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.

This Patrol Is Anything But Doomed!

I tell you what, my DC Universe subscription is really paying off. Titans had a slow start, but then found its footing. However, Doom Patrol started off good then got even better. When the show was backdoor piloted in to Titans people got a little worried. It looked campy and Titans hadn’t yet found its stride. It turns out all that worry was for not. Doom Patrol might me be my favorite thing on ‘TV’.

Doom Patrol is about an eclectic group of meta-humans and cyborgs that just want to find their kidnaped leader, The Captain (Timothy Dalton). Unlike most ‘superheroes’, whos powers are things most anyone would want, the Doom Patrol’s powers come from disabilities or trauma, and they aren’t so much a team as a group of people who endure each other’s company.

What I loved about Doom Patrol is how well written the characters are. The entire show is a long character drama, but with the weirdest and wildest and most comic-book-y-est things ever committed to screen. Nothing is too strange or off-putting for this show. Butts with legs and sharp teeth that eat people? Check. Rats that have the same backstory as Batman, but then follow a darker path? Absolutely. A slightly overweight Brendan Fraser saying the ‘F’ word a lot? The Doom Patrol has got it covered.

Speaking of Brendan Fraser, this cast is fantastic. Timothy Dalton, Brendan Fraser, Alan Tudyk, Matt Bomer, Diane Guerrero, Joivan Wade and April Bowlby make up just the main cast. Plus, there are tons of talented extras that come and go as well. Though you can tell that they tried to save money by keeping the team separated for a few episodes, Dalton is usually out of the picture because he has been kidnapped, and Bomer and Fraser usually are just needed for voice work since their characters’ faces are covered or made of metal. Still, they do not waste the talent they signed on for this show.

Listen, we are living in not just the golden age of television, but also the golden age of comic book media, so there are a lot of things to watch to get that superhero fix. However, you should still give Doom Patrol a chance. I am guessing there will not be a lot of shows like this ever made, and I am hoping they bring it back for season two because season one as fantastic. It is streaming right now on DC Universe in the USA and in some other countries on Netflix, so give it a watch.

Shazam! Teaches DC The Importance Of Fun And Family!

Somehow here in the year 2019 DC has released a “Shazam!” movie. With this film, DC and Warner Bros are really testing if audiences are willing to see minor heroes make their way to the silver screen. Now to be fair, Shazam was in theaters before. Albeit he was then known as Captain Marvel (no, not that Captain Marvel), and that was nearly 80 years ago, so your grandparents may remember him if you alert them to the name change. Despite all that, Captain Marvel “Shazam!” is the best movie beginning to end so far of the new DCEU.

“Shazam!” like most superhero movies is about an orphan, but what makes this movie different is that he is still fourteen. You see an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou in his second Captain Marvel movie of the year) needs a champion to protect the world from the Seven Deadly Sins, but when things go south, he needs to settle on a troubled foster kid name Billy Batson (Asher Angel). When Billy says the wizard’s name, Shazam, he is transformed in to the perfect man. Who in this case is Zachary Levi.

If this makes you think the movie is a little like Big, but with superheroes, you would be right. Though, that would be unfair to “Shazam!” because it makes the most of its premise. Because while the trailers show that this film is funny, they don’t show all the heart, and its focus on the importance of family. Whatever that looks like. In this case a group home that Billy is placed in, and the movie is at its best when Billy/Shazam is with his foster brother Freddy Freeman played by Jack Dylan Grazer. The three leads have great chemistry. The rest of the family is very good too, but they are there mostly filler.

The villains on the other hand are not as good. Mark Strong’s Doctor Sivana is not given anybody to really play off for his scenes, so he falls a little flat, though I think his story pays off really well at the end. Also, the Sins are CGI characters that push the budget for this movie a little too much, so they stand out in a bad way, and they make the movie too creepy for younger children. Otherwise, this probably could have been a PG movie, but these are minor flaws in a great movie.

Wonder Woman would have been perfect if it had found a way to have a third act without a big grey thing to fight, and “Shazam!”‘s third act pays off the movie’s themes in a creative way, so while Wonder Woman is a better movie in parts, “Shazam!” is better as a whole. What I am saying is, “Shazam!” is probably the best movie in the DCEU and you should see it. Maybe take your grandparents, it might bring back some memories.

The Kids Are Not All Right In Titans (But That Is Alright With Me)!

Titans probably had one of the worst advertising campaigns around, and I had no real interest in it, but then something strange started happening. People on the internet started saying that it was not that bad, and its RottenTomatoes.com score pulled out of a nose dive and pulled itself up to an 84%. Which for TV these days isn’t too far out of the norm because there is soooo much good TV, but considering the reviews started off negative, it is quite the feet, so when DC Universe had a sale on subscriptions I decided to give it a try. Titans was well worth the price of admission.

In Titans, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) has given up being Robin. The violence is taking its toll on him, so instead he decides to put his detective training to use and join the Detroit Police Department. Just when he thinks he has given up the cape and the leggings for good, he gets mixed up with a young girl who has strange and dangerous powers named Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft/Raven). She is on the run from her father who wants to use her for her powers. As they run and try to figure out what is going on they will also meet up with Kory (Anna Diop/Starfire) and Gar Logan (Ryan Potter/Beast Boy). Not to mention a few other superheroes.

What is great about Titans is that it takes its time. There aren’t like two intro episodes then they move to Jump City and are now chillin’ in Titan Tower. After eleven episodes they are still nowhere near the superhero team comics lovers know they will be. Dick is trying understand what his life is supposed to be ‘post Robin’, Kory is trying to recover her past, Gar is just now exploring the outside world, and poor Rachel just wants to get a handle on the actual darkness inside her, so the whole first season is just these people trying to deal with their issues while also trying to deal with each other. Which are problems that you just can’t superpunch away.

What I also love about this first season of Titans is that it has taken on a horror vibe, and given Rachel’s powerset, it is a smart choice. There are so many weird and creepy moments in this show. It is not something a lot of other superhero shows, or movies for that matter, have tried, but Titans really goes for it. I will say that it starts off poorly. It doesn’t really get good until about episode three or so, but it is great once it gets going. I also don’t like that they ended the show on a cliffhanger. I like it better when shows have a complete arc for a season, and I guess that season one did, but once they got picked up for a second season they moved episode twelve to be episode one of season two.

Slow starts and cliffhangers are forgivable sins. Titans is not that first show to suffer from them and probably will not be the last. Thankfully everything else about the show works. From the creepy atmosphere to the talented young cast. If you are in the US and can spare eight bucks for a month of DC Universe to watch this show, you should. Outside the US it is even easier because it is on Netflix, so just queue it up. Then wonder with me what will happen when Titans returns this October.

Aquaman’s Success Shouldn’t Have Been A Surprise!

If you follow movie industry sites, one of the biggest stories is how well Warner Bros./DC’s Aquaman is doing. How the film is going to bank $1 Billion even though the lead character is often a joke, but you know what, this shouldn’t be that surprising. While indeed Aquaman has been the butt of a few jokes, you never need to explain the joke to anyone because Aquaman is a household name.

Aquaman came out in 1941, and he has been one of the most well-known heroes since. My Grandfather understands who Aquaman is and what he can do. He is the strong guy from Atlantis who can control/talk to fish. With every Marvel hero that hits the scene I have to prepare myself for all the questions, “Where did they come from? What are their powers? What other heroes do they hang out with? Why is there villain bad?” Now Marvel has been on such an amazing run that none of those questions stop most people from going to the movie, but not one person asked me about Aquaman. They just asked if I was going to see the movie opening night or wait a couple of weekends.

The other overriding theme you will hear is that all the DCEU films were such failures that Aquaman’s success is some sort of anomaly, but guess what? Except for China, Aquaman is doing almost the same amount of business worldwide as the rest of the DCEU movies. The average DCEU film, not counting Aquaman, did $750 Million worldwide, and that is with Justice League pulling the average down. Plus, Suicide Squad couldn’t be screened in China because it featured villains as the main characters, so it broke the moral media code of China Film Co. (the Chinese media importer), and it made $750 Million anyway. In other words, except for a movie that was visibly and aggressively orange, people have been turning out for the DCEU movies, so it should be no surprise that when one comes out un-tinted and fun looking with a hunky man as the lead, people showed up again. Add to that, China has a thing for mermaid movies (look it up), Aquaman looks more like the norm, than an outlier.

Considering the disappointment of Justice League, it was easy to get carried away with all the DCEU is doomed talk, but it turns out maybe people just don’t like orange unfinished movies. If proper care is taken, ‘A’ list superheroes will perform like ‘A’ list superheroes and make tons of cash. Which is to say, when Shazam only makes $600 Million the DCEU world is not ending, because ‘B’ list superheroes will perform like ‘B’ list superheroes and make slightly less cash. Just ask Ant-Man.