Review: “A Star Is Born” (2018)

The latest version of the romantic tragedy A Star Is Born (Warner Bros., 2018) opened in U.S. theaters a couple of weeks ago and I finally got a chance to see it.

Starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, this is the fourth Hollywood retelling of this classic story of love, sacrifice, and loss. Like the most recent version (the 1976 remake with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson), this 2018 version is set in the rock/pop music world. (Both the 1937 original and 1954 remake were set in the Hollywood film business.)

Here’s the official plot summary from Warner Bros. (just in case you’re not familiar with the story): “In this new take on the tragic love story, [Bradley Cooper] plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers—and falls in love with—struggling artist Ally [Lady Gaga]. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer…until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.”

The MVP award goes to Bradley Cooper, who not only starred in the film, but directed it (it’s his first feature film) and co-wrote the screenplay. The film also marks the first starring role in a major motion picture for Lady Gaga. Both are very credible in their respective roles as lovers and musicians with opposite trajectories. The film also has a stellar supporting cast with Sam Elliott, who plays the older brother and manager of Bradley Cooper’s character, Andrew Dice Clay, who plays Lady Gaga’s father, and Dave Chapelle, who plays Cooper’s friend and former bandmate.

It’s a well-made, high quality film that people are loving and I’m good with that. I really have only two beefs with it. I’m just not a big Lady Gaga fan and the up-close and personal time with her on the big screen did little to change that. And, I don’t see why this story needed yet another retelling. Sure, the music is good and Bradley Cooper and team did a nice job in their adaptation and “modernization,” if you will, of the storyline. Still, the film ends the same way as the other ones did and we’re left with the same sad results.

A Star Is Born is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.”

My score: 4 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, here’s a clip and montage from the film, courtesy of the Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube channel.

All images ©️ Warner Bros.

“Bullitt” Turns 50

It was a serious thrill to see Warner Bros.’ Bullitt (1968) on the big screen again this past week. The film is celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

While it’s not necessarily my favorite storyline, it’s all about the 15-minute car chase in the middle of the picture. Steve McQueen (along with some fantastic stunt drivers) in the iconic Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback and the ominous black Dodge Charger (being driven by the great stunt driver Bill Hickman) chasing each other through the streets of San Francisco still holds up as one of the best, if not the best, car chase scene ever put on film.

Recently, one of the 1968 Mustangs driven in the film resurfaced after having been missing for many years (the blonde woman is Molly McQueen, Steve McQueen’s granddaughter).

With the movie turning 50, the Ford Motor Company also has made available a cool “Bullitt” equipment package on their their latest Mustang GT. Check out this video with Jay Leno as he gets to see both the old and new “Bullitt” Mustangs.

Here’s a fun Bullitt homage put together by Ford to celebrate the new Mustang Bullitt (and making another appearance is Molly McQueen as the driver of the Mustang).

UPDATE 10/17/2018: The official Warner Bros. Studios blog has posted a cool article commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bullitt with some great behind the scenes photos and facts from the film’s production. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a Bullitt fan.

And here’s a cool photo from the Ford Performance Instagram feed with the past and present versions of the Bullitt Mustang:

Image ©️ Warner Bros.

Revisiting “An American in Paris”

As the great Cole Porter song goes, “I love Paris in the springtime…” It’s true — Paris, France is one of my favorite cities in the world. So, you’d think that I’d enjoy the classic film An American in Paris (1951) more. In the past, it’s been a film that I’ve more respected than enjoyed. But that all changed this week when I had the chance to see the film on the big screen for the first time as part of Megaplex Theatres’ wonderful Silver Screen Classics Series.

Watching An American in Paris on the big screen was a revelation, to say the least.  The clear and bright projection of the digital print magnified the film’s incredible production design in ways that I could never distinguish, yet alone appreciate (the film was primarily made in soundstages on the MGM studio lot in Hollywood, which almost makes it even more impressive). Gene Kelly’s phenomenal choreography and dancing were perfectly framed and filmed by director Vincente Minnelli. In fact, the dancing came to life more vividly than I ever remember on TV. And hearing the sublime music by George and Ira Gershwin on the marvelous theater sound system was just icing on the cake.

(L-R) Georges Guetary, Oscar Levant, and Gene Kelly sing about love in their Parisian hang out in An American in Paris (1951)

The 17-minute ballet at the end of the film is something that I even liked on the small screen, and my appreciation for it grew tenfold. Seeing Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron dance through living representations of the works of famous French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters, including Raoul Dufy, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, was truly breathtaking. 

Probably my main criticism that still remains is the film’s central love story. I’ve just never been convinced about the depth and sincerity of the love between Jerry (Gene Kelly) and Lise (Leslie Caron), not to mention the unkindness that Jerry shows to his temporary benefactress Milo (Nina Foch). However, I was so overtaken by the beauty of the production design, music, and dancing, that it was something that I decided to let evaporate away along with all of my other criticisms, for better or for worse.

While Singin’ in the Rain (1952) still remains my favorite Gene Kelly film, primarily for its great setting, cast, story, and comedy, An American in Paris has become a new and respected favorite in my Hollywood musical catalog. If you get an offer to see An American in Paris on the big screen, the answer is oui

All Images ©️ MGM/Warner Bros.

“Rebel Without a Cause”

It’s been a couple of weeks, but I’m still thinking about my maiden voyage watching Rebel Without a Cause (1955) in its entirety. 

I think I started watching it a couple of times when the film played on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), but I just don’t ever remember finishing it. Well, that was a mistake which I’ll never do again now that I’ve seen the film on the big screen courtesy of this year’s TCM Big Screen Classics series (the film screened on September 23 and 26).

I found the film to be a riveting, compelling drama that’s worthy of its reputation. James Dean puts in a stellar, legendary performance as Jim Stark, a high schooler with affluent but out-of-touch parents (pictured above; all images ©️ Warner Bros.). He becomes friends with his neighbor and classmate Judy (played excellently by Natalie Wood) and John “Plato” Crawford (also excellently played by Sal Mineo), who also have serious issues happening at home. And, in a departure from most every film ever, while all of the adults seem dysfunctional, the one steady adult in the film is the neighborhood detective, played perfectly by Edward Platt. 

The tragedy that unfolds is, sadly, inevitable, but still heart-wrenching nonetheless. Director Nicholas Ray does such an excellent job with his storytelling. The visual cues of the families’ dysfunction is obvious, yet artfully brought in as part of the unfolding of the plot. The performances are stellar, as are the Los Angeles locations, particularly the beloved Griffith Observatory which is used so perfectly in the film.

I now get it why people were so crazy about James Dean’s performance and why it remains such a classic today. Sorry to be slow to the party, but I’m grateful that I at least arrived. Thanks again to TCM and their outstanding Big Screen Classics series!

Image ©️ Warner Bros. and TCM


Widescreen Thoughts on “The Sound of Music”

As part of 2018’s Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Big Screen Classics series, TCM and 20th Century Fox presented their classic film The Sound of Music (1965) on the big screen in September. And, let me tell you, seeing this film in all of its big screen glory was music to both my ears and eyes.

Seriously, I’ve seen this film on a TV screen so many times, both in old school (and frustrating) pan-and-scan as well as in widescreen formats. However, seeing the film in widescreen and with its beautiful digital restoration was almost like seeing the film for the first time (I’m sure that this will be an oft-used statement on this blog–I really prefer watching any film on the big screen, particularly classic ones).

Familiar scenes seemed new again. And the romance between Maria (Julie Andrews) and Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) seemed all the more real and believable by being able to watch their stellar performances in a magnified way.

All images ©️ 20th Century Fox

While I adored hearing all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs again in on the theater’s speakers, I mostly just came away so impressed with the craftsmanship that director Robert Wise and his team put into the film. One of my friends commented after the screening that “there’s not a bad shot in it.” And I would concur. Every shot is artful, beautiful, and meaningful. (And I want to know how in the world the team lit the famous “Something Good” gazebo scene. It’s just so good.)

I loved seeing this film again on the big screen and wish you all could have been there, too.

Image ©️ 20th Century Fox and TCM

“Jurassic Park” Turns 25

Can you even believe it’s been 25 years since the original Jurassic Park (Universal, 1993) hit the big screen for the first time?

The Steven Spielberg-directed film, based on the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton (Crichton also co-wrote the screenplay with David Koepp), was a huge hit in 1993 and for good reason. With a compelling story, its marvelous use of both practical and digital special effects, a great cast, a brilliant soundtrack by John Williams, and an amazing crew, Jurassic Park was a movie thrill ride of the first order. 

The film has spurred multiple sequels, but none of them can match the creativity, craftsmanship, terror, and excitement of this first outing. 

Universal Pictures recently screened Jurassic Park again in theaters across the U.S.A. to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It was such a blast to revisit this film on the big screen. I enjoyed it just as much as I did back in the day. Wish you all were there, too.

The studio also held a contest for fans to send recreations of the film. Here’s a compilation of the best fan films, courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Do yourself a favor and skip the lousy sequels and watch the original and still best–1993’s Jurassic Park.

All images ©️ Universal Pictures

Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Marvel Studios is showing all 20 of its films in select IMAX theaters from August 30 to September 6, 2018.

Megaplex Theatres in Utah (where I live) offered a pass for all 20 movies for $75 + tax which provides a reserved seat in the IMAX theater for each of the films. They are also offering single tickets for each screening (which I wished I would have done since my schedule hasn’t permitted me to see as many films as I would have liked; more on that below).

Here’s the schedule of films that are being shown in the IMAX theater at my local Megaplex Theatres location, the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons. 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 30
Iron Man – 2:15 p.m.
The Incredible Hulk – 4:45 p.m.
Iron Man 2 – 7:00 p.m
Thor – 9:25 p.m.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 31
Captain America: The First Avenger – 2:15 p.m.
Avengers – 4:40 p.m.
Iron Man 3 – 7:25 p.m.
Thor: The Dark World – 9:55 p.m.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – 2:15 pm.
Guardians of the Galaxy – 4:55 p.m.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – 7:20 p.m.
Ant-Man – 10:05 p.m.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
Captain America: Civil War – 2:15 p.m.
Doctor Strange – 5:05 p.m.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 7:20 p.m.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – 10:00 p.m.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Thor: Ragnarok – 2:15 p.m.
Black Panther – 4:55 p.m.
Avengers: Infinity War – 7:30 p.m.
Ant-Man and the Wasp – 10:20 p.m.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
Iron Man – 2:15 p.m.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – 4:45 p.m.
Black Panther – 7:20 p.m.
Doctor Strange – 9:55 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 – 2:15 p.m.
Captain America: Civil War – 4:45 p.m.
Avengers – 7:45 p.m.
Avengers: Infinity War – 10:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Iron Man – 2:15 p.m.
Avengers – 4:45 p.m.

We’re at the midway point in the festival and while it’s been fun, the schedule has been a bit of a challenge for me, particularly since I have a day job along with a lot of extra commitments over the next few days (which isn’t Marvel’s fault). Probably my only complaint is that the screening schedule is a bit too condensed and it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see all of the films. Even though they are showing some of the titles twice or more, I wish they could have spread it out over a couple of weeks to make it possible for us working folks to see more of these movies that we love. (At least they included Labor Day in the mix, so that helps.)

Still, the Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival is a really fun idea and I will enjoy what I can. Check out this video about it from the IMAX YouTube channel.

Tickets Now on Sale for D23 Expo 2019

D23: The Official Disney Fan Club has begun selling tickets for the upcoming D23 Expo 2019 which is scheduled for August 23-25, 2019 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.

Logo ©️ Disney

Tickets are now available on the D23 website. Discount (aka “Early Bird”) pricing is available for D23 Gold and Gold Family members through November 20.

If you’ve never been before, the D23 Expo is the “largest Disney fan event in the world” (according to the Disney press materials). It is basically a “comic con” style of event solely for Disney intellectual property. It celebrates all “the wonderful worlds of The Walt Disney Company under one roof, including the best of Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars across film, television, theme parks, products, online, music, live entertainment, and more.”

More from the press materials: “Once again, the Expo will celebrate the past, present, and future of Disney with signature entertainment, celebrity appearances, panels, presentations, sneak peeks, and immersive experiences. A massive show floor will feature exhibits, shopping, and photo opportunities from all across Disney and its partners. D23 Expo 2019 marks the return of fan favorites, including the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony, honoring the talented men and women who have made indelible contributions to the Disney legacy; an all-new exhibit from the Walt Disney Archives; Talent Central, where fans can meet their favorite Disney stars; and a daily parade on the show floor.”

For 2019, the D23 Expo will be celebrating, among other things I’m sure, the 50th anniversary of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction, which opened to the general public on August 9, 1969. There will be an art show, a cosplay contest, special merchandise, etc., related to this venerable, macabre favorite.

D23 Expo 2019 will be the sixth biennial D23 Expo held in Anaheim, California. I’ve been to four of the five D23 Expos that have been held and have had a blast—mostly. It’s an extremely well-attended event and the D23 folks don’t often do a good job with crowd control and with communications to attendees during the con. So, inevitably during the weekend, things just become an overcrowded mess with a bunch of frustrated Disney fans. I can tell that the D23 team is trying to improve things with their early communications about the Expo; let’s hope it continues through the Expo itself. 

Speaking of, here’s a video from D23 to get us all excited about the D23 Expo 2019 (and, what I believe, is an attempt to show us that they are trying to plan ahead and improve the guest experience).


I’ve purchased a three-day “Early Bird” ticket and am hoping for the best! I’m also hoping to go to Disneyland at some point during the trip, but given that the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area will have recently opened (or is scheduled to open) in Disneyland park, we’ll just have to wait until Disney makes some announcements about how ticketing and access are going to work for the area before any concrete plans are made.

For the latest information about the D23 Expo 2019 and D23 in general, visit D23.com.

Image ©️ Disney

Dates Announced for the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

We at the Movies Past and Present blog are huge fans of the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) network. Not only does TCM curate wonderful classic film programming 24/7 on their cable network, TCM also puts on one of the best classic movie festivals in the country with their annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Both the network and festival are celebrating major milestones in 2019—TCM turns 25 and the TCM Classic Film Festival turns 10. 

Logo ©️ TCM

The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival will be held on April 11-14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. The theme for this year’s film festival is “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies.” Tickets will go on sale in November 2018 (specific date TBA). Here’s an official statement from the TCM Classic Film Festival website:

“Whether it’s in the afternoon, at first sight or in the air, the TCM Classic Film Festival will celebrate love in all of its forms. As we come together for the 10th Annual Festival, and the 25th anniversary of TCM, there will be many-splendored moments to revel in romance and obsessions, delight in faithful friendships and surrender to the enduring allure of the silver screen with fellow classic movie lovers.”

We can’t wait! For all of the latest information on the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival, visit http://filmfestival.tcm.com. See you in Hollywood in April 2019!

Megaplex Theatres’ 2018 Silver Screen Classics Series

The Megaplex Theatres movie theater chain in Utah (where I live) is running their excellent “Silver Screen Classics” film series again this fall. Starting today (September 3), select Megaplex Theatres will be screening a classic film every Monday and Wednesday for the next 10 weeks. Screenings are at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

The cost is an unbelievable $10 (yes, that’s $10) for all 10 classic films. Passes are available at participating Megaplex Theatres (I bought my pass at the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons box office). Check the Megaplex Theatres website (www.megaplextheatres.com) to see if your local Megaplex Theatres location is participating. (I had to go to the specific theater on the website and look through the movie times on each specific date. The experience was, to say the least, a bit clunky. Hopefully, Megaplex Theatres will put some additional content about the Silver Screen Classics on their website soon.)

Here’s the list of films along with a link to each film’s page on Rotten Tomatoes. Hope to see you at one of these screenings!


The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
September 3 and 5

©️ Warner Bros.


Funny Face
 (1957)
September 10 and 12

©️ Paramount Pictures


She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
September 17 and 19

©️ RKO Pictures


Field of Dreams (1989)
September 24 and 26

©️ Universal Pictures


An American in Paris (1951)
October 1 and 3

©️ MGM


The African Queen (1951)
October 8 and 10

©️ United Artists


Silverado
(1985)
October 15 and 17

©️ Columbia Pictures


The Godfather (1972)
October 22 and 24

©️ Paramount Pictures


Spartacus (1960)
October 29 and 31

©️ Universal Pictures


Jaws (1975)
November 5 and 7

©️ Universal Pictures