On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 7, 2020

Joker is no The Dark Knight, but much like in Christopher Nolan's second Batman film, the music in writer/director Todd Phillips' origin story about the Clown Prince of Crime plays as critical a role as any living, breathing human character. The score in Joker is so critical in fact, that Joaquin Phoenix's titular character breaks into dance at multiple points in the movie; the music and movement serving as an expression of certain emotions Phoenix's Arthur Fleck is otherwise unable to convey. The first time Arthur kills another person he actually ends up killing three people and though it could be argued the first two were in self-defense, the third death was not only unnecessary, but it is one Arthur seeks out and is determined to have for his own sense of satisfaction. Naturally, Arthur flees the scene for fear of being caught, but once he dumps the weapon and composes himself he slowly begins to move his feet as if a ballet dancer practicing the battement tendu position. As Arthur's arms move into second position composer Hildur Guðnadóttir's score begins to swell and these chords and motions only serve to amplify the liberation the character feels. Liberation of one's self after taking another's life is certainly dark, but it also isn't anything we haven't seen from comic book characters-especially villains-before and Joker certainly isn't the last time we'll see it either. What is it then, that makes this specific instance of revenge from a man beaten down by society both so egregious and compelling as has been highly documented in the cultural response to the film? Is it that Arthur Fleck's trajectory resembles that of any number of mass shooting culprits? This seems a given, yes, but more it is the level of joy-and not only joy-but satisfaction that Arthur and his eventual alter ego come to gain from the act that has incited concern over both the portrayal and promotion of such a man. Sure, Phillips and Phoenix have intentionally crafted as gritty, raw and grounded a movie as any film inspired by comic books has dared to be and in that type of portrayal there is inherent shock to be found (you saw The Boys, right?), but while Joker and its screenplay wrestle with what exactly it's trying to say it stands to make a statement about how this product of certain circumstance inspires a man to become what he believes necessary to remedy others from those same, undesirable circumstances. That's not to say he's right, but what is maybe most unsettling about the film and Phoenix's performance is that Arthur believes he is. Video review here. Full review here. B+

Willem Dafoe's face was made to be lit from below and shot in black and white, but even for that undoubtedly large demographic this feels a bit indulgent. A psychological meltdown of a movie constructed from the aesthetics of German expressionism and the mentality of a cheeky modern horror flick, The Lighthouse is a fascinating effort based on these factors alone, sure, but never captivating or compelling. Video review here. C-

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