REVIEW: “A STAR IS BORN” (2018) Warner Bros.

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“A Star is Born” version 4.0 is here. And with it, we get not only Lady Gaga, but Bradley Cooper in his directorial debut doing double duty as lead actor as well. Straight off the bat I have to say this was a fantastic film with deserved praise for both its stars performance and their chemistry. The rise of fame from Gaga’s character to the declining career of Cooper’s was a roller-coaster ride of emotion. And the soundtrack can be just summed up as WOW!.

This 2018 updated version is very much in tune with today’s world and thankfully so, as I can only confess to seeing the last two versions and they were too kept in time with the day/age of music of that period. The first half of film for me is certainly the strongest part as we get to meet our main characters Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a musician who is struggling to cope with his life and Ally (Lady Gaga), who thru a through a random stop, meetup where she is performing at a drag bar that Maine stops in while in an alcoholic stupor, for just one more cocktail.

We get a very good supporting cast here who all stand on their own in their parts of the story. Once again, I am impressed by Andrew Dice Clay’s performance – something I’d never thought I’d see or say, as Ally’s father Lorenzo. Her sidekick throughout the film is Ramon (Anthony Ramos) and her manager who takes her down fame’s sidewalk Rez (Rafi Gavron). Cooper has his own great support in Sam Elliot as his much older 1/2 brother Bobby. Bobby is the one who has picked Jackson up off the ground – literally – and wrapped him up at night before any major damage can be done.

Cue to the second half of the film. While still great does have more than a few cliche moments which can be a bit distracting especially if you have seen the other versions. Coopers directorial eye is certainly great capturing some great brilliant musical performance shots and always capturing the characters emotional thoughts. I certainly would have liked more Dave Chappelle scenes and loved the different type of character he played.

If I had to sum up this film – acting/directing/story/soundtrack in the best way possible it would be as follows: Gaga out-sings Cooper by a long shot, though make no mistake, he does a passable job. But Cooper on the other hand, out acts Gaga – who again, does well for a first time starring role – but cannot compete with either Streisand or Garland’s previous acting performances while her voice is just as comparable. Realistically speaking, those two are a tough act to follow for ANYONE. I know everyone is screaming Oscar, but personally, and again this is just me, I think it might be to early to call that yet – though it’s all a possibility.

While it’s a very tough job to pull this off as this type of story was maybe thought to have been done to death, but truly congratulations to all on a job well done.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, October 1, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
‘A STAR IS BORN’ IS OUT WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2018

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REVIEW: “10 CLOVERFIELD LANE” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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Not a big surprise that a sequel seemed like a logical choice to 2008’s “Cloverfield” by JJ Abrams as it was a big hit comparatively with a 25 million budget, while grossing right around 170 million. The ‘found footage’ film about a group of young people surviving a monster attack in Manhattan was driven by a highly sophisticated and fun marketing campaign. Mysterious trailers of the film ‘Untitled’ left you guessing as to what was the content, was also really well received by critics & film-goers alike.
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While not quite the exact same thing here, JJ Abrams sees ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ as a kinsman of “Cloverfield.” And that’s a good description because although there could be a comparison of a few elements, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very different kind of film and can stand on it’s own. Do not expect found footage film or a direct sequel or prequel. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is a pure psychological thriller, with a little taste of Sci-Fi thrown in for good measure.

It’s mainly undertaken all in one place, the bunker of the mysterious Howard (John Goodman). The bunker is a typical doomsday place: an underground space filled with food, drinks and all the comforts of home, including a cozy living room and fully functional kitchen, ya know, for those underground bunker dinner parties. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is excellent as the frightened but brave one, who basically MacGyver’s her way through this film. Even John Gallagher Jr. as the simple Emmett is well cast. The biggest surprise is John Goodman as Howard, a role that is seemly tailor-made for him, as he turns the effortlessly friendly man into a creepy psycho without ever giving away which of the two he is and in turn, giving us a whole other level of fear. cloverfield 2

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ will truly have the most impact if you have minimal knowledge of it before hand because it’s nail biting exciting. And any reviewer that gives away the spoilers or the full story of this one, I wish them years of paper cuts because this is one to be experienced, not told about. The only minus is the last act of the film, here and there, it flies off the rails, But you forgive debut director Dan Trachtenberg for this little whim, as I loved the fact that just when you think it won’t go there.. it does! It’s very clever and with fresh inspiration, gives just the right subtle nod to its successful predecessor. For those who love psychological mind-bending films like this, you won’t be disappointed.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Nationwide Release: Friday, March 11, 2016

REVIEW: “JOY” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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With narration told by her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), the only person who believes in and encourages young Joy’s as her story begins at Rudy’s Bus and Truck metal shop, where being an imaginative creative girl, she entertains herself through paper models of forests and castles.

Based on a true story, the film depicts the rise of female inventor and entrepreneur Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), who rises to fame by hawking her Miracle Mop on QVC. The story is much more than about business success, for Joy is a 1970’s housewife who supports four generations in her house, including her ex-husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez) and father Rudy (Robert De Niro).
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Director David O. Russell struggles here, a bit unsuccessfully I might add, to portray a harrowing the path to the mop. Joy deals with a houseful of kids, only a few of them children by actual age. The motley crew she calls family all crammed in her small house are not on Joy’s side. She is the breadwinner, the adult, the rock whose imagination is a liability to those overly dependent on her. Her mother Terry (Virginia Madsen) a soap-opera viewing addict, who watches made-for-this-film, unfunny soap opera segments that seem unmotivated with there being no implication as to why we are pointing to the off-TV characters. It’s goes on to become a paint-by-numbers affair from there – familial jealousy from sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), dirty financial dealings, the nightmare of the age-old saying, “Do not do business with your family.”
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After all, Joy manages to build a mop prototype. She brings it to QVC where the initial sale segment bombs. With Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), the slick head honcho of newly formed shopping network QVC behind her, he takes a chance and allows Joy to showcase the mop herself. Bingo! The mop sells out. Success? Nope. The parts supplier is screwing Joy, every sale of the mop loses money, and the family wants their money back. Financial ruin follows. Then Grandma passes. But Joy decides she’s been walked all over enough and ‘womans up’ to settle all scores financial and emotional. You would think Hooray! right? If only the story wasn’t so average and been done so many times before would it be all that and more.

The acting is nothing notable as De Niro is no stranger to playing a conflicted father with a big heart, though there is something a bit off-kilter here even for him on this. We all know Lawrence & Cooper play well off each other and they do that again here. It’s Edgar Ramirez, who after falling so flat in Point Break, really stands up and dazzles amongst this all-star cast.
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So let me just do a quick sum up for you in one sentence. ‘Down and out mother thinks up an invention, brings it to market, and becomes rich after some pitfalls that, in reality, is all fought and done with lawyers in the end’. In lieu of dramatizing a woman overcoming, Russell instead created a often unfunny comedy.

While the real life, inventive Joy deserves kudos, the bottom line is this is a feature film about the creator of a better mop and offers little on the path to an unsatisfying end where Joy makes it big and helps others succeed.
With all the heavy-hitters in film coming out these last 2 weeks of the year, it’s doubtful JOY will stand out amongst them.

Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Monday, December 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Studios
Nationwide release: Friday, December 25, 2015

OSCAR COUNTDOWN: BEST ACTOR

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We’re coming to the end of my Countdown to the Oscars…

BEST ACTOR:
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Michael Keaton
“Birdman”
From the first time I saw this movie to the third time I saw this movie..I loved Keaton’s performance wholeheartedly. And yes, I love a comeback and this was a damn good one and yep..he’s my pick.

Eddie Redmayne
“The Theory of Everything”
Eddie Redmayne’s performance in this film is what awards are made for. Enough said. I won’t be mad if he wins and honestly, I think he just might pull it off..

Benedict Cumberbatch
“The Imitation Game”
I’m a fan of Cumberbatch’s for some time now. Before Sherlock even he did some fantastic work..anyone ever see him & Tom Hardy in Stuart: A Life Backwards??!! Wonderful film and the message he brought forth about Alan Turing needed to be told.. is it enough to win..no I don’t think it is.
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Bradley Cooper
“American Sniper”
Whomever says Bradley Cooper can’t act really needs to see this film. He really embodies this role but I’m guessing political controversy will make it so he is not taking home a little golden man this year.. Though I think it will happen eventually in another role.

Steve Carell
“Foxcatcher”
Was Steve Carell so creepy good in this film? yes he was.. Did he play so against type you wondered at times if it was really him? yes you did. Will he win.. probably not.

My Pick: Michael Keaton
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Possible Win: it’s anyone’s guess at this time.

REVIEW: “AMERICAN SNIPER” – Warner Bros.

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You know those stories where you might not really understand who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? In which the lead character is a possibly a hero, but also a human being not without problems. That is the story of Chris Kyle, American Sniper.

I went into this film knowing a ton of fuss is being made about it – from all sides. And I won’t lie, points of this film can make it a very hard movie to watch at times. It’s the story of a man with formidable military qualities, doing something completely out of the ordinary to most of us in that he spent three years in the war doing things the vast majority of us could never really possibly imagine doing. It describes the kind of irresolvable moral dilemma undergone by a sniper in the war, and left to imagine what kind of consequences it could have on a human being to spend those years with only one ‘job’ to do and that job is killing people whether it be men, women or children if they are making a situation threatening to your fellow soldiers. american-sniper 1

But Chris Kyle was not someone who returned from the war with all his problems settled with a visit to the VA psychiatrist. The problems were not simply being afraid of sudden noises: for one thing, he drank, to name another, he had been arrested several times mostly for assault. He said he went to New Orleans during Katrina and he shot those who plundered the abandoned houses. He said he had killed two who wanted to steal his pickup. These stories and many more are in the autobiography of Kyle, that inspired this story. Even the way Kyle managed at some point to straighten his life helping veterans in trouble as he was a piece of history; also the complicated life of Eddie Routh, the guy who killed him, is all a piece of said history.
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Putting all my political thoughts aside regarding the “what if’s” of Chris Kyle..it’s clear he truly believed in what he was doing was the proper and right thing at the time. The point comes across to us by the fact he kept wanting to go back as he thought he could do more there than here, even though he kept leaving his family. It also speaks volumes during the scene where he runs into his younger brother “Jeff Kyle” (Keir O’Donnell) on the tarmac, Chris coming in for another tour, yet his brother just wanting at all costs, to get the hell out of dodge. The fact that we were dragged into a war against a country that never even attacked us as we all found out later..is not the story here..and wondering if those “what if’s” could have changed everything that happened is something we will never know as we can’t change the facts here. The problem is not that Clint Eastwood made ​​a film of “military propaganda”, as some say because he is a Republican & was a staunch supporter of Bush and the war; on the other hand the answer is also not simply that Clint Eastwood has just told a story. This is not even that the film isn’t always faithful to the real story, not that American Sniper should be a documentary, but take the story of Chris Kyle and tell it like it is, flaws and all, is just another idea. If we just stop and look at the movie as it is ~ a well-done film by Eastwood, though not by far his finest work. American sniper 4

Standouts here are really Bradley Cooper who embodies Chris Kyle completely down to that fact that, yes, he physically fits the role, like Will Smith in Ali, and brings some layers of complexity to an emotional depiction of a veteran and his what his life and family life can entail. Sienna Miller plays Chris’s wife, “Taya”, while not a bad performance, started to somewhat annoy me when it seemed all we heard from her was “You’ve changed” or ” I want my husband back” coming off in what could be deemed whiney when let’s just be real here, you do know what you’re getting into when you marry a Navy Seal. There is also a decent supporting cast, taking note for me is Luke Grimes as “Marc Lee” as Kyle’s most notable combat partner during some tough scenes, Cory Hardrict as “D/Dandridge”, Eric Laden “Squirrel/Case” and Jake McDorman as “Biggles” to name just a few.

There are the parts where the movie lacks direction. We all know Chris Kyle lied and made up a boatload of crazy stories – truth be told, the only one that really irks me is how he said he donated all the money from his book, but yet in actuality kept a huge portion of it. That one is a pisser..and yes.. we’ve all lied and made up stories, but for most of us, not to the extent that Chris did. But did anyone stop to think for a moment what all those killings actually might have done to his psyche? I shouldn’t even say ‘might have’ as unless your a complete socio/psychopath, having to kill that many people would have to affect anyone. But how most likely he was truly messed up in the head with major PTSD is barely even brought up here. And the fact that he was shot by someone who CLEARLY was carrying loads of PTSD luggage, yet it’s reduced to one small title screen at the end of the film. Me personally, I would have liked to have seen more of that story.
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I also have a bit of a problem with the way his ‘rivalry’ is shown with “Mustafa” (Sammy Sheik) is shown. This guy was an Olympic Gold Medalist-turned sniper, though Syrian, not Iraqi, and while the most human moments of him are when he is with his family or in his Olympic photos, we see nothing else except the hunt/cat & mouse game these two play with each other. His slo-mo death is also done a bit on the cheesy side for what purpose, I’m not sure. Yet the closing scenes of the film are also very powerful, and I don’t care who you are, you will be moved by it.

The film to me was a well made movie that shows the horror of war and what it does to people. Or can do. While I might think personally that Chris Kyle is more of a hero for what he did when he came back from war and helped other veterans, I do like it when a film actually makes you think or feel something that you can only imagine otherwise. And lastly, a huge point here, if you can’t separate the political from this and what it all entails and look at it from the viewpoint of ‘is it a good movie or not’ that not-withstanding what you may or may not feel about it personally, then your best bet is probably just not to see it. Though I think you will be missing something by doing so.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale)

REVIEW – “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” (2014)

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“I AM GROOT” – ha!  It’s truly the perfect way to start a review of this fun fun movie!! I seriously wanted to just say this and leave it at that.. Because that’s how fun it is and no one wants to ruin this movie with a long boring synopsis and all …riiigghhtt??!!!  Well, okay, I will also mention Chris Pratt.. no..seriously, when did Chris Pratt get this hott??!! 😀   He’s always been the cute, funny guy in the back ground, but here he takes center-stage as “Peter Quill” aka “STARLORD” and he not only looks great at doing it as it’s clear they made him get in some amazing shape for this movie, but it’s like this role was truly meant for his type of comedic chops.  starlord

As with all comic book quasi-superhero movies like this one, there has to be a reason at the beginning of why/how everything becomes as it is and this one is no different.  We see a young Peter Quill being brought to his dying mothers bedside where she gives him a last gift before she passes. As he runs screaming, crying out of her room into a big grassy field, he stumbles & falls, a blinding light shines on him and POOF!!! you got it… he is taken away by a spaceship.  26 years later we see Quill as an intergalactic outlaw who attempts to go by the name “Starlord”.  He is part of a clan who call themselves ‘Ravagers’ and while on a paid mission to collect an ‘orb’ he runs into “Korath” (played nicely in a supporting comedic turn by Djimon Hounsou) who works for “Ronan” (another fav. actor of mine playing a bad guy *sigh* ~ Lee Pace :)) an evil Warlord who wants the orb to do what else..control the Galaxy, specifically the planet Xandar, where his arch enemies live & it’s ran by none other than “Nova Prime” (Glenn Close).

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Peter of course gets the orb, but not before he double crosses the very people who took him to this intergalactic wonderland, “Yondu Odonta” (played wonderfully by TWD’s Michael Rooker) who then does what all double-crossed outlaws do and puts a bounty on Peter’s head.  Now the fun starts as everyone starts hunting Peter including, the oh-so-green assassin who is actually working for Ronan, “Gamora” (Zoe Saldana), “Rocket” a genetically engineered hysterically funny, raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) & his partner “Groot” his walking & regenerating tree friend (voice of Vin Diesel). who only can say 3 words..annndd you already know what those are..”I am Groot” ~ in other words..hello huge payday for Vin Diesel for yes, uttering 3 words. ha!  Well to cut to the chase, in the land of all things comic books they all get caught..sent to a maximum security prison where they all start to of course, work together along with a new ‘friend’ “Drax” (pro-wrestler Dave Bautista) who really only just wants revenge on Ronan for killing his family.  All this comes together as they make an oh-so-fun escape and get to the town of ‘Knowhere’ so they can sell the orb to “The Collector” (Benicio del Toro).  But when they find out what the orb can really do and why Ronan wants it so badly..and what should really be done with it..well…what will the now-appointed “Guardians of the Galaxy” do??!!  Well, you will have to see the movie for that, because I don’t want to spoil all the fun here…really, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE.. as from moment one it’s truly one of the most humourous, action-packed, visually stunning, and just plain damn FUN Sci-Fi fantasy movies I’ve ever had the pleasure to see so you should too.  Oh and it wouldn’t be right if I  forgot to mention the freaking fantastic soundtrack to this movie!! From the open-sequence on you will be rocking in your seat and just plain laughing.. Who doesn’t want to do that during a movie and be totally entertained??!!  Well, if you are one of the few, then yeah..don’t see it..for everyone else.. go get your groove and laughs on I say!!!

Grade: B+

#peggyatthemovies

Grading Scale: A = Oscarworthy;  B = Above average~must see;  C = Average~should see;  D = Don’t waste your time or money;  F= Yeah, no, just don’t see it  (+ or – give it a bit up or down)

COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ “Best Supporting Actor”

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While this was a nice nod to the complete unknown ‘limo driver’ as he was – he is probably the longest shot to win in the category.  It’s not a bad performance, but does not even come close or compare to the other nominees here. 

I loved Bradley’s performance, just liked I loved the movie.  He’s crazy & over the top, but yet makes it believable. I wouldn’t be upset if he won. 

This wasn’t my favourite by a long shot as I felt the same about the movie. But I can’t deny that it wasn’t a worthy performance.  Though crazy..but worthy! 🙂  My criticism is though the same one I have with the movie itself…choppy and you’re there one moment, gone the next, and boom! back again. 

While this is definitely one of my top movies of the year, and I did like the performance, I think it’s still hard for us to see Jonah Hill as anything else but the funny, odd man out character. Yes, I know this is his 2nd nomination, and sorry, but stigma attached I don’t think he will win it. 

And here Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls ~ WE HAVE OUR WINNER.  What can you say about this performance that hasn’t been said?!!  It’s just incredible. Is it the fact that Jared showed up to the set in character, stayed in it the during the entire filming, and even left in it.. no..it’s the fact that it was simply put, hands down, best supporting actor performance of the year.  The end.