Screening Room: ‘A Star is Born’

My essay on masculinity, the movies, Westerns, and Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star is Born ran today in Eyes Wide Open:

…instead of lashing out, sometimes the men just drop out. That’s the case in A Star is Born. On the face of it, this star vehicle doesn’t have anything to do with these stories of men marooned by modernity. The fourth iteration of William Wellman’s original 1937 tearjerker of a doomed celebrity romance double helix of fates, it has nary a firearm on offer and only the odd half-drunk bar fight in terms of violence. But in between all the melodrama about addiction, talent, and poisoned family trees, it’s hard to miss the lurking subtext about the place of men (well, straight men) in its world. In short: They just don’t seem to be hacking it…

New in Theaters: ‘American Sniper’

Bradley Cooper (right) as Chris Kyle in 'American Sniper' (Warner Bros.)
Bradley Cooper (right) as Chris Kyle in ‘American Sniper’ (Warner Bros.)

americansniper-cover1Before Chris Kyle was murdered at the age of 38, he had amassed a legendary kill record as an army sniper; possibly the most lethal one in American military history. His bestselling memoir, American Sniper, was originally planned as a Steven Spielberg project, but the film was ultimately directed by Clint Eastwood, no stranger to squint-eyed dramas of force and will.

American Sniper hit theaters today. My review is at Film Racket:

Bradley Cooper is rarely the sort to grab one’s attention at center stage; he only truly lights up films like American Hustle or The Hangover series when there’s a co-star for him to bounce his nervy patter and blue eyes off of. But Cooper’s performance as Kyle delivers the proper mix of humility and bottled-up frustration called for in a soldier from whom so much is expected. The film starts off with Kyle on a rooftop in Iraq, covering a column of Marines advancing through a city. He sees a woman hand a grenade to a young boy, who runs with the weapon towards the Marines. No other soldiers have eyes on the pair. His spotter reminds him that if he gets it wrong, “they’ll burn you”…

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Would Beat ‘The Avengers’ in a Dance-Off

Which of these Guardians of the Galaxy has an awesome mix-tape on their Walkman? (Marvel / Walt Disney Studios)
Which of these Guardians of the Galaxy has an awesome mix-tape on their Walkman? (Marvel / Walt Disney Studios)

It’s big, it’s everywhere, it’s somehow much better than your average Marvel output—even Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy is playing now throughout the known universe; check it out.

My article “Guardians of the Galaxy out-Whedons The Avengers” is at Short Ends & Leader:

There’s a lot to appreciate—and maybe even love—about Guardians of the Galaxy. The oozing and eager-to-please sprawl of Gen-X references, from Mom’s ‘70s pop music mixtape to hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, surfer-dude sly) romancing the green-skinned assassin babe Gamora (Zoe Saldana) by referencing the “legend” of Footloose. Banter threaded slyly through the action instead of airdropped in by executive committee looking for humor beats. A talking raccoon skilled in jail-breaks and bomb-making. David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”. A genocidal villain thwarted by a dance-off. The two-hour running time, practically unheard-of brevity for modern blockbusters. Howard the Duck…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘American Hustle’

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper strut in 'American Hustle'
Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper strut in ‘American Hustle’

americanhustle-poster1After last year’s wildly popular but kinda underwhelming mental-illness romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell changes things up with the sprawling, polyestered, multi-Golden Globe-nominated, 1970s scam flick American Hustle. Not a bad switchup, all things considered

American Hustle opens this weekend in limited release and goes wide on December 20. My review is at Film Racket:

Somehow there’s never been a big movie about Abscam, the ambitious late-1970s FBI corruption probe that convicted six Congressmen and one Senator for taking bribes from fake Arab sheikhs. Although it plays with a few shards of the real story, David O. Russell’s highly imitative but gung-ho drama American Hustle is not really about Abscam. What you have here, amidst all the science-fiction hair and byzantine deals cut in rooms lined with cheap wood paneling, is an epic power ballad of a story about love, friendship, and the high costs of each…

The ladies of 'American Hustle'
The ladies of ‘American Hustle’

Here’s the trailer, which reveals absolutely nothing about the plot; dig it: