Has enough time passed to post a Joker review? Or, is it too late?

In any case, I shall share some spoilers. Note that this review shall be divided into three parts below: on the subject of problematic issues, the actual content, and of the more comic book-ish implications.

On the *problematic* issues:

Firstly, there hasn’t been a real-life shooting inspired by this film. Looks like that criticism so much in the media brought up was extremely overblown. And to fair, there have always been violent movies about criminals with various degrees of controversy. Is 2019 really such a different time that society can’t handle a movie with such overtones?

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing a film or any work of art, for any reason at all. But to say that bad movies should be banned, because it may inspire violence, still feels like a stretch to me. If you just find the movie immoral and whatnot, then don’t pay for it or give it a low rating and move on.

It is interesting that Joker specifically says “I’m not political” in the infamous De Niro talk show scene. It’s a bit of a cop out, but I do appreciate that the themes are all over the place enough to be interpretable. One could just as much say that there’s a leftist moral lesson is about austerity–that Gotham shouldn’t have cut civil services and then all the tragedies could have been avoided.

(And as for the whole incel thing, while the character did fantasize about a girlfriend and couldn’t get any action, ultimately there never seemed to be a strong hating women theme.)

Last point with the controversies here. Director Todd Phillips has shown himself to be a douche with some of his “anti-woke” statements as a comedy director, which is very disappointing. If only he would let the work speak for itself, instead of lazily complaining about he resents that audiences don’t finding him funny anymore.

As for the actual content:

I happen to think the Joker is a vastly overused character. He’s supposed to be mysterious, not such a mainstream nemesis. There are of course many classic Joker storylines, but just because Batman is the most popular DC hero and he’s the main villain doesn’t mean they keep having to go back to Joker trying to top himself again and again and again. It’s an overplayed gimmick, at least in the comics.

I do appreciate Warner Bros-DC doing something different with the superhero film genre. A rated R villain film is certainly a different style than that Marvel Cinematic Universe formula.

Still, a definitive origin for the Joker is paretly of missing the point. The Dark Knight and The Last Laugh were simply smarter in exploring ambiguity. The Joker of the film is an unreliable narrator at times, but perhaps not unreliable enough.

Another valid criticism is how derivative of Scorsese this is. Both Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy? There is such a thing as too much homage. And Arthur Fleck living with his mother, that is pretty cliched.

However, I watched the movie and I’m still thinking about it weeks later. That is saying something. The arc of Fleck’s descent into madness powerfully told, I have to admit. From the beginning it can’t be denied Joaquin Phoenix is an absolutely brilliant actor, carrying every scene and pushing himself to the limit. As he descends into violence, first by killing in self defense and then immediately after by killing someone running away, the audience is sucked into his disturbing world until the body count rises enough to take down the whole city.

Damn, what an ending. Incredibly pessimistic as Gotham is on fire, his minions in clown masks burning it all down in anti-1%er riots. It may or may not be happening in the titular character’s mind to some degree, but either way, geez what an effect as he dances to the tune! Finally, the world pays attention to one Arthur Fleck.

One leaves the theater affected for sure, and in some sense that means it is a successful work.

Overall, after giving it maybe too much thought, I conclude it’s a good movie. The Joker is well-crafted and leaves a deep impression. Very much worth watching as long, assuming you’re already into gruesome crime dramas.

Comic book implications: 

Lastly, here’s my take as a fanboy. It was an entertaining twist to speculate on Joker maybe-or-maybe-not being Bruce Wayne’s illegitimate brother. (Glad it’s left open; those ambiguous factors are always the strongest.) Thomas Wayne as an out of touch rich asshole, who is partly responsible for the iconic orphaning of his son, now that sure is an original version.

Continuity-wise the age difference is too wide to have this be the same villain who will one day fight Batman. Bruce was only a child right, so it would have to be twenty years later at least. It is fun to see some of the Batman origin, however overdone, even if it doesn’t quite fit.

Plus, the Joker should be a genius. I don’t see this guy inventing chemical compounds or even planning any intricate crime sprees. His only ‘power’ really is that he acquired a gun, and that some his murders are big deals. Also, he’s not funny. There are several dark humor scenes to be sure, but Arthur Fleck’s tragedy is that he’s not even good at being a comedian which just isn’t really the Joker in my view.

Hence… the only way this could work in any DC universe is if Fleck isn’t so much *the* Joker as much as he is *the first* Joker. The comics do say there were three. Like there have been a series of Jokers, and Arthur Fleck inspired them. Maybe that’s the point?

Even if so, let’s still repeat that it’s just a movie and please don’t be inspired to be super-villain in the real world. So long as that’s clear, enjoy 🙂

Chinese Film Review: Monster Hunt 捉妖记

“Monster Hunt” An Enjoyable CGI Romp Impressive for China

But beware of the Disney-esque song and dance numbers

Monster Hunt


If you happen to live in China, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you must have seen some of those endless advertisements showcasing adorable monsters. That would be the phenomena of Monster Hunt (捉妖记), the now highest-grossing domestic Chinese film of all time. Directed by HongKonger and animator Ramon Hui, who also co-directed Shrek the Third, the film has captured the hearts of millions and paved the way for new Hollywood-style budgets in Chinese film.

Better late than never, I decided to finally see it. With English subtitles. Monster Hunt is an enjoyable adventure that utilizes the Hong Kong-style of action comedies, and mixes it with a mainland’s aesthetic for ancient China settings. Mostly family friendly, the film does include a few racy jokes including a male pregnancy and “birth” scene.

While the plot is fairly predictable if you think about it too much, there are enough surprises to entertain. Baihe Bai plays well as an up-and-coming monster hunter, although of course it turns out that the monsters aren’t all evil and new sides must be chosen. Boran Jing is adequate enough as the comic relief partner.

Warning, there are a few Disney-esque song-and-dance numbers which strain credulity even for this film, and gives it more of a childish tone than audiences might expect.

He only comes in halfway through, but the cute monster Huba is the true star of the film. The plot revolves around the monster being rescued and his royal lineage bringing new peace to human-monster relations. And, obviously, he makes a great mascot to sell toys. The CGI special effects portraying this character work well, especially impressive considering it’s a mainland China film.

On a more interesting and deeper note, the film does seem to have a valid message in all that. Specifically, it critiques the unethical Chinese practice in which the wealthy eat endangered species. When the villains make dubious claims that eating monster meat will bring youthfulness and vigor to shallow snobs, one can definitely see the same thing as relating to the cruel poaching of tigers and rhinoceroses and so on. Questioning and mocking such pseudo-medicinal practices is a very positive message to teach the Chinese youth.

Overall, it’s a good thing for Chinese cinema that they are able to make these kinds of films. It will remain to be seen how they’ll do competing with the West in the future, but it is a good start if nothing else. And, the story was left open for a sequel…

Monster Hunt/捉妖记 is now playing in Chinese theaters with English subtitles.

SZ Art – Animation Biennial

On Sunday afternoon I went to the B10 art hall for the “2nd Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennial” within the OCT Loft neighborhood.



I think it’s more a video art exhibition than animation. But semantics.

WP_20141221_010 - CopyLet us enter.


Can you make out the artists? Somewhat international.

Make sure to click for more detail.


The cinema, times:



An avant-garde Japanese film, of which I honestly could not understand:

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I quite liked this Taiwanese loop, critique of consumerism it must be:

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And so on





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