Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


If Joker had been made by ordinary people, it would have been dismissed as an overdone dive into violence. Instead, a team headed by actor Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips has created a wicked nightmare on film. The arguments generated by its violence spring from fear of spreading violence in young people. Whatever your theories, the combination of acting, music, and filming will glue you to your seat. Just try to look away.

We meet Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) who carries a card explaining that he is infected with a disease of frequent inappropriate laughter. That being the premise, director/writer Todd Phillips and his team create two hours of a man laughing as he indulges himself in his inherent criminal brutality. The background sound – sometimes musical, sometimes noise – is fulltime frightening.

In the film’s biggest weakness, Arthur asks his therapist for more meds. “You’re on seven already,” is her reply. If indeed she is a professional, we have little respect for her wisdom. Whenever Fleck becomes violent, the grim atmosphere is heightened by his expressions and the dark music. Even when this sick guy is taking good care of his bedridden mother, we are scared for her. The junk laden filthy subway is yet another scene of one of his memorable explosions.

Well into the movie and sunk in dark expectation, we watch Fleck walking around the city with frightening expressions and reactions to the smallest triggers. By now, we are scared in the certainty that even worse will come. With a cigarette hanging full time from his mouth and his head wrapped in smoke, we can feel the audience sinking into fear of what will come next.

As I think about the fear I felt while watching, I realize that Joaquin Phoenix has managed to create a man riddled with a sickness so deep that we are scared even in the protection of the theater. Every puff of smoke, every grimace, every hideous laugh is wrapped in a score that magnifies everything that is unfolding.

As you leave the theater, you may be soaked in a new determination to avoid subways, elevators, and dark city streets. The simple proof of the quality of this filming is that the fear audiences feel is solid proof that Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips have created two hours of hideously infectious suggestion. The why of that is partly due to new filming techniques that are well suited to terror.

Banning books or movies always leads to demands for more censorship. No, thank you. Let this movie be an example of the ability of expert filmmakers who succeed in lifting whole audiences right up into the story they are telling on screen. I will never forget the fear I felt eight decades ago when I watched Spencer Tracy create Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Though it didn’t turn me into a savage, it still pops back into my head now and then. Verdict? They made a good movie.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Joker
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 2:02
Rating : R
Date : 13 October 2019


Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


Do go to US if you want to watch good actors deliver a genuine horror movie. Do not go if you have a weak heart. I must add that I watched it alone in an empty theater and thought several times that I might not make it. That’s because a strong cast sets out to terrify us and succeeds.

In 1986, an ordinary family sets off on a Santa Cruz beach vacation. We meet Adelaide, a reluctant Mom (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe (Winston Duke), a determined Dad. When we see four odd people holding hands across the driveway, we tense a bit and when that doesn’t scare the beach going family, we know the horror – or the fun, depending how you look at it – has begun.

Our sympathy goes quickly to the reluctant wife as her family – now in the beach house – is invaded by another family armed with knives. No need to spoil things for you with the grim details, just to say that if you want a horror show, you’ve got one here. I don’t even risk overstatement by saying you’ll have two hours of shock and terror.

A personal question: Why have I always been, and still am, scared of amusement parks? A dim feeling of danger and the sweat of fear would creep, uninvited, during the few times I went as a kid or as an adult. What is it about amusement parks that is so unsettling? The danger of a roller coaster? The dark of a narrow tunnel going certainly to even more danger?

If you have any of those feelings you will be as scared as I was. The good news is that if you are a lover of horror shows, you will be rewarded with great pleasure because good actors deliver the requisite suspense. The best – or worst – part of all this is the periodic unleashing of loud, piercing, unexpected shocks that come with no hints of the impending doom.

The actors – both adults and children – wrap their characters in imaginative cloaks of good and evil and that is the engine of the story. Who is good and who is bad? Because they are accomplished, they are able to level us with fear.

It’s not irrelevant to ask what in the wildest of all dreams led writer/director Jordan Peele to want to create this stew of horror. In talking with people who have seen it, people who love horror love this film. Those who don’t – like me – wonder about the why of it all. Isn’t life complicated enough without stewing in family horror?

As I prowl through movie lovers who have seen it, I was amazed to hear all kinds of views, rooted in intelligence, that never once occurred to me. That could be because I had my hands over my ears much of the time. If you decide to risk it, one word of advice: do not, as I did, go alone.