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JOKER IS SERIOUS FUN: James King's Week in Movies

Our resident film critic rounds up the best new films!

James King

This week sees three familiar movie genres get new leases of life. First up there’s JOKER, giving comic book films an unforgettable edge. Then there’s Beyoncé’s BLACK IS KING, a musical like no other. And finally KNIVES OUT brings the whodunnit slap bang into the twenty-first century. Happy viewing! 

BEST NEW MOVIE ON NOW TV

JOKER

If ever a film were designed to provoke a reaction, it’s JOKER. No wonder, then, that it topped a list of ‘Most Complained About Movies of 2019’ thanks to its dark tone and realistic violence. Based on the famous DC Comics character, director Todd Phillips and Oscar-winning star Joaquin Phoenix have made a film more influenced by gritty 1970s dramas than by superhero movies.

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Joker is now available to watch on NOW TV and Sky Cinema

Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a troubled Gotham City loner and wannabe comedian who can take no more of the world he sees around him. Hence he becomes the green-haired outlaw Joker - a madcap criminal whose anti-establishment stance attracts the media’s attention. In other words: it’s bleak, yet beautifully so. Watching Joaquin’s trademark, off-the-wall intensity in a big-budget, mainstream movie is spine-tingling stuff. Just don’t expect any actual jokes. 

JOKER [15] is new to Sky Cinema and Now TV

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WATCH: Joaquin Phoenix wins the Oscar for Joker

BEST NEW MOVIE ON DISNEY+

BLACK IS KING

Beyoncé sure knows how to make an impact. As co-writer, director, producer and star of BLACK IS KING, she kept the project carefully hidden until last week when it dropped onto Disney’s streaming platform. The result? Rave reviews from all quarters for this ‘visual album’, the movie accompaniment to last year’s collection The Gift (itself inspired by B’s role in the remake of The Lion King). If ever we needed proof that Sasha Fierce is no longer just a pop star but a guru it’s this. 

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The visual album is available to watch on Disney+

BLACK IS KING is stunning, more art installation than straightforward film. The plot, such as it is, follows a young African boy coming to terms with his place in the world and his potential. In other words, it’s pretty much the story of The Lion King. But told through song, astounding visuals and dreamlike poetry, this is something hypnotically beautiful, elegant and surreal. It’s not a white knuckle ride admittedly, yet still a remarkably inventive statement of heritage and power that only Queen Bey could have come up with. Long may she reign. 

BLACK IS KING is on Disney+

BEST NEW MOVIE ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

KNIVES OUT

Enjoy Agatha Christie tales and a game of Cluedo? Then KNIVES OUT is the film for you. Written and directed by Rian Johnson (whose previous film was Star Wars: The Last Jedi) here’s a rollicking whodunnit with a refreshingly modern bite. Prepare for the edge of your seat to get plenty of attention as you try to work out who killed bestselling thriller writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). 

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Watch Chris Evans (and his jumper) in Knives Out on Amazon Prime Video

With a large and eccentric family like his, everyone’s a suspect and the dream cast of Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Chris Evans and Don Johnson make the most of their cheeky dialogue. But it’s Daniel Craig as private investigator Benoit Blanc - aka “the last of the gentleman sleuths” - who steals the show. Alongside Harlan’s beloved nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), Blanc unpicks the bigotry and backstabbing that runs through the family with a Poirot-like precision (and the fruitiest Deep South twang you’ll hear this side of Alabama). Craig is clearly having the time of his life and you can understand why. KNIVES OUT is the romp we all need right now. 

KNIVES OUT [12A] is available with an Amazon Prime Video subscription

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