Joker

Joker

Joker is an American psychological thriller film directed by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver. The film is based on DC Comics characters and stars Joaquin Phoenix with Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Brett Cullen in supporting roles.

Set in 1981 Gotham City the film tells the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a professional clown who dreams of being a stand-up comedian. He lives with his mother Penny (Frances Conroy) and suffers from a disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times which leaves him dependant on social services for medication.

He is obsessed with late-night talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) and develops feelings for Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz), a single mother who lives down the hallway from his and Penny’s apartment.

He is constantly beaten-up, mocked and abused but still clings on to the hope that things will get better for him until one night he makes a choice that will lead him and Gotham City down a very dark path.

Director Todd Philips draws inspiration from Martin Scorsese films such as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy whilst taking some elements from the 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke (in which the Joker is an unsuccessful stand-up). However, the film doesn’t follow the comic books and stands apart from the rest of the DC Cinematic Universe allowing Philips and Scott Silver the freedom to write the Joker as a character with the emphasis being on the make-up of the man that became the Joker.

Joaquin Phoenix performance as Arthur/Joker is superb as he completely inhabits the part. Having lost weight for the role he looks thin and frail and the intensity and physicality he brings to each scene is captivating. He shows the absolute despair of Arthur’s situation and how the rich and powerful make it impossible for people like him to pick themselves up which in turn can break that person and turn them into a monster.

Whilst this is definitely Phoenix’s film, Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz both put in strong performances alongside Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin which pays homage to his character from The King of Comedy, Rupert Pupkin, who is a comedian obsessed with a talk-show host.

Both the score by Hildur Guðnadóttir and cinematography by Lawerence Sher add to the dark, brutal and fractured theme which runs through both Arthur and Gotham City.

Joker is a powerful and original film which is elevated by Phoenix’s fantastic performance and should surely see an Oscar heading his way!

Toy Story 4

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Toy Story 4 is an American computer-animated comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. It is the fourth instalment of the Toy Story series and the sequel to 2010’s Toy Story 3. It is directed by Josh Cooley from a screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom and features the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Joan Cusack, Ally Maki and Madeleine McGraw.

Toy Story 3 ended with Andy passing on all his toys to a young Bonnie as he left to go to college. Toy Story 4 finds the toys are still with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) though Woody (Tom Hanks) is struggling to accept that Bonnie may have now outgrown him.

When Bonnie makes a new toy out of a spork called Forky (Tony Hale), Woody takes it upon himself to protect her new favourite toy though he soon discovers that is easier said than done.

When the family head off on a road trip, Forky manages to escape out of the back so Woody goes after him and they end up being held in an antique store by a defunct doll called Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks). When Woody escapes and bumps into Bo Peep (Annie Potts) he enlists her and her friends Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki) and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), all toys without children, to help him save Forky.

He is joined along the way by Buzz (Tim Allen) and carnival toys Ducky (Keegan Michael-Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele). As the mission becomes dangerous the toys have to decide what lengths they will go to make a child happy and whether that matches with what makes them happy.

Screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom along with director Josh Cooley have done a great job of taking the tried and tested formula of the previous films and making it feel fresh, funny and meaningful.

Toy Story 4 is a departure from the first 3 films focusing more on the newer toys though ultimately this is Woody’s story and how he deals with finding his place in the world now that Bonnie no longer needs him.

Whilst it is great to see Hanks, Allen and Potts reprise their roles of Woody, Buzz and Bo, Toy Story 4 also has some great new characters with Forky and Duke Caboom stealing the show thanks to the vocal performances of Hale and Reeves whilst Ducky and Bunny provide many of the films funniest moments.

Visually Toy Story 4 is stunning with the gorgeous rich colours of the carnival grounds, the intricate details of the antique store and the more polished and developed designs of the toys showing how far Pixar have come since the first Toy Story film was released in 1995.

Toy Story 4 is a must see film for fans even those that felt that Toy Story 3 was a good way to end the franchise. It is full of heart, emotion, fantastic animation and plenty of laughs along the way!

Avengers: Endgame

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Avengers: Endgame is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers. It is the sequel to 2012’s Avengers Assemble, 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and features an ensemble cast which includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson and Josh Brolin.

Avengers: Endgame picks up after the events of Infinity War which saw the Avengers defeated by Thanos who had used the Infinity Stones to wipe away half of all life in the Universe. Only the original Avengers remain, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) along with some of their allies, War Machine (Don Cheadle), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). Each of them deal with the aftermath of Thanos’ actions differently but they come together when a chance presents itself to save those who have vanished and they set out to defeat Thanos once and for all.

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo who all worked on Avengers: Infinity War return for Endgame and do a great job in balancing the action spectacle alongside the human drama as the characters cope with their loss and grief.

Whilst Avengers: Infinity War had the difficult task of balancing so many characters Endgame is able to focus on the original six Avengers who are the heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). As this is their swansong as a team all the actors rise to the occasion giving some of their best performances to date.

As Avengers: Endgame serves as the conclusion of the MCU so far, the action sequences are the best seen in any superhero movie which all adds to make Endgame an epic event for fans. Each Marvel hero does get a get a chance to shine with lots of these moments being added purely for the fans but after 11 years and 21 films they have definitely earned it!

Avengers: Endgame at three hours runtime is a long film though it never feels like it as there is so much to entertain. The filmmakers have managed to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the Infinity Saga which mixes both emotion and action making this a must-see film for all Marvel fans. Simply put, Avengers: Endgame is the best Marvel film to date!

Missing Link

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Missing Link is an American stop-motion animated adventure film written and directed by Chris Butler and features the voices of Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, David Walliams, Timothy Olyphant, Amrita Acharia and Matt Lucas.

The film follows Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), a daring explorer who continuously searches to prove the existence of different creatures in the world to allow him to be accepted into an exclusive Victorian London society headed up by his rival Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry).

When Frost receives a letter confirming the presence of a Sasquatch (Bigfoot) he believes this will provide the “missing link” between humans and early man and so makes a wager with Lord Piggot-Dunceby that if he finds the creature then he must be allowed into the society.

Lionel travels to the Pacific Northwest where he finds the Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis), who speaks English, likes to be called Susan and is lonely as he is the only one of his kind. Lionel agrees to help Susan find his relatives the Yetis but in order to do that he first needs to acquire a map to Shangri-La from a former girlfriend, the fearless and fiery Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana). Adelina agrees to let them have the map as long as she accompanies them on their trip to the snowy Himalayas.

Unbeknown to them is the fact that Piggot-Dunceby has hired a bounty hunter, Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) to track down Frost and kill him to ensure he never ridicules the society again!

The film comes from Laika Entertainment, the studio best known for its stop-motion feature films which include Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. Longtime Laika animator-director Chris Butler takes up the writing and directing duties as well as designing the characters.

Visually the film is stunning as Laika combine intricate stop-motion animation enhanced with computer animation. No detail is spared from the textures of the characters outfits to the fur on Susan and the Yetis to the landscapes of the Himalayas and Victorian London.

All the characters are perfectly voiced with Zach Galifianakis in particular doing an excellent job at portraying Susan with his childlike manner, lack of self-awareness and his tendency to be extremely literal minded. The character is charming and is responsible for many of the film’s biggest laughs.

While the studio’s stop-motion animation has never been better there is no denying that the narrative and character development is more low key then their previous offerings.

Despite that, Missing Link is a funny and sweet film about adventure and friendship told with beautiful looking visuals which fans of Laika’s previous work will all appreciate and enjoy!

Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel is an American superhero film based on the Marvel comics character Carol Danvers and is Marvel Studios first female superhero to headline her own film. The film is written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, with Geneva Robertson-Dworet also contributing to the screenplay and stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Lashana Lynch, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg and Jude Law.

The film tells the origin story of Carol Danvers, with viewers first meeting her, six years into being a member of the Kree Starforce team and going by the name of Vers. She has been living on the Kree capital planet of Hala training to become an elite warrior under her mentor and commander, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) using powers given to her by the Kree after they rescued her. Vers doesn’t remember anything about her life before arriving on Hala and struggles to know who she is without knowing her past.

When a Starforce mission goes wrong, Vers is captured by the Kree’s enemy the shape-shifting Skrulls and they dig into her memories giving her more insight into her past than she can remember. These memories lead her and the Skrulls to mid-90’s Earth where they are searching for a lightspeed engine developed by Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening).

With the help of S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Vers digs deeper into her history and learns she was once test pilot Carol Danvers and Lawson was her boss. This leads her to track down her best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar) who are able to tell her more about who she was before the accident that found her on Hala.

This knowledge changes how Carol feels about the war between the Kree and the Skrulls and as she learns more about her abilities she must decide who she wants to be and what that means for the ongoing conflict between the two alien races.

Captain Marvel offers a fresh spin on the origin story of a superhero by not telling a linear, chronological story of the events that leads to an ordinary human gaining their powers but instead introduces the character already with powers and shows them delving into their past in order to move forward with their story.

Brie Larson gives a charismatic performance as Carol Danvers and really shines in her scenes opposite Lynch as Maria, with the friendship between the two characters being the heart and soul of the film.

Captain Marvel has plenty of humour too and the banter between Danvers and Fury works really well with Samuel L. Jackson being impressively de-aged as we also get to see the origins behind the Avengers. There are some great scenes between Fury and Goose the cat with the cat stealing every scene it is in!

Captain Marvel is a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and in Carol Danvers we have a strong female hero who tells us that we can achieve whatever we want when we stop looking for others to give their approval.

With Captain Marvel poised to become a bigger part of the MCU going forward this is a must see-film for fans and, as with all MCU films, don’t forget to stay for the end credits!

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a computer-animated adventure comedy directed by Mike Mitchell, with a screenplay written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and a story by Lord, Miller and Matthew Fogel. The film is a direct sequel to The Lego Movie (2014) and features Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman and Will Ferrell, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz and Maya Rudolph.

The film picks up directly after the first film with the Duplo alien invaders arriving in Bricksburg. Emmet (Chris Pratt) attempts a peace offering in the form of a Lego heart but the creatures destroy it and seemingly declare war on Bricksburg.

Flash forward five years and Emmet and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) are living in the apocalyptic wasteland that used to be Bricksburg, called Apocalypseburg, with all their friends having become hardened as a result of the ordeal. Emmet remains upbeat but is troubled by dreams of an impending ‘Our-Mom-Ageddon’.

During one of the alien attacks on Apocalypseburg, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) manages to kidnap Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Benny (Charlie Day) and MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) and takes them to the Systar System.

Emmet is determined to rescue his friends and on his way to the Systar System runs into intergalactic hero Rex Dangervest (Pratt), who agrees to help Emmet grow up and learn how to be tough. Meanwhile, Lucy and the others are brought to meet Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), ruler of the Systar System, who wants to marry Batman. She attempts to win over the group but Lucy remains suspicious of her and believes if the marriage ceremony goes ahead it will lead to Emmet’s dreams coming true.

With Emmet and Rex attempting to rescue the group and Lucy trying to stop her friends from being brainwashed by the Queen, will the team be able to save the day?

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return to pen the script with Mike Mitchell taking up directing duties. The script is full of Lord and Miller’s trademark humour, with plenty of jokes for both the adults and kids, and a strong theme which tells of the struggle between growing up and keeping a childlike innocence. This is played out through Emmet as he attempts to change his optimistic personality to fit in with his new friends.

All the characters are perfectly voiced again, including the new additions, with Chris Pratt doing an excellent job at portraying both Emmet and Rex.

The Lego Movie 2 is lots of fun with the nonstop use of Lego vehicles, tools and imaginative brickwork, fun cameos and a talented voice cast. It tackles more mature themes than the first film but still manages to maintain the innocence and humour of the original.

Though there are no post-credit scenes to hint at a third film it does have a credit sequence that is definitely worth staying to watch which includes a new song by The Lonely Island, Beck and Robyn called ‘Super Cool’ and lots of visual gags that all fans will love!

Mary Poppins Returns

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Mary Poppins Returns is an American musical fantasy film directed by Rob Marshall, with a screenplay written by David Magee and a story by Magee, Marshall and John DeLuca. Based on the book series Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers the film is a sequel to the 1964 film Mary Poppins and stars Emily Blunt with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep.

The sequel picks up in London during the 1930’s great depression with the now grown-up Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer). Michael has three children of his own and is struggling in the wake of his wife’s passing both emotionally and financially. Unable to continue his career as a full-time artist he works part-time at the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, the same place his father used to work. Michael unintentionally gets behind in repaying a loan from the bank and is informed that they intend to foreclose on his house by the end of the week.

When Michael and Jane remember that their father had a share in the bank that should cover the expenses they begin the hunt to find the written proof required to stop the house from being repossessed. Luckily for them their former nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) arrives to lend a hand and she quickly takes Michael’s children under her wing with the help of Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a lamplighter who first met Mary whilst working as an apprentice to her old friend Bert. The arrival of Mary helps to inject some fun and magic back into the Banks’ lives.

Whilst the film is based on an original story it also adapts elements and characters from the Mary Poppins sequel novels that Travers wrote and the original Disney film which enables it to honour the spirit of both. Following the same structure as the original film it moves along at a fast pace helped by its song and dance numbers.

Many of the musical sequences harken back to those in the original most notably the live-action/animated Royal Doulton bowl segment and the lamplighter scene. Whilst the new musical numbers are catchy they are on not the same level as the iconic tunes by the Sherman brothers but these scenes are elevated by the dance choreography and great costumes.

Emily Blunt is wonderful as the new Mary Poppins and manages to add her own spin on the character rather than trying to copy Julie Andrew’s performance in the original film. Lin-Manuel Miranda is also equally as good as the replacement for Dick Van Dyke’s Bert.

The supporting roles of the Banks children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson), housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters), Mary’s cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep) and the President of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, William “Weatherall” Wilkins (Colin Firth) are all perfectly cast.

Mary Poppins Returns is a welcome return to the world of Mary Poppins which all ages will enjoy as it captures the magic of the original whilst adding a more modern outlook and style. You could say it is Practically Perfect in every way!