Tag Archives: Lady Gaga

Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills

If Robert Rodriguez’s Machete cracked a few beers in the grindhouse exploitation cooler, his follow up Machete Kills taps the entire keg and lets it flow for a sequel that although isn’t as focused or on point as the first, blows it out of the water in terms of cameos, star power and sheer bottom feeding genre madness, it’s a hell of a fun time. Danny Trejo did the journeyman tough guy thing in a long stint throughout the 80’s and 90’s, by the time Rodriguez found him for a smaller role in Desperado he was already long overdue for a starring vehicle as far as I’m concerned, which Robert handed to him and then expanded with this balls out sequel that although is still indisputably Danny’s show, is also peppered with a staggering amount of star power and recognizable faces. That’s the thing about Rodriguez, he’s such a talented, hands on enthusiast of a filmmaker that he attracts actors from all walks of industry life to work with him, and his projects come alive. Trejo’s ex federalé super badass Machete is recruited by the president of the United States himself this time, played by Charlie Sheen in exactly the type of portrayal you’d expect. Mel Gibson’s big bad gun runner Luther Voz is stirring up trouble and it’s up to our antihero to stop him, as well as a whole pack of villains, weirdos, corrupt officials and femme fatales. This one sees a lot more characters running about including Sofia Vargera’s Desdemona, a matriarchal shryke of a contract killer whose daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) also figures into the plot while Machete recruits a lethal government agent (Amber Heard) who doubles as beauty queen Miss San Antonio. Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba also return but are sort of swallowed up in the emerging newer elements. The great character actor William Sadler turns up briefly as a Texas Sheriff with a big gun, as do Rodriguez regulars Julio Mechoso, the Avellan twins, Tom Savini, Demian Bichir and Alexa Vega. Perhaps the best element in either Machete film is an elusive, inspired contract killer called The Chameleon who changes their appearance frequently. Not many films can say they hired Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walton Goggins and Lady Gaga to all play the same role, but Rodriguez pulls it off and gives each actor something fun to do. I enjoyed this Machete more in the sense that it didn’t try to be socially conscious or inject a political message like the first, this is straight up action pulp the way it should be, and hopefully we will get to see Machete blast off into space soon as the reliably ridiculous meta fake trailer outlines here.

-Nate Hill

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Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born

My first thought a few moments after seeing Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born: Isn’t it so cool that one of the most poignant scenes in cinema this year is shared between Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott, two artists who couldn’t be more far flung from each other or born of different backgrounds within the industries. That’s a testament to the eclectic cast Cooper has rallied for this absolute fucking diamond of a film and as assured a director’s debut as ever. Filled with many more poignant scenes, instant classic songs, heartbreak that will have you bawling, beautiful direction, believable characters, naturalistic free flowing writing and at least three mega Oscar worthy performances, this is the best film of the year so far and will no doubt sweep said awards.

This story dates back a few versions to the 50’s, but Cooper makes the story seem so fresh and organic that one can hardly even call it a remake, especially when you consider how much brand new, totally inspired music composed and sang live. Cooper is Jackson Maine, an Eddie Vedder-esque rocker who discovers and falls in love with Lady Gaga’s Ally, a young waitress with the voice of an angel and a firebrand of a personality. While her star is on the rise with songwriting, performance and poise, Jack’s is falling from the heavens of fame due to alcoholism and drug addiction, fast approaching the nadir and eventual exodus of his career. Cooper and Gaga have chemistry that fills up every frame until it leaps off the screen, a warm, conflicted and symbiotic relationship blossoms, is put to the rest and weathers a very heavy storm as Jack drifts in a sea of his demons, struggling to hold on. They both give the kind of immersive performances that some actors strive their whole career towards; watching the film I believed that here was Ally and Jackson onscreen, two fully formed, human characters and not simply Cooper and Gaga in their respective roles. Their voices are magic too, especially in an earth shattering duet of one of Ally’s original compositions, a gorgeous tune that practically demands the Oscar for original song.

Cooper has carefully chosen his supporting cast and the result is some moving, interesting work from a troupe who are all cast refreshingly against type. I can’t speak highly enough of Sam Elliott’s work here as Jack’s older brother Bobby, a stormy yet compassionate fellow, this film gives the quintessential cowboy something to actually do with his role, the result being the best, most vulnerable work I’ve ever seen from the guy. Andrew Dice Clay is resurrected to play Ally’s father and brings both warmth and jovial comic relief, Dave Chapelle has a brief but very sweet bit as Jack’s friend and voice of reason. Even the smaller roles are brought to life well, from Greg Grunberg as Jack’s trusty driver to character actor Ron Rifkin, excellent as a kindly rehab counsellor.

Cooper should be proud of his work onscreen, and prouder still of that behind the camera. There is no showboating, no gimmickry, no bells and whistles or arbitration in his direction here, he’s crafted a passionate, heartbreaking, streamlined and beautifully character driven piece of work, full to the brim with love, music, conflict and ideas without seeming overstuffed or cacophonous. Coasting on the heights of the original music, sailing through the rivers of torment and turmoil between the two characters and walking the paths they walk through their relationship, Cooper’s eye captures this tale adeptly, doing things with the camera that seem fresh and different but never taking us out of the story. This is a film that will no doubt go down in history and, despite being one of several iterations, become a classic in cinema for generations to come.

-Nate Hill

Bradley Cooper’s A STAR IS BORN

For a film in its fourth incarnation, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born is an endearing and remarkable film that contains every familiar trope, cliché, and prepackaged plot narrative possible. It embraces exactly what it is, it is self-aware with both subtle and tongue and cheek nods to previous versions as well as to the rich ensemble of actors who bring their own homages to their own roles. The film is a triumphant spectacle; it is visually stunning by being shot and crafted with command authority and passion. The musical scenes, which were filmed with live singing, only add to the powerhouse of the film that ushers in urgency to its melodramatic plot. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is a beautiful showboat of cinematic achievement.

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The film is stocked with a wonderful ensemble who richly detail their respective characters. Bradley Cooper is the best he has ever been as the washed-up country auteur (not stadium popstar) who is hell-bent on destroying his life with pills and alcohol, as he is rapidly approaching the twilight of his career. He is in limbo between burning out and fading away. Lady Gaga is a marvel in her most mature screen performance to date. While watching her performance, it is insane to think that there hasn’t been a filmmaker prior to Cooper that has tapped into her raw talent and beauty on screen. Sure, her metamorphosis as a live performer is one thing, but her screen presence is something completely different; it is a sight to behold.

Aside from the two showstopping lead performances, Sam Elliot and Andrew Dice Clay are respective counterparts to Cooper and Gaga. Elliot is the older brother who is Cooper’s handler, and the Diceman is Gaga’s father. Both bring their own on-screen gravitas to the picture, Elliot commands the screen in sobering moments as Cooper’s firm-handed father figure while Andrew Dice Clay is the affable and warmly supportive father of Gaga, offering quite a few appropriately humorous moments to the film. Elliot gives one of the finest and most vulnerable performances of his career, while Clay is consistently becoming a formidable supporting player since his scene-stealing performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

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For all the conventionality to the film, it is rather perplexing with its unorthodox self-awareness of the casting of Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle (who gives a very sweet and touching performance). The musical performances feel genuine. They are photographed with a sense of urgency and emotion by cinematographer Matthew Libatigue (who also shot Sony’s Venom which bested A Star is Born opening weekend at the box office).

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is so grandiose, that he has poised himself to be the next Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson or Robert Redford, having the ability to direct himself while creating a magnificent film that will remain relevant for decades to come. When the awards season dust settles, there more than likely will not be a more nominated film, and could very well sweep all the major awards. Regardless of Oscar buzz and cultural momentum, A Star is Born will stand the test of cinematic time and be remembered as a film that is filled with boundless love and passion.

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