Ep. 116 – Venom, A Star is Born

October 7, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast returns from its summer abroad, with reviews of “Venom” and “A Star is Born.” Cody also gives us a recap of Fantastic Fest, and we remind you to go download our friend Greg Sestero’s movie “Best F(r)iends: Vol. 1.”

Click here to download the episode!

A Star is Born

October 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
Directed by: Bradley Cooper (debut)
Written by: Eric Roth (“The Insider”), Will Fetters (“The Best of Me”) and Bradley Cooper (debut)

Three-time Academy Award-nominated actor Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) makes a mostly convincing, albeit imperfect, directorial debut with “A Star Is Born,” the third reimagining of the film since the original version hit the silver screen more than 80 years ago.

In this newest reiteration, six-time Grammy-award-winning singer Lady Gaga steps into the spotlight where actresses Janet Gaynor (1937 version), Judy Garland (1954 version) and Barbara Streisand (1976 version) once stood. Gaga plays Ally, an aspiring musician swept off her feet by alcoholic rock star Jackson Maine (Cooper), who is instantaneously captivated by Ally’s talent when he sees her perform “La Vie en Rose” at a drag bar.

Witnessing Ally and Jackson courting each other during the first act of the film is when “A Star Is Born” is at its most charming and romantic. It never reaches the level of something like 2007’s Oscar-winning Irish drama “Once,” but Cooper and Gaga sell their relationship as a genuine love connection, despite its seemingly quick development.

Movie magic occurs when Jackson invites Ally onto the stage during one of his concerts to perform a duet with him. It’s unrealistic to think an original song could actually come together like that without a bit of rehearsal, but by the time Ally bravely takes the mic to sing the second verse of “Shallow” (a song co-written by Gaga, which will undoubtedly land an Oscar nod for Best Song), there’s no real reason to argue logic. The single is that good.

As soon as their relationship is established, however, the script starts losing momentum and seems to find comfort in falling into familiar territory. Again, “A Star Is Born” has a long history of remakes, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that screenwriters Eric Roth (“The Insider”), Will Fetters (“The Best of Me”) and Cooper, who is also credited as a writer, follow a conventional template. The dimming of one star and the rise of another is a formula that has worked well in the past, but Cooper is only somewhat successful in transforming it into a story that truly feels fresh.

During a scene in the final act, Jackson’s older brother Bobby (Sam Elliott) explains to Ally what Jackson’s musical philosophy is by describing music as “12 notes between any octave — 12 notes and the octave repeats” and adding that it’s up to the artist to say something significant enough inside those parameters to move listeners emotionally. In “A Star Is Born,” Cooper and Gaga have voices worth listening to, especially when they’re harmonizing in front of a crowd of thousands. We just wish the narrative mixed in a few more sharps and flats to ensure a clearly distinct sound and experience.

Ep. 113 – Avengers: Infinity War (SPOILERS start at 10:02)

April 28, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast RETURNS to discuss the biggest superhero movie ever, “Avengers: Infinity War!”

WARNING: Cody and Jerrod talk spoilers starting a 10:02, so tread carefully, true believers!

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Ep. 99 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and talk about lesser-known San Antonio Spurs players of the last three decades.

[00:00 – 25:51] Intro/Remembering random Spurs from the last 25 years, from Jaren Jackson to Cherokee Parks.

[25:51- 44:48] Review – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

[44:48-49:01] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Joy

January 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro
Directed by: David O. Russell (“American Hustle”)
Written by: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

After the success of the half-great “Silver Linings Playbook” and the terribly overrated “American Hustle,” filmmaker David O. Russell again calls on his reliable acting twosome, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, for the least accessible of their films together. Based on the true-life story of entrepreneur Joy Mangano (Lawrence), the single mother who invented such products as the Miracle Mop, Russell’s film is dragged down by a confusing tone, but makes up for it with a satisfying look at the way Mangano built her business empire from the ground up. Although it’s obvious Russell would like Lawrence’s Mangano to emerge as the female version of Michael Corleone, there’s simply not enough unforced conflict to create a true sense of struggle. Where the film is most convincing is during the QVC portions of the story. Who knew ordering a set of Huggable Hangers on TV could be so exciting?

American Sniper

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (“Gran Torino”)
Written by: Jason Hall (“Paranoia”)

After passing through the hands of David O. Russell and Steven Spielberg, the film based on the life of the deadliest sniper in American military history, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), landed in the lap of director Clint Eastwood. Though it may not turn out to be a classic war film, “American Sniper” is, at the very least, a return to form for a director in the twilight of his career.

“American Sniper” tells the story of Kyle’s four tours in Iraq. After leaving his newlywed wife Kaya (Sienna Miller) at home in the U.S., Kyle reaches Iraq with a deadly accurate shot and a strong desire to serve his country. Dubbed “Legend,” Kyle must fight to stay alive in an increasingly dangerous landscape with a target on his back, all while struggling with emotional issues stemming from his role as a SEAL.

After achieving three acting nominations in consecutive years, Cooper has become somewhat of a new Academy darling. Sporting a near perfect Texas accent, Cooper is good as Kyle, though his Oscar nomination feels ever so slightly miscalculated, especially considering who beat him out. Still, the film falls almost exclusively on the shoulders of Cooper, who handles the burden with a steady, albeit unflashy performance.

Though it isn’t exactly a conventional war film, “American Sniper” certainly dials up the tension and its more intense action sequences are taut and well executed. In a landscape that isn’t exactly full of modern war stories, this look into the warfare of Iraq is refreshing and well done. Unfortunately, the scope of the screenplay gets in the way of it being any more than a surface look at these conflicts. Most notably, screenwriter Jason Hall spends a large chunk of the film focused on an enemy and former Olympic sniper named Mustafa. By turning Mustafa into an invincible generic villain, Hall devotes far too much valuable screen time to what feels like an entirely arbitrary antagonist when there are far more interesting things at play.

The best moments of “American Sniper” come when symptoms of PTSD and the DNA of a military man who can’t help but return for multiple tours are explored and analyzed. Even further, Miller is quite strong as Kyle’s wife who becomes increasingly troubled having to raise a family on her own, watching her husband risk his life time after time. In the end, the screenplay, performances and direction excel when the family dynamics are strained, yet Eastwood treats these moments as a B storyline and whiffs on a chance to do something truly unique.

It may not rise to the levels of “Zero Dark Thirty” when it comes to modern warfare tension, but “American Sniper” is a worthwhile, if not unspectacular entry to the war movie genre. Cooper is the clear star, but Eastwood is able to coax enough tense moments out of a relatively mediocre script to make the film worth the time of anyone looking for a solid rush in the slow month of January.

Ep. 17 – The Guest, The Maze Runner, Tusk, the Deadpool movie is finally a go, and filmmakers we once loved that now disappoint us

September 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Podcast

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Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net review “The Guest,” “The Maze Runner,” and “Tusk.” They also discuss the officially green-lit upcoming “Deadpool” movie, the now delayed HBO Penn State Football drama “Happy Valley,” Magnolia Pictures buying and burying the Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper starring “Serena” and filmmakers we once loved that now disappoint us.

[0:00-3:33] Intro and Alamo City Comic Con talk
[3:33-12:45] Fox has finally greenlit a Deadpool standalone film.
[12:45-21:40] Brian De Palma’s Penn State HBO movie casts an actor for Jerry Sandusky and promptly halts production.
[21:40-34:25] The long-delayed “Serena” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper is headed straight to VOD. Discussion of big name actors starring in straight to video/VOD films.
[34:25-44:12] The Guest
[44:12-55:20] The Maze Runner
[55:20-1:01:43] Tusk
[1:01:43-1:12:11] Tusk Spoiler Talk
[1:20:11-1:22:66] Tusk Wrap-Up
[1:22:26-1:43:27] Filmmakers we once loved that now disappoint us
[1:43:27-1:45:23] Teases for next week and close

Subscribe to The CineSnob Podcast via RSSiTunes or Stitcher.

To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.

Guardians of the Galaxy

August 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista
Directed by: James Gunn (“Super”)
Written by: James Gunn (“Super”) and Nicole Perlman (debut)

Never bet against Marvel Studios. Ever since Robert Downey Jr. suited up for “Iron Man” in 2008, the hits based on comic books have just kept coming. Even the most jaded cynic can honestly only call the studio’s worst output, namely “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man 2,” merely disappointing, never outright bad. Hollywood hasn’t seen a streak like this since the golden age of Pixar (read: pre-“Cars”), and since they’re playing with the house’s money after smashes like “The Avengers,” apparently someone at Marvel and Disney decided now was the time to see just how far into the outer reaches of the comic book universe they could delve for a mainstream movie. The studio is going all in – because why the hell not? – on a quirky sci-fi comedy in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and the gamble pays off handsomely, for the most part.

After being abducted by aliens as a boy moments after his mother died of cancer, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) travels the galaxy, jamming out on a vintage Walkman while scrounging for treasures to steal to sell to the highest bidder. When he comes across an orb valued by Ronan (Lee Pace), an assassin named Gomora (Zoe Saldana) is sent to relieve Quill (AKA Star-Lord) of his prize. When the two clash on the planet Nova Prime, some opportunistic bounty hunters named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who happen to be a raccoon and a tree, respectively, spot Quill and notice he has a bounty on his head offered by Quill’s partner/abductor Yondu (Michael Rooker). The duo complicates the interaction enough to land them all in prison where they meet up with Drax (Dave Bautista), a hyper-literal brute who has a grudge against both Ronan and Gomora. This is getting too complicated, so just know they need to overcome their differences in order to save the galaxy from some ultimate evil.

While Marvel may have a license to print money at this point, “Guardians” is by far their riskiest venture. This is a sci-fi movie first and foremost, filled with fantastical aliens, planets made from the guts of some space-faring creature, and guys with unironic epithets after their names like “the accuser” and “the destroyer.” Director James Gunn pulls everything together well, anchored by a winning, winking performance from Pratt, although the CGI Rocket and Groot nearly steal the show with their mix of humor and pathos. The real shame though is the boring, straight-faced villain and the warmed-over hunt for some cosmic MacGuffin. It’s as if the dark elf plot from “Thor: The Dark World” was just copied and pasted into the screenplay with only the names changed. Also somewhat disappointing is the obvious laying of groundwork for future installments. The intergalactic villain Thanos (voice of Josh Brolin), first glimpsed in “The Avengers” after the credits, gets some early screen time, only to disappear for the rest of the movie (and, one assumes, we’ll only see him in a series of cameos until “The Avengers 3” or something). Same for John C. Reilly as Corpsman Dey and Glenn Close as Nova Prime; big actors stuffed into tiny parts with truncated arcs, waiting for their turn in subsequent sequels. If superhero fatigue has set in and you can’t take anymore S.H.I.E.L.D. but still need your fix for good versus evil, “Guardians of the Galaxy” should be right up your alley.

(Again, since this is a Marvel movie, stay until the credits have ended for another scene, this time showing just how far down the rabbit hole of the Marvel universe – and bad ‘80s nostalgia – the company is willing to go.)

American Hustle

December 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams
Directed by: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Written by: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Eric Singer (“The International”)

As David O. Russell’s career trajectory continues to move upward, it seems he’s getting more freedom to make the films he wants to make. After the huge success of last year’s deeply personal “Silver Linings Playbook,” which garnered eight Oscar nominations and one win, Russell heads backs to the 70’s with the con-artist film, “American Hustle.”

“American Hustle” tells the story of con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his accomplice Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who are forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) after they are caught running an illegal business. As more prominent people become involved and things become more dangerous when they try to bring down a local mayor (Jeremy Renner), too many loose ends, including Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), could bring the entire operation to a head.

Much will be made of the cast, reuniting many veterans of Russell’s previous films and all principle actors being Oscar nominees or winners. As an admittedly impressive collection, the ensemble is certainly solid, but mostly unspectacular. Bale who gained nearly 50 pounds for the role is the best of the bunch, as a pudgy con artist with a terrible comb-over. As with many of his latest films, Bale disappears into the role and carries it with ease. Cooper is fine and Adams is hit or miss, with her fake but purposely imposed British accent becoming a little grating at times. For most of her career, Lawrence has been impressive at convincingly playing characters above her actual age. It might be the hair and costumes associated with the 70’s, or just her characters general life situation, but in “American Hustle,” Lawrence finally feels and looks too young for a role and is a little bit distracting.

“American Hustle” starts out with a bit of background on Bale and Adams’ characters and makes use of a dueling voiceover that bogs the film down and subsequently makes the film slow to get into. Once “American Hustle” gets going, Russell has a clear goal for presenting a playful and comedic tone, which is something that – for the most part – fails. Though the humor is a bit subtle, most of the jokes fall flat and there are only a few legitimate laughs in the film, mostly involving stand-up comedian Louis CK in a small role.

Russell does a few things right in the film. He nails the setting of the 70’s and there’s clearly an energy of filmmaking that transferred over to his actors. The issue here is that Russell appears to have had the intention of crafting something grander and more clever than what it actually is. Unfortunately for Russell, the film plays off as a by-the-numbers con movie and frankly, something akin to a second-rate Martin Scorsese film.

The Hangover Part III

May 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“The Hangover,” “The Hangover Part II”)
Written by: Todd Phillips (“Due Date”) and Craig Mazin (“The Hangover Part II”)

In a classic episode of “The Simpsons,” the hyper-violent cartoon show enjoyed by Bart and Lisa Simpson, “Itchy & Scratchy,” has begun to fall in the ratings. In an effort to salvage the show, network executives hold a focus group and, based on the answers they receive from viewers, decide what the show needs is a new character to shake things up. And thus Poochie the rockin’ dog with attitude is born. The viewers, however, immediately hate Poochie and the show deteriorates even further. Desperate to stop the bleeding, the executives hastily kill Poochie off, crudely animating his return to his home planet, a journey that ultimately claims his life.

If only the creative team behind the series of “Hangover” films had taken Poochie’s crucifixion to heart, we would have been spared what Ken Jeong’s insufferable Leslie Chow becomes in “The Hangover Part III.”

After the first film in the series went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, sequels were inevitable. When “The Hangover Part II” proved to be little more than a carbon-copy of the original, it was a huge letdown, especially since director Todd Phillips had a blank check with which to push the boundaries of his trademark brand of destruction-filled comedy. Phillips apparently listened to detractors, seeing as how “Part III” is nearly a complete departure from the first two in the series. And not in a good way.

“Part III” opens in a Thai prison in the middle of a riot. As the warden cuts his way through the crowd, it becomes evident that the melee was meant to mask prisoner Leslie Chow’s escape. Meanwhile, eternal man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) loses his father and devolves even further socially. In an effort to help Alan, his fellow members of the Wolfpack, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), agree to escort him to a treatment facility in Arizona. Along the way, though, the group is hijacked by criminal kingpin Marshall (John Goodman) who needs the Wolfpack to track down the man who stole $21 million in gold from him: Leslie Chow.

To say “The Hangover Part III” isn’t funny is a true statement, but for the first hour it really isn’t trying to be. The scenes with Goodman and Mike Epp’s returning “Black Doug” are seemingly ripped from any number of generic action thrillers, with Goodman playing his part so straight you have to wonder if he even realized this was supposed to be a comedy. On the flip side, Jeong’s Chow, having already worn out his welcome all the way back in the second film, becomes the center of attention (seriously, he might have more lines than either Cooper or Helms) and the focus of nearly every joke, each one landing with a dull thud. If only his home planet needed him, we’d all be better off.

Silver Linings Playbook

November 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Directed by: David O. Russell (“The Fighter”)
Written by: David O. Russell (“I (heart) Huckabees”)

In another light, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) might be thought of as a quirky, but excessively optimistic guy. Searching every situation for a “silver lining,” Pat thinks positively, works hard, and is dedicated to reaching his goals. But things aren’t that black and white. Pat has bipolar disorder, which means that his optimism is more like mania and his goals are delusional. Serious mental illness might not seem like a topic that is ripe for comedy, but thanks to a razor sharp script and career defining performances from its leads, “Silver Linings Playbook” nails the perfect tone dealing with a serious subject.

After spending time in a mental institution following a violent incident, Pat returns home to try to win back his estranged wife. In the process, Pat runs into Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) who is herself trying to overcome the death of her husband. As they get together and find out all the ways they are screwed up, it becomes clear that if they are going to get what they want, they’ll need to help each other along the way. Meanwhile, Pat’s superstitious Philadelphia Eagles obsessed father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) tries to keep their relationship close by spending time watching football games together.

Cooper is nothing short of amazing in a role that is simply in another league from anything he’s done in his career thus far.  Not only is Cooper very funny as the unfiltered Pat, but he is also able to capture the darker parts of mental illness with precision. It would be a crime if Cooper didn’t walk away with at least a Best Actor Oscar Nomination. Part of what makes the film so successful is the flawless chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence, who is also on top of her acting game. Fresh-faced enough to play a teenager in “The Hunger Games,” Lawrence also shows that she can play older and mature in a role that calls for a strong presence and strong sexuality, while matching Cooper laugh for laugh.  Not to be outdone by the young talent of the two leads, De Niro delivers his best performance in ages as Pat’s father.  With all of his superstitions and the inability to communicate outside the realm of football, De Niro’s performance is honest and a welcomed return.

Other than superb acting across the board, the greatest success of “Silver Linings” is David O. Russell’s script. It’s fast, sharp, funny, touching, essentially everything one could ask for in a screenplay. Though Cooper’s personality is greatly enhanced by his outstanding performance, his character is enriched by great dialogue, especially in arguments with Lawrence. Russell is also able to capture Pat’s mental illness pitch perfectly in moments of total meltdowns.  Though the film’s ending is telegraphed and a bit predictable, it is completely fitting and the reaction of the characters is well worth any sort of contrivance. “Silver Linings Playbook” isn’t particularly flashy in its visual direction, but Russell certainly makes up for it with an Oscar caliber screenplay.

While the film has the tendency to get a little messy at times, it is never bothersome. In fact, in many ways it mirrors the neurotic personality of its leads, which ultimately becomes part of its charm. Don’t be fooled by the confusing ad campaign that markets the movie as some sort of sports romantic comedy. While the film does feature a fair amount about football, (in highly rewarding ways, by the way) at its core, “Silver Linings Playbook” is not only about mental illness, but two wounded people trying to help each other out. With top-notch acting, especially from Cooper and an offbeat screenplay, “Silver Linings Playbook” is a smash hit in the making and appropriately enough, providing its own silver lining to a disappointing year at the movies.

The Words

September 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldaña, Jeremy Irons
Directed by: Brian Klugman (debut) and Lee Sternthal (debut)
Written by: Brian Klugman (debut) and Lee Sternthal (debut)

What’s with a good-looking actor like Bradley Cooper playing a character as non-sexy as a writer? Why cast a charming, handsome sex symbol just to have him sit at a computer and type or silently read manuscripts for large chunks of the film? Is it a secret passion of Cooper’s? Or does he just want to keep his shirt on? As in 2011’s “Limitless,” Cooper once again plays a struggling author in the excruciatingly stupid drama “The Words” who can’t get his book off the ground until receiving a morally suspect leg up. In “Limitless” it was a brainpower-enhancing super drug. In “The Words,” it’s a found manuscript Cooper’s Rory Jensen passes off as his own on the way to fame and fortune.

First-time writers-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal steer “The Words” off the road and into a narrative ditch immediately by opening the film with a clumsy, nonsensical framing device featuring Dennis Quaid telling the fictional story of Rory’s plagiarism. Quaid’s bestselling author Clay Hammond is performing a reading of his smash-hit novel (also titled “The Words”) to a lecture hall full of adoring fans, including a beautiful admirer played by Olivia Wilde. As Hammond reads to the audience, the film confusingly shifts to the story of Rory and his wife Dora (Zoe Saldaña) and their days both before and after Rory became a successful author.

When Rory’s first book gets passed over by agent after agent, an eye-rolling-worthy convenient find in a satchel purchased in Paris turns up a forgotten novel set in postwar France. Though we aren’t treated to any insight as to what makes the book so transcendent, Rory feels moved enough by the discovery to, for some reason, re-type the entire thing on his laptop. One contrivance leads to another, and soon enough Rory is a best-selling author with a movie deal in the works. Life is great…until the day an old man (Jeremy Irons, convincing no one with his shoddy American accent and patchwork beard) shows up to let Rory know he’s onto him and that the story is actually his own. The movie grinds to a halt as the old man tells his story to a shame-frozen Rory. Let me clarify here: at this point the story of the movie is a story being told to a crowd in a lecture hall about an old man telling a story to another man on a park bench.

What does Irons’ old man actually want? What makes the story that Jensen stole so incredibly commercially successful? What is the point of Jensen’s story being the plot of Hammond’s novel? And why the hell is Olivia Wilde’s character in the movie at all? “The Words” offers no answers, alas, and will only end up leaving you with the most frustrating question of all: Why did I waste my time watching “The Words?”

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