Quick Hit: A stellar performance by Rami Malek is at times lost by a paint-by-numbers plot.
It may sound like a bandwagon decision, but I actually really like Queen. I discovered them (like most people probably) in my teens, shortly after I performed a deep dive into the Beach Boys and the Beatles. They had a sound that was both reminiscent of those bands, and yet totally different, with different sounds merging to create something new. A big part of that is Freddie Mercury’s voice – it’s got an extremely unique sound to it that makes their music special. Freddie’s behavior also made the band special – he was a lead man like few that have come before, and it’s a joy to watch video of his old performances.
So Bohemian Rhapsody, despite its issues (I’ll get to those in a minute) is a joy at times to experience, purely based on watching the development of Farrokh Bulsara into the man known only as Freddie Mercury. He is played by Rami Malek, and Malek is deserving of all the nominations he has been receiving throughout the circuit. His Farrokh is shy and slightly unassuming, and his teeth constantly show – as soon as he gets on stage, the real Mercury makes an appearance, and nearly never looks back. His mannerisms are well-captured, as are his stage movements – it all seems very real and Malek must have put in a ton of preparation. Only detraction was the lip sync at times.
The same cannot be said of the rest of Rhapsody, which instead proceeds to follow the standard of most biopics – follow them while they rise, watch them fall, watch them soar once more. That’s not to say the predictable plot is that much of a distraction – we as the audience get some stellar montages – but you would think the story of someone who was so influential in the musical industry would have found a way to be influential here as well. The story does a good job at establishing the relationship between Freddie and Mary, but somewhere along the line loses the thread, before ripping it back into tautness at the end of the film.
Really, I feel like this is the issue with the film – the middle act, though with some amusing montages of the creation of Rhapsody itself and a few other moments (Mike Meyers makes an appearance as Ray Foster, a man who dismissed Bohemian Rhapsody as overlong) worth your time, instead craters out as the movie goes along. Even the dialogue, which to this point has been average to above average, falls apart, leading to stilted lines like “this isn’t really our scene Freddie” while a band sits obviously uncomfortable. We don’t need to state what the obvious can see.
Fortunately, with the exception of one scene that takes place in the back of the limo, I think the acting is solid throughout. All the band members are given their own moments to shine and take it, and Lucy Boynton (of Sing Street) is wonderful at navigating the emotional roller coaster of the role of Mary. It’s some really good performances that thrust Malek’s even more to the highlight that was the Live Aid concert to end hunger in Africa, which I’ve watched Queen’s performance of numerous times. The film captures nearly the whole set of songs and is truly emotional – despite far too many shots of a CGI crowd reacting to Freddie singing.
With those taken out and a better second act, this film would have been a masterpiece – instead, it’s going to be a “B-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Classic science fiction/horror brings all the star power of a young “Steven” McQueen to bear.
Horror community, I have a confession to make. Though I had seen the 1988 remake, I had never seen the original Blob film from 1958. And you know what? It’s pretty good, and the effects are pretty good for a movie from the late 50s. I can see why it got remade, and even though eventually it’ll come around again (with no doubt terrible CGI), it won’t be all loss because the story is pretty much the basis for so much classic science fiction horror.
Enter: Couple about to do some passionate necking. Something streaks across the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a mysterious substance that starts to swallow everything in its path! Too bad the old man got there first! Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and Jane Martin (Aneta Corseaut) eventually take the man to the doctor, and desperately try and convince the adults of the town that it isn’t just a prank, it’s a real thing that’s happening to the town.
The effects from this movie are really good considering what they must have had to go through to get them to the screen. Along with that, that pervasive sense of wrongness is well permeated through the film. You can almost feel the Communists staring through the windows and the aliens that are working with them to destroy the country. Steve McQueen gives a great performance that most people remember, but I was pretty happy with Corseaut as well. She manages to invest heart into the film where there isn’t any – kind of a Mary Hatch to McQueen’s George Bailey.
The film does have some of its issues, mainly with pacing. The film flies along for most of the first half before getting mired in dialogue to start the second. While it’s not bad dialogue, it slows down what had been (especially for that time) a fairly breakneck pace to the plot, and the monster disappears. This allows for some fantastic tension later when it reappears, and the climatic scene in the diner is fun, but it doesn’t totally forgive the length of time where mostly nothing happens.
In conclusion, I’m pretty glad I finally got around to watching this. I think you really have to watch the progression of movies and ideas to fully appreciate them – you can see so many different elements of this film in others, like Gremlins and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. It’s just nice to know your history kids. I’m giving this one a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Sweet but ultimately doesn’t add much to the traditional romdram.
Sam Claflin may be one of the best men in Hollywood that lends the spotlight to his fellow female costars. It’s a refreshing trend – you look at his past work in Catching Fire and Me Before You, and see that the movie is about the female lead, and he’s there to accent her journey, not the way so many other films tell the story in reverse. Another note – not only does he do this, but he does it well – his acting performance doesn’t suffer. This is all a way to open the review of a film that Claflin spends laying down while Shailene Woodley picks up the slack (sailing pun unintended).
Tami (Shailene Woodley) meets Richard (Claflin) while working in a marina in Thailand. After a few dates, they meet a rich couple that Richard knows that asks them to sail their boat over to California, in exchange for some handsome pay and some first class plane tickets. They agree, only to have the boat be wrecked and for Richard to be injured. This means that Tami, admittedly the one that is lacking sailing experience, has to sail them across the ocean and provide whatever sustenance is needed.
The plot is based on a real-life story, and it’s fairly entertaining when taken in with Baltasar Kormákur’s filming technique. He constantly allows the camera to dip beneath the waves and follow the action, and one of the opening scenes is of the wreck itself, which follows Woodley as she is tossed and turned in a circle as the ship is flipped and then rights itself. It’s dizzing work, but it’s handled smoothly and adds a lot to the action. Unfortunately, the film’s format detracts from some solid camerawork by the director and his team.
The film is told in a back and forth format as we flash from the scenes of Richard and Tami meeting to Richard and Tami after the wreck. It absolutely wrecks (pardon the pun) the momentum of the story, and we never really get to feel as if these are real characters. These tales ultimately intercept, of course, but they never quite feel related. The meet-cute and the cheesy first date/romantic comedy dialogue just doesn’t really belong in this film which feels more like a survivalist/woman-against-nature film than a romance. Indeed, it’s hard not to see parallels to other survivalist struggles we’ve watched this year, like Jungle. I think had the film focused more on getting the characters set up and then on Tami’s struggles on the boat, the film would have felt smoother.
This isn’t to say that Woodley doesn’t do a fine job carrying the load, it’s just that she isn’t given much to do in the backstory. Indeed, even the backstory’s backstory (that is, Tami’s reason for being in Thailand) feels thrown together and not quite rocky enough to justify her reaction when asked to return to California for only a few days. But she excels in survivalist mode, frequently showing that things that you look past in normal life become crucial in emergencies. She also helps convey a lot of emotion that the dialogue, and later, lack of dialogue, lacks.
I won’t say more, but will say I was rather surprised at one point in the film, and thought the whole thing was well-handled. I’m going to give the whole thing a “C”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"