Review: Joker (4K)

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.

Plot: An original standalone origin story of the iconic villain not seen before on the big screen, it’s a gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, and a broader cautionary tale.

Director: Todd Phillips

Aspect Ratio: 1.85.1

Runtime: 122 min

Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Joker gives its infamous central character a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star — and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema.

Online Ratings:

  1. Rotten Tomatoes 69% (Audience 88%)
  2. IMDB 8.7
  3. Metacritic 59

“A cruel inside look of a man unwrapping a present to find there’s nothing inside.”

Review:

This movie was shot with Arri Alexa cameras in 3.4K, 4.5K & 5.1K and ultimately finished at a 4K Digital Intermediate — this means you’ll get a native full-screen ratio 4K disc. Does it get any better than that? As per the norm with UHD releases, it was also given a HDR color grade for your viewing pleasure in both Dolby Vision & HDR10. This not only has a sharp image with little to no grain, but the color palate does wonders with the use of HDR — the warmth and rich colors jump right off of the screen and it really captures the look and feel of the era it takes place during.

It’s a reference disc which means you get all the gems that come with a reference disc — great color, detail, tone, depth, contrast and everything else you may want or look for in a home release. Not only do all those staples hit, but the little things make their mark too; beard stubble, facial hair, pores, imperfections, buildings, furniture, clothing, sweeping shots of Gotham City — everything looks amazing and consistently near flawless.

You can see the love that went into this film on every layer because it doesn’t happen in a handful of scenes, it continues from start to finish in the two-hour runtime. Right out of the gate in Chapter 1 you get up-close and personal with Arthur in the mirror, during his counseling session and on the bus. The early minutes showcase the HDR doing wonders to color tone, the sharpness of the picture and the detail in various suits, hair, skin tones, imperfections, etc.

Where you will start to see great examples of depth and contrast are in the following; Chapter 2, Chapter 3 & Chapter 4. During these scenes you will follow Arthur to the dark studio-audience of the Murray show to the comedy club (which is only lit from the dim table-lamp lights). The professional lighting in these scenes drive out the great color and contrast — you’ll continue to notice this during the duration of the film. This dim-lighting continues amid the ‘bathroom dance’ scene with white paint, blood and the color of his clothes standing out in the darkness — it’s just beautiful.

As you already know, most of the film is dark, but in Chapter 9 you get your real first radiant scene while Arthur dancing in his bathroom with the rising-sun coming through the window. The HDR does its own dance on the pink tiles around the room in addition to the green paint dripping down his face — all the while, the sharpness and clarity brings out the tiny details on his face, marks on the mirror and other imperfections of the bathroom. That’s not all, this continues just moments later when Arther is painting his face white in the mirror in the other room — textures from the brush strokes are more striking and visible.

How could I not include the iconic stair dancing scene in Chapter 10! In this scene the colors and texture of his suit looks amazing because of the bursts of HDR on display under the natural sunlight — everything gets a boost, enjoy it. Lastly, you’ll be amazed by the smoking slow-zoom in shot before and after Arthur enters the Murray show. You’ll get an array of blue and pink hues on the professional set which (as he enters the room) brings out the color across the stage. You will notice this in the set furniture, interior walls and on the Joker’s entire wardrobe. Everything is more vibrant than before — the green in his hair and the white, red and blue paint on his face. Theses are some reference quality close-ups that hold and captivate you and your screen during the entire scene.

As a side note, there are some amazing reference grade shots of Arthur looking out at the riot through the police-car window too — Wow!

These little notes here and there are just what I decided to note while I was watching the movie. It sounds improbable, but I could’ve noted multiple highlights in every chapter or scene of this movie — just take my word for it, it’s an amazing disc. Everything about it works in every way, there’s nothing negative to say.

How would I put this film into words? It’s about a man named Arthur living with his mental illness and dealing with the harsh world around him. It’s not a pretty picture, he’s literally beat down again and again. As soon as something starts to go his way, it’s taken away. As soon as the moment might land where he’s happy, it’s ripped away. As soon as he begins to feel hope, it’s flipped to despair… You’re basically getting a cruel inside look of a man unwrapping a present to find there’s nothing inside. That’s the tone.

At the time, this was my number one movie of 2019 back in October and with my recently released Top 15… it stayed at #1 as the year came to a close. This movie was masterfully acted and directed, shot with astounding cinematography and it even had an exquisite score to heighten the tension — I still love everything about it. Like I mentioned in my review, at the very minimum Joaquin Phoenix deserves a nomination for his work. He nails literally every aspect on screen and he carries the entire weight of the film at a near flawless level. Can’t wait to see this movie pile up nominations and trophies come award season.

Not only was is my favorite movie of 2019, but it’s one of the best discs you can own in the 4K UHD format. With all of that, you have my recommendation to pick up JOKER right when it releases on home video — it’s a must own. Make sure you grab it at your local retailer when it releases on 4K & Blu-ray this Tuesday, January 7th.

Did you catch Joker in the theater? How many times? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Cheers,

Matt.

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