movie reviews

Joker review at Mountain Xpress

I wrote a Joker review last week, largely transcribing what I said on Ep. 012 of The Podcass.

But I also wrote up a review of the film for Asheville’s Mountain Xpress this week. And given the space restraints of print, it’s often a challenge (one I enjoy) to shorten and distill my thoughts.

“[…] the Joker is very much a comic book character. Though Phillips wants to deny that fact, clothing Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck in 1980s grime and despair and the visual language of early Martin Scorsese films, he can’t avoid the fact that the Joker is best known as Batman’s archnemesis. Allusions are even made to the future existence of the Caped Crusader. Can one exist without the other?

Perhaps the tie-in is fan service intended to placate die-hard comic book fans. But it’s also a concession that this story wouldn’t be distinct without a familiar villain who paints his face with clown makeup and favors purple suits with yellow accessories. Phillips tries to have it both ways.”

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Podcast

The Podcass 012: Everybody smile! It’s Joker time!

Put on a happy face! A new Podcass!

Joker is the big movie release of the weekend and drawing a lot of buzz, so we have a review for you (2:11). Then baseball and football radio segments from WISE Sports Radio. Up first is a preview of the 2019 MLB postseason (15:05), followed by a look at Week 5 in the NFL (27:33).

Referenced during this episode:

  • “[…] all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’” [Joker director Todd Phillips in Vanity Fair]
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movie reviews

Behind great Joaquin Phoenix performance, ‘Joker’ wags finger at society for creating villain

For the past 20 years, figuring out what makes villains evil has become an entire creative industry. I don’t know if it started with the Star Wars prequels, but that seems to be where it was popularized. How did Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader? OK, that question was inherent with the character because we knew that he was Luke Skywalker’s father and a Jedi Knight alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi. 

Yet was that story really begging to be told? I think we all — whether “we” means Star Wars fans or general pop culture — thought we wanted to see that story. But would it have been better if Darth Vader stayed ruthless and villainous? Isn’t it enough that we knew he had a change of heart by the end and chose to save his son over his devotion to the Empire and the Sith?

The mystery of what made Anakin turn into Vader added appeal to the entire Star Wars mythology because it invited people to imagine what might have happened, rather than having that story told to them. 

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Podcast

The Podcass 011: Lions are good, Zellweger is great, and Spidey’s back

This is the week when we get The Podcass on the schedule I’ve intended. Hopefully, we’ll have shows every Tuesday and Friday from here on out.

First, we get a little geeky, talking about Sony and Marvel realizing they’re better together with Spider-Man (03:06). Then, how about those Detroit Lions, hanging with the Kansas City Chiefs and almost beating them (07:45)? We also review Renee Zellweger in Judy (13:44) before jumping into my radio segments. I appeared on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 to preview the MLB postseason (18:27) and dug into the Cubs-Joe Maddon split and the Angels firing manager Brad Ausmus on Asheville’s WISE Sports Radio (26:36).

As mentioned during this episode:

  • ‘WISE Guys’ radio host Pat Ryan continues cancer fight with community support [Asheville Citizen-Times]
  • Symbolic bell-ringing in Asheville resonates with cancer patients [WLOS]
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movie reviews

Renee Zellweger’s performance prevents ‘Judy’ from being forgettable biopic

Judy does what most good biopics do, focusing on a particular period of the subject’s life, rather than try to fit an entire life and career into a two-hour story. 

There are flashbacks that show what Judy Garland endured as a young girl, trying to please those who wanted to make her a star at the cost of any sort of normal childhood. Those sequences presume that you know about Garland and her career, which doesn’t seem particularly unreasonable if you’re seeing this movie. If you know Judy Garland was in The Wizard of Oz, that’s probably all you need to get by here. 

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Podcast

The Podcass 010: Brad Pitt in Space, Cam Newton’s foot, and Rambo in Mexico

Here’s some Podcass for the weekend! (We should’ve gotten it posted before the weekend. Still a work in progress, folks. Eventually, I’ll stop saying that.)

Catching up on some movies, we review Ad Astra (01:51) and Rambo: Last Blood (29:07). In between is my WISE Sports Radio NFL segment (10:24) and a couple of corrections from the last episode (37:06).

Links to a few things mentioned during this episode:

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movie reviews

‘Rambo: Last Blood’ chooses violent fantasy over final word on tragic character

With the title Rambo: Last Blood, you get everything you need to know about this movie. It’s the last stand of John Rambo, a character who already received a fitting ending in 2008’s Rambo.

Sylvester Stallone should’ve just left Rambo on that Arizona ranch, training horses and repairing tractors for the rest of his life. His Vietnam veteran turned virtual superhero finally left war, service to his country, and his self-imposed exile in Thailand behind. But maybe Stallone saw Logan two years ago and thought Rambo could get a final story like that. 

Stallone should’ve left it alone, man. A better version of this story exists in Rambo: Last Blood, but Stallone and the other two writers credited who worked on this script, nor director Adrian Grunberg, aren’t interested in exploring how a man trained to be a weapon can’t escape violence, can’t truly find peace. Maybe he should’ve traveled to Neptune with Brad Pitt. 

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