Send in the crowns: in trumping Venice competition, Joker begins grand slam | Xan Brooks

The victory for Todd Phillipss revisionist comic book blockbuster is a credit to a festival in touch with crazed politics, contemporary paranoia and superb cinema Todd Phillips Joker spins the tale of a pathetic loser who ends up a winner, the low-class upstart who upsets the applecart and explodes the establishment. Nobody least of all Joaquin Phoenixs snivelling party entertainer believed he stood a snowballs chance in hell. But his message hit home and the voters clamoured change and we live in interesting times where the old rules dont apply. As with the man, so with the film. Since its incel vigilantes. Its been seen as left-wing; its been seen as right-wing. Its politics are so turbulent, so unrefined – …

Cold war experiments and storybook monsters – back to Venice’s VR island

Now in its third year, the virtual reality section of the Venice Film Festival has become more mature and serious in its focus. The 76th Venice film festival has included sci-fi thrills and comic-book action, backstage melodrama and medieval court intrigue. During the events most escapist moments, anyone longing for a dose of reality would have had more luck finding it in the virtual world. Venice VR is a pioneering festival sidebar dedicated to showcasing the best examples of an emergent art form, with a programme of 40 VR works from around the world. Daughters of Chibok, examining the aftermath of Nigerias Porton Down explores Webbs experience of being breast cancer in 2017. Her VR project, her 30-minute short film …

Ad Astra review: Brad Pitt reaches the stars in superb space-opera with serious daddy issues

The actor blasts off in search of long-lost pops Tommy Lee Jones in James Grays intergalactically po-faced take on Apocalypse Now Brad Pitt is an intergalactic Captain Willard, taking a fraught mission up-river in James Grays Ad Astra, an outer-space Apocalypse Now which played to rapt crowds at the Venice film festival. In place of steaming jungles, this gives us existential chills. Instead of Viet Cong soldiers, it provides man-eating baboons and pirates riding dune-buggies. Its an extraordinary picture, steely and unbending and assembled with an unmistakable air of wild-eyed zealotry. Ad Astra, be warned, is going all the way – and it double-dares us to buckle up for the trip. Set in the near future, this casts Pitt as …

Joker review Joaquin Phoenixs villain has last laugh in twisted tale

Todd Phillipss daring reboot of the DC Comics villain is brilliantly brought to life by Joaquin Phoenix Joaquin Phoenix provides a comic-book hero for the left behind with Joker, a brilliantly insurrectionist origins story that landed like a firecracker in the midst of this years Venice film festival. Playing the role of Cain to the sunny Abel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Todd Phillipss blockbuster charts the formative years of Batmans nemesis, rewinding to his time as a failed standup in grubby Gotham City, when he was lonesome and lost and out of joint with the world. Audaciously, its a film that invites us to love the monster. Eyes rolling, jaw working, Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, rattling with seven …

‘Incel’ violence is horrific, but Joker is complex, and doesn’t take sides

Alarmist reactions to the rightwing film starring Joaquin Phoenix as a needy, dangerous wannabe star comic overlook its subtler points Tincel culture, or involuntary celibates men who see themselves as losers and beta males who women dont want to sleep with. Angry, misogynistic and feeling entitled to sex and attention, incels have been prone to real-world violence, as with the Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (obsessed by Betsy), he becomes romantically intrigued by Sophie (Zazie Beetz), a pretty girl he barely knows, his fantasies go into overdrive. Yet romance and sex, or lack of these, is not a major factor in Jokers move towards violence; he never expresses any particular malice toward Sophie. Rather, Arthur is driven by a ( …

The Laundromat review: Gary Oldman spins lies to Meryl Streep in sparkling comedy

Steven Soderberghs wickedly entertaining romp loosely based on the uncovering of the Panama Papers is an effective mixed wash of truth and fiction Bow your heads in remembrance of Mossack Fonseca, the best law firm you never heard of, the worlds fourth largest provider of offshore financial services. For decades it operated quietly, diligently under the radar of public scrutiny, shepherding its anxious clients through a mystifying array of global tax evasion schemes until the release of the Panama Papers in 2016 metaphorically pissed on everyones chips. Next thing you know, the office has been raided, its directors are in jail and the golden age is over, or at least under audit. Now the culprits are back to give their …