Category Archives: LBoM: Movie Overviews

Joker, A film That’s Not About Joker

Joker, written and directed by Todd Phillips, it’s the biggest surprise hit of the year. A relatively small budget… I guess, comic book movie in a sea of big budget comic book movies. The grandiose scale of something like Avengers: Endgame is gargantuan compared to Joker. But sometimes (most of the time), throwing a lot of money at something does not necessarily make the end result better.

So let me go back to the very beginning before I take a look at this flick. When Joker was first announced, I was nonplussed. The DC comic book films up to this point had been very, very hit and miss… mostly miss. The whole shared universe they forcibly tried to create just didn’t work at all. Even when DC flicks were ‘good’, they were still very bog standard and lacking in any real character or story. So when a film telling the origin story of perhaps the most famous DC comic book villain was announced, I lost all interest. The first teaser trailer was released and I was even less interested. The first few on-set pictures emerged that showed Joaquin Phoenix in full Joker regalia and the funny memes about McDonald’s began, I joined in. This film was going to be terrible, as much as I thought Joaquin was a phenomenal actor, and he is, this was going to be another DC movie failure, I was sure of it. So I pretty much ignored the film… then the early reviews started to come in a few weeks back. The critical response was insane, everyone was giving the film high marks and extremely favourable reviews. Joker even got an eight minute standing ovation at it’s Venice premiere. Let’s just say that my interest was most definitely piqued.

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Still, there was this niggle at the back of my head that all the Joker praise was hype and over hype. Did Warner Bros (distributor of the film) just pay a load of reviewers to praise the flick to gain a lot of interest in an attempt to combat the previous badly received other films? Hey, I’m a cynical thinking kind of guy. It couldn’t be as good as people were saying, it just couldn’t. So sure I was that this film would be terrible that I just could not even open my mind to the slight possibility that just maybe it wasn’t. But there was one saving grace for me, Joaquin Phoenix playing Joker. Even if the film was utterly shit, I knew Joaquin would be amazing.

So when I sat down to watch Joker, I had already decided I was not going enjoy it…

Just a quickie. I’m going to avoid major spoilers, so this is a safe one to read. But I would still suggest that you go into the film completely blind regardless.

So I guess the first thing to cover with this film is the fact that it’s not really about Joker at all. Joaquin Phoenix plays struggling and unfunny stand up comic Arthur Fleck. A middle aged man who still lives with his ill mother in a shitty apartment in crime ridden Gotham City. Arthur is a simple kind of guy, he just wants to look after his mother. He holds down a few menial jobs, sign spinning for a local business, entertaining ill children at a hospital, all while dressed as a clown. Arthur has a heart and is the central figure in the film, not Joker. In fact, Joker doesn’t really make an appearance proper until the last twenty minutes or so.

The film really concentrates on Arthur and his social awkwardness, his mental troubles, his decline as man, his failures, his loose grip on reality and sanity. Arthur suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh, usually at the most inappropriate times, which often lands him in trouble. His condition is treated via medication from a social services worker but when funding is cut, Arthur is left without his meds, coupled with him losing his jobs, this when things begin to unravel. His mind begins to wander, he starts to engage in flights of fancy.

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Arthur tries his hand at stand up comedy… which he is really bad at. But his performance catches the eye of popular talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) who invites him onto his TV show… and that’s about all I’m willing to give away about the plot here in this article.

As I’ve already said, this is not really about the Joker character despite the title. This film is about the human psyche, the rather taboo subject of mental health and how it is perceived, the breakdown of a man struggling to get a grip on his life. This is a film about Arthur Fleck losing his faith in society and perception of the world. Joker is jet black dark, depressing and yet also extremely thought provoking with an ending that really opens things up for questioning. There are plot lines that are not entirely covered and left up to you the viewer to make up your own mind. It’s a very open film all told, especially the ending. The film allows you to make up your own mind on just what kind of person Arthur is.

Seeing as Joker is Batman’s greatest and most famous enemy, of course there are a few Batman references in the film. They are well done and don’t at all feel intrusive. Well, there is one thing at the climax of the film that did kind of irk me because we’ve seen it so many times before that caused me to roll my eyes a little. No need at all for that particular scene.

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Joker is a very slow paced film and one that really focuses on character over plot… and that’s not a bad thing when you have such an interesting character as Arthur Fleck to invest in. Joaquin’s performance is nothing short of genius as the troubled Arthur and you do feel a little sympathy toward him… a little, depending on how you chose view the character. You can really see the gears begin to breakdown in his head as he helplessly descends into madness. This is not a happy film, you won’t come out of it glowing with a smile on your face. Joker is dirty and grimy. It’s downbeat, depressing and exhausting. You’ll feel like you just been dragged through the sewers of Gotham City after watching this and will probably want to take a shower to try and get rid of some of the dirt, though the smell will never leave you.

You ever see the classic film Taxi Driver? Well this has a very similar style and tone.

Joker is brilliant if you are in the right frame of mind for such a film. I was wrong with my initial dismissive attitude toward this movie and that’s something I’m very glad about. Joker is the best film I’ve seen in decades… but it most definitely will not sit well with others.

“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

– Arthur Fleck

Ghostbusters II

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Little Bit of History: The sequel to the original film and again written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis. Directed by Ivan Reitman, released by Columbia Pictures in 1989. This film only came about as Dan wanted to reunite the original cast in a new film, but couldn’t come up with a good story. So he decided to begin writing a Ghostbusters sequel instead.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: Five years after the events in the first film, The Ghostbusters have split up and sought out new careers after being sued by the city for all the damage they caused previously and have also been barred from investigating supernatural activities, causing the Ghostbusters business to go under. Dana is now working at the Manhattan Museum of Art and preparing for a new exhibit for a sixteenth century tyrant; Vigo the Carpathian. After a strange occurrence involving Dana’s baby boy; Oscar, she seeks out the disbanded Ghostbusters for help. They agree to investigate the incident for their friend and this leads to them illegally excavate First Avenue. The Ghostbusters are arrested and taken to court where two ghosts appear and the Ghostbusters do their thing by capturing the ghosts in return for the dismissal of all charges and them being allowed to reopen their business. Meanwhile, Dana’s colleague at the museum, Dr. Janosz Poha seems to have a rather strange attraction to a painting of Vigo the Carpathian which orders Janosz find a baby to possess so Vigo can return to life.

Little Bit of Character: Pretty much all, the main cast return playing their original roles. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson all reprise their roles as the Ghostbusters. Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis are back as Dana and Louis as is Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz. Joining them in the sequel are Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol), Jack Hardemeyer (Kurt Fuller) and Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg) dubbed by Max von Sydow.

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Little Bit of Influence: Part of the very popular Ghostbusters franchise. Which, by this point was still going strong. The merchandise was still flowing and this film spawned just as much as the previous film. Again, lunchboxes, t-shirts, action figures, video games, books… everything.

Little Bit of Memories: I recall seeing the trailer for this film and being so excited. Ghostbusters was one of my childhood favourites and the anticipation of the sequel was unbearable. I’m pretty sure the first time I got to see the sequel was when my older brother managed to get hold of a none too legal copy on VHS. The quality was terrible and pretty much unwatchable.

Little Bit of Watchability: This sequel is quite notorious for being pretty bad. Its reviews at the time were pretty average and the film is most definitely a major disappointment. It just lacks the quality of jokes, the plot is a little silly (yes even for Ghostbusters) and overall it just seems empty when compared to the first film. I had not watched this film in years (10+) unlike the first film which I have re-watched several times. Then when doing this whole Ghostbusters celebration, I had to re-watch this sequel… and its not as bad as I remember. Admittedly, compared to the first film its lacking so much. But I really enjoyed watching this more then I thought I would. Check it out.

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Peter Venkman:Kitten, I think what I’m saying, is that sometimes, shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who ya gonna call?

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Ghostbusters

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Little Bit of History: Released in 1984 by Columbia Pictures. Written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis and directed by Ivan Reitman. Originally conceived as a film for Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, but Belushi’s untimely death led to the film being taken in a new direction. The amazing theme tune was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song but lost out to The Woman in Red.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: A trio of parapsychologists are called to the New York Public Library to investigate reports of a ghost. They see this an an opportunity to set up a new business of a paranormal investigation and extermination service called the Ghostbusters. Developing their own equipment, they create the proton packs and traps that enable them to capture ghosts. Eventually they hire a fourth member of the team. Meanwhile, Environmental Protection Agent; Walter Peck has the Ghostbusters arrested and their ghost containment unit turned off. This unleashes a horde of ghosts into New York as Gozer the Gozerian grasps control and swears to bring an end to the world.

Little Bit of Character: Ghostbusters is full of amazing and lovable characters from the main four Ghostbusters of; Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond “Ray” Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) Also along for the ride is the Ghostbusters secretary Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), Peter’s love interest Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and her neighbour Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) with Walter Peck (William Atherton) as the antagonist trying to prove the Ghostbusters are frauds.

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Little Bit of Influence: Ghostbusters went on to become a very successful franchise. Any and everything bore the Ghostbusters logo in the 80s and 90s. The film spawned its own sequel, a popular animated TV show… which itself had its own sequel. Board games, video games, toys, clothing, comics, etc. Think of any product and there is a good chance there was a Ghostbusters version of it. The fan base of Ghostbusters is very strong an loyal (just look at the hate train for the remake as proof) and there have even been fan made films.

Little Bit of Memories: I remember first seeing the film on VHS around 86/87, by which time the Ghostbusters hype was at fever pitch. If I recall correctly, me and my brothers first watched it when staying at my aunt’s house overnight. My uncle had to pre-book the film to rent weeks in advance as it was so popular.

Little Bit of Watchability: One of THE definitive films of the 80s. A great ensemble cast, great jokes, amazing effects work and brilliantly directed. This is one of those ‘feel good’ movies that just puts a smile on your face every time you see it. I could (and have) watch(ed) this film over and over and yet never get tired of it. Dan and Harold’s script is snappy and entertaining. And that damn theme tune will remain in your head for the rest of you life. Most definitely well worth watching and aside for that slight cheesy 80s feel, the film is timeless.

Luoishorse

Louis Tully:I am Vinz, Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer. Volguus Zildrohar, Lord of the Sebouillia. Are you the Gatekeeper?”

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The Blues Brothers

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Little Bit of History: Directed by John Landis and written by Dan Aykroyd & John Landis, released by Universal Pictures in 1980. This film is a wonderful mix of comedy, music and car chases. Featuring an amazing all star cast of some of the greatest blues/soul musicians ever. The film début of the classic Saturday Night Live characters of the same name.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: The plot is pretty simple. The recently released from jail; Jake Blues is reunited with his brother; Elwood. They pay a visit to their old orphanage where they were raised and agree to get money to keep the old place open by reforming their old band to play some gigs and raise the money needed.

Little Bit of Character: So many characters to cover here starting with the titular brothers; Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) Blues. The ‘penguin’; Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman), Reverend Cleophus James (James Brown), Ray (Ray Charles), Mrs. Murphy (Aretha Franklin), Curtis (Cab Calloway), then there are the ever persistent Burton Mercer (John Candy), Illinois Nazi leader (Henry Gibson) and Jake’s mysterious girlfriend (Carrie Fisher) as the characters trying to chase and stop The Blues Brothers in their “mission from God”. That’s before we even get to The Blues Brothers Band; Steve “the Colonel” Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Murphy Dunne, Willie “Too Big” Hall, Tom “Bones” Malone, “Blue Lou” Marini, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and “Mr. Fabulous” Alan Rubin. Plus cameos from Steven Spielberg, John Lee Hooker, Twiggy, Paul Reubens, Chaka Khan, Charles Napier and Frank Oz among others. The film is full of amazing talent.

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Little Bit of Influence: The Blues Brothers started out as a simple musical sketch on the infamous Saturday Night Live TV show, but it grew into this film and spawned a very successful franchise. With a sequel movie; Blues Brothers 2000. They also had several music albums; Briefcase Full of Blues (1978), Made in America (1980), The Blues Brothers Band Live in Montreux (1990), Red, White & Blues (1992), Blues Brothers and Friends: Live from Chicago’s House of Blues (1997) as well as two movie soundtracks and even several compilation albums. Then there were numerous Blues Brothers video games. Plus they even had their own bar; The Blues Brothers Bar was an illegal back-house tavern started by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd themselves, until it was discovered by authorities and forced to close in 1982.

Little Bit of Memories: I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw this film, I have seen it so many times they all kind of blur into one. But I’m pretty sure an old family friend, Mike Price (I bet he can still recite the opening monologue to ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’) was the one who introduced me to this film when I was a kid. The film is a huge cult classic with die hard fans all over the world. Since falling in love with the film, I have seen several Blues Brothers tribute acts and even the official Blues Brothers live show. I always make sure to watch the live Blues Brothers show at Universal Studios every time I go. I do recall introducing others to this film, including my oldest and best mate, Paul, who loves the film just as much as I do.

Little Bit of Watchability: Is this film still watchable today? Hell yes. Its one of the greatest films ever made. Amazing music, some of the best car chases ever caught on film, damn funny comedy and a cast that is so full of talent, I can’t think of any other film that comes close. The fact the band are a real band full of respected musicians and can actually play really adds to the musical elements of this film. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were at the top of their game and their chemistry is unmatched. Plus the film is directed by the mighty John Landis, one of the greatest film directors of the 80s. This film is my Bible.

Now, its about here in my movie overviews where I choose a line from the film that is memorable, funny, iconic, witty, emotional, etc. Just one line that sparks off some kind of a memory. The trouble with The Blues Brothers is that is has so many iconic and memorable lines its impossible to select just one. I could write up a dozen quotes from the film and still not even scratch the surface, which one do I choose?

“We’re on a mission from God.”?
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas…”?
“Four fried chickens and a Coke.”?
“Well thank you, pal. The day I get outta prison, my own brother picks me up in a police car!”?
“How much for the little girl? How much for the women?”?
“It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks…”?
“It wasn’t a lie, it was just bullshit.”?
“Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.”?
“No, ma’am. We’re musicians.”?
“I offered to help you… You refused to take our money. Then I said: I guess you’re really up Shit Creek!”?
“We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.”?
“So, Jake, you’re out, you’re free, you’re rehabilitated. What’s next? What’s happenin’? What you gonna do? You got the money you owe us, motherfucker?”?
“Ow, you fat penguin!”?
“2000 bucks and it’s yours. You can take it home with you. As a matter of fact, I’ll throw in the black keys for free.”?
“You on the motorcycle… You two girls… tell your friends.”?
“Jake, you get wise. You get to church.”?
“The Blues Brothers? Shit! They still owe you money, fool.”?
“Did you get me my Cheez Wiz, boy?”?
“You’re gonna look pretty funny tryin’ to eat corn on the cob with no fuckin’ teeth!”?
“Breaks my heart to see a boy that young goin’ bad.”?
“Get out, and don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.”?
“You want I should wash the dead bugs off the windshield?”?
“Why not? If the shit fits, wear it.”?

I need to stop and select a quote before I go on too much… I know, too late.

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Elwood:Hey, Jake. Gotta be at least seven dollars worth of change here.

I actually want to do a more in-depth look at this film and The Blues Brothers in general when I have more time. As the making of the film has some really interesting titbits and stories behind it. But that will have to wait until a later date… or you can just click here.

Anyway, thanks for introducing me to this film Mike.
“YES! YES! JESUS H. TAP-DANCING CHRIST… I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT!”

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Purple Rain

2016 is proving to be a rather upsetting year.

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Little Bit of History: Directed by Albert Magnoli and starring the musical legend Prince. Released in 1984. Prince came up with a basic concept that became this film during his Triple Threat/1999 tour from 1982.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: The Kid (Prince) is a talented but troubled lead singer of a group called; The Revolution. The Kid has a tumultuous relationship with his mother and father, so he loses himself in his music. The band start to perform at the First Avenue nightclub. The Kid discovers his girlfriend, Apollonia being lined up to replace The Revolution as The Kid struggles to maintain his career and his home life begins to dissolve.

Little Bit of Character: The Kid (Prince) is backed up with other characters; Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero), Morris (Morris Day), Mother (Olga Karlatos) and Father (Clarence Williams III)

Little Bit of Influence: The film was released with a stunning soundtrack that featured such songs as; When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy, I Would Die 4 U and of course the titular; Purple Rain. The film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, while the soundtrack sold over 25 million worldwide.

Little Bit of Memories: I have to be honest, I never watched this until probably about 4/5 years ago. So don’t really have many great memoires to share.

Little Bit of Watchability: Watching it now, it is very cheesy and self indulgent from Prince. Plus lets be honest, Prince couldn’t act…but he sure could write and perform a song. This is not a great film,but there are some really great moments in it and the relationship between The Kid and his parents packs quite a bit of emotion. Still worth watching, but its just a very average film overall.

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The Kid:You’re lying. I can tell just by your reaction, you’re lying.

Prince

Prince:I’ve got more hits than Madonna’s got kids.

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