Joker (2019)

This Week: Joker (2019)

This was always one of those movies that I said, “I’m not sure about it, but I’m going to watch it.” Despite how much Stephen King I’m watching and reading right now, I generally don’t go for stories about someone being psychologically undone. I am not a fan of watching someone torn down until he breaks down. I prefer stories of characters struggling and overcoming their challenges and rising above. So watching someone dealing with trauma upon trauma until he turns into a monster is not something I was excited about seeing.

But it’s a comic book movie, so I feel I must do my due diligence and watch it. And the hype surrounding this movie means it has to be worth watching, right?

I would say yes. There are no real surprises with this movie. We watch a mentally sick individual get further put upon by his job, his home life, and society in general. He then finds relief in embracing his illness and lashing out at those who have contributed to his pain.

My opinion is that I like the story for the most part, and I would much rather see Heath Ledger do this movie, but unfortunately that isn’t possible. Heath Ledger will ALWAYS be the standard I hold live action Jokers to. I do see some of that towards the end, but it is not quite there.

Before we go much further, have to put up the

SPOILER WARNING

There is one major problem I had with the narrative of the movie and that was Arthur’s hallucinations. He imagines a relationship with his neighbor and ends up figuring out later that it never happened when he walks into her apartment and she acts like she barely knows him and we flash back to all the scenes she was with him and then show no one there.

This is an effective storytelling method, but you need to have clues in place that this is what is happening. This worked so well in Fight Club because there were subtle clues in place that Brad Pitt wasn’t really there.

It is somewhat acceptable for MOST of the scenes they reference, except one that bugs me. There are about 4 scenes they show of Arthur being with her and then reveal she wasn’t there, but these were all scenes where Arthur wasn’t anyplace he shouldn’t be. He was at home, he was on the street, he was at the comedy club, and at the hospital. But there is one scene where he goes her her apartment, she opens the door and he starts kissing her. She reciprocates and then we cut to another scene. What happened there? Did he imagine going there but not actually? All the other places he was physically there, but she wasn’t. Did he go to her apartment and then make out with air?

Why isn’t that a gif? Screw this world.

So back to Joaquin Phoenix’s version of Joker. When he decides to embrace his Joker-ness, he does a good job in his movements and mannerisms, but I never get the confidence in his voice or his laugh.

Another issue is the age of the Joker. This takes place when Thomas and Martha Wayne are still alive. Thus Bruce is still a child and not beginning his journey to become the Dark Knight. So assuming Bruce is 8 in this movie and Joker is 44, that means when Batman comes around 18 years later, Batman will be beating up a Joker just starting retirement.

All in all these are just minor flaws in a good movie, but I don’t think this will get many repeat viewings by me.

Next Week: Zombieland 2: Mistress of Evil. Having survived the Zombie Apocalypse, Woody Harrelson and the gang now have to take on Maleficent after she has “gone evil again.”

Judy (2019)

This Week: Judy (2019)

So with Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman paving the way for musical biopics, I had high hopes for Judy. I went in expecting the story of Judy Garland’s life. And maybe some decent musical numbers along the way.

Well, you don’t really get that. You get the final performances of Judy Garland’s life. She ends up taking a 5 week gig in London and it shows the struggles she has with pills, sleep, and finding the will to perform.

It briefly flashes back to her life when she was 15, but only a spot here or there where you can see how she turned into what she was in the end.

We get a good rendition of Over the Rainbow at the end. Then it mentions her death 6 months later.

Although the acting by Renee Zellweger is phenomenal, and everything is very professionally done, it doesn’t seem much more than a Lifetime movie. Save for the singing.

I would have just liked more of Judy Garland’s life. Gotten a whole story instead of just the end.

Maybe with Judy Garland, there is just too much story to tell.

Next Week: Joker. And other things. . .

Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

This Week: Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
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So in 2015 when Furious 7 came out, I ended up burning through all the Fast & Furious movies that I hadn’t seen.  I saw The Fast and The Furious at one point during my first run at college.  Then when I went back to school in 2009, I ended up buying a collection of Fast and Furious movies out at the time, which I think went up to Fast and Furious.  I watched 2 Fast 2 Furious then avoided watching ANY of the other movies because I hated it.

So I burned through Tokyo Drift to Fast 6(or whatever) in about a week.  I even posted mini reviews for the movies.  I actually finished watching the very end of Fast 6 AS the opening credits for Furious 7 was starting.

I had planned on seeing F8 of the Furious in theaters, but just didn’t.  Then I kept hearing all the behind the scenes drama and just put it off forever.

When I started hearing about Hobbs & Shaw, I initially thought it was a stupid idea.  Then I saw the trailers and thought it looked pretty entertaining.

Then I started hearing more behind the scenes nonsense about negotiations for screen time and time looking “bad ass.”  I am really getting tired of all this behind the scenes crap.

However, I decided that I was going to see Hobbs & Shaw, so I needed to go ahead and see F8 of the Furious.

F8 of the Furious Review:  It was okay.  Ultimately I am tapped out on Vin Diesel.  I have never cared much for him in the movies, and his whole talk of “Family” is annoying as hell.  I felt it was kind of weak writing to kill off Vin Diesel’s son’s mother just to make it easier on Vin and his wife that forgot she was married to him last movie.  It was neat to see Vin VS the Team, but it was kind of meh over all.

Now on to Hobbs and Shaw.

I gotta say, this was more fun for me than the other films.  Mainly because the impulse to bring in as many cars as possible was taken out.  Yes there were a few car chase scenes, but they felt organic.  They were based on escape, not “let’s over complicate this mission by doing EVERYTHING from the seat of your car.  I think the action was great and RYAN F***ING REYNOLDS!  Stabs a guy with an effing BRICK!

I will say that despite the behind the scenes nonsense, I did not feel it impact the film.  Unlike in F8 of the Furious where the behind the scenes drama clearly impacted the film and made scenes awkward.

I don’t think I have THAT much more to say, it’s a Fast and Furious movie.  It is action, and we get a decent villain in Idris Elba, because he is generally always good.  He’s Black Superman!

It’s fun, check it out.  Stay for after credits scenes.

Next Week: Judy.  Yeah, I managed to sneak one more in.

IT: Chapter 2 (2019)

This Week: IT: Chapter 2 (2019)
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So. . .between seeing IT (2017) and seeing this movie, I ended up reading the book.  I had considered reading the book a few times, but the length always cleared me off and when I considered listening to the audiobook, I nixed that idea immediately because I was worried they would monkey with the audio.  However, after reading Stephen King’s The Stand, IT became fairly light reading by comparison.  So I knew a lot more going into this movie than I did the last one.

So well before I could be amazed by the story and the effects, now I was stuck comparing the movie to the book.  Brilliant plan, TK!

I actually really enjoyed this movie.  The first movie just had the most amazing cast as far as the kids went, and then having to recast them as adults is just an impossible task.  But amazingly, they all work out very well.  I would say the absolute BEST of the casting was Eddie.  Others you can sort of see the younger version sort of looking like the older version, but Eddie is carbon copy.  I had to double check that they WEREN’T father and son.  Richie may have been my favorite of the last movie, but Eddie was my favorite this time.

Another casting decision I need to bring up is the adult version of Ben.  All the other actors seemed like great casting choices because they looked a lot like the younger actors or they were James McAvoy.  However, for Ben’s actor, it seemed they went out and got a male model.  I kind of expected all the other actors to be talking about how terrified they were of Pennywise and then it gets to Ben and he’s like the Rock in Jumanji.
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But honestly, he does a great job.  The older and younger actor even have similar eyes.

Before we get much further, probably a good idea to throw up a spoiler warning, for both the movie AND the book.
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So as I mentioned, I now had the burden of knowledge going into IT: Chapter 2.  Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  There was some major differences between the book and the movie (besides the time periods).  One of the big factors is outside of briefly appearing in the beginning of the movie, Bill and Beverly’s spouses do not show up again.  In the book, they both end up coming to Derry and end up taken by Pennywise.  In the movie, they chastise their respective spouse and that’s it.

And for the most part, I’m okay with that.  Except for one little, tiny detail that they change.  And it drives me crazy for the entire run of the movie.

In the book, Beverly’s husband is an abusive controlling asshole.  He hates the fact that Beth smokes and beats her every time she lights up around him.  In fact, when Beth gets the call to return to Derry, she is so wrapped up, that she lights up right in front of him and he decides he is going to whip her with his belt.  She then remembers she had the strength to take down motherf***ing Pennywise and ended beating this asshat all over the house with his own damn belt.

In the movie, Beverly’s husband plays up that he is a good and caring guy before he then grabs her and accuses her of cheating on him with this “Mike” guy who called.  She then hits him with a vase and runs off and he screams after her.

That’s it.

I initially wrote it off that they didn’t want to show smoking in the movie due to the strict regulations surrounding use of tobacco in movies and television.  But then you see Beverly light up half a dozen times in the movie.  Each time she did it, I grumbled in my seat about belts.

I honestly would have happily made the movie another 10-20 minutes longer just to get a satisfying asswhooping of Bev’s husband with a belt.  It would have made me so happy.

There is some debate between which of these movies is scarier.  My vote is this one, but there are some factors that make this one scarier for me than it necessarily would be for others.  I have a deep seated fear of dead/ghostly women.  The classic Lady in White ghosts and specters are my high octane nightmare fuel.  It’s one of the reasons you don’t see a review of The Curse of La Llarona on this site.

So when Beverly goes to her old apartment and encounters
nekkidgrandma, I end up freaking out in my seat.

Also young Beverly with her hair on fire chasing young Ben also sent my heart rate into danger zones.

One of the big things everyone is talking about is the ending.  Hell, in the very beginning they lampshade that the book ending sucks and that they want to change it for the movie by having everyone, even Stephen King, telling Bill that he can’t write a good ending.

There are three major changes to the ending.  Two of them I am okay with, one of them I am disappointed by.

  1. The ritual of chud doesn’t work, and they have to insult Pennywise to death.  I’m kind of fine with this because the book is weird on this front.  I just don’t believe this can work in a movie.  Because in the book it seems like Bill and Richie kind of Astral Project to the edge of the macroverse and kind of out will IT as Ben goes egg smashing.  It is a very abstract thing that would be difficult to put into a movie.
  2. Everyone remembers everything.  In the book, after Pennywise is defeated, people go back to not remembering what happened in Derry.  Bev and Ben hook up and forget.  Nobody can remember Stanley or Eddie’s names.  Life moves on.  Now, they state that the reason they forgot the first time was due to IT making them forget.  Now they remember everything and get to keep it.  Ultimately, I’m fine with this because it kind of negates a tragedy in the book of the dead characters being forgotten completely.
  3. Derry is not destroyed following the death of IT.  In the book, part of what was holding Derry together was IT’s presence.  After IT is destroyed, an earthquake rocks Derry and ends up destroying about a third of it and killing hundreds of people.  In the movie, just the house on Neibolt street is destroyed.  I would have liked the massive destruction at the end, but nobody asked for my input.  Also I think it would have taken away the last shot of the Loser’s club all together.

Ultimately I think it is a great movie and although it makes some significant changes, I think it captures the spirit of the novel very well.

Next Week: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.  Ampersands at FULL POWER!

Blinded by the Light (2019)

This Week: Blinded by the Light (2019)
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So I have been looking forward to this movie for a long time.  I keep referring to it as “The Bruce Springsteen Movie.”  To preface, I know next to nothing about Bruce Springsteen.  I did not even know his nickname was “The Boss” until I saw the trailer of the Customs Agent calling Bruce Springsteen’s hometown, “The Home of the Boss!”  I am aware of him, of course.  I love “Born in the USA” just like everybody else.  I even have my favorite Bruce Springsteen song, “Lucky Town.”  But that is about the extent of my Bruce Springsteen knowledge.  Fortunately, this movie is willing to expose people to “The Boss” through one of his most obsessive fans.

I absolutely love this movie.  It perfectly captures someone becoming completely obsessed with something and incorporating it into his worldview and everything he does.  I can also say if I was friends with the main character, I would HATE Bruce Springsteen.  Seriously, almost every other sentence out of this kid is “Bruce Says” or is speak-singing a line from one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs.  Which speaking as someone who tends to get obsessed with stuff, is not too far off.  When I was in high school, I discovered the joys of football and no one was spared the constant football metaphors.

And if you thought the US had a monopoly on Racism and hatred of immigrants, we learned it from watching our parent country.  Some of the Pakistani families have to have plastic over their interior door mat because apparently it is a regular occurrence for children to pee through their mail slot.  This is how people had to live!  Also a wedding parade gets ruined due to a white supremacy parade occurring right outside the Mosque it was going to be held in.

Although it is kind of built up as a “Springsteen Movie” it is really a story about growing up in England as a second generation Pakistani immigrant and finding a way to cope with your feelings through music.  One of the most visceral scenes in the movie is where Javed, the main character, begins listening to Bruce Springsteen for the first time.

If you haven’t just lost yourself in music that seems to perfectly echo your feelings, then this will be entirely lost on you.  But as someone who was a teenager with DEEP emotions and lots of bands willing to get rich off of pandering to these DEEP DEEP emotions of being an ugly lonely kid, I definitely felt this scene.  With my DEEP emotions.

One thing I didn’t really understand is why this movie was called Blinded By the Light.  Blinded by the Light only gets partially played once.  Yes, the speech at the VERY end of the movie references the song and explains why it was titled that, but I think “The Promised Land” would have been a MUCH better title.  It is the song that gets played SEVERAL times during the movie and is the song that has the deep emotional connection with Javed.  It also ties in a lot better with an immigrant family moving to England in order to get a better life and that life getting pulled out from under them by racism.

I enjoyed the hell out of this movie and I recommend most people need to see it, just for the historical perspective alone.  Especially how it seems to be echoing along today.

So two more movies left.  One with a Hint of things to come. . .

Next Week: It: Chapter 2.

Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood (2019)

This Week: Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood
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So Quentin Tarantino is one of those directors that my first impulse is to not want to watch the movie.  Or at least that is how it was for me when I was younger.  I’m not sure how much younger, but as a note, this is my FIRST Quentin Tarantino film to see in theaters.  For movies like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Kill Bill, this makes sense, because I wasn’t old enough to see those movies in theaters.  However I was a man grown when Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight came out.  Each of those I waited until they were streaming before watching.  Hateful Eight, I still haven’t seen, even though that was the first one I wanted to see from the get go.

I am not a fan of gore for gore’s sake.  I avoid movies like Saw, Hostel, or Human Centipede.  I am not a fan of torture.  Quentin Tarantino is very well known for violence, blood, and torture scenes.  No matter how many movies I watch of Quentin Tarantino, I am always worried that THIS will be the one that I can’t tolerate due to the violence and gore crossing a line.

But once I actually WATCH the films, I love them.  Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained are my favorites.  The gore and violence are just fun and not the trauma I am expecting to bill my therapist for.  Maybe I should FINALLY give From Dusk till Dawn a try.

Maybe later.

Now to Once Upon a Time in. . . Hollywood.  I’m going to admit, while I was watching the movie, I was kind of bored and wondering when the movie was going to start.  In fact, one of the more interesting bits was a cockroach that was walking across the bannister in front of me.  The couple next to me actually took a picture of it.  Then they decided they didn’t want to watch this movie with the cockroach and walked out.

I’m just glad my wife wasn’t there with me or else I would not know how this movie ended.

Honestly it is a bunch of fun scenes that are pieced together, but no real narrative comes together.  The narrator basically tells us how Rick and Cliff are experiencing their respective careers, but there really isn’t a story until the very end.  Even then it is just something that is dropped in Rick and Cliff’s laps and they barely know what is going on due to being high and drunk.

Although I was initially kind of bored and wondered when the movie would start coming together, by the end I wanted to know what happened next in the lives of Cliff and Rick.  And like most Quentin Tarantino movies, the most fun is thinking about all the awesome dialogue and scenes afterwards.

Time for a Spoiler warning. . .
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You know between this movie and Inglorious Basterds, I’m beginning to wonder how many of the historic tragedies have been averted or set right in the Tarantino-verse.  Was 9/11 averted?  Columbine?  The trailers and story sort of hint at Sharon Tate being a more central role in the movie, but she is sort of just a side story of little consequence.  In fact, due to her murderers getting yelled at in the street, her significance is practically cut completely out by her, you know, not getting murdered.

Hey I said Spoilers.

Anywho, once you realize there isn’t a tight cohesive narrative and series of events leading up to a thrilling climax, and realize it is just a couple of weekends in the life of a has been actor and his stunt double, it is a fun movie.  I recommend it.

Next Week: Blinded by the Light, but first DISNEY WORLD!(While, after I saw Once Upon a Time in. . .Hollywood, I then went to Disneyworld, but that was back in August.  But still)

The Lion King (2019)

. . .Oh snap, how long has it been since I updated this?
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Okay, I think you exaggerate a little diamond dropper.  But seriously, last update was beginning of July and we’re coming up on the end of September and I have . . .machinations for October.

So considering I have AMC A-List and am able to see up to three movies a week, how many movies am I behind on?  10?  20?!?

(Checks AMC App)

5.  I am just throwing money away, aren’t I?

Oh well, Lets get started

This Week: The Lion King (2019)
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How appropriate I come back with a movie about the main character shirking his responsibilities for a vast portion of the movie until he comes back at the end.

Come to think of it, that is what Spider-man: Far From Home was about as well.

So, of the three versions of The Lion King I have seen, this is the worst.  The animated movie and the Broadway production are better.  However, if the other two didn’t exist, this would be my favorite.  Because really, it is the exact same movie.

Like the live action version of Aladdin before it, the “live action” version of Lion King tries to change a few things up.  However it is a LOT more faithful and only changes a few jokes here and there.  Largely making jokes on what you expected and subverting those expectations.

The biggest problem with this movie is that they are trying to walk the line between giving the animals realistic expressions and trying to give them the emotions of humans.  Unfortunately they err too much on the side of “realism” and it means the characters look bored most of the time.

However the greatest sin was all but cutting Be Prepared.  All we get is a brief talking of the first verse and then BE PREPARED and we’re done.  Everyone else we got competent singers(and Seth Rogen) to fill in the roles, and for Scar we get a worse singer than JEREMY IRONS?!?  WHY?  We could have had an AMAZING rendition of Be Prepared.  But nope, a small nod and then nothing.

Most of the voice actors do okay, but make me miss the original cast.  John Oliver as Zazu is absolutely on point in his performance and the guy who plays Timon is spectacular.  Seth Rogen is hit or miss as Pumba.  Everyone else is middle of the road.

I’m still not sure whether this is a MORE animated version or LESS animated version of The Lion King.  But this is still going to be a good introduction for a whole new generation to the Lion King.  And then they can watch the animated and Broadway versions and put this one away.

Next Week: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.