Bohemian Rhapsody


Viewed – 12 March 2019  online-rental

I’ve come to this with quite some anticipation, not only for the fact that any movie involving the British rock band Queen was going to be an interesting story but also following the Oscar nod given to Mr Robot’s Rami Malek for his portrait of Freddie Mercury … this just became more and more an essential prospect.  Charting the band’s 1970s origins right through to their legendary appearance at Live Aid in 1985, this mostly focuses on the personal battles of Mercury, his sexuality etc., whilst also touching on the bands on off struggles for creative freedom.

Bohemian-Rhapsody

Malek, a little young looking to fully get away with the role and not the most eloquent of speakers (thankfully Mercury’s actual voice is dubbed over for the singing) still does a good job mimicking the iconic star’s flamboyant mannerisms and also handles emotional scenes convincingly.  Additional casting for the band members is also rather uncanny (especially Brian May).  Director Bryan Singer has delivered an absorbing, respectful yet not glossed-over biopic that although not fully capturing the attention Queen got especially in the early years (little word on record sales or chart success), manages to showcase who Mercury was and just how good the music was, leading to a feel-good if bitter-sweet ending that I’ll admit got me teary eyed.

It may bunny-hop over significant moments in their discography such as a collaboration with David Bowie or their involvement with the Flash Gordon soundtrack, but overall this was fascinating, entertaining and made me appreciate Queen all over again.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Blackkklansman


Viewed – 05 February 2019 online rental

An African-American cop in the 70’s infiltrates the Klu Klux Klan in a bid to expose them and prove himself at the same time.

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This movie had a really strange vibe. Lead actor John David Washington stood out like a comedy actor in a straight movie who still thinks he’s in a comedy. The subject of racism and the KKK is clearly being satirised but sits uneasy with such a serious, sickening subject. This is not helped by the movie eventually throwing in shocking real-life footage to hammer home its point. Director Spike Lee has always been one of the strongest voices for black culture and black cinema but here his intentions feel misguided. The story based on a book isn’t as compelling either and I came away wondering just what had the main character achieved? Star Wars’ Adam Driver is decent as a fellow detective and performances overall are fine. Lee has delivered a stylish, authentic looking movie yet also fills it with some odd music cues with an overall 70’s blaxploitation feel.

As a different take on the subject of racism and as a movie that certainly has some fun and intriguing moments it’s worth a watch … I just think it would have been more impactful played either entirely comedic or entirely straight.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Everybody Wants Some!!


Viewed – 14 October 2016  Online-rental

As soon as I heard about this I wanted to see it.  Director Richard Linklater’s as he puts it ‘spiritual sequel’ to one of my all-time favourite movies; Dazed and Confused.  This like Dazed follows a group of high school students but is now set in 1980 rather than that movie’s 70s and on the eve of starting college as apposed to the last day of school.  It primarily follows baseball pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) as he arrives at a frat house and becomes acquainted with the rest of the college baseball team; a group of guys who seem obsessed with getting high, partying and getting laid.

Everybody Wants Some!!

It’s hard to not make comparisons with that earlier movie, as I kept being drawn back to it for everything this one lacked.  Jake is the only particularly likeable character here but even he has very little ark but for a tacked-on romance towards the end.  Everyone else are simply obnoxious stoners or loud-mouthed jocks who despite being believable … I really wouldn’t enjoy being in the company of.  Also Jake’s story is the only one we follow, nobody else has a ‘journey’ or any real defined personality and frankly several of the characters are very similar to one another.  Also situations rarely had any pay off, like an early scene with a water bed and a little later on one character having to leave for the weekend because his girlfriend might be pregnant … but when he returns, it’s never mentioned again.

That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have it’s merits.  Linklater’s keen observations of the era and setting are well done and the soundtrack on the whole is decent (the movie starts off well with The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’).  And well, It all looks pretty good too, shot with an  early eighties vibe that works a treat.  Just a shame the wafer thin characters and lack of interesting situations means that unlike ‘Dazed it’s unlikely this one will achieve anywhere near the same cult status.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

The Nice Guys


Viewed – 09 October 2016  Online-rental

I am a big fan of the movie Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and consider it one of the career highlights of Robert Downey Jr.  The same could also be said for Shane Black, who penned the script to Lethal Weapon amongst other accolades and also directed said Downey Jr vehicle.  So coming to this latest written and directed effort from Black, you could say my expectations were dialled on the high side.  We won’t mention Iron Man 3 (oops).

The Nice Guys

With a very similar vibe to Bang Bang, this sort-of homage to 70’s detective shows has somewhat amateur detectives Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling on the trail of a missing girl who is somehow mixed up in the shady world of the porn industry and the death of a famous starlet.  Immediately this is Shane Black on blistering form; at least dialogue-wise, which leaps off the screen and is delivered with no end of personality and charm by the principle leads.  This has many very funny lines and even funnier situations (that rotating car display) as our bumbling duo go from one crazy encounter to the next, topped off with some surprisingly thrilling moments.  Along for the ride is Gosling’s character’s daughter who it seems understands how to be a detective ten times better than her adult counterparts do and you could call her the Inspector Gadget’s niece of the trio.  Also we have a not-ageing-gracefully Kim Basinger as some department of justice bigwig sporting Botox or plastic surgery, but fails to really bring anything but familiarity to the party.

The plot takes a step back to Black’s flair for dialogue and moments and it shows, as what it all ends up being about is rather ‘meh’ and well, just what was all that with Misty Mountains?  The movie also threatens to spiral out of control with a bit too much  slapstick and occasionally really stupid humour … but is held together by a likeable trio of performances and a great sense of time and place.  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang suffered similarly but again that didn’t detract from what was otherwise solid entertainment – and the same can be said here.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Dazed and Confused


Viewed – 25 January 2015  Blu-ray

Dazed BluThis for a long time has been my go-to movie to just chill out and relax with.  Something about this 70’s set high school comedy-drama just feels very comfortable.  I’ll put this on occasionally because hell, I enjoy being in the company of these characters probably more than any movie I can think of.

Set on the last day of school this follows the (mis)adventures of various school kids as they go to parties, hang out, drive around, cause a bit of mischief, contemplate their futures and learn a little bit about themselves along the way.  You could say the main character is a freshman called Mitch (Wiley Wiggens) who is one of several targets for drop out thug O’Bannion (a before he was famous Ben Affleck) who likes to spank these kids with a softball bat as some sort of ‘initiation’.  Mitch gets into various encounters and we follow his story but at the same time we have quarterback ‘Pink’ who’s trying to figure out if he’s going to stay on in the college football team, and along the way we meet several other fascinating and interesting personalities like super-sleazy but super-cool Matthew McConaughey and a stoner hippy chick Mila Jovavich.

Dazed

I think there is a character in this movie for anyone to relate to, someone was one of these characters when they were at school – were you the cool guy the girls all looked at, or the geeky kid that just wanted to fit in, or someone in-between?  That’s the magic of this and add Richard Linklater’s assured, very authentic and (clearly in love with the subject matter) direction, mixed with a soundtrack to die for (Ozzy, Deep Purple, Cooper…they’re all here) … and I think this is one of the best high school movies ever made – if not THE best high school movie ever made.

Dazed MitchThe Blu-ray that I imported from the U.S. may not be the bells-and-whistles Criterion release (I reviewed the Criterion DVD release HERE).  Yet this Universal edition boasts a picture full of fine detail even if the colours lack a little vibrancy (but seem to suit the 70’s look and feel).  However the big showpiece here is the soundtrack with clear dialogue, decent use of surrounds and most importantly the iconic music given major, thumping treatment to really show off your speakers (has Alice Cooper’s School’s Out ever sounded better?).  Extras are rather limp however with no commentary and little more than deleted scenes and a music feature that you can bring up with Universal’s U-Play mode.  Very disappointing for a movie that that for me, is a stone cold classic.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5