2 Mini Film Reviews: ROBIN HOOD (2018) and A STAR IS BORN (2018)

Robin Hood (2018)

Director: Otto Bathurst. 
Cinematography: George Steel. 
Score: Joseph Trapanese.
Screenplay: Ben Chandler and David James Kelly.
Cast: Taron Edgerton / Jamie Foxx / Jamie Dornan / Ben Mendelson / Eve Hewson. 
Triggers/Content Advisory: PG13 for violence.
Source: Rented.

A war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown.

Will Hollywood ever get tired of retelling Robin Hood? I hope not, because I'll always be keen to watch another adaption of the classic legend.  I just hope they get it right someday. Costner's version was good (if you don't take into account the sexism), the BBC series was awesome (they had a poor budget and poor actors, but the characters were so compelling), Crowe's 2012 film was dark and violent (but weakly written and miscast), and Men in Tights was ridiculous (it was supposed to be, but still). Of all of the adaptions, however, this film ranks among the worst of the lot.

With frenzied, stylised violence and extremely sloppy writing, there's very little to hold this film together. Character motivations are murky, relationships are under-developed, the characters are flat, the acting is nothing impressive, and the dialogue is convoluted. The tone is dark, but at the same time laden with a kind of "punk rock" energy. The movie is so caught up in its own "edgy" excitement that it does little to deliver real thrills or emotion. It has no heart. It hardly entertains, either, because the characters are so shallow and the action so unfocused. It does have its fun moments - the soundtrack is awesome, and some scenes (like Robin's archery training with John) are enough to pump you up - but ultimately: what is a story without a reasoned plot or dynamic characters? A watery mess.

A Star Is Born (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper.
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique.
Score: Various.
Screenplay: Eric Roth / Bradley Cooper / Will Fetters. 
Triggers/Content Advisory: R for strong language, sexual content and nudity, and substance abuse. 
Cast: Bradley Cooper / Lady Gaga / Sam Elliott. 
Source: Rented. 

A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

I never saw any of the older A Star Is Born films, so coming into this one I was excited but with nothing to compare it to. It just looked like a brilliant movie. I expected to love it.

On a writing and production scale, the movie is epically cinematic. The production design, the sets, the cinematography, the music...it is utterly magnificent. The writing and direction, too, are excellent, and it showcases a phenomenal debut for Cooper. The theme of substance abuse is also a major part of the plot, and this theme is explored throughout.
In terms of acting, the cast is flawless. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are electric; they're perfectly cast, and give it their all with powerful, heartrending performances.

Despite all of these positive points, however, there were a few aspects of the film that disappointed me. Here are the reasons I didn't love A Star Is Born as much as I thought I would:   

- I enjoyed the first half of the film a lot more than the second half. The second half was more generic, more what you'd expect in a rags-to-riches musical story: girl gets famous, it goes to her head, her relationships get strained, etc etc etc. It's well done, sure, but it's not as gripping or fresh as the first half of the story, when Jackson and Ally are still getting to know each other.

- The love triangle of sorts between Jackson, Ally, and her manager, is an unnecessary subplot. There was no need to bring it in, and it only added to the unoriginality of the second half of the movie.

- Ultimately, this isn't Ally's story. It's Jackson's, and it's about his mental illness and battle with alcoholism. While this is all handled well, I do find it a bit frustrating that Ally's whole character arc revolves around her relationship with Jackson. The script looks at her from how her character is related to Jackson's; it never forgets that Jackson is the main character. To me, this is disappointing. I would've liked for Ally to have had her own agency.

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