Joker

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/7/20;
Warner;
Drama;
Box Office $333.5 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.
Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Douglas Hodge, Josh Pais, Leigh Gill.

In DC Comics, the Joker has been Batman’s primary nemesis for 80 years, and part of the reason he remains such a fascinating character is the mystery surrounding his origins and motivations.

That isn’t to say that there haven’t been versions of a Joker origin story over the years, most often tailored to a specific story being told. There just hasn’t been a definitive one as clean as his counterpart’s, the boy who grew up to fight crime after the murder of his parents. The tale of the Joker is often messy and contradictory, which only adds to his intrigue and popularity.

With the movie aptly named Joker, director Todd Phillips brings a new interpretation of the character. The script by Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver is mostly a gritty, disturbing character study about what could push a man to reject society and embrace chaos; calling it Joker, as Phillips admits in the bonus materials, just gives comic book fans an excuse to see it.

But that’s not quite a fair assessment, as the story, while not directly adapting any of the myriad source material available, does touch upon several classic elements associated with Joker and Batman from the comics, particularly the notion that all it takes is “one bad day” to push a man over the edge.

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The film is anchored by Joaquin Phoenix’s immersive performance as Arthur Fleck, an anti-social, mentally ill loner and aspiring stand-up comedian who fantasizes about being accepted by a society that has little use for him. The film is set in 1981 in a moody version of Gotham City that threatens to burst at the seams at any moment, as corrupt bureaucrats leave public services underfunded while the wealthiest citizens, including Thomas Wayne, seem to have no interest in alleviating the tension.

While the story takes some violent turns and the film has courted controversy with its disturbing tone and sympathetic portrayal of a homicidal iconoclast, it nonetheless became a massive it. The film’s version of its title character has struck a nerve, becoming something of an anti-establishment champion of the downtrodden.

Phillips himself as even hinted that maybe Fleck isn’t the villain who ultimately confronts Batman, but is more of an inspiration for whomever that may be. But that’s a debate for fans and potentially a sequel that was never intended but may become a reality due to the film’s success.

Even so, there’s no requirement that this version of Joker be tied to any of the other versions of DC characters being displayed on the big screen at the moment. The look and style of the film is heavily inspired by Martin Scorsese crime dramas of the 1970s and ’80s, particularly Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, which is perfectly in line with graphic novels that reimagine characters in different settings, something DC’s Elseworlds imprint did all the time. So, this movie is basically just what if the Joker were a Scorsese antihero.

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The bonus materials for his initial home video release of Joker are somewhat sparse given its impact. The primary extra is “Joker: Vision & Fury,” a pretty good 22-and-a-half-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with many of the filmmakers and cast discussing how they sought to present their distinct vision of the character and his circumstances.

The other three featurettes are short highlight reels. “Becoming Joker” is a minute-and-a-half montage of Phoenix test footage; “Please Welcome … Joker!” is a nearly three-minute compilation of alternate takes of Joker’s entrance onto the late-night talk show that plays a central role in the story; and “Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos” is little more than a three-minute slideshow of photos from the movie.

Warner Sets ‘Joker’ for Digital Release Dec. 17, Disc Jan. 7

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the acclaimed blockbuster Joker through digital retailers Dec. 17, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 7.

Directed, co-written and produced by Todd Phillips, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as the title character based on the iconic Batman villain, a man struggling to find his way in Gotham City’s fractured society in the early 1980s.

The cast also includes Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Douglas Hodge, Josh Pais and Leigh Gill.

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The film has earned $330.5 million at the domestic box office and is the first ‘R’-rated film to earn more than $1 billion worldwide.

Home video extras include the featurettes “Joker: Vision & Fury,” “Becoming Joker,” “Please Welcome … Joker!” and “Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos.”

The Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of Joker will feature a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

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Family Dynamics Build Conflict in ‘Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters’

Even though he’s a superhero, Batman can’t build a gadget to shield himself from family conflict in Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters.

Voice cast and creators were on hand at San Diego Comic-Con for the world premiere of the direct-to-video title July 21. The animated movie, which involves Batman, Batgirl, Robin and other superheroes facing off against Red Hood, who is obsessed with destroying the Bat-family and all of Gotham City, will be available Aug. 20 on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“It’s kind of an analysis of Batman because he really is the head of the Batman family and there’s a responsibility that goes with that,” said director Matt Peters in an interview before the screening. “How would Batman the crime fighter deal with that? Is he ok with that? Is he comfortable with it? Is it something that he would like to relinquish? Is it something that he would like to take responsibility for? And that’s kind of the story for a hero as well.”

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In the feature, Batman faces different conflicts with several family members, including various Robins.

“You have Batman trying to struggle with being a superhero and a dad at the same time,” said Troy Baker, who voices Batman and noted he’s facing his own dad struggles with a  14-month-old son. “The past, present and future are kind of tag-teaming him because you have Nightwing … you have Jason Todd, you have Red Hood, you have Damian Wayne — we see how much of an important facet Robin is to Batman.”

Jason Spisak, the voice of Red Hood/Jason Todd, finds the disaffected character easily relatable for families.

“A Lego movie is a great chance to have a whole family watch it, and if there’s someone in the family who’s bitter and somebody who’s angst-ridden or whatever, they can see this play out on the screen and then at the end when Batman and Jason have a moment of reconciliation, they can possibly open that door in their own family,” he said.

Then there’s Batgirl to add some spice.

“With Lego, the humor is far more sardonic,” said Alyson Stoner (Batgirl). “There’s a sassiness and a snarkiness to her in this version.”

While the Lego direct-to-video projects involve a separate universe from the theatrical movies, they have the famous plastic brick world in common.

“We do work hand and hand with Lego,” said producer Rick Morales, adding, “I got to go to Denmark to actual Lego headquarters and work out with their team what they might create for their sets and talk about the possibilities.”

Legos make up all the sets for the DTV title.

“You can pretty much take anything that’s in this movie and build it straight up from Lego bricks,” he said. “It would cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. I wouldn’t recommend it. But most everything in here is really buildable, and we’ve even developed a library with our designers of CGI bricks that are legitimate in scale.”

“Honestly, it’s one of the coolest projects I’ve ever been involved in,” Stoner added. “You just say the word Lego, and it’s pretty awesome.”

Playing one of numerous Batmans on page, screen and home video involves a certain responsibility to the character, Baker said.

“This may be the first introduction to Batman that somebody ever has,” he said. “And if that’s it, I just want them to go, ‘What’s the original?’ All of these pull from these great storylines. So if I make a kid or an adult pick up a comic book, then I’ve done my job.”

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/4/19;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for fantasy violence.
Voices of Troy Baker, Darren Criss, Kyle Mooney, Baron Vaughn, Eric Bauza, Rachel Bloom, John DiMaggio, Tara Strong, Tom Kenny, Carlos Alazraqui, Cas Anvar, Keith Ferguson, Brian George, Ben Giroux, Andrew Kishino, Jim Meskimen.

The popularity of the 2015-16 Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book miniseries made a movie version a no-brainer. Fortunately, respective rights holders Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon agreed to join forces to produce the pleasantly surprising Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bringing the two worlds together is a better fit than one might imagine, as both Batman and TMNT present heroes expertly trained in the martial arts with a vast supporting cast to play off of.

The key team up here, however, is between the villains, as the story brings together like-minded cult leaders Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul in an alliance that forces Batman and the turtles to join forces to stop them.

The film has fun pairing up different members of the supporting casts, and presents some great fight sequences, most notably Batman taking on all four turtles at once, and another of Batman in a brutal one-on-one showdown with Shredder.

The colorful animation style is evocative of the classic designs of many of the characters without looking too cartoony, finding a nice balance between the absurdity of the premise and a story that takes itself seriously but doesn’t forget to keep a tongue in its cheek. Yet it also doesn’t forget the nature of its characters and isn’t afraid to play up the bloody violence of which they’re capable.

The comic book itself a collaboration between two companies, DC Comics and IDW, spawned a second miniseries in 2017 and a third in 2019. So there should be plenty of material for future movies to work with.

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The Blu-ray includes the featurettes “Cowabunga, Batman! When Comic Worlds Collide,” an interesting look at the history of comic book crossovers that runs about 13 minutes, and “Fight Night in Gotham,” an 18-minute video that delves into the animation techniques used to depict the different fight match-ups and the fighting styles of the characters.

Animated ‘Batman: Hush’ Due July 20 Digitally, Aug. 6 on Disc

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Batman: Hush, the next installment of the DC Universe line of animated movies, digitally July 20 and on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and the DC Universe streaming service Aug. 6.

An adaptation of a popular comic book storyline from 2002 and 2003, the film centers on a shadowy new villain in Gotham City known as Hush who uses Batman’s rogues gallery to attempt to destroy his crime-fighting career, as well as Bruce Wayne’s personal life, which has become complicated by a relationship with Selina Kyle, the alter ego of Catwoman.

Batman: Hush is the 35th film in the DC Universe animated movie brand and the 14th film in the DC Animated Movie Universe, a shared continuity started by Son of Batman and Justice League: War.

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The voice cast includes Jason O’Mara as Batman, Jennifer Morrison as Catwoman, Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane, Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Jason Spisak as Joker, Peyton List as Poison Ivy (reprising her role from the “Gotham” TV show), Peyton R. List as Batgirl, Geoffrey Arend as the Riddler, Sean Maher as Nightwing, Maury Sterling as Thomas Elliot, Bruce Thomas as Jim Gordon, Adam Gifford as Bane, Sachie Alessio as Lady Shiva, Stuart Allan as Robin, James Garrett as Alfred, Hynden Walch as Harley Quinn, Chris Cox as Scarecrow, and Tara as a reporter.

The home video release will include the “DC Showcase” animated short Sgt. Rock, based on DC Comics’ gritty World War II hero.

Other extras include the featurette “Batman: Love in Time of War,” about the relationship between Batman and Catwoman; audio commentary executive producer James Tucker, director Justin Copeland and screenwriter Ernie Altbacker; a preview of the upcoming animated movie Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, starring Rosario Dawson; and the episodes “The Underworld Underground Caper” and “Partners in Peril” from the 1968 animated series “The Batman/Superman Hour.”

Warner Releasing ‘Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters’ Aug. 20

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the animated movie Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally Aug. 20.

The film is a follow up to previous direct-to-video movies based on the Lego DC Super Heroes video games, and not the theatrically released The Lego Batman Movie.

The story involves Batman, Batgirl, Robin and other superheroes facing off against Red Hood, who is obsessed with destroying the Bat-family and all of Gotham City.

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The cast includes Troy Baker as Batman, Alyson Stoner as Batgirl, Scott Menville as Robin, Jason Spisak as Red Hood, Steve Blum as Scarecrow, Zach Callison as Billy Batson, Cam Clarke as Brother Eye and the Bat Computer, Will Friedle as Nightwing, Ralph Garman as Wizard, Jake Green as Fred, Josh Keaton as Board Member, Tom Kenny as Comissioner Gordon and Penguin, Christian Lanz as Two-Face, Nolan North as Alfred and Killer Croc, Andre Sogliuzza as Riddler, Tara Strong as Batwoman, and Fred Tatasciore as Solomon Grundy.

The Blu-ray and DVD releases will include an 84-piece Lego mini Ultimate Batmobile while supplies last.

Note: This report has been updated with a new street date of Aug. 20. The previous street date was Aug. 6.

Warner Releasing ‘Batman’ Films on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is releasing four “Batman” movies on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, timed for the 80th anniversary of the introduction of Batman in the comic books.

The slate includes 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns, both directed by Tim Burton, and 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman & Robin, both directed by Joel Schumacher. The films, remastered in 4K UHD for the first time, will be released as standalone 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo packs on June 4 and as a four-film collection Sept. 17.

The 4K Ultra HD combo packs and the collection will also include a remastered Blu-ray Disc of the films.

The discs will include a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for home theaters.

Warner, Nickelodeon Present ‘Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the animated crossover movie Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles digitally May 14, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray June 4.

A joint production of Warner Bros. Animation, Nickelodeon and DC, the film unites the forces of the Dark Knight and the Heroes in a Half-Shell to overcome the evil plans afoot in Gotham City when Shredder joins forces with Ra’s al Ghul.

The cast includes Troy Baker as the voices of both Batman and the Joker, the first time one actor has played both in the same film; Cas Anvar as Ra’s al Ghul; Rachel Bloom as Batgirl; John DiMaggio as Mr. Freeze; Tara Strong as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy; Tom Kenny as Penguin; Carlos Alazraqui as Bane, Brian George as Alfred; Ben Giroux as Robin; Jim Meskimen as Commissioner Gordon and Scarecrow; Keith Ferguson as Two-Face and Baxter Stockman; Eric Bauza as Leonardo; Darren Criss as Raphael; Kyle Mooney as Michelangelo; Baron Vaughn as Donatello; and Andrew Kishino as Shredder.

The film is inspired by the comic book miniseries series Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released in 2016 by DC Comics and IDW Publishing.

Blu-ray and digital bonus material includes the featurette “Cowabunga, Batman! When Comic Worlds Collide,” an exploration of the crossover concept; the featurette “Fight Night in Gotham,” about animating different fight styles; and a preview of the upcoming DC Universe animated movie Batman: Hush.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray will include Dolby Vision HDR and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

Final Season of ‘Gotham’ on Disc July 9

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Gotham: The Complete Fifth and Final Season and Gotham: The Complete Series on Blu-ray and DVD July 9.

The final season of the series focuses on Bruce Wayne’s ultimate transformation into Batman while Jim Gordon struggles to hold together a city on the edge of chaos. The cast includes Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, Chris Chalk and Shane West. The final episodes are slated to air in April on Fox.

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The season five set will include 12 episodes plus deleted scenes, the behind-the-scenes featurette “Modern Mythology,” and highlights from the show’s 2018 panel at New York Comic Con.

The Blu-ray will include digital copies of the episodes.

Updated 3-19-19 with new street date. Old street date was June 11.

MGM Seeks Epix Minority Financial Partner

A day after launching Epix Now, a standalone over-the-top video subscription service, MGM Holdings reportedly is seeking a financial partner for the branded multiplatform video distributor.

The corporate parent to MGM Studios paid $1 billion two years ago buying out 81% of Epix it didn’t own from partners Viacom and Lionsgate.

The Information.com, citing sources familiar with the situation, said Epix is looking for a fiscal partner to help it expand original programming development for the $5.99 monthly SVOD service as well as branded pay-TV channels.

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The report said MGM chairman Kevin Ulrich is working with investment bank LionTree Advisors with the aim of retaining majority control of Epix.

Last year, Epix bowed eight-episode espionage series, ‘Deep State,” season 2 of “Get Shorty,” boxing competition show, “The Contender,” and unscripted comedy show, “Unprotected Sets.”

Other original shows include “Berlin Station,”“Pennyworth,” a dark telling of the superhero origins of Batman butler Alfred Pennyworth from Warner Bros. and DC Comics, “The Godfather of Harlem,” a 10-episode crime drama starring Forest Whitaker; “Our Lady, LTD,”starring Ben Kingsley, “Slaughterhouse-Five”and “Shook Up,” as well as several other scripted and unscripted shows.

Epix — which represents the bulk of MGM’s media networks segment – generated $108.6 million in third-quarter revenue (ended Sept. 30, 2018), up 5% from revenue of $103 million during the previous-year period. The channel posted pre-tax earnings of $673,000 – down 98% from pre-tax earnings of $43.6 million last year.