A Star Is Born (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

The Haunting of Hill House

Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel are the super horror couple behind this Netflix series. They worked together on “Hush” and “Oculus” and they share a house in real life: they’re a couple. Together they have put together this tv series and I am so glad to have 9 more episodes to watch.

The Haunting of Hill House
TV-MA | 50min | Drama , Horror , Mystery | TV Series (2018– )
Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.
Creator: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Mckenna Grace, Carla Gugino, Michiel Huisman

The last thing I saw by director Mike Flanagan was “Gerald’s Game.” It was quite good and the “wrists like gloves” parts were my least favorite and most favorite horrors. Flanagan has established himself as a horror master and he is proving that all over again in the pilot to this series.

It watches a lot like a Stephen King novel. You have the American trappings and tropes. Timothy Hutton shows up as the modern dad and Henry Thomas as well (remember Elliot from ET?). There are some truly great actors, including Kate Siegel. I will say that this first episode requires some patience but the payoff is worth anything you might mis-perceive as boredom. 9/10

Sweet Country

This is not your run of the mill western. For one thing it takes place in the 1920’s in the Outback bush of Australia. There isn’t much water and everybody looks thirsty as hell. That only adds to the frustration of scenes showing abject racism that occurred at that time. I’m glad awareness is raised in this film, it feel good to know that. Still, like the slavery of the states, it’s hard to watch sometimes, especially as a white man. We are guilty of so many crimes against colored people. I shook my head more than once asking “why?”

Sweet Country (2017)
R | 1h 53min | Adventure , Crime , Drama | 6 April 2018 (USA)
Australian western set on the Northern Territory frontier in the 1920s, where justice itself is put on trial when an aged Aboriginal farmhand shoots a white man in self-defense and goes on the run as a posse gathers to hunt him down.
Director: Warwick Thornton
Writers: Steven McGregor, David Tranter
Stars: Bryan Brown, Luka Magdeline Cole, Shanika Cole

We can do better as whites. There are 2 redeeming characters: one is played by Sam Neill and the other is the imported judge toward the end. These should be seen as white heroes because they stood for equality when ignorant whites threatened.

This is not a feel-good film but it is enjoyable in the Western and History genres. It’s also 2 hours long, be warned. 7/10.

The Unforgiven

Lots of times we see the hero in a movie like this as a caring, conscientious savior. Not so here. The question for us is “what DOES he care about and why?” In this Western, we have Clint Eastwood’s character as our hero. He’s been a killer and a despised dude in his past but now we see something more resigned. In fact, we don’t know what he’s willing to do to these evil killers and hoodlums.

Unforgiven (1992)
R | 2h 10min | Drama , Western | 7 August 1992 (USA)
Retired Old West gunslinger William Munny reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: David Webb Peoples
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman

I think the dark nature of Eastwood’s character makes this film extra special as a revenge. It’s not a revenge Western until something awful is done, and early on in the film, it is. Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood’s characters represent the final season of a cowboy’s life. They watch and marvel at what the young bloods are willing to do. Never again, they say to themselves.

Gene Hackman’s character, the Sheriff, is pure evil. Ultimately his darkness brings it out by necessity in those around him. This is one of the best westerns out there. I highly recommend it. 10/10.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

All star casts are interesting. I think they do them for different reasons. Jack Black and Roomey Mara have tiny roles and rarely intersect with the protagonist. Jonah Hill has a great role but, again, he isn’t seen as much. It felt like the story was too weak to not sell the film on an ensemble, but maybe that’s just me.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018) R | 1h 54min | Biography , Comedy , Drama | 4 April 2018 (France) Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot Poster On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life. Director: Gus Van Sant Writers: John Callahan (based on the book by), John Callahan (story by) | 4 more credits » Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara

Director of: Drugstore Cowboy, Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, Milk, Elephant, Psycho, Finding Forrester. Need I say more?

It’s a good film, not a great one. Most the time you are caught up in the life and close up front face of an alcoholic, you can almost smell the booze. His cartooning was interesting but took way too long to get integrated into the plot. It felt like it was trying to recapture the magic of “American Spelndor.” Harvey Pekar was a similar character I think, minus the booze and the crippling accident. I think John Callahan’s life and art deserved more in a film presentation.  6/10.

Drugstore Cowboy

Watching junkies can’t be a fun day of movies. Still, when you get into the nitty gritty of the people who use drugs, it can be very interesting indeed. Addiction has been studied much since this film came out. They have learned a lot but there’s no substitute for watching good writing in a film on the topic. These addicts steal as well.

Drugstore Cowboy (1989) R | 1h 41min | Crime , Drama |  A pharmacy-robbing dope fiend and his crew pop pills and evade the law. Director: Gus Van Sant (as Gus Van Sant Jr.) Writers: James Fogle (novel), Gus Van Sant (screenplay) (as Gus Van Sant Jr.) | 1 more credit » Stars: Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros

Matt Dillon leads this film through shallow and deep waters. This group of traveling addicts hold up drug stare pharmacies for their fix. You see the dynamics of living among these people. There is some visual stuff to simulate drug experience. There is also a well written plot that really shows the mentality of these characters. You learn that addicts can come in all shapes and sizes and that maybe it shouldn’t be a crime to have a medical problem like this. This is a masterpiece, a must see. 10/10

Elle

Thrillers with rape and ambition are full of the “red” stuff of our existence. The forbidden fruits, the “dark side of the moon.” We have all that here in the story of “Elle.” This one scored in the 90’s on Metacritic but then again, foreign films with subtitles usually do better. I’d say it’s a worthy watch but in the 80’s? Hmmm. I’ll have to mull that score over.

Elle (2016)
R | 2h 10min | Crime , Drama , Thriller | 11 November 2016 (USA)
A successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: Philippe Djian (novel), David Birke (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny

I was proud of her with her busy workaholic schedule to get medical help after the rape. I thought it was stupid she didn’t tell the cops. There were some clues I got early on that showed me who the rapist was but I won’t spoil that for you. There are some great actors in this and the mystery is interesting, albeit easy for me to figure out. As for my score, I enjoyed this film but it’s the same sort of rape and mystery film we see all the time. For that reason, I give it a 6/10.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

Ok, let’s dispense with logic for a moment and look at the pathos of this poster. You have creatures and freaky looking Halloween people coming out of a book. Try to tell me you don’t want to see those creatures? The CGI in this film is top notch. In fact, it’s a work of Sony Animation who are the geniuses behind the upcoming animated “Grinch” film, it looks amazing.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018) PG | 1h 30min | Adventure , Comedy , Family | 12 October 2018 (USA) Two young friends find a magic book that brings a ventriloquist’s dummy to life. Director: Ari Sandel Writers: Rob Lieber (screenplay by), Rob Lieber (story by) | 2 more credits » Stars: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor

Our director here is Ari Sandel. He is known for several movies but the one that sticks out the most is “The Duff.” He did a great job on this film but the reputation of Goosebumps precedes him.

This film will get you and your kids into the Halloween spirit. It’s well crafted and brilliantly acted. It’s not terribly original but that’s expected of a Goosebumps film. There is an interesting entrance by a familiar face at the end so wait for it! This is simple, yet pure, Halloween fun at the movies. I give it a 7/10.

Apostle

“The Witch” by Gareth Evans was understated. It was more a tale about family response to an inhuman religion tearing fathers and families against their daughters. This is what produced the Salem witch trials. Here we see another religious based horror in that same pattern but this time it’s an avowed cult and NOTHING here is understated.

Apostle (2018)
2h 10min | Horror , Mystery , Thriller | 12 October 2018 (USA)
In 1905, a drifter on a dangerous mission to rescue his kidnapped sister tangles with a sinister religious cult on an isolated island.
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Stars: Dan Stevens, Kristine Froseth, Lucy Boynton

Could Gareth Evans, our writer/director here be getting a style and theme? I wonder how many more the public will welcome? Maybe many. Period pieces thrive on Netflix and all streaming networks. Horror has a big draw as well. This isn’t a jump-scare variety though. This is the kind where you squirm at the thought of “what-if?”

Lucy Boynton shines once again in this, as she has in everything she’s done. I’ll never forget the first time she turned heads in “Sing Street.” Dan Stevens, from so many things but most memorable on a grand scale as “Beast” in “The Beauty and the Beast.” There are other stars in this as well. It has become just as prestigious I think to be in Netflix film as to be in feature film of the cinema.

I liked the period piece part of it. The costumes and building props were remarkable, making me feel as if I were transported back in time. I must say however that a similar and more effective message about cults has already been said in “The Village.” Look it up, it’s one of my all-time favorite psychological horrors. The best thing about it? The realism and presentation to show it COULD actually happen. That is missing in “Apostle.”

Comparing this to that, I felt this dragged on a bit long before moving into its complete BONKERS stage of the plot. It’s a fun ride from then on out but charm flies out the window. 7/10.