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By midlandsmovies, Oct 25 2018 02:43PM

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Dir. Bryan Singer

Let’s get the Queen song puns out of the way from the start. Is Bohemian Rhapsody “guaranteed to blow your mind”? Well, it’s a glossy, Queen-approved biopic that had some tremendous moments but unfortunately the sum is less than its parts as we follow the glam-infused rock-opera band from their early beginnings to their Live Aid performance of 1985.

We open backstage at that world-broadcast concert but are soon thrust back in time to 1970 where flamboyant singer Farrokh Bulsara (soon to be Freddie Mercury) meets up with Gwilym Lee as Brian May and Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor after their band ‘Smile’ loses their frontman.

Mercury is encapsulated, and then some, by a beyond-terrific performance from Rami Malek and although the film covers various aspects of the band’s career, Malek is thrust centre stage and like Freddie, all eyes are on him throughout the duration.

After securing bassist John Deacon the film stops off at varying points of the group’s milestones as we get to see the greatest hits of Mercury's life from his Zanzibar roots, Bombay originating parents, his meeting and engagement to lifelong companion Mary Austin, the band on tour and the subsequent falling outs.

Fun and harmless it is but sometimes borders on the bland with shot choices that were less than cinematic. This lack of consistency may have come from the removal of the film’s original director Bryan Singer. The irony of behind-the-scenes (or backstage if you will) creative differences isn’t lost on this reviewer.

Also losing a singer are Queen. The film sees Freddie’s ego get the better of him as his wild lifestyle lead him to a drug and sex-fuelled hedonism which culminates in him pursuing solo project without his band mates. Or his “family” as they are repeatedly referred to.

As a 12A film, the movie doesn’t go into Mercury’s debauched depths (Movie Marker’s Darryl Griffiths sums up the issue brilliantly here) and although it’s not a warts and all exploration, the film doesn’t shy from his sexuality and his subsequent discovery that he contracted AIDS.

The film therefore feels like its trying to cover far too much ground (around 15 years) and doesn’t give adequate space for all its plot and character ambitions. The wayward frontman scenes combine nicely with the studio sequences however. The repetition of Roger Taylor’s falsetto delivery of “Galileo” is a great nod to the band’s recording methods as seen on BBC2s’ “Making Of” documentary where hundreds of takes were attempted to achieve Freddie’s legendary perfectionism.

It gave the impression at times that the film (produced and approved by May and Taylor) was also attempting to force their contributions in which made it feel a bit "try-hard". The whole band were brilliant of course and each member essential but it was definitely the Freddie show that made the best cinema here.

And although a cameo from Mike Myers was a nice nod to the song’s influence, like far too much of the script, he delivers lines from Anthony McCarten's screenplay that are simply too on the nose. "We get it. It’s Wayne’s World! You don’t need to say it!"

One of the most talked-about, and lauded, scenes is the recreation of the band’s Live Aid show at Wembley Stadium. A fantastic realisation of the day, it is somewhat spoiled by a Return of the King (or should that be Queen) style ending that felt like it went on for days. Rami struts the stage in a way that is less than just a good impression and more of a total embodiment but after 15 minutes the film easily could have wrapped itself up after the first track.

As a huge fan of the band I enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody but it's all a bit like Queen themselves – slightly indulgent, sometimes overlong and contains an unhealthy obsession with its own importance BUUUUUT you can't take your eyes off that man at the front. And Rami Malek is without doubt stunning as Freddie Mercury.

A shed-load of hits from Queen’s back catalogue are obviously interspersed throughout and the most moving moment was Malek’s delivery as he reveals his AIDS diagnosis to his weeping band mates. A heart-breaking and jolting sequence in a film that had been mostly surface throughout.

But I couldn’t dislike the film for its broad strokes. It aimed high and unfortunately fell a little flat yet I enjoyed much of the film’s approach, its likeable depictions of the band (and their hangers-on) as well as the shooting star of the show that is Rami Malek.

Broken into three parts – the film shows Freddie’s killing of his past persona growing up, then the campy frolics and hedonism of operatic orgies and a final head-banging ending with pulsating riffs and joyous rock – if only there was a Queen song that encapsulated all this.


Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Sep 22 2016 10:56AM

Midlands Movies Film Catch Up Blog 2016 Part 2

Continuing on from this blog here, we're reviewing some of the films that have come and gone over summer and now are ready for a UK home release soon.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) Dir. Bryan Singer

I thoroughly enjoy the X-Men series and after a few missteps (the godawful ‘Wolverine: Origins’ film) the series returns again after the fantastic ‘First Class’ and ‘Days of Future Past’. Unfortunately this proves to be a bit of a dud despite all the good ingredients included. ‘Days of Future Past’ used the young/old versions of the characters to bridge past inconsistencies but the re-introducing of Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Angel felt like going over old ground. The plot involving Oscar Isaac’s super-mutant Apocalypse is convoluted and an over-abundance of CGI leads to a clichéd city-destruction climax seen many times before. The X-Men films have always been one of the best to balance the serious and the fun aspects of superhero mythology. Singer’s focus on acceptance, difference and internal and external conflicts kept it aloft the glossy and superficial Marvel Universe in most instances. However, here the silly visuals take centre stage much to the film’s detriment. A fan-service Wolverine cameo is unwelcome and the standout moment was once again Quicksilver’s slow motion action sequence set to Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics - but even this sequence harked back to what went before. Neither a crushing disappointment nor a well-executed summer blockbuster, Singer’s Apocalypse has mostly ditched the subtleties of the past and delivered a day of repeated motifs with little originality or aesthetic flair. An underwhelming piece of ‘X-meh’. 6/10

Warcraft: The Beginning (2016) Dir. Duncan Jones

What was he thinking? After his interesting debut ‘Moon’ followed by the Quantum Leap-alike Source Code, director Duncan Jones was carving out a cool career as the master of interesting sci-fi stories told with a focus on twisty narrative and character. But in his decision to embark on video game adaptation Warcraft, I feel he’s made a huge blunder for a once focused filmmaker whose themes were mysterious and multi-layered. Sadly, there’s no such depth here in a video game adaptation so faithful it looks like a video game. The entirely constructed CGI world with Shrek-like Orcs and green-screen humans has all the depth of a Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. Whether it was studio demands, an overwhelming budget or a need to stick to gamers’ expectations, Jones’ individual flair is rarely seen in this duffer. This (essentially) animated film may provide a few thrills for fans of the game but for everyone else it is more John Carter than Lord of the Rings and anyone but the youngest of viewers will feel ostracised by its nerdy references to the game itself. A sad flop from the once promising director, I hope Jones returns to some original source material and avoids any follow up the studio may have plans for. Let’s hope the new excuse for unnecessary sequels – “the original did well in China” – fails to come true here, as I am already hoping for the end to Warcraft: The Beginning. 4/10

Money Monster (2016) Dir. Jodie Foster

George Clooney returns as a shallow TV stockmarket analyst whose bravado and confidence is taken to task when an angry man, who has lost money on a recent stock crash, takes the broadcaster hostage. Julia Roberts makes this an Ocean’s Eleven reunion as the producer of the show who decides to continue airing the programme despite the host’s life in the balance. Clooney is his likeable self in the main – despite his character having huge arrogance issues – and local Midlands actor Jack O'Connell is superb as the angry young loser trying to find out where his money is and why his life went wrong. The story attempts, not always successfully, to parallel one company’s perils with the lack of real-life responsibility taken by big banks and government but like Clooney’s stock recommendations – they are generally superficial and short-sighted. The conspiracy plot involving African workers' unions spins off into James Bond territory although I enjoyed the tension created by Foster at the station itself. Ultimately forgettable, Money Monster raises a few stakes and will keep most audiences mildly invested for a few hours. It’s only the actors’ likeability which overcomes the wealth of convoluted and fusty plot ideas. 6/10

De Palma (2016) Dir. Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow

As one of the New Generation of Hollywood filmmakers from the 70s along with Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola, De Palma’s involvement in movie history is almost second to none. Often decried as a Hitchcock impersonator, this documentary reveals a much more grounded, interesting and commercial director than many would know about The documentary may be simple, even to a fault for some, as the directors merely place De Palma in front of a fireplace and record his thoughts as he ‘reviews’ his oeuvre, splicing his stories with clips from the films themselves. Over his 40 year career, De Palma talks about his films with fondness and nostalgia but never once shies from his failures, missteps and even laughs at some of his decisions and commercial flops. Addressing his life’s work with emotion and humanity, film fans in particular will lap up the stories as he recants tales from his films. These include horror classic Carrie (the auditions for which were done jointly with Lucas for Star Wars), the underappreciated Blow Out, the violence of Scarface and the box office draws that are The Untouchables and Mission: Impossible. From Carrie’s jumpy final scene, via De Niro’s Al Capone, to Tom Cruise’s CIA break-in, De Palma’s legacy as a filmmaker has been assured with a genre-hopping career with unforgettable cinematic images. De Palma is a fantastic documentary although non-fans may not be engaged enough by the very simple stylistic approach. But for those wanting to get an insightful and, more importantly, honest review of someone’s life, De Palma lets the director do all of the talking. And that is a huge benefit when you’re as engaging and amiable as he is. 8/10

Midlands Movies Mike

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