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.

American Horror Story: Hotel – Abandon Ship

There actually isn’t a lot to say about Checking In, the premiere episode of season five of anthology series American Horror Story. Correction: There isn’t a lot of positive things to say about Checking In. Absurdly grotesque, convoluted in plot and yet to provide us with any kind of likeable character other than Wes Bentley, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s newest incarnation is, very simply put, silly. Silly in nature and pointless in presence.

wes bentley in american horror story: hotel

wes bentley in american horror story: hotel

Ouch, yes, I went there. It genuinely feels as though co-creators Murphy and Falchuk have run out of any kind of original idea and have taken odd components from seasons past and thrown them all into Hotel. The violence of Asylum and the strange characters of Freakshow with the location-based claustrophobia of Murder House. The difference being that those elements in those seasons worked. Currently, they aren’t working here. The first episode generally needs to be the stand out and that just currently isn’t the case. Members of the AHS fan canon will likely be enthused by this first installment, those who have been teetering on the border of abandoning the series will probably do so now.

Sarah Paulson is on form yet again as another complex character and seeing Lady GaGa as an actress is a real treat. Kathy Bates used to be a firm favourite but three seasons since her inauguration into the world of ‘Horror Story she has just become stranger and less compelling. The gripping enigma, and engaging characters of times past are long gone, and now the FX show that was once a television phenomenon has become an uncomfortable watch that focuses on unnecessary and seemingly unexplained events. Underdeveloped and cliched, Hotel needs to find a way out of the dark hole it’s so sadly started in.