By A.D. Beal

A Star Is Born
A country singer reflects on his life and career after meeting a woman who quickly rises in fame.

The two leads of A Star Is Born surprised me. We all know that Bradley Cooper is a great actor, but this film shows that he really can sing. Meanwhile with Lady Gaga, she sings wonderfully of course, but absolutely kills it with her performance. The pair have amazing chemistry, and we get to see them at their lowest and their highest. I love the contrast in the ways their performances are shot, with Cooper’s grittier concert film-like style and Gaga’s larger production aesthetic. Lastly, you can’t talk about this film and not mention the songs – all of which are amazing, especially Shallow.

A former journalist is possessed by an alien parasite on the run from a megacorporation.

I’m really confused as to whether the filmmakers behind Venom were trying to make a serious sci-fi thriller film or a comedy. To give you an idea on the tonal problems this film has, within just a few seconds we can go from Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom exchanging buddy comedy-like dialogue, to a Cronenberg-esque horror scene. Speaking of Hardy, his performance is absolutely bizarre, because Eddie Brock never acts like a real human. He basically just accepts the fact that he has a parasite controlling him and seems cool with what it can do. The same goes for most of the supporting cast, though Riz Ahmed does do a decent job with the little material he has to work with. For a start to a possible cinematic universe, this is very strange and makes me wonder what the producers are intending to do with it.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls
A young boy moves to his uncle’s house after the death of his parents, where he discovers that it has a mysterious past.

Compared to other YA films, House has much more to offer when it comes to its visuals. The production design is very creative and there is some creative visual comedy in the film. Plot wise, it hits the same beats as normal with other books, only this doesn’t take place in a future dystopia but rather the 1950s. Most of the performances are serviceable, but Jack Black, Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLachlan are the standouts. Overall the film was enjoyable, but nothing memorable.

The Sisters Brothers
Two bounty hunter brothers search for a chemist that has created a revolutionary formula during the gold rush of the 1800s.

Somehow, I could not get into this, or at least not the main story despite the talents of John C. Riley and Joaquin Phoenix. I’m not sure if it was the pacing, the style or the all-around plot of their story, but something didn’t click. Thankfully, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed’s part of the story was much more exciting and interesting, mostly from the dialogue they share, and the filmmaking done in certain sections. There were several parts during the film that felt like they could have been cut out, especially in the last 20 minutes. There was simply an unengaging feel to the film overall, which made it a big disappointment for me.