Saudi film fans have last laugh as ‘Joker’ premieres in Jeddah

Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film at Vox Cinemas in the Red Sea Mall. (Photo courtesy: Vox cinemas KSA)
Updated 06 October 2019

Saudi film fans have last laugh as ‘Joker’ premieres in Jeddah

  • Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film
  • Moviegoers young and old flocked to see the gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, the mysterious Joker, a man disregarded by society

JEDDAH: With a black carpet rolled out for guests, Gotham City came to Jeddah for the highly anticipated movie premiere of “Joker.”
Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film at Vox Cinemas in the Red Sea Mall.
Moviegoers young and old flocked to see the gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, the mysterious Joker, a man disregarded by society.
Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. He wears two masks, the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he is part of the world around him.
Isolated, bullied and dismissed by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker, Batman’s arch enemy.
“Joker,” co-produced by Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger, stars other big-name actors alongside Phoenix including Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy.
As fans in Jeddah waited for the movie to start, they got into the spirit of the occasion by taking selfies wearing Joker T-shirts, with one film buff sporting a handmade Joker mask.
They also took it in turns to imitate the infamous Joker’s laugh, and some members of the audience continued to laugh along with him during the movie itself.
The film began by taking viewers to a makeup room where Fleck is seen stretching his mouth with his fingers in a forced smile.
“No one is born evil, just like Arthur Fleck. This movie shows how significant everyone’s stories are in making them who they are. It’s a must watch,” said Fadi Shahid.
Eerie and dark, despite the abundance of so-called jokes, the story and cinematography were depicted as sad, unpredictable and very disturbing, according to one Jeddah cinema enthusiast, Rsha Khan.
“I didn’t expect to like the movie, as my friends and I see Heath Ledger as the one and only Joker, but Phoenix’s acting and portrayal of the character was amazing.”
The story connected the audience to the Joker, developing a love-hate relationship with sides of his character not seen in previous movies.
Despite strong reviews from fans, including raves for Phoenix, the film has been met with skepticism in some quarters. However, the Saudi audience gasped, laughed and applauded as Phoenix blew new life into Batman’s rival.
Khan added: “I would love to watch this Joker against Batman; I feel like that is definitely something I want to see.” 
The film had viewers on the edge of their seats throughout its two-hour duration and Samia Sheikh said: “It was such a bold and dark movie; still it was beautiful. I really liked that they showed the Joker’s real feelings behind his terrifying personality, which was sad to watch. The whole movie was an emotional roller coaster.”
She also praised Phoenix for his performance in the role of Fleck and said she would recommend the movie to anyone.


Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. (Supplied)
Updated 10 min 24 sec ago

Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

CHENNAI: Movies on World War II have delighted cinema audiences for years. Nobody can forget the daring Allied escape in the 1965 “Von Ryan’s Express” with Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard driving a train through Nazi-occupied territory.

There were others in that decade and earlier such as David Lean’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” about British prisoners of war building a railway in malaria-infested Burma (now Myanmar). These were great classics, but recent efforts have not been as memorable.

(Supplied)

Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. Despite audiences still being thirsty for WWII sagas and a star-studded cast (Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas), the film is unmoving, mainly because of the shallow characters. If the dialogues are stiff, the dramatic potential – including the relationship among the men – appears to have been left midway.

The film begins with Japan’s December 1941 air attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, which dragged America into the conflict, and the flick follows America’s revenge mission culminating in the June 1942 Battle of Midway.

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For the US, it was a victory against all odds giving them control of the Pacific’s Midway atoll. It was also a major triumph of human spirit, but the film does not quite capture it.

Most of the exploits relate to real-life fighter pilot Dick Best (Skrein), whose devil-may-care attitude earns him the title “cowboy.” His wife Ann (Moore), the only female character, urges him on but seems a washed-out figure. However, there is plenty of action in the air with dog fights, bombings and pilots ejecting from burning planes high above the ground.

(Supplied)

For fans of singer Jonas, his small but significant part may appeal. He is sailor Bruno Gaido whose spontaneous and heroic action during a Japanese raid earns him promotion.

“Midway” plays at three levels, including one about Japanese military officers, and was shot in Hawaii and Montreal with a lot of computer graphics thrown in. The camera work (Robby Baumgartner) is impressive, but somewhere the soul is missing, and the characters fail to come across as real people.

Despite this, the film opened atop the North American box office last weekend with a reported $17.5 million in ticket sales.