Tag Archives: Bradley Cooper

Maestro-2023

Maestro-2023

Director Bradley Cooper

Starring Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan

Scott’s Review #1,411

Reviewed December 3, 2023

Grade: A

Brilliance personified defines Maestro (2023), a film directed by and starring Bradley Cooper. As if that isn’t enough Cooper co-wrote the screenplay with Josh Singer and co-produced the project with Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg.

With riches such as these players involved equates to adequate muscle to make the film a necessary watch brimming with creativity and good storytelling.

There is no disappointment whatsoever in the buildup. Maestro expresses powerful acting, creative direction, and a musical score encompassing the works of the man being examined, Bernstein.

At the conclusion, I found myself feeling like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. The epic portrayal of one family’s love for one another was overwhelming.

Combined with the art appreciation left me astounded with culture and further knowledge of the composer.

The story is not as much of a straightforward biography as one might imagine though when the film begins in the 1940s the famous composer is just on the cusp of his first big break. By sheer luck, he is asked to fill in for an ailing conductor, Bruno Walter, one evening.

But at its core Maestro is a torrential and fearless love story chronicling the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan) who was a well-known theater actress.

They meet at a party and fall madly in love spending most of their time together. The intrigue is that Leonard is gay and quite openly so before he meets Felicia and becomes famous.

His boyfriend is David Oppenheim, played by Matt Bomer.

This sat well with me and I was impressed by their openness well before the LGBT movement. Unfortunately, we see little of David or Bomer after the early days and Leonard becomes enamored with several young aspiring composers. He then took to doing lines of cocaine into the 1970s and 1980s.

What the film does well is reveal that Felicia is aware of Leonard’s sexuality and loves him despite his appetite for men. This is not always easy for her. They share a love that is stoic and unadulterated and they become one in their bond making it unbreakable.

Maestro gets very dark in the later stages when Felicia is diagnosed with terminal cancer but this gives Cooper and Mulligan a chance to shine, and dazzle the audience with mesmerizing acting performances.

It’s tough to showcase one because both are so good.

Cooper has given the best performance of his career.

Enveloping himself into the role so much that it’s staggering how he gets the mannerisms of Bernstein.  The composer’s energetic style of expressive body movements and gestures which he was noted for as a conductor are done to perfection by Cooper.

Mulligan doesn’t play the wife role. She has her own story and makes the audience empathize with Felicia’s struggles to deal with her husband’s sexuality especially when rumors come to light affecting her children.

Mulligan gives a genuineness and heart to Felicia’s battle with cancer.

Cooper’s direction is excellent. The first part is shot in black and white giving an artistic, old Hollywood-style feel making the cigarette smoking look glamorous and sophisticated. The lush art direction merges into blurry shadows and angular lighting that fits the mood.

The color enhances the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s time as the characters age. The hairstyles and outfits gleam with sophisticated New York style and the Bernstein’s Long Island home is palatial.

Ironically, the darkest parts of the film are the most vivid and colorful.

Finally, the musical score features legendary Bernstein pieces that give truth to the production not only reminding viewers how talented he was but the choices made enhance each scene where a number appears.

I smiled when a number from West Side Story, perhaps his best-known work was featured.

A knock-out scene of Leonard conducting at a cathedral is lengthy and dramatic culminating with Felecia looking on from the side of the church. At this moment, I knew that the couple were true soulmates.

Maestro (2023) is an exceptional piece of filmmaking that easily secures Bradley Cooper his place in cinema history both in front of and behind the camera.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-Bradley Cooper, Best Actress-Carey Mulligan, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Hangover-2009

The Hangover-2009

Director Todd Phillips

Starring Bradley Cooper. Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis

Scott’s Review #590

Reviewed January 7, 2017

Grade: B+

It was not my idea to see this particular film- the raunchy, mindless “guy” films have always seemed lackluster and cheesy to me, but I confess to finding The Hangover (2009), a novel and entertaining, summer blockbuster film.

I did not expect much from this film but instead found it comical and fun.

It has the “dumb frat boy/jock” shenanigans, and not much thought is needed, but it is good old boy entertainment.

Similar to the American Pie films of the 1990s in which a group of guys finds themselves mixed up in amusing, and sometimes humiliating situations, after a night of boozing, The Hangover has a likable cast led by, then up and coming star Bradley Cooper.

What sets The Hangover apart is the great chemistry among the cast (Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, specifically) that other flaws or generic writing can be overlooked or forgotten altogether.

The group goes from one hysterical situation to another.

Set in Las Vegas (a great decision), three men awake to find the groom missing after a night of debauchery- they are there to celebrate via a wild bachelor party.

In their hotel room are a tiger and a six-month-old baby and they have no idea how either has gotten there.

From this point, the film goes back to the arrival of the gang and the events that transpired leading up to the hotel room acquisitions.

This is fun and keeps the audience engaged in the hi-jinks.

The Hangover (2009) was followed by the inevitable two sequels, neither of which was as good or as successful at the box office to the surprise of nobody except maybe movie studio executives.

Guardians of the Galaxy-2014

Guardians of the Galaxy-2014

Director James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana

Scott’s Review #281

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Reviewed October 9, 2015

Grade: C-

The summer blockbuster hit of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, a Marvel comics film popular among fans and critics alike, disappointed this viewer.

Too many superhero films are overly conventional, by the numbers fair, and this one contains these characteristics. Presumably targeted for teens (I would think), the film has cute jokes and decent special effects, but a bland, mediocre screenplay that lacks edginess.

Handsome Chris Platt plays Peter Quill, a space pilot from Earth, abducted by a pirate group named the Ravagers. Now a grown man, Peter attempts to steal a mysterious and powerful Orb known for special powers, for monetary gain.

The Orb is desired by many, including the evil Ronan, and his daughter Gamora.

Predictably, events turn into a battle of good vs. evil as Peter and Gamora (who turns good) team up with misfits Drax (a strongman), Groot (a tree), and Rocket (a raccoon) to thwart intentions by Ronan of destroying a peaceful planet, Nova Empire.

The meat of the story involves the team’s journey from imprisonment and escape to their efforts to save the world.

As traditional with these types of films, there is inevitable romantic chemistry between Peter and Gamora, who at first are rivals, but slowly develop a fondness for each other when it is revealed that she is plotting against Ronan and his valiant efforts.

The strengths are the 1970s soundtrack a cassette player and the Walkman, unheard of in today’s modern world, to the story.

I love how this is not simply backgrounded music but referenced throughout the film in various situations.

For example, Peter comically explains to a clueless bad guy what his treasured cassette tape consists of and how he cannot bear to part with it.

The creative sets and bright colors are other positives to Guardians of the Galaxy. The Xander planet is portrayed as clean and progressive, which counterbalances the dark, dreary nature of where Ronan and his entourage live.

However, the film is too conventional and not edgy or out of the ordinary story-wise. Let’s take the hero for example. He is clean-cut, all-American, and is humorous. But, why exactly is he the hero? He inevitably saves the world but makes him go from a pirate who is a thief to a golden boy leading a team to save a relatively unknown planet.

There is, of course, a scene involving a backstory of his mother dying of cancer and his regret over not taking her hand one final time. This is assumed to make him kind-hearted and one of the good guys.

This feels forced to me and what we have seen time after time in superhero films. The message I received from the film was basic- the powerful, strong, masculine guy with a sense of humor mixed in for good measure, saves the world from the bad guys while including a bunch of tag-along.

This is fine albeit predictable.

I was left with some questions. What were Ronan’s and Tharos’s motivations? They were simply evil with not much explanation as to why. What led them down this path? Did they each want theirs to be the only planet remaining in the galaxy?

A tender moment towards the end of the film, when one of the team members dies, is done in a rushed way that was a missed opportunity for more emotion.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is a mediocre superhero/action film that might have been better if further fleshed out. This film left me forgetting about it soon after the credits rolled.

Oscar Nominations: Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects

American Sniper-2014

American Sniper-2014

Director Clint Eastwood

Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Scott’s Review #223

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Reviewed February 22, 2015

Grade: A-

American Sniper (2014), directed by Clint Eastwood, is a war film told from the viewpoint of a soldier- or a sniper.

A character study if you will.

Starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, deemed the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history, he has 255 kills. The film begins pre-9/11 as Kyle views coverage of the 1998 U.S. Embassy attacks and enlists in a grueling training program to become a Navy Seal sniper.

Flashbacks reveal Kyle as a child being taught to hunt deer and shoot a rifle by his demanding father. He is eventually sent to Iraq following the 9/11 terror attacks and the film continues to showcase Kyle’s military career and multiple tours of duty ending years later.

His wife Taya is played by Sienna Miller.

I am not sure the bevy of controversy that American Sniper has stirred is warranted. I see the film simply as a very good mainstream, action movie. Yes, it does have the overdone Americana machismo and Texas swagger, but it is an Eastwood film! This masculinity is at the heart of many of his films.

I do not view the film as politically charged.

The film leans neither Republican nor Democratic and seems to take a middle-of-the-road viewpoint.

It is a tale of a war hero, but it questions the wars fought and the casualties involved both American and otherwise. Sure, Kyle is a good ole, red-blooded American, but as he and Taya watch the 9/11 attacks on television, they are watching CNN, not Fox News.

His close military buddy asks “Why are we here?” referring to Afghanistan- there is inference by Eastwood to question what this is all about.

I hope audiences keep this in mind.

One concern I do face as I ponder the film is whether American Sniper will send some audience members back to a time when the world was fearful of Muslims and at risk of the recent ISIS terror situations, I hope that people are smart enough to realize that NOT all Muslims are terrorists.

It is only a minuscule portion that is evilly inspired.

The major terrorist in American Sniper, known simply as The Butcher, is despicable, but plenty of other Muslims are innocent and victims of The Butcher’s brutality.

I love how the film has depth. Cooper is as resilient as the troubled sniper. He is portrayed as human, a nice, all-American guy. He wrestles with the choice of shooting a woman and a young boy who died at the risk of them carrying a bomb and killing members of his squad- he does not want to kill them, but rather is excellent at his job.

He is a perfect shot.

In the heat of the moment, under extreme pressure, he must ask himself, “Should I pull the trigger and end their lives”? “what if they are innocent pedestrians?”.

He becomes, in a sense, addicted to his duty of going overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan and justifies his service as “protecting Americans”.

This leads to a troubled personal life as Taya becomes frustrated with his frequent tours of duty, which he readily chooses to do. He suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder but refuses to acknowledge this. He almost kills the family dog in a fit of uncontrolled rage; he temporarily confuses sounds from an auto shop as military warfare.

My admiration for the acting ability of Bradley Cooper increases with each role I see him in. He is a marvel. From recent dynamic performances in American Hustle (2013) and The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) to this role, I am convinced he can play any part successfully and convincingly.

He has sure come a long way from The Hangover (2009).

American Sniper (2014) is an enormously creative and commercial success and deserves to be. Layered, and character-driven, it is worlds above the typical male-driven action film.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Actor-Bradley Cooper, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing (won), Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing

American Hustle-2013

American Hustle-2013

Director David O. Russell

Starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

Scott’s Review #39

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Reviewed June 18, 2014

Grade: A

Having seen American Hustle (2013) a month ago and finally getting around to reviewing it, it’s a perfect time as a slew of Oscar nominations has been reaped upon it, thus, undoubtedly more people will be seeing it in the weeks ahead.

I loved this film.

Some were underwhelmed, but I found it quite authentic and stylish.

I loved the 1970’s period and felt the hairstyles, clothes, and props were spot on.

I also felt the film had great acting and, though I’m not a fan, Jennifer Lawrence enraptured me. The same with Cooper, Bale, and Adams, who all deserve their Oscar nods.

I found it similar in style to Boogie Nights, a 1997 masterpiece directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

The 1970s musical rock score was perfect. The subject matter of political corruption and cat-and-mouse intrigue was effective and resounding.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-David O. Russell, Best Actor-Christian Bale, Best Actress-Amy Adams, Best Supporting Actor-Bradley Cooper, Best Supporting Actress-Jennifer Lawrence, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing