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.

The Lucky One

April 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Bylthe Danner
Directed by: Scott Hicks (“Shine,” “No Reservations”)
Written by: Will Fetters (“Remember Me”)

This movie is not for me. I’m a man in my early 30s and, as such, the entire summer movie season is targeted toward me. But this movie, “The Lucky One,” is one of those movies I’m only supposed to see on a date, one that I’m supposed to suffer through for the sake of my girlfriend* having a good cry while basking in the syrupy romance oozing from the screen. And that’s okay. In theaters over the next couple of months, I’ll be able to watch Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Batman, and the entirety of G.I. Joe kick all sorts of super-powered ass. I can take one for the team, you know?

“The Lucky One” is based on the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks, the author responsible for “The Notebook” and “A Walk to Remember.” Zac Efron (“17 Again”) stars as Logan Thibault, a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq. In the aftermath of an attack, Logan finds a picture of a smiling woman (Taylor Schilling) half-buried in the rubble. After picking up the picture to examine it, a rocket screams from the sky and explodes in the exact spot he was standing moments before. Convinced the picture saved his life, it becomes his new good luck charm. Months later, after his tour ends, Logan learns the woman’s name is Beth and shows up at her door. However, instead of revealing his true intentions, Logan decides to keep secret his discovery of the photograph that kept him safe.

Directed by Academy Award-nominee Scott Hicks (“Shine”), “The Lucky One” is more of the same from the Nicholas Sparks romantic drama factory. The star-crossed couple, the tow-headed youngster, and the hot-headed ex-husband are all as familiar as a well-worn shoe, as is the chunk of Louisiana they inhabit, where it’s always nearly dusk and there are an awful lot of quaint old bridges. Efron, best known for his singing and dancing in Disney’s “High School Musical” series, never deviates from a stilted, wooden stoicism, while relative unknown Schilling (“Atlas Shrugged – Part 1”) does fine as a single mother reluctantly falling for a mysterious stranger who somehow managed to walk from Colorado to Louisiana and still end up looking like Zac Efron instead of a filthy lunatic. And despite actually being 69 years old, Blythe Danner oddly feels too young to be playing the grandmother of a woman in her 20s.

Some poor editing proves to be a distraction from time to time, and the beginning of the film feels too rushed, leaving the title rather puzzling as a result. But I suspect these concerns will only be expressed by the men in the audience, and will likely be quickly shushed away by smitten wives and girlfriends.

*My girlfriend doesn’t actually like movies like this.

Remember Me

March 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Rob Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper
Directed by: Allen Coulter (“Hollywoodland”)
Written by: Will Fetters (debut)

If British actor Robert Pattinson has proven anything to us during his six-year career in Hollywood it’s that there are many ways to look forlorn without showing any real emotion.

Pattinson doesn’t need to be a bedazzled vampire hunk to get his pout on in “Remember Me,” a drama that exhibits a slew of characters feeling sorry for themselves for nearly two hours before the surprising albeit gimmicky twist at the end tries desperately to be affecting.

In “Remember Me,” Pattinson plays Tyler Hawkins, a NYU college student with daddy issues who continues to struggle with the death of his older brother. First-time screenwriter Will Fetter writes Tyler’s father (Pierce Brosnan) as a cold and distant lawyer with little time for his family. It’s a personality trait that infuriates Tyler mostly because his pop pays little attention to his youngest kid Caroline (Ruby Jerins, the best part of the film). It’s also a plot point Fetter flip-flops on later without much motive.

While “Remember Me” likes to flaunt its dysfunctional family elements, this is a love story…mostly. After Tyler is arrested one evening by Sgt. Neill Craig (Chris Cooper), his roommate Aidan (Tate Ellington) somehow talks him into asking the cop’s daughter Ally (Emilie de Ravin) out on a date as some type of lamebrain idea for revenge. Here, too, Fetter offers no real purpose behind these characters’ decisions. Tyler gives no evidence that he is the type of person who would do something like this, so why set it up that way?

Nevertheless, the courting begins as Tyler and Ally lean on each other for emotional support (Ally’s mother was murdered in the subway a decade prior to her fling with Tyler and her overprotective father has suddenly become abusive). The time can’t pass fast enough as Tyler and Ally exchange sob stories as well as tacky and cliché dialogue from Fetter. He seems to be writing for the prejudiced tween audience who is simply trying to pass the time until Pattinson’s Edward Cullen returns for “Eclipse.” Words such as “Fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch” might read like a genuine sentiment if it was etched on a tombstone, but no one says stuff like that out loud.

Tweens may love the way Pattinson dishes out “freaky, poetic crap,” a phrase Aidan uses to describe his misunderstood and sensitive friend, but this unrealistic romance is built on unstable concepts, overacted melodrama and limited chemistry from the leads. Even Pattinson can’t charm his way out of this one.