There are two words that best describe the fourth big screen version of the old Hollywood chestnut, “A Star is Born”: Oscar bait. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are impressive in this tragic romance about an alcoholic musician on the downslide and his protégé who’s on the rise. Cooper directed and co-wrote this update, his first foray behind the camera. He also provides his own songs. In her movie debut, Lady Gaga displays solid acting chops to go along with her radio-ready original music. Even though you know the outcome, the story is still affecting thanks to the realistic treatment and the chemistry between the stars. “A Star is Born” doesn’t just refer to Lady Gaga, it also refers to Cooper as a talented budding filmmaker.
A Spider-Man supervillain gets his own feature film in Marvel’s “Venom.” Tom Hardy plays an investigative reporter who becomes the unwitting host for an alien parasite that provides him with amazing shape-shifting abilities, super strength and an intense hunger for human organs. When the Venom parasite starts making small talk with his host, however, the movie becomes unintentionally funny. The tone of this movie shifts shape more often than the title character. While some may argue that the language and violence in the PG-13 rated “Venom” should have garnered it an R rating, it’s probably not as dark as it should have been to be truly effective. “Venom” is a rare Marvel miss.
Also opening this week, “Chasing the Blues” is a comedy about two rival record collectors who obsess over a cursed blues title for over twenty years. “Museo” is a Mexican drama about an infamous artifact heist in 1985. Gael Garcia Bernal stars. “Kusama: Infinity” is a documentary about the acclaimed 89-year-old avant garde Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama.