Funny Zombies.. Welcome to ZOMBIELAND!!

Talon presents on behalf of NerdDimension.Com The Zombieland Film Review [ThrowbackThursday]

ZOMBIELAND Film Review

by Talon

 

Zombieland is a R-Rated adventure horror comedy (now Zomedy or Zom Com) written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and directed by Ruben Fleischer released in 2009. The movie earned Best Horror Movie, Best Cameo (Bill Murray) and Best Ensemble at the Scream Awards. The film was shot and brought to market for $23.6 million then smashed the box office earning $102.4 million making it the most successful zombie movie ever released at the time. The winning ensemble comprises Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson as leads supported by Emma Stone with Abigail Breslin and we are treated to appearances by Bill Murray, and Amber Heard in a brief scene which really kick starts the movie.

Team
Paul Wernick, Rhett Reeese, Ruben Fleischer & Amber Heard

A road movie at heart set in a post apocalyptic earth thanks to an outbreak of a virus, related to Mad Cow Disease, which turns people into zombies. The ingredients of this film could have resulted in boring product but surprisingly the film works as an entertainment piece. Zombieland cemented its legacy along with Shaun of The Dead as one of few films which brought the Zomedy genre commercial success and prominence in the mainstream western market, as the far east especially Japan had been releasing zombie related games, literature and even zombie comedies throughout the 90s and early 00s.

F EAST
The House of The Dead, Versus, Resident Evil (Bio Hazard) & Bio Zombie

The movie begins with narrator Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a student at the University of Texas, one of the few non-infected people as he breaks down his various rules for survival. Shortly we find him walking down a highway strewn with abandon cars when he encounters Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson), who is on a quest to reach Florida killing as many zombies en route as he can and if possible secure himself a Twinkie supply.

The two agree to team up for a portion of the journey before deciding to examine a grocery store in hopes of finding some Twinkie’s. After fighting off several zombies and finding no Twinkies they meet sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) in the back of the shop, trying to help the ladies feigning distress our leads are conned and left without weapons or transport.

Shortly thereafter Tallahassee and Columbus in an attempt to set things straight track down their stolen SUV, where thanks to cliche Back Seat Inviso-Syndrome (where impossibly characters cant see people in the back-seat) the girls once more play the two leads. Fortunately Tallahassee swiftly turns the tables on the realistically outmatched femme duo and they decide to stick together until LA.

BILLY MURRAY
Bill Murray’s Residence, Ghostbusters Original Movie Poster & Bill Murray

The foursome arriving in Hollywood decide to find Billy Murray’s house using maps to the stars. Reaching the expansive Beverly Hills residence the crew split up, Columbus opting to show Little Rock Ghostbusters to show her who is the actor whose home they are squatting in, whilst also probing the kid for relationship info regarding her big sister. It is during this time we receive one of the most memorable cameos in film history but I do not wish to spoil it or the movie for you guys.

Unlike many movies of the horror genre Zombieland doesn’t suffer from overly pointless gory scenes, don’t get me wrong there is violence a plenty but the team doses it just right making the scenes amusing as they are action packed. Barring the back-seat reversal the cliches work well and are welcome, as is the kindling of potential romance between characters which doesn’t feel forced or contrived. There are seldom moments you feel for the characters and understand somewhat their intent adding needed respite from action and gags heightening the contrast between scenes.

Zombieland must have surprised both Columbia Pictures and Relativity Media with its box office success, both due to the genre being still fairly untapped in the US as well it being the feature film debut of Ruben Fleischer. I think because of the somewhat humble budget and a strong script (rewritten multiple times) the fairly established cast decided to sign on and I feel both production and cast pulled it off and am surprised the sequel came out just this year (2019).

The cinematography was spot on thanks to Michael Bonvillain, smart camera movement, angles and use of distance shots. The sound and score also helped bolster the theme and feel of film so a thumbs up to David Sardy and the Sound Deparment. The editing too was well done courtesy of Alan Baumgarten making Zombieland flow smoothly with no clutter, tight and compact.

crewwww
Alan Baumgarten, David Sardy & Michael Bonvillain

Eisenberg and Woody are both good actors and they pull off their roles masterfully. You believe that Jesse is the awkward nerd who compiled the rules list which pop up on screen throughout the film and Harrelson feels authentic as the macho tough guy on a rampage of vengeance.

Also enjoyable is the various ways in which the zombies are executed by the cast using a wide spectrum of equipment from guns to baseball bats and even gardening tools. There are even some truly bizarre comic instances which are rewarding to viewer.

The first time director possesses a great sense of timing and injects clever wit throughout the bloodbath of a film. As praised the cinematography is spot on really adding much to the feel of the film providing great visuals of different areas after the apocalypse. There are some poignant moments but don’t feel forced as mentioned and do not take away from the movies main goal which is to garner laughs.

The writers turned out a genre savy script and the meta feel of some scenes will be relished by cinephiles. I applaud most Bill Murray’s amazing cameo appearance which really steals the movie and is maybe one of the best cameos ever.

I feel the movie needed a little bit more something, maybe a little more character study or development but aside from that this movie succeeded in what it set out to do which is to entertain. This movie will be interesting to comedy fans especially of Zom Coms but also classic horror film aficionados.

I give the movie a score of :

3.75 / 5

All images used are property of Columbia Pictures, Relativity Media, Pariah and their associate/affiliates as well as numerous media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

MANHUNT:UNABOMBER… Very Good But Could’ve Been Great

Our fellow reviewer Talon is back with another concise write up this time of Discovery Network’s MANHUNT: UNABOMBER..

– MANHUNT: UNABOMBER [Series Review] –

by Talon

UNABOMB POSTER
Poster for Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber released on August 2017 is a drama miniseries directed by Greg Yaitanes for the Discovery Network. Created by Andrew Sodroski, Jim Clemente & Tony Gittelson the series was nominated for the best original long form TV award by the Writer’s Guild of America and Tyler Huth for young Best Performance in a TV Series (Recurring Teen Actor) by the Young Artist Award. Sam Worthington plays FBI agent Jim ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald and Paul Bettany the titular character Ted Kaczynski and are supported by co-stars Jeremy Bobb, Chris Noth and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Discovery and Yaitanes take certain creative license in an attempt to create a historical drama narrative about the FBI manhunt focusing on the cat-and-mouse dynamic between Kaczynski and his pursuer Agent ‘Fitz’. I feel while the show is entertaining and has you coming back to see what’s happens next, it did not really give the characters enough depth and failed to adequately link Kazcynski’s fears of misuse of industrial and technological advances to the reality of current issues and events which seems to be going in that direction.

The show focuses on how the tactics and technology used to track down Kazcynski came to be, demonstrating that previous methods failed and illustrating classic bureaucracy present even at the FBI’s highest levels of administration hindering efficiency and development of best practices. They touch on the creation and content of the manifesto itself but from a safe distance, not really expounding on the obvious correlations between Kazcynski’s theories rising from fear of the future and what has happened in the meanwhile to society due to reckless and hasty implementations of various technologies and industrial practices. Possibly things like certain major companies online always listening, increasingly watching and constantly learning about you and your habits? Was this idea really so crazy, as opposed to going deeper through the content of the manifesto and rationale of this criminal we merely get a glimpse into what maybe led him to become the way he was. There are notable manhunts the team could have chose to develop as opposed to one where beyond the tragic crimes perpetrated there is present a fleshed out philosophy and viewpoint of the ‘villain’.

hughes, bobb, yaitness
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jeremy Bobb & Greg Yaitanes

The series starts off in 1995 as Fitz is recruited to the Unabomb Task Force receiving no support from his colleagues regarding new ideas he brings to the table. Also we flash-forward to 1997 where he is being asked to confront his counterpart Kazcynski.

The second episode focuses on Fitz’s work on determining the validity of the Unabomber’s threat to bomb an airliner and also we have the two enemies meet for the first time.

Fitz teams up with linguist Natalie Rogers, played by Lynn Collins, together figuring out new clues which point in a different direction to the current profile but the FBI views the findings sceptically. In 1997 Ted begins explaining to his opponent Fitz that he will invalidate all the evidence produced against him.

Ted now demands that his manifesto be published if the authorities wish to see and end to the bloodshed. Fitz pushes his boss Don Ackerman, played by Chris North, to publish who decides to bring the proposal to FBI Divisional head Janet Reno played by Jane Lynch.

Agent Fitz fianlly finding the linguistic evidence he’d been looking for which points in the direction of Ted Kazcynski, tracks down Ted’s brother David, played by Mark Duplass, who is surprised at how precise the profile seems to match Ted.

The sixth episode focuses on a letter sent to David by his brother where he explains various events of his life which caused him to take up his current world view and engage in terrorist activities.

The bureau having a prime suspect goes deep under cover staking out Kazcynski’s cabin, racing the press cycle in hopes of capturing Ted before media chaos ensues creating opportunity for missteps on their end.

In the season finale, after Ted fails to have the evidence invalidated by the court, Fitz makes one last appeal for him to plead guilty.

Huth, Noth and Lynch
Tyler Huth, Chris Noth & Jane Lynch

I felt that Fitz as a character is relatable to a degree albeit riddled with cliches. Older than most his class and less educated, he earned his spot through old fashion elbow grease which I feel does endear the character the audience. His ideas though are met with low levels of enthusiasm and finds himself battling dated established conventions. Here the cliché begins, becoming so obsessed with the case it causes his marital breakup. Fit’z obsession believable grows to such an extent that he sells out his only true ally Tabby, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, in an attempt to get back on the case.

Despite the afore mentioned you find yourself hoping that Fitz wins. The show did attempt to illustrate that Kazcynskis ultimate goal wasn’t to sow terror but bring the public’s attention to inherent risks of the technological and industrial progress. Beyond explaining Ted’s motives the show also provides possible causes for this extreme behaviour illuminating parts of his troubled childhood and youth in a ‘monsters aren’t born they are made’ approach.

Unabomber Text Published In The Washington Post
Industrial Society and its Future, Published by The Washington Post

I feel the purpose of this show was for Discovery Network to determine whether they can create a commercially viable scripted drama a now prestigious segment of the television entertainment market.

The show itself is rather cinematic and this is in no small part thanks to Zack Galler. The camera movement was precise, angles well thought out as well as were the distances of the shots.

The sound of the series was good, playing well with the narration of the story being told, and the score was solid both primarily courtesy of Gregory Tripi. Especially praiseworthy is how the sound greatly contributed to the few set pieces of the series.

I feel Donn Aron, Iain Erskine and Scott Turner handled their respective editing responsibility smoothly connecting all the pieces together.

One possible deeper meaning the team could have been trying for is a character study of both Kazcynski and Fitz, but they fail in this task as the characters seemingly lack depth. To be far Fitz is a composite of several different agents, and the real Jim Fitzgerald insisted on the show being more accurate but was ultimately overruled.

What could be seen as the shows argument regarding modernism and possible risks inherent in technological progress is grossly weakened which I will explain further in this review.

The show does do well with the ethical dillemas presented by the deciding on giving in to the demands of the Unabomber.

There is some repetitiveness throughout the show specifically – Fitz gets stuck, listens to someone talk about something unconnected, zones out and then makes a lateral leap based off a small slice of conversation after which he goes to his boss with the idea and is told to focus on what they tell him to do, for the boss to proven wrong.. That said Noth and Bobb serve the story solidly as the stubborn obstacles of the protagonist.

Bettany’s portrayal is praiseworthy and in truth the show doesnt get things cooking properly until his arrival on the scene, and he is great in episode six where the story be given to him we learn of his experiences at Harvard.

On the other hand despite his masterful subtle delivery, you find Worthington as Bettany wanting more from there characters and script. Fitz’s character is intended to be Kazcynskis match, but we can find a correlation between Fitz’s awkwardness and lack of niceties evidence his compulsive personality, Barring this what really bothers is how the team fail to rationalize the notion they convey early in the series that Fitz managed to catch Kazcynski because of a shared obsessive world-view as they do not deepen the character portrayal.

The supporting cast complete the show and are probably one of the highlights, especially the a fore mentioned Castle-Hughes is a standout, Duplass, Brian d’Arcy James and Jane Lynch feel somewhat underplayed and underdeveloped but none the less handle their assignments as the seasoned professionals they are.

Jame, Galler & Duplass
Brian d’Arcy James, Zack Galler & Mark Duplass

In closing I feel that both lead actors despite their visibly high levels of commitment were left wanting more to work with in regards to their characters. There is some awkwardness inherent in the beginning of the show, though tension steadily builds, but they manage to build momentum as it progresses.

Manhunt definitely makes it hard to not continue watching as it does engage the viewers and the fact it is based on real people and events (albeit creative license was used) makes it all the more enthralling.

A major failing of the series is we never really get to know Ted Kazcynski or what makes him tick. But by far the biggest mistake they made was failing to deliver on the key argument I mentioned earlier in this review. Something starring you in the face is that we now know (at least most of us) that Kazcynski’s deep paranoia in regards to the dehumanizing side of technology in the modern era being not only sociologically ahead of his time but is also almost certainly correct.

All being said this is one of the best shows produced in recent years, it is engaging, tense and hard to not binge watch. The writers approached this series a little differently than most, the direction is efficient and Bettany does provide an intense portrayal of the titular character. This all might sound paradoxical considering the gripes listed and explained but that is because this a a very good show which could have been a great show.

This show will be most appealing to criminal history buffs and those who enjoy criminal procedurals or process themed series.

I give this series a score of

4/5

All images used are property of Discovery Communications, Trigger Street Productions, The Washington Post their associate/affiliates and various media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE …The Game-Changer That Never Was

Jodorovsky’s Dune is being reviewed by our in house writer Talon!

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Blu-Ray copy of Jodorowsky’s Dune

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE

..The Game-Changer that Never Was..

By Talon

Jodorovsky’s Dune is a documentary by Croatian-American director Frank Pavich screened at the 66th Cannes Film Festival as part of Directors Fortnight May 13th and released May 21st 2014. Of the numerous nominations and awards it has received most notable seem to be The Australian Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary and  Imagine Film Festival’s audience award The Silver Scream. Making appearances aside from titular Jodorowsky are Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Giger, Gary Kurtz and Chris Foss to name a few.

JODO & PAVICH
Alexander Jodorowsky & Frank Pavich

The film focuses on Chilean director Alexander Jodorowsky and his never actualized interpretation of influential Nebula & Hugo award winning novel Dune by Frank Herbert. Inciting a great deal of what-if sentiment in an enjoyable manner it is a well done nostalgia piece. Pavich lets you behind the scenes into a fraternal world of creative spiritual  warriors, Jodorowsky would call them, by weaving tales known only to select insiders and collaborators from a special moment in the past. The film serves as a call to action for visionary dreamers with an ambitious leaning.

At the beginning we are acquainted with Jodorowsky and some experiences making his breakthrough films “El Topo” & “The Holy Mountain” which propel him to cult fame and whose successes at demonstrating his unique take on film led him to be dubbed a father of the Midnight Film genre.

MICHEL SEYDOUX
Michel Seydoux

After falling out with distributor of both films and financier of “Holy Mountain” Alan Klien, Jodorowsky meets French producer Michel Seydoux who impressed by his style  grants Jodorowsky Carte Blanche in selection of his next feature. Without hesitation Jodorowsky requests Dune.

Following a trail of clues set by Pavich we learn of Jodorowsky’s methods of recruiting his diverse group of Argonauts on this spiritually inspired creative adventure. To peak some curiosity, amongst this motley of heavy hitters are iconic vocalist Mick Jagger, notorious surrealist Salvador Dali, ever enigmatic silver screen icon Orson Welles and pioneering rock group Pink Floyd to name a few.

Collage Dali, Floyd, Welles, & Jagger
(left to right) Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Pink Floyd & Mick Jagger

You find yourself glued to the screen as you learn the herculean lengths the director is willing to go to collaboratively to create something truly great. From inception of idea, to means Jodorowsky utilizes to keep his team motivated and believing in themselves and their gifts. The sense of drive is palpable and uncanny happenstance occurrences further bolster sense of purpose and destiny the endeavour seems to possess.

The documentary inevitably pulls at heartstrings as one realizes the project is doomed, primarily stemming from executives fearing budget size and lacking gumption to venture into unexplored terrain. The sadness progressively turns into disenchantment and suspicion that crew and project were cheated out of their rightful place in history. The overall sentiment being that the bible of the dune, a compiled 3000 picture story board and preproduction book sent to major studios, being years ahead of the industry became a go to source of inspiration for countless Sci-Fi blockbusters which incorporate various visuals and even literary devices (albeit diluting them) making many common place in today’s cinema.

Collage Bab 5, Contact, Tron, Prom, 5th E, Matrx, Termi, Flash, Blade Runner
(left to right) Babylon 5, Contact, Star Wars (a new hope), TRON, Prometheus, The Fifth Element, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Alien, Flash Gordon, & The Terminator.

This film I feel set out to ensure the group’s legacy, particularly Jodorowsky’s who had little success post the Dune fiasco, and remind audience and industry alike at the folly of not taking chances creatively. The teams interpretation of Dune appears to be the best movie which was never made and they provide some in the way of perceived evidence for this case. After watching it some of you will wonder if Star Trek and Star Wars would have become as large franchises as they are now? You find yourself feeling if this Dune came out that the Sci-Fi genre and film-making would have received a much deserved dose of creativity and literary perspective on the art form itself.

Interviews are well shot as the camera movement, angles and distances are solid thanks to David Cavallo. Execution of close ups and specific moments was well done, as when focusing on Jodorowskys hands at different times to emphasis a moment.

One complaint is frugal use of Syd Garon‘s & Paul Griswold‘s animations of Moebius‘s (Jean Giraud) story board and H.R. Giger & Chris Foss sketches. You find yourself wishing they merely used story board and quality narration to the tell the entire story of Dune as they intended, but afterall is this is a documentary about making of the film and not the film, nonetheless some graphic exposition shots were cut too short to enjoy the artists’ mastery.

The Sound was solid, and at times definitely felt atmospheric thanking to the throbbing music provided by Kurt Stenzel. The Editing, handled by Paul Docherty & Alex Ricciardi, was quite alright.

It might have been swell to have Jodorwsky interviewed with several members of crew who are still among us in an intimate setting, so that we can observe some of their chemistry all these years later as they discuss various anecdotes. This felt missing for a movie striving to emphasize, in addition to other notions, what feels like the value of comradeship.

Deeper insight which can be derived is the sheer depth of dedication stemming from unfaltering belief, the dedication of Jodorowsky to make a movie to change the world. The sentiment is echoed by his faction as they discuss the making of the movie. All sacrificed but none complained what they were being put through including Brontis Jodorowsky, the directors son who for two years was training Martial Arts, Sword fighting and Gymnastics to prepare for the role of a young Paul Artriedes.

Giger, O'Bannon, Moebius & Foss
H.R. Giger, Dan O’Bannon, Moebious & Chris Foss

The story told is spellbinding packed with colourful characters, surreal encounters and events which if not true definitely should be. Jodorwsky’s Dune as a documentary is one of better released the last decade, with refreshingly unique subject matter. I am most impressed by the drive of Jodorwsky himself as with the talent and contributions of primary collaborators Moebious, H.R. Giger, Chriss Foss & Dan O’Bannon. It is this tandem of four gathered by Jodorowsky which brought a lot to one of the greatest Sci-Fi franchises ever Alien, and we appreciate the director’s hand in it.

I feel this movie appeals most to true fans of quality Sci-Fi and deeper cinema offerings (especially movie makers), skewing more to the 30 and up crowd who might have grown up hearing urban legends of the legendary Dune which was never made. Not to say a younger audience would not enjoy it but might find it harder to relate to as they are too young to remember some of the long gone pop culture icons involved in the project.

From a score of 1-5 this film gets:

4/5

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All images used are property of Snowfort Pictures, CameraOne, Endless Picnic, Babylonian Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Warner Bros., South Side Amusement Company, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Productions, Lisberger/Kushner, Twentieth Century Fox, Dune Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Gaumont, Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Groucho Film Partnership, The Ladd Company, Shaw Brothers, Warner Bros., Brandywine Productions, Twentieth Century-Fox Productions, Starling Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, Hemdale, Pacific Western, Euro Film Funding, their associate/affiliates and various media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

 

Joker Film Review

Talon reviews the much hyped Golden Lion winning film Joker!

JOKER COVER CRITICS POSTER
Joker Critics Movie Poster

Joker Film Review

by Talon

Todd Phillips‘s “Joker” was released to much hype on August 31 2019 winning the most prestigious award the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival. The film proceeded to set a box office record for October grossing over $272 million on a somewhat modest budget estimated around $70 million (modest as compared to the last two movies based on DC characters). Widespread demand at the box office is one of few bright points in this review which is more a testament to marketing budgets and tactics than of a films artistic merits. “Joker” feels as if both writers Phillips and Scott Silver set out to humanize the iconic “Joker” character but fail as we never see him go beyond a one dimensional mentally ill victim who the world keeps relentlessly beating on, but instead acquire more of an understanding of what seems to us a logically consequential downfall of a person with grossly low self-esteem.

76th-Venice-Film-Festival
Joaquin Phoenix & Todd Phillips at the 76th Venice International Film Festival

The feature is infused like countless pieces of entertainment today, especially comic book movies, with darkness for no apparent purpose than for appealing to a target market. I find the movie lacks the depth it seemingly craves evidenced by its attempts at fabricating self importance. Trying to tie in what feels like everything from gun control to racism to prevailing mental illness one can’t help feel that the makers of “Joker” wanted to cash in on the current social climate but it all feels slapdash at best in its execution.

– Brief Summary, skip if you suffer from spoiler-phobia –

“Joker” starts off in the early 1980s in Gotham City which is suffering a garbage collector strike where we meet mentally ill Arthur Fleck portrayed by masterful Joaquin Phoenix. Arthur in his 30s is a party clown with stand-up comedy aspirations living in dire straits with Penny his disabled mother, played by Frances Conroy.

The action commences when Arthur is robbed on the job by teenage delinquents in front of an electronics shop of a sign he is twirling . Arthur proceeds to chase the boys down to a backstreet only to have this backfire in a violent fashion.

After Arthur is on a public bus where he finds a child turned backwards curiously staring at him. In response he goes into his clown routine making funny faces and grimaces which amuses the boy to laughter unfortunately earning Arthur a callous remark from the child’s mother demanding him to leave her child alone.

Upon returning home he shares the elevator with two of his neighbours a mother called Sophie, played by Zazie Beets, and her child where they exchange a somewhat awkward comedic interaction before he invites her to come see his stand-up comedy.

Glenn Fleshler, in the role of one of Arthur’s colleague Randall, the next day hearing about the attack  acts concerned and lends him his revolver. Arthur after botching a gig at a children’s hospital puts the weapon to use when three well-to-do men attempt to attack him on the subway train and he responds in brutal fashion even stalking and executing the sole escapee of the three who managed to reach the stairs exiting the terminal.

Joker-Los-Angeles-Premiere-14
Glenn Fleshler, Josh Pais, Brett Cullen, Frances Conroy, Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beets, Leigh Gill & Marc Maron at LA premiere of “Joker” (from left to right)

Attempting to be as spoiler free as possible I shall only mention two more scenes in this summary. Arthur is watching a black and white film in the apartment called “Shall we Dance” featuring legends Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It starts with a scene on a ship where the engine room staff are crooning a tune lead by actor Dudley Dickerson and accompanied by a jazz band who are soon joined by Fred before going into a dance number. When the actors break into dance Arthur follows suit spinning around the living room accidentally pulling the trigger of his revolver making a hole in the living room wall.

Despite having several opportune moments to do so the movie seldom elicited any emotion barring the discomfort of violence. When Josh Pais, as Holt the clown agency boss, is giving Arthur an ear beating for something we know he didn’t do, Arthur sits and takes it providing little in way of resistance to the bullying he is suffering, as opposed to sympathy I felt myself and other cinema goers just felt frustrated. This is in no small part due to the caricature of Arthur Fleck, his simplicity as a mentally ill man is poorly conceived as all we see the whole movie is his odd laughing and some excerpts from his tattered diary.

Another similar instant is when he is callously treated by a mother on the bus for no reason apart from making her son laugh, but here too he seems to just take it with the difference being he provides a card explaining his condition (Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) or emotional incontinence for those curious) and continues to endure the effects of the disorder beginning to laugh repeatedly. I hold this condition in itself as a plot device was poorly thought through, utilized and does little but delay the films pacing and irritate viewers. You get the sense as if when all else fails cue Phoenixes odd laughter.

Due to our intent to not reveal spoilers there are two scenes which I cannot disclose, where one doesn’t only feel disturbed by brutal violence but the scene actually evokes feelings of deep sadness and realization. Foreshadowing was used cleverly to bring a modicum of comprehension and most to an idea of what is likely to happen next. This was the only true directorial highlight I can recollect of the movie.

The Joker Review
Ad posters for “The Killing Joke” 1988, “Taxi Driver” 1976, “King of Comedy” 1983 & “Joker” 2019

Phillips I feel was trying to make a movie of substance by combining three different and distinct source materials which served as inspiration. It seems that the team is going for a social commentary and deeper angle as opposed to pure entertainment and I feel they fumble it like the Giants in ’78.

To most film buffs it is obvious that Phillips was inspired a great deal by Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, both Martin Scorsese films and both starring another legend Robert De Niro, which study rich well developed characters. But beyond inspiration it feels as if Phillips and company attempted a mash up of the two films, which could be a reason Scorsese decided to step away from production. Another source of inspiration especially for the premise appears to be Alan Moore‘s classic One Shot graphic novel from 1988 The Killing Joke.

To compare the first two sources, both are made dark but for different and fairly sound reasons. Where “Taxi Driver” explores results of alienation on the psyche and perspective of De Niro’s Travis Bickle, “The King of Comedy” studies awkward ideas as it cuts to bone of De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin’s denial of his repeated rejections. Whilst trying to bring the two very different concepts into one film plausibility of behaviour and execution of the idea itself seem to be the challenge. Where Travis repeatedly attempts to make connections in his film we get the feeling Arthur doesn’t try which can demonstrate Arthur possessing severely low self-esteem which can be seen as further stimulated by his mother who even asks him that for one to be a stand up comedian shouldn’t they be funny.

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Marc Maron & Robert De Niro from the “Joker”

With “The King of Comedy” it is visible that a lot has been taken from the plot but there is one crucial difference, Rupert makes his success as a stand up comedian his sole focus and relentlessly attempts to gain recognition and veneration for his skills but as we watch Joker we don’t get that feeling of effort truly invested from Arthur’s side as is the case with Rupert.

Finally to discuss the alleged inspiration coming from “The Killing Joke”, I am lost for connecting points as they are few an far between. If you mention you were inspired by “The Killing Joke” one finds it hard to find what inspired Phillips. In the novel Moore and Brian Bolland, the artist, attempt to illustrate the notion that Joker is a mirror reflection of Batman, that one bad day can separate us all from insanity and depravity. One tragedy creates both iconic characters on opposite ends of the spectrum, Bruce Wayne spends his life trying to find meaning from it whilst Jack Napier (Joker) reflects the absurdity and injustice which can befall us.

In “Joker” Batman is absent and Arthur is pushed to the edge due to seemingly a build up of lifelong torment. Beyond the obvious I enjoy Moore’s take on the project that he feels when they crafted “The Killing Joke” it was to do something original, to stimulate the industry to try new ideas and be creative and he like most reviewers I feel has become sick of the trend he birthed with his stories especially The Watchmen and “The Killing Joke”. We we can derive purpose from the source material but finding a purpose for making “Joker” aside from financial gain is difficult.

Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
Alan Moore & Brian Bolland

The movie seemingly attempts to be a social commentary and falls flat, surely pulling inspiration from various crimes and tragedies which occurred in New York during the 1970-1980s such as The Central Park 5 or the Bernhard Goetz attack but switching things up enough to not make connections clear. Some reviewers claim this is a movie about racism and white supremacy, about mental illness or even about class systems but I feel none of these themes were well enough developed and simply don’t meet the mark.

There is one scene which I feel would have made for a perfect point in the movie to endear Arthur Fleck to the audience as Peter Finch‘s Howard Beale did in Network when he went on his tirade denouncing how bad things have become, instead we receive a inefficient attempt at such with unsophisticated sentiment like “Everybody just screams at each other. Nobody’s civil any more” which obviously fails in what it endeavours to do through its simplicity and lack of substance.

All being said it feels this movie was created to launch a new movie series and build unwarranted hype. If one wanted to create something new and divergent, why not simply create a new character as opposed to using someone who has their own canon and following. Then again both Marvel and DC comics have altered their characters so much to make each character appealing to everyone possible, I feel alienating the fans whose dollars these giants built there empires on in the process.

We shall briefly touch on the film-making itself, as there are few gripes here and as there is praise to be dished out likely ensuing from the exchange of a forceful plot for continual discomfort.

Lawrence Sher‘s cinematography was solid, the camera movement is smooth, the camera angles safe as are the camera distances. Feeling it would have done better with a stronger score but the sound was decent, no complaints come to mind. The editing was handled by Jeff Groth and things seemed to flow easily, feel like the other aspects we have discussed not much to really write home about.

Globally though I perceive the “Joker” came off looking catchpenny or rushed, the scenes appeared smaller than could have been and angles could have been more varied. Some rally scenes seemed nearly as slapdash as the plot, with one protestor literally holding a garden chair over his head.

If any deeper meaning can be derived I am troubled finding it, the closest thing I can find is the alluded to mash up of three iconic pieces of art in an attempt to create a hybrid of substance. Apart from that Phillips could be attempting to paint an image of a disabled downtrodden man who has been neglected and left out to dry by family, society and the government whilst pointing a finger of blame at the wealthy. If this is the case I feel he has missed the mark.

(Possible Spoiler) You don’t really get upset when you feel the director wants to you to be mad at the Wayne family. How is it an employers responsibility to take care of a former employee or her child? It is Penny’s responsibility to take care of Arthur, and here is where one might be able to blame government for even allowing an unstable woman such as her to raise a child let alone return him to her after what he endured in her care but that again rests on a society to demand such things. On the other hand when Arthur decides to take revenge it feels wrong as he is becoming exactly what he encounters regularly, a bully. Now I am feeling if I provide any more examples the movie will be spoiled for all who wish to see it.

The only thing certainly which can impress is Joaquin Phoenixes acting, he is a great actor and this role I feel forced him to resort to his bag of actors tricks constantly as there was little substance to be work with. This movie will likely be most appealing and interesting to youthful faux-nerds and less demanding quasi-fans of darker film and fiction. It has the hype to sell it, a great actor and an iconic character which they’d probably know little about previous to Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight series (which he was amazing in) so this will probably work with a crowd in their early twenties to mind 30s with little love of comics from the era of Crisis on Infinite Earths and prior. For movie buffs I can say this movie is skippable in my humble opinion.

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