Review: Mercury Rising + Falling With ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

With many biopics, the task of the filmmaker can be a difficult one, capturing the often larger than life exploits of the subject and condensing it down for the viewing audience. Such was the case with Bohemian Rhapsody, a film that tracks the rise to fame for legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act, Queen, but primarily centers on the difficult life led by frontman Freddie Mercury.

Rami Malek, best know for his TV work in Mr. Robot, was the eventual choice to portray Mercury, with it seemingly being a solid choice given his physical similarities to the singer. However, Malek embodies the role of Mercury fully and has rightfully received raves for his performance as the singer, adapting the stage mannerisms and his bold confidence and strident belief in himself as an entertainer along with bringing a vulnerability to coming to terms with who he was as an individual.

Though much of the cast is relatively unknown, the performances are solid. Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy both look the part, but bring relatable and likable traits to their roles as Brian May and Roger Taylor, while Joe Mazzello is solid, albeit with less screen time, as John Deacon. Lucy Boynton, who turned heads in Sing Street, delivers a heartbreaking turn as Freddie’s wife and first love Mary Austin.

Mercury, aka Farrokh Bulsara, is introduced as an outcast teen whose family fled Zanzibar, looking for a life better than what his family had in mind and having a clear vision that music is his path. In the film, Mercury happens upon the band Smile, which featured Brian May and Roger Taylor, who had just lost their vocalist who decided he had to move on to bigger things. Mercury also meets and falls for Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), starting a sweet and loving relationship as the band starts to take shape.

If there is an issue with Bohemian Rhapsody, it could be the pacing of the film. But as stated, there is so much of Queen’s history to tell, that some key moments are bound to get a bit glossed over along the way. What is developed though is the key relationships in the film, with Mercury sometimes challenging his bandmates but holding steadfast to the idea that they were family, and the singer also believing that Mary was his one true love, while coming to terms with his sexuality while out on the road.

The relationship with Mary is sweet, but ultimately heartbreaking, as Mercury seems at odds with accepting how life was playing out as Mary found the strength to let go amidst Mercury’s desire to keep their life status quo. While some have been critical about how Mercury’s sexuality was revealed in the film, it’s not exactly shied away from. His dalliances with male suitors, in particular Queen staffer Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) and his eventual late life love Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), are both addressed, even though stopping short of the bedroom (likely due to the PG-13 film rating).

As for the band side, Mercury is viewed as occasionally difficult to work with, suffering a bit of lead singer’s disease, but the genuine musical respect and vision is showcased through the film, with the group as a whole staying true to the challenges of their music despite the occasional critical reviews or interference from corporate suits. Tensions do mount amidst the band, but never beyond repair, and the group bond is really at the heart of the film.

Through it all, Mercury may seem on top of the world from the public eye, but he spends a lot of the movie ultimately figuring out who he is in this world. Final act revelations allow him to work through some of his personal flaws, accepting the love of others as learning to love life as himself while ridding himself of negative influences.

Where Bohemian Rhapsody does thrive is with its musical scenes, serving as a bit of a jukebox to the group’s mastery. If you’re a fan of Queen’s music, you will likely be satisfied and even love this film, as they do hit on a number of the band’s biggest songs. The recreation of their goose bump-inducing Live Aid performance also is worth the price of admission, while also serving as a key payoff for the film’s final act.

In summation, Bohemian Rhapsody does a solid job of telling Freddie’s story, even if it does take a few liberties with the timeline and certain events. Viewers get a fair representation of a talented singer, a somewhat flawed man and an incredible salute to the music the group created.

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Posted by: Ari Coine

Review: Great Times Had at ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

If Vegas is Sin City, what exactly might you call a Lake Tahoe establishment split between California and Nevada? The once majestic El Royale hotel, the centerpiece for ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ has fallen on bad times, and it’s about to get a little worse with the arrival of a group of strangers, each with a secret to hide amidst this stop over. And it’s safe to say the El Royale has some pretty interesting secrets of its own.

One by one, we’re introduced to the elderly, somewhat confused Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), aspiring vocalist Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), smooth talking but sexist vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) and the mysterious bad ass hippie chick Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), all seeking refuge for the evening in the mostly abandoned former Rat Pack hang in the late 60s. There to greet them is the hotel’s seemingly lone employee, the boyishly scatterbrained concierge Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman). After pleasantries (or not so pleasantries in Emily’s case) are exchanged and everyone’s true motives start to reveal themselves.

Writer/director Drew Goddard jumps around the timeline with ease, telling the story of the occupant of each room, giving a bit of their backstory and the darker history that brought each to this moment in time, converging together ahead of a storm that’s brewing. The fivesome soon become seven with the addition of the charismatically dangerous Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) and Emily’s troubled sister Ruth (Cailee Spaeny) and to reveal more would give away key plot points. Suffice it to say, some may find redemption at the El Royale, while others are just in for plain bad times, and allegiances are formed and broken in the fight to survive the night in this establishment that has even more secrets than its inhabitants.

Bridges headlines this stellar cast, giving a heartfelt performance as the not so holy man of the cloth, while Hamm also steals a few scenes early on. But the real finds in this film are the names you may not recognize. Cynthia Erivo wows not only with her voice, but the heart and determination she embodies as the often overlooked and fed up Darlene Sweet, while the fresh faced Pullman as the hotel’s overseer projects innocence lost in one of the film’s most prominent back stories.

Goddard captures the look of the era quite well, giving the film a stylish feel befitting of the time period. The story telling devices work, fleshing out each individual character and keeping the stakes high at every turn with the ultimate final conflict feeling fully earned and satisfying. The conflicts make you think, the characters engage and Bad Times at the El Royale leaves the viewer with a great two and a half hours of viewing.

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Posted by Ari Coine

‘CinemAddicts’ Podcast Spotlights Maika Monroe Drama ‘After Everything’

On the latest episode of CinemAddicts, Anderson Cowan and I discuss a slew of October releases and spotlight a couple of films that should be on your radar.

Whether or not it’s actually Robert Redford’s last film, The Old Man & The Gun is, according to Cowan, a fitting tribute to 1970s cinema and the career of the iconic actor. Redford previously worked with director David Lowery on Pete’s Dragon, and since Cowan is obsessed with Lowery’s previous film A Ghost Story, The Old Man & The Gun was high on his list of films to catch in theaters. The feature is now playing in select theaters.

One of my October recommendations is After Everything, a New York City set romantic drama about Elliot (Jeremy Allen White), a 23-year-old who has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The good news, however, is that he falls head over heels with Mia (Maika Monroe), a career centric woman who returns his affections. Directed by first time filmmakers Hannah Marks (who’s also an actress) and Joey Power, After Everything is not a saccharine, disease of the week narrative. Thanks to top notch writing and charismatic performances from White and Monroe, After Everything is a subtly resonant tale of falling in love amidst a trying period in one’s life. The feature, which co-stars Marisa Tomei and Callie Thorne (Marks worked with Thorne on the TV series Necessary Roughness) hits theaters and is available On Demand starting October 12. Check out this month’s episode of CinemAddicts below!

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

‘CinemAddicts’ Podcast Reviews Nicolas Cage Thriller ‘Mandy’ And ‘Hal’ Documentary

Nicolas Cage as Red in the action, thriller film “MANDY”an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films

The latest installment of CinemAddicts is a good one, as we spotlight the Nicolas Cage feature Mandy. Set in 1983, the tale centers on Red Miller (Cage), an average Joe who lives out in the woods with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). When a cult leader (Linus Roache) and his minions descend upon this loving couple, Red’s life is immediately torn apart, leading to a blood-soaked journey of vengeance.

Directed by Panos Cosmatos, Mandy is a surreal, violent, and ultimately hypnotic story that offers up one of Cage’s best performances (it’s right up there with Adaptation and Joe). The feature hits select theaters on Friday.

We also offer up our take on Hal, a first rate documentary centering on the life of filmmaker Hal Ashby (The Last Detail, Being There). Anderson Cowan and I covered Ashby’s classic film Harold and Maude several weeks ago on Spoiled Cinema, and Ashby’s work is definitely dear to our hearts. Hal which was released last week in New York, hits Los Angeles theaters on Friday. Check out this month’s installment of CinemAddicts below!

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

Orson Welles Feature ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ Lands A Netflix Release In November

Over 40 years in the making, The Other Side of the Wind is finally seeing the light of day, as it will be released in theaters and Netflix on November 2. Directed by Orson Welles, the project centers on J.J. “Jake” Hannaford (John Huston), a filmmaker who returns to the U.S. after spending years in Europe with hopes to making his own comeback film. The project co-stars Welles’ longtime friend, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, and Welles’ partner Oja Kodar (Welles, though married to Paola Mori, was also involved in a relationship with Kodar).

Due to financial and legal issues, The Other Side of the Wind’s chances of finally seeing the light of day appeared slim, but hope flourished when producers Frank Marshall and Filip Jan Rymsza scoured through over a thousand reels of film negatives to ultimately get the picture on the right track. Check out the trailer below and tell us what you think!

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

CinemAddicts Podcast Reviews ‘Never Goin’ Back’ And ‘A Prayer Before Dawn’

There are a ton of movie releases this August, and a few selections that may go under the radar are definitely worth checking out. Now playing in select theaters, Never Goin’ Back centers on two Texas based waitresses (Camila Morrone, Maia Mitchell) who are planning a vacation in Galveston. Their goal to work double shifts to make their money before the trip are thwarted by unforeseen circumstances and their irresponsible tomfoolery. Directed and written by Augustine Frizzell (whose narrative was inspired by her own misspent youth), Never Goin’ Back is a raunchy comedy that has its heart in the right place (even as it deliciously crosses the line of good taste).

Coming out August 10, A Prayer Before Dawn is the true story of Billy Moore (Joe Cole, in a riveting performance), a drug addicted boxer who attempts to fight his way out of Thai prison through his chosen craft. The flick, which has very little exposition, is as intense as they come, and the boxing scenes are absolutely riveting. Not one of its 116 minutes is wasted, and the picture had me on the edge of my seat from the get go. 

Both movies are profiled on the latest episode of CinemAddicts. Take a listen and feel free to comment below!

 

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi