The Joker Ain’t Funny

There have been as many takes on the Joker as there has been on Batman. From petty criminal that leaves practice jokes to psychopath that cuts smiles in to the faces of his random victims, but Todd Phillips’ version is unique even among those. He doesn’t fight Batman, Batman doesn’t even exist, instead he is a dark meditation on poverty, mental health and gun violence.

Joker is a hard movie to do a synopsis for. It is best not knowing anything about it going in to it, but it will be shock to those looking for Batman movie. This is a DC Comics movie almost in name only. They do add some connections to the Batverse, but they are the exception not the rule. Just know that Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) life is a brutal and sad one.

Todd Phillips and the rest of the writers really took a swing for something with Joker. It is clear they wanted to make a riff on the 19070’s/80’s Martin Scorsese films. It would fit comfortably with Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. In fact, Scorsese was attached to produce for a while until breaking off to do The Irishman for Netflix. Still, it is a pretty convincing imitation. You could have told me this was a Scorsese movie, and I would have believed you.

What really makes Joker work is Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. He is mesmerizing, and keeps the audience rooting for Arthur for longer than they should. The rest of the cast is talented, but this mostly a one man show, and I think whether or not you like this movie will depend on how you feel about Phoenix’s performance.

Joker is not a movie for those looking for the next popcorn comic book movie. It is for people who want to see a dark tale about mental illness in America, but since this is 2019, your movie has to be based on some IP (intellectual property) or part of some ‘verse to get movie executives’ attention, and the fact Todd Phillips used Batman’s greatest villain to get his movie made, might be Joker’s best gag.

P.S. This movie is a hard ‘R’. Please don’t take your kids to see it.

Brad Pitt Goes To The Stars!

I am finding Ad Astra to be a hard movie to review. The film by James Gray is gorgeous, and features a great performance from Brad Pitt, but considering Gray and Pitt have both admitted that Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Odyssey were the main influences for this movie, it shares the flaws of those two films: It is a slow internal struggle of a man set to some amazing imagery, and that is it. Ad Astra is a very hard film to engage with since it bores you and keeps you at arms length. Seemingly saying, “Look at me, but don’t get to close!” I could go on about the story, or Pitt’s acting ability, but I would just be writing in circles to fill space, and that doesn’t help anyone making a decision to see this film or not.

In the end, if you want to see Pitt at the top of his game, and Gray do his best to bring the lifeless void of space to life, give Ad Astra a shot. If you really like 2001 or Apocalypse Now and wonder why they don’t make films like that anymore, you are in luck, but for everyone else, you can probably skip it, or wait for some lazy rainy Sunday when a slow movie about a man finding himself while getting lost would go great with a warm blanket and some hot chocolate.

Join The Resistance With The Dark Crystal!

I am not sure how to write this review. I love puppets, and The Jim Henson Company is the best in the business. What I am saying is that there are some serious biases here, but that aside, you should watch The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Puppets or otherwise, the show is an amazing original high fantasy epic that doesn’t require you to have watched the movie from thirty years ago (though you still should, but maybe after watching the show).

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance takes place quite some time before the movie. The show never says exactly how long, but I am guessing a few decades at least. The world of Thra is being ruled by the exploitative and cruel Skeksis, and the peace loving Gelfling are oblivious to the Skeksis crimes. Until Rian (Taron Egerton) witnesses their evil first hand and seeks to start a rebellion.

The first thing you will notice about Age of Resistance is that everything looks ‘real’. Computer generated imagery has become so ubiquitous, that seeing real sets and characters is a breath of fresh air. The next thing you will notice is how great the world of the Dark Crystal is. Yes, it is dark, but not overbearingly so. The darkness allows the light to shine brightly. All the creatures, languages, social structures and everything work so well and are well thought out. This was clearly an act of love by all involved.

The vocal cast pretty much includes everyone. It is just top talent from start to finish, and they all do marvelous jobs, but the real heroes are the puppeteers who bring this TV show to live. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance wouldn’t work without them, and the fact that there are still so many talented puppeteers out there is amazing.

I could gush about this show for a long time, and I kind of want to, but it wouldn’t be adding anything of value to this review. It looks amazing, sounds great, and the world is fantastic, so you should watch The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Though keep in mind due to the puppet violence, it may not be suitable for younger viewers, but being scared stiff by The Dark Crystal at a young age is something that happened to all kids of the 80’s, and it now can and should happen to a new generation.

‘It’ Overate In Chapter 2!

It was no surprise that ‘It‘ was a hit for New Line two years ago. It was a much-needed update to a movie that was a rite of passage for kids of the 80’s. The problem is that It: Chapter 1 got to cover the more interesting child years of Stephen King’s classic, so Chapter 2 is tasked with making something out of the weirder and longer adult years. The result is predictably weirder and longer, and while not as good, still a fun popcorn horror flick.

It: Chapter 2 takes place 27 years after Chapter 1. The Losers have all grown up and moved on with their lives. They are all surprisingly successful. With one exception: Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) stayed in Derry to watch and wait to see if ‘It’ (Bill Skarsgård) was truly destroyed, and when the killer clown resurfaces, he needs to get the Losers back together to take down the clown once and for all.

It: Chapter 2 has a few problems: One, we are all wise to Pennywise’s antics; Two, there is something about adults that make their fear less relatable than children’s, and three, it is too long. That being the case, director Andy Muschietti puts together some really effective horror sequences, and the cast is great, so they sell what they are given to work with.

The casting was just about perfect for It: Chapter 2. All the older versions of the Losers look and act like their child counter parts. Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain were standouts, but the whole cast did a good job. It would be hard coming in to a movie where everyone knows they are going to be judged against the great cast from first movie, but they manage to hold their own. Obviously without Bill Skarsgård’s wonderful turn as ‘It’ the rest of the performances would have been for naught. He is otherworldly as Pennywise the clown, and an excellent counterpart to Tim Curry’s version of the sewer dweller.

It: Chapter 2 is not as good as Chapter 1, and that is a shame, but considering how bad the second part of the old ABC miniseries was, the fact ‘It’ is still so much fun is a miracle. So, while yes, It: Chapter 2 is overstuffed, and Pennywise uses the same bag of tricks, they are good tricks, and it is a lot of stuff that I liked. If you were a fan of Chapter 1, you will probably be happy with It: Chapter 2. Until next time, keep floating everyone!

Did Control Come Out Too Early On Consoles?

I am a big fan of Remedy Entertainment. They continue to make groundbreaking games that push narrative and graphics technology to their limits. Remedy’s newest game, Control, is being hailed by some as a modern masterpiece, but not on original Xbox One or PS4 hardware. The game has massive stutters and framerate drops to the low teens, and as low as 10FPS on the PS4. You can watch the whole graphical run down on Digital Foundry:

If you watch the video above, you can see that the game runs ‘okay’ to acceptable on the mid-generation consoles with just small short framerate dips. With the Xbox One X fairing the best, but man it is hard to watch what happens once the analysis gets to the base consoles. I would argue that at that low of a framerate the game is unplayable, and it never should have passed QC.

Based on the order of the framerate going: Xbox One X > PS4 Pro > Xbox One (S) > PS4, I would guess this is a CPU issue. Since the PS4 does have the slowest CPU clock speed out of the bunch. Its faster GPU usually pushes it past the Xbox One, but in this case, there is something else going on that needs some serious CPU horsepower, and while I am ragging on the PS4, Control has a pretty poor showing across the board.

This all leads me to believe that Control is generation too early. People with beefy PCs are quite happy with Control, but people with mid-tier and lower PCs are feeling the pain as well, but that happens in the PC space from time to time, and it is more acceptable there because PC players have an upgrade path if they want to get the most out of Control. Not so much with console players.

If Remedy had waited a year, Control would have come out on machines with modern CPUs and stronger GPUs with a little ray tracing thrown in, and I am sure Control would have looked great in that environment, but as it stands now, it looks like you should skip Control if you didn’t get a mid-generation console, or you have a low spec PC. Otherwise I hear it is quite the game.