Posts Tagged ‘bradley cooper’

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A Star is Born is the Best Movie of 2018

October 10, 2018

Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott

My goodness, I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I knew going in from how I perceived the trailer and from a couple of reviews that I read that it could be something special and A Star is Born did not disappoint. It’s a true marvel in the marriage of my two favorite art forms: cinema and music. I spent the first half of the film smiling uncontrollably as Lady Gaga’s character Ally is taken under rock star Jackson Maine’s (Cooper) wing and thrust into the spotlight. The entire sequence that leads up to her stepping on the public stage for the first time is remarkable. It gave me goosebumps… It made my eyes water… It made me want to stand up and clap… and there were 90 minutes left in the movie!

The second half of the film is a different beast altogether and it took me two viewings (yes, I saw this movie twice in three days) to come to grips with how I really felt about it. While the first half of A Star is Born treads through familiar territory – underdog overcomes obstacles and odds to achieve success – the second half finds the film’s characters travelling paths that may make audiences cringe. That’s a good thing. Life isn’t easy and even the most successful and famous people in the world are real human beings with real problems. That’s something that’s easy to forget in a world where we tend to place entertainers and athletes on a surreal platform where their triumphs and tragedies are merely here for public amusement. Nothing pounds this point home like sitting in a packed theater and listening to the audience laugh through one of the film’s most tragic scenes. I can see how it is humorous, but it’s a horrifying and potentially career-threatening moment for Ally and I can assure you, we aren’t laughing with her.

Bradley Cooper has really elevated his star power with this movie. He was already an A-List actor, giving Oscar-nominated performances in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper, but this is the best performance of his career. He really disappears into the role of Jackson Maine and embodies a grizzled, gin-soaked rock star in convincing fashion. And he can sing? And play the guitar? What. Being able to do those things at all is impressive enough, but being able to do them at a high level is pretty mind-blowing to me. I never thought the guy that played Phil in The Hangover could possibly be this talented, but here we are, and Cooper is easily one of my top 5 or so actors of the moment.

Cooper also directs A Star is Born and helped write the script. It really is a monumental achievement as this movie is going to get heaps of Oscar nominations. The script may have roots in previous films, but the chemistry and complications of the two main characters feel entirely genuine and that is a credit to Cooper’s intimate, borderline invasive, direction as the camera is unrelentingly capturing their every vulnerable moment in extreme close up. This is particularly true of Jackson Maine as you see him absentmindedly interacting with the people around him while he’s clearly wrestling with the demons inside his own head. Until he meets Ally. Ally gets his whole attention.

And she will get yours too. Lady Gaga is a revelation. I’ve read that exact sentence about this movie quite a few times, but I don’t know how else to put it. She is absolutely remarkable. Gaga is an international superstar with over 26 million records sold. She’s as famous for being absurdly eccentric as she is for her music. And yet, she embodies Ally as a talented, but unremarkable nobody and is convincingly blown away by her newfound good fortune. It amazes me that the pop star confidently strutting around in a meat dress and the girl trying to work up the courage to step on stage in this movie can be the same person. I suppose Eminem did something similar with 8 Mile in 2002 when he was at the height of his popularity, but every moment of that movie felt like Eminem was simply playing Marshall Mathers. Ally is so far removed from how we perceive Lady Gaga that even though this movie may be semi-autobiographical it still feels like a transformative performance. Gaga is mesmerizing every moment of this movie. She will get an Oscar nomination and she seems like a favorite to win right now.

Andrew Dice Clay plays Ally’s father and Sam Elliott plays Jackson’s brother and both performances are noteworthy. There’s a scene where Elliott’s character comes at odds with Jackson and I could feel Elliott earning an Oscar nomination in that moment.

A Star is Born also happens to feature the best music of Lady Gaga’s career. “Shallow” and “Always Remember Us This Way” are amazing songs and the whole soundtrack ranges from good to incredible. Even the poppy “Why Did You Do That?” has its place and plays an important role in the course of the story. Gaga’s performances brought tears to my eyes no less than three times and even Bradley Cooper’s solo songs are quite enjoyable. That reminds me… the stage performances are incredibly shot. I’ve read that the crew shot the scenes during breaks of actual music festivals, so it’s no surprise how authentic it all seems… because they are real performances in front of real crowds.

Cooper plays an alcoholic in this movie and it really hit home with me. I’m over eight years dry now and I don’t attend meetings and I have fully rebounded from any lasting affect drinking had on my life. So most of me feels completely removed from that part of my life and the majority of the people in my life these days never even knew that side of me, my wife included. But a small part of me stays vigilant, reminding myself not to forget and not to get too confident in sobriety. I’m sure one of the worst mistakes I could ever make is to think I could possibly drink responsibly. Watching A Star is Born is the closest I’ve felt to my own personal hell in many years. It literally broke my heart watching Jackson Maine succumb to his disease. I thought the portrayal was incredibly authentic and every step of his evolution was something I could personally relate to. It’s amazing how walled off you can be to the damage you are causing to those around you.

It’s been a while since a film affected me the way A Star is Born did. It’s easily my favorite film of 2018 and, glancing at my Top 10 lists, might be the best movie I’ve seen in years. This movie really has it all. It’s an absolute must watch that may end up being viewed as a true classic a few years down the road.

Replay Value: I’ve seen it twice already and liked it even more the second time. My wife still hasn’t seen it and I’d be happy to watch it a third time in theaters with her. I will definitely be buying this movie.

Sequel Potential: No direct sequel potential, but since this is at least the fourth iteration of this film, future versions are clearly likely.

Oscar Potential: Tons. Here are your locks for nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Original Song, and Best Sound Mixing. The movie is also drawing live at Best Supporting Actor (for Sam Elliott), Best (Adapted?) Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Makeup, Best Production Design, and maaaaaaaaybe Best Costume Design. It’s basically drawing live at a nom in every possible category and could challenge the record of 14 total nominations. I’m not sure exactly how Best Original Song works, but if one film can get multiple nominations I expect this one to get at least three in that category alone. This movie will win Best Original Song, but I’m not sure for which song. My personal vote would be for “Shallow.” I will be surprised if someone tops Lady Gaga’s performance in this movie and I can’t imagine rooting for anyone else come Oscar night. This is also my clear favorite for Best Picture at the moment.

Dina Meter: I think the second half of this movie is a bit challenging, but I will be pretty shocked if my wife doesn’t fall in love with this movie and if it doesn’t bring her to tears.

9/10 (Phenomenal)

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Movie Reviews: American Sniper, Boyhood, How To Train Your Dragon 2

February 4, 2015

AMERICAN SNIPER

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
Director: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Unforgiven)

Bottom Line: I’ve heard that this story is quite embellished by Hollywood, but since I’m unfamiliar with Chris Kyle’s story, I can only judge the movie as a movie – and I liked it quite alright. Bradley Cooper gives another stellar and nuanced performance and, along with his awesome voice acting in last year’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, has cemented himself as one of the industry’s top leading men. Clint Eastwood’s direction is as crisp and tense as it has ever been, even if this might not be his greatest film. I also found it interesting how underdeveloped Chris’ family is in the movie – perhaps a fitting scenario for active military during wartime. Overall, I enjoyed American Sniper, but it’s not the first movie I would think of for Best Picture and is probably a tad overrated in general.

Replay Value: I’m somewhat interested in reading Chris Kyle’s book and if that happens, I almost certainly will watch the movie again. Even so, it’s probably worth another watch.
Sequel Potential: It would be highly disrespectful, but Hollywood has done worse things.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for 6 Oscars: Best Picture and Best Actor, plus Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay, and Sound Editing.
Nudity: Can’t remember – I don’t think so.

Grade: 6.5/10 (Strongly Recommended)

BOYHOOD

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Director: Richard Linklater (School Of Rock, Waking Life, Dazed And Confused)

Bottom Line: Highly praised by critics and blasted by many as being overly boring and too long, Boyhood falls somewhere in the middle. It’s hard not to appreciate director Richard Linklater’s ambitious decision to film his story over 12 years in real time and it’s interesting to watch the kids grow up on screen. The script tackled themes of broken homes, divorce, moving around a lot, alcoholism, peer pressure, bullying, teen angst, young love – and heartbreak – experimentation, and moving on (to college or elsewhere) – and the affect all of that has on growing up – quite well. Even if it doesn’t reflect one’s own childhood exactly, I can’t imagine not being able to relate to Mason’s story in a lot of ways. However, while Mason’s transition from a naive youngster to angst-filled and too-cool-for-school teen may reflect many of today’s youth, that doesn’t make it particularly interesting. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette give pretty good performances here, but at the end of the day, Boyhood is a merely good, not great film.

Replay Value: Definitely a weakness. Even the people that loved it probably weren’t lining up to see it again.
Sequel Potential: Unlikely, but… Richard Linklater has a history of putting out unlikely sequels with his Before Sunrise franchise.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for 6 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Linklater, acting noms for Arquette and Hawke, plus Editing. This is probably the favorite for Best Picture even though it’s far from my favorite 2014 film – particularly because I think the script is not all that awesome – but I do think Linklater has a good chance at Best Director and editing a 12 year epic seems like a good way to get a statue also.
Nudity: None.

Grade: 6.5/10 (Strongly Recommended)

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (2014)

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Kit Harrington
Director: Dean Deblois (How To Train Your Dragon, Lilo & Stitch)

Bottom Line: A mostly boring sequel to a pretty good original film that is overshadowed by a solid, feel-good ending that will leave most watchers thinking it was better than it really was.

Replay Value: Since I never watched the original again, it’s pretty unlikely I’ll ever see this again — until I have kids (and then I better damn well get used to it!).
Sequel Potential: #3 is due out in 2017 or 2018 and it sounds like this franchise could go deep.
Oscar Potential: Somehow got nominated for Best Animated Feature while The Lego Movie did not. What?
Nudity: None.

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)

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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

March 3, 2013

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver
Director: David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings)

Quick Thoughts: David O. Russell follows up The Fighter with another powerful film in Silver Linings Playbook. This film tackles mental disorders and broken relationships, but is still a love story at its core. Russell seems to have a knack for coaxing great performances out of his casts. After earning three acting nominations for The Fighter, the Silver Linings Playbook cast managed four. De Niro gives his best effort in at least ten years, Lawrence cements her status as the best young actress in the business, and Cooper is shockingly awesome. Truly, in most years without a Daniel Day Lewis movie, Cooper deserves an Oscar. The material handled here could easily be presented in an annoying fashion, but the cast makes it work…wonderfully. The end result is a sweet and troubled love story, the kind of which a man shouldn’t have to be dragged to the theater to see.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Worthy of owning.
Sequel Potential: None…however, Lawrence and Cooper have signed on to Russel’s next project, along with Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, and Amy Adams. Holy crap.
Oscar Potential: A Best Actress win for Lawrence (the first of many?), nominations for Cooper, De Niro, Weaver, Russell, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Nudity: I don’t recall, but Seth MacFarlane noted at The Oscars: “and Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs we haven’t seen at all.”
Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 92% Audience: 88%
IMDB Rating: 8/10
Recommendation: A fantastic movie featuring great performances. A love story both sides of a couple should appreciate.

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The Hangover Part II (2011)

June 1, 2011

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong
Director: Todd Phillips (Due Date, The Hangover, Old School)

Quick Thoughts: I feel like I’ve seen this movie. Wait… I think it was called The Hangover and it came out in 2009. Sorry Todd Phillips, but no one roofied my Mountain Dew at the theater and I actually remember already seeing this same story. That’s essentially what The Hangover Part II is: a remake of a film that came out two years ago featuring the exact same actors. Sure, the setting is different–we’re in Bangkok this time–but the antics are only slight variations of what worked the first time around. Unfortunately, what made the original so good was how surprisingly funny the script was and the solid comedic performances from a breakthrough cast. Well, the element of surprise is gone for the sequel, giving the film a very bland flavor and a sense of “been there, done that.” Honestly, this film is such a rehash of the original that ninety minutes into it, I was shocked they hadn’t found a way to work Mike Tyson into the script yet… and then he “shocks” us by making an appearance at Stu’s wedding. Yawn.

Zack Galifianakis is still pretty funny as the sociopath Alan and Ken Jeong’s character is inexplicably written into a bigger role, but Bradley Cooper is stale and Ed Helms is basically reduced to jumping around like an idiot, although the film’s best sequence does involve Helms’ encounter with Thai hookers. I have to give credit to Jeong for his willingness to showcase what is possibly the smallest adult penis on the planet. That takes balls, and judging from his tiny package there’s not much physical evidence that he has any. Mason Lee plays Stu’s future brother-in-law Teddy, a 16 year academic prodigy that immediately becomes Alan’s enemy and a potential source of constant laughs, but he becomes this film’s Doug when he’s lost after the blackout and The Wolfpack spends the majority of the movie trying to locate him, wasting the film’s biggest opportunity for fresh humor.

If The Hangover was a laugh riot, its sequel is a mere chuckle fest. The first act drags quite a bit and the last two acts aren’t particular funny either. By a long shot, the funniest part of the movie is the end credits, when we again get to see the night in question play out through the various pictures taken. Phillips and co. struck pay dirt with The Hangover, but its sequel brings nothing new to the table.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Not much.
Sequel Potential: In 5 days, the film already surpassed the $100 million mark, but won’t benefit from the same great word-of-mouth that the original had so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it fall short of that film’s total gross. Regardless, it’s going to do well enough to warrant another sequel, which will probably be even more ridiculous and unoriginal than this one was.
Oscar Potential: None
Nudity: Tons… both female and male.
Grade: 4.5/10 (Netflix It/Worth Watching)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 35% Audience: 94%
IMDB Rating: 7.1/10
Recommendation: There’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before. Guys looking for a good “bro” comedy are probably still better off going to see Bridesmaids, a film that has gotten the same unavoidable awesome word-of-mouth that the original Hangover received. Don’t take my word for it though, most people I’ve talked to loved this movie and the general public has rated it very favorably, so if you’re in the mood for a completely unimaginative and mindless comedy, this is probably right up your alley.

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Limitless (2011)

March 26, 2011


Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish
Director: Neil Burger (The Illusionist)

Quick Thoughts: Limitless asks the question: what if we could use the full power of our brains? Unfortunately, the film’s answer isn’t all that exciting: kill the stock market, get a haircut, and win your ex back. Yes, because if I had superhuman intelligence, I’d use it to keep banging the same ordinary chick I’ve been with for years. OK, Bradley Cooper’s character does write a supposedly fantastic novel in an absurdly short amount of time, but who knows what’s so special about the book, because we’re never told anything about it, nor does its success have any bearing on the film’s story whatsoever. I like the concept in Limitless, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. As expected, our hero becomes addicted to the success his new drug of choice continually brings into his life… but his bottom is quick and the consequences are not very severe. If this was a cautionary tale about the dangers of drug abuse, the lesson seems to be: snort everything and life will work out just fine. This movie sort of reminded me of The Butterfly Effect, but way less cool. Limitless was mildly entertaining, but I can assure you, you won’t need NZT to grasp the full scope of this film.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Two viewings tops.
Sequel Potential: Doubtful.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: None? WTF.
Grade: 5/10 (Worth Watching)
Recommendation: Limitless is fun, but it’s kind of stupid and hardly lives up to its name… the experimental drug, NZT, appears to give you access to 30% of your brain, at best.