Tag Archives: bradley cooper

Movie Review – Nightmare Alley (2021)

Never be a geek, 3.5 readers. Believe me, the last thing you want to be, at least in this film’s definition of the word, is a geek.

BQB here with a review of Guillermo Del Toro’s Oscar buzzed noir flick.

It’s the early 1940s and drifter Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper in a fedora, see?) has just snatched up a paying gig, he’s a carnie and accordingly, all the freaks and geeks of a traveling show will educate him on the ways of flim flam, fakery, deception and of course, the con.

His professors in this master class include Zeena and Pete (Toni Collette and David Strathairn) – a couple who perform as a fortune teller and her assistant bilking the crowd of boku buckeroos with claims of communication with the great beyond. Meanwhile, “geek keeper”) Clem Hoatley (Willem Dafoe) educates the lad (Cooper is referred to throughout this movie as young buck but isn’t he pushing fifty? Oh well, if you’re handsome enough…) on how no one gets ahead without getting their hands dirty. (Sidenote: in this movie, “geek” does not mean “person who collects many Star Wars action figures” as it does in modern times and I’ll leave it at that.)

Rooney Mara rounds out the cast as Molly, she who claims an astounding ability to absorb electricity and Ron Perlman stars as strong man Bruno, Molly’s father-appointed protector who promised to beat up anyone who hurts Molly, thus putting Stan the Man in line for a knuckle sandwich with extra beatdown sauce if he misbehaves.

Long story short, the film is actually two films. The first half, Stan learns the art of the con and the second half, flash forward years later to a time when Stan has perfected the con, performing a mysterious mentalist act with the help of assistant Molly to large, sold out halls in the big city.

Enter Dr. Lillith Ritter (Cate Blanchett). Molly describes her as a stone-faced bitch and frankly, that’s the best description of Blanchett’s typical role I’ve ever heard. In addition to being a stone-faced bitch, Ritter is also a psychiatrist, who views her profession as a legalized con and recruits Stan to use his BS skills to bilk uber wealthy but hella gullible rubes out of their bucks in exchange for Stan tricking them into believing he can communicate with their deceased loved ones.

Then again, the uber rich aren’t people you want to piss off…and I’ll leave it there, another than to mention turns by Richard Jenkins, Holt McCallany and Mary Steenbergen.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I saw this offered on HBO Max and for a long time I assumed it was some sort of new series that I didn’t feel like investing time in. The movie was long and at times I actually wondered if it would have worked better as a series with Stan conning a new mark every week. I’m not sure it’s Oscar worthy and may not have been in the running had it not been for Del Toro’s direction.

DOUBLE SIDNOTE: In the first half of the film, it is always raining. In the second half, it is always snowing. At any rate, bad weather abounds.

TRIPLE SIDNOTE: Based on an old novel turned into a 1940s film that makes me want to go check out the old film. I doubt I will though because I am incredibly lazy.

SPOILER ALERT:

LOOK AWAY UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN IT!

There’s two endings. I can’t get too deep into them other than to say the first ending required me to suspend disbelief as it seemed unlikely someone so adept at conning would do what they did.

As for the second ending, that was great and fitting and it added some symmetry, bringing it back to the beginning of the film which I felt laid out something terrible and made me wonder if they had just forgotten this part only to go back to it at the end.

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Movie Review – A Star is Born (2018)

Fame can’t fix all your problems.

BQB here with a review of A Star is Born.

Every man dreams of having a trick to win a woman’s heart.  Maybe it’s a card trick or a magic trick or that special pickup line.  For troubled alcoholic rock star Jackson Mane (Bradley Cooper), a chance meeting leads to him dating aspiring singer Ally (Lady Gaga).  When he calls Ally on stage to achieve her dream of singing before a large audience, a star (wait for it) is born.

You’d think this would all lead to a great, happy life but alas, a lifetime of addiction has its claws sunk into Jackson.  While his help leads Ally to find super stardom in the pop world, he sees his own star start to dim.  Years of abusing his body with drugs and alcohol lead to hearing loss which spells trouble for his career.  Unable to think straight or even hold himself up, he becomes the joke of Tinsel Town, while Ally becomes the toast.

Will true love prevail or will jealousy and bitterness take control?  I won’t answer that and spoil the movie for you.

Overall, the film is boring and drones on.  There’s a lot of talking.  A lot.  It’s almost like a scripted documentary.  Cameos from comedians Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle and Eddie Griffin break up the monotony but ultimately you end up wanting to yell at the screen for this couple to either fix it or break up because holy crap, it’s getting late and the theater isn’t going to stay open all night.

Bradley Cooper does an impression of the surly voiced Sam Shepard, ironic since Sam plays Jackson’s brother/manager.  Gaga shines in her singing abilities but other than the part where a man builds her career, her character is basically a copy of herself.

Bonus points for a brief, very brief (don’t blink or you’ll miss it) gratuitous shot of Gaga’s boobs and vag.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Boring.  Depressing.  It is emotional and does have some heart.  It wins as a warning about how one should never submit to addiction as it is nearly impossible to escape.  It also has a good message about how there are many people who can sing, dance, act or have some kind of talent but only the most talented performers find fame because they have something to say through their art that people want to hear.  Also, a message about how fame is fickle and how stars suffer when the public loses interest.

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Movie Review – Aloha (2015)

Recently, one of my noble 3.5 readers accused this blogger of mincing words.  I described San Andreas as “not the best film I’ve ever seen but not the best either.”

The aforementioned reader had a point.  As a reviewer, I need to take a side.

Luckily, Cameron Crowe’s romcom Aloha makes it easy for me to be clear:

Bookshelf Q. Battler here with a review of one of the worst damn movies he’s ever seen in his entire life.

Aloha – Sony Pictures 

Some movies are entrees – served up with expert precision, arranged on your plate in such a beautiful manner that you almost don’t want to eat them out of fear that once you do, the experience will be over.

Then, some movies are like a five dollar all you can eat buffet.  You shove a little bit of everything in your cake hole and the only result is that you leave feeling bloated and gassy.

With several storylines that meander all over and never quite hit their mark, Aloha, I’m sad to say, is one of those buffet movies.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING

I’m sad to say it because it’s not the star studded cast’s fault.  Bradley Cooper (Gilcrest) is charming, Emma Stone (Captain Ng) is adorable, and Bill Murray (Welch) is his usual zany self, though he’s more reserved these days as an elder statesman of comedy.  Rachel McAdams (Tracy) aptly plays Gilcrest’s long lost love while John Krasinski provides one of the funnier (dare I say redeeming) scenes of the film as Woodside, Tracy’s husband who, despite his strong silent type demeanor is able to communicate all he needs to say to Gilcrest with a few looks and a shoulder grab.

Plot lines are tossed at the audience like they’re tennis balls stuffed into a serve-o-matic machine stuck on the automatic setting.

Gilcrest and Tracy have to deal with their baggage.  Woodside has to learn how to communicate with his wife with actual words.  Ng is all business and is a zealous defender of native Hawaiian culture, Gilcrest has to choose between his job or his new love interest.  Welch is trying to launch his own space weapon in the guise of a communications satellite and those are just the highlights.

Character development isn’t the film’s strong suit.  We’re shown a brief Afghanistan flashback scene where Gilcrest is so distraught over his life that he doesn’t care when he’s shot by (I guess they were terrorists?  It wasn’t really explained).  Welch lobs an accusation that Gilcrest took a hundred thousand dollar bribe during his time in Afghanistan and that enormous plot line is never fully resolved, thus putting me in the awkward position of being expected by Hollywood to hope that an alleged traitor to his country will overcome the obstacles standing between him and his new lady love in true sappily sweet romantic comedy fashion.

No thanks.

Sadly, the film has two important messages that get lost amidst all the tomfoolery:

1)  All those vacation brochures you drool over that make you wish you could be in Hawaii right now are all well and good, but America isn’t in it for the macademia nuts and pretty scenery.  Hawaii serves as the lynchpin of America’s sphere of influence in the Pacific.  Seeing as how the islands play a vital role when it comes to U.S. global interests, we could probably do more to help the native people who call it home, many of whom aren’t exactly thrilled that we’re there.

2)  Over the past several years, space exploration has moved from government to private business control, with the claim fed to the populace that this is somehow a great move, that the uber rich will be able to dump more money into space technology than governments can.  That may be true, but as this film warns, people like Welch might use that power for unsavory purposes, though a billionaire trying to launch his own weaponized satellite seems like it’s more fitting in a James Bond film than a romcom.

Overall, the movie isn’t so much a cooked to perfection filet mignon so much as it is a bubbling over gumbo where Crowe, as chef, just tossed everything in his kitchen into the pot.  Is this a story about one man’s attempt to find hope again after the world has put him through the ringer?  Is it about love?  Is it about the military industrial complex?

The best description I can give is that Crowe took his signature work, Jerry Maguire, mixed it up with one of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, then went heavy on the romantic comedy angle, shortchanged the seedy, dirty military contractor angle and left the audience thinking that sadly, the no plot action film starring the ex-wrestler in the theater next door might have been the better choice this weekend…

which isn’t saying a lot.

STATUS:  Not shelf worthy.

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