Search:

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: A Star Is Born

“Overlord” and “Robin Hood” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Tinnitus sucks. As someone who has a mild case of it in my right ear (nothing that interferes with day to day life, but noticeable in totally quiet situations), I can only imagine what legendary rock star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is going through. After a lifetime of playing in front of amplifiers that are as loud as jet engines, not only is the singer losing his hearing (he sometimes asks people to repeat themselves, which is a realistic touch) but he is also battling with a constant ringing tone—tinnitus—in his head. While never explicitly stated in “A Star Is Born,” I’m sure it’s the reason for his heavy drug and alcohol use. Anything to make the ringing stop.

Cooper plays Maine like Eddie Vedder by way of Jeff Bridges, with a deep, gravelly Sam Elliott voice thrown into the mix. This last part makes even more sense when we see Bobby, Jackson’s much older brother and manager, who is played by Elliott. Maine is a tried and true rock act. No longer in his prime, but still able to draw stadium crowds on tour. He still has his creativity too, but he needs a muse to bring it out.

Enter Ally (Lady Gaga), a cabaret act at a local drag bar in the city where Jackson just put on a show. He goes in one evening because he desperately needs a drink and winds up hanging out with Ally the rest of the evening in a mini “Before Sunrise” kind of way. Their interaction is more than a meet-cute. They have some real dialogue as they get to know each other. The big revelation is that in addition to being an incredible singer, Ally is a talented songwriter to boot. As her father (Andrew Dice Clay)--who in his day was told by Paul Anka that he’s a better singer than Sinatra—laments, she’s one of the great talents who turns out to be a nobody because fortune never favored them.

Knowing what a hidden gem he just discovered, Jackson invites Ally to fly to his next show. He then coaxes her on stage with him to sing an arrangement of a song she came up with on the spot the night before. If you’re looking for the literal moment in “A Star is Born” when a star is born, this is it. The moment is played perfectly, as Ally is nervous and hesitant at first. Then Jackson starts playing. She looks like she wants to move forward but isn’t going anywhere. Then, at just the right moment she takes that big, bold, first step toward stardom as she joins him in a crowd-pleasing rendition of their song. Not bad for no rehearsal.

AStarIsBorn2

In a different movie, that would be the end of the story, but there is still plenty of movie left to go in “A Star Is Born.” Most of it focuses on the ups and downs of Jackson and Ally’s relationship, as she becomes a bigger and bigger star and he is on and off the wagon with drugs and alcohol. The performances are great, and there are some memorable songs, but what really sticks when all is said and done are the private moments away from the noise and the light. In many ways, rich and famous celebrities don’t live like the rest of us, this is true. But even if they don’t live like us, that doesn’t mean they aren’t human, susceptible to the same flaws and frailties as any of the people around them. “A Star Is Born,” is a powerful, hard-hitting, emotionally gripping reminder of that incontrovertible fact. Buy it.

Also New This Week

Overlord

Given that “Overlord” was produced by J.J. Abrams Bad Robot production company, it’s no surprise that the visual style and art direction look inspired by movies from his idol, Steven Spielberg. The most notable comparison can be made to Spielberg’s seminal 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan,” complete with the movie opening with a scene of harrowing shaky cam chaos.

Spielberg didn’t just make movies about war and Nazis though. He also made movies, such as the “Indiana Jones” movies, that delved into the realm of the occult and the supernatural. “Overlord” kind of picks up on that vibe except that this movie has more of a science fiction bend to it, as a small group of Airborne paratroopers who land in France behind enemy lines soon discover.

The first sign that this gritty war movie is actually pure science fiction is given away by the opening scene. Our hero Boyce (Jovan Adepo) and the unit’s sergeant Rensin (Bokeem Woodbine) are both black. The rest of the unit, including the corporal, Ford (Wyatt Russell), are white. The history minded among us need to adjust to the fact that this is a parallel fantasy universe where an integrated unit such as this existed in the Army in 1944. Once you do this, you can then proceed to shut your mind off that Nazis in a French village are developing a super soldier serum that can bring back the dead and are testing it on the villagers. Realism is not what “Overlord” is striving to achieve. Of course, this means that the question can be asked that if there are blacks in the American unit, then why are the Nazis all white? They should throw in some Hispanics or some Pacific Islanders or something. You know, to mix it up and be more inclusive and diverse or whatever they’re going for here. Why not? Plus after all, this is a complete work of fiction and they can do what they want.

To the point of it being a work of fiction, “Overlord” is a mediocre one at best. While the trailers may have promised something more akin to a monster movie, the majority of “Overlord” is a war movie, complete with the stereotypical sadist Nazi commander Wafner (Pilou Asbæk) and the young French village woman Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) who helps the Americans, despises the Nazis, and all but has “Vive la France!” tattooed on her forehead. Once the sci-fi monster elements kick in for the third act of the movie, it goes off the deep end and gets too silly—a far cry from the visceral opening scene. I have a feeling that if the “Wolfenstein” video games were ever made into a movie, it would be like this. Sad, because those games would deserve better, and unless there is nothing better on your streaming service at the time, so do you. Stream it.

Robin Hood

Hi all, question for you: Did you ever watch any previous incarnations of “Robin Hood,” be they with Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Errol Flynn, or a Disney fox, and think to yourself that while robbing from the rich and giving to the poor is all well and good, you wish that Robin Hood would be more of a conniving, murdering, cold-blooded, sociopathic twerp? If so, you’re in luck—that’s exactly what Taron Egerton is like as Robin in this version of “Robin Hood.”

It’s like writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, along with director Otto Bathurst, were going out of their way to make me not like Robin. Why else make him a traitor who goes on murder sprees of the king’s guard—who are only doing their duty and don’t deserve an arrow in the back, chest, or face—to steal some gold? I could not stand Robin for pretty much the entirety of this movie. He’s a wretched character and general all around asswipe.

Movies like this remind me of Shakespeare, but not because they are eloquently written and well plotted. They remind me of that great line from MacBeth: “It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.” Leave it to the Bard to sum up this movie so perfectly. Skip it

More New Releases: “Backtrace,” in which the lone surviving thief of a violent armored car robbery is sprung from a high security facility and administered an experimental drug, starring Ryan Guzman, Sylvester Stallone, and Matthew Modine.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

Cron Job Starts