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.

A commentary with Phillips is available exclusively through copies of the film on iTunes, which owners of the Blu-ray can access as a result of the Movies Anywhere redemption code included with the disc.

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Leads Golden Globes as Traditional Studios Dominate Film Categories, Streamers Take a Handful of TV Trophies

Traditional studios led the way in the film categories, while streamers and Pay-TV networks divvied up the TV categories at the 77th Annual Golden Globes ceremony Jan. 5 in a ceremony held in Los Angeles and broadcast on NBC.

The Golden Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and are seen as one of the bigger precursors to the Academy Awards.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood won three Globes, including Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay for Quentin Tarantino, and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt. The film is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digitally from Sony Pictures.

Best Motion Picture — Drama went to Universal Pictures’ World War I film 1917, which was recently released in theaters. The film also won Best Director for Sam Mendes.

South Korea’s Parasite won Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language. Universal Pictures will release the film digitally Jan. 14, and on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 28.

Best Motion Picture — Animated went to Fox’s Missing Link, now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital.

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Warner’s Joker won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama for Joaquin Phoenix, and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir. The film, a dark imagining of the origin of the DC Comics Batman villain, is available now digitally, and on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 7.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama went to Renee Zellweger for playing Judy Garland in Judy, which is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally from Lionsgate.

A24’s The Farewell, on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from Lionsgate, won Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy for Awkwafina.

Taron Egerton won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy for playing Elton John in Rocketman. The film also won Best Original Song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Rocketman is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digitally.

Netflix did find some love in one movie category, as Marriage Story won Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern.

Netflix also won in the TV categories with the third season of “The Crown,” as Olivia Colman won Best Actress in a TV Series — Drama after taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy, who had previously won for the role in the category during the show’s first season.

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HBO programming won four awards, with “Succession” taking two, winning Best Television Series — Drama for its just concluded its second season, and Brian Cox for Best Actor in a TV Series. The miniseries Chernobyl won Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, with Stellan Skarsgard taking the trophy for best performance by a supporting actor on television.

Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag” repeated its Emmy success, taking Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy for creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Hulu series took a couple of trophies as well, with Ramy Youssef of “Ramy” winning Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy, and Patricia Arquette of “The Act” taking the award for best supporting actress on television.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television went to Russell Crowe for Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, on DVD from Paramount and CBS.

FX’s Fosse/Verdon won Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for Michelle Williams, following her Emmy win for the role.

Several presenters and winners took a moment to call attention to the devastating bush fires in Australia. But aside from a smattering of more pointed comments throughout the night, honorees largely avoided the kind of blatant politicizing these kinds of awards ceremonies are often criticized for. Host Ricky Gervais began the event by calling out Hollywood hypocrisy in his opening monologue.

“Apple rolled into the TV game with ‘The Morning Show,’ a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China,” Gervais said to a smattering of shocked laughter. “You say you’re woke but the companies you work for, I mean unbelievable, Apple, Amazon, Disney, if ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent. Wouldn’t you?”

“So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use this as a platform to make a political speech right, you’re in no position to lecture the public about anything,” Gervais continued. “You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, all right, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your god, and f**k off, OK.”

 

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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‘Sisters Brothers’ Coming to Digital Jan. 22, Disc Feb. 5

The Western comedy-drama The Sisters Brothers will be released through digital retailers Jan. 22, and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 5 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Based on the novel by Patrick deWitt and directed by Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers is set during an 1850s gold rush and follows two brothers (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) earning a living as hired guns as they hunt down a chemist (Riz Ahmed) and his unlikely companion (Jake Gyllenhaal) who have stolen a valuable formula.

The Sisters Brothers premiered at the Venice Film Festival and earned  Audiard the Silver Lion Award given to the best director of the festival.

The film carries an 85% Fresh score on RottenTomatoes.com and earned $3.1 million at the domestic box office.

Bonus materials include the featurettes “Striking Gold: Making a ‘Modern Day’ Western,” “Brothers Forever” and “Wanted Dead or Alive”; a Q&A panel; a gallery; and the theatrical trailer.