REVIEW: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Mike Myers, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander

Written by Cameron Frew

“Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy,” sings Freddie Mercury, opening not only the finest Queen song, but a ballad for the ages, a true Rhapsody that captures the very essence of the profound, ever-changing landscape of music and a pitch-perfect example of how mesmerising the British quartet were. How painful it is then that a biopic of the band that goes as far as to take that song’s title, is far from killer. In fact, its very nature as a stale piece of filmmaking would be enough to make the bold musicians scoff.

Bryan Singer’s (part Dexter Fletcher’s) ode to the band that truly changed the industry forever chronicles their humble beginnings in local pubs and clubs, to their time-stopping performance at Live Aid in 1985. Freddie says in the film, “We’re all legends”. But everyone knows he was the icon of the time, and the film gives a more directed look at his rise and subsequent falls from grace in his rock and roll tenure.

The film tries to assure you of its dedication to her royal majesty with a 20th Century Fox-cum-Queen riff at the start. As expected you’ll hear many of the band’s greatest hits throughout the biopic, often overlaying big transition scenes that show the passing of time. For example, ‘Somebody To Love’ pulls the curtains up as Freddie (played by Rami Malek) trims his moustache and makes his way to the Wembley stage for the famous charity gig. Sure it’s relatively jazzy, but the transitions are jarring, with ham-fisted editing and worst of all, Singer chose the most obvious way to open the picture – “here’s the moment right before the gig, and now we’ll flashback for the rest of the movie”. Nonetheless, this isn’t where the film falters the most.

We then see Malek’s Freddie working at Heathrow, the morning of the night he would fatefully meet his royal family. He’s taking suitcases off the plane and putting them onto a truck, when his superior shouts down, “You missed one, paki”. The use of racist language isn’t problematic in itself, as I’m sure the writing team of Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan know. But when you don’t use it to introduce a wider dialogue around the subject, when you don’t actually use it as a focal point during and simply just use it to rather distastefully remind us of the singer’s circumstances (there is way more than one use of “paki”), that’s an issue.

Here’s the thing; there’s the old maxims, “less is more” and “slow and steady wins the race”. Bohemian Rhapsody is a portrait of ignoring those age-old soundbites, a lavish display of extremist filmmaking. The transitions often remain questionable (apart from one absolutely inspired moment with a cockerel), the use of visual metaphors is amateurishly overegged and characters are written to the point of pantomime. Not that the latter is necessarily always a bad thing; Mike Myers’ music producer is hilariously cynical and Allen Leech’s villainous Paul Prenter is deliciously infuriating. But it all feels incredibly artificial.

Even the visual style, a mixture of a parody-esque look and smoky rooms despite absolutely no smoke add this layer that separates you from the band whose music is part of all of our lives. Thankfully though, Malek, despite being under pressure, is a marvellous Freddie. Not just cosmetically (although he is frighteningly uncanny), but his cocky mannerisms, assured attitude towards his talent and reluctance to take on any sort of label (as a hugely uncomfortable press conference scene illustrates) are true of the greatest showman to ever live himself, and it’s a crying shame that the film as a whole isn’t on par with a performance of such dedicated charisma. The other performances are a mixed bag, with his Queen-cohorts Roger Taylor and John Deacon (played by Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello respectively) either having not much to do or let-down by the writer’s incapability of nuance.

The exception is Gwilym Lee’s Brian May, who really exhibits the sort of compassionate, constantly admiring but utterly bemused relationship you would expect him to have with his lead singer. In portraying the twisted family dynamic the band famously had, the filmmakers and actors mostly succeed, if it weren’t for the haphazard pacing that completely botches the viewer’s sense of their efforts to go big.

A key part of Freddie’s story is his romantic life, and puzzlingly, the film portrays homosexuality like a forbidden fruit, accentuating the orientation to a point where it feels like Freddie is doing something incredibly wrong. But he wasn’t, and one scene with his former partner Mary (played by the terrific Lucy Boynton) really shows this to be painfully true, and if it weren’t for this melancholic moment, the film would have no sense of emotional grip.

The music is, naturally, enough to make anyone go “Ga Ga” and the gig sequences are shot with a poppy vibrancy and love for the band that really paints a rousing picture of the hysteria in the band’s heyday. Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography (a frequent collaborator with Singer) though is mostly unspectacular, often framing corny theatrics with that aforementioned artificial aura.

Then comes the show-stopping, stirringly powerful Live Aid sequence, and everything soars. Your heart races and the goosebumps wash across you as Freddie performs the eclectic mix of the heart-aching opening to the titular song, eventually reaching the fist-punching rendition of We Are The Champions. For a feature so scattershot and pitfall-ridden, it feels like a distant memory as you stand among Wembley’s crowd, simply in awe. If only the entire bloated runtime bottled the sensation of the phenomenal closing act.

Malek gives his undivided gusto, and the result is unforgettable. But for a man and a band that were so groundbreaking, so fixated on musical revolution, this is supremely cheap work.

Cameron’s Verdict:

2

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Terminal

Year: 2018
Directed by: Vaughn Stein
Cast: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Dexter Fletcher, Mike Myers

Written by Dave Curtis

‘Terminal’ is a strange experience and not in a way that is totally enjoyable. The film is based in and around a dingy train terminal where some unpleasant characters dwell. Two hitmen (Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons), a depressed teacher (Simon Pegg) and a simple janitor (Mike Myers) skulk around the un-named city train terminal. At the terminal’s dirty cafe a mysterious waitress (Margot Robbie) involves herself into the men’s lives.

Director Vaughn Stein must be a big fan of Guy Ritchie’s early work because ‘Terminal’ reeks of ‘Lock Stock Smoking Barrels’ and particularly ‘Revolver’. The dialogue has that gangster twang that made Ritchie’s films so recognisable in the late nineties and early noughties, and sadly so ridiculed in the last decade. Somehow scripts like this no longer feel fresh, they feels dated and unimaginative. Just like ‘Revolver’, ‘Terminal’ is based in an unnamed city which seems to revolve around a dingy underworld full of scummy characters. It’s trying to be arty and different but it ends up feeling like a expensive student film. I mean its a very well made student film (one that loves neon lights) but it does feel a little amateur. Vaughn Stein is clearly a director with big ideas and has a strong eye for visuals. He has put in the hours being a assistant director to big feature films and good directors, but he has aimed too high with his first feature film. The script and some of the performances are real drawbacks.

It was nice to see Mike Myers back on the big screen, but his casting here is just bizarre. He is caked in latex and comes across as one of his characters from ‘Austin Powers’ or ‘The Love Guru’. Margot Robbie plays Annie who is central to the plot. Her British accent (I think it’s meant to be British) is very questionable, but maybe that’s the point. Robbie looks like she is having fun and she commits to the role. It is great that she is getting leading lady roles, but she can’t even save what on paper looked like a interesting character but on the screen it just doesn’t work. Dexter Fletcher (one of the nicest men in the biz) returns to his ‘Lock Stock’ roots and spends most of the run time bickering with Max Irons which is more annoying than entertaining.

Overall ‘Terminal’ is a strange film with a bizarre cast (Mike Myers!), it means well and aims very high but it just doesn’t all gel together. The shocks and twists can be seen from a mile away and the Guy Ritchie type script just feels dated. Overall a confident but flawed first film from Vaughn Stein but his second film must be a lot better.

Dave’s Rating:

2

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Is Ready To Rock Queen Fans In First Trailer

“BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury, who defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound, their near-implosion as Mercury’s lifestyle spirals out of control, and their triumphant reunion on the eve of Live Aid, where Mercury, facing a life-threatening illness, leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. In the process, cementing the legacy of a band that were always more like a family, and who continue to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.”

Directed by: Dexter FletcherBryan Singer

Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Mike Myers, Gwilym Lee

Release Date: October 24th,  2018

 

Revenge Never Looked So Good In The First Trailer For ‘Terminal’

“In the dark heart of a sprawling, anonymous city, ‘Terminal’ follows the twisting tales of two assassins carrying out a sinister mission, a teacher battling a fatal illness, an enigmatic janitor and a curious waitress leading a dangerous double life. Murderous consequences unravel in the dead of night as their lives all intertwine at the hands of a mysterious criminal mastermind hell-bent on revenge.”

Directed by: Vaughn Stein

Starring: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, Dexter Fletcher, Max Irons

Release Date: May 11th, 2018 (US) (UK TBD)

Netflix Highlights: March

April Fools’ Day has been and gone, but this is no joke. We take your Netflix viewing very seriously here at JumpCut UK, and that’s why we ask our resident Netflix expert Mark Blakeway to pinpoint the best films that the streaming service has to offer. Here’s what was added last month.


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I Love You Phillip Morris
Jim Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a policeman turned con-man, made famous for his multiple prison escapes in this “based on true events” dark comedy-drama. It’s an enjoyable mix of unfortunate circumstances made funny by the sheer bluntness of it all, and heartfelt certainty of Russell’s unequivocal love for Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). It’s quick-paced, funny, sharp and witty, and shows how much depth and range Carrey can truly achieve when pushed to do something different.


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The Ides Of March
An above-average political thriller starring George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Packed with solid performances, a decent script and some very dark moments, albeit not quite to the lengths of ‘House of Cards’, it is enough to satisfy anyone with a vague political interest. While it doesn’t do much to break the mold, the typical story of a good guy in a bad system trying to do right still holds value. Predictable, but interesting nonetheless.


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The Grand Budapest Hotel
A single performance by Ralph Fiennes is so good in this film, that it’s difficult to talk about anything else. Visually, it’s incredible. The typical dry wit you expect from Wes Anderson is there in abundance. It’s well-polished, finely composed, superbly acted and the dense script is executed perfectly. I’d go as far as saying it is my favourite Anderson film to date, and whether you’re already a fan of Anderson or not, I highly recommend this film. Here’s our review to persuade you further.


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Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This is such a slick movie. While it does ultimately end in a mess of CGI, what gets you to that point is an intriguing storyline with some incredibly detailed actions scenes. This effort is truly a credit to the superhero genre. Whether or not you buy the whole “timely social commentary” angle, there is something undeniably very real about this film – this is more evident in the first half than the second, but this paranoia infused action movie exceeded my expectations. Here’s our review to persuade you further.


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India’s Daughter
This is a powerful documentary showcased as part of the BBC Storyville series I keep harping on about. What spurred the making of this documentary, was the horrific gang rape that took place on a private bus in South Delhi, after which 23-year-old Jyoti Singh died from her injuries. The attack gained widespread visibility, with many major media outlets picking up the story, and the men were arrested for their crimes. The documentary takes a look at this particular case, and the wider attitudes towards women in India, piecing together news footage, protests and even an interview with one of the attackers. Released to mixed reactions, banned in India itself, it has been interpreted in many different ways by activists, politicians and friends close to Jyoti, but one thing you cannot deny is that the more people who know about these horrendous acts that take place, the quicker they can be stopped. That is only a good thing.


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The Lives Of Others
Winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, ‘The Lives of Others’ is a truly thought-provoking German drama. Set in a period of political uncertainty prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it follows a member of the secret police becoming increasingly engrossed by the individuals he is supposed to be spying on. The tension is gradually ramped up as our protagonist uncovers more and more details, but it remains restrained in its no-frills approach to film-making, leaning on the simplicity, performances and apparent authenticity of it all, creating an engrossing and somewhat relatable thriller.


The New Girlfriend

The New Girlfriend
The story of Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) and the widow of her best friend, David (Romain Duris). A friendship post-death is forged for reasons I’d rather not go into – the key component of the story was kept a surprise for me and I hope it remains a surprise for you. It tests your perceptions of gender, sexuality, grief, relationships and identity. It does not remain with a single theme, a single character or a single issue – this is a complicated film handled delicately, with great care and understanding. Suspenseful, ridiculous at times, but incredibly fun, this was one of my favourite films from 2015. Here’s Mark’s review to persuade you further.


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Wayne’s World
Admittedly, the adventures of Wayne and Garth aren’t for everyone, but they are for me. A timeless classic, the perfect rainy day viewing, filled with quotable scenes, impeccable comedic timing and a flare for the ridiculous. Starring a young Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and Rob Lowe among many others, this is your not-so-typical oddball comedy about a couple of rock and roll loving friends who just want to apply their passion for music and babes, and make the most of whatever comes their way. Unfortunately for them, others have a different view as to how that should play out, whether it’s a TV show or a concert, and it’s up to Wayne and Garth to find a way to do what they do best. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth. You’ll also find ‘Wayne’s World 2’ on there. Here’s our review of the original to persuade you further.


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Turbo Kid
‘Turbo Kid’ will be a delight to any one who was a fan of 80s action adventure films like ‘BMX Bandits’ and ‘Mad Max’, as it is a huge love letter to both of these. Set in the dystopian “future” of 1997, you follow the film’s hero with his customised NES power glove, paving the way for inventive gory kills on-screen (one particularly gruesome one involving a modified bike) all backed with a rocking 80s synth soundtrack. Theres so much to love about this movie from the scenery-chewing performance of Michael Ironside as the sadistic overlord Zeus, and Laurence Leboeuf who plays the love interest, Apple. It’s not often you get to see a film like this, and I loved every second of it. 

N.B. Mark roped in the help of his friend Gary Joyce to discuss ‘Turbo Kid’. Here’s our review to persuade you further.