against a dreamlike backdrop of ultraviolence and orgiastic sex, as everyone tries futilely to rewrite their futures and cheat death.

Runtime: 1 Hour 58 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Sex, Drugs, Repeat

Story: She’s Just a Shadow starts with Irene (Okamoto) a pimp in Tokyo that supplies the girls for the like gangsters drug addict Gaven (Kihiro) and his partner the ultra-aggressive Red Hot (Asaka), all in the back drop of a serial killer that pleasures himself to his victims while waiting for them to be run over by trains.

When the serial killer starts to target Irene next, he puts together his plan to get her alone, while Gaven fights for control of the whole city against his rival from the other side of town.

Thoughts on She’s Just a Shadow

Characters – Irene is the pimp for the gangsters, she supplies the girls as part of a family traditions, nobody dare touch her because of the connections she has, she does what she can to protect her girls, when the serial killer is picking off the local prostitutes. Gaven is the drug addict gangster, he is spiralling out of control with his actions. Red Hot is the aggressive gangster, if anybody starts a fight, he will finish it no matter how many people get killed in the situation.

PerformancesThis is a movie where it is hard for the main cast to perform, because of the excess pointless orgy scenes. When we get solo scenes, we do some strength, but not enough, Tao Okamoto is one of the few parts of the film you want to see more from, Kihiro becomes hard to watch as his drug addict side of things. Kentez Asaka does the loose cannon stuff well, but is basic for the most part of the film.

StoryThe story here follows pimps and gangsters who are in a battle for power, who are being picked off by a deranged serial killer and set out to stop him. When we break this story down, the side that involves the serial killer, is interesting and risky because of just how twisted the killer is. Whenever we get into the gangster and pimp side of the film, we are going through the same drug filled orgies that just don’t seem have have any point to them. We get more scenes that feel like music videos that don’t push the story forward in any way, than actual progression in taking on the serial killer.

CrimeThe crime side of the film puts us in the world most of these characters would operate in, filled with drugs and prostitution, it is the extremes of this world too.

SettingsThe film is set in Tokyo which takes us to the main locations the seedy underworld the criminals would operate in.


Scene of the Movie – The serial killer side of the film.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The pointless filler scenes of orgies and drugs, most serve no purpose for the story.

Final Thoughts This is a film that seems to forget how to tell a story and spends nearly all of the film just make music videos, while letting the interesting side of the film slip away from the audience.

Overall: Painfully experience.