“You should start a blog”….

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Thanks for joining me!  For many years I have been sharing movie reviews with my good friend Alison.   What started out as Monday water cooler discussions on what films we saw (we seemed to see movies often) then turned into emails.   She moved from her job.   I moved from mine, but we still kept in contact.

The reviews have been been shared with others over time, but the beginnings remain the same.   When I review, the email was addressed to Alison, and then others were added.

So here I am.   After much thought, the idea of sharing the movie reviews over time has finally taken shape.

I must early on make a shout out to the late, great, Pulitzer prize winning reviewer Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun Times.    I depended on Roger and his reviews, and his TV show At The Movies with Gene Siskel.  Now I didn’t always agree with Roger and his reviews, but I would read and enjoy how he viewed these films.   It is not unusual for me to refer to him, or wonder what he would think about a particular film.

I am adding present reviews as some historical reviews as I find them.   You will also see some more lengthy discussions about films as well (like discussions about Alien Covenant or Star Wars The Last Jedi).

These of course are all one man’s opinion.   Nothing more, and nothing less.   If it can save you from spending $13.99 on the latest film in the theatre, by avoiding a bad film (in my opinion) then great!    If it opens up a level of discourse on a film and a debate – I have always enjoyed debating films (and other things).

 

Maggie G TIFF 2018

Maggie Gyllenhaal at TIFF premiere of The Kindergarten Teacher

 

November 13th, 2018

Last week I managed to get out to the theatre to catch Bohemian Rhapsody.  This film has had some polarizing reviews, and I can see why.   For me, this movie should have had more of an edge to it.  Much like I think ANY David Bowie future film should try to capture the entire man, and his intricacies and eccentricities.   Much can be claimed here.   In some ways I feel like I watched Theory of Everything where it was based, in part, on the recollections of Stephen Hawking’s ex-wife.   Well of course she’s going to made out to be better than it likely really was!  Perspective is everything, and this is no different.

We start the film of Freddie Mercury, when he was nobody, Farrokh Bulsara of Parsi decent, working unloading baggage at the airport.  He likes clubs and hanging out and meets upon a band who lost their singer who felt he had better options elsewhere.   In comes Farrokh, and provides an impromptu audition and manages to impress the singerless group.   We meet Freddy’s family (Mother, Father and sister) where there is nothing but some questioning of where the young man can ever end up.   It’s more cliche really than anything else.   How many times do we see a supportive family (especially a father for a young man looking to play music?).   But nevermind.

For me, I wondered about the treatment of Freddy’s personal life, and how he chose to be.  He was married early on and then later lived as a gay man.   I didn’t expect, and don’t believe the Freddy Mercury would live the life shown in the film with the lights from separate rooms with his wife, with him by himself.   Maybe I am jaded and conditioned to think that all rock stars are constantly in a party state with an entourage and party goers.   Maybe he lived more solitary life.  Maybe it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.   I don’t believe it.   I think Mercury was a larger than life personality who did everything to extreme and excess!!   He would be the centre of attention and have and take all that he wanted.   This is briefly depicted but not convincingly nor enough.

I wish we had seen more creativity and the inspiration for these songs.   It’s the real genius at work, with songs that will last forever.   The creative process is fascinating, and understanding the influences and how they chose to make their sounds and put them together would be an amazing story unto itself.  It isn’t there much.   There is a silly Mike Myers cameo that added nothing for me.    In the end, I felt that this was not a story or the true Freddy but a story that others wanted to tell on his behalf; a toned down PG rated version.   Who gains from this?  Perhaps the surviving members of the band.  His Wife.   Not sure.   If there was ever a rock star life that deserved an R rating, it was Freddy Mercury.    David Bowie too!   Let’s hope that any David Bowie project looks better, and respects the artist fully – unlike what I anticipate that Rocketman (preview at this film) will be for Elton John which comes out next year.  No thanks.

I also watched last week, Red Sparrow.   Oh Jennifer Lawrence what is it about these projects that you are selection for yourself?    Another turkey with this one.   A young Russian ballerina cut down by an injury and sold out by her Uncle to this ultra-nasty group of spies/chaos inducers/special forces, who use their bodies to get what they need.   The story is messy and convoluted.  The agent/double agent mystery doesn’t unfold well, and the ending is contrived.   I cannot recommend, and wish that JLaw, would find something more substantial and better for her talents (Passenger, Mother! and others are beneath her).

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November 5th, 2018

I didn’t get out to see a movie in the theatre this week.  I was disheartened to see the Ebert review on Bohemian Rhapsody, where it was given 1 star.   There are mixed reviews on this film, but I was hoping for better.   I may get out to see anyway for myself and decide.

On Netflix I saw the second and third films in the European Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy with Noomi Rapace.  The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second installment taking place shortly after solving the mysteries of the first.   The story digs deeper into the past and motivations of Lisbeth, and her family situation.   The character herself is fascinating and the Rapace portrayal of her is excellent.   The supporting cast is all good and the story moves along well.  I won’t share the details as it is best to see first hand where it all goes.   I don’t know the details of why the US version with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara wasn’t created, but this covers the next few novels.   The final chapter is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest where there is an attempt to have a court proceeding to silence Lisbeth and keep her (and her magazine writing friend) from uncovering and publishing the story about some political shenanigans going on.   It is more Swedish based, and could be a reason why an American follow up did not occur.   Most North Americans don’t know the political landscape in Sweden, let alone what they might follow and understand in their own country.  Still it is compelling film making and you don’t need to really know it to understand the forces at play.   Not as much happens in this episode from an action point of view but there is still some intrigue how evidence can be brought forward to support Lisbeth and her contentions.    Query how you prove yourself to be sane, when respected Doctors are claiming exactly the opposite to further their own selfish agenda.   All worth watching and seeing where this story goes.   Note that there is Claire Foy playing Lisbeth coming out this month.  I am not exactly clear where it fits into the trilogy (if it does at all).   It may be post the trilogy, but I guess we will all find out.   Claire Foy is excellent in The Queen.   This would be a new take for her.  Trailer is here:
I also watched on a gag, Smokey and the Bandit, the 1977 chase movie with Burt Reynolds and his mustache, a very young Sally Field, and over the top Jackie Gleason as unforgettable Sheriff Buford T Justice.  Gleason steals the film, and is just hamming it up in every scene he is in!  This is a simple story, with a fun flashback to the 70s with outrageous clothing (check out jeans on Burt and Sally, as well as collars on those polyester shirts).  Funky!   Self-proclaimed show off is challenged by rich guy to pick up and return in a few hours a truck full of Coors beer (which when crossing the Georgia border then was criminal bootlegging).   He and his buddy take the challenge, his buddy in 18 wheeler and he is new hot black Pontiac Firebird, an iconic car.   They drive to Texarkana Texas pick up Coors and drive very fast back.  Along the way Burt gets Sally Field aboard fleeing a wedding, to Sheriff’s idiot son.  They drive fast, have good chemistry and protect the slower truck by keeping the police busy making fools of themselves.   There is CB language and some fun jokes (diners = choke n puke).  In the end this was beginning of a multi movie franchise which morphed into other similar films (also with Burt) like Cannonball Run.  Hot girls, hot cars, drive fast and make police cars crash.   So if you are looking for some nostalgia, check it out.

October 29th, 2018 – Halloween Edition

Our title this week involves the impending candy-filled holiday for children rather than a review of the latest iteration of the Halloween franchise, sill starring Jamie Lee Curtis, unseen by me.   But I did manage to have another week where I was able to see an “oldie”, a “goodie” and something interesting.

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the World Series win by the Boston Red Sox last night in LA against the Dodgers.   This team lost only one road game during the playoffs (and it was 18 innings long!).   They showed resilience and fight and defeated the three best teams in all of baseball (Yankees, Astros and Dodgers).   2018 World Series Champions sounds good!  Oh and there was a movie presence at the game last night as Matt Damon was there in full Red Sox hat and “I Am With Stupid” shirt with Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman sitting next to Billy Crudup, and of course Mary Hart.

Image result for matt damon world series game 5Image result for jason bateman billy crudup world series game 5

The “oldie” was a DVD rental for the 1987 Kevin Costner film No Way Out, with Gene Hackman and Sean Young.    Sean Young was at the peak of her fame, having been in Stripes, Blade Runner and Dune.   The story was a political thriller with some espionage thrown in for good measure.   Costner plays a Navy man, who is hanging around Washington DC and meets a buddy who works for a powerful politician (Hackman) hile impressing Young at a party.  They hook up.  He then heads off to sea where he can be heroic on the bow of a ship in a storm (which interestingly makes the newspaper).   Powerful politician decides to bring him in to assist with some work based on that story in the newspaper, and things move along from there.   The buddy begins to spin a new perspective on a turning point event and the title begins to take on more meaning.  I enjoyed this film when I first saw it in the theatres as a young 20-something, but that may have been just Sean Young.   There is some intrigue here, but generally it wasn’t as good as I remembered it.   The ultimate resolution is a little less satisfying than I had remembered.   If you can rent from a library, as I did, for nothing this can fill some time and you can see some stars from 30 years ago.
The “goodie” is a modest thumbs up for the TIFF release Beautiful Boy starring Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet in the leads.  This is an addiction story, tracing the real life events surrounding Nic and father David Sheff.  In this film, I found that the director’s choice to bounce around haphazardly with the timeline was more than a little distracting and took away from the ultimate story.   Had he chosen to be more linear it might have helped some.   The starting point is Carrell seeking information about crystal meth from a doctor (Timothy Hutton).  But before answers are given, we are whisked away to an earlier time.   Much is made of the pictures of the young boy Timothee is playing and later the young man who he becomes.   Father and son seem to be close, with a broken family early on which may or may not impact the choices the young boy makes.  Parents bicker and are snippy with one another (Dad having moved on, remarried and had a couple more kids with new wife, played by Maura Tierney).  This is not for the feint of heart, as we see the slippery slope of looking for the greater high.  It is depressing seeing the adults swirl around the young man who demands more and more of their attention which takes away from others in their lives.   He is a walking time bomb, and you never know just what Nic you’re going to get.   I would have liked to see more of the Nic perspective on what happened to him; how was rehab?  How did he perceive it?  What happened there?   What was the thought on relapse, and when did temptation overcome the teachings you gained in self control?   I further wonder where did all the money come from for the young Sheff to maintain his habits?   Dad seems pretty comfortable, yet it’s hard to see where and how all this could be paid for; he disappears for seemingly long periods of time.     There is a good scene (in the trailer as well so I give nothing away) at a restaurant between father and son.  You can see Timothee heading in a downward direction unable to maintain control over this addiction.   Likely there are award nominations to come from these performances (Carrell and Chalamet).   In the end, the film felt more like an infomercial for the rehab business and the lack of funding for these valuable support services.   In a society that is fundamentally built on the idea of personal freedom and liberties, there are those who will choose to destroy their bodies and their souls for moments of fleeting and ultimately unattainable artificial joy.  It’s just hard to watch it, and see the impact that it has on those innocents around that person.
Finally, I watched Victoria and Abdul which is the new Stephen Frears film about Queen Victoria (played by Dame Judi Dench) and her Indian consort and assistant  (Ali Fazel) who her son, and later monarchies tried so very hard to wipe from history.   Frears has done High Fidelity, The Grifters and The Queen and more recently has poked at British society with Dame Judi in Philomena (and the Catholic church) and this with Queen Victoria.   Interesting here is what is not filmed really and left until the end (the cover up and attempted erasing from history).   But back to the film.  The story is about the relationship of Victoria in her final decade or so of her longest reign with this Indian gentleman who she happened upon at a dinner in which she was given an Indian coin.   All this takes place in the 1890s with Britain still ruling over India.   The Queen had never visited (it was deemed too dangerous for her) and she seemed tired of those buzzing around her looking to stake their claim in the next monarchy.  She was tired and listless and going through the motions of her everyday life.   The entrance of Abdul heightens her interests and brings her back to life.   It is hinted that she found him attractive and felt betrayed when he discloses his marital situation.   Because of him, she takes interest in learning about the culture and language of her realm (imagine that).   I wondered as I watched how a King like Henry VIII would have handled the situation; with squabbling and activities taking lace against the King’s wishes.   I suspect that it would have been met more harshly.   You can also see some of the same activities that occurred around Diana’s time and those who provide guidance and advice to the monarchy from the movie The Queen.   In the end, this was a satisfying story and I am glad that the evidence was uncovered that could bring this back into the spotlight.   I further wonder how a future King, like William, might view this as a reflection on his ancestors, and those around him who provide that guidance and advice all in the name of “protecting the Crown”.

October 22nd,2018 – Birthday edition

Hard to believe that my youngest is 14 years old today, how time flies – and how old am I ?!?!   This past weekend was checking out an oldie, a goodie and an interesting character sketch.  All of these were on Netflix.   We were tempted to go see Sharkwater Extinction, but he decided to stay inside instead.

The goodie was the recent release on Netflix for The Kindergarten Teacher with Maggie G.  We saw her at TIFF on the red carpet along with the young man who played the prodigy in the film.   This was a remake of an Israeli film of the same name a few years back.  An experienced kindergarten teacher with a husband and family of her own (older son and daughter) recognizes innocently that one of her students, played by Parker Sevak,  is periodically spontaneously spouting poetry out of the blue.   She begins to write it down, and she recognizes how deep the words are immediately.  They are well beyond the average student at this age.   Given the swirl of the life around her, she decides that she should try and cultivate and nurture this gift.   She sees him as a young Mozart of the art of poetry.  She is affirmed in her discovery by a university course she is taking herself in English and poetry.  After some less-than-stellar feedback on her own work, she reads out the young man’s work, as her own, and is applauded and encouraged by her fellow students and professor.   She feels somewhat thwarted by the father and caregiver of this boy who don’t seem that interested in his ability.  They want him to carry on a more “normal life”.   The story carries on and you can see our teacher with the best of intentions looking to find ways to develop this young man.   Mozart was fed sweets by Kings and Queens, and was allowed to develop his talents, rather than become bogged down in social media and the mundane everyday life.  I enjoyed this film and the performance.   This is Maggie’s movie and she carries it well.  She is believable, and you can sympathize with her recognizing the talent in her midst.  You wonder at times whether she is seeking out the development and growth of the boy, or whether it is becoming more about her.   Like Salieri in Amadeus, she wants to be a part of the gift rather than having just enough talent to recognize the incarnation.  She wants this talent to rub off on her and bring her glory too.   There is a social commentary too about modern society and the lack of cultural pursuits.   Her own children get good grades and are normal kids, but they don’t work on developing any talents and she resents the lack of creativity in her own house.   I was thinking about seeking this out literally last week at TIFF Lightbox, and was surprised to see it so quickly on Netflix.  So my monthly $9.99 subscription just saved me $13.99 at the theatre.   Works for me.  In the end, well worth the time spent.   Alison will be miffed about the desire for Maggie to remove her clothes, but that seems to be the situation that she has created, and one that doesn’t seem to bother the star in the least.
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The “oldie” from this weekend was the Stephen King movie with Christopher Walken called The Dead Zone.  This 1983 film was filmed by director David Cronenberg and was based on the 1979 novel from King.   It was filmed in and around Toronto and Niagara Falls.  Walken plays a school teacher Johnny Smith who has a girlfriend (Brooke Adams), whom he loves and one night driving home has an accident that puts him in a coma for a number of years.    He wakes up to find his life has changed, his girlfriend has moved on, and he has these episodes where he has visions of other times.   Martin Sheen plays an enthusiastic and bombastic Senatorial candidate who is in the midst of election time.  There are interesting parallels between Sheen and current figures in politics.  Ultimately Johnny comes to realize that his visions when he touches certain people are premonitions of what it is to come, but his “dead zone” is his ability to impact those visions and change them.   I leave the rest of the plot for the viewer.  This is one of my favourite King stories brought to the screen.   My top story of course is The Shawshank Redemption.  Others would include The Green Mile, and Misery among others.   I enjoyed this long ago, and I think it holds up well.  Walken is very good and believable and you sympathize with his plight.  It is unclear how I would view such an ability, and whether it is a gift or a curse.   However you may feel you can see how this story takes that ability for a good thrill ride.   Funny how both movies have a teacher as the main focal point.
After seeing A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, I had mentioned to a friend that I wasn’t much of a Lady Gaga fan.   I was encouraged to watch the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two.  This is another Netlflix film and it was released in 2017.   Lady Gaga was preparing for her Superbowl appearance (Patriots vs Falcons game) and she also just had found out about doing the role in A Star is Born.   As I watched this ball of energy I could how she was looking to develop and grow and move away from her earlier “glam diva” role.   She was toning down the fashion and all the make up and trying to be more whatever mainstream normal is.  It was a conscious choice.   What I also saw was in behind the performances, where once again she shows off her remarkable and strong voice and writing talents that she is suffering from constant pain from a hip problem.   I am reminded of Prince and Amy Winehouse, and notably Amy from her documentary where you see her struggle with alcoholism and people around her who enable her continued abuse of her body and talent.   Gaga looks a lot like Amy too when she has the eye makeup with the ends turned up (like Egyptian eyes – I am a guy and have no idea how to describe it).  I hope I am wrong and that Lady Gaga can get this under control.   She is seen having injections, and numerous physio manipulations and taking some pills.   I wonder about that whole star persona and handlers/managers/record labels pushing them to keep creating.   Maybe there is something inherently in the personality of one so talented for injury (internal and external) I am not sure.  The movie does not show the Superbowl performance but I was able to youtube it.   I missed it live since I was on an airplane back from Nashville when it was on.   She’s good.  She’s very good.  I think the backstory to her album Joanne was interesting with that family connection.  She is obviously very close to her family and this grounds her.  Did I go out an order her songs on Itunes after watching this?  No.  But I gained a greater insight into her life, and I am hopeful that she can keep her head about her and continue to share her talents with the world.

October 17th, 2018

I note that 22 July which was reviewed by me at TIFF (see TIFF Edition Sept 17th) is now available on Netflix.  None of this out to DVD and Pay-per-view stuff first, it is being shared and streamed almost straight away from theatrical release.   Netflix has done this before (and likely that is the point) with movies like First They Killed My Father, which Alison at last moment pulled out of seeing at TIFF, which its impending free showing.   So if you are looking for a Netflix stay in night, perhaps have a look.   Or if you are looking for something a little more “out there” check out Annihilation with Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac.   It too is available on Netflix recently.

At the theatre for First Man Saturday they previewed the latest (and endless) superhero movie to come to theatres shortly.   This time it is Captain Marvel.   I confess that I am NOT a superhero movie fan.   Certainly Alison knows this well.   It is an exception rather than the rule if I actually like a superhero movie.   For me the pinnacle was the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy with Christian Bale.   He IS Batman for me.  They were dark, they were brooding and they had a real life human dealing with human issues.   But back to the trailer, we have Brie Larson, who I really liked in Room and for which she won an Oscar, playing the lead role.   Not being a comic book guy, I am not sure whether Captain Marvel was a female.   But I’ll go with it.   Brie since Room only filled out a tank top nicely in Kong Skull Island, and I have not seen any of the other smaller films that she has done.   Now she is becoming Captain Marvel.   I don’t need to see this – nor any of the Avenger films and they won’t get any of my money.    Here is the trailer for those who haven’t seen it already.   What did Hollywood do for movies BEFORE superheroes?   Hard to remember really….!

October 15th, 2018

First Man:  Everything I have ever heard about Neil Armstrong was that he was a very private and somewhat reclusive man.   He happened to be a world icon as the first human being to ever set foot on the moon.   But he was a reluctant hero and felt that it was pure happenstance that he became this iconic figure, as Apollo 11 just happened to be the flight where all the other precursor projects were completed.   After the Apollo program he left NASA and became a professor, but still kept some interests with the NASA activities.

Along comes First Man, which is based on Armstrong’s authorized biography, first published in 2005.  Armstrong died in 2012.   The movie starts with some backstory and a test flight of the X-15 aircraft which broke speed records and left the earth’s atmosphere.  Armstrong, played by Canadian Ryan Gosling effectively,  was a test pilot before being an astronaut and showed time and again his ability to stay focused and calm when things around him were going awry.   This is an important quality in any pilot.   Whatever the situation, he can provide an outward appearance of calm and professionalism.   The film goes on to show that it may not necessarily be the best quality for a husband.  We see him and his Wife, Janet, played very well by The Crown’s Claire Foy, doing an admirable American accent.   As an aside it is interesting in recent film history that US icons get played by non-Americans.   Here the All-American husband and wife are played by a Canadian and a Brit.  Abraham Lincoln played by Irishman Daniel Day Lewis.  Just funny.   Then again Queen Elizabeth I seems to only be played by Aussies (Cate Blanchett and upcoming Margot Robbie in Mary Queen of Scots).   But I digress.
In short this movie is visually stunning, and is well worth seeing.  I saw in IMAX and was glad that I did with big sound, and big screen.  It was NOT in 3-D – thank heavens!!  There is a great deal of POV where you feel like you are Armstrong yourself, strapped into a machine that incinerated your friends not many months before, or ejecting from a lunar test flying machine that almost gets you killed.   I give nothing away in saying he survives each high risk and high stress activity.   The beauty about the film is that tension and real stress involved is created when you know what the ending is.   It is the HOW he survived and what he did, that was more important than just the fact that he did.   Armstrong himself shows this implacability after the lunar flying machine almost kills him and his reaction was “but it didn’t”.  Some might even take the rest of the day off of go and hug your wife, but not him.
This too was a far more emotional film than I was expecting, and writing about this aspect of it brings those feelings back to the surface.  I won’t divulge this but to say that there are things about him that I did not know.   These impacted greatly a man famous for keeping his emotions in check, as they would anyone, anywhere.   This emotional thread is carried throughout the film and anchors it well.   I felt that both Gosling and Foy were excellent along with a quality supporting cast.   Gosling has that quiet stillness, and he can come across as cold.   If Casey Affleck can win an Oscar in Misery by the Water, as a man who says very little but you can tell feels deeply, then Gosling can at the very least get a nomination for this.  I expect it.   I also expect Foy, who is having a busy year with her upcoming take on Lisbeth Salander (Girl in the Spider’s Web) as a supporting role Oscar nominee.  She has a couple scenes as they interact about the dangers he is taking on (and make no mistake that this was a dangerous enterprise), and how he needed to bring these forward to his children, and he explain what he was doing and what might occur.   I think Armstrong just blocked those things out and kept to the task at hand.   He also did it all with excellence despite some earlier thoughts that he was not as strong a pilot than he was an engineer.   I also note that not disclosed in the film is that he and his wife divorced in 1994.  I can see why.
I wholeheartedly recommend this, and it is one of the better films of the year.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.   This is the original 2009 European version of the film with Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander as mentioned above.  Rapace was the good doctor in Prometheus and she is really effective here.  The three European films are on Netflix now.   In 2011, Hollywood got a hold of this and re-made it with Daniel Craig.    That was a decent film, but this version to me is better.   If you know the storyline, this is the same.   The plot is a news reporter (disgraced and successfully sued for libel and slander) asked to solve a family mystery of a girl’s death from 40 years before.  The character of Salander is the most interesting in the film.   She is odd, quirky goth with tattoos and piercings everywhere.  She is brilliant with the computer and has had a difficult life.   Bits and pieces of this are shared, but she also has a tremendous sense of justice and retribution.    She hits back hard, and she follows through.  Rapace shows all the same elements that Rooney Mara played in the re-make (I had seen the Mara version before in the theatre and not this one).   As much as I like Mara there, I like this better.  This is a good thriller with enough edge and adult content.   Well worth checking out and seeing the film genesis for these characters who have two more films after that.

October 8th, 2018 – Canadian Thanksgiving

A Star is Born:  First off I have to admit that I am not a Lady Gaga fan.   And I think mostly that it had to do with the whole persona, with the clothes and the over-the-top wackiness of her.  She just seemed so made up and created with no one very real underneath.   So I came into this film, that was given good reviews from TIFF with some reservations, and few expectations.   I also wasn’t sure that this re-make of another re-make (1976) of yet another film (1954) needed to be made.  And some impressive talent have played the Ally character before, namely Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand!!  Pretty hard to get more talented than that!  Yes Bradley Cooper being the Director was likely enticing, and making this a more modern film adaption might make some sense but still.   The theatre on Sunday was packed for a 9:15PM showing, which surprised me actually.   But all of that is background.

The film is good, and I think the best part about it is Gaga herself.   She is fresh, and wholesome – her “normal” hair and look in the beginning of the film along with her street-wise attitude make for a compelling protagonist.   She talks at length early on about the music business and being told that her nose is “too big” although she can sing.  Well, let me emphasize this with underlines, that SHE CAN SING.   The film includes all original songs and they are very good.  Gaga simply nails it.  In many ways this is a concert film, because there are many songs performed in full.    But from a singing stand point, Cooper was a revelation.  I didn’t expect it.  He plays the guitar and performs live (even alone and in a bar after it is closed) he sings really well.    The biggest distraction for me was the Cooper speaking voice.   He’s channeling co-star Sam Elliott who plays his brother and has his gravelly voice and drawl.  I think also he is adding some elements of Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.  In truth I think there is much of Crazy Heart tone, and look and the feel of Cooper’s character.    But this voice I guess is to make you see this character and not Bradley Cooper but every time he’s talking I think that it’s not him.    It seems put on, and it’s not really necessary.   When he’s engaging with Sam Elliott then it shows this mirroring and they are really good together.  Anyway, from a strong movie and performance, it likely didn’t need to go there.

The film stands on the music, but it breathes through the love story.  You have to believe that Cooper and Gaga fall for one another.   They have humble beginnings in a drag bar, where she sings once a week (the “girls” allow this as she is was a server and they just love to hear her sing), and it grows as he takes her under his wing and gives her a stage for her talent.   Other talents come in too in supporting roles, like Dave Chappelle as a buddy who is a guy who cleaned up his act to Cooper’s mess.   And also the performance of Ally’s father, and a surprise performance that added depth and feeling.  I’ll leave it at that because it took me a couple minutes to place the actor.
I will also say about the music that I liked a great deal more the early songs and the ones from the Cooper character rather than the more pop songs that Ally became.   She has such a great voice, and writes such good lyrics that it seems a shame to make them into dance numbers.    The scene with her at SNL could have been removed, as this film is way over 2 hours, but it moved along well with a good pace.   Certainly the audience I saw it with didn’t get restless.
So the buzz is real.  The performances are really good.  I have found a new appreciation for Lady Gaga, even though she has gone back to her platinum blond hair for the interviews about this project.  Sad really, and I wished I saw more early Ally and a little less Gaga in the promotion junkets.
On Netflix I watched the newly released film Operation Finale about the finding and extraction of Nazi Final Solution architect Adolph Eichmann, played by Ben Kingsley.   I did not know this story but it is a fascinating one of identifying and then trying to get a known Nazi (the highest ranking Nazi at the time who had fled after WWII) from Argentina.   As with the Nuremberg trials there are some interesting legal arguments about things like where the venue should be for the war crimes against humanity.   Does one really think that the Nazi would get a “fair trial” in Israel?   Of course it is but a formality, and justifiably so from all the evidence that would be brought forward.   This story focuses on the people who struggled to do the extraction, and struggled with keeping their deep emotions in check.   The main crux of the story is obtaining Eichmann first, but once you have him, obtaining his signature to prove that he is who you say he is.   Torturing a signature out of him likely doesn’t help your cause, but that flies in the face of those who feeling treating someone humanely who was so clearly inhuman was something they couldn’t bear.  Oscar Isaac plays one of the main operatives, although he has a spotty past with wrongfully executing a Nazi before.   There is that cat and mouse game with the lucid and intelligent Eichmann, who professes to be protecting his country that he loves, and following the orders of a dictator.    He explains that trial of one man for the actions of an entire nation, and the killing of 6 million is too heavy a burden.   The extraction itself by disguising and drugging Eichmann has a little more Hollywood to it than I expect happened in real life, but it made for an interesting climax to the time in Argentina.   I find it interesting that outside the film, in real life the Argentinians were irate that their sovereignty was challenged and they felt violated and wronged.   Harbouring Nazis and sympathizers to flip the bird to Israel and all her supporters wasn’t enough I suppose.   In the end this was worth watching, although I would have liked to see some more of the trial itself, which was broadcast live at the time.   The same issues from 27 July and giving a terrorist a voice arise as well.  So something to check out at home.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!!!