Paul McGuire Grimes, of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his take on the newest movie in the Batman library.
JOKER (in theaters)
Arthur Fleck makes a living as a professional clown but has aspirations of being a stand up comic on a late night talk show. He has good, innocent intentions but he just isn’t funny. He’s continually beat up for just being different and takes shelter by living with his mom in a small apartment. The trauma continues as he learns more about his childhood. The years of being bullied, ignored, and not taken seriously finally takes its toll on Arthur.
-Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, and Marc Maron.
-Directed by Todd Phillips (Best known for The Hangover movies and Old School).
-Phillips is clearly inspired by Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver to the point where Todd Phillips mirrors key moments from those films. Both of those films starred Robert De Niro who’s now playing the Jerry Lewis type role from The King of Comedy
-Phillips takes that character approach with the Joker and even though he’s keeping it in 1970s Gotham City he’s making it topical in a Trump-like world where Thomas Wayne is the rich billionaire fascist running for mayor in a city where minorities and people who suffer with mental health issues are left abandoned.
-I felt uncomfortable from very early on in the film and it never lets up. I felt sympathy for Arthur at the beginning but then there’s this shift that comes once it becomes too much and he snaps. Todd Phillips doesn’t shy away from the graphic and brutal violence that comes in the second half of the film.
-What kept me engrossed in the story was Joaquin Phoenix who goes all in with another full-throttle performance full of intensity. He never copies from other actors who have played the Joker. It’s a very humane take and one that veers a hard 180 by the end of the film. He makes for a scarier and more realistic clown than say Pennywise from IT.
-Joker is a fascinating character study. With this being an origins story, we see how Arthur Fleck was a product of trauma who never got the resources he needed and the Joker is what ultimately becomes of that
-Will elicit strong reactions no matter where you fall on it, and there’s something to be said about films that can do that to an audience.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It’s not entertaining or wholly original in it’s approach but it comes with a phenomenal performance.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Gotham City is in a place of turmoil and change. On top of the standard crime rate that’s growing, there’s an organized mob family gaining momentum that’s transporting money in and out of the city. The Joker sees himself as an agent of chaos and wants in on the madness and shake down of the city. He weasels his way in threatening the city at large with his wholly unpredictable ways. Hoping to stop all of this is the city’s new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. He’s seen as the white knight and beacon of hope the city needs, but his hot shot ways are in conflict with the police and Commission Gordon who would rather rely on Batman to save Gotham. It’s not that easy as Bruce Wayne is conflicted on whether the city needs a hero and vigilante like himself or if Harvey Dent is the answer.
-Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart
-Nominated for 8 Oscars and won 2 for Sound Editing and Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger. It was posthumously awarded with his family accepting the award at the ceremony.
-My favorite super hero film of all-time. The one I hold all others in comparison too, especially those involving Batman.
-Written and directed by Christopher Nolan who keeps the story grounded in a realistic society with corruption, anarchy, heroes, and villains, all flawed characters facing moral decisions.
-It may be two and a half hours, but there isn’t a single wasted moment. Nolan gives it continual drive and momentum all backed by a stellar score from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
-Heath Ledger gives one of the best performances of the last twenty years. When you watch his take on the Joker, it’s one of complete surprise and mystery. It’s frightening with how chaotic and mischievous he makes him. His Joker is a pathological liar so you never know what will keep out of his mouth. He responds to every character differently keeping everyone on their toes.
Crime is on the rise in Gotham City. It’s a dark, seedy town that’s celebrating it’s 200th birthday. There are rumors on the rise that a masked vigilante dressed as a bat is stopping some of the crime before the police can arrive. The man behind the mask is billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne who runs Wayne Enterprises. There is corruption within the police force as some of their finest are working with mob boss Carl Grissom. Grissom believes one of his henchmen, Jack Napier, is having an affair with his girlfriend and puts an order out to have him killed. It all goes down at a chemical plant and when Batman tries to save Jack, he accidentally drops him into a drum of toxic chemicals. Jack survives but takes on the persona of the Joker to seek his revenge on Batman and the citizens of Gotham.
-Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Jack Palance, Billy Dee Williams
-Warner Bros. first big screen Batman film since the 1966 Adam West television series. I don’t think we would have the Marvel, X-Men, or new Batman films without this blockbuster film.
-Director Tim Burton took a drastically darker, gothic tone than the campy approach to the Adam West series
-Features a score by Danny Elfmann and music written and performed by Prince.
-Harrison Ford, Tom Selleck, and Pierce Brosnan were all considered for the lead role before Michael Keaton was cast who previously worked with Tim Burton on Beetlejuice. Naturally, it was met with controversy as fans assumed he’d play the role too humorously. I love Keaton’s take on Bruce. He’s a little lonely, there’s hidden charm and a brooding quality, and can unleash on Joker when needed.
-Jack Nicholson signed on as the Joker only if specific filming requirements were met and only if he got top billing over Michael Keaton. He plays the Joker as a flashy clown with a high-pitched diabolical laugh. He’s ready to put on a show for the public to see. He has some great one-liners delivered in a way that only Jack knows how to do.