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Joker (2019) - 4K UHD/Blu-ray Review

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Joker (2019)

Joker was frightening proposition for this reviewer, who has been a lifelong Batman fanatic. Firstly because it presumed to make the focus of its narrative on one of the greatest antagonists in storytelling history, without the hero; secondly because it wasn’t going to stick with pre-established touchstones of the character; and finally because hyperbole always irks me, and the casting of Joaquin Phoenix and the film’s mission statement pre-lauded success before they’d even shot a frame. While there is zero doubt that Phoenix had the acting chops to pull off a great performance, the challenge of making the Joker the main character of a film still warranted restraint.

Until today.

"It is a remarkable performance that is nuanced, violent and perfectly executed"


The Joker has had many origin stories, all varied and inconsistent, depending on the source, the decade, and the talent behind which version is being depicted. He has in all versions been a mysterious anarchy, an unreliable narrator, and a danger to anyone foolish or unfortunate enough to be in his wheelhouse. In keeping with the notion that the Joker could tell you a thousand different versions of how he came to be, Todd Phillip’s dour, gritty take masterfully works as one of those stories, and I encourage you to see it that way.

The cruelty of Gotham and the descent of a broken man into the villain we all love to hate, tells the tale of one Arthur Fleck, a down and out clown for hire, and wannabe comedian. In this oppressive city backdrop, we see Arthur endure constant humiliation and ridicule that goes from bad to worse. He is a man trying to make sense of his own inability to experience joy and yet suffers from a mental condition that causes hysterical and uncontrollable laughing. All this leads to Arthur losing his job, being beaten constantly, slipping back and forth into delusions about love and bonding with a beautiful woman or a talk show host he idolizes on TV. This is one quickly crumbling cookie of a human being. {googleads}

As more adversity comes down on top of him in ever escalating and threatening ways, Arthur himself begins to escalate his responses to it. His actions influence Gotham in toxic and influential ways, emboldening him to go further and further. By the finale, Gotham city will never forget the name: Joker.

Phoenix’s turn at this role is deeply unsettling. This is not a guy you wanna be around. He is off from the first frame. One of those kinds of people that would put you on the back foot from the moment you met them. He is a very unpleasant person to be around, and takes the lion’s share of the film’s running time. The events that push him from broken to psychotic are pitiable, to begin with, but as he escalates what he does and who he has become, he is repellent. It is a remarkable performance that is nuanced, violent and perfectly executed.Joker (2019)

Also cleverly done (although confusing to me, as they said this was a one shot) is the way that Batman’s mythology is folded into the narrative and rounds off the end of the film. It really does allow this version of the Joker to come to bear on future DC films. Whether it does or not, I’ll guess we’ll see.

Phillips definitely takes his direction out the Scorsese play book, right down to casting Robert De Niro as the talk show host Fleck adores. It’s an almost reverential copy of the film giant’s style and works well for film Phillips is making.

The score is littered with very disparate songs and music that are as all over the place as its subject. It works well to highlight Flecks constant state of wrong.

Well now I can say I am frightened for the right reasons. Phoenix’s Joker is one for the records. He accomplishes a character you don’t want to be around and is so far gone by the credits you want Batman to take him out. His road to Hell will incite debate on the motives of nature or nurture, victim or devil, justified or not. A film that doesn’t force one interpretation down its audience’s throat but allows them to decide was, in this reviewer’s view, the only way to do a Joker film. I hate the guy. This worked.

4/5 stars

Joker (2019)

4K UHD

Blu-ray Details:

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD

Home Video Distributor: Warner Bros.
Available on Blu-ray
- January 8, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K region-free; blu-ray locked to Region 1/A

The Joker hi-def experience begins as soon as eyes are set upon the wonderfully-themed packaging that houses this 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital Code two-disc combo pack. The cardboard slipcover is matte-printed and houses the matching black two-disc eco-case containing a 4K disc, a blu-ray copy, and a Movies Anywhere digital code redemption coupon.

VIDEO

You too will put on a happy face once the disc is popped in your player. Warner's 2160p transfer is absolutely stunning as Phillips' (along with DP Lawrence Sher) dark, brooding palette provides the perfect backdrop to highlight the ultra-saturated delight to come. In fact, despite its rather dark and depressing subject matter, Joker is actually a quite beautiful and colorful film even during the night scenes where flames, neon signs, and clown costumes will really show off your system's capabilities.

As expected, the picture is always super sharp with hairs and threads (even threads of threads) on Joker's elaborate costume remaining perfectly visible. Check out the clown riot scene at the 1:50:00 mark for proof.

AUDIO

Warner's Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio track is a thing of true beauty as the sounds of New York become a living breathing character while Hildur Guðnadóttir's cello-heavy score fills the room with a menacing dread from left, right behind and above. Never experienced any problems with the dialogue which was always clean and crisp and remained faithfully centered with appropriate pans to left and right. Your room will be completely filled by this soundtrack that features many period classics that run the gamut from Lawrence Welk, to Stephen Sondheim, to Jimmy Durante, to Frank Sinatra, to Cream and even Ray Davies.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

This is where things begin to feel a bit neglected by Warner as we get but four bonus features totaling about 30 minutes of extra material.

  • Becoming Joker (01:23) - a strange little feature that depicts Phoenix before and after costume and make-up.
  • Joker: Vision & Fury (22:25) - Phillips and other cast and crew sit for discussions about the origin of the Joker character and execution of the film.
  • Please Welcome... Joker (02:44) - Phillips again sits to discuss the film in what feels like a continuation of the Vision & Fury piece. Includes numerous takes of the Murray Franklin segment.
  • Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos (03:04) - a still image gallery with Ken Burns effect applied.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

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Joker (2019)

MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.
Runtime:
121 mins
Director
: Todd Phillips
Writer:
Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Cast:
Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz
Genre
: Crime | Drama
Tagline:
Put on a happy face.
Memorable Movie Quote: "When you bring me out, can you introduce me as Joker?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site: http://www.jokermovie.net/
Release Date:
October 4, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Director Todd Phillips “Joker” centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.

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Joker (2019)

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