Tag Archives: Shea Whigham

Joker (2019)

Early buzz on Joker made frequent mention of a guy named Martin Scorsese, a film director you may have heard of, though not one who’s ever actually directed any films called Joker. Partly the comparison stems from the aesthetic of this new grimdark pseudo-origin for Batman’s nemesis, which is set in the ballpark of 1981 in a Gotham that looks suspiciously like the New York of Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. Partly it’s the theme, too, I suppose, as Scorsese’s obvious preoccupation with insecure males and violence fits Joker‘s bill pretty well. And partly people simply love saying “it’s just like ______!” when a new movie comes out. Heck, the last Joaquin Phoenix movie we reviewed (the phenomenal You Were Never Really Here) discussed exactly that: people said it was “just like Taxi Driver!”

It wasn’t, of course, and Joker isn’t really like Taxi Driver, either. But I’m willing to bet Todd Phillips — Joker‘s actual director — isn’t exactly bummed at the comparison. If anything he’s consciously invited it, crafting Joker as a rip-off spiritual offspring of Marty’s in more ways than one. We might jump to Taxi Driver because of the interchangeable logline — unstable loner is shunned by society and devolves into madness as a result — but the shout-outs to Scorsese’s King of Comedy are even more explicit. Robert De Niro was in Phoenix’s shoes for that one, playing the failed comedian obsessed with Jerry Lewis’s talk show host, but in Joker he fills the exact seat Lewis filled in King. Now may be a good time to note that subtlety is not one of Joker‘s strengths.

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True Detective 1.8 – “Form and Void”

This review appeared shortly after the initial premiere of True Detective in early 2014 — slight edits have been made since the original posting.

Everything leading up to last night’s conclusion to True Detective’s first season has been pretty stellar, setting the bar higher for the show as a whole than any other first season you care to name. The finale was so sought-after, in fact, that the HBO GO server overloaded and crashed due to such high demand, sending millions into despair over whether Rust and Marty would finally get their man. Last week’s episode “After You’ve Gone” served up a nice volley for the finale to knock down — and the eighth and final installment did just that. Needless to say, spoilers follow for the season one finale “Form and Void”.

Writer and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto dug himself into a hole in several ways with True Detective, foremostly by turning out a phenomenal, pitch-perfect pilot and a five-episode arc that brought with it the most intriguing hour “The Secret Fate of All Life”. I didn’t hear any major complaints after the first three episodes, and only when the fourth episode “Who Goes There” indulged in an action sequence did reviewers post fears about the show becoming “just another procedural”. Now, it seems, we have something of the reverse: “Form and Void” was inarguably, inescapably, and at times frustratingly revelation-free, instead providing a straightforward “resolution” where most fans pined for a major twist involving the unveiling of the Yellow King.

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True Detective 1.3 – “The Locked Room”

This review appeared shortly after the initial premiere of True Detective in early 2014 — slight edits have been made since the original posting.

Horror creeps ever closer in the third hour of True Detective, and Rust Cohle and Martin Hart may not be doing all they can to slow the arrival. After last week’s episode “Seeing Things” revealed more about both characters, the most recent entry in the eight-part season dug still deeper into the good and the bad inside the detectives portrayed by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson — but mostly the bad. Spoilers follow for the third episode “The Locked Room”.

Not long ago, if you told me the hunky McConaughey and the thick-jawed slacker Harrelson would be in a show together and the latter would be the one involved in a love triangle, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. In a distinct continuation of the character arc presented in the first two episodes, Harrelson’s Hart is far from the family man he pretends to be, and his treatment of the women in his life seems increasingly self-centered. Though he is drunk, the scene where he barges in on his younger lover (Alexandra Daddario) and beats the hell out of the kid she’s with still shows Hart’s penchant for quick violence in much the way Cohle’s sudden flare of brutality with the mechanic in last week’s episode showed a similar capacity. These are men with morals but they are also bad men, inescapably, calling to mind Marlon Brando’s musings as Kurtz near the end of Apocalypse Now, seeking “men who are moral, and at the same time…without feeling…without passion…without judgment…without judgment.”

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Agent Carter 1.1 – “Now is Not the End”

Marvel’s Captain America spinoff Agent Carter premiered tonight in two parts, bringing Hayley Atwell’s ’40s can-do spy Peggy Carter to the small screen. If your barometer for the show is the other Marvel Cinematic Universe cable tie-in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., then you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the quality of Agent Carter and the willingness of the show to shed those ties to the larger MCU. If your barometer is a true 1940s spy serial, you might be just a tad disappointed.

Peggy first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger (set during WWII, when Peg has a passionate fling with Steve Rogers) and popped up again in The Winter Soldier (set in the present day, so Peggy’s old as hell). Agent Carter takes place immediately following the war, and scenes from First Avenger kickstart the pilot episode and continue to frame Peggy’s loss after Cap plunged into the ice at the end of that film. Squeezing Chris Evans into your show without actually paying to cast him, or creating a new contract or convincing him to film new scenes? Nice, Marvel.

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