‘A Star is Born’ Review: Love, Fame & the Price We Pay

*Don’t worry little monsters, this is a non-spoiler review!*

astarisbornposter

Don’t forget the tissues because this film will surely leave you in tears. This is the fourth telling of this story but it might as well have been the first due to Bradley Cooper’s vision for the film. A Star is Born follows Jackson Maine, played by Bradley Cooper, an alcoholic country rockstar who just wants to make music and drink his cares away. Jack meets Ally, played by Lady Gaga, a down on her luck waitress who has an amazing voice but doesn’t believe in herself. The film shows their journey of falling in love and the pitfalls of fame and having to navigate those challenges together.

Bradley Cooper is truly a tour de force, directing, acting & co-writing in this film. For a directorial debut, it feels like he has been making movies all his life. The concert scenes feel like you are on stage with the performers, like you are part of the show. I’ve never experienced watching a concert that way in a movie before. It usually comes across as artificial and “staged”  but not in this film. The sound design transports you right into the crowd. You could have easily convinced me this was a real music documentary due to how all the concert footage was shot. Cooper also takes this intimacy into his scenes with Gaga. He uses a lot of close ups and over the shoulder shots that suck you into their love story. You believe they are falling in love with each other because as an audience member you are falling in love with them too. As far as his acting in the film, Cooper utterly transforms into Jack. He has a growling, cracked, deep voice and you completely believe that he is drunk most of the film. It it so hard to convincingly act buzzed or drunk and it not seem over the top or trying too hard but Cooper’s mannerisms, the way he slurs some of his words but not all, and even his walk, all convey a masterful portrayal of a man struggling with the disease of alcoholism. Since he plays it so honestly you can’t help but love him despite his many struggles. We haven’t even gotten to his voice! Who knew Bradley Cooper could sing? I would buy his character’s album right now. The country/rock jam band sound of Jackson Maine is electric and the songs could be on the radio today.

cooperdirector

Image courtesy of Clay Enos via imdb.com

As much as this movie is a showcase for Bradley Cooper, it would not have had the emotional authenticity it did without the performance of Lady Gaga. She is Ally. For a musical superstar of her caliber to convince an audience that she is about to perform on a huge stage for the first time and for us to buy into her feelings of nervousness and reluctance is a credit to her as an actress. When she is performing as Ally you see Ally, not the superstar Lady Gaga. Being a huge Gaga fan myself, you can even pick up on subtle differences in her voice and how she is singing with some slightly different inflections than her usual sound. This role was tailor made to Gaga’s strengths and she knocks it out of the park. From the first scene we are introduced to her, we understand her character’s motivations and get a sense of her fiery personality. The chemistry between her and Cooper’s character leaps off the screen. Their scenes together feel like people having a real conversation and not reciting scripted lines. It almost feels as though we are watching a reality tv program about their lives. You fall in love with the earnest, vulnerability of Ally at the beginning of the film just like Jack did, so it becomes even harder to stomach how she subtly changes once she gets thrust into the pop world and loses some of that authenticity that she started with.

astarisbornstage

Although this story centers around Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s characters, the supporting cast should not be overlooked. Sam Elliott gives a heartfelt performance as Cooper’s much older brother Bobby. I felt myself wanting more scenes of the brothers together because of Cooper and Elliott’s instant kinship. Andrew Dice Clay gives a fun and layered performance as Ally’s father. Her interactions with him being a former alcoholic definitely help you understand Ally’s relationship to Jack. Anthony Ramos, of Hamilton fame plays Ally’s best friend Ramon. They truly seemed like best friends and their camaraderie was a highlight of the film. Rounding out the cast is Dave Chappelle, playing Jack’s best friend George ‘Noodles’ Stone. With not many dramatic credits to his name, Chappelle takes this small role and gives a nice believability and ease to it.

The film is a tad long, coming in at just over 2 hours, with the first half having a better flow than the second but you don’t notice as much due to the emotional investment in the love story Cooper and Gaga are weaving together. This rendition of A Star is Born has so much heart that it will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. It showcases a touching love story, poignant songs and a sobering look at what alcoholism and depression does to a person and the people they love.

astarisbornpiano

Keep a lookout during awards season because this definitely will garner some Golden Globes and Oscar nominations. I would venture to say you can expect nominations for Gaga and Cooper in the acting categories as well as directing for Cooper. Of course the category of Best Original Song is most likely it’s best chance of garnering a win seeing as the soundtrack boosts many great choices from ‘The Shallow’, ‘Look What I Found’ and ‘I’ll Never Love Again’. This would also be the perfect opportunity to have Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform one or two of these songs live before the Hollywood audience, seeing as Gaga has an excellent track record with Oscar performances. Speaking of the soundtrack, I highly recommend picking it up as it includes songs that didn’t make it into the movie and dialogue interludes between each song.

*All images courtesy of © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. via imdb.com

© Allyson Nold, reelramblings.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Allyson Nold and reelramblings.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All content on this site is owned by reelramblings.com unless specifically stated otherwise. Credit will be given to the original owner’s content when used on this site.

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ – A Crazy Fun Time for Representation

*This is a Non-Spoiler review!

crazyrichasians

Photo Courtesy of imdb.com

The title of this movie is quite literally what it is about. Based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians follows the lives of some crazy, very rich Asians. Even though the title is pretty on the nose, the themes & stories that are portrayed in this film go far beyond those three descriptors. This film was a major positive step for representation. I can’t recall watching any movie that contained an all Asian cast that wasn’t in the kung-fu genre. In it’s most simplistic form, this is a story about a man that takes his girlfriend home to meet his family. It is a universal story. Not once did having an all Asian cast detract or distract from the story being told, in fact in most instances it added to it. Hollywood can’t use the excuse of “there aren’t enough good Asian actors” anymore when confronted with showing diversity in films. Every single character in this film was a well rounded, fleshed out, fully realized person and every single character was played by an Asian actor! Even the side characters had a personality! I hope the success of this film is a watershed moment for the entertainment industry where they realize diversity and representation can and will equal monetary and critical success. People want to see themselves represented as the protagonist in their own stories!

Besides the representation aspect, this film is just fun to watch. The visuals are stunning, showing off a lot of the magnificent landscapes of Singapore as well as making you wish you could eat the food right off the screen. The themes of love vs family, familial expectation and pressure and the treatment of different classes all expertly interweave together creating a complex emotional web worthy of the best daytime soap opera. This romantic comedy follows the standard comedy trope of meeting the significant other’s family and everything succumbing to chaos but it executes it in a fresh, enjoyable take. The basic plot follows Rachel and Nick, living a fun life in New York when Nick invites Rachel to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding and meet his family. Rachel soon finds out Nick belongs to one of the wealthiest families in Asia and many people aren’t too happy that Asia’s most eligible bachelor has brought home a Chinese American.

Constance Wu, from Fresh Off The Boat fame, shines as the New York economics professor, Rachel Chu. Her earnestness and relatable personality make Rachel a protagonist that we root for when things for her character start to get rough. Henry Goulding stars as Nick Young, Rachel’s impossibly wealthy boyfriend, in his FIRST EVER MOVIE ROLE!!!! He knocks it out of the park with his charm and wit, so much so that as an audience member you can totally understand why all the women in the film are so gaga over him. Goulding couldn’t have asked for a better debut and it will surely lead to more starring roles for him. He already landed a lead role in Paul Feig’s new crime drama, A Simple Favor, which stars Anna Kendrick & Blake Lively.  The supporting cast boasts some great talents as well, from Rachel’s best friend in college played by the rising comedy star Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8), to Nick’s fashionista cousin Astrid, Gemma Chan (catch her in the upcoming Captain Marvel) and his overbearing mother Eleanor played by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon legend Michelle Yeoh. 

richasianspress.jpg

Cast from left to right: Awkwafina, Henry Goulding, Gemma Chan, Constance Wu, Sonoya Mizumo & director Jon M. Chu (photo courtesy of Stewart Cooke via imdb.com)

With many laugh out loud moments (mostly provided by Awkwafina), along with some tense family drama and sweeping romantic scenes, Crazy Rich Asians provides an enjoyable 2 hour escape that leaves us with the theme of family and reminds us to stand up for ourselves even when others seek to tear us down.

 

© Allyson Nold, reelramblings.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Allyson Nold and reelramblings.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All content on this site is owned by reelramblings.com unless specifically stated otherwise. Credit will be given to the original owner’s content when used on this site.

 

‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ Non-Spoiler Review

spywho

Image Courtesy of imdb.com

Hit the ground running. Pull your audience into the world you have created. This should be the goal of every filmmaker. A goal that was definitely achieved by Susanna Fogel, the director and co-writer of this delightful, action spy caper. The start of this movie feels like it could easily be the opening scene in a Bond/Bourne film. The action scenes were very well choreographed with very little shaky cam and inspiring cinematography. You felt right in the middle of it. However, what sets this film apart from the aforementioned spy films is that it is not just an action film but a comedy as well. So as you are enjoying Justin Theroux, the titular spy Drew, punch dudes in the face and run through marketplaces, you are also shown Mila Kunis’ character Audrey lamenting that Drew has dumped her and subsequently burning his stuff. The juxtaposition of comedy and action throughout the film keeps the story fun and exciting, never knowing if you will be getting a fast paced car chase or a Kate McKinnon physical comedy master class.

Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) are two best friends who get swept up in the world of international espionage when they find out Audrey’s ex-boyfriend was a spy. The girls’ friendship is the grounding force of this movie and Kunis and McKinnon’s chemistry was very palpable. You believed that they were lifelong friends. They played off of each other so well, with Mila playing the more relatable funny friend against Kate’s wacky, free-spirited personality. However, Mila definitely held her own with the Saturday Night Live legend. I feel Kunis has definitely found her comedy niche with this most recent film and her previous work Bad Moms. McKinnon has not really parlayed her SNL success to the big screen as of yet, but this is her most well-rounded and satisfying outing to date.

spywhocopperstone

Image courtesy of Hopper Stone SMPSP- Lionsgate Entertainment

The supporting cast is a fun mixed bag of newcomers accompanied by a tv legend. Sam Heughan, of STARZ Outlander fame and stand up comedian Hasan Minhaj play CIA agents whose boss is none other than Dana Scully herself, Gillian Anderson. Heughan gets a lot to do in this movie from stunt work to some back & forth comedy with Kunis & McKinnon. It was a nice change of pace from the period drama he is mostly known for. Anderson deftly played her part of “The Beyonce of the Government” as stated by McKinnon’s character Morgan. She served her purpose but I wish Anderson was utilized a bit more. Her character was so mysterious that I would have loved more scenes with her, especially playing off Kate McKinnon. A standout for me was newcomer, Ivanna Sakhno, who played a model/gymnast/assassin. Her facial expressions and physical skills were a joy to watch.

This was a fun summer movie that didn’t take itself too seriously. It reminded me of previous Melissa McCarthy films such as Spy and The Heat along with the remake of Get Smart. It didn’t quite live up to it’s potential but even though it didn’t land where it perhaps wanted to, it was enjoyable nonetheless.

 

© Allyson Nold, reelramblings.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Allyson Nold and reelramblings.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All content on this site is owned by reelramblings.com unless specifically stated otherwise. Credit will be given to the original owner’s content when used on this site.

 

‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’: The Feel Good Sequel/Prequel of the Summer

***Have no fear you Dancing Queen! This is a Non-Spoiler Review.****

mammamiaimdb2

Photo courtesy of imdb.com

A long time ago, in the simpler time of 2008, a movie about a young girl inviting her 3 possible fathers to her wedding captivated the world. Mamma Mia! became the highest grossing live-action musical of all time until it was recently surpassed by the live-action Beauty and the Beast in 2017 and most notably, it was the highest grossing film directed by a woman until the Patty Jenkins directed blockbuster, Wonder Woman. 

Now it’s ten years later and it’s time to step back on that disco fueled, glitter infused ABBA train. All our old favorites from the first film have returned although Donna, played by Meryl Streep, has a significantly smaller role than in the original. We follow Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, as she is getting ready to reopen the hotel her mother started. Amongst the chaos of the reopen, she also learns she is pregnant. This revelation prompts Sophie to wonder how her mom dealt with raising her on her own which leads into various flashback sequences of how young Donna, played by Lily James of CinderellaBaby Driver fame, came to meet her three lovers.

Ol Parker takes over as director and screenwriter for the sequel but doesn’t quite capture the magic and flow of the first, directed by Phyllida Lloyd & screenplay by Catherine Johnson (who wrote the original musical for the stage). However, there are moments that this movie really shines and leaves you with that warm, fuzzy feeling. The stars of this film are the new cast playing the younger versions of the characters we knew & loved from the first film. James completely embodies her role as young Donna. She commands the stage during her musical numbers and breaks your heart in the more tender moments. Her ‘Dynamos’, Jessica Keenan Wyn and Alexa Davies, are spitting images of their older counterparts, possessing all the flair and wit that Christine Baranski and Julie Walters brought to the roles. As for the men, they each compliment James with their charm, personality and singing abilities, which are far better than their older counterparts….(Sorry Pierce.) Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, and Jeremy Irvine handled their roles perfectly and they were a joy to watch onscreen.

mamamiaimdb

Cast from left to right: Hugh Skinner (Harry), Jessica Keenan Wyn (Tanya), Alexa Davies (Rosie), Josh Dylan (Bill), Lily James (Donna), Jeremy Irvine (Sam).          (photo courtesy of imdb.com)

Of course, you can’t have a musical based on ABBA songs without an awesome soundtrack. Some old favorites are brought back along with some new additions, helping the film feel fresh but familiar. I won’t spoil any of the choices they made, but as an audience member, I was swaying back and forth in my chair for most of the numbers.

Speaking of musical numbers, we haven’t even gotten to the surprise hit of the movie, Cher! That’s right. Cher plays Sophie’s grandmother, in the role she was born to play, considering Ol Parker had her in mind while writing the part. Cher embodies the over-the-top, Vegas grandmother character like only Cher can. When she sings, you feel the power of a performer who has done this millions of times. Her presence takes over the room, in a good way. She added much more joy to the film than I thought she would and she was a welcome addition to the cast that had me smiling every time she appeared.

Overall, this film is a worthy successor to the first Mamma Mia! film. I never wanted the flashback sequences to end due to the powerhouse performances of the new cast. The returning cast played their parts and kept the nostalgia factor high. This is a fun, easy-going summer musical that will leave you in a better mood than when you entered the theater. That’s the power of ABBA!

MammaMiaEndCredits

Photo courtesy of imdb.com

***Don’t forget to stay for the beginning of the credits. This mid-credit scene is worth the price of admission and possibly my favorite part of the movie! Also there is a short scene at the very end, but in my opinion it is not worth staying for.***

 

HBO Documentary Review-‘Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind’

robin-williams-come-inside-my-mind-ka-1920

Photo courtesy of hbo.com

A comedic force of nature with a mile a minute wit and enough manic energy to transfix you with every word; that was Robin Williams to me. This film dives deep into Robin’s essence, illuminating his past and unfortunately his untimely exit from this world. Marina Zenovich directed this intimate portrait of one of the greatest comedians of our time. The film follows the familiar documentary format, starting with the early life and continuing through, hitting the career highlights throughout. However, what struck me most about Zenovich’s approach was how she presented the material. Robin narrates a lot of the film himself, through audio clips from past interviews or comedy bits. You never see him during these clips but his voice guides you through the film with the help of photos and stand up clips. It’s so powerful to simply hear someone’s voice who is no longer with us.

Never-before-seen footage and interviews with his closest friends and family are interwoven throughout the film, helping the viewer to understand how special this man was and how many lives he impacted with his gift of comedy. His first wife, Valerie Velardi, talked about the Robin she knew before he was in the public eye. Billy Crystal, David Letterman, and Steve Martin talked about the genius comedian who needed comedy like he needed air. His struggles with alcohol and drug addiction that permeated his private life also seemed to seep into his life on the stage. Billy Crystal admitted, “It’s a very powerful thing for a lot of comedians–that laugh is a drug. That acceptance, that thrill, is really hard to replace with anything else.”

I ran the gamut of emotions while watching this film. Clips from his stand up shows made me laugh out loud. Hearing from Billy Crystal about the last time he talked to Robin made me cry. Listening to his son Zac describe his many adventures with his father made me smile. Of course I loved seeing clips from his many classic movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin, but what touched me the most were the personal interviews from those who knew him best.

Robin Williams was part of my childhood. I literally wore out our VHS copy of Aladdin as a kid, replaying the Genie’s scenes over and over. Every time I would be given the unenviable chore of vacuuming the house, I would dance around with the machine like I was Mrs. Doubtfire. When I was feeling down, I would play his stand up special on the history of golf. This man shaped my sense of humor and brought so much joy to my life.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a captivating look into the life and career of one of the funniest people in the world and a fitting tribute to the man who made so many of us forget our troubles and just laugh.

robinwilliamsspark

 

 

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review

miss-peregrines-home-movie-logo-posters

Image courtesy of Screen Rant

Miss Peregrine’s captures the feeling of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters with the aesthetic of Tim Burton’s creepy visual style. Based on the book by Ransom Riggs, Peregrine’s follows the journey of Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield), a seemingly ordinary teenager stuck in a boring providential town where his only escape from the monotony of every day life is in his Grandpa’s (Terrance Stamp) stories about a magical home full of peculiar children.

Events unfold that force Jake to leave his sleepy Florida suburb for the country of Wales, where he discovers his Grandpa’s stories held more truth than fiction when he encounters some peculiar children who take him to their home that exists beyond time. Jake acquires a certain fondness for Emma (Ella Purnell), a young girl with the power of aerokinesis who must wear lead shoes to keep her light frame from floating away. In charge of this merry band of misfits is Miss Peregrine, played by the scene stealing Eva Green. A Tim Burton veteran, Green embodies a Mary Poppins like charm coupled with a birdlike ferocity. Oh did I forget to mention Miss Peregrine tends to turn into a peregrine falcon from time to time?

peregrinsfoxmovies

Image courtesy of foxmovies.com

Miss Peregrine is fiercely loyal and protective of her charges and enlists Jake to help protect them from Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Hollows, a group of Slender man like creatures looking for immortality. Jackson is his typical over the top, chewing the scenery self but for once his performance didn’t take me out of the movie. His character is theatrical and zany and Jackson’s in your face nature actually added to the performance making him incredibly unpredictable, menacing and even funny.

jacksonmissperegrine

Image courtesy of imdb.com

This movie brings Burton back to true form, after having some creative missteps as of late. It is delightfully weird with unique and memorable characters. The main gripe I have with this film is we don’t get to spend enough time with the “memorable ones” and instead are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time with the “boring ones.” Let’s find a home full of super powered children but spend more than half our time with boring every day people whose names you can’t remember. The peculiar children do get their moments to shine throughout the film but never receive the fleshed out treatment they truly deserve.

This slight character misuse keeps this movie from reaching it’s full potential. However, it is still a fun, well-crafted fairytale that the whole family will enjoy. (Well, maybe not the really young ones) The visuals and score transport you in typical Tim Burton fashion to a world where anything is possible and the strange is embraced. The source material lends itself so well to Burton’s creepy, unique style that you would have thought it was an original screenplay from him. The audience will leave with a smile on their faces but also a slight feeling of lacking.

peregrinegif

Gif courtesy of mashable.com

P.S. Keep an eye out for the battle scene at the end. I don’t think a more “Tim Burton-esque” battle scene has ever been conceived!

Welcome Movie Lovers!

Hello & Welcome to Reel Ramblings! The movie review site for the movie lover in all of us. Current blockbusters, indie darlings or classic throwbacks, it’s all here! Also occasional tv recaps & reviews when inspirations strikes.