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By midlandsmovies, Nov 15 2019 01:51PM



Joker (2019) Dir. Todd Phillips


With DCEU failing to set the world alight with its more than questionable quality issues, Warner Brothers have decided to recast Batman’s infamous nemesis the Joker with Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime.


Set in 1981, the film ditches any connection to the DC shared universe with Warners adopting a one-and-done attitude as an antidote to Marvel’s ‘shared world’ behemoth. Phoenix is Arthur Fleck, a mentally unstable loner who lives with his mother and is employed by a party clown agency. Director Phillips has given him an unusual but unique backstory which now makes his maniacal laugh a medical condition. As Arthur’s life falls apart – he loses his job, his psychiatrist is forced to stop her help and his stand-up “career” fails – his trajectory is reflected in Gotham’s own crime-ridden downward spiral.


The film does have a few flaws. Phoenix’s portrayal is undoubtedly fantastic but the story does take a while to get going. 30 minutes in and cine-aware audiences would already know the typical beats of the downtrodden loser narrative. And the delusional sub-plots involving the under-used Zazie Beetz are quite obvious.


Also, with Robert De Niro as a talk-show host and a range of themes including isolation and mental illness, the film nods to both Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. I say nods but although there is some great cinematography from Lawrence Sher, the film is, at times, a blatant re-shaping of Marty’s back catalogue.


In many ways, without the brief references to Gotham and Wayne Enterprises the film itself could have been an independent film without any of the superhero connections. It explores the mental fragility of a very dark extreme individual whilst barely mentioning its comic book origins.


There has been controversy over the film – as per usual these days. Once upon a time, moral busybodies were defining features of the right but it could be argued that films are being overly attacked when they portray less than savoury ideals. “Because it’s so much fun, Jan”, Quentin Tarantino once said on a TV news cast as he was asked why he fills his films with so much violence. Well, much like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (and many of Scorsese’s protagonists in fact), here is an abhorrent central character whose downtrodden life is still no excuse for the horrid actions he subsequently commits.


And on a personal note, I don’t (and never have) bought into the “glorifying violence” or could “inspire others” critical analysis myself. From the Hays Code to Mary Whitehouse via the 80s video nasty censors to The Matrix, cinema has always been accused of being a corrupting influence. But audiences are clever enough to see there are characters, even central ones, that shouldn’t be sympathised with. Much like Travis Bickle funnily enough. A disgusting protagonist whose ideals and actions do not align with your own is something I like to give audiences credit for in their ability to distinguish from real life.


And so, throwing in many modern political issues as it does along with a complexity not seen in many graphic novel-inspired films, Joker is definitely not perfect but if you fancy something with a little more depth – think Nolan’s trilogy and then some – then the flick has enough thoughtful ambiguity and an amazing central performance to make it more than worthwhile.


★★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Aug 14 2016 11:59AM

Suicide Squad (2016) Dir. David Ayer


A group of imprisoned super villains are recruited by a secret government agency to complete a black ops mission in exchange for reduced sentences, leading to inevitable chaos.


When a mysterious supernatural entity threatens the world, a secret government agency led by high-ranking official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits a selection of the most dangerous villains for combat. If anything goes wrong, the government will not be liable, and the criminals will be destroyed. Each member of the aptly named 'Suicide Squad' has a bomb implanted into their neck before the mission which will be detonated if they fail or do anything that goes against protocol. It will be up to them to rise above the apparently impossible events that will take place before them, in what many would to be a suicide mission.


The highly anticipated Suicide Squad - tipped to be the hottest film of summer 2016 - has taken a lot of flack since its release. After seeing it, I can't say that I agree with the panning it has received. Prior to the trip to the cinema, after eating many mixed reviews, I wasn't too optimistic about the film, but it was quite a bit better than I had thought it was going to be.that being said, however, it was not perfect...


I couldn't really fault the performances. Will Smith had some very quick-witted one-liners as Deadshot (people have argued about whether this should have been the case, but I thought they were necessary to keep the film moving along).Margot Robbie was insanely good as Harley Quinn and was equally as entertaining. I feel like the other members of the Suicide Squad were purely to fill it out, but they generally did this quite well. Jai Courtney provided some good laughs as Boomerang, while Jay Hernandes balanced this out as Diablo, who had found himself some sort of a conscience whilst incarcerated. Cara Delevigne was the only one who I didn't think met the same standards as the others, but her character, Enchantress/June Moone, wasn't on-screen all that long so I can live with that.


Jared Leto's turn as The Joker was pretty short lived, and this is probably what disappointed me the most. I feel like Suicide Squad was quite heavily sold on his name, and for him to only feature for roughly twenty minutes was a slight let-down.


I would say I will now discuss the storyline, but there wasn't really that much of a storyline to pass comment on. What bit of narrative that did exist was quite rushed. It would have been far better, I think at least, if the villains had been introduced to us in their won respective films before this one so that we weren't all going into Suicide Squad cold. The thing to keep the film afloat was the action. The film survived on gunshots and explosions, and if it hadn't have been for this, the three of us who went to see this film may very well have fallen asleep in the cinema.


All I can really say about Suicide Squad is that it is a fun comic-book adaptation that is what it is. It's a film that is guaranteed to make money no matter what, so can afford to be flawed as people will still queue to see it. It was never meant to be taken too seriously! They might be the worst heroes ever, but it's certainly not the worst film ever. However, nor is it the best.


7/10


Kira Comerford

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