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Review: “A Star is Born” Shines Bright with Cooper and Gaga

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We know Lady Gaga can sing, but can she act? We know Bradley Cooper can act, but can he sing as well as direct at the same time? The answer is a booming, earth-shattering yes. They both have what it takes to grab this decades-old retread of the classic rising-star romance tale and turn it into one of the finest films of the year.

Bradley Cooper plays Jackson Maine as a singer-songwriter who can see his life fading. His hearing is going out, his past is regrettable, and he’s drowning in bottles of booze and pills. But then a shining beacon comes into his life, performing at a drag bar of all plays, the lovely Ally (Lady Gaga). She wows him with a stunning voice and fearless trot around the bar while singing Édith Piaf’s timeless tune “La Vie en rose” in an unforgettable performance. Let this scene set the tone for the rest of the movie, echoing a cover of a familiar story, but crafting it into something wonderfully new. Watching Gaga turn heads and delight ears is a treat and, much like Jackson, I wanted more.

And more is most definitely what we get when Jackson convinces Ally after much playful pushing to come up on stage and share her voice with the world. Sure, we already know that Gaga can belt out a new tune like nobody’s business, but her character is one who can’t make that leap because she believes she doesn’t have the face for it. Specifically, she draws attention to her nose and eyebrows, traits that someone as in love as Jackson wouldn’t consider a factor for a singer-songwriter. Agents and publicists may mind, but they are mere hindrances that the two struggle to cast aside. The press may spin them, but we rarely see that side of this story. The focus remains firmly on the two singers who fell for each other and hang on tight as their relationship will weather a storm of jealousy, artificiality, and depression.

While Cooper and Gaga are amazing to watch, it’s especially worth noting the tremendous work of the supporting cast. Sam Elliot plays Jackson’s older brother, thus explaining Cooper’s dead-on Sam Elliot impersonation in his voice, and he displays a range we rarely see. I can recall in last year’s indie drama The Hero that Elliot is far more than a rambling old cowboy and he shows more of that unearthed side here; turning vicious when attacked and swelling to tears when Jackson struggles to make amends. Andrew Dice Clay plays Ally’s father who goes on about Sinatra and seems to be running a small business out of their home that keeps him up all night and his co-workers staying over; there’s a whole other movie in here. And Dave Chapelle casually strolls into a few scenes to remind us all that he has more than just funny bones in his body.

And then there’s the stellar music destined to be earworms. Every song carries a little bit of emotional weight and telling lyrics to be more than just pretty music, which it certainly is as well. The song “Shallow” has been touted as the centerpiece of the film and is played more than once, but it’s such a damn good song that it always kept me enraptured. Gaga’s performances during the stage scenes are some of the best of the film, from her first step on stage with “La Vie en rose” to her tearful closer “I’ll Never Love Again.” And Cooper doesn’t get left behind either, portraying a singer who so casually approaches his musical talent he seems to sometimes barely make it to the microphone. But when he does, he erupts with a power not seen in his previous films.

A Star is Born is best defined by Sam Elliot in one scene where he comments on how all music follows the same formula and it’s up to the artist to repeat it their own way, nothing more. Cooper’s version may be one of the finest of this old tale, editing out all the fluff of the rise and fall of music careers and holding on the more emotional moments worth lingering. I was so entranced by the blooming romance and driving songs that I didn’t even notice the running time well over two hours. This is easily one of the best films of the year, at the very least for the acting and music.


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“Ralph” and “Grinch” Steal Slow Box Office Weekend

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Aside from the re-release of Schindler’s List, there is nothing new in the box office for the weekend. Seriously, there’s nothing. And I thought last weekend was slow. With no new films in the running, it’s pretty much a repeat as the box office takes a snow day.

Once again, no surprise, Ralph Breaks The Internet is still on top. In its third weekend, the animated Disney adventure grossed $16 million for the weekend and $140 million for its domestic total. It still has a ways to go to top its $175 million but it should be closing in soon. Also no surprise following closely behind is Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the computer-animated holiday comedy based on the book by Dr. Seuss. After five weekends, it’s still in the top 5, making another $15 million for the weekend and $223 million domestic total. Worth noting is that, despite this weekend being slow, the movie only took a 15% dip from last weekend. And you can bet it’ll be sticking around for the rest of December.

As for everything else, very few films moved from their spots with one exception. Green Book, the historical racial drama, is picking up steam and has moved up from #10 last weekend to #7 after being added to more than 100 more theaters. Good word of mouth is getting around about this film as its domestic total is now sitting at $19 million for being in less than 2,000 theaters after four weekends.

Check out the full box office results below:
Ralph Breaks The Internet ($16,141,000)
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($15,175,000)
Creed II ($10,322,515)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($6,805,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($6,000,000)
Instant Family ($5,600,000)
The Possession of Hannah Grace ($3,935,000)
Robin Hood ($3,585,000)
Widows ($3,175,000)
Green Book ($3,100,000)

Next weekend, the break is over and genre movies will be in full swing. Mortal Engines, a CGI-heavy fantasy, will debut in 3,000 theaters. The Mule, a new drug-related drama directed and starring Clint Eastwood, will premiere in 2,400 theaters. And Sony’s new animated superhero film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, will be hitting 3,400 theaters. It’s a pretty much a sure bet that Spider-Man will take that weekend, given its PG-rated superhero appeal and the big word-of-mouth it’s getting from critic circles.


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“Ralph” Reigns Again on Slow Box Office Weekend

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We’re currently in the eye of the fall movie storm. All is fairly quiet this weekend. The only new release was that of a small horror film, The Possession of Hannah Grace. So small, in fact, that it only came in at #7 for the weekend with a gross of $6.5 million. As such, few films moved very far from their spots. Last weekend’s winner, the animated adventure Ralph Breaks The Internet, was once again on top, even though it wasn’t a very strong second weekend of $25 million, a 54% drop. Still, the film has made $119 million so far and is well on its way to covering its $175 million budget.

Surprisingly jumping up a spot is Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the latest animated film Illumination Studios based on the classic Christmas book. The film jumped up from #3 to #2, making $17 million with the domestic gross now up to $203 million. Creed II, the sequel to the Rocky spinoff, took a step down for its second weekend, grossing $16 million with a domestic total of $81 million. It’s no surprise that the biggest drop of the weekend was Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the sequel to the Harry Potter spinoff. Due to low critic ratings and poor fan reactions, the film tumbled 61% with its domestic gross sitting at $134 million.

Ivo Nandi stars as Moscow Referee and Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago in CREED II,
a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures film.
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
© 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

View the full top 10 box office winner for the weekend below.

Ralph Breaks The Internet ($25,756,000)
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($17,730,000)
Creed II ($16,832,863)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($11,200,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($8,100,000)
Instant Family ($7,150,000)
The Possession of Hannah Grace ($6,500,000)
Robin Hood ($4,700,000)
Widows ($4,400,000)
Green Book ($3,900,000)

Next weekend is so sparse with new content that the biggest release is going to be an anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, hitting 1,000 screens. It’s a good time to take in some smaller releases as Mary Queen of Scots, Ben is Back, and Vox Lux will be having limited releases. So it’s safe to expect a repeat of this weekend’s trends in the box office.


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“Ralph” Breaks The Box Office, “Creed” Close Behind

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Thanksgiving week is a time for family and there were plenty out to the theater last week for an animated family picture. Ralph Breaks The Internet, the Disney-animated sequel to 2012’s video game adventure comedy Wreck-It Ralph, came in at #1 for the weekend with $55 million and $84 million since its debut on Wednesday. This puts it above the Disney studio’s previous Thanksgiving hit Moana, which had a 5-day total of $82 million.

Not too far behind is Creed II, the sequel to the Rocky spin-off starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. The boxing sequel took in $35 million for the weekend and $55 million since Wednesday. This is a stronger opening than the first film which came in at $29 million for the weekend.

And it was slim leftovers for the two other debuts. Robin Hood, the latest action remake of the classic tale, came in at #7 with only $9 million for the weekend, $14 million since Wednesday. Green Book, a drama about a black singer in the racist south of America, came in at #9 for its expanded week to make $5 million for the weekend and $7 million for its domestic total.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is not fairing to well for its second weekend. The Harry Potter spin-off has dropped to #4 with a domestic weekend gross of $30 million, a 52% drop. The film still hasn’t cleared its $200 million budget with a domestic gross of $117 million and it looks like it may never cross that mark as we head into December with more genre titles. Beating it out for #3 is Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the theatrically animated adaptation by Illumination, that is proving to have great legs coming into the holiday season. Worth noting at #10 is A Star Is Born, its domestic total now having crossed $191 million to make it one of the most profitable films of the year.

View the full top 10 box office results for the weekend below:

Ralph Breaks The Internet ($55,672,000)
Creed II ($35,293,000)
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($30,210,000)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($29,650,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($13,855,000)
Instant Family ($12,500,000)
Robin Hood ($9,125,000)
Widows ($7,955,000)
Green Book ($5,443,000)
A Star is Born ($3,005,000)

Next weekend is, well, it’s pretty dead. So dead that a ghost movie is occupying the rather blank spot. Possession of Hannah Grace, a modest horror production, will be arriving in under 2,000 theaters. So it’s fair to say you can expect Ralph to breakthrough for another weekend of success.


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