BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (12)
D: Bryan Singer (& Dexter Fletcher)
20th Century Fox/New Regency/GK/Queen Films (Graham King & Jim Beach)
🇬🇧 🇺🇸 2018
W: Anthony McCarten & Peter Morgan
DP: Newton Thomas Sigel
Ed: John Ottman
Mus: John Ottman; Queen
PD: Aaron Haye
Cos: Julian Day
Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury), Gwilym Lee (Brian May), Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor), Joseph Mazzello (John Deacon), Lucy Boynton (Mary Austin), Aiden Gillen (John Reid), Allen Leach (Paul Prenter), Aaron McCusker (Jim Hutton), Mike Myers (Ray Foster)
Like the classic song Bohemian Rhapsody, which combines several styles, genres and musical directions into its composition, the same could be said about this biographical film of Queen and its enigmatic frontman, Freddie Mercury. It simply can't decide what type of movie it wishes to be, charting the bands success (from Mercury's point of view) from their formation in 1970's until their show-stopping performance at 1985's Live Aid.
I should prelude this review by saying I'm a huge fan of Queen and their music, and although I was a little too young to appreciate their appearance at Live Aid, Freddie Mercury's death in 1991 was huge news. Groundbreaking in the fact that he was the first high profile celebrity who had succumbed to AIDS-related illness.
Unfortunately, the film doesn't really tackle this, as it plays out a pastiche of the band's greatest hits, without digging its nails in and uncovering anything particularly candid.
The remaining band members served as consultants on the movie, and its a little too obvious that they were reluctant for anything negative to be committed to a film which charts their rise to success, beset by a minor blip when Mercury recorded a solo album in the mid-1980's.
The story also takes advantage of artistic licence, though this shouldn't be an excuse for a lack of research, anachronisms and some heavy-handed in-jokes which practically break the fourth wall (Mike Myers' may as well have winked at the camera with his cringeworthy cameo role). The film was plagued with production difficulties (director Bryan Singer sacked before completion, etc.), but this doesn't really come across in the final cut - although it does feel like too many cooks spoiling the broth.
The film does have many positives though. The main one being the cast, who physically resemble the band at every point of the movie, none more so than Rami Malek who is absolutely fantastic as Freddie Mercury, nailing the showman's actions, mannerisms, quirks and speaking voice (all the singing was obviously lip-synced, but this was still done incredibly well). In fact, it's a performance which does deserve Oscar consideration, despite the flaws of the film and its screenplay. Lucy Boynton also deserves some praise as Mary Austin, Mercury's girlfriend before he came to terms with his true sexuality. It's unfortunate she wasn't given more to work with and a key scene for potential drama fizzled out (I can't say either way whether this scene was true to life, but since much of the rest of the film was dramatised, why couldn't this scene be?)
Mercury's relationship with Jim Hutton is only explored on the periphery before the film culminates in a truly impressive fashion, and I have to admit that the recreation of the Live Aid scenes are worth the price of admission alone. The execution, performances and filmmaking trickery for the reenactment are easily amongst the film highlights of 2018 and make all the flaws in the buildup beforehand quite forgivable.
Still, there was an opportunity here, especially with such a great cast, to make a masterpiece worthy for such an iconic band. It's what Freddie Mercury deserved, and from that point of view, it is just that little bit disappointing.
Still, the final act will definitely rock you - and could potentially introduce an entire new generation to one of the greatest musical acts of all time.
BONE TOMAHAWK (18)
D: S. Craig Zahler
RLJ/Caliber Media (Jack Heller & Dallas Sonnier)
W: S. Craig Zahler
DP: Benji Bakshi
Ed: Greg D'Auria & Fred Raksin
Mus: Jeff Herriott
Kurt Russell (Sheriff Franklin Hunt), Patrick Wilson (Arthur O'Dwyer), Lili Simmons (Samantha O'Dwyer), Richard Jenkins (Deputy 'Chicory' Kory), Matthew Fox (John Brooder), David Arquette (Purvis)
Incredibly grizzly western starring Kurt Russell as a small town sheriff who assembles a search party after some of his townsfolk have been abducted by a local tribe of vicious Native Americans.
Debutante writer-director S. Craig Zahler doesn't shy away from violence which borders on sadistic with this western spin on The Most Dangerous Game, in which one-by-one the members of the group are murdered by the clan.
You'll know what you're in for with the opening scene with this one, as a graphic murder takes place in the great frontier, and if you're easy to make feel queasy, it's probably wise not to continue watching.
For everyone else, it's taut, gripping and incredibly well directed, making good use of sound editing to crank up the tension further.
A solid debut, bringing a new brand of style to a rather dormant genre.
THE BOOK OF HENRY (12)
D: Colin Trevorrow
Focus Features/Double Nickel (Sidney Kimmel, Jenette Kahn & Adam Richman)
W: Gregg Hurwitz
DP: John Schwartzman
Ed: Kevin Stitt
Mus: Michael Giacchino
Naomi Watts (Susan Carpenter), Jaeden Lieberher (Henry Carpenter), Jacob Tremblay (Peter Carpenter), Maddie Ziegler (Christina Sickleman), Dean Norris (Glenn Sickleman), Sarah Silverman (Sheila)
Preposterous would be a good word to describe this maudlin and manipulative drama, starring Naomi Watts as a single mother to two boys, the oldest of which is precocious 11-year-old Henry, who does the family finances and knows big words like Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. He demonstrates his knowledge at any given opportunity in the opening act, whilst his mother fucks about on her PlayStation and shows no maternal qualities whatsoever.
It's soon discovered that Henry has a brain tumour and he subsequently dies, leaving behind a diary where he details witnessing the police commissioner next door molesting his young daughter, as well as plan for Watts to take him out sniper-style.
The plot really is truly ludicrous, not helped by Naomi Watts sleepwalking through the role. Amongst the worst films of 2017 and certainly one of the stupidest.
BORG VS MCENROE (aka BORG MCENROE) (15)
D: Janus Metz Pedersen
Nordisk/SF Studios (Jon Norstedt & Fredrik Wikström Nicastro)
W: Ronnie Sandahl
DP: Niels Thastum
Ed: Per Sandholt & Per Kirkegaard
Mus: Vladislav Delay & Jon Ekstrand
Svirrir Gudnason (Björn Borg), Shia LeBeouf (John McEnroe), Stella Skarsgård (Lennart Bergelin), Tuva Novotny (Mariana Simionescu), Leo Borg (Young Björn)
Even those unfamiliar with tennis are sure to know the names of two of the sports biggest stars, Björn Borg and John McEnroe.
This biographical film focuses on both men as they compete through the 1980 Wimbledon tournament.
Björn, the people's favourite, eyeing his fifth consecutive title is a player of little emotion, letting his athleticism and execution do the talking, whilst John McEnroe, a brash New Yorker is the polar opposite, a petulant player not afraid to throw a tantrum when decisions don't go his way.
As they progress through the competition, flashbacks detail their respective childhoods and training to get to the top of their game, ultimately revealing that the two men are not so unalike at all.
Like most biographical pictures, there is much dramatisation for the sake of tension in the story, but the performances of the two leads are excellent (especially Shia LaBeouf with an uncanny portrayal of John McEnroe). It was also a stroke of genius casting Björn Borg's own son as his younger self, and the editing of actual footage into the film is quite seamlessly done.
It may not be one which you'll rush to watch at cinemas, but it's certainly worth watching. Personally, I'm rather disappointed that I'm not old enough to have seen the 1980 final, considered by many to be sport's all time classic.
THE BOSS BABY (U)
D: Tom McGrath
20th Century Fox/Dreamworks (Ramsey Ann Naito)
W: Michael McCullers [based on the books by Marla Frazee]
Mus: Hans Zimmer & Steve Mazzaro
voices of: Alec Baldwin (Theodore Lindsey Templeton (aka The Boss Baby)), Miles Bakshi (Timothy Leslie Templeton), Tobey Maguire (Older Tim), Steve Buscemi (Francis E. Francis), Jimmy Kimmel (Ted Templeton), Lisa Kudrow (Janice Templeton)
Many film fans were incandescent with rage when this film was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar ahead of The Lego Batman Movie, but the truth is The Boss Baby really isn't a bad film at all. In fact, it's perfectly fine for all-round family entertainment.
The story starts with Tim, a 7-year-old boy with an exuberant imagination, who finds out that he's soon to have a baby brother. Within the following days, a baby in a business suit comes into his home and is gaining all the attention from the parents, much to Tim's annoyance. Tim soon discovers that his new brother can talk and is arranging business meetings with other neighbourhood babies, brainstorming a plan to put a local pets company named Puppy Co. out of business so people continue to find babies cuter than puppies.
The two brothers soon unite so the plan takes effect and people keep making babies.
For young kids, this will be a very enjoyable film, with a high standard of computer animation you'd expect from Dreamworks studios. There are some clever in-jokes for adults, such as references to Alec Baldwin's yuppie character in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Perhaps it should make it clearer that the entire story is taking place in Tim's imagination, but it does have good morals about the importance of family, fraternal relationships and teamwork.
A sequel is highly likely.
THE BOY (15)
D: William Brent Bell
STX/Lakeshore/Huayi Brothers/Vertigo (Matt Berenson, Jodyne Herron, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg & Jim Wedaa)
🇺🇸 🇨🇳 2016
W: Stacey Menear
DP: Daniel Pearl
Ed: Brian Berdan
Mus: Bear McCreary
Lauren Cohan (Greta Evans), Rupert Evans (Malcolm), Jim Norton (Mr. Heelshire), Diana Hardcastle (Mrs. Heelshire)
Uninspiring, unimaginative, drab horror film whose sole purpose it seems is to attempt to launch the career of Lauren Cohan, best known for TV's zombie hit The Walking Dead.
She plays a nanny who is hired by an unusual couple to be an au pair to a porcelain doll, whom they seemingly believe to be real.
There's a plot twist, but you'd have to be a moron not to see it coming.
Typical Hollywood production line rubbish. Yawn, next.
D: Andy Serkis
STX/BBC/BFI/Participant Media/Silver Reel (Jonathan Cavendish)
🇬🇧 🇺🇸 2017
W: William Nicholson
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: Masahiro Hirakubo
Mus: Nitin Sawhney
Andrew Garfield (Robin Cavendish), Claire Foy (Diana Cavendish), Tom Hollander (Bloggs Blacker / David Blacker), Hugh Bonneville (Teddy Hall), Miranda Raison (Mary Dawnay), Stephen Mangan (Dr. Clement Aitken), Jonathan Hyde (Dr. Entwistle)
Andy Serkis directs this colour-by-numbers biographical drama about the life of Robin Cavendish, a polio victim who was left paralysed by his illness and required a machine to allow him to breathe.
After many months in hospital, he and his wife campaigned for his release and subsequently invent a wheelchair with an in-built breathing device to give him and other sufferers some quality of life despite their disabilities.
The story here forgoes any back story of Cavendish's life in the army and only brushes on the periphery of his tea-trading business in colonial Africa, focusing solely on his relationship with Diana Blacker who would subsequently become his wife, before diving headfirst into his hospitalisation and terminal diagnosis.
The stencil here has been done before in films like The Theory Of Everything and A Beautiful Mind, and though this approach is more romanticised, it doesn't give you any time to involve yourself with the characters, despite a pair of good performances from both Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy.
The subject was of huge importance to director Andy Serkis, who was a friend of the Cavendish family from childhood, and the film was produced by Robin's son, Jonathan Cavendish, but this just proves that this biopic has a very bias approach with barely any conflict, tension or argument between the characters. Unfortunately, it's just far too twee and would have been better if it was released for a television audience at half the length.
A movie too long?
Richard Attenborough's war drama is a strikingly well made account of one of the allied failures of WWII, and though it attempts to capture the action from several points of view, it could have done with being half an hour shorter. The first act especially could easily have been abridged for reasons of pacing. Still, it's easy to see why it's considered a classic of the war genre, with a cast full of star names from a generation of excellent actors.
BUBBA HO-TEP (15)
D: Don Coscarelli
Vitagraph/Silver Sphere (Don Coscarelli & Jason R. Savage)
🇺🇸 2002 (released 2003)
W: Don Coscarelli [based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale]
DP: Adam Janeiro
Ed: Scott J. Gill & Donald Milne
Mus: Brian Tyler
Bruce Campbell (Elvis Presley / Sebastian Haff), Ossie Davis (Jack 'John F.' Kennedy), Ella Joyce (The Nurse), Heidi Marnhout (Callie Thomas), Bob Ivy (Bubba Ho-Tep)
Based on a story from an 'alternative history novella', Bubba Ho-Tep spent a year on various festival circuits before a lot of campaigning by the filmmakers and the cast, as well as a good cult following, saw it eventually pick up a distributor and get a cinema release.
The story is set in a Texas nursing home, where one of the residents is a man claiming to be Elvis Presley (the Elvis who died in 1977 was impersonator Sebastian Haff, whom the real Elvis swapped lives with). Elvis strikes up a friendship with an African-American who thinks he's John F. Kennedy. Together, the duo battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy, named Bubba Ho-Tep, who is terrorising the nursing home to absorb the life-force of its victims.
Though the storyline is complete and utter nonsense, the style is very much in the vein of John Carpenter's movies of the 1980's (Big Trouble In Little China, They Live, etc.), as well as highlighting a theme in modern culture that the elderly are not given ample attention or taken seriously enough.
It's mad as a box of frogs, but great fun with a hilarious lead performance from the self-proclaimed 'King of the B-Movie', Bruce Campbell.
Steve McQueen is the epitome of cool in this slick, stylish and seminal crime thriller.
He plays Lt. Frank Bullitt, a reputable detective who is given the task of looking after a government witness until a court trial, but when the witness is killed by two gunmen, Bullitt tracks the killers and discovers there's more to the case.
The story is quite unremarkable by today's standards, with similar variations in practically every TV episode of CSI and other such programmes, but considering this was made in 1968, it set an impressive bar for others to follow.
McQueen is fantastic with a rather emotionless & professional character which the script calls for and Peter Yates direction builds up the tension for some classic action set pieces, including THAT car chase.
D: Travis Knight
Paramount/Allspark/Tencent (Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Bay, Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy & Mark Vahradian)
W: Christina Hodson [based on Transformers characters created by Hasbro]
DP: Enrique Chediak
Ed: Paul Rubell
Mus: Dario Marianelli
Hailee Steinfeld (Charlie Watson), John Cena (Jack Burns), Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. (Memo), Pamela Adlon (Sally Watson), Dylan O'Brien (voice of Bumblebee), Peter Cullen (voice of Optimus Prime)
I'm going to start this review by saying that this is the Transformers movie we should have had 11 years earlier, instead of the Michael Bay action smut which just got sillier and sillier with each movie.
Though Bumblebee has a good action quotient, it does have a very endearing and relatable story at its centre, as well as a nostalgic callback to 1987, when the Transformers toys and merchandise were at the peak of their popularity.
Hailee Steinfeld plays the lead character, a misfit teenager viewed as sulky by her mother and stepdad following the loss of her biological father. On her 18th birthday, she acquires a beaten up Volkswagen Beetle which she fixes up, only to bring to life the title character, a survivor from a robotic war on the planet Cybertron, sent to Earth by his leader Optimus Prime as a scout. The bad guys (Decepticons) also make their way to Earth to find Bumblebee in the hope that they will also find Optimus Prime, leading onto some firecracker action set pieces which, for once in a Transformers movie, can be viewed without wondering what the actual hell is going on.
The plot is practically a mix between E.T. & Real Steel, but without Michael Bay's seedy sexualisation of the material, it has a childlike wonder which the other movies lacked, as well as a rather human relationship between Charlie and her robotic companion.
I understand that there are people who like Bay's Transformers movies, but I will never understand why... as a child I grew up as a fan of the toys, television serial and the 1986 movie and this is the movie I was anticipating back in 2007. With any luck, this instalment will retcon all them movies - this is a real Transformers movie.