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Review: ‘Joker’ Proves You Don’t Need Batman to Have a Good Time in Gotham

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*** Warning the following review contains certain spoilers for Joker ***

If you’re going to make the Joker a protagonist in your story, you’re not going to have an easy go of it. After all, the pages of DC’s comic book history are stained crimson with the blood that the deranged Batman villain has spilled over the years.

He’s not exactly the most likable dude, but somehow, Todd Phillips (The Hangover) and Joaquin Phoenix (The Sisters Brothers) make it work in Joker (in theaters Friday). Not only have they passed the exam with flying colors, but they’ve also broken the mold of the superhero genre as we know it.

In fact, you wouldn’t even know Joker was an origin story about Bruce Wayne’s greatest nemesis during the movie’s first 20 minutes (save for the title card), which introduce us to Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a socially awkward party clown for hire with an uncontrollable affliction that causes him to laugh without meaning to. He’ll be sitting on a bus or on the subway, and break out into high-pitched cackles with no warmth behind them. During these fits, Arthur’s visage is affixed with a nightmarish rictus of pain and sadness as he tries to get a grip on a Tourettes-like trait that will come to define his destiny.

You can keep your Thanoses and your Darkseids, because Joaquin Phoenix is the “Big Bad” we’ve been waiting for

As Fleck, Phoenix is tremendous, the biggest presence on the screen—and perhaps any screen of recent memory—that none of his fellow cast members, from Zazie Beetz to the great Robert De Niro, can even come close to replicating. He’s a gaunt husk of a man, a failed stand-up comedian with mental health issues and the belief that the world has abandoned him. This capricious cocktail is a powder keg of insanity just waiting to blow.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s hard to overstate just how incredible of a performance Phoenix gives and at times, it feels like he studied the idiosyncratic comedy style of the late Charlie Kaufman for inspiration. You simply cannot take your eyes off of him. Fluctuating between charming and nightmarish, jubilant and incredibly melancholy, Arthur feels very real and also very dangerous—graceful like a ballet dancer one minute and jerky like a poorly-oiled automaton the next. You never know what he’s going to do, whether it be an interpretive dance in a filthy public restroom or pulling out the shelves in his fridge, so he can huddle inside of it after a rough day.

The actor shed more than 50 pounds for the role (one he was certainly born to play) and his jutting ribs and spinal cord make him even more of an imposing presence—as if he’s merely a walking cocoon waiting for a spiky insect to burst forth from beneath the surface of waxy skin. Even when Arthur is clothed, the camera often shakes to convey the character’s ever-crumbling frame of mind. By not giving Arthur the help he so desperately needs, Gotham ends up creating its greatest threat.

Speaking of Gotham, this take on the famous fictional city might just be the seediest version ever committed to film. Since the story is set around the early 1980s, the town is a cesspool, a veritable den of iniquity piled high with garbage, rats, corner-camping prostitutes, rampant graffiti, flickering subway lights, and 24-hour porn theaters.

Joker takes a deep dive into heavy human themes like mental health and wealth inequality

The urban decay recalls a similar period in the history of New York City, and that’s not an accident. Phillips (who co-wrote the screenplay Scott Silver) has said several times that he wanted to channel iconic films of that era such as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Like those features, Joker is an intimate character study about a troubled individual more than it could ever be a comic book adaptation. In particular, Phillips directly pays tribute to The King of Comedy by casting De Niro as Murray Franklin, a late-night talk show host who serves the purpose of Arthur’s personal comedic hero.

The sweeping cinematography of Lawrence Sher, lavish production design of Mark Friedberg, and detailed costumes of Mark Bridges all mix together for an effective period piece that wraps you in the world of the film like a straight jacket at Arkham Asylym. Further displaying a Tarantino-esque talent for pitch-perfect musical cues, Phillips fills certain scenes with the mellow crooning of Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” or the out-of-control guitar solo from Cream’s “White Room.” The contrast of these tunes further delineates just how volatile and delusional Arthur can be.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In terms of story, the plot mainly revolves around Arthur trying to learn more about his past and where he comes from. True to the comics, the movie remains rather murky about his origins—drawing some general plot beats from Alan Moore’s influential Killing Joke—but this journey of self-discovery brings the Wayne family into the mix and for once, they’re more like the bad guys than anything else.

Arthur, our “hero,” doesn’t feel like Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen)—who is considering a bid for mayor—really cares about the neglected citizens of Gotham. Of course, Bruce (Dante Pereira-Olson), Martha (Carrie Louise Putrello), and Alfred (Douglas Hodge) are all present, too, but they’re just periphery characters. They’re not fleshed out, but that’s super refreshing since we’ve seen their story told six ways to Sunday.

Like Arthur, we view them as apathetic, personality-lacking rich folks who couldn’t give less of a f*** about the hoi polloi, proving that there are always two sides to the same bat-coin. There’s something very cyclical about the entire thing, which has more in common with Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman effort than you might think.

As the plot progresses, Arthur somewhat inadvertently sparks a clown-centric revolution against the elite members of society that brings the city to its very knees. By the time you reach the last third of Joker, you’ll be on the very edge of your seat, your skin buzzing with electricity, and your mouth hanging open in shock.

You’d never want to emulate Arthur’s ultimate violent actions, but you can still empathize with him as a sad individual struggling for a purpose in a world that’s grown accustomed to turning a blind eye to the downtrodden. Choosing to forgo the classic “vat of chemicals” origin story, Phillips gives us the most relatable and realistic version of the Joker we’ve ever seen.

There have been several amazing performances and interpretations of the character since Cesar Romero first splashed white paint over his mustache for the ’60s-era Batman TV show, but Phoenix’s take is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Similar to Heath Ledger’s looming embodiment of chaos in The Dark Knight, he has given the world another definitive iteration of the Caped Crusader’s biggest foil.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

It is inevitable that this staggering achievement in acting will be dissected from every possible angle in papers, books, and video essays. With that said, this doesn’t maker Phoenix the best Joker we’ve ever seen, it just makes him one of the best, a clever and compelling re-contextualization of everything we ever thought, suspected, or wondered about the long-running bad guy. That being said, Romero, Nicholson, Hamill, Ledger, and Leto (yes, even Leto) have all brought admirable and praise-worthy attributes to the paradigmatic jester of mayhem.

And while this is technically a DC movie, you should really check your Bat-spectations at the door. Joker is adjacent to the superhero genre without ever falling into that definition. There’s no post-credits scene or active world-building for future installments. It’s simply an exploration of what can happen when a person chooses the darkest path imaginable, with some recognizable faces and imagery thrown in to add a little more flavor.

It won’t satisfy the comic die-hards, but if you can think of it as a wholly separate beast—perhaps one published under the Elseworlds imprint—you’ll really enjoy yourself. Phillips treats Joker as a self-contained fairy tale of sorts—albeit one conceived by the Brothers Grimm.

The filmmaker, who is known for his more humorous efforts like Old School and The Hangover, proves here that he can take the comedy genre and spin in on its head in a depraved way that gives you a new outlook on what it means to find something funny. While there are a few scattered moments of light-heartedness in Joker, it never devolves into an all-out chuckle-fest.

You could say that it’ll have the opposite effect, making you laugh in a nervous sort of way when something particularly awkward or disturbing is unfolding on the screen. It’s pure comic book movie alchemy, a darkly beautiful and haunting anomaly that has single-handedly redefined Hollywood’s approach to comics on the big screen.

All in all, Joker opens up the door for all kinds of avant-garde takes on the world of comic book cinema from here on out. The bad guy can be the good guy, the story can be firmly grounded in reality, and audiences can jive with a “superhero” a story that doesn’t utilize capes, cowls, or grandiose visual effects. If that ends up being the case, then Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime will end up having the last laugh.

Joker co-stars Frances Conroy, Marc Maron, Glenn Fleshler, Leigh Gill, Brian Tyree Henry, Bryan Callen, Josh Pais, Shea Whigham, and Bill Camp.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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The post Review: ‘Joker’ Proves You Don’t Need Batman to Have a Good Time in Gotham appeared first on Your Money Geek.



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Review: Luigi’s Mansion 3 [Nintendo Switch]

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Luigi is back and better than ever in the newest installment in the Luigi’s Mansion Series.

This is the third game in the Luigi’s Mansion franchise, and it’s by far the best. Luigi’s Mansion 3 came out on the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite on October 31, 2019.

Players get to master new skills and equipment in this delightfully charming game. Luigi’s Mansion 3 has been wildly popular since its release, with over 5.3 million copies sold.

The game has 4.7/5 rating from GameStop, a 96% positive rating from Google Users, a 5/5 rating from Common Sense Media, and a 86% positive rating from Mediacritic. Luigi’s Mansion 3 was also voted the Best Family Game of 2019 at the Video Game Awards.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 reviews

This game begins with Mario, Princess Peach, three Toads, and Luigi riding on a bus. Luigi and his merry band of friends are going to a hotel—I know, I know, a hotel is not technically a mansion, but the game is still fun anyway—, where they have been promised a luxurious stay.

Unsurprisingly, the promised vacation is not luxurious in any way. Instead, soon after Luigi and company arrive at the hotel, everyone but Luigi is captured by the ghosts of the haunted hotel. This means it’s up to Luigi to rescue his friends.

Review: Luigi’s Mansion 3

Luigi’s Equipment

Luigi’s Mansion 3 sees the return of some iconic equipment from the previous Luigi’s Mansion games and some new equipment to spice things up.

  • The Poltergust 3000 is Luigi’s main tool and only weapon. He uses it to blow and suck air, ghosts, and money.
  • Dark Light Device is a special light that gets attached to the Poltergust 3000 and allows players to see hidden objects and trap ghosts.
  • The Plunger is another Poltergust attachment that can be used to stick to objects to solve puzzles, unblock a path, or attack ghosts.

Review: Luigi’s Mansion 3

Faces: New And Familiar

This new game also features some familiar characters, but also some new ones. Here is a list of characters:

  • Luigi—obviously—is the main character and reluctant ghost hunter extraordinaire.
  • Gooigi is Luigi’s gooey, Jello-esque doppelganger. Gooigi is an indispensable character who, when he’s not stored in Luigi’s backpack, assists him with defeating ghosts and solve puzzles—as long as they don’t involve water.
  • Professor E. Gadd is a zany character with some serious mad scientist vibes. He upgrades Luigi’s equipment, sells him items, and performs unauthorized experiments on him—looking at you Gooigi.
  • Polterpup is Luigi’s adorable ghostly puppy sidekick/mascot.
  • Hellen Gravely is one of the main antagonists and is one of the big bosses and proprietress of the haunted hotel
  • King Boo is a returning enemy from previous Luigi’s Mansion. He is the big bad and is the enemy players face in the final boss battle.

Watch Luigi’s Mansion 3 Gameplay with Lisa Coronado

Watch Highlight: BLIND -Luigi’s Mansion 3! Suck it up buttercup! from ItsASmallsWorld on www.twitch.tv

The Haunted Hotel

The haunted hotel is amazing!

Next Level Games has outdone themselves with the design of this game.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is so fun because unlike its predecessor, Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon, there’s always something new to see or do. There are 15 floors and two basement levels—not including the roof—and each has its own theme, which all look like something players would expect to see in a fancy haunted hotel—you know, if you visited a lot of haunted hotels. Every floor has a boss which players must beat to proceed to the next floor.

  1. Basement Level 2 is the boiler works
  2. Basement Level 1 is the maintenance level
  3. 1st Floor is the grand lobby
  4. 2nd Floor is the mezzanine themed floor
  5. 3rd Floor is the hotel shops
  6. 4th Floor is the excellent stage
  7. 5th Floor is the R.I.P. suites
  8. 6th Floor is Castle MacFrights
  9. 7th Floor is the garden suite
  10. 8th Floor is paranormal productions
  11. 9th Floor is the Unnatural History Museum
  12. 10th Floor is the tomb suites
  13. 11th Floor is the twisted suites
  14. 12th Floor is the spectral catch
  15. 13th Floor is the Fitness Center
  16. 14th Floor is the Dance Hall
  17. 15th Floor is the Master Suite

Fun Takeaways

Some of the best things about this game were the little details. Luigi is a reluctant hero, which is what makes him such a fun protagonist. He spends the entire game afraid of everything. He trembles when he opens doors, jumps at noises, random movement, and jump scares.

When Luigi runs his head lags behind him, like he is a manic character from Tom and Jerry, it’s what makes the game so fun. It’s obvious that Luigi is scared, but with such a fun castle to explore, how can you stop playing?

Gooigi—see in the list above—is a new playable character in the Luigi’s Mansion franchise. He rests in Luigi’s backpack and is loads of fun to play. The graphics really give Gooigi depth, and when players move him around, they’ll get to see and hear how he oozes through obstacles. It is utterly fascinating.

Gooigi is capable of slipping through grates and fences, and essentially has all of the powers Luigi does—except for his weakness with water. Should players decide to play in local co-op, they can choose to play both Luigi and Gooigi simultaneously.

Another great detail in this game is how interactive it is; virtually everything players interact with is reactive. Players can bump into tables, topple chairs, blow on tubas, and break things.

A bonus is that most of those things will also give out money or prizes when players interact with them.

Combat And Puzzles

Combat is entertaining in this game, although Luigi’s Mansion 3 doesn’t feel like a combat-focused game. The Poltergust 300—once again, in the list above—is a weapon without feeling like a weapon.

It is incredible how versatile the Poltergust 3000 is, and it is really cool to consider just how in-depth the game design is to create a world where a modified vacuum with attachments is the only thing players need to succeed.

Also, smashing ghosts against the floor and walls is really fun.

Puzzles are a significant part of the gameplay as well, and they are just as dynamic as the setting and combat. Players are challenged to really think outside the box with this game.

Multi-player Option

Luigi’s Mansion 3 also offers a multi-player mode, which means eight players can gather either online or locally. This game also sees the return of ‘ScareScraper’—which is from Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon—in a co-operative mode or the option to play ‘ScreamPark’ in a team vs. co-operative team mode.

‘ScareScraper’ is a teamwork focused co-op where players must clear randomly generated floors from a high-rise. They do this by hunting ghosts and moving on once all of the ghosts on a floor are cleared.

‘ScreamPark’ pits two multi-player teams—Teams Luigi and Gooigi—against each other in three different match types. The matches are:

  • Ghost Hunt: where the team who catches the most ghosts, especially tough ones, wins
  • Cannon Barrage: is a game where players must obtain cannonballs, some of which are held by ghosts, and fire them at targets
  • Coin Floating: teams must collect the most coins from a pool without collecting any nasty surprises that also lie within the water

Controls are the same in both single and multiplayer modes, and characters are color-coded versions of Luigi and his doppelganger.

Verdict

This game is a fantastic addition to a unique series. There is very little to not like about this game. There is the occasional issue with controls, and some of the puzzles are a little difficult to decipher. These issues are overshadowed by all of the other things that make this game great.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a game with gorgeous graphics, a fun plot, and a charming protagonist. It is an excellent game for players of all ages. With an average of 15 hours of gameplay, without any treasure hunting,

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a delightful way to spend some time with our favorite scaredy-cat ghostbuster.

The post Review: Luigi’s Mansion 3 [Nintendo Switch] appeared first on Your Money Geek.



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Azlo Review – Online Business Checking

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Azlo ReviewAzlo Review

Alzo is an online bank that focuses on simple business banking for entrepreneurs. With a huge focus on online entrepreneurs like freelancers and business, they are looking to change the way these businesses bank.

But what does that mean for you if you’re looking for a great business checking account?

Let’s dive in!

See how Azlo compares to the best business checking accounts and read more in our review below.


Azlo LogoAzlo LogoAzlo Logo

Quick Summary

  • Completely free business checking
  • Integrated invoicing and payment acceptance services
  • Does not offer checkbook services and cannot accept cash

Azlo Details

Product Name

Azlo Business Checking

Min Deposit

$0

Monthly Fee

$0

Account Type

Checking

Promotions

None

What Is Azlo?

Azlo is an online-only bank available in the U.S. and Mexico. The CEO & Co-founder is Cameron Peake. Azlo was founded in 2017 and is part of BBVA USA, Member FDIC.

“Within the banking industry, small business customers usually either aren’t served at all, or they’re served as an afterthought. At Azlo, from day one, we’ve built our product just for them. For example, we don’t have minimum balances or monthly fees. This is important because if you’re a new business owner ― particularly someone who hasn’t started earning revenue yet ― your money should be put towards your business rather than fees,” Peake said in an interview with fitsmallbusiness.com.

What Do They Offer?

Azlo offers free business checking suited for simple businesses such as small businesses, contractors, and freelancers who do all of their business online. 

It also has a no-fee model. Companies that need to write paper checks will want to use a different bank since Azlo doesn’t offer checkbook services. Businesses that need in-branch services and deal with cash will also not be a good fit for Azlo since none of those services are offered.

For most small businesses, Azlo can do virtually everything needed without any fees. It offers simple business checking, but for many small businesses, they don’t need anything more. Here’s what’s included with an Azlo checking account:

  • No-fee checking account
  • Free ATM access using Allpoint Network (55,000 ATMs)
  • Invoice clients for free
  • Debit card
  • Bill pay, which includes option for mailing paper checks
  • Connect your checking account to popular accounting software such as QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Wave.
  • Accept credit card payments through Stripe, Square, or PayPal.
  • Clients can send in paper checks for payment or use a bank transfer.
  • Receive incoming wire transfers fee-free. Outgoing wire transfers are not available.

As you can see from the list above, Azlo is very business-oriented.

Some customers have reported that transfers with Azlo are slower than with other banks. Azlo lists that outgoing transfers can take 1-3 business days, and incoming transfers can take 4-5 business days. Mobile check deposits can take 1-6 business days to process. These processing times can certainly be a factor if you need fast processing for transfers and check deposits.

Azlo cannot send international transfers. They are working on adding this option. Although you can pull from an Azlo account using an international debit service.

We also experienced trouble trying to use the invoicing and receiving payments with credit cards on invoices.

Azlo is available in all 50 states. Azlo is not able to offer services to businesses involved in gambling, money services, privately-owned ATMs, sales of marijuana or its derivatives, precious metals, pawnshops, or cryptocurrency exchanges. It also can’t support limited partnerships or limited liability partnerships.

Azlo does have some limits on certain transactions. From their webpage these include:

  • ATM withdrawals are limited to $1,000/day.
  • Card purchases and over-the-counter cash withdrawals have a cumulative limit of $8,000/day and 30 unique card transactions/day.
  • Transfers TO a linked account are limited to $300,000/day, and transfers FROM a linked account are limited to $100,000/day.
  • Payments through bill pay are limited to $10,000/payment. Bank-to-bank (ACH) payments are limited to $300,000/day.
  • Mobile check deposits are limited to $10,000/check and $20,000/month. Limit can be increased based on your Azlo account history.

Mobile App

Azlo has a mobile app for both the iPhone and Android. On the Apple App Store, it has a 4.3/5 rating from 258 people and 4.1/5 rating from 298 people on the Google Play Store.

Customer Service

Customer service is available by email and phone. You can email Azlo at support@azlo.com. They reply within 1 business day. Phone service is available at 844-295-6466 from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm Pacific time Monday through Friday.

Are There Any Fees?

Nope. Azlo is all-free business checking. That begs the question — how do they make money? Azlo says it makes money by earning interest on checking deposits and from customers using the Azlo debit card.

Payment serviced from Stripe, Square, and PayPal do charge processor fees, but these are separate from Azlo.

How Do I Open An Account?

Accounts are opened online at https://azlo.com.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes, Azlo uses bank-grade encryption on its website, and mobile and BBVA USA is a Member FDIC.

Is It Worth It?

It has potential, that’s for sure.

For small businesses that have simple checking needs and want to accept online payments from customers, Azlo will do everything you need. 

It has integrated invoicing and the ability to accept payment from credit cards and bank transfers, providing a great infrastructure for small businesses.

However, if you’re looking for more, check out our list of the best business checking accounts here.

The post Azlo Review – Online Business Checking appeared first on The College Investor.



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10 Slow Cooker Recipes That Will Make Dinner Time Easy

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Are you looking for some new and delicious slow cooker recipes so you can have tasty and stress-free dinners this week?

I love making meals in a slow cooker. Dinners are so much easier when you start everything in advance! I’m less stressed, can focus on things I’d rather do, all while knowing that I have a delicious meal cooking.

So, if you’re looking for some of the best slow cooker recipes, I have 10 new recipes for you to try – that’s almost two full weeks of meal ideas!

I think you’re going to like all of these slow cooker recipes, but here are my favorites:

  • Easy Slow Cooker Cauliflower Soup – Cauliflower, cashews, and a smoky chickpea topping. This soup is packed full of protein, and it’s vegan. This soup is creamy, rich, and the chickpea topping is roasted, which gives it a nice crunch.
  • Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken Soup – Chicken, black beans, fire roasted corn, lime juice, and more. You can top this hearty soup with cheese, avocado, sour cream (I like to use plain Greek yogurt), and more.
  • Mozzarella Stuffed Crockpot Meatloaf – Garlic, onions, mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, and more. This meatloaf even has a delicious sweet and spicy glaze on top. I honestly had no idea that you could even make meatloaf in the slow cooker until I found this recipe.

Many of these slow cooker recipes take 15 minutes or less of prep time, which means you can easily make them before you go to work in the morning. They also make great leftovers for lunch the next day.

I like to put together slow cooker recipes before we go out hiking, biking, or exploring. We’re usually very hungry when we finish, and having a slow cooker meal ready to eat means we’re never too tired to eat dinner at home.

Being too tired or too hungry to cook is probably one of the top reasons for going out to eat, but dinner out can easily cost $30-$50. That can be a lot of extra spending that you didn’t budget.

So, these slow cooker recipes will give you some delicious new ideas, make dinner time easier, and they’ll keep your food budget in check. 

If you’re interested in more meal ideas, I recommend checking out the following articles for more of my favorite recipes:

Note: If you’re looking for easy weekly meal plans, full of budget recipes, I recommend $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a delicious meal plan and shopping list every week for just $5 a month.

Here are 10 slow cooker recipes.

 

1. Easy Slow Cooker Cauliflower Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

2. Slow Cooker Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

3. Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

Get the recipe here.

 

4. French Beef Stew

Get the recipe here.

 

5. Teriyaki Chicken Quinoa And Veggies

Get the recipe here.

 

6. Salsa Verde Chicken Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

7. Slow Cooker Corned Beef Tacos

Get the recipe here.

 

8. BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos

Get the recipe here.

 

9. Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Get the recipe here.

 

10. Mozzarella Stuffed Crockpot Meatloaf

Get the recipe here.

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes?

The post 10 Slow Cooker Recipes That Will Make Dinner Time Easy appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.



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