A Star is Born review

Bradley Cooper revitalises one of cinema’s best-loved romances, updating the story of an ageing rock musician and his relationship with a talented rising star with an emotional depth often amiss in romantic-dramas.

With the cinematic release of A Star is Born – a film that had been hovering in development with various directors and actors attached for some time – came a plethora of critical acclaim. That acclaim, widespread and enthusiastic, is not misplaced. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut – an obvious passion project that he has poured his heart and soul into – is a confident film with songs featuring hair-raising live music scenes, moving adult drama, and knockout performances from a small ensemble cast.

Both Cooper and Lady Gaga are sensational, they share an electric on-screen chemistry meaning their relationship is believable and their shared scenes (essentially the whole movie) are a delight to watch. There are many (quite possibly too many) romantic films out there. None are quite as affecting as this one.a-star-is-born

Gaga gives an Oscar-worthy performance, fusing quiet confidence with a rising-star vulnerability that endears us to her and allows us to see beyond the veneer of her real life star persona.  Cooper directs with a curiosity for his characters and the music industry that takes us on a captivating journey. Morphing into haunted rock star Jackson Maine, Cooper gives a physical and emotional performance that is both memorable and tragic, and veteran Sam Elliott is terrific, supporting his co-stars with comfortable ease.

With A Star is Born Cooper explores timely themes with such gut-wrenching force it’s almost impossible to leave the cinema unmoved. The film’s power is in its ability to stay with you long after the credits roll and, this alone, is its true triumph.

Billed as a romantic-drama, A Star is Born is so much more, going beyond its genre to explore the music industry, masculinity and mental health. It might be the story’s fourth incarnation but it is also quite possibly its best. Superb.

Big Hero 6, review

Managing to successfully combine humour with emotion, and targeting the difficulty of grief in the process, Big Hero 6 is a true gem. Animation has become a little tiresome, with dozens released each year that don’t quite capture the spirit of the classics like Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast or UP. The latter being one of the first to truly captivate adult audiences with it’s frank and rather imaginative storytelling. Don Hall and Chris Williams’ Big Hero 6, adapted from a Marvel comic, and brought to the screen by Disney (who here prove their worth) is possibly the best animated comedy since, well, a very long time.

Meet Hero (Ryan Potter) and Tadashi (Daniel Henney); two brothers living with Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) in San Fransokyo (gotta’ love the play on words, right?). Hero is fourteen and already graduated from school. He fights Robots for cash in an attempt to cure his epic boredom and is, rather humorously, going through puberty (a particular scene articulating this makes for plenty of light-hearted laughs). Tadashi goes to college, under rule of Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) and soon Hero enrolls as he creates a Robot capable of doing whatever the human mind can imagine. It’s a simple story coupled with a whole lot of cool. The star is Baymax, Tadashi‘s health-care Bot that becomes a friend to all involved. Armed with a soothing voice, toddler-style walk and an all-round good nature, you can’t help but feel you need a Bot like Baymax in your life.

promotional still for big hero 6

promotional still for big hero 6

With an accompanying soundtrack that mixes instrumental score with Fallout Boy punk rock, the tone is pretty much perfectly balanced throughout. Heart-wrenching without bordering on depressing. Comedic without taking away from the matter at hand. The cinematography is outstanding, with a colourful palette of pinks and yellows juxtaposed by low-key backstreet alley ways and urban ship yards that capture the personality of Tokyo. Thank you Disney for not westernizing this story to the point of no return.

A simple, uncomplicated plot. An aura of comic-book rebellion. An adorable new set of heroes. And aesthetics that capture the imagination. Big Hero 6 is a total triumph and reinvigorates a tired, repetitive and, somewhat, lifeless, style of film-making. This is fun cinema that’s a pleasure to watch.