A Star Is Born


Directed By: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chapelle, Greg Grunberg, Drena De Niro, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: A-
After barely making it through a sold-out concert, down on his luck rocker Jackson Maine heads to a Los Angeles drag bar where he meets Ally, a struggling songwriter who performs at the bar part-time.  After spending the evening getting to know her, Jackson invites Ally to his next concert in Las Vegas, where he invites her on stage to perform one of her songs.  When he finally convinces Ally to perform one of her songs solo, her career takes off, and what ensues is a volatile, passionate romance as they both try to balance out Ally’s skyrocketing career with Jackson’s own failing one.
An emotional roller coaster almost from start to finish, this most recent remake of the classic film is an incredible feat for first-time director Bradley Cooper to have taken on, and he manages to make a beautiful film worthy of the nominations it received.  The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga feels real and natural.  Lady Gaga’s inexperience as an actress seems to have worked well in her favor here, because it conveys into a character discomfort with the sudden limelight she finds herself in, and while Cooper is not a professional musician, he does a more than adequate job in singing for his character.  His character’s relationship with his brother, played by Hollywood staple Sam Elliott, is one of the central relationships in the movie, though it probably should have gotten focus than it did.
Most of the effects used are background filler and not noticeable.
So long as you don’t mind emotionally exhausting dramas, you should enjoy this movie.  It’s adequate pacing lets the audience absorb the information before moving forward, and you find yourself truly caring about the characters as endure their struggles.  And, while it may not be something you want to watch on a weekly basis, it is likely that you would want to watch it again, and it shouldn’t begin to grate on those repeat viewings.
A Star is Born is currently free to stream through Hulu, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Bad Samaritan


Directed By: Dean Devlin
Starring: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Kerry Condon, Carlito Olivero, Jacqueline Byers, Tracey Heggins, Rob Nagle, Lorraine Bahr, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C
Sean Falco, an amateur photographer supplementing his income by valeting cars and robbing some of the restaurant’s customers, loses control of his life when one of the houses he breaks into belongs to a sociopath who has a woman tied up one of the rooms.  As the man, Cale Erendreich, takes his revenge on Sean for compromising his illegal lifestyle, Sean races against time to clear his name and free the woman before she’s killed.  Enlisting the help of an FBI agent who believes that Erendreich may be a serial killer only she is certain exists, Sean does all he can to protect his loved ones and gather evidence that Erendreich is a killer.
This movie should have been better than it was.  The idea of a petty thief who accidentally crosses paths with serial killer and becomes a target gets points for originality, but unfortunately its potential isn’t fully realized.  Sean is portrayed as a loveable screwup with ‘standards’ (he won’t get a photojournalism job because that would be selling out) who is almost unbelievably dumb (leaving doors unlocked, etc.), meanwhile, Erendreich is almost supernaturally intelligent (he hacks into Sean’s computer files/social media/etc.) and quickly becomes an almost unbeatable foe who expertly turns Sean’s life upside down in only a few days.  Another thing that bothered me was the accent Tennant used.  While not outright bad, I’m more used to his natural and/or English accents from previous endeavors.
Most of the effects used are background filler and not noticeable.
While not entirely boring, this movie definitely could have been better than what it was.  Instead of giving real stakes and tension, they go more for cheap thrills and a breakneck pace that doesn’t allow for anything to really be processed before moving forward to the next ‘danger’.  As long as you don’t get your hopes up too high, you should have no issue with having watched this movie, though it may not be something that gets repeat viewings.
Bad Samaritan is free to stream through Hulu and Amazon Prime, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Kim Possible (2019)


Directed By: Zach Lipovsky & Adam B. Stein
Starring: Sadie Stanley, Sean Giambrone, Ciara Riley Wilson, Todd Stashwick, Taylor Ortega, Alyson Hannigan, Connie Ray, Erica Tham, Patton Oswalt, et.al.
Rating: TV-G
Network: Disney Channel
Grade: B+
Teen hero Kim Possible, who overcomes any obstacle in her path, finds herself unusually out of her element upon beginning high school.  Despite having her best friend, Ron Stoppable, tech whiz Wade, and new friend Athena by her side, Kim’s continues to slowly lose control over her once-perfect life.  When her nemesis, Dr. Drakken, is broken out of prison by his henchwoman Shego, Kim discovers that it’s not just her personal life that she’s out of step with, but when one of her friends is put in danger, Kim does everything she can set things right and rescue her friend and stop Dr. Drakken’s evil plot.
The plot for this movie – What happens when the intrepid hero loses their special spark? – was surprisingly original for a children’s made-for-TV movie.  It’s not often franchises, existing or potential, are willing to not only admit that the main character is flawed, but to actively show them make potentially disastrous mistakes and learn and grow from them.  The actors themselves work well together, and the ones playing Kim and Ron have a wonderful platonic chemistry.  It was also nice to see Todd Stashwick get to have fun with a role, instead of the straight-up bad guy he usually plays.
Some of the bigger/more prominent effects falter to scrutiny, but this is on par with other DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies).  Most of the background filler isn’t really noticeable.
We didn’t have cable growing up, so I was largely unfamiliar with the original cartoon that this DCOM is based on, and though I have seen a handful of episodes since watching this movie, the cartoon doesn’t have much bearing on the movie’s plotline.  That said, this is a cute movie that should appeal mostly to the younger crowd, although adults who don’t mind kids movies should find it enjoyable as well.
Kim Possible is free to stream through the DisneyNOW app, and is available for purchase or rental at any participating store or on-line retailer.

The Pelican Brief


Directed By: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James Sikking, William Atherton, Robert Culp, Stanley Tucci, Hume Cronyn, John Lithgow, Anthony Heald, Jake Weber, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

When two Supreme Court justices are murdered on the same night, Tulane law professor Thomas Callahan takes it upon himself to investigate possible reasons for the murders, especially since one of the judges was terminally ill. With the help of his girlfriend/student, Darby Shaw, Callahan comes up with a plausible theory that the authorities haven’t thought of, which theorizes that the judges were killed to aid an appeal of a court decision to protect a piece of land housing a rare subspecies of brown pelican. After turning the brief over to a friend at the FBI, Callahan is murdered, and Darby seeks out the help of both Callahan’s friend in the FBI, as well as investigative reporter Gray Grantham, who was also close to one of the murdered judges. After Gray is contacted by an insider at a high-powered law firm, he begins to believe that there is more to the murders than meets the eye, and he and Darby race against time to uncover a plot that leads all the way to the President of the United States.

Based on the John Grisham novel of the same name, this political thriller is well-paced and manages to keep the viewers attention throughout. Both Roberts and Washington were rising stars at the time and do great work with the material. The story itself remains relevant, even all these years later, since it’s not too hard to see a high-ranking politician ordering/being complicit in an assassination for financial and/or political gain.

There aren’t many special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t very noticeable.

This movie is something of an underrated gem. While it may not be as flashy as some action movies, it offers a well-paced story with a decent ticking clock. One of the few flaws was a character who was supposedly protecting Darby, though that wasn’t made completely clear. Other than that, this is a movie most people should enjoy, even if it’s just to get a glimpse of two stars before they were mega-famous.

The Pelican Brief is currently not available to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased through a participating store or on-line retailer.