Every time I review a DC film, I say pretty much the same thing: they have to stop taking themselves so seriously. Well, once again, they ignored me: Joker is about as serious as you can possibly get, and it’s a much better film for it. For me, this is their best outing to date, and it’s pretty grim.
Joker is set in Gotham, before Batman and before Arkham became a rest home for homicidal super villains. The connection is there, but it’s very loose: this is not a film about super heroes, this is a film about how we’re all just a few steps removed from becoming a menace to the public.
Joaquin Phoenix, unsurprisingly, turns in a masterful (and I mean masterful, as in ‘Oscar worthy’) performance as Arthur Fleck, a failed clown and failing stand-up comedian suffering from a range of mental ailments and perpetual bad luck. As his life spirals out of control and his past unravels around him, he becomes increasingly unhinged, delusional, and of course, homicidal.
Somehow, describing this as the ‘long-awaited sequel’ doesn’t quite cover it. I’ve had this on preorder for MONTHS. As I’m sure you know, The Testaments is the follow up to the enormously successful, and worryingly prophetic, Handmaid’s Tale – the story of a dystopic America, where a huge swathe of the country is under the control of a totalitarian government that has removed the rights of woman to exist as individuals. (Seriously, if you’ve never heard of this book then I think you may be on the wrong blog).
The Testaments carries on a few years after the last book left off, delving deeper into the world of Gilead from the point of view of women living within it, and outside. It’s not the same literary horror story we saw in the first instalment (or indeed, the tv series), so I don’t think it carries the same shock value I remember from reading The Handmaid’s Tale, though now I get less of a sense of ‘this could happen!’ and more of a sense of ‘I think it already has.’
The writing is much lighter, with less of the literary flair we saw in June’s account of her life as a handmaid. What does come across is the hypocrisy of the entire Gilead setup, and the sense that many of the original characters (Aunt Lydia in particular) are perhaps just as much victims as the handmaids; they were just better survivors.
There’s two thing that I like about these new James Bond books over the movies.
They’re set in the past, which gives them a nice nostalgic feel: the heroes smoked pipes and cigarettes, the villains were stereotypically Russians, and the women were … not always the helpless creatures that writers of the time made them out to be.
Getting inside Bond’s head you get to see that he’s actually a bit of a dick.
Trigger Mortis takes us back to the late 1950s. Naval war hero and British Secret Service agent, James Bond has returned from the successful completion of the Goldfinger assignment with the svelte innuendo that is Pussy Galore in tow. He hardly has time to start sniffing around for a new bedmate when his country has need of him yet again, this time to foil a sinister plot involving race cars, Russians and rockets.
Okay, there’s not going to be any surprises plot-wise: the villains are stereotypical for the age it’s set (Horowitz picks the Russians and a Korean) and Bond is … well, he’s Bond. The story is extremely well placed: Horowitz captures the feel and the attitudes of the time so well that the misogyny and occasional Gay-bashing just slots straight in. This is a good thing. Things were a lot different in those days, and Bond’s letching over women and mistrust of homosexuals was pretty much the norm.