A Star Is Born (2018)

A modernized telling of the classic 1976 version starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand. There were also two made that I haven’t seen in 1937 and 1954. That’s a staggering amount of remakes! in the 2018 movie that some are calling “The Lady Gaga one” some new depths of love, fame, and addiction are plumbed while paying respect to the 1976 version. This is a great movie, date-flick or otherwise. From my podcast The DRP:

A Star Is Born (2018) R | 2h 16min | Drama , Music , Romance | 5 October 2018 (USA) A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral. Director: Bradley Cooper Writers: Eric Roth (screenplay by), Bradley Cooper (screenplay by) | 7 more credits » Stars: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott

Bradley Cooper is a well known name in showbiz. Most people got their first glimpse of him in the “Hangover” but he;s done a lot besides that. This is his directorial debut and he’s also starring in it. I always have respect for an actor who does “something else” in the film for example writes the film or directs it. I think starring in a film while directing it, especially a film requiring so much acting ability and focus is a mammoth task. For the most part, I think Cooper pulled it off. The rest of this short review contains some minor spoilers. In the last third of the film it’s as if he gave up being in charge and let Lady Gaga go crazy singing full length songs making the film long. The first 2/3 are excellent directing by him but the last parts suffered in my eyes.

Lady Gaga shows she has a great voice and that she is a performer. One problem I had with her is that, in her obvious quest to appear genuine, she came off as acting. You really can’t act genuine. I think she is a performer who can cry on queue and turn her made up face to the close up camera but as far as being the “All American girl” that this role calls for, she came up short. Having said that, I feel she has enough of a fan base that droves will enjoy her performance. Stack her against a Barbara Streisand and you have a less quirky, modern billboard performing artist but Streisand played the genuine better in my view. That doesn’t mean the movie is bad or un-enjoyable, it just means Lady Gaga doesn’t strike me as an innocent victim in the show as she tries so hard to be. In fact, her well chosen father actor, Andrew Dice Clay, make the genuine goal even less effective. In short, I see her as better at a half-time show than a tender film of this nature.

All in all, my wife enjoyed this film and so did I. even though we couldn’t sit through lady Gaga’s full length piano requiem at the end. We left in the middle of it. 7/10.

American Sniper

This is a kind of negative review regarding the topic. Be warned. I’m not a big fan of war and war movies. Figure that in when you read this review. “American Sniper” has some interesting psychological features but at its core, it’s just a war movie. The trailer told me all I needed to know. It WAS the trailer and not much more. It is plain speaking story telling about a sniper who holds the record for kills on tour.

american_sniper_poster-1067756American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war film[6] directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall. It is loosely based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (2012) by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The film follows the life of Kyle, who became the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history with 255 kills from four tours in the Iraq War, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. While Kyle was celebrated for his military successes, his tours of duty took a heavy toll on his personal and family life. The film stars Bradley Cooper as Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife Taya, with Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban and Keir O’Donnell in supporting roles. (Wikipedia)

Director Clint Eastwood stands way far back and lets us decide for ourselves the morality of the man. Personally, I would have liked him to stand a little closer and make some sort of statement showing even a hint of his judgement call. This film is intense. A small significant particular is that there is no background music in the film. There is a lot a violence. It reminds me of the Bush song, “There’s no sex in your violence.” The fact that Chris Kyle holds some sort of record for kills while on tour as a sniper is appalling to me without ever watching the movie. Why Clint are you glamorizing this guy by making him a movie hero for millions of Wal-Mart shoppers? (tongue in cheek sarcasm there.)

This film is the highest grossing war film of all time and Clint Eastwood’s highest grossing film by far. It grossed 340 million in 2012 making it the highest grossing film for that year: another accolade. That’s incredible but why should we as film critics celebrate that war kills sell? I enjoyed parts of this movie and I think I know what Eastwood was trying to do. He was trying JUST tell the story without sugar coating. I think it could have used a little more creative “umph” to deliver a message or two about whether Kyle should be celebrated or not. He goes around in the movie a hero and has speaking engagements based on the sensationalism. How many people really want to hear a sniper talk? Think of all the blood spilled because he joined the military. I am a pacifist and make no apologies for that fact.

Getting back to telling the real story: Kyle’s wife tells him on the first break when he is at home that she wants him to spend more time with family and friends. He appears shell shocked an distant. He just can’t seem to get it together apart from war. I’d like to thank Eastwood for that but I think he could have gone miles further in showing that war is often an unnecessary hell we participate on purpose. Is the success of this film indicative of our empathy for Kyle or our lust for war movies? I’d say it’s a fine line.

There are scenes where Kyle’s blood pressure is out of control. At other times he is just “off.” In the end he dies at a firing range. Poetic justice? For trying to make war material look cool and for failing to say something as a director about murder and war, it loses 3 stars. See it and tell me what you think. If you saw it did you find it entertaining? If so why.

Silver Linings Playbook

In Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper plays a manic bipolar who is fixated on getting back with his wife who has cheated on him and secured a restraining order. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence plays an admirer with issues of her own. There is some trouble here, the movie starts off clearly being about bipolar and metal illness and later waters all that psychology study down making it like a low grade Hangover or other romantic film Bradley Cooper has starred in. I was hoping for a more realistic portrayal of mental illness. I don’t know why, Hollywood is never good at that. Maybe it shouldn’t be expected to be. It was still highly entertaining as a romantic comedy.

The film was Directed by David O. Russell known for The Fighter. I liked this film because it portrayed people in an unflattering state, as they are. Many times movies try to sugar coat families and individuals to make them seem superhuman. I don’t think this really helps humanity. This movie starts out portraying bipolar disorder in a believable and textbook way but later veers from the realistic path. I think if they would have made this a movie about bipolar disorder it would have not had been as interesting. Still, it would have been educational which might have made it better. As it stands, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy about a form of bipolar that doesn’t exist telling an offbeat story that could never really happen with characters that are not realistic. Despite all that, it’s still an entertaining 2 hours.

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Rarely have I seen such art attributed to a violent serial killer. I’m surprised to say the film still drew me in and put me in that indefinable trance one can sometimes feel from horror. This killer has tools and moves he wields like deathly musical instruments as he kills on the midnight train.

I like this director, Ryûhei Kitamura if for no other reason than that he was born the same year as me. He has a long history of Japanese horror and mystery films. I have seen none of them. I wonder if any of his past films have as much blood and violent gore as this one does.

Bradley Cooper is the biggest name in this film. He’ a struggling and idealistic photographer. His wife introduces him to a big name and that’s when the film starts to chug down the tracks. It’s a ride you’ll not soon forget. Another big name in this is Brooke Shields.

Here’s a no spoiler summary: There is a killer that stalks a certain train every night. He kills people on the train in unthinkable ways. It’s all filmed i a sort of Matrix strobe/slow motion way so you can really take in the eyeballs popping out and the entrails spilling onto the floor. This may be one of the bloodiest ones I’ve seen. It’s good though. Bradley Cooper inadvertently photographs the killer and seeks to destroy him. The results are not what he had expected.

This was a bloody film and certainly not one to watch with your kids. It is however streaming on Netflix so that makes it easy to get for many people. It’s a good revenge horror. The only problem I had with it was the way they dealt with the conflict in the last quarter, See what you think and leave me a comment. A dialogue is the best part of blogging for me.

I thought the music and cinematography made this more of a “killer’s opera” than a slice and dice film. It was amazing to look at when the killing was at bay and even the killing had a certain order to the chaos. It drew me in. I was interested why this man did these horrible things. In my opinion, the answer is only partly given. I would recommend this to fans of the serial killer and gore genre. All else, run for the train exit.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

This film is relatively new and I purposely left spoilers out of my review. A very similar look to the first one in most aspects. The 1970’s songs were a bit more arcane and far off which for me was cool. I liked watching things explode, the raccoon played by Bradley Cooper make jokes, and the Baby Groot emote so much expression with is highly limited words. I couldn’t help but wonder if vol2 was really necessary but it was honestly so much fun, I bought in and there were only a few places where I was bored.

So the story goes (this is in the trailers so I assume it’s not considered a spoiler): Starlord meets his biological father played by Kurt Russell. Much of this storyline is outlandish and frankly impossible but I kept reminding myself that this IS a Marvel comic book made into a film. You get the obligatory Stan Lee cameo as well but it never quite feels as polished and robust as Spiderman or Thor. The 70’s music is a standard part of the formula. Maybe it always was, I haven’t read the comics.

Look, I’m not going to criticize a movie that gave this many people jobs and brought so many people out to opening night in my hometown. The fact that the story and action is ALL OVER THE PLACE and it’s hard to focus on what is really happen is probably my fault for not being between 15 and 35 years old.

Still, there was way more comic stuff in this one. It is much funnier than the first by far. The understated, sarcastic humor made me belly laugh more than a few times. The Baby Groot is funny and cute as well. I saw a lot of promotion in the weeks before it was released and Baby Groot lived up to the hype, he delivers! So go see this wild and crazy film. It has some great effects and hilarity to boot. It’s a great way to ring in the Summer but not likely to go on anyone’s top ten of comic book or sci fi films. Then again, some young people surprise me.



Limitless is a movie that takes us to a place where there are no limits for a new mind drug. Not only do we see the classic pitfalls and ills of using drugs but we see a strange new side, dare I say a positive side. A new drug that allows one to utilize 80% more of her/his brain is discovered by a burnt out writer who puts it to good use. As he keeps using the drug he realizes that there are drawbacks to that much brain usage. Somehow he learns to use it to his advantage.

The film was directed by Neil Burger who’s other work includes the Illusionist with Edward Norton. Limitless includes quite a few big names but the biggest are Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. The film has amazing visuals reminiscent of Inception. It has a decent script that takes the viewer on a wild ride from beginning to end. While the visuals move fast however, there are some scenes throughout that tend to lag on. It’s as if they wanted to monopolize on special effects at the expense of keeping the story rolling at a palatable pace. This is one of the only drawbacks in the pace of the film. It is worth waiting out though because the ending delivers a smart and noteworthy conclusion.

Limitless is an excellent film that doesn’t have to be in reality so it isn’t. There are metaphors to real drug use. It opens up a lot for discussion and I recommend it.