The Invisible Man
The Way Back
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Okay, this film has already been so widely debated that I'm not sure what I can really add to the conversation. So, I'll just give my thoughts.
"Joker" is a fairly basic character study of Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man who feels increasingly marginalized by an uncaring and brutal society in Gotham City. To start, the characters, except for Arthur himself, are pretty flat. They seem to have little purpose other than to further Arthur's story. This includes Thomas Wayne, who in other media is portrayed as a man of many dimensions, wealthy but caring, and instilling these values in his son Bruce. Here, he is portrayed as much more uncaring and elitist. Which gives much less of an impact in the inevitable alley scene we see in everything remotely related to Batman. More on this in a minute. It's important to the point.
Arthur suffers a condition that makes him burst into laughter at inappropriate times. He also has other unspecified mental illnesses. We're never given the specifics. This is actually a little troubling because of the general depiction of mental illness. It almost seems like they are saying that if someone is mentally ill then they are a ticking time bomb and it's only a matter of time before they go off. This is not a good look.
After a series of events, Arthur begins spiraling downward, but at the same time realizes how much influence he can have over other people, an aspect of the Joker that isn't often explored. And this is where the characters other than Arthur being rather flat comes into play.
There's more than one indication that we are actually witnessing these events through Arthur's eyes. And this creates a brilliant depiction of a narcissistic personality. The only character that gets fully fleshed out is Arthur himself, but he can't or won't connect with other people to see their depth. As such, we get to see narcissism from the inside, no connection to others and in fact seeing them as pawns in his own schemes. It's subtle and definitely not in your face, but if you look carefully, the hints are there.
Those who fear that "Joker" would glorify incel violence or otherwise can rest a little easier, but as I mentioned, the film isn't without its troubling portrayals. It does vilify the mentally ill, which creates a whole host of other issues. The movie swings wildly between "excellent" and just "okay," and sometimes even "meh." As such, it gets a recommendation, but only a mild one.
Everything old is new again.
Three naive six-graders are on a quest to get to their first kissing party, but get detoured along the way. Sound familiar? That's because it's the same plot as "Superbad" only with younger kids. From having to score drugs to selling a sex doll, these kids get into all kinds of ridiculous hijinks that provide only a mild laugh now and again.
My main problem here is the rehash. Why? "Superbad" is a far superior movie, probably because of the knowledge the characters bring to the table. These kids know next to nothing about the world, a fact that's played up to a maximum extent time and again. By the end of the movie, I was ready to throw my hands up in the air saying "Alright! I get it already." And the characters don't really develop to a significant extent. They remain just as naive at the end of the movie as they were at the beginning.
As a result, we wind up not just with a rehash of "Superbad" but a rather stagnant one at that. It can be cute at times, but overall we learn nothing along with the characters and our lives are not richer for having seen this movie. It's a cute diversion, but nothing else. Take it for what it is, or don't. My recommendation is that if you have anything else to see, you're probably better off seeing that instead.
"The Call of Cthulhu" by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society was an absolutely sublime film. Making it a black-and-white silent film to appear as though it were made in the '20s-'30s was a stroke of genius, and the film stays very close to the source material without being boring. So when it was announced that they were doing a follow-up film, adapting Lovecraft "The Whisperer in Darkness," I was beside myself with joy to the point of being giddy.
Unfortunately, "The Whisperer in Darkness" fails to live up to the high water mark left by "The Call of Cthulhu." Instead of a silent film, this one is done more in the style of a '50s black-and-white horror film. While I don't take issue with the style they chose, they still make some very odd choices that left me feeling a little cold and at times saying, "Huh?"
So, where does the problem arise? I started to wonder if I remembered the original story correctly. Then realized that I had. They not only make adjustments to the story, but treat the story as only acts one and two, creating a completely original third act. While I understand the adaptation aspect of movies and am more tolerant than many seem to be because I understand that a direct one-to-one translation of most literary works to the screen would, well, suck, the change in tone in the third act is enough to give the audience whiplash. The final act goes straight into traditional horror and action that seems like something more out of the Call of Cthulhu RPG as opposed to the slow-burning weird fiction of the unknowable that Lovecraft is most well known for.
This leaves us with one of the most inconsistent movies I've seen in recent memory. The tonal change is so drastic that it's clear the different parts of the film were written in two completely disparate time periods. As such, this film is kind of a let down after "The Call of Cthulhu." I strongly recommend seeing that one over "The Whisperer in Darkness" and only recommend this one for hardcore Lovecraft fans.
It's sloppy, lacks logic or internal consistency, makes really bizarre and inane storytelling decisions, and has a less than satisfying ending. It's also strangely fun and absorbing and a good time, even if you end up racking your brain trying to figure out the logic.
Following up his excellent "Get Out," Jordan Peele gives us "Us," the story of a family terrorized be evil doppelgangers who want revenge for something and to finally get their time in the sun in a very clear socioeconomic metaphor. Ultimately it doesn't make a lot of sense, and yet there's still something strangely compelling about this film. It's as though Peele tries to walk us through the door, but realizes too late that he forgot to open the door first and we end up crashing through it, Kool-Aid man style, getting a few splinters stuck in our eye in the process. We get the results we ultimately wanted, but it's far from painless.
The problem comes down to basic logic. As the movie goes on, you can't help but wonder how exactly this works. When needing to identify with movie characters, you have to figure out how the world they're in works. Honestly, I found Middle Earth to have more of an internal logic than this world. And this is supposed to be our world, not some weird fantasy realm.
While this movie is plagued by problems with disbelief, it's still strangely fun. Like, really fun! It's a great idea, just sloppily executed and rushed out without fixing the logic part. As such, it's one of those movies that seems to have divided audience everywhere. I myself can see both sides, so it's getting a middle of the road rating from me. If you can consciously suspend disbelief in the face of some major logical problems, you're bound to have a lot of fun. Otherwise, you might want to skip it to save your own sanity.
The working class and down on their luck Kim family struggle to make ends meet. When a friend of the son, Ki-Woo's, who is an English tutor for the daughter in the wealthy Park family, has to leave his position, he recommends Ki-Woo for the job. Now having an "in" with the wealthy family, the Kims begin plotting the downfall of the current household servants and inserting themselves into those vacant positions, making them all gainfully employed and with money finally flowing into the household. But not everything is as it seems in the Park house or with their previous servants.
This movie starts out as a comedy and quickly goes into social commentary, pointing out the differences between the poor working class family and the wealthy privileged family. The differences are ones that get commonly pointed out with the well-to-do having what usually gets termed as first-world-problems, while the poor family is literally trying to survive and save meager possessions in a flood. It doesn't shy away or try to be subtle about it, but interestingly enough, we don't feel beaten over the head with it either, which is a major change from the ham-fisted approach taken by most filmmakers. Couching this in a comedy is a good approach, as well, as the audience's guard is let down and we become more receptive to the ideas.
However, I do say it's MOSTLY a comedy. The third act takes a dark, dark turn, and the contrast, not to mention general disdain and even indifference, between the classes becomes much more severe. This gets into some hard territory, and characters that we've found quirky and even come to like in some ways show very different sides of themselves. At the same time, it doesn't feel unexpected, almost like we could tell that this was under the surface all the time and tried to ignore it, but aren't surprised by it when it does show up. This is some masterful characterization!
Another aspect of note is that this film is rich in allegory and metaphor. It's a smart film, yet at the same time the filmmakers are not condescending about it. They give the audience credit for being able to understand the symbolism and don't spoon feed you everything, which is a refreshing change from the usual head-beating most filmmakers go for. At the same time, they understand that not every audience member will understand or immediately pick up on every symbol, but they have crafted this so carefully and so perfectly that you don't have to understand each and every one. That understanding merely enriches the experience, but isn't essential to it.
This film has gotten some recognition, and deservedly so. It is rich, intelligent, and polished to a degree that we sadly don't see as often as we should nowadays, showing the filmmakers are masters of their craft. This is easily one of the best films I've seen in 2019. Highly recommended!