What I thought of… A Star is Born #movie #review

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

I watched a Star Is Born last night. And my overwhelming feeling as the credits started to roll? One of bitter disappointment.

This is a film that’s been remade three times. The plot basically follows the same story as the previous three incarnations, including the 1972 version staring Barbra Streisand: burnt out rock/country star comes across an unknown quirky singer songwriter and in so doing gives her the opportunity of a lifetime.

In this re-telling, ‘Ally’ gets snapped up by a major record label, who proceed to transform her from a likeable sassy singer into a glossy pop princess girating to trashy tacky songs about boyfriends and texting. And because of the (some might say) unlikely casting of Lady Gaga in the title role, we watch as a likeable, streetwise gal gradually morphs into someone who bears more than a striking resemblance to her real life persona – all whilst Bradly Cooper’s character disappears down a drug fuelled drunken spiral of jealousy and despair.

After an hour and a half of watching two celebrities spinning out of control, we finally get to the point where he’s cleaned himself up, and she has to choose between her career and her rock star husband.

Bradley Cooper – who not only starred in, but produced and directed this version – stays faithful to the original plot. And this is my beef with the film. Because whilst the grim ending might be ‘more realistic’, it is, in my mind, hollow and dissatisfying.

The film ends with Lady Gaga’s character relaunching her career off the back of the heartfelt love song her husband wrote for her. There’s a fleeting second when it looks as if the screenwriters are going to pull a Sliding Doors moment out of the bag, and show us an alternative ending – one where both characters pick each other over the wishes of their evil money-grabbing manager… but it never comes. Life, so says the film, just doesn’t work that way.

Forgive me if this makes me feel just a teeny bit angry. Because surely our job – as story tellers – isn’t to reflect how the world allegedly works – that if you finally get the creative break you’ve longed for your whole life it will chew you up and spit you out. Rather, isn’t the point of a good story to show people at their very best; how things could be, and should be. Because ironically, when you actually look at real life, it turns out people can come through the shittest of experiences, only to surprise themselves and us. Take a look at “Rocket Man” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” if you don’t believe me. Two movies about the music-industry, based on true stories, where the hero manages to rise above himself and ‘the inevitable’.

By all means tell me a cautionary tale if you must, but at the very least show me how it could have been different.

As my grandfather used to say, I don’t need real-life in my entertainment, I have enough of that… in real life.

What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

What I thought of… The Greatest Showman #movie #review

Back when I was a wee lad, my parents took me to see the stage show Barnham. I can’t remember much about it to be honest. Other than barely being tall enough to see over the seat in front of me, let alone the person sitting in it! However, the fact that my parents thought I might enjoy it, and took me “all the way to London” (we only lived in Chelmsford) left its mark on me. Ever since then I’ve always been curious about both the show, and the story, of Barnham.

So a few weeks back, I like many many other people before me, went off to the local pictures to see The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman etc, and… well.. I was disappointed.

I wanted to like it, really I did. I really thought it would be my kind of thing. Just as I also thought it wasn’t a musical. Am I the only one who was surprised by that? When I saw the trailer a few months back, I could have sworn there wasn’t any music in it!

Not that I have a problem with musicals, oh no; Dream Girls for instance, is a very good film. Moulin Rouge, also good. Heck, even The Sound Of Music would be considered by many many people as an all time classic! However, in this case, the music – which wasn’t bad – just seemed to get in the way of what could have been, and should have been, a really excellent film. Each and every time we the audience should have been learning more about a character – their background, their motivations – along would come yet another dance routine, to stomp all over the opportunity. It was tiresome. Irritating even.

In the end I stopped paying attention (because there really wasn’t much to pay attention to) and my mind started to wander, and ponder, and do all those things that it does when faced with something that clearly isn’t working. The conclusion I came to was that the film might work better on stage. In fact, the more I thought about it the more I began to suspect that this movie might just be the beginnings of a larger strategy, to syndicate a long running show here in the West End and/or on Broadway?

By the time the film came to an end the whole thing felt like unsatisfying froth.

But that’s just me.

What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

What I thought of… Money Monster #movie #review

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You know when you add something to your Love Film list and then it arrives and you’re all like, ‘why did I order this?’, and the DVD kind of sits in your living room for days and days, sometimes weeks, until eventually you force yourself to give it ten minutes!? No? Just me then?

Anyway, that’s what happened with MONEY MONSTER. Despite having George Clooney in it, I had zero desire to watch the film and almost put it back in the post unwatched.

There were two things putting me off.

Firstly it has Julia Roberts in it. Now don’t get me wrong, Julia Roberts is a very accomplished actress. Every film I have ever seen her in was, I admit, good. Sometimes it was very good. But there’s something about the woman I find off putting. There’s a part of my psyche that says she’s a wrong-un, and this is despite having seen her in interview several times where I have been shocked to notice how nice she seems.

The second off putting thing about this film is the poster. What does this say to you? To me it says this is a film that’s gritty, hard hitting, devoid of humour, and probably difficult to get your head around – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because The Big Short is really hard to get your head around, but totally worth the effort, whereas this looks like it might be 90 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.

How wrong I was.

It’s marvellous. Just marvellous. Directed by Jodie Foster (I wish I’d realised that whilst i was agonising over whether to watch it), it tells the story of what happens when a disgruntled amateur share dealer decides to storm onto the set of a popular money-markets TV show and wielding a pistol, and a vest lined with explosives, demands ‘justice’ for losing his life savings on the stock market due to the poor advice offered by the show’s host, Lee Gates (George Clooney). The NYPD hostage guy turns out to be completely incompetent, and it’s down to TV Producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) to direct the show of her career.

It’s gripping, funny, believeable, thought provoking, and above all hugely enjoyable. And as Jodie Foster says in the DVD extras, it’s the sort of film that has you talking long after the final credits roll.

Have you seen it? Feel free to let me know what you thought in the comments below.