Viewing the videos GRAPHIC

A controversial and compelling movie, “Joker,” arrives in theaters this week, while the extremely well done (and much more family friendly) “Toy Story 4” is available in home video.

It’s Viewing the Videos.

HOME VIDEO/STREAMING

Toy Story 4

The creators of “Toy Story 4” say they returned to the franchise after an absence of almost a decade not to make money, but because they had a story to tell.

It’s a very good story.

“Toy Story 4” continues the magic, the charm and the heart that have made this franchise one of the most beloved in movie history.

As “Toy Story 4” opens, the members of the crew live with Bonnie (after being passed on from Andy in the last movie). She is about to start kindergarten.

She comes back from her first day with Forky, a toy created out of trash from school.

Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear are back. And making vocal appearances are comedy legends Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Betty White and Carl Reiner.

Bonnie’s family (and her toys) embark on a road trip in an RV. When Forky falls off the RV, Woody decides to help save him.

Nine years after “Toy Story 3,” the filmmakers have created another stellar addition that adults and children will be enjoying for years to come.

Highly Recommended

Midsommar

Last year, director Ari Aster delivered a masterful blast of terror in “Hereditary.”

His new film, “Midsommar” is self-indulgent and disappointing, especially when it comes to the terror aspect.

Aster cast lesser known actors this time around (compared to Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne in “Hereditary”) and they were unable to provide believability to the labored dialogue and traditional plot.

Static camera work and plodding dialogue could be overcome with heavy doses of on-screen horror, but there’s not even enough terror and gore for hard-core fans to sit through this.

Not recommended.

IN THEATERS

Joker

“Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, will astound some people and infuriate others.

No one will walk away without a strong opinion, one way or the other.

“Joker” offers one take on what turned civilian Arthur Fleck into one of the great villains of movies and comic books: The Joker.

It’s an emotionally involving, if depressing, story. The character of The Joker was pretty evil, and this story is one way of explaining it.

The first time we see him, Arthur is in his clown makeup, pushing the corners of his mouth up into the exaggerated, and perhaps demonic, smile that is the Joker’s trademark.

Fleck is struggling to exist.

He sees an uncaring social worker who supplies him with medication and suffers from a disorder that causes him to laugh uncontrollably, including at inopportune times.

Fleck makes his living as a clown for hire: parties, twirling those big signs, that kind of thing, and is still living with his mother.

He gets beaten up by some punks in the street who steal his sign, and then gets fired for carrying a gun into one of his appearances in front of hospitalized children.

Think this might indicate some deeper problems?

Well, on his way home from the hospital, he’s again attacked in the subway, and kills three people with the gun. Is this the premeditated act of a deeply disturbed person, or a situation where things just went bad?

The movie is set in the New York City of the late 1970s, where things were bad. There was garbage everywhere. Funding cuts caused Fleck to lose his medication and there is rising resentment of the upper class.

Fleck’s actions set off a tumultuous protest in New York against the wealthy, including Thomas Wayne (father of Bruce, who later becomes Batman).

Director Todd Phillips and Phoenix have combined to create an oddly sympathetic character even though he is a violent person. Often times he dances through the mean streets. And he seems to have genuine feelings of warmth when he interacts with small children. And most of the time, he’s gentle with his mother (Frances Conroy), even delicately pouring water over her head while she washes her hair in the bathtub.

However, Phillips and Phoenix gloss over some incidents in his childhood, including abuse, that are often found in violent criminals.

Phillips also creates a vivid and intense atmosphere in New York City (think Martin Scorsese), with grainy Kodachrome colors, violence in streets and a garbage-strewn cityscape so real you can almost smell the stench.

“Joker” is a complicated movie. The movie is definitely something to think about, punctuated by graphic violence, and some odd laughter from the audience.

Four Palm Trees.

FROM THE VAULT

Taxi Driver

The decaying New York setting is important in “Joker.” Director Todd Phillips pays homage in a good way to Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” perhaps the ultimate depiction of a dysfunctional New York City. Like “Joker,” it’s not a pleasant movie, but it’s also thought-provoking.

HOW WE RATE THE FILMS

Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.

New Releases are rated as follows:

Five Palm Trees: Must see

Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen

Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen

Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying

One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.

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