Tag Archives: Todd Phillips

TIFF19: Joker

As any comic book fan knows, Marvel Comics has more interesting heroes than DC, because Stan Lee’s storytelling focus was as much on the hero’s day-to-day life as on the showdown with that month’s villain.  DC’s heroes have never had the same issues, because they are either literal gods (Wonder Woman), aliens who are stronger than most gods (Superman), or humans with seemingly unlimited physical, mental and financial resources (Batman).  But because DC’s heroes are so powerful, DC’s villains have always had the edge on Marvel’s, and the Joker is at the very top of the list of DC’s best villains.

jokerDC’s latest movie, Joker, tells the origin story of the iconic villain.  Well, it tells an origin story for Joker, one that to my knowledge doesn’t line up with anything in the comics.  It is a fitting origin that has some nice touches, including a subplot that casts Gotham’s beloved Wayne family in a very interesting new light.

We’ve seen the Joker on screen before.  Jack Nicholson was suitably over-the-top and cartoonish, but still maintained a dark centre, in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).  Heath Ledger was a flat-out monster in The Dark Knight, delivering an all-time great performance that gave a new level of legitimacy to comic book films.  Jared Leto’s gangster Joker was almost an afterthought in Suicide Squad, and it probably would have been better for Joker not to have made an appearance in that film at all.

Now, in Joker, Joaquin Phoenix takes on the role, and he’s phenomenal.  Phoenix’s Joker feels different enough from Ledger’s to be original, but borrows smartly from Ledger’s mannerisms to give Joker the manic energy that makes him the clown prince of crime.  Seeing Joker emerge from the man formerly known as Arthur Fleck is a riveting process.  Director Todd Phillips rightly describes Joker as a slow burn and the pace of the movie creates significant tension.  We know Fleck is going to snap, and we can almost understand why, but we don’t know when or how.

Joker is worth watching for Phoenix’s performance, which, like Ledger before him, should get serious Oscar consideration (this time, for Best Actor, as Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for his Joker in 2009).  Joker might be up for other awards as well, and the awards buzz is well-deserved.  There is more than one way to make a comic book movie, caped crusaders are not always needed, and when the villain is this mesmerizing, it’s okay for the bad guy to win.

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Las Vegas Chronicles: The Hangover

Today the Assholes are in lovely Las Vegas, so what better movie to discuss than The Hangover? If your brain reaches back to 2009, you may remember that in the original movie, the boys wake up the morning after a wild and crazy bachelor party in Vegas only to discover that their groom is missing.

The boys stay at Caesars Palace during their stay, which wouldn’t be most people’s first choice of accommodation on the strip. It’s an older place, not as glam, and nowadays its claim to fame is hosting Celine Dion’s ongoing concert series, which you wouldn’t think attracts a lot of bacherlor parties, but what do I know? When Sean and I hit up Vegas in 2011, it was already cashing in on The Hangover success with a movie-themed slot machine that was a lot of fun to play (similarly, Sex and the City and The Dark Knight slot machines also took a LOT of our quarters).

The Hangover boys upgrade to a very swanky suite during their stay, one that doesn’t actually exist in real life but is modeled after two of Caesars Palace’s most luxurious suites in its Forum Tower – the Emperor suite penthouse, natch, and the so-called “Rain Man suite” (guess which other movie was filmed there!) that takes up two floors, has 10 TVs including in-mirror bathroom televisions, and will set you back $3500\night.

Mike Tyson appears in one of the best, most random cameos ever written, and this man has a real history with Caesars Palace, it being a popular boxing venue since the 1970s. He has said that he only took the part to further fund his drug habit, and was high on cocaine during his scenes. Mike Tyson does not own a tiger in real life. In real life, he owns 7.

The staff of Caesars Palace will tell you that to this day guests enjoy quoting lines from the movie to them upon check-in, particularly “Did Caesar live here?” and “Do you know if the hotel is pager friendly?” They are beyond tired of hearing it, but if you must, a nice tip helps secure a forced chuckle.

Las Vegas got a bump of tourism thanks to this movie, but it was already a busy place. In fact, Vegas is naturally so debauched that Bradley Cooper walked around with bloody tiger scratches on his neck, and not a single person ever questioned it. He has said that he does not believe Vegas even noticed there was a movie being made.

 

While we’re carousing in Vegas, be sure to follow us on Twitter @assholemovies to get a load of our debauchery!