• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

101. A Star is Born (#182) – This Just In

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guest Stacy Grouden, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 182nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: A Star is Born (2018)

At one point in A Star is Born, Bobby Maine outlines his brother’s approach to music for the benefit of Ally.

According to Bobby, Jackson believes that all music can be broken down to “twelve notes between an octave.” By Jackson Maine’s logic, Bobby explains all musical expression is “those same twelve notes, played over and over again. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” It is a strange moment, one that comes very close to self-awareness from writer and director Bradley Cooper, suggesting something very close to a mission statement for his directorial debut.

Ain’t playin’.

A Star is Born is the fourth major American motion picture with that name and that premise. There are countless other stories built around the same basic concept, which has itself been translated into various settings and contexts across the globe. The story of A Star is Born is familiar. An older man discovers a talented young woman and elevates her to stardom, while his own grip on celebrity slips away between his fingers. It is an archetypal Hollywood story, and perhaps a defining American fairytale. All Cooper can do is tell that familiar story in his own way.

There are certainly moments when A Star is Born seems to take this idea to heart. In terms of basic trappings and mechanics, A Star is Born gestures towards modernity, understanding that it needs to update its core premise in the way that each of its three forerunners did. There are any number of details within A Star is Born that position the film within the modern cultural context. This is a twenty-first century take on a familiar story, and it looks distinct enough from the earlier three iterations.

Has a nice sing to it.

However, there’s a recurring anxiety within A Star is Born, a sense of trepidation. In terms of style and sensibility, Cooper’s adaptation hews closest to the country-and-western infused seventies remake with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, which is a canny choice; it is probably the least seen and the least iconic iteration of the story, making it ripe for reinvention. However, there is also a strong sense that A Star is Born is reluctant to cross the four decades that have passed since that particular iteration of the familiar story.

The result is a film that feels at odds with itself. A Star is Born is inherently a metafictional text, suggesting a rebirth of Lady Gaga from a pop star to a credible leading actor in a prestige piece. Gaga acquits herself well in the role, but A Star is Born feels uncertain and untrusting of her. Repeatedly, A Star is Born seems to refuse to let Gaga be Gaga, instead adhering to a very fixed and very nostalgic seventies ideal of “authenticity.” This is a film that ends with the assertion that a modern pop star can only find herself when using her voice to deliver an ageing rocker’s words.

Doesn’t quite hit all the right notes.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: The Hangover, Part III

There was a time when The Hangover seemed like a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t so much an original story or set-up. Rather, it was a devil-may-care attitude and unrepentant immaturity. It was bold and it was willing to do absolutely anything it needed to in order to get a laugh. It worked because of that sheer commitment and energy, energy that is mostly absent from this final instalment. “Leslie Chow is madness,” a character boasts at the climax of the film, talking about one of the franchise’s popular recurring characters – but he may as well be talking about the film itself. “You don’t talk to madness,” he insists. “You lock it in your trunk…”

It’s a nice call back to the very first film and the first time we met Ken Jeong’s “Mr. Chow”, but it also speaks to the weaknesses of The Hangover, Part III. Somewhere along the way, the madness was lost. The high-octane “anything can happen” spirit of the original film leaked out of the two sequels. I’m fonder of The Hangover, Part II than most, but it is a cheap imitation, a repeat of a joke that was hilarious the first time and passable a second.

It’s to the credit of Todd Phillips that he doesn’t try to emulate the same formula a third time. I appreciate that a few efforts are made to push the trilogy into a shape resembling a circle, but it feels so much more contained and so much more rote than it did all those years ago.

I wouldn't get too excited, Alan...

I wouldn’t get too excited, Alan…

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie best seen without the weight of expectations. The safest thing I can probably say about The Place beyond the Pines is that it’s a compelling study of the multiple relationships between fathers and sons. Writer and director Derek Cianfrance has crafted a beautiful piece of cinema here. Running almost two-and-a-half hours, it makes the most of its extended runtime to draw the audience into the film, and to craft a rich and multi-faceted world the remains so intimate that actions ripple and consequences can’t be completely avoided, even if they can be temporarily evaded.

There's a lot riding on this...

There’s a lot riding on this…

Continue reading

My 12 for ’12: Silver Linings Playbook & Earning Your Happy Ending

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #7

The term “uplifting” is thrown around a lot these days. Happy endings are very funny things. They seem to be a given for most major Hollywood films, and so there’s a degree of predictability to them. And yet, despite that, there’s also usually a sense that they are somewhat contrived or manipulated or otherwise the result of a rigged game. In order to raise the stakes, films will generally put our characters in peril, and create a massive sense of jeopardy for our heroes to overcome in order to secure the inevitable happy ending. However, as time goes on, we become increasingly cynical and sceptical, so those stakes get higher and higher. The ending remains guaranteed, so making the threat so much more menacing means we have to suspend greater and greater levels of disbelief in order to accept that everybody involved lived happily ever after.

Your ability to accept Silver Linings Playbook will directly correspond to your ability to accept an improbably neat happy ending. However, what distinguishes David O. Russell’s latest film from the bulk of the other “uplifting” examples of modern cinema is the fact that the stakes manage to seem far more emotional and psychological than literal and tangible, and that the characters involved feel so much more real.

silverliningsplaybook1

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Silver Linings Playbook

It’s very hard to find a movie that deals with mental illness in a compassionate way, let alone without descending into cheap emotionally-exploitive hokum. The story of Pat Solitano, coping with his “undiagnosed bipolar” disorder by returning home, Silver Linings Playbook manages to be sincere without being cheesy, to be warm without being soft and to be human without being melodramatic. Returning to his parent’s house, Pat stumbles across Tiffany, another “broken bird” dealing with her own personal issues. Silver Lining Playbook is the story of two extremely damaged people helping one another in the most human way possible.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Hit & Run

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, which was as much of a joy this year as it was last year. If not moreso.

Hit & Run is just a mess. It is, like its protagonists, all over the map. It never seems to be entirely sure of what it wants to be. Is it a high-speed comedy, a road-trip adventure, or a romantic comedy about an unconventional couple? There are moments when the film seems to work, on the verge of coming together, but there are also moments where it misses the mark completely. The problem is that Dax Shepard is not quite as versatile as Dax Shepard seems to think that he is.

Tres Bell?

Continue reading