“Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018)

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Rating: 12s / Genre: Biopic, Drama / Directed by: Bryan Singer / Written by: Anthony McCarten / Edited by: John Ottman / Released: November 2nd, 2018 / Runtime: 135 minutes / Studio: 20th Century Fox

Summary:

Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie 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. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.

Review:

With today being the anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death, I felt it a day to share a review of this latest biopic…

After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody three times now in the cinema, I can honestly say it only got better with each viewing. I admire Queen as a band and like their songs, but I would never have called myself a big fan which many of the people going to see the film possibly are. For this reason, I decided to educate myself a little bit more before watching the film, like listening to some interviews, watching videos on YouTube of them working the studio on some of their songs, and of their performance at the Live Aid concert. Having then caught up on their background a bit more, I went into the film hopeful but a little sceptical given the reviews from the critics as of late. Well, whatever opinions they might have, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and would recommend anyone and everyone to go see it.

The level of detail that went into the making of this movie is nothing short of phenomenal. From references in the background to this and that (the photo of Marlene Dietch which inspired the cover of their album Queen II) to the placement, logo design, and quantity of the Pepsi cups on the piano at the concert, I am left feeling extremely, extremely impressed with what research went into this film.

Sticking to the level of detail, Rami Malek deserves all the praise and admiration being adorned to him since this came out. His hand gestures, his walk, his head movements – everything and anything he could do to liken himself to Freddie Mercury he did spectacularly on point. The rest of the cast who played the other band members: Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as Brian May, and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon looked so similar, double taking is a frequent occurrence through the 135 minutes this film takes place in. A massive well done to them all.

The biggest thing that I can gather the critics took issue with was the timeline shift. I mean, to be fair, the film does completely throw life events and the order of things out of whack. Because I knew the reason why this was done going into the film, (wanting to frame the film around the live aid performance) I wasn’t taken by surprise and found it easily forgivable. After all, this isn’t a step-by-step biography of the man or the band, it’s simply a biopic film for our entertainment. Given that Brian May and Roger Taylor helped produce the film and they didn’t have a problem with the change-up of the timeline– why should we? The reasons for the changeup are perfectly logical with regards to making the film since had they included everything in Freddie’s life in the exact time it happened, we’d have a 6-hour film on our hands that the critics would have been up in arms about too. (Much like the qualms people had over the release of the infamous song…) So, never before has the saying “You can’t please everyone” been so prevalent. I’m quite sure the people who had the idea for the film in the first place realised they were never going to please everybody; in every scenario someone was going to get offended or put out.

Of course, this is not to say the film is without its faults. I do see how the story might be seen as long and blandish to certain audiences. For a while it was all about how they came up with one hit after another which is great but I could see how it might be construed as repetitive. I think they spent too much time dilly-dallying around with Paul Prenter and his “villainess” intentions when more time could have been spent building the relationship between Freddie and Jim Hutton, who to the best of my knowledge was more important in his life, no? Sure, it’s good for stirring conflict, but I did feel it drag just a bit too much the first time I watched the film. I didn’t take any notice the two other times. Then Freddie’s reunion with Jim by the end was so rushed, if you weren’t familiar with the ins and outs would easily go over people’s heads. I do think their story in real life is the sweetest thing. They put far more emphasis on his relationship with Mary Austin, which is fine, but they were both important.

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The film does depict Freddie’s struggles with figuring out his sexuality. It’s subtle but it’s there more so than the film critics seemed to pick up on I felt. They might have preferred a more in-your-face approach. The parties and nights out Freddie experienced were eluded to in one scene and to my way of thinking it was enough. I actually really liked the montage scene of Freddie visiting the gay clubs while going back and forth to the recording of Another One Bites The Dust as the song plays over this. We don’t need anymore of either of these things than what we see because the film is about Queen’s music and talent, not the behind the scenes stuff (which frankly, are their own business, surely).

The film focused heavily on depicting a deep sense of loneliness, and self-hatred harboured by him. At least that’s what I picked up, whether it’s true or not, it was sad. I liked how they made this interpretation all tie in together by the end, particularly with the title song – even if no one will ever really know what was behind that song.

A lot happens towards the end of the film prior to the big finale which I also got the impression put a lot of the critics off. He finds out he has AIDS, he reunites with Jim, he tells people he has AIDS – a lot of big moments that fly past a bit. While I understand this pacing might put people off, I still don’t deem it a reason to brandish the film off.

Of course, without doubt it’s the Live Aid scenes that are the highlight of the whole show. They’re so impressive that all this rushing beforehand fades away. The likeness and near exact replication of it all is so impressive, to be honest, I was a bit in awe. Obviously, I wasn’t there myself, so those who were will of course have a far bigger understanding and ability for comparison, but from my point of view, I was blown away by it. I don’t think they could have done a better job. The idea that these were the first scenes shot by the actors is equally mind-blowing – talk about being thrown in the deep end! The performances of each song were timed to perfection with the real footage of Queen’s performance. Watching them side to side, again, the attention to detail is outstanding. Rami Malek is amazing. With such wonderful cinematography to boot, seeing it on the big screen it allows you to feel like you are there too. The urge to join in with the crowd on screen is strong! It’s flawless. I do wish I had been alive at the time to experience such an unbelievable event. I am jealous, not going to lie. It was such an amazing thing to do.

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Even the editing of this film is fascinating to read up about. Needless to say, not a note was sung by the cast but instead all dubbed with the actual recordings of Queen and Freddie but you wouldn’t know the difference watching. The way they edited the crowds singing at the Live Aid concert is interesting too. People sent in recordings of themselves singing the songs and they were layered on top of each other, accompanied with Freddie singing of course, and hey-presto. The transitions are amusing as well. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know which one in particular I’m thinking of when I say that. Introducing the recording sessions of Bohemian Rhapsody through the suggestion of a chicken singing the ‘Galileo’ is genius. I don’t care what anyone says. I, and the rest of the audience in the cinema, burst out laughing. It’s one of the only films I’ve been to where everyone in the cinema laughed at exactly the same time for all the jokes included during the film, not just this one.

So many great lines stand out from this film, a lot of which I’m fairly certain were quotes said by the band members themselves (though correct me if I’m wrong). From Freddie’s “I pity your wife if you think 6 minutes is forever”, Brian’s response to Freddie’s flamboyant outfit “You look like an angry lizard”, to Roger’s “If I go any higher only dogs will hear me” to the group shouting in unison “Not the coffee machine!” to Roger over a disagreement regarding his ‘I’m In Love With My Car’ song. A lot of jokes were made at that song’s expense actually. And of course, there’s the scenes with Ray Foster played by Mike Myers. I challenge anyone to keep a straight face during his moments.

I liked that the story ended on a high note. This might not agree with everyone either. But it honed in on Freddie’s talents, and indeed each of Queen’s members’ talents, as musicians more above all the behind the scenes part of his and their lives. I think this was what the film wanted and it did achieve that. People might argue that, well, how much new information do we really know about Freddie or Queen after watching this? To which I must say, what does that matter? That’s not why the film was made. We got exactly what we went in for – a film about Queen, a film celebrating Freddie Mercury. Even if the pacing was a bit questionable at times. All the songs are there and the essentials of the events that went on in their time.

With plenty of humour, stunning visual detail, marvellous editing, a fantastic cast, and (goes without saying) a banger of a soundtrack – what’s not to love about this film? Critics aren’t always right, and say what you will but to my way of thinking, it has all the ingredients to a fantastic time at the cinema.

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“One Crazy Summer” (1986)

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Rating: PG / Genre: Comedy, Romance / Starring: John Cusack, Demi Moore / Directed By: Savage Steve Holland, S.S. Holland / Written By: Savage Steve Holland / Released: August 8th, 1986 / Runtime: 93 minutes / Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

My Rating: 3/5

Summer:

After graduating from high school, art school hopeful Hoops McCann (John Cusack) struggles to complete his application to the Rhode Island School of Design. Resigning himself to a summer of boredom, McCann agrees to go along with his best friend, George Calamari (Joel Murray), on a family trip to Nantucket, Mass. But, after McCann and Calamari meet rocker-in-distress Cassandra (Demi Moore), it suddenly looks like it’s going to be “one crazy summer.”

Review:

This is an enjoyable low-key light-hearted affair. It can feel a bit eccentric at parts but it’s all part of the cartoonish fun. They certainly have one crazy summer…

John Cusack never disappoints in his array of 80s romantic comedies. This wouldn’t be his best by any means (that title would come the following year in the form of Say Anything) but that doesn’t prevent his charm and comedic talent shining through. Demi Moore is a lovely co-lead. I realised this was my first time seeing her anything other than Ghost…which sounds pretty bad now considering how good an actress she is.

The constant referral back to the love story our main character is sketching out provides a perfect structure for the plot to develop through. The transitions from the cartoon animation back to the real world was also creative and well done.

One thing I don’t get was why everyone seemed to hate poor dog throughout the film. The dog was not ugly. I don’t believe in the idea of there being an ugly dog. No one liked him though and it made me sad watching it. If this was supposed to be funny, I don’t think it was in good taste. It’s probably just me…

This film is unapologetically predictable but that doesn’t matter. The story has its amusing moments to make you smile and is pretty engaging right the way through. Not one of the best 80s rom-coms ever made but entertaining nonetheless.

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“Halloween” (1978)

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Rating: R:15 / Genre: Horror / Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Tony Moran, Donald Pleasance / Directed By: John Carpenter / Written By: John Carpenter, Debra Hill /  Edited By: Tommy Lee Wallace, James Rainey, Charles Bornstein / Released: October 25th 1978 / Runtime: 93 minutes / Studio: Compass International Pictures

My Rating: 4/5

Summary:

On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.

Review:

Here we have a slasher film done right. John Carpenter knows how to make a great horror and none of his films show this better than Halloween.

The perfectly paced story creates the right amount of tension gradually and in all the right places. We open with a shock and immediate blood-bath of sorts, setting us nicely for what is to follow later. I say “of sorts” because, like the infamous shower scene in Psycho, not an ounce of blood is shown as the knife goes up and down but a bloody mess is heavily implied. In fact, a lot of this film references the back to Psycho particularly where the origins of our killer is concerned. Like Norman Bates, Michael Myers started out as a lonely little boy not quite like others his age.

The build up of Michael Myers’ revelation is perfectly done. We are shown the killings happening from his point of view to save his reveal until later on, but we are also shown his shoulders and shadow lurking in the background. The reveal of the mask is subtle and gradual, starting from a distance until it’s finally up and close during the climatic struggle of survival. I imagine it was a more impactful revelation at the time but given how famous Michael Myers’ look is now we’ve already seen it before watching the film. It’s a shame in one sense but doesn’t detract anything just the same which says a lot of John Carpenter’s ability to scare us. He’s no Freddy Krueger but we wouldn’t like to meet him in a dark alleyway all the same!

Jamie Lee Curtis makes her debut here and what a way to do it. Given who her parents were, I’m sure it was no surprise at the time, but it’s still worth saying how well she played the leading role. From then it was easy to see the talented actress she was and would become throughout her subsequent filmography.

I think the most memorable scene moment is when we see Michael Myers standing in the doorway with bed sheet draped over him, imitating a ghost. It’s unnerving and has the most shock-value of the film, even against all the brutal showings of the murders. It’s creepy and eerie.

Halloween is and will always be a classic horror we can watch again and again.

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“The Fly” (1986)

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Rating: R:15 / Genre: Horror, Science Fiction / Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz / Directed By: David Cronenberg / Written By: David Cronenberg, Charles Edward Pogue  /  Edited By: Ronald Sanders / Released: August 15th 1986 / Runtime: 96 minutes / Studio: Fox

My Rating: 4.5/5

Summary:

When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, leading to a merger of man and insect. Initially, Brundle appears to have undergone a successful teleportation, but the fly’s cells begin to take over his body. As he becomes increasingly fly-like, Brundle’s girlfriend (Geena Davis) is horrified as the person she once loved deteriorates into a monster.

Review:

I can’t help but think this is more a tragedy than a horror film. It’s actually quite heartbreaking watching what is happening to this poor man. He had his whole career ahead of him, he was making so much progress with his invention and it wasn’t anybody’s fault what happened to him. Fair enough, he should have waited a little longer, but to be fair the essential thing the machine was supposed to do did work. It just had an unexpected visitor. To all the people ever wondering why people go around madly with fly swatters in a tangent rage – this is why!! Jokes aside, yes, the man now looks like a monster and is slowly losing himself to the transformation but for the most part of the process he’s still Bundle trapped inside this disaster. It’s really, really sad.

The fact that we can relate to the heartbreak of what’s going on makes this film the success it’s been all these years. This, as well as the direction and script, is down to the whimsical and great performances from Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum.

However heartbreaking it is to watch, there’s no getting away from Bundle’s gradual change in appearance being quite terrifying. There are a few gross scenes in there, most notably towards the end. The look reminded me a lot of Shelley from American Horror Story Asylum. The special effects in his film are really fantastic.

The film might not seem new and strikingly imaginative today, but when it came out I’m sure it was considered so. I remember The Simpsons doing a parody of this film in one of their Tree House of Horror episodes in which Bart transformed into a fly; or rather, swapped head and body with a fly.

A film that can’t be faulted, any horror and science fiction lover will be in their element watching this.

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“The Thing” (1982)

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Rating: 15 / Genre: Horror, Science Fiction / Starring: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, Richard Masur, David Clennon / Directed By: John Carpenter / Written By: Bill Lancaster, John Carpenter, Burt Lancaster, Mick Garris / Edited By: Todd C. Ramsay / Released: July 1st 1982 / Runtime: 109 minutes / Studio: Universal Pictures

My Rating: 3.5/5

Summary:

In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.

Review:

I might be in a minority when I admit that I wasn’t quite as enthralled with this film as I was with other John Carpenter films. The concept was good, it had enough gore and scares. Yet there was something missing.

The characters, I think, were not as engaging as many of his other characters have been or are in his other films. I always felt like I didn’t know any of them or could tell them apart much. Also there were always too many of them together to get inside the heads of just a few. It was as though we were always kept at a distance. This might also be down to the setting. The whole place was so vast and white, we were almost being forced to keep a distance from getting to know them more than we were allowed to. This is not typical of the John Carpenter films I’ve seen before this one, up to now it was a strength of his. So I don’t know what happened here.

I also didn’t like the use of the dogs as being the victims of The Thing. I’m wary of dogs in horror films, or any animals for that matter, and this film proves why. I’m one of those people who hates to see animals hurt more than humans so this film had a disadvantage almost straight away. It wasn’t frightening the way it should have been, so much as heartbreaking and made me feel like crying.

The negatives aside, this is one gory affair not about to leave a person’s mind after viewing in a hurry. It reminded me a lot of Alien. The special effects are fantastic. The monster is genuinely scary and completely disgusting and indistinguishable.

Having an ambivalent ending adds much to the horror. While it’s tipping towards one answer, there’s still not enough evidence to completely pinpoint it either. I’m sure, old and new audiences will continue pondering and debating the chilling final scene for many more years to come.

Not one I’m personally overly fond of, but it’s still a great horror/sci-fi classic worth a watch.

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“Friday 13th” (1980)

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Rating: R:15 / Genre: Horror / Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, Jeannine Taylor / Directed By: Seán S. Cunningham / Written By: Victor Allan Miller, Ron Kurz /  Edited By: Bill Freda / Released: May 9th, 1980 / Runtime: 95 minutes / Studio: Paramount Pictures

My Rating: 1/5

Summary:

Crystal Lake’s history of murder doesn’t deter counselors from setting up a summer camp in the woodsy area. Superstitious locals warn against it, but the fresh-faced young people — Jack (Kevin Bacon), Alice (Adrienne King), Bill (Harry Crosby), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) and Ned (Mark Nelson) — pay little heed to the old-timers. Then they find themselves stalked by a brutal killer. As they’re slashed, shot and stabbed, the counselors struggle to stay alive against a merciless opponent.

Review:

I find it very difficult to believe how this was the beginning of such a successful franchise. Spawning a whopping 9 sequels, a crossover with Freddy Krueger, and was most likely the inspiration for many later slasher films to come. So it’s almost terribly ironic that the original here should be so awful.

As a slasher film, to its credit it of course it has all the essential ingredients. But there are by far better ones out there, and frankly, I’m finding it difficult to understand how it could have inspired such success. Maybe it was something more marvellous in its time but I have to think that given what amazing horror films came before it in the 70s, even at the time it did come out it was coming up a little short. The story is lacking (although this doesn’t always seem to be too big an issue for slasher-film fans), the characters are not terribly interesting together or separately, and the makeup and special effects, it has to be said, leave a lot to be desired.

What’s more, the big “twist” in the final climax was the most absurd thing. Fair enough, I wasn’t expecting it. But it was incredibly underwhelming just the same, if not bordering on idiotic when Psycho had done the concept of this so much better thirty years before. It was so cringe-worthy; it was almost difficult to sit through.

One thing I will credit the film on is its cinematography. Putting the audience in the point of view of the killer not only served the purpose of creating suspense and mystery and the ability to hide the killer’s identity for as long as possible, but also added something unique to the film.

This seems to be built up as an essential watch purely because of what it inspired to come later. But as a stand-alone film, it’s not worth the hype by any means.

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“The Fog” (1980)

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Rating: 15 / Genre: Horror / Starring: Adrienne Barbau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh / Directed By: John Carpenter / Written By: Debra Hill, John Carpenter /  Edited By: Tommy Lee Wallace, Charles Bornstein / Released: February 1st 1980 / Runtime: 91 minutes / Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

My Rating: 4.9/5

Summary:

Strange things begin to occurs as a tiny California coastal town prepares to commemorate its centenary. Inanimate objects spring eerily to life; Rev. Malone (Hal Holbrook) stumbles upon a dark secret about the town’s founding; radio announcer Stevie (Adrienne Barbeau) witnesses a mystical fire; and hitchhiker Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis) discovers the mutilated corpse of a fisherman. Then a mysterious iridescent fog descends upon the village, and more people start to die.

Review:

I absolutely loved this film. I’m almost afraid to watch it a second time because I found it just that good first time round.

John Carpenter is a great director for building his surroundings and the characters so that when the shit hits the fan later we really feel for their safety. This especially rings true concerning Stevie in her radio station in the lighthouse. She’s in such a vulnerable position when those fog people come. Her character is also a fantastic means of being the eyes, ears and voice of Antonio Bay.

The fog itself and the creatures in it are damn terrifying to look at. The fact that they are always kept shrouded as shadowed figures makes them so creepy. Their back-story might leave a little to be desired on the believability front, but it is in tune with a good old fashioned ghost story. Who doesn’t love those? I think also the fact that the film begins with a campfire story being told, it stands to reason that what we ultimately see is merely a retelling of a campfire story, so certain details or lack thereof can be more or less forgiven. At its basics, it’s a good ghost story that does its job of scaring us shitless.

The music is absolutely terrifying. At times because of it, the film is almost too tense to bare. It’s so simple and so effective. I actually think it’s one of the better horror film scores I’ve heard. (Not that I’m an expert on that side of things, but that’s my opinion!)

Any horror enthusiast will have an excitingly terrifying time with this. Definitely one of the better ones out there.

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