‘Star is Born’ not great, will probably win best picture

Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

6/10 A Star is Born is the kind of predictable, pretentious Oscarbate that I want to despise with every fiber of my being, but I can not. Everything about this movie tells me I should hate it, but it is too soundly made for me to truly dislike.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who also writes, directs and produces) is an international country music megastar who refuses to address his alcohol dependency or his growing tinnitus. Out of booze after a show, he ducks into a drag bar, where he meets and immediately falls in love with burgeoning songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga). Maine coaxes her into going on tour with him and even brings her on stage to sing her own songs for the first time. Tensions mount as her star eventually begins to burn brighter than his own and his drinking antics intensify.

One of the biggest factors in A Star is Born’s rapturous reception is its crass, emotionally manipulative ending, which we’ll need to address in order to discuss the film fully. If you keep reading without having seen it, the film won’t have its full effect, but I’d argue that it’s not all that effective anyway.

Spoilers below.

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Like a turd in the wind

Images courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing.

4/10 After months of extreme public ridicule, Venom has finally arrived, and make no mistake, it is bad. Oh boy, it is so bad. But despite how much fun’s been had at its expense since the first teaser was released last February, it’s far from the worst movie of the year. It actually stands alarmingly head-and-shoulders above some other movies out right now.

After violating his fiance’s trust and his newspaper’s legitimacy, journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) loses everything. He’s rightly fired, and his fiancé Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) rightly leaves him. Six months later after nothing interesting happens I guess, Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) gives him an inside scoop on the company he was investigating, the Life Foundation. Skirth confirms Brock’s assertion that CEO Elon Musk Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is recruiting vulnerable San Franciscans for experimentation, specifically with a dangerous parasitic alien life form. Brock investigates and is taken by one of the symbiotes, which he discovers is conscious and goes by Cummyeyes McGoo Venom (also Hardy).

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‘Assassination Nation’ light on the assassinations

This is the final shot of the movie. It just cuts off here. Images courtesy Neon.

4/10 I came to see Assassination Nation for the ultra-violence. I found it severely lacking in violence.

In Salem, Massachusetts, someone is hacking residents. It starts with Mayor Bartlett (Cullen Moss) and Principal Turrell (Colman Domingo), but soon, half the town’s private information has been uploaded for public viewing.

Among the leaks, it is revealed that Lily Colson (Odessa Young) has been texting lewd pictures to a married man, for which she is kicked out of her home. After a weeklong timeskip in which apparently nothing interesting happened, it is revealed that the leaks were uploaded from Colson’s home computer, and an enraged mob finally comes for her and her three best friends.

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Stop what you’re doing and go see ‘Mandy’

Image courtesy RLJE Films.

10/10 Mandy is an unquestionable masterpiece, the kind of completely uncompromised film that almost never gets made in the modern Hollywood era. It is an absolute privilege to see on the big screen, which you must do if you can still find the opportunity.

In 1983 in the Shadow Mountains, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live in peace. But when cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) becomes enamoured with Bloom after making eye contact with her on the side of the road, he horrifying biker demons from hell to orchestrate a home invasion and, when Mandy refuses to submit to him, burns her alive in front of her husband. Miller, who is left to die, escapes, forges history’s most acid-friendly battle axe and hunts the cult down.

So, not much happens in Mandy. But have you ever seen not much happen so stylishly?

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‘Simple Favor’ gleeful, twisted

Images courtesy Lionsgate.

9/10 A Simple Favor is a fiendish delight of a film, one that was clearly fun to make and is just as fun to watch.

Stay-at-home widow Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) puts the other moms of her Connecticut suburb to shame with her handy crafts and recipes and eagerness to be involved with her son’s elementary school education. Through her son, she befriends her polar opposite as a mother — the rich Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), who curses like a sailor and starts her batches of stiff martinis in the mid-afternoon. Smothers and Nelson — and Nelson’s husband Sean Townsend (Henry Golding) — get on like a house on fire, until Nelson suddenly goes missing. Smothers must unravel the sinister mystery of her new best friend, and reveal her own mysteries in the process.

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