Bohemian Rhapsody

Music biopics usually tend to follow a pretty straight-edged formula. The band or singer has humble roots and slowly starts to rise to fame. Soon after achieving stardom, complications ensue, the lead gets a big head and/or dissociates themselves with the others, certain influences take reign and basically a rift forms. After hitting rock bottom, the lead eventually reunites with their mates and returns to former glory. It’s been done a million times, it’s been parodied even. I remember watching the first trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody and getting excited though. A movie about the band Queen and the life of Freddie Mercury sounded like a fine idea. Maybe it would tell a new story, one that would do proper homage to a great band and a great man. Then where, oh where, did Bohemian Rhapsody go so wrong?

Bohemian Rhapsody has surprisingly been winning awards but not all of them are undeserving. Rami Malek is perhaps the only saving light in the film, with an excellent portrayal of Mercury. When all else goes down the drain, Malek is the one who takes the scene and commands it. It’s a great performance from him.

The film itself though is a mess. Honestly it is. It latches itself onto the formula tracks and chugs along at such a sluggish pace that I actually checked my watch several times throughout the movie. Not a good sign. One of my main concerns was that it reduces Freddie Mercury and his story to such safe territory. Positive queer relationships such as those with Jim Hutton, his longtime partner, are left to a footnote. His family and fellow band mates are seen only when needed, one-dimensional and completely void of development. Queen’s greatness as band is propagated by a hit single played every five minutes throughout. In one sequence, the names of U.S. cities are thrown across the scene haphazardly in retro style texts to indicate an international tour for the band. That’s the kind of the movie this is.

I understand liberties have to be taken when depicting history but some of the inaccuracies in the film are so glaring. While I appreciated the decision to have the story lead up to the historic 1985 Live Aid performance, to have Mercury discover his AIDS diagnosis beforehand, instead of a few years afterwards, feels explicitly insensitive. To have that be a turning point in the film for the characters and their conflict is just exploitative.

The whole Live Aid performance, while exceptionally shot, felt overlong too. I was devoid of any emotion by the end. And here is my other concern: I really felt nothing. Obviously that shouldn’t be the case with a soundtrack filled with Queen and a vibrant Mercury, but I never felt inspired, or excited, or even the basic sad or happy. I sat placid in my seat and eventually waited for it to be over.

ALL IN ALL: Queen deserves a better movie than Bohemian Rhapsody

On the Ticket Stub Love scale, I give Bohemian Rhapsody 2 ticket stubs

Director: Bryan Singer (I mean he got fired, so really I want to credit Dexter Fletcher)

Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander

Run time: 2 hr 14 min, PG-13

Year: 2018

Baby Driver

I don’t know what it is about the summer that makes me fall so behind on blogging. I saw the film Baby Driver this past July but only now am I getting around to my review. I guess the imminent end of the summer movie season makes me buckle down and get to work. It’s not that I didn’t want to review Baby Driver. I did! It was one of my most anticipated movies of this summer. I think I simply had a hard time thinking of what to even say because I loved the film and wanted to adequately express that into words. Let me just try to right here, Baby Driver is a unforgettable ride.

In Baby Driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young, music-loving getaway driver being forced to work off his debt to a crime boss (Kevin Spacey). Hopeful for a crime-free life with his new girlfriend (Lily James), Baby is once again coerced into a new heist with even higher stakes.

Baby Driver is a fun movie. That’s the first thing I can say. Directed by Edgar Wright, who also directed the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver is a pure 1 hour and 52 minutes of non-stop action. It is fast paced with its action and dialogue, leaving viewers as exhilarated as a passenger in Baby’s car. It is truly unlike others in its genre. Baby Driver has a sort of aesthetic that can be attributed to Wright’s artistic vision for the film. It’s gritty yet stylish, violent yet smooth. It is ultimately cool.

The cast is great as well. Ansel Elgort has landed a dream role as Baby and plays it well with a charm that needs little dialogue. Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm are delightfully unhinged. Kevin Spacey, in my opinion, has played the same role one too many times so I was not particularly impressed but he served it well. The inclusion of deaf actor CJ Jones was also nice as I loved his character and performance. One of my few criticisms of the film would probably be how the female characters were portrayed. They simply served as incentive supporting characters to the men. I also wished Baby’s backstory was developed a little more, but the film’s fast pace leaves limited time to dwell so I understand the intention.

The music was probably another huge highlight of the film. Baby Driver incorporates a rich, eclectic soundtrack filled with music from various decades. Baby’s love for music allows Wright to create a fantastic connection between film and music, with action on-screen perfectly coinciding to the beat. The thrilling opening scene was just one of the many standout examples of this. One small random detail that I also appreciated was the film’s setting in Atlanta. It was refreshing to not have a movie take place in New York for once.

I’ve been recommending Baby Driver to many people because I think of it as such an enjoyable movie. It’s fun, fast, and thrilling with comedic yet action-packed scenes. It’s few shortcomings are made up for by its crisp aesthetic and movement. It is one that I look forward to watching again very soon.

ALL IN ALL: Baby Driver is a thrilling ride with a killer soundtrack.

Baby Driver: 4 1/2 out of 5 ticket stubs

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Kevin Spacey, CJ Jones

Run Time: 1 hr 52 min, rated R

Year: 2017

 

 

Whiplash

 

I love this snow! Before you begin reading, please make sure to press play on the audio above. Trust me, the soundtrack for this next film will put you in the mood (the actual sound starts at 0:16). So another movie I decided to watch was Whiplash, which won 3 Academy Awards recently. Seriously, my heart is still pounding from this one!

Whiplash centers around a promising student jazz drummer (Miles Teller) who enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor (J.K. Simmons) who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

If you look at the poster above for Whiplash, you will see many different words that have been used to describe the film, all of which are so true. “Astounding” “Electrifiying” “Exhilerating” See, one of the things I love most about awards season, is that oftentimes it bring deserved praise and buzz to a film that might not have reached a great audience before. Whiplash, in my opinion, was fantastic.

What stands out most, besides from the great, great music involved, is the amazing performances. I am actually surprised Miles Teller did not receive more recognition for this role. He was incredible and put 100% into this role. Fun fact: he actually is a drummer and some of the blood that you see on the drum set in those intense scenes is actually his! However, the real breakout performance was J.K. Simmon’s. That man deserved every single award he won. He too put everything into this role and the result is incredible. I cannot even imagine being one of his students! His unconventional and hardcore teaching methods really make one wonder whether he is the ‘good guy’ or the ‘bad guy’. I myself am still unsure of this. The complicated and ever-changing relationship present between Andrew (Teller) and Fletcher (Simmons) produced some of the best acting performances in 2014.

Whiplash is one of the lowest-grossing movies to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, but do not be fooled. The sound, the story, the performances make it so hard to turn away. On the surface, the film may appear to be a simple student vs. teacher scenario, though there is much more. It is a film about reaching your potential but also determining your limits.

ALL IN ALL: Whiplash is an intense and thrilling film that delivers some of the best performances of the year.

image from: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wq6VXHpRL._SY355_.jpg