A Star Is Born****

(15, 136 mins)

A STAR is reborn in the third remake of the rags-to-riches fairy tale, which originally starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March.

The 21st Century twinkling doesn't emanate from pop chameleon turned award-winning actor Lady Gaga, who is undeniably luminous as a naive and vulnerable ingenue rocketing into the musical firmament.

No, the film's retina-searing ball of light is Bradley Cooper as her grizzled mentor and lover.

The Philadelphia-born leading man nestles confidently into the director's chair for his debut feature but he truly dazzles in front of the camera, drenched in the sweat and self-loathing of a booze-soaked showman, who is staggering towards the precipice of oblivion.

In her catchy 2011 dancefloor anthem Gaga proclaimed she was on the edge of glory.

Here, her handsome co-star is perpetually on the verge of self-inflicted annihilation, beholden to the demons of alcohol and drugs, which provide his veteran singer-songwriter with temporary refuge from the tinnitus that will eventually deny him the pleasure of playing to stadia filled with adoring fans.

Cooper rocks and rolls in exhilarating concert sequences and performs his character's signature tracks with gravelly-voiced aplomb including a duet with Gaga on the swoonsome ballad Shallow.

Both actors are serious contenders for Oscar consideration next year.

Jackson Maine (Cooper) continues to milk success with the support of his brother and manager, Bobby (Sam Elliott), who resents the way his younger sibling puts their old man on a pedestal.

"All dad ever did for you was make you his drinking buddy," snarls Bobby.

Following a concert, Jackson heads to the nearest bar where he is stunned by a soaring rendition of Edith Piaf by waitress Ally (Gaga).

They spend the night talking and flirting, and Ally discloses that she lives at home with her protective father (Andrew Dice Clay).

Potential radiates from every pore of Ally and Jackson invites her to join him at his next gig where their on-stage performance goes viral and attracts the attention of cut-throat manager Rez (Rafi Gavron).

As Rez moulds Ally's destiny and propels her towards superstardom, Jackson's influence wains and fissures appear in the relationship.

"The caterpillar becomes a butterfly..." observes Bobby with a knowing yet rueful smile.

A Star Is Born is far grungier and sexier than the 1954 and 1976 remakes headlining Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, although the script credited to Eric Roth, Will Fetters and Cooper dances to the same heart-breaking melody as previous incarnations.

Screen chemistry between the two leads is molten and you can almost feel the heat rippling off the screen in breathlessly choreographed bedroom scenes.

Elliott strums up powerful emotions in support alongside London-born Gavron, who won't allow a crazy little thing called love to distract his showgirl-in-the-making from seizing success with both hands.

One snort of fame and you're helplessly addicted.


(15, 112 mins)

RUBEN FLEISCHER, director of Zombieland and Gangster Squad, masterminds this big budget spin-off from the Spider-Man universe, which introduces us to one of the webslinger's most fearsome adversaries.

Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), director of the mysterious Life Foundation, acquires amorphous extra-terrestrial matter called a symbiote, which has the ability to fuse with a host, creating a more powerful single entity.

Using vulnerable people as test subjects, Drake secretly experiments with the symbiotes, which alter the human host's personality.

Tenacious investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), whose girlfriend Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) works for a firm which represents Life Foundation, investigates Drake and he comes into uncomfortably close contact with one of the symbiotes.

As a result, the entity fuses with Eddie.

His body undergoes sudden transformations and he hears a chilling voice in his head.

Slowly morphing into a hideous creature called Venom, Eddie attempts to keep control of his faculties but each spectacular battle brings him closer to surrendering to the dark side of his emotions.

Johnny English Strikes Again

(PG, 89 mins)

SEVEN years after Rowan Atkinson's MI7 agent blundered through the lacklustre sequel Johnny English Reborn, he dusts off that licence to kill for an action-packed third mission under the direction of Oliver Parker.

A devastating cyber attack exposes the names and locations of active MI7 agents, forcing agency boss Pegasus (Adam James) to reinstate retired operatives.

English (Atkinson) and former sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) eagerly answer the call to arms and begin their haphazard investigation into the source of the digital skulduggery.

In the process, English meets a beautiful yet deadly Russian spy called Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko), who has been ordered to kill her British rival.

Thankfully, she doesn't fulfil her mission and English employs his unique skill set to identify a deadly threat to the prime minister (Emma Thompson) at a forthcoming meeting of the G12.


(15, 95 mins)

TWO friends reassess their loyalty to each other in an incendiary comedy drama musical directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, which unfolds on the mean streets of present-day Oakland.

Collin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal) are best friends, who work alongside each other for a removal company.

The job opens the men's eyes to the gentrification of their beloved home and reminds them of the divide between the haves and have-nots in a city where tension is rife between police and the black community.

Ex-con Collin is just three days shy of a year's probation and he is determined to keep his head down.

Hot head Miles seems determined to test his buddy's resolve to breaking point.

During a late-night drive, Collin witnesses police brutality and at first, he tries to forget what he has seen.

However, his conscience has been pricked and Collin cannot simply stand by and allow men with badges, who are supposed to uphold the law, to abuse their position of power.

Damon Smith