A Star is Born (2018)

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From comedy star in ‘The Hangover’ to more dramatic turns in films like ‘American Sniper’, Bradley Cooper has certainly been down many avenues and now he throws his stetson behind the camera for his directorial debut; a musical romance and fourth remake of the ‘A Star is Born’ brand.

Hugely famous country star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) seriously struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. On a desperate trawl to find a bar, Maine staggers into one where waitress by day-singer by night Ally (Lady Gaga) is performing. He quickly falls for her looks and talent and they begin a whirlwind relationship that sees Ally become a singer/songwriter idol.

In the 1950’s Judy Garland headlined the first remake and the 70’s saw Barbra Streisand take the lead in a rock and roll setting, one Bollywood film later and now it’s mega popstar Lady Gaga’s turn to take the cinematic stage. There’s no doubt that she’ll be up for an Oscar nomination because her performance is sensational and she makes the film what it is. The road to success with tricky obstacles and media manipulation is ripe for the times currently in Hollywood and the music perfectly encapsulates Ally and Jackson’s rocky relationship.

This movie is like a biopic of Gaga’s career, you can just see how the films’ content of moulding someone to how the management want them to be, mirrors her Poker Face days, before her songwriting and more heartfelt tunes took flight. The pop music side of Ally’s journey and the SNL showbiz aspect are necessary attributes in showing how the industry works and really demonstrates Ally as a strong individual to stick with all these changes in the dream of being recognised for her talent. She also sticks with Maine because he saw that spark within her, their relationship may be odd and harbour some cheesy moments but it feels real and the pair work beautifully together.

At a certain point it does feel like the film stretches ever so slightly and you could almost check out of the plot but thanks to the music you get drawn back in. Also, there is a very predictable narrative to follow but there’s some stunning cinematography from Matthew Libatique which goes from a pristine bathroom to a gorgeously crimson tinged drag club and the films final shot rests on a powerful, stunning image and though it is silent it sings a thousand words. On top of the great DoP work, the musical numbers themselves are toe-tappingly heartfelt and ‘Shallow’; a song penned by Gaga and Mark Ronson is gunning for an Oscar nom as well and rightly so because it screams with drama.

Cooper, with his flushed red cheeks and slurring Western drawl embodies the stereotypical drunken cowboy singer but softens this rough edges with a clear love for his Ally rose. Gaga is incredible throughout, her voice is a God given gift that fills the heart and the speakers with power. It isn’t just her singing talents that sell the film, she makes Ally a fully rounded character and you truly buy into her rise to stardom with a difficult romance aiding the way.

‘A Star is Born’ is a country and western musical for modern times and like TV show ‘Nashville’, it hits with lyrical gems and dramatic characters to soar to the top of the charts.

7/10

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Oscars 2016 Look Back

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So, another Oscars and film awards season is over. I’ve just woke up after watching the 88th Academy Awards live, which was certainly one with lots of expectations, not just because of switching in to see how the diversity racquet would be dealt with but also because of apparent film darling DiCaprio and whether he’d finally scoop an award.

Before the ceremony began, I always flick on for the red carpet, I don’t get fashion or know what works but you know, if someone looks good, guy or gal then it’s still fun to watch. There’s always that pandering talk but straight out of the blocks was a smouldering Saoirse Ronan in an plunging green number, showing more than usual but looking elegant all the same. Alicia Vikander can do no wrong for me even in a very pale yellow dress. Dapper li’l Jacob Tremblay came up the red runway and he is a cool cat and should have been nominated…I think really one of the big snubs this Oscar year.

So it began…everyone in their seats, me included…not in the Dolby Theater of course, I can but dream. Chris Rock was a fantastic host in my opinion, he dealt with the diverse (or lack of) issue head on which was both honestly searing but energetically funny at the same time.

Best Screenplay became an expected win for Spotlight, considering it’s well handled subject matter though the sci-fi intrigue and technological brilliance of Ex Machina was my favourite.

Adapted Screenplay got handed to The Big Short which for me was a Darth Vader scream of ‘Nooooo’ but apparently people lapped it up, my twitter feed had lots of BS fan’s…and that’s exactly what I’m calling…BS.

Next up we had a little video reel of black actors appearing in Oscar nominated films was brilliantly done; Tracy Morgan as a Danish girl or Whoopi Goldberg with a mop calling out the dumbness of Joy was a great tone to this whole #oscarssowhite issue/debarcle.

Supporting Actress came around, my heart beat levels for the Swedish stunner were rising. Luckily Vikander got the win, I was so so happy, I mean yes, Ex Machina was better but then she was the best feature about The Danish Girl even without eating pastries like Tracy Morgan.

Mad Max: Fury Road gained prizes for all the visual ideas, costume/hair/production which made this action movie more than expected. A huge dystopian world of thrills and vision. What a day, what a lovely day they had.

The Revenant won for cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, his third on the trot; fair as it does look grand, sweeping and beautiful but The Hateful Eight was also glorious but better detailed even when not outside in the snowy landscapes.

I very much liked how awards were presented this year, production or costume props rolled out as presenters came onto the stage. The sound and editing nominees were also presented well in the clips with a neat style to it all. Also commenting on the winners ticker tape that went along the bottom – I liked that, a fair chance for the winner to have names listed even if they forget in the heat of the moment or the orchestra plays them off.

Ex Machina got a Best Visual Effects win, yay, well deserved because the sci-fi of the film is stunning. And could we also pretend that Oscar Isaac’s dance number was a sublime visual effect for the movie.

Nice to see Buzz and Woody even if their voices sounded like they had a cold, even better because they almost made me forget that the Minions appeared at the Oscars, oy, what a sentence I never thought I’d write. Boy and the World perhaps should have won Best Animated Feature because it would have opened it up to more views but I can’t deny that Inside Out was excellent and therefore I’m happy it won.

Supporting actor finally came around after many commercials, what a surprise as I thought the nostalgia factor would of been ol’ Sly to get it after so long, that would have been a dream but from what I’ve heard Mark Rylance was a top draw act opposite Hanks.

Lady Gaga may not have deserved a Golden Globe but her performance last night was emotionally powerful, important, moving and a solid moment when stars stood and the world hopefully took notice. Like Legend and Common’s song of 2015, this performance very much leapt out as the big talking point.

Ennio Morricone seems like such a lovely humble man with his speech accepting Best Score, which spoke even louder volumes. A fantastic soundtrack for a fantastic film, which was followed by Sam Smith, yes really. That’s all I shall say otherwise I’ll get mean. Hang on though, his performance was dreary and his song is so meh…especially after that Gaga song how on Earth did he walk away with the Oscar??

Alejandro G. Inarritu won for The Revenant, very expected but I’m disappointed, we get it, it was a tough cold shoot but George Miller presented a fun yet directorial feat of thrills, spills and unique film-making, I mean a sequel of years for lordy sake and it was exhilarating for a 70 year old to direct.

Brie Larson , yay again, expected again but if you saw her in ‘Room’ then you know she was the rightful recipient for Best Actress.

Now the real big one, no black nominees aside, the Best Actor time had come. More memes for Leonardo DiCaprio or finally his turn?? He must know about the internet love for him and now he gets the Oscar looking genuinely in awe at the standing ovation. He did a lot for the trophy but I still feel this wasn’t the film for his prize, he always felt/looked like DiCaprio but with a beard and muddier. I kind of wanted him to lose for more memes to come rolling in.

Spotlight won the heavy metal for Best Picture and though it does follow all the yawn Oscar tropes it’s a seriously important topic and delved into well, the ensemble acting truly makes it too. I realise this will end up being a forgettable BP winner but it’s delicately directed and acted in the Church crime story being uncovered.

All in all, last night’s late watching proved a great choice, Chris Rock leapt at the hosting chance with great zip, the jokes sometimes got edgy but I feel they needed to be. The Oscars also provided some good surprises this year in terms of winners but sadly it may have all been let down by no sign of the one, the only and wickedly talented John Travolta.

 

 

 

 

Machete Kills (2013)

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Just barnstorming, crazy action and B-movie silliness from top to bottom, I like this sequel, nowhere near as much as the 2010 film but something in the weird side of my brain let me enjoy this and though it gets long and dragged down by odd attempts at multi-connecting plots it’s a fun ride.

After his partner gets killed Machete (Danny Trejo) is called by the President of the US (Carlos Estevez) to track down a mad schizophrenic leader called Marcos Mendez (Demian Bichir) who has hot wired a missile to his person to go off and destroy Washington. On his mission he’s helped by handler Blanca (Amber Heard) and the return of She/Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) as he battles cartels, a vengeful man-eating brother keeper and time itself to get across the Mexican border.

Now, this film isn’t a step up at all, it only steps up the insane amounts of kills and explosions. The story itself, bashed together by Robert and Marcel Rodriguez is stupid. End of. It goes on far too long and you do feel it a couple of times and the way they keep feeding in other characters and have them going after the bounty on Machete and Mendez’s heads gets bonkers. Take it with a pinch of salt however and the story of shifting personalities, bodies and a plot to enter space becomes hugely entertaining.

It has some very funny moments, the comedy placed nicely along with the Grindhouse Mexplotaiton cinema blend. Props and costuming feature as comedic tools, i.e Madame Desdemona’s chest cannons and her pelvic pistol. The way it’s filmed stays in keeping with the small schlock-fest vibe and grainy frames heighten this way of movie making. The trailer beforehand and flashing instructions for 3D glasses make it feel like a tacky drive in movie and that somehow works to its benefit.

In opposition to this, I also believe, strongly that ‘Machete Kills’ is also ludicrously unintentionally funny. A lot of ideas feel out of place and even too much for this mega filled narrative. It also looks a lot cheaper than the first film did, blood splatters and CGI work being blindingly obvious. I know that’s most likely the point but ‘Machete’ didn’t feel so rushed or cheap, it looks like a cleverly constructed action art-house film in comparison.

The characters are all pretty genius though and the film revels in getting a former actor turned viral pothead sensation to play the leader of the free world! A chameleon character literally changes their appearance whenever seen, very silly but a sneaky way for extra cast I guess. The brothel girls are powerful yet scantily clad in their marching quest to kill men. A schizo leader gets odd back-story and plays panto in being over the top to oppose the silent grouchy Machete, ever brilliant as ruthless, handy with blades and against twitter. Genius again is this film for getting former actor turned talked about racist to play the big baddie of the film. All in all the colorful characters make the film more spectacular and cartoonish.

Danny Trejo is Machete, he plays the non-shifting presence of the titular character with enough grit and creased expressions to make you believe Machete exists. Sofia Vergara is a sheer delight of insanity as man-eater Desdemona, her screeches and angry calls to hunt down Machete are brilliantly done and the character calls for selling it as it’s so out there and sell it she does. Amber Heard is sex on legs as beauty pageant candidate and handler for Machete. The glamour puss look as she kicks ass and smiles her way through give her enough time to play Amber Heard with possible degree of nasty. Carlos or Charlie ‘Winning’ Sheen gets big screen time after his Adonis DNA trip and there’s expected funny lunacy to him playing the President. Mel Gibson is actually a perfect villain and he plays another bat-poo character that somehow is left with the ability to see the future. The snarls and cold eyed reserve he keeps when playing against the hero are great and he stands out, lifting the film after a large messy slump.

Tainting the original, this film gets too crowded in plot and character, the way it smartly parodied things before now get tiresome and are done to machete-ridden death. Though it’s fun, more violent and a joyride you know you shouldn’t take pleasure in but do.

5.5/10