FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

DEAD WINNER!

I’m a Kendall Richardson and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is The Dead Don’t Die

Animal Kingdom / Film i Väst / Focus Features

A small town’s police force combat the sudden zombie invasion of their small, uneventful town…

This is a zombie film unlike any other you will ever watch, which makes sense when you learn it is a Jim Jarmusch film. The iconic auteur brings his trademark style, and a huge cast, to this 95-minute piece taking place at the end of the world. The Dead Don’t Die is set in the small Ohio town of Centreville, which is a living contradiction; nothing too exciting ever happens there, so it is not really the centre of anything. However it is this tiny township where the story unfolds, thereby making it the centre after all. This is just one of many of Jarmusch’s hilarious, if a little on the nose, winks at the camera that pop up over the course of the film.

Before the apocalypse kicks off, we are introduced to a wonderful cast of characters, almost all of which are portrayed by legendary actors. The film isn’t concerned with developing them too much, or giving them any kind of story arc, which isn’t really the point of this movie. If that’s what you’re looking for here, this may not be the film for you. Centreville’s local law enforcement comprises of Chief Cliff Robertson (a hilariously dead pan Bill Murray), Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver), and Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny). Some of the best moments of The Dead Don’t Die occur when these three are on screen. They have a great quirky chemistry with one another that makes one want a prequel film of just their day to day tasks.

Other notable residents of Centreville include farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi), blue collar worker Hank Thompson (Danny Glover), nerdy shop owner Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones), and mortician Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton). The film also features some music icons in Tom Waits who portrays Hermit Bob, the film’s narrator in parts; Iggy Pop as a zombie who just wants some coffee; Selena Gomez as a ‘hipster’ from Cleveland passing through town; and rapper RZA as a wise mailman. Tilda Swinton is the best thing about this movie, though. In a way that only she could, she embodies this eccentric Scottish samurai mortician wonderfully, making all her scenes a sheer delight to watch. She also gets the best action sequences when it comes to zombie kills. However, Swinton’s Zelda Winston is in an entirely different film compared to the rest of the cast. There is a moment in the third act involving her character that comes completely out of left field which will either confuse you more than you already are, or leave you laughing hysterically.

Despite the amount of gore in regards to the zombies killing off Centreville’s residents one by one, The Dead Don’t Die is much more a comedy film. The humour in the dialogue and the way it is acted out by the incredible cast really makes this film worth your time. The fourth wall breaks are fantastic and do well to emphasise just how ridiculous the entire movie is, especially the constant references to the film’s theme song performed by Sturgill Simpson. This may not be a film that mainstream audiences will fall in love with… and that’s totally okay. But for those who watch and enjoy it, you’ve found a real gem in this zombie flick. 4 / 5

 

Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Austin Butler, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits.

Director/Writer: Jim Jarmusch | Producers: Carter Logan, Joshua Astrachan | Music: SQÜRL | Cinematographer: Frederick Elmes | Editor: Affonso Gonçalves

 

In cinemas now.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Kendall Richardson and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

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FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Ant-Man (2015)

RUDD SAVES THE DAY!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Ant-Man

Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Having been released from jail, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) tries to go straight so that he can afford alimony and see his young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson). However, Lang gets desperate and agrees to rob physicist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who ultimately recruits the burglar and former systems engineer to defend his Ant-Man shrinking technology and plot a heist with worldwide ramifications…

The twelfth film in the extensive Marvel Cinematic Universe (and sixth origin story so far) benefits from the introduction of a lesser-known hero and benefits even more from the introduction of the incredible Paul Rudd. A dozen action-packed adventures in, there really isn’t any territory that hasn’t already been explored, so Rudd’s contribution to Ant-Man (both on screen and off) cannot be underplayed.

The story is simple enough to follow and engages with the broader Avengers story through Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, though you are not left feeling that you’re missing something if this happens to be your first exposure to the MCU; a difficult feat accomplished through a screenplay that has confidence in its protagonist.

It’s refreshing to see such a flawed and relatable hero as Scott Lang who, despite being incredibly intelligent and innovative, always seems to have been dealt a losing hand. Rudd’s playful personality is well-suited to the role of Lang, and even though they fall into the typical trope whereby people from minority communities are relegated to comic relief, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Michael Peña, and David Dastmalchian deliver beautifully supporting turns as his crew. Corey Stoll is fine as the antagonist, and Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are also quite good in undemanding roles. (Drinking game: Have a shot every time Douglas says the name “Scott.” Lazy writing in an otherwise solid screenplay.)

Although it takes a while to really build momentum, Ant-Man is not only a consistently engaging and entertaining superhero pic, it is also one of the stronger entries of its franchise. 4 / 5

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, Michael Douglas, John Slattery, Hayley Atwell, Abby Ryder Fortson, Gregg Turkington, Martin Donovan, Anna Akana, Garrett Morris, Stan Lee [cameo], Chris Evans [uncredited], Sebastian Stan [uncredited], Hayley Lovitt [cameo].

Director: Peyton Reed | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd; Story: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish (based on Ant-Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby) | Music: Christophe Beck | Cinematographer: Russell Carpenter | Editors: Dan Lebental, Colby Parker, Jr.

Available: Blu-ray and stan

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #15: Countdown to Infinity War—Ant-Man ⬇️


FRED Watch Episode 22: Bootmen (2000)

BOOTS AND ALL…

20th Century Fox Distribution / Fox Searchlight Pictures

Wayne introduces Phillip to Dein Perry’s Bootmen (2000).

The boys acknowledge that the film’s not without its flaws and discuss the representation of masculinities within the narrative, but will they strap on their boots for this forgotten Australian dance movie?

 

Listen to their review here:

 

Check out the trailer:

Starring: Adam Garcia, Sophie Lee, Sam Worthington, Richard Carter, Andrew Kaluski, Christopher Horsey, Lee McDonald, Matt Lee, William Zappa, Susie Porter, Anthony Hayes, Justine Clarke, Grant Walmsley, Andrew Doyle, Bruce Venables.

Director: Dein Perry | Producers: Hilary Linstead, Antonia Barnard | Writers: Steve Worland, Hilary Linstead, Dein Perry | Music: Cezary Skubiszewski | Cinematographer: Steve Mason | Editor: Jane Moran

 

Available: YouTube and GooglePlay.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

You’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED PODCAST: FRED Watch Episode 4: Rocky (1976) ⬇️


Beta Test #22: Beholder 2

Beta Test

*Adjusts set top box* Ok, maybe over here? ‘These Lima beans are even better than the ones we had for breakfast and lunch! Ooh a Lima bean that looks just like the Leader, I’ll put it with the others!’, okay…or ‘I am covered in the dust of the Leader, he favours me!’, wait, how about  ‘Nananananananana LEADER’, DAMN IT!

Do you want to see the inner workings of my head? Do you want to see all that’s left after this month? Please, allow me to introduce you to the running gag reel of simpsons quotes I’ve been non stop pelting myself with!

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All hail the Leader, Citizens. I’m Bethany Griffiths, and This is Beta Test! A game review platform where I – H O V E R   B I K E Enthusiast – choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely (un)biased review. 

Yes my lovelies, the winter’s gone, the snow’s depart, the dead sleep on, it’s me! (Not Bertolt Brecht. Please don’t @me with your high school theatre complaints. No one can save you from the trauma of your youth). Spring is here, and you know what that means! Out with the seasonal depression, in with the regular, rapidly rising, levels of anxiety! I feel rejuvenated, relaxed, ready to huff pollen, and snort baby birds. Got a squirrel? It’s now my minion. All praise to Persephone! I’m here, I’m queer, Spring is in the air!

…Maybe I need to lay off the Zertec.

OK, you’re probably thinking I’ve gone mad, and yes, The Funny Farm is on a loop on my Spotify right now, HOWEVER it’s a good thing I’m revved up because that’s the most exciting thing about this review. Yes, sorry for the whiplash but I’ve just played one of the hardest games I’ve had to stomach in a long time. Yes, not since the days of Batman – The Enemy Within have I been so thoroughly disappointed on a game. Maybe there’s a reason I associate the two together. Both are a joke.

Beholder 2, a Warm Lamp Games and Alawar Premium creation, Tells the story of Evan Redgrave – Son of a ministry worker, who takes over his father’s place at work after his untimely demise. Set once again under the Iron curtain, with very thinly veiled references to both North Korea and China, You have to navigate through tough monetary decisions, relentless coworkers, and gruelling tasks such as working an office job, and paying bills…and reading books…OK can I just actually not. Can I do anything but this please. 

Look, I don’t know how much you know about my actual real life money job (because honestly it’s really not the game’s fault I hate it) but most days I have to sit in the back room of a hospital for 8.5 hours, and answer over 120 phone calls a day about customer complaints, questions, queries, and bookings. To say I live this game is an understatement and I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t sit at a desk for EIGHT POINT FIVE hours a day, answering phones, telling people that yes, they need a referral to see us, and no, we don’t give out our doctors’ personal home phone numbers, and sorry I know you have cancer but your GP didn’t fax through a referral, (a real, true scenario that I wish I could erase from my mind) then come home and play a game where I sit at a desk for 8 hours hearing people say stupid shit, and telling people that the best way to criminalise their wife/son/poet neighbour is to HaiL tHe LeADeR. I just can’t do it. Even with subplot. Even with all the intrigue. Not even the sudden shocking deaths can save this game for me. 

Beholder 2 had a lot to live up to. The original game is one of my all time favourites, and I was so excited to play the continuation. I was holding out till I got a good quiet month, so I could focus all my time into giving this game all the attention it deserved. ALAS, I was let down like a Simpson on a hover-bike. My dreams of a good gaming month ruined. I was angrily ‘MMMMMMM’ing all the way through my time in this never ending cycle of wake, work, repeat and no I’m not okay.

On the technical side, because at this point I really do just have to be objective, the specs are OK, as a sole PC user though, it was painfully obvious that this was made with the intention of being played primarily on the Switch. 

You walk in a beautifully rendered 3D rendered space, but only use the left and right buttons, with your mouse trailing behind you as you scan for anything remotely clickable. The lack of physical depth on the screen is jarring, especially coming from it’s 2D predecessor, which not only boasted the best of 2D character design, but enabled 3D world movement with mouse touches. The game is repetitive to a blunt point. Not only in the monotony of everyday life, but also in the map. It was genuinely exciting to see all the places I could be going, and I was so disappointed that all it was was a flat plane. What’s worse is the devs even knew this, because you get a map near the start of the game, and the character that gives it to you says that it will save time from running from one side to the other. 

The reason I’m so mad though, beyond the specs, the game play, my job, is that this game is visually stunning. I love the art style. I get to see everything I loved about the first game’s characters reflected back in amazing 3D. I want to play so much more of this game but I physically just can’t!

Because of the pitiful whining coming from my microphone, and the sobbing cry of loss from inside my head, I give this game:

4/5 Dead Colleagues for style.
2/5 Dead Colleagues for plot line.
0/5 Dead Colleagues for easiness.
0/5 Dead Colleagues for NO.

Jesus hell, I don’t even want to do an outro, that’s how upset I am. I can honestly say I’m so glad this month is over. It gave me nothing but avoidance and pain. Also, if you recall I did a review of the original, and in the outro I said ‘Good thing there’s a sequel, or I’d be suffering withdrawals!’. WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW PAST BETHANY? WHERE? Well, shit, I’ve been Bethany Griffiths, and this has been Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely (un)biased review.

Until next time. 

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FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

AGE LEAVES AVENGERS A LITTLE SLUGGISH.

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Avengers reunite to protect the world when Tony Stark’s Ultron Program, created to protect the world, becomes hostile…

With the previous Avengers blockbuster making a big splash, Joss Whedon faced the unenviable task of replicating what made Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) an exhilarating experience. Unfortunately, Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t come close to its predecessor nor a significant number of other titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that have come before it.

For a relatively simple premise, Whedon’s script is a little cluttered and will leave the casual viewer confused. This is one for the fans, and those truly invested will get the most out of it, but even they may lose their patience with the unnecessarily excessive gestation. (It would have benefited from losing twenty minutes from the runtime.) Even the final battle is longer than it needs to be.

There are, however, more positives than negatives to take from Avengers: Age of Ultron and this is thanks to our perfectly cast heroes. Well and truly comfortable without being complacent, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans are in solid form, with Evans once again a particular highlight. As in the previous Avengers movie, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner are the absolute heart of the narrative, and their scenes—individually as well as together—are the most interesting. It is wonderful to see Mark Ruffalo afforded more material to work with, and his chemistry and budding romance with Johansson’s Black Widow is quite lovely… until you remember that Hulk/Bruce Banner’s feelings belong to someone else. (See: 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.) Supporting players Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are welcomed additions to the franchise as Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, even if they aren’t given as much depth as they deserve.

Although falling below expectations, Avengers: Age of Ultron is good to look at, and is elevated by exceptional performances and some truly effective scenes. But a classic it isn’t. 3½ / 5

 

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Kretschmann, Henry Goodman, Linda Cardellini, Claudia Kim, Andy Serkis, Julie Delpy, Kerry Condon [voice], Josh Brolin [uncredited], Stan Lee [cameo].

Director/Writer: Joss Whedon (based on The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) | Producer: Kevin Feige | Music: Brian Tyler, Danny Elfman | Cinematographer: Ben Davis | Editors: Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Lassek

 

Available: Blu-ray and stan

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #14: Countdown to Infinity War—Avengers: Age of Ultron ⬇️


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

GALAXY IS A TOTAL GUNN!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

When adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) becomes the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by the ambitious Ronan (Lee Pace), he is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits: Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista)…

James Gunn gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe a breath of fresh air with this fun and quirky comic book caper, introducing lesser known superheroes into a well-established franchise. And while there may not be anything too original about Guardians of the Galaxy, co-writer/director Gunn knows how to deliver the perfect balance of heart, humour, and heroics to tell a well-rounded story. It doesn’t hurt that it has an amazing soundtrack too!

The film is not only incredibly good-looking (the set design, costumes, and makeup are all superb), but it is tautly edited and always engaging. It is also one of those rare blockbusters in which so many performances overshadow the whiz-bang visuals. Our motley crew are perfectly cast.

Chris Pratt is insatiably charming and goofy as protagonist Peter Quill, while Zoe Saldana absolutely owns the role of Gamora, and her exchanges with Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer are always entertaining. Bradley Cooper steals the show as bounty hunter Rocket, complemented quite nicely by simpleton tree Groot; a role that suits Vin Diesel’s “acting range,” for a lack of a better phrase, quite nicely.

Guardians of the Galaxy works so well because the dynamics between its characters is so finely tuned that we never stop caring about them. It is a particularly entertaining example of when popcorn entertainment is at its best. 4½ / 5

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin [uncredited], Sean Gunn, Alexis Denisof, Ophelia Lovibond, Peter Serafinowicz, Gregg Henry, Laura Haddock, Melia Kreiling, Christopher Fairbank, Mikaela Hoover, Marama Corlett, Emmett J. Scanlan, Alexis Rodney, Tom Proctor, Spencer Wilding, Fred, Stephen Blackehart, James Gunn [cameo], Stan Lee [cameo], Lloyd Kaufman [cameo], Nathan Fillion [voice] Rob Zombie [voice], Tyler Bates [voice], Seth Green [voice].

Director: James Gunn | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman (based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) | Music: Tyler Bates | Cinematographer: Ben Davis | Editors: Fred Raskin, Craig Wood, Hughes Winborne

 

Available: Blu-ray and stan

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #13: Countdown to Infinity War—Guardians of the Galaxy ⬇️


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Joker (2019)

PHOENIX AND PHILLIPS HAVE THE LAST LAUGH…

Welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film made such an impact on us, that we reviewed it twice! It’s Todd Phillips’s Joker

DC Films / Village Roadshow Pictures / Bron Creative / Joint Effort / Warner Bros. Pictures

In 1981, clown and aspiring comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), who lives with a neurological condition that causes him to laugh in times of intense stress, turns to crime and chaos as Gotham City begins to protest and rebel against the establishment.

Kendall Richardson reviewing:

People like to complain about ‘superhero fatigue’, that there are too many comic book movies and television shows on our screens. But if this so-called ‘fatigue’ helps to give birth to a film such as Joker, then I really don’t see what is worth complaining about. Joker isn’t really a comic book movie, and if you removed the DC Comics skin, very little would actually change. Like Logan (2017), and to a similar extent Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Joker uses the guise of a comic book film to really step into and explore genres and themes that set it aside from any other ‘superhero genre’ film. It is quite ironic the way things have turned out, considering many thought that upon this film’s announcement it was completely unnecessary. Just like when people scoffed at Heath Ledger’s casting of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant The Dark Knight (2008). Oh, how wrong and misunderstood we were.

Joker tells the story of troubled clown and wannabe comedian Arthur Fleck (a breathtaking Joaquin Phoenix), navigating the turbulent landscape of a depraved and crime rampant Gotham City. We learn that he suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness that he is seeking treatment for, and an uncontrollable Tourette’s Syndrome-like laugh. Despite these flaws, Arthur tries so hard to fit into society, and bring happiness and joy to those he entertains. The film does a wonderful job of focusing on his mental state without mocking it or making it the butt of any jokes. You understand quite quickly this is who Arthur Fleck is, and despite it making the audience sympathetic towards him, there is a clear division between this sympathy and a complete lack of it once he starts taking out his problems violently on others. That isn’t to say you don’t understand were he’s coming from on his journey to becoming Joker, in fact you might find yourself rooting for him. But there is no question that he revels in causing pain by the time the film ends and you stop feeling sorry for him.

Joaquin Phoenix gives probably the best performance of his entire career. Everything about Arthur/Joker that Phoenix brings to life is chaotic yet controlled, and elegant yet horrific. Phoenix is in virtually every scene of the film, and you never tire of seeing his disturbed image flashed across the screen. You crave more of him. Even though you know where the movie is headed thanks to its famous comic book inspiration, you desperately want the good parts of him to rise up, instead of getting snuffed out by the madness of his mind. From kindhearted to malevolent, Arthur Fleck is always unsettling, and that laugh of his that covers the movie, is so nuanced and striking. I have no doubt in my mind that we will be seeing Joaquin Phoenix everywhere this coming awards season and very deservedly so.

Director and co-writer Todd Phillips, mostly known for his comedic films such as The Hangover (2009) and Old School (2003), transitions seamlessly into this dark and decrepit world of crime. He crafts a Gotham we are definitely not strangers to, but one he certainly makes his own. The script is watertight and comes to life brilliantly with the aide of some exceptional cinematography and well-rounded performances from not just Phoenix, but the entire cast. This is definitely Phoenix’s film, but all the players that surround him support him well, adding method to the madness. Robert De Niro is particularly fascinating as late night talk show host Murray Franklin, a character idolised by Arthur throughout the whole film. If only there had been more scenes of Murray and Arthur together, but what we do get is completely thrilling. Joker remains with certainty, an incredible piece of cinema, and an unnerving yet compelling unraveling of a film’s protagonist like we have surely rarely seen. It is hands down one of the best films of the year. 5 / 5

Wayne Stellini reviewing:

In an era of extensive superhero blockbusters, Hollywood knows how to churn out (more often than not) entertaining, cartoonish spectacles. And because most follow the same formula, there is a comfort in sitting in a cinema with similar genre-loving folks as you munch on your popcorn in anticipation of the inevitable computer-generated action to unfold. But Todd Phillips’s Joker is the sort of film that makes you hold said moviegoing snack millimetres from your mouth in fear of choking on it.

As soon as the old Warner Bros. logo appears on screen, we know that this will not be your average contemporary comic book movie. Phillips’s stylistic choices not only take us back to the early 1980s but, more significantly, inform us that this is a world we are familiar with, if not actually live in ourselves. (It takes longer than you’d expect for the word ‘Gotham’ to be spoken.)

The colour pallet, captured and framed beautifully by Lawrence Sher, as well as Hildur Guðnadóttir’s evocative score and Jeff Groth’s perfect editing, make Joker a technically flawless film. This impeccable attention to detail continually enforces the cold and individualistic social attitudes that contribute to and shapes the creation of the titular character.

So, what of our anti-hero? Batman’s chief villain the Joker is arguably the most beloved baddie from the comics and their associated media adaptations. (Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Clown Price of Crime in 2008’s The Dark Knight remains the only performance of a comic book character to have been awarded an Oscar to date.) And what makes him such an intriguing figure is not necessarily the wealth of published stories to draw from but rather that the criminal mastermind’s origin and backstory have never been set in stone since his debut in 1940. This is where Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver utilise their freedom to make Joker—both film and character, for that matter—whatever they want.

The story is straightforward and coherent, and, at its core, demonstrates how society maketh the monster. But as a character study, Joker is far more complex than that. This is where the outstanding Joaquin Phoenix truly shines. The actor has literally grown up before our eyes (his big screen debut was in 1986’s infamous box office bomb SpaceCamp) but didn’t truly make a mark until Gladiator (2000), in which he delivers the film’s stand-out scene (‘Busy little bee’), before solidifying himself as one of contemporary American cinema’s more interesting and diverse performers when he played Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005). So what does Phoenix do with a character whose previous film and television incarnations have been both embraced and contentious?

Most importantly, Phoenix makes the role his own. Here, the lonesome Arthur Fleck goes from being tragic to grotesque; the manner in which Phoenix contorts his body and laughs (involuntarily or otherwise) depicts a confronting depletion of Arthur’s mental health. Ultimately, when his transformation into Joker is complete, Phoenix does not disappoint, even overcoming some unnecessarily clunky dialogue when Joker confesses to crimes and calls out society’s flaws on a late night talk show, whose host is played by the unsurprisingly excellent Robert De Niro. It cannot be emphasised enough that Phoenix is so good that he makes an uncharismatic, unnerving character always accessible. And when Joker appears dancing down stone stairs, we are happy to be in his clutches.

Moments likes these (and there are plenty of them) make Joker a unique gem in a cluttered genre. And while Phillips owes much to the master filmmakers that came before him—most notably Martin Scorsese, whose anti-establishment titles such as Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1983) remain important works of American cinema—he is his own storyteller, and there is no mistaking the depth he gives this particular narrative. A highlight for me was when Arthur meets a young Bruce Wayne (Dante Pereira-Olson) for the first time. The scene is intense in its own right, but there are so many wonderful layers to their interaction: the two speak with bars between them, Arthur uses lighthearted magic tricks whilst Bruce remains stolid, and most significantly, the pair are dressed in a similar manner. This is gorgeous foreshadowing of the sort of relationship that these two will have, but what is wonderful about Joker is that it works without any pre-knowledge of the expansive creative universe these characters are a part of. And scenes such as Arthur being approached by a Wall Street worker on a train who is singing ‘Send in the Clowns’ are as eerie as they are an example of beautiful filmmaking.

I found myself captivated from the get-go when watching Joker, engrossed in the world and interested in the characters. I was challenged by the portrayal of Thomas Wayne (a solid Brett Cullen), who has always been depicted in a saintly manner, and was sometimes uncomfortable when Arthur’s condition resulted in uncontrollable laughter. Although it was by no means a full house, I cannot recall a moment when I have been in a cinema of people so attentive and silent, and nor can I remember the last time I caught myself breathless, or with my mouth slightly open at the unfolding drama on numerous occasions throughout a film’s gestation.

Joker may not be completely flawless, and I am not sure if it will be the sort of film that gets better with repeated viewings, but do not be mistaken in thinking you are merely watching a movie here. You are experiencing a cohesive team bringing together a masterful work of art. 5 / 5

 

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Douglas Hodge, Dante Pereira-Olson, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Leigh Gill, Josh Pais, Brian Tyree Henry, Bryan Callen, Hannah Gross, Carl Lundstedt, Michael Benz, Ben Warheit, Mandela Bellamy, Demetrius Dotson II, Justin Theroux [cameo].

Director: Todd Phillips | Producers: Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff | Writers: by Todd Phillips, Scott Silver (based on characters by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson appearing in DC Comics) | Music: Hildur Guðnadóttir | Cinematographer: Lawrence Sher | Editor: Jeff Groth

 

In cinemas now.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

You’ve just experienced FRED Watch.


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

EVANS AND JOHANSSON SAVE THE DAY!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Captain America: The Winter Solider

Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) join forces to uncover a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. while facing a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Chris Evans suits up once more as the Captain America in the ninth Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster. The wholesome superhero is second nature to Evans by now but the actor does not take his character for granted. Neither do scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who not only appear to have put more thought and effort into their work compared to 2013’s Thor: The Dark World but also allow the First Avenger space for depth and complexity. It is a trademark that has made Captain America one of the more interesting figures in this extensive film franchise, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo treat the source and adapted material respectfully.

Even though Captain America: The Winter Soldier runs for a questionable two hours and sixteen minutes, it is paced relatively well and you don’t really feel the time. This is primarily due to the inclusion of the underrated Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Black Widow. Both actor and character are a marvel here and, despite the absence of her usual sidekick (Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye), the former Soviet spy not only holds her own but often steals the show. So, it is of little surprise that her moments with the equally excellent Evans are the strongest here. However, it must be said that the remarkably aged Hayley Atwell delivers a lovely performance in a touching scene with Evans. Emily VanCamp and screen veteran Robert Redford also deliver notable performances.

There are also a number of interesting characters littered throughout the film, including the introduction of Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and the fun comes from not really knowing who is trustworthy. Of course, the action does not disappoint and, unlike some other sequences in the franchise, never feels over-the-top; Captain America taking on a group of armed men in an elevator is both exciting and exceptionally choreographed.

Aesthetically appealing and quite entertaining without being exceptional, Captain America: The Winter Soldier may not be as good as The First Avenger (2011), but will win favour amongst the franchise’s fans. 4 / 5

 

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Toby Jones, Maximiliano Hernández, Garry Shandling, Georges St-Pierre, Callan Mulvey, Chin Han, Jenny Agutter, Alan Dale, Bernard White, Danny Pudi, DC Pierson, Gary Sinise [voice], Stan Lee [cameo], Ed Brubaker [cameo], Joe Russo [cameo], Christopher Markus [cameo], Stephen McFeely [cameo], Thomas Kretschmann, Henry Goodman, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (based on Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) | Music: Henry Jackman | Cinematographer: Trent Opaloch | Editors: Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt

 

Available: Blu-ray and stan

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #12: Countdown to Infinity War—Captain America: The Winter Soldier ⬇️


A Podcast Called FRED #86: Unwanted Remakes

Kendall, Fulya, and Wayne deliver the latest in nerdy news and geeky goodness in the pop culture podcast that refuses to behave—it’s A Podcast Called FRED!

 

Nerdy News includes:

  • Sid Haig, J. Michael Mendel, and Rob Garrison have died;
  • Spider-Man will return to the MCU for third film;
  • Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum to appear in Jurassic World 3;
  • and so much more!

Trailer Park discussions:

  • Frozen 2
  • El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
  • Uncut Gems

Popcorn Culture:

  • This week, the team discuss which films should never be remade—featuring responses from you!

 

Check out A Podcast Called FRED #86 ⬇️

Remember to let us know your response to the Popcorn Culture question so you can be featured in the next episode of A Podcast Called FRED!

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: A Podcast Called FRED #85 ⬇️


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Big Hero 6 (2014)

DISNEY’S HEROIC CAPER!

I’m a Fulya Kantarmaci and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film features the most lovable robot anyone has ever seen—Disney’s Big Hero 6

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

This is the story of a teenager named Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a high school graduate and robotics genius. During his free time, Hiro competes in illegal robot battles. His big brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) doesn’t approve and has always been coming to Hiro’s rescue because of these robot fights. One particular night after yet again saving him from trouble, Tadashi decides to take Hiro to his research lab at the Sanfransokyo Institute of Technology, where he meets Tadashi’s friends Go Go (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), and Fred (T.J. Miller), not to mention meeting the head of the university’s robotics program Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell). Tadashi also shows his little brother what he’s been working on and this is where we all meet Baymax (Scott Adsit), the Personal Healthcare Companion. With that, Hiro decides to enrol at the university but in order for him to be considered, he must present a project at the school’s science fair.

After presenting his project on microbots, Alistair Krei of Krei Tech (Alan Tudyk) offers to buy his microbots but Hiro kindly refuses. Professor Callaghan was very impressed as well with his project and hands Hiro an acceptance letter to the robotics program. Cut to later that evening after the science fair has ended and a fire breaks out; the professor is the only person left inside so Tadashi runs in to save him. Moments after he enters, there’s an explosion which kills both of them. We then cut to Tadashi’s and Professor Callaghan’s wake at the Hamada residence where we see Tadashi’s friends together in mourning and Hiro sitting alone at the top of the stairs. Hiro no longer has the passion and interest in going to university, and so he goes back to looking at illegal bot fights around the area when he stubs his toe. The moment he says “ow”, Baymax is activated. Let the adorable humour commence!

From the moment the first scene opens with a spectacular establishing shot of Sanfransokyo (a hybrid name of San Francisco and Tokyo), you immediately discover that the film will have something to do with future technologies. The style of the animation also suggests that this is NOT going to be your average Disney movie. I love this film in its entirety because it talks about relationships, mental health, and of course, futuristic gadgets!

The story is loosely based on a superhero team called Big Hero 6 by Marvel Comics and the film is directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. From start to finish, Big Hero 6 manages to take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions where we meet a young boy who loves his big brother so much that when he realises he won’t be seeing him again, he is devastated to the point of depression. This moment always seems to make me cry as it is quite an emotional scene. I can only imagine how it would feel to lose a family member you are so close to. For a children’s film that talks about human loss, it is done beautifully.

The movie also contains a lot of fun moments, especially the scenes with Baymax! Once you get to know him, you will definitely be wanting your own personal healthcare companion. Baymax is such an amazing character and although robotic, I love how his voice sounds so caring. You may not see the emotions expressed physically or tonally but you understand how much Baymax just wants to help Hiro feel better. Scott Adsit was the perfect choice as the voice of this adorable non-threatening robot.

Did I mention there’s tons of superhero action? Well, there is! During the film, Hiro figures out who set the university on fire that killed Tadashi and Professor Callghan so he is on a mission of justice. There’s a montage scene of Hiro talking to his new-found friends as he creates upgrades for them and Baymax so they can find the arsonist who is out in the city using his microbots. This scene also has a hell of a song that makes you feel really excited for the team! The song is Immortals by Fall Out Boy and it is so appropriate for the scene!

If you are a fan of Disney movies and love a bit of action as well as heart, Big Hero 6 is for you. This is one of my top favourite Disney animated films. And remember, “Those that suffer a loss require support from friends and loved ones.” 5 / 5

 

Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Maya Rudolph, Alan Tudyk.

Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams | Producer: Roy Conli | Writers: Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson (based on Big Hero 6 by Man of Action) | Music: Henry Jackman | Cinematographers: Rob Dressel (layout), Adolph Lusinsky (lighting) | Editor: Tim Mertens

 

Available: DVD and stan.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Fulya Kantarmaci and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.