Tag Archives: Pennywise

JOKER (2019) – CINEMA REVIEW

JOKER (2019) – CINEMA REVIEW

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Produced by: Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

Written by Todd Phillips, Scott Silver

Based on : DC Comics’ Joker created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane & Jerry Robinson

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert DeNiro, Bill Camp, Zazie Beetz, Francis Conroy, Glen Fleshler, Brian Tyree Henry, Marc Maron etc.

Music: Hildur Guðnadóttir

Cinematography: Lawrence Sher

**** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ****



“Is it just me – or is it getting crazier out there?”

There’s no let up for poor coulrophobes. You wait so long for an evil clown and two come along in quick succession! First Pennywise hits the big screen twice. Now, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix deliver an incendiary cinematic masterpiece, based on DC’s uber-villain, Joker.

With Marvel’s cinematic universe heroically saving the world and making Disney a lot of money in the process, everything was looking a bit bright in the comic book film world. Not anymore, because Joker (2019) brings darkness, chaos, delusions and insanity to the screen. This film doesn’t reflect a safe world full of heroes, but instead illustrates one without them or a shred of hope.



The year is 1981. The place is Gotham. The symbol of this urban disintegration will be downtrodden clown, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Crime and garbage ravage the city and social services budgets are being cut. Arthur struggles with his mental health, his clown work and his unwell mother (Francis Conroy). He attempts to find solace in stand-up comedy, but his psychological problems stretch to uncontrollable laughing fits, making people laugh AT him, as opposed to WITH him. He seeks potential romance with a neighbour, Sophie (Zasie Beetz), but his world begins to collapse when he loses his job and his medication is cut off. Attacked by kids on the street and bankers on the tube, Arthur is forced to fight back. But, violence begets violence, as a new, more dominant persona comes to the fore.

Joker (2019) is a bravura and risk-taking character study charting the downward spiral of both a city on the edge; and an individual losing touch with the real world. Rather than being cared for by the system, Arthur is thrown to the gutter, only to rise up with fire, violence, colour, costume and maniacal chuckling. From the mean streets of Gotham comes not calm, but social unrest and protests; not a hero but a painted villain, dancing and plotting bloody murder.



I have read that there have been complaints that the film trivialises mental health. Well, having experienced a close family member suffer mental breakdown and have a friend commit suicide due to extreme anxiety, I actually think Joker (2019) presents madness in a very truthful way. Mental health is scary, unpredictable, difficult to treat and prone to startling bursts of uncontrollable energy. It’s hard to comprehend what happens in people’s brains to make them act a certain way and this film captures that. The reason the film is scary is because mental health is scary. If it is not treated, then people can harm themselves and others. Therein lies the truth and tragedy of mental illness.

Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely incredible as Arthur Fleck/Joker. Hysterical laughter echoes and haunts the screen. Every cigarette he smokes drags nicotine anxiety into his ravaged lungs. As violent outbursts jolt and as his skinny body dances, I felt a gamut of emotions including: fear, humour, shock and sadness. Fleck’s transformation into Joker is a slow-burn trajectory and masterful acting performance. He tries to avoid violence and confrontation, but it’s drawn to him like a moth to a flame. He tries to make people laugh, but sadly only ends up hurting them. Joker is an outsider desperate to step inside and be part of society, but, even down to his unknown parentage, he is rejected at every turn.


As well as Phoenix, Todd Phillips deserves much kudos for creating an incredibly dark, but impressive cinematic experience. He is ably assisted by the startling cinematography of Lawrence Sher, who captures that gritty, paranoiac and urban look perfectly. Much praise also to Hildur Guðnadóttir, who, for me, has orchestrated the musical score of the year. Lastly, the genius of marrying cinematic classics like Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1983), with a DC comic-book super-villain is an absolute masterstroke. Indeed, Joker (2019), is one of the most memorable and compelling films of 2019. Why so serious? Watch it and discover for yourself.

Mark: 10 out of 11



IT: CHAPTER 2 (2019) – MOVIE REVIEW

IT: CHAPTER 2 (2019) – MOVIE REVIEW

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Based on: IT by Stephen King – Screenplay by Gary Dauberman

Produced by: Barbara Muschietti, Dan Lin, Roy Lee

Main Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McEvoy, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgard, Isiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Andy Bean etc.

Cinematography: Checco Varese

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**


Stephen King is clearly a genius. To be able to maintain creativity and longevity as a writer, plus give birth, as it were, to any number of iconic narratives, characters and events is a testament to his massive energy and talent. When I was young one of the scariest things I ever saw on TV was the horror serial Salem’s Lo(1979), which was about vampires taking over a small town. His book Carrie (1976) was also adapted into one of the best horror films of the seventies too. Moreover, during the 1980s, TV and cinema screens were peppered with King’s work notably: The Shining (1980)Stand by Me (1986) and the under-rated Pet Semetary (1989).  In 1990, Tommy Lee Wallace directed a mini-series of IT, with the terrifying Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown. IT proved to be an excellent horror story until the – faithfully sticking to the novel of course – ridiculously silly ending.

Flash forward twenty-seven years, IT: Chapter One (2017) and Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) was back to haunt the dreams, drains and sewer pipes of Derry, Maine, using subconscious manipulation and fear to lure kids and adults to their death. Directed by Andy Muschietti, the film was a big box office hit and it’s a highly entertaining genre horror movie full of fantastic set-pieces. Thus, it was no surprise we got IT: Chapter Two, with the terrified kids now older, but equally afraid and under threat from that devilish clown.


PW-1

In preparation for IT: Chapter Two, I re-watched IT: Chapter One and must say I enjoyed it even more second time round. King’s imagination and ability to craft a great story full of memorable iconography such as the clown, balloons, deathly sewers, small-town existence and the strong theme of outsiders/losers versus bullies/abusers resonate perfectly within the jump-scare-horror tropes. The second film, though longer, doesn’t really develop the characters as much and we get more of the same scary scenarios but this time with the adults in place. Having said that the cast led by Jessica Chastain, James McEvoy and the brilliant Bill Hader create excellent characterisations and reflections of their younger selves.

Pennywise himself is arguably not as scary second time round either because his fear factor is lessened by familiarity. But the assorted monsters the ‘It’ creature conjures up still hold some surprise for our protagonists to face. The scariest was Bev’s demon, a creepy old woman who frightened the life out of me during the trailer and the film. What I also liked was the film confronting the frankly insane nature of Stephen King’s actual monster, which we are advised has existed since Earth even began. The filmmakers succeed where the 1990 mini-series failed, in making this inter-dimensional behemoth somehow plausible. I especially liked the in-jokes referencing the criticisms about King’s works often having terrible endings.

Thus, overall, I enjoyed this final chapter horror adaptation of King’s monster novel; and the ending worked this time. While there is a lot of repetition and recycling of horror moments of the first film, the themes of confronting and defeating bullies and demons from the past and present resonates powerfully. Lastly, like many of King’s works, it’s about the power of friendship and strength in togetherness. Because, only together can we overcome the fear of real, surreal and unreal demons lurking in the darkness of our towns, cities, rooms, homes, sewers and most of all, our minds.

Mark: 8 out of 11