Joker (2019)

joker-2019-movie-poster-reviewDirector: Todd Phillips

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 122 Minutes

Main Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Leigh Gill, Josh Pais

Plot: Simple enough, this is the story about how a troubled man called Arthur Fleck descended further into madness and took a name familiar to most, Joker.

My Thoughts: Let’s skip past all the drama and controversy around Joker for this post, shall we? Enough people have covered it far better than I can, anyway.

I wasn’t expecting to love this movie. I hated the last Joaquin Phoenix movie I watched, I’m not a big Batman fan, and whilst I avoided reading too many reviews before I got to see it myself, I kept seeing Joker being compared to Taxi Driver…a classic which I can’t stand! So yep, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Although, enjoy and love are two strange words to use to describe your feelings for Joker, because it’s dark. Hella dark.

In fact, in between feeling uncomfortable, our audience laughed quite a few times during the movie. Not because we’re all sickos who found what Arthur was doing funny, but because the tension was getting so thick we seemed to find that collective nervous laughter was the best way to relieve it a little! I always find that the best bad guys are the characters who are utterly evil, but you can see and sympathise with how they ended up that way. You don’t have to condone their actions at all, but you can understand them.

Noone (in their right mind) thought Thanos’ idea to wipe out 50% of the planet with a click of his fingers was a good act, but we couldn’t help but admit that he had a point, you know? I hope the Academy throw some love this movie’s way, even if it’ll inflate Todd Phillips’ ego even further…maybe we’ll get some more stupid quotes from him!

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Best Bit: When Arthur made his appearance on Murray’s show. I felt like I knew how that scene was going to pan out, but it still didn’t prepare me for that moment.

Worst Bit: *BIG SPOILERS* The second we got to see a young Bruce Wayne I thought to myself, if we have to sit through Batman’s goddamn origin story one more time I will scream. WHY do we need to keep seeing this?! We KNOW what happened. It could have been left as a subtle hint, just a glimpse, something off-camera, but no. Let’s make a big deal of it. Again. 

Fun Trivia: The ending of the film where the Joker is in Arkham is meant to be ambiguous as the viewer is given to draw a line about what exactly did happen and did not happen throughout the movie because everything is from Arthur’s perspective. This is further hinted when he says to the doctor “You wouldn’t get it” when he was asked what he finds funny implying that the whole thing was one big joke to him.

My Rating: 4 and a half guns which you should NOT take with you to work if you’ve got a gig pretending to be a clown in a children’s hospital…

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Thursday Movie Picks: Teen Horror

Spooky season has well and truly arrived! The nights are getting darker, the air is getting colder, and you can’t go to a supermarket without being confronted by pumpkins or sweets! It’s the perfect time of year to hibernate indoors with a hot drink and a scary movie. This week’s Thursday Movie Picks theme is Teen Horror, and since finally welcoming horror movies into my life I’ve seen quite a few!

Here are my three favourites:

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It Follows (2014)

Also known as the supernatural STD movie, It Follows is one of the few movies that genuinely scared the crap out of me both whilst I was watching it and for days afterward. Basically, it starts with one girl after a sexual encounter. ‘It’ follows her, only ‘It’ can take any form it wishes and moves at a slow pace until it finds you and kills you. You’re the only person who can see ‘It’, also. The only way to stop ‘It’ is to have sex with someone else and pass it on to them.

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Happy Death Day (2017)

I’m so fed up with Groundhog Day-style movies that I avoided Happy Death Day until this year. It’s so good though! You can probably guess the plot, a teen girl is murdered one night and then wakes up at the start of the same day, only to die over and over again. It’s a bit jumpy, but it’s also quite funny and the sequel is surprisingly even better than the original!

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Midsommar (2019)

It only feels like yesterday that Midsommar was released but I’m starting to learn that with Ari Aster’s movies, you aren’t likely to forget about them anytime soon. After suffering a family tragedy, Dani travels to Sweden with her awful boyfriend and his friends to visit a fabled mid-summer festival. It’s a quiet movie for a horror, and a lot of the worse moments happen off-screen, but it’s a glorious movie.

Ready or Not (2019)

ready-or-not-2019-movie-poster-reviewDirector: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Genre: Horror, Comedy, Mystery

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Main Cast: Samara Weaving, Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque

Plot: When someone new joins the wealthy Le Domas family, they must take part in their long-standing tradition – play a game at midnight. On her wedding night, Grace draws the card some family members dreaded seeing, Hide & Seek. Grace now has until dawn to remain hidden whilst her in-laws hunt her down…with the intent to murder her.

My Thoughts: Sometimes, the movies you watch with no real expectations are the ones that take you by surprise the most. My husband convinced me to go out and see Ready or Not to take my mind off things (it’s all a bit stressful at home & work right now) and I agreed – and had an absolute blast. I expected a bit of silly fun and that’s what I got, from start to finish. It’s so hard to find that balance of comedy and horror, and I switched between laughing my socks off and hiding behind my hands constantly.

Samara Weaving is absolutely amazing in this. Female leads in horrors have been nothing short of incredible for the last 2 years, and I hope they got some kind of recognition for it eventually. Her character’s transition from terrified bride to bad-ass woman is a delight to witness, one the final scenes with her backed into a corner weirdling a knife had the whole audience doing this nervous kind of laugh.

I thought I knew how it would all end, and I would have been satisfied with what I’d conjured up. But oh boy – what an actual ending! Never would I ever have thought it would go that way, but it was glorious to behold. And that final shot (and line)…perfect! I’m so, so glad I gave it a chance, it’s ended up being a movie I think will probably be in my Top 10 by the end of the year.

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Best Bit: *SPOILERS* The whole time I was thinking, what if this pact with the devil thing really is just a load of nonsense? That would be quite funny. Only for it to actually seem that way? My face was like that gif of Andy from Parks & Rec (you know the one). Just a few moments later…that explosion? I think I made an audible noise…but I don’t know what it was.

Worst Bit: *MORE SPOILERS* Oh Alex, what a mamas boy. I already thought you were lame for spending half the movie cuffed to the bed but come on!

Fun Trivia: *JUST A FEW MORE SPOILERS* Six of the methods of murder available in the various editions of the board game “Clue” are used in the film. The Pepper Box Revolver is used by Emilie and her son Georgie, Grace strangles the butler Stevens, the ceremonial wine is poisoned, Aunt Helene decapitates a maid with an axe, a dagger is used for the sacrificial ceremony, and Grace hits Tony in the face with a lantern, like the candlestick.

My Rating: 4 and a half Converse trainers. Never have they ever been so damn cool!

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Ad Astra (2019)

ad-astra-movie-review-poster-2019Director: James Gray

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

Runtime: 123 Minutes

Main Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, Liv Tyler, Jamie Kennedy, John Ortiz, Greg Bryk

Plot: Astronaut Roy McBride travels through the solar system to learn the truth about his father who went missing years ago, as well as finding out what is causing an attack of solar flares on Earth which have the potential of destroying the planet.

My Thoughts: Before I start my rant I want to be clear, I don’t go into any movie expecting or wanting to dislike it. Even widely hated movies – I try to find the good in them. I can absolutely see why the majority love Ad Astra, and I wouldn’t argue their points, but it didn’t work for me at all. There are plenty of movies in the same genre that I’ve loved, but I couldn’t love Ad Astra. I’m going to flag the rest of my post as spoiler territory just so I can make my points without being cryptic!

Firstly – did Roy really need to travel all the way to Mars to make that transmission? Are you telling me that in this future, where you can buy a Subway sandwich ON THE MOON, that you can’t pre-record a message and transmit it to wherever they know Roy’s father is? That alone was frustrating me endlessly. Also – kudos to Helen for sneaking Roy onto that ship so he could find his father, but could she not have given someone else in the crew a heads up? Come on Helen!

I’m all for a surprise ending, but this one was just really depressing. I liked finding out that actually, there’s a super high chance that us humans are the only intelligent beings in the universe (too many sci-fi movies are like, ALIENS) but it just made everything seem so…pointless. Like, I guess you could argue that Mad Max: Fury Road was just as pointless, but at least the ride was fun!

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Best Bit: The buggy chase and shootout scene on the moon was pretty darn cool, right? The whole movie is full of beautiful cinematography but that scene, in particular, was pretty breathtaking.

Worst Bit: Why scare the crap out of me with a giant, crazed, murderous space monkey, which seemed to add nothing to the plot? I’m filing Ad Astra in the same cabinet at Nocturnal Animals for jump scares that are unforgivable.

Fun Trivia: While shooting the climactic scene, Brad Pitt ended up crying unprompted in character. But as the scene takes place in zero-g, Pitt told director James Gray that the tear should be edited in post to float like a bubble off his face, rather than run down his cheek. “You gotta replace my tear, that’s not how it works in zero-gravity,” Pitt reportedly said, to which Gray responded, “I’m sorry, I’m keeping it. The acting’s too good, buddy.”

My Rating: 2 Subway sandwiches which you can purchase once disembarking your commercial Virgin Atlantic flight to the moon.

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Downton Abbey (2019)

downton-abbey-movie-review-poster-2019Director: Michael Engler

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 122 Minutes

Main Cast: Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Tuppence Middleton, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Imelda Staunton, Robert James-Collier, Hugh Bonneville

Plot: In the fancy building known as Downton Abbey, the residents and staff prepare themselves for a visit from the King and Queen of England. (My version)
The continuing story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century. (Official version)

My Thoughts: If you can’t tell by my description of the plot, I’ve never seen an episode of Downton Abbey. I dragged my friend Steph to see The Dead Don’t Die though, and I kind of owed her one. Plus I always say I’ll give any movie a chance! All she told me before we went in was that, and I quote, “if my beautiful butler does not get his happy ending we are rioting!”. I agreed wholeheartedly whilst eyeing up a chocolate cookie at the cafe!

(Spoiler warning from here on out because I genuinely don’t know what can be considered a spoiler!)

So to be honest, I had a lot of fun watching it. There were far too many characters for me to keep track of, I genuinely thought that Imelda Staunton’s character was the Queen for about half of the movie, so I got myself quite confused, but the movie itself is a standalone story in a way so I wasn’t completely lost. Any movie is worth watching for Dame Maggie Smith though, isn’t it? Plus, my geeky little heart was overjoyed to see Professor Umbridge and Professor McGonagall bicker!

I think I wanted just a little bit more drama, though. Maybe the TV show has it, but these incidents were built up and then fizzled out a little. Terrorist attack? Fizzled out before it really started. Thief in the Abbey? Found and scolded appropriately. Illegal, secret gay bar? The butler got arrested and bailed in about 2 minutes. My drama llama went hungry!

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Still – I had a good time and I’m tempted to actually give the show a chance now, especially as I’m probably the only female Brit who’s never watched it…

Best Bit: Sorry but this isn’t even related to the movie. Me and Steph were the youngest audience members by at least 30 years, and that made the adverts/commercials section hilarious, as it was clear the target audience was definitely not us! It was all fun laughing at the specialist, pediatric chairs being advertised until one of Steph’s favourite shops made an appearance…!

Worst Bit: I was loving the totally hot plumber fixing the boiler and flirting with one of the younger staff members, much to the annoyance of her fiance, but then said fiance did the stupid thing of breaking the boiler (not realising the guy would have to return?!) and we didn’t get to see him again? Shameful.

Fun Trivia: The royal visit of George V to Downton Abbey was based on his real-life visit to Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire which was used in the film for the ballroom scenes.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 boiler pipes which, you know, you should probably not stamp on if you don’t want the hot plumber to come back and hit on your gal.

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It Chapter Two (2019)

it-chapter-two-2019-movie-reviewDirector: Andy Muschietti

Genre: Horror, Drama, Fantasy

Runtime: 169 Minutes

Main Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer

Plot: Set twenty-seven years after 2017’s It, the Losers Club have all grown up and moved out of Derry, except Mike, who has spent those years researching Pennywise and how he can be stopped for good. When Mike realises that ‘it’ is back, he brings the Losers Club back together to stop that evil clown for good.

My Thoughts: My toddler has finally gotten over her jetlag and realised that night time is, in fact, the time for sleeping, so I took the opportunity to go and scare myself selfless at the cinema. I did put a call out on my Instagram in case any family or friends wanted to keep me company and/or laugh at me panicking, but I had no takers so I made sure I sat in a corner where nothing could hurt me. I’m pathetic, aren’t I? Thankfully, Chapter Two isn’t as scary as the first, only because most of the scares kind of came with a bit of warning this time.

Can we talk for a moment about how amazing the casting choices have been for both movies? Chapter One was practically a coming of age movie that just so happened to be a horror, and the strongest part of Chapter Two was again the characters and how they’ve grown over the years. They’re all still losers in their own ways, and it was so easy to tell which of the kids they were playing the grown-up versions of.

One thing I worried about was the length. Chapter Two is just under 3 hours long, and you all know I’m the first to complain about length (that sounds a bit rude, come to think of it). I just don’t have the attention span for long movies, and my bladder is useless after having a baby. You know what, though? It didn’t feel anywhere near as long as it is – that’s how invested I felt in the story. If you’d told me it was half the claimed runtime I wouldn’t argue with you.

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The only thing I picked fault with in Chapter One was that by the time it came to the final showdown, I didn’t feel that scared of Pennywise anymore. This time, it was the opposite. I was coping just fine until they went into the creepy house. For that final hour, I had to keep reminding myself to breathe!

Best Bit: Oh man, that cute little dog behind the ‘Not Scary At All’ door was Goose’s brother from another mother, wasn’t it? I kept looking away, expecting a scare, and just when I thought it was safe again and looked back at the screen, BAM.

Worst Bit: That mirrored room scene can GO TO HELL. Not only because it freaked me out and upset me, but the only man who should be running around a mirrored room and look damn fine whilst doing so is John Wick.

Fun Trivia: Bill Hader was unaware that Bill Skarsgård can actually move his eyes in two different directions. Hader asked Skarsgård what kind of editing was done to achieve the effect in the first movie. Skarsgård, in full costume and makeup, responded by saying “Oh, you mean this?” and doing it, causing Hader to freak out.
I’ve seen the photos of this and they’re glorious!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 red balloons, none of which you’ll find at my daughter’s birthday party I’m currently planning, because the mere sight of them now freaks me out!

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