Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Sam Elliott’

Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga

“A STAR IS BORN”  My rating: B

135 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) has been a major star for almost a decade now, but even if you’d never heard of her, “A Star Is Born” would confirm that there is indeed a new comet in the heavens.

She’s really, really good.

This is the third remake of the original show-biz love story (after the 1937 original with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the ’54 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, and the ’76 vehicle for Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson). Though many of the details have been refreshed for this Bradley Cooper-directed effort, it’s still the story of a rising young performer’s romance with an older, established star who cannot handle it when her career eclipses his.

So don’t expect much new in the plot department.

But watching Gaga sink her teeth into her first major acting opportunity is thrilling. The woman who in her stage shows often relies on visual overkill here delivers a sensitive and carefully modulated performance that will likely result in an Oscar nomination. And what makes it even more remarkable is that hers is the less showy performance.  Her co-star, Cooper, gets the big chewy scenes (You want attention? Play a drunk.) yet Gaga is all you want to look at.

Plus, the screenplay by Eric Roth, Will Fetters and Cooper perfectly nails its milieu of arena rock concerts, tour busses and messy hotel rooms. The plot may be familiar, but the setting has a life of its own.

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a bearded, gravel-voiced star whose music ranges from folkie efforts to guitar-shredding Southern rock (something along the lines of Lynyrd Skynyrd/Marshall Tucker). He’s also a heavy drinker who gets itchy if he’s too long without a bottle in his hand.

Which is how Jackson ends up in a gay bar (they’ve got alcohol, right?) watching a drag show in which a waitress named Ally (Gaga) steals the spotlight with a spot-on Edith Piaf imitation. He’s impressed enough to go backstage to make her acquaintance.

It’s the start of a big-time romance.  Ally is flattered by the attention, but doesn’t think she’s pretty enough to be hobnobbing with a big star. (Interesting that Gaga, who in her earliest incarnations hid behind elaborate costumes, wigs and makeup, here goes through much of the film with almost no makeup at all).

She’s a songwriter and Jackson urges her to develop that talent.  In fact, after whisking her off to one of his stadium gigs in a far-flung city, he more or less drags her onstage to perform one of her compositions as a duet.  The audience goes ape (so will folks watching the movie) and before long the Ally show is in full swing with a fancy-pants manager/producer, an appearance on “SNL” and a Grammy nomination for best new artist.

(more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Sam Elliott

“THE HERO” My rating: B- 

93 minutes |MPAA rating: R

Some of us would be content to watch Sam Elliott, he of the sonorous voice and luxurious ‘stache, sit in a lawn chair reading the phonebook.

It doesn’t quite come to that in “The Hero,” one of Elliott’s rare starring roles, though Brett Haley’s film recycles plot points that have been picked over so many times there’s not much meat left.

No, the reason to watch “Hero” is, quite simply, Sam Elliott, who at age 72 exudes more raw charisma and sex appeal than actors a fraction of his age.

This is what I want to be when I grow up.

Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a white-haired actor who back in the ’70s was the star of Westerns. Lee’s career, though, has faded with the popularity of the cinematic oater.  As “The Hero” begins he’s doing commercial voice-over work: “Lone Star Barbecue Sauce: The perfect pardner for your chicken.”

Whoa. Deja vu all over again.  Remember Elliott’s distinctive voice telling us in radio ads: “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner”?  This is only the first time “The Hero” will dip into the meta pool,  drawing on Elliott’s own career to create his on-screen character.

Early on in Haley and co-writer Marc Basch’s screenplay Lee learns that he has pancreatic cancer.  As Samuel Johnson observed, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Slowly, hesitantly, painfully, Lee attempts to reach out to those who have meant something to him but whom he has ignored in recent years…especially his ex-wife Valarie (Katharine Ross, the real-life Mrs. Elliott) and his embittered grown daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter, star of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones”).

In truth, Lee’s only friend appears to be his pot dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), a former actor who lives in a cannabis haze watching Buster Keaton comedies. Not the worst lifestyle. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Lily Tomlin, **

Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner

“GRANDMA” My rating: A-

78 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Fuelled by an Oscar-worthy performance from Lily Tomlin, “Grandma” is a comedy with something on its mind.

It’s often bitterly funny, with Tomlin (age 76) totally nailing her character, a grumpy granny with a foul-mouthed sarcastic streak.

But in this look at three generations of women from one family, writer/director Paul Weitz mines some serious material.

Love (lost and realized), regret, familial ties, aging and death all find voice here. But shining  through it all is a fierce passion for life.

When we first view Elle Reid (Tomlin) she’s dumping Olivia (Judy Geer), her girlfriend of just four months. When Olivia protests that they mean something to each other, Elle sneers: “You’re a footnote.”

Besides, Elle says, Olivia is a young woman while she is “rapidly approaching 50.”

Caustic and self-deprecating, Elle — who prides herself on being an early feminist — appears to be one tough cookie. But once Olivia has grabbed her stuff and fled, this failed poet retreats to her shower and sobs.

She won’t have much time for self pity. She’s soon interrupted by her teenage granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), who needs $600 right away. Sage is 10 weeks pregnant and has an appointment for an abortion that very afternoon.

She explains that her boyfriend promised her the money but has failed to deliver.  Sage cannot possible go to her lawyer mother for help.

Elle is broke. In an antiestablishment snit she has even shredded her credit cards. But she packs Sage into her ominously knocking 70-year-old sedan and sets out to raise the cash.

This day-long quest leads the pair to first confront Sage’s oafish and bad-tempered boyfriend (Nat Wolff), who learns not to swear at an old lady if you value your testicles.

Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott

Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott

Then it’s off to a local tattoo parlor, but Elle’s trans friend Deathy (Laverne Cox) is tapped out.  Elle has a scheme to sell some of her signed first-edition Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan books to another friend, the coffee shop owner Carla (the late Elizabeth Pena in her last role) — but she has wildly overestimated the volumes’ value.

In desperation she turns to Karl (an excellent Sam Elliott), with whom she had an affair more than 40 years earlier. That doesn’t work out, either.

“So you used to like men?” Sage asks.

“Oh, I always liked women.  I just didn’t like myself.”

 

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt

Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt

“DIGGING FOR FIRE” My rating: B (Opening Aug. 28 at the Screenland Armour)

85 minutes  | MPAA rating: R

If indie auteur Joe Swanberg isn’t careful, he’s going to start making movies that people actually see.

Up to now Swanberg’s heavily-improvised, generational-specific films have earned him cred on the cinematic fringes (and the irritating label “mublecore”).  But last year he made a modest though hugely likable splash with the family dramady “Happy Christmas” — a sign that he may be approaching his cinematic maturity.

With “Digging for Fire” he delivers his most mainstream-friendly effort to date…which is not to say that it’s conventional, only that he’s finding ways to finesse his austere signature style.

Married couple Tim and Lee (Swanberg regular Jake Johnson, who also co-wrote, and Rosemarie DeWitt) are a struggling L.A. couple with an adorable 3-year-old son (Swanberg’s son Jude, a born actor if there ever was one).  He’s a public school teacher.  She’s a yoga instructor.

A wealthy movie industry friend on a foreign shoot has invited them to spend a couple of months living in her ultra cool house on a heavily wooded slope high in the Hollywood hills. We’re talking swimming pool, hammock, plenty of room for the kid’s tricycle.

On their first day in the new digs Tim makes a discovery while walking around the property.  From an overgrown hillside he recovers what looks like a human rib and a heavily-rusted cheap revolver.

The cops aren’t interested in his find — they’ll only show up for an entire corpse. But Tim is intrigued.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Blythe Danner

Blythe Danner

“I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS” My rating: B

92 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There’s no other way to put this…at age 72 Blythe Danner seems more beautiful, more luminous, and more talented than at any time in her life.

And “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is an ideal vehicle both for this terrific actress and for exploring issues of age.

Death is never far off in director Brett Haley’s dramedy (co-written with Marc Basch).  In the first scene septugenarian Carol Peterson (Danner) must put down her canine companion of 12 years. While the pooch was around she could always rely on its undivided devotion, but now this widow of 20 years is starting to feet mortality’s tug.

Oh, Carol has what looks like a fairly full life.  Money’s not a problem. She’s got a group of gal pals (Rhea Perlman, June Squibb, Mary Kay Place) with whom she shares bridge, golf and gossip (one of the film’s strong suits is its dialogue, which sounds like real people jabbing rather than the usual moviespeak).  Her friends would like Carol to move into the retirement community where they all live, but she relishes the independence — and perhaps the solitude — of the home she shared with her husband.

“I don’t like life all complicated,” she says. Funny how complications seem to find her.

Despite her misgivings, Carol senses that she’s in a retirement rut. That may be why she reluctantly allows herself to be talked into a round of geriatric speed dating, a hilarious/appalling experience that only convinces her that solitude is preferable to the the male pickings after 65.

 

(more…)

Read Full Post »