Local cinemas this week

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga star in A Star Is Born

The ladies definitely come out on top in two new movies opening this week 

A Star Is Born

The magnetic star-power presence of you-know-who will probably be enough to ensure this latest retelling (the fourth) of a very old musical hits the spot with most modern viewers. Heck, there’s even that much-vaunted scene, “Lady Gaga as you’ve never seen her before!” (naked, gasp, but blink and you’ll miss it). And if that not enough, her awesome abilities as a vocalist and performer are showcased on quite a few occasions. Mind you, some of the original songs themselves aren’t much chop, no doubt due to the multi-tasking Bradley Cooper’s equally awesome workload. He’s credited producer, director, co-writer and star, as well as getting the nod for a swag of the musical numbers. They’re ok, and Mr Cooper’s singing itself is fine, (he had to learn to play the guitar for the role). It’s just that nothing sticks around in your head in the way the songs of a really top-notch musical do as you head for home from the cinema, humming and re-living those luminously romantic on screen moments…

Even though the Streisand/Kristofferson version, which this one closely resembles, is over 40 years old, the story is probably familiar. Cooper plays a mumbling, stumbling alcoholic ageing rocker called Jackson Maine who helps the much younger but incredibly talented Ally (Gaga) to singing super-stardom after he discovers her performing in a drag bar. They fall for each other and as their relationship develops and her star rises, she’s turned into a slick pop goddess (much like Gaga herself) by a young hot shot Brit manager (Rafi Gavron). Meanwhile Jackson slips into a self-pitying parody of his former self, dealing with her success with bullying and manipulative behaviour as well as yet more substance abuse.

The best parts of the movie are in the first hour, where despite their age gap, it’s (just) possible to understand their mutual attraction. Their scenes together are longer and more expository, the music is better and these is some chemistry (though not a lot, it has to be said). Later the plot points race by at a rapid clip. I had to leave the cinema for a quick rest stop about half way into its two-hour-plus run time, and when I got back so much had happened I thought I was in a different movie. It was around then too I started wondering why this modern update seemed so blissfully ignorant of all that’s happened recently. Not only in the year since #MeToo, but in the four decades since we last saw a rich and famous, much more powerful older man abusing his position with a much younger female protege in a script that offered the male character the big note of sympathy and grace. Couldn’t we reverse the gender roles, or something? Though I guess Mr Cooper wouldn’t have been director/producer/writer/star/musician on that version… M from Oct 18. Local cinemas include Palace Norton St, Central, Broadway and Dendy Newtown  ★★★1/2

Oh, one thing they did update, Jackson’s name. He used to be Norman Maine. Not cool enough, clearly.


Sure, I get it… if you want to be a successful career crim, it makes sense to surround yourself with a bunch of loyal lunk-headed soldiers who’ll protect you as a brother no matter what lunk-headed criminal caper you’re into. But what I don’t get is why you’d then go around wearing a uniform that announces to the cops, “I’m a career crim, arrest me!” the way those bikie 1%-ers do. Wouldn’t it be smarter for Paddo (Ryan Coor) and Knuck (a terrifying Matt Nable, who also wrote the script) to act like 99% of this country’s career crims and wear neat chinos and drive innocuous Toyotas?

Not that the Copperheads MC, the Hells Angels-style crew they run seem to worry about the police. Apparently in WA its possible to stage full-on gun battles in quiet suburban streets and no one will call the cops. Remind me not to go to Perth then, which is where the violent action in Stephen McCallum’s white-knuckle movie is set. Which starts strongly with the roar and thudding cacophony of hundreds of Harley’s blasting out of a tunnel (Oh what a feeling, yeah!), but pretty soon drops us into hell – or rather the internecine politics of a sleazy bikie clubhouse in turmoil. While the boss Knuck has been in jail practising his skills in thuggish intimidation and developing a taste for sadistic buggery, Paddo’s been running the gang’s business, and done well too – profits from crime are up, the gang’s flush with cash and he’s even arranged a money-laundering scheme with a rival gang boss (Aaron Pederson, doing his full-on mean-as-a-cut snake thing). With Knuck released, Paddo reckons his time as club CEO has come, even though his dim-witted brother Skink (Josh McConville) is causing trouble, Knuck’s ferociously protective wife Hayley (Simone Kessell) stands in the way, and his own ambitious girlfriend Katrina (Abbey Lee) has gone full-on Lady Macbeth and is goading him into a murderous plan that can only end in disaster. What’s a poor, lunk-headed bikie to do?

McCallum has labelled Nable’s script as “visceral, modern re-imagining of a Shakespearean tragedy,” which is a fair enough summary – the story is certainly a familiar one. But it’s not really necessary to read anything into it all – the enjoyment here is in the vicarious B-movie thrills viewers will get from entering the vicious hyper-masculine world of a bunch of damaged men while enjoying some well-staged and bleakly atmospheric action. If that’s your thing, 1% won’t disappoint– it’s easily Australia’s best bikie movie since Stone (er, its probably the only one since Stone…) AFR reviewer John McDonald suggested that it risked “offending a large part of its audience” by portraying Hayley and Katrina as “classic scheming bitches,” but truth is, very few of Sydney’s inner west woke feminists or those who worry about such things are likely to see this film. But if they do they’ll be gratified to know that those lunk-headed toxic Aussie males are no match for the women at all. MA15+ from Oct 18. Local cinemas include Palace Central and Dendy Newtown  ★★★1/2

Also opening this week

Another win for women – Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is at Palace Cinemas and Dendy. Also the Ukrainian war dramady and Cannes-winner Donbass is at Dendy Newtown only, both not previewed.

Reviews – Russell Edwards