Stan & Ollie review: Sad Tale of Two Clowns

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In my many years as in film reviewing, I don’t think I have ever mentioned my love for the double act known as Laurel & Hardy. While they are not my favourite comedy double act (that goes to Morecambe and Wise) nor are they the first to introduce me to such a concept to the comedy genre (that goes to the Chuckle Brothers), but Laurel and Hardy is a double act that I have a lot of appreciation towards for not only their contribution and influences on certain brands of comedy (mainly slapstick and double acts), but how they contributed to how a view film, I am ashamed to admit that I was one of those young boys who used to dismiss a film that was black and white simply because they were black and white. But on one rather dull summers day for reasons that I honestly cannot remember (other than maybe my dad vaguely mentioning the two a few times before), I just sat down and watch a bunch of Laurel and Hardy short films that were playing on TV at the time and had such a good laugh with them, for that I will always credit Laurel and Hardy as my gateway in black and white films and realise they are just as worthy as most films in colour. So once I’ve heard that we were getting a biopic based on the double act, you bet yourself that I would be the type who would go and see it as soon as he can. Do the film hold up to the acts legacy? Read this review and find out:

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When it comes to a lot of biopic films, I have always been of the opinion that the thing that could easily make and break these sort of films that are inspired to be representive of a real life figure regardless of whether the film is historically accurate is the performance from the lead actor (or actors with this film) because the actor has the difficult job of making you believe you are watching the real life figure, this is primarily why I think “Bohemian Rhapsody” became such a success at the box office despite the mixed box office result because even people who hated that film agreed that Rami Malek was simply perfect as Freddie Mercury. The reason why I bring this up is because when it comes to the two lead actors who played Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, I’ve consistently had the thought on my mind that one of the two leads is clearly the better of the two despite the other half clearly putting the effort into the role. The actor who I thought was the show-stealer of the film was John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy, this is an example of an actor who was truly committed to the role and understood everything about Oliver Hardy from his mannerisms to how he emotes to his comedic timing all work in the films favour as it gives one of the most genuine performances that I have seen in the cinemas since the already mentioned “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It helps that John C. Reilly is just one of the most likable actors out there, even if you are not the biggest fans of some of the comedy films that he has been in and I say just as Oscar worthy as Malek as Freddie Mercury. Speaking of his comedy films, I will say casting an actor who is mostly known for more comedic roles really does add some authentic to the performance and drama of the film, which I will explain more later one as I talk about what I think is the thematic message of the film.

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Now onto Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, which is going to be a performance that is going to be a little difficult for me to articulate, but I hope I make what I am trying to get across about it very clear. I really do think the performance that Coogan is giving in this film is a solid one overall as he gets the emotions down very well, he just doesn’t quite disappear into the role in the same way Reilly does by comparison. This could just be a “me thing” or a UK thing, but I don’t think it also doesn’t help that I view Steve Coogan as an actor in the same way I view Leonardo DiCaprio. Coogan is one of those actor who like DiCaprio is one who I know he is trying his best, you know acting his heart out and you know he is thinking to himself: “What is the best thing I can do to make this a great performance?”, or anything along those lines. As much as I appreciate actors with such commitments, I just can’t help but just see Steve Coogan as I don’t quite see a character on the silver screen, I just see Coogan trying to play the character. I must make this clear again, I do not think Coogan is a bad actor nor do I think his performance was terrible, I just doubt it will get any Oscar buzz and pales when compared to his co-star.

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As for the story of the film which is a pretty interesting one as far as biopics go due to how it somewhat resonated with me. Sure, it has the familiar themes that I expected from a film based on the life of Laurel and Hardy that somewhat reminds me of other biopics like “Ed Wood” and “The Disaster Artist” with the idea of friendship and how fame/ambition can effect it, the idea that really hit with me in this film is the idea that is common amongst the world of comedy, but something we as audience members don’t take into consideration: the comedians being the saddest clowns. The average scholars would tell you that comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin and for good reason due to the power the two have to counter each other. In fact many historian tend to agree that the British coped better with the trenches that their opposition, it is because they can make dark jokes about their situation. A lot of British comedy or at least some of the most well renowned comes from dark situations that people have found themselves in and used humour in order to cope. Many would expect some of your favourite comedians to be just as cheery as you see them on stage, but that is hardly ever the case whenever you see a lot of comedians behind the scenes or in certain interviews as they come off as rather sad and even rather depressed people. It is stuff like that is why I no longer any doubts whenever an actor who I know for more comedic roles is cast in a more dramatic role because a part of me feels like those are the sort of roles that they want to play as a form of self-expression. I bring all of this up because I honestly do feel like it is the main meat of the film as it gives me a new light into one of my childhood favourite icons and the sort of men the two really were as it relates to my own personal life in a lot of ways whenever I crack a job to friends or people at work as a way to simply get by. It also why I feel like it was a smart move of the filmmakers to cast actors known for comedic like Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Laurel and Hardy as it adds a somewhat metatexual undertone to the films thematic ideas as I wonder if the likes of Coogan and Reilly feel that way when it comes to their careers.

 

VERDICT:

Don’t expect to have humour of the levels that you would expect from a typical Laurel and Hardy short as what humour you do find in this film is more of the banter type as a way to humanise the characteristics of the film. But what you do get is a rather engaging and heart-warming drama about the humanity and mortality behind what appear to be immortal icons that has a nice insight on the tragedy behind comedy.

 

My score for “Stan and Ollie” will be a score of 4 and a half bowel hats out of 5.

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Stan & Ollie review: Sad Tale of Two Clowns

Aquaman review: OUTRAGEOUSLY ENTERTAINING

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I am not going to open up my introduction with a typical comment on the DCEU because I feel like I have nothing new to say about it and I would rather stay focused on “Aquaman” himself. As far as heroes within the DC Universe goes, Aquaman is certainly one of my favourites, although not quite Top 5 material for me (that would include Batman, John Constantine, Superman, The Question and Martian Manhunter), so a film based on one of my favourite DC heroes is certainly a film that I have some hype towards the film even if it was part of the DCEU. Aside from being part of the DCEU, this film also had the taste of proving to audiences that Aquaman is no longer the walking punchline that the terrible “Super Friends” cartoon helped spawn (a joke that shows like “Robot Chicken” and “Family Guy” that really beat to the ground), but is actually a cool character (without trying too hard at it like I felt the film “Justice League” kind of did) who deserves to be in the same leagues as the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. While I wouldn’t say this is an origin story that is in leagues with say “Batman Begins”, “Superman: The Movie” or even last years “Wonder Woman”, I am honestly surprised on how much I enjoyed this one and I will explain why in this non-spoiler review:

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Let me get this one thing out of the way in regards to this film and that is how people are comparing it to the “Thor” films, but this is mainly because the two film series clearly take inspiration from the Arthurian tales on an internal level with a major them of the film being what it means to be a king, but dressed up with the coating of James Cameron’s underrated “The Abyss” by way of the style of “Flash Gordon”, with a bit of the romantic adventure tone of an Indiana Jones film for good measure, this is a big crowd-pleaser that may be over-ambitious, but is one of the more successful DC films for simply being unashamed about what it is. While I have heard some people make comments about how the film approaches about the films themes of what it means to be a king and how it comes off as rushed when compared to how the Thor films treated such an idea. I honestly have to disagree with these people, mainly because the very idea of what it means to be a king was barely an idea in any of the Thor films (minus maybe the first film) and was treated more like a thinly veiled thread that doesn’t really informs the characteristics and actions that took place within those films and it also helps that at least with the future of Aquaman that we might actually get to see him as king and explore new ideas of a superhero who is also a monarch. This film doesn’t have that issue for me since it plays a major part in Arthur’s conflict of the film with his reluctance in becoming king pretty much answers to why he should be king because as the character archetype of the reluctant ruler that King Arthur helped to inspire, he is a character who doesn’t want power, but is destined for it and his refusal both helps underlines the high stakes that the hero is being called upon to do and even helps make the character of Arthur somewhat relatable since most of us would be pretty freaked out if we are told to suddenly give up everything in our lives to go questing. His sense of unworthiness especially when compared to the films main villain Ocean Master does tell us a lot about Arthur as a character, mainly his humility, selflessness, the fact that he is someone raised among the people despite his god like status (both literally and figuratively) and the nobility once he realize what the greater good is. I would also the inspiration from Arthurian mythology works much more in favour of a DC story than it would for a Marvel story since the natural of a lot of DC heroes take direct inspiration from mythological tales from Greek mythology to Arthurian mythology (whereas Marvel is more of the case of trying to be the real world through the lens of the heroes journey and superpowers) and it uses the mythological framework of its narrative to explore many aspects of what plays into the idea of what it means to be a king from the idea of those who would to get power from ones sake are those not suited for such leadership, to how certain family types can unite through trust or separate different kinds of people through mistrust with Arthur himself as a character acting like a bridge between two worlds.

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Enough of comparing this film to a MCU film (for now), I think it worth comparing this film to a DCEU film: “Man of Steel”. Structurally, both films have a lot in common and yet “Aquaman” is the better film that is clearly inspired by “Batman Begins”. What do I mean by all this? Well like “Man of Steel”, it is a superhero origin story about a larger than life character (even by the standards of the superhero genre) who is destined for greater thing despite his reluctance and told through the lens of a non-linear narrative. Yet how did “Aquaman” for the most part manage to be more successful with such an approach than “Man of Steel”? Let’s start with the non-linear storytelling approach, while I will admit that I am one of those people who really liked “Man of Steel” when I first watched it (and while I don’t hate the film and there still things that I admire about the film, some the problems with it become more apparent), even back then I thought the films narrative choice to with a more non-linear approach came off as rather sloppy and the film not really getting why such a creative choice worked in the favour of “Batman Begins” due to how both the flashbacks were not told in chronological order like the rest of the film as well as how the flashbacks often felt rather sudden with how they often come off as massive bumps in the films pacing. While watching “Aquaman”, I can’t help but think that James Wan watched “Man of Steel” and used similar tropes to that film, but with an understand of how and why they are used in films like “Batman Begins” as the flashbacks were creatively integrated into the film through slick choices of direction such using more organic editing tricks and motifs (like the trident) to translate one scene to another. It also really helps that the character trait of reluctance is something that is better suited and associated with the Aquaman character that I am familiar with than it does with Superman who is more in line with aspiring hero type. As for the criticism about the plot of the film being a messy, I personally think said criticism is a tiny bit overblown due to how similar it is to films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or any adventure film as far as the role of certain characters and tropes are utilised (although I do really appreciate that the artifact that the hero is looking for isn’t just the typical all powerful McGuffin that everyone is after, but is actually symbolic of the heroes arc), although I will say that the world building and questing that resorting into expository dialogue which while do felt natural as Arthur was used as an audience avatar, my issue is the film really doesn’t get creative or merge a lot of drama within said exposition to keep me engaged as thus felt like moments in which the pacing didn’t entirely work for me and felt like the parts of the film in which the film placed a bit too many eggs in one basket. There is also a few retcons that I have noticed that are somewhat inconsistent with certain scenes from “Justice League” that I have noticed (mainly the scenes with Atlantis), they don’t completely destroy the film to me as this film is like the other good DCEU film “Wonder Woman” in which it stands perfectly fine on its own, but something worth pointing out as I hope these retcons don’t become so excessive like they were in “Justice League”.

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Now onto the characters and performances, I’ve already gone into detail on Arthur as a character in the story part of the review since he is pretty much was the main meat of the film, but I will talk about Mamoa in the role. I am going to be honest here, I wasn’t fully onboard the casting of Mamoa as Aquaman because it honestly kind of came off as the guys at DC overcompensating on there never ending quest on winning people over the idea that Aquaman is a cool character and we all know that trying too hard is never cool. At first, I thought I was right with how his character was written in “Justice League”, but luckily with the better material he was given in this film, I felt like his charisma and determination really worked in his favour. As for other characters, there is the villain of Orm a.k.a. Ocean Master played by long time James Wan collaborator Patrick Wilson who is surprisingly a villain who doesn’t suck or actually has a plan that is consistent with the internal logic of his motives that I find to be pretty sympathetic, but not to the point of coming off as overly sappy. While I say Patrick Wilson does a fine job as Ocean Master, it kind of reminds me of Michael Shannon as General Zod in “Man of Steel” in which I am not sure if feel like Wilson really “owned” the role as I didn’t get the sense that he was the only actor for such a role. As for Amber Heard as Mera, I am going to be honest here (and I know a mate of mine who likes Amber Heard in the same way I like Eva Green might give me crap for this), but this is my first proper exposure to Amber Heard as an actress (I know she was in “Justice League”, but that rather small cameo barely counts) and so far this is a good first impression for me as while she doesn’t quite have the sharp edge that Mera has in the comic books (which I am fine for this film as that would be something I like to see gradually happen over several films), but Heard brings plenty of pathos to her role, she has pretty good chemistry with Mamoa and is actually pretty believable in the action scenes without the writers overcompensating or being so obnoxious about her being a “strong badass female” by making her into a Mary Sue by actually having her struggle during the action scenes. There is also Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta who was just straight up comic book version of the character, he’s as crazy and stubborn and melodramatic as I hoped for and I cannot wait for the sequel to this film to further develop one of the most unique rivalries that I have seen as far as archenemies go from DC Comics. The only important character and performance in this film that I honestly didn’t care for was Willem Dafoe as Vulko who in this film serves a similar role to that of Merlin from the stories of King Arthur, but that’s really all there is to his character and for an actor as talented as Dafoe, I felt like his talents were kind of wasted for a character who really was there is provide exposition for how Arthur’s powers work.

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While I usually don’t like talking about the humour for a film that isn’t strictly a comedy, but when it comes to this film, I honestly felt like it is worth discussion on how natural the humour in film felt to me (minus one of two) especially when compared a MCU film like “Thor: Ragnarok” with two scenes in particular that just stood out to me in the best way. The first one is one involving Arthur at a bar and some selfies since the film at first teases towards its audience that it is going to be one of those overly macho and cliché bar fight scenes that I have honestly grown to hate as much as other film clichés like the “liar reveal” melodrama that a lot of films like to do. It is honestly the kind of subverting your expectations kind of humour that worked for me since a group of guys at a bar trying to pick a fight with Aquaman would not make an sense in the first place considering Arthur’s skin is strong enough to survive the pressure of the Atlantic Ocean, so trying to pick a fight with someone like that would simply be a death wish for those guys and therefore what we’ve got instead simply came off as natural moments of levity since it actually came off like a scene of people meeting a celebrity in a bar. The other moment of levity that stuck out to me is a fish out of water moment (you all knew that joke was coming) with Mera on the surface world eating some roses in Sicily. I think the reason why this moment is also a perfect representation of most of the films levity is how it paces itself. Compared to a lot of gags in “Thor: Ragnarok” which always felt forced and rather desperate to me because of how they always ruin the momentum of a scene in the same way suddenly using a handbreak as you are driving 70 miles per hour on the motorway ruins the momentum of the drivers thrill while driving. The rose eating scene with Mera does not have that with me since the whole scene was treated like one of those rather adorable and sweet scene of her learning to appreciate the surface world and while the gag of her eating roses is funny, it is also still a rather charming and sweet scene that is steadily paced with the rest of the scene. I guess you could say that the scene is a nice example of mixing emotions in the same way a lot of moments in real life are kind of like.

5

Finally is onto the overall direction of the film and damn does James Wan direct this film as well as he could. While I will say some of the more close hand to hand combat action scenes are easily the weaker part of his direction since they were shot a bit close for me and the editing felt a little off in place, it is really when the action goes into the more fantastical action scenes is where the direction of Wan really shines for me. The visual look for this film is easily some of the more gorgeous looking imagery that I have ever seen and that’s saying something considering that this film has Amber Heard in it. A major helping factor this film had when it comes to its visuals being as gorgeous as they are is that unlike other DCEU films, the colour palette isn’t muted and the brightly lit images are actually allowed to stick out more. There is also a few moments in this film that utilise the whole action sequences being filmed like it was all done in one shot that became popular ever since the hallway fight from Netflix’s “Daredevil”. It is no secret that this is a gimmick that I have gotten tired of when it comes to a lot of action films like “Black Panther” recently because the gimmick is such cheap attempt at tricking you into thinking the films has more artistic integrity in its direction than it actually does. This is not the case with this film for me since the films does it more than once and it is pretty consistent with the films rather stylised look to the point in which the one shots don’t feel like a different director came onboard because the main guy who ill on the day of the scenes shooting. And without giving away any spoilers here, but it would not be a James Wan film without moments of horror and there is one scene that involved Arthur and Mera in the middle of the ocean that wouldn’t feel too out of place in a creature feature horror film with how intense the scene was.

 

VERDICT:

“Aquaman” is a film that I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did due to the rather low standards that most of the DCEU films have set for the film. Yet the film consistently gave me quite the grin and while at some point the film might have been a bit too complicated or ambitious for its own good, the film overall is a pretty functional and enjoyable entry, which is certainly the kind of film that the DCEU really needs after many started to lose hope for it with films like “Batman v. Superman”, “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League” leaving a lot to be desired.

 

This might come off as yours truly being a bit too generous for this film, but my score for “Aquaman” will be a score of 4 sea creatures out of 5.

Rating

Aquaman review: OUTRAGEOUSLY ENTERTAINING

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse review – Stan Lee Would Be Proud

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For years, my “relationship” with the Spider-Man character can be seen as the fanboy equivalent of falling out with a friend that you have known since childhood due to many letdowns in regards to the representation within various mediums with his video games for a while being mediocre at best with the likes of “Shattered Dimensions” to downright bad like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, as well as other disappointments such as the cancellation of “The Spectacular Spider-Man” to make room for more less inspired Spider-Man shows afterwards or the fact that every live action Spider-Man film after “Spider-Man 2” failed to make an impression on me or the face the comic book storyline “One More Day” completely ruined the character for me to the point in which for a long time I refuse to buy any Spider-Man comics set after that storyline. However this year (if I am continuing on with the friend metaphor) feels like the year in which that friend and I decided to meet each other again for the first time in a while and I realise why we were friends to which we now like to make up for lost times since this year I have rediscovered why I used to love the character of Spider-Man, this is represented through both the rather excellent new video game simply titled “Marvel’s Spider-Man” by Insomniac Games and through this film because it is safe of me to say that this is the best Spider-Man film since “Spider-Man 2” and I will explain why:

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There is the old saying among the film community is that every type of story has been told before, but the key of making a story work and doing it effectively. This film is perhaps the most perfect picture book definition of such a saying with its rather unique way presenting such familiar story ideas that I have seen so many time (to the point in which I get tired of some of them) beyond just its rather unique animation style (which does play a part in the films in what makes the film rather familiar premise so refreshing, but I will tackle that once I get into the technical parts of the film). While I wouldn’t say is entirely flawless in this regards (I’ll tackle that once I talk about the characters), I say the positives of the film execution of its premises mostly prevents it from coming as either generic or uninspired like how I felt about certain parts of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. Thematically it pretty much has a lot of the themes that you would expect in a Spider-Man story since the character has been around for over 50 years now such as identity, learnings ones place in the world, the things we do for loved ones, etc. yet none of it feels very routine or stale to me as they just felt like organic tools used to tell a refreshing take on familiar yet universal themes. This film has two things that I have grown to not like in recent superhero fiction and those are the overused origin story and cheap novelty of being a crossover story (albeit with different versions of Spider-Man, but it still counts), yet even then the film just finds a way to win such a hard to impressed man like myself by either giving them a unique spin or playing with my expectations and subverting just enough for it to not be a given. Essentially, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is an origin story first and foremost, but what’s impressive is that it finds organic ways to breathe new life into the tired tropes of the origin story and even pokes fun at it several times. While I have briefly mentioned other themes in film, the main one at the core of the film is actually a pretty timely one and I don’t mean that in a topical/political sort of way, I mean more in a timely way since the very idea is the perfect idea what Stan Lee (who sadly died not too long before this film got released) stood for as this time offering a touching message that brings to life Stan Lee’s words that anyone can be a superhero if they help others simply because they know that they should.

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The real driving force behind this extremely entertaining animated film are the key to most truly great superhero films and that are the characters who are for the most fairly well realised. I won’t go into full detail on the character arcs since that would go into spoiler territory, but I long story short: almost each of the Spider-People who appear in the film are each are presented as equally likeable, each are imbued with a heart and wit that many modern comedies could learn from and all are brought brilliantly to life with superb voice work and a witty script to work from since the funniest jokes are the ones that would is suitable for a characters unique personality (which is what worked for shows like “Parks and Recreation”) rather than the ones that come off as the interchangeable quip that any character from the piece could utter since it not really a joke anymore and merely becomes a gag (something I fell like most of the quips for “Avengers: Infinity War” suffer from). Nicholas Cage gets a surprisingly funny turn as Spider-Man Noir (a version of Spider-Man who is not known for having a sense of humour that you would expect from the character) and when I say “surprisingly funny” I mean funny without a hint of irony to it. Let’s be honest here: we don’t find a Nicholas Cage performance entertaining because there is usually some legit wit to it. We mostly find it entertaining for the same reason most people (including myself) enjoy crazy people like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones as we enjoy it for the absurdity of it all and at no point do I or most people treat it like it is a credible performance due to how meme worthy they are and his interactions with a coloured world got some good chuckles out of me since they were understated and not overdone. Peter Parker in this film is an interesting one for me because as his own character within the context of this film as well as a supporting character, I say Peter in this film really does work as new spin on the Obi-Wan type of mentor role. However as a representation of what I am sure is meant to be the mainstream version of Peter Parker, I am not sure if I completely buy that Peter would be a character that would even allow himself to be in a situation that he was in before he crossed over in the Miles universe, but this could change once I rewatch the film at some point.

3

Speaking of Miles Morales, who as the main character of the film is just the picture book example of a character who is the heart and soul of the film. Not since sadly short lived show “The Spectacular Spider-Man” have I found a young Spider-Man ooze such charisma. He’s naive, innocent yet bursting with heart and a strong desire to do the right thing, yet he never comes off as Peter Parker with a different colour scheme which would have been a dumb move on so many level. However if there is one of the “Spider-Men” that I didn’t care for, it would be Spider-Gwen, I don’t know if this is a good representation of Spider-Gwen from the comics since I haven’t read them. But in this film, she is just a character that suffers from the same issue that a lot of “tough” female characters suffer from as far as how writers treat them: she borders on being an utter Mary Sue who the writers don’t allow to make mistakes or at least not be treated like a flawed human being in the same way either Peter or Miles are. This is a problems within this film because I always felt like the tension that the scene of a film was going for immediately gets deflated as soon as shows up.

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Now let’s go onto the villain of the piece. While this film has many villains from Spider-Man lore from Tombstone to Scorpion to a female version of Doctor Octopus to Green Goblin (who kind of just shows up at the beginning of the film and just disappears before the first act of the film even finishes), but I am primary going to just talk about the films main villain, the Kingpin. While I am one of those comic book fans who is of the opinion that The Kingpin works a lot better as a Daredevil villain than he does as a Spider-Man villain, but his place as one of Spider-Man’s biggest enemies does has its place for me. Sure this version of the Kingpin is nowhere near as interesting or as complex as Vincent D’Onofrio’s superlative take on the character, I still appreciate this highly stylised take, looking like a Bill Sienkiewicz pinup brought to motion. Plus kind of like the MCU version of Wilson Fisk, rather than just being a one-note monster, he too gets human motivation to make us understand his actions which has a nice reflection to both Peter and Miles along with a major theme of the film in which is the things we do for our loved ones. And let’s just say that the full blown sci-fi overboard pretty much reminds me on why Kingpin does work almost as well as a Spider-Man villain as he does as a Daredevil villain, an idea I’ve kind of forgotten about for a long time.

5

Now onto the visuals of the film and talk about the sort of visuals in which the metaphor of combing the beauty of the likes of Eva Green, Hayley Atwell and Geri Halliwell into one thing would be perfect match up with how beautiful the visuals of this film are. The animation style is so arresting and exploding with colour and splendour that I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen. Not only is the animation seamless, but it is constantly invigorating itself with fresh ideas on how to tell its story and never runs out of steam. At times mixing comic book panels with 3D animation that we come to expect with all theatrical animated films nowadays with the 2D zaniness of a classic Looney Tunes cartoon whenever Spider-Ham shows up, an almost cyber punk like aesthetic and heck, even blending anime at some points, it becomes such treat for the eyes that makes me wish for more animated films to try and do new styles without coming off as some sort of knock off of Pixar as a way for animators to really get creative. While the action in the film may not be certain what’s happening before your eyes since the camera likes to stay up close to the fights, but it feeds into a reoccurring theme of the constant pressure Miles is having to deal with throughout the movie, so I see it as a clever way of allowing the audience to get inside the head of the main character within the action without resorting to cheap gimmicks that a lot of live action films tend to do like using shaky cam to forcefully give the film more tension than it really has. While Spider-Man does work amazingly (no pun intended), this is a film in which its story can only truly be effective and fully realised through animation with its used of exaggerated character designs. The prime example of this would be the Kingpin who in this film is a hulking mass of pitch black that takes over any shot he’s in, just like that one shot in the trailer where it’s just his head floating in nothingness. His black suit never changes with lighting and it makes him feel monstrous. All the actors play their parts super well.

 

VERDICT:

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” reminds me a lot of the video game “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” except “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is more than just a cheap novelty of a film and actually takes advantage of the medium it is in. It is a creative, fun and generally clever film that is easily the best Spider-Man film since “Spider-Man 2” back in 2004.

 

My score for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” would be a score of 4 cartoon pigs out of 5.

Rating

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse review – Stan Lee Would Be Proud

Creed II review: The Right Sort of Feel Good Film

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My experience when it comes to the Rocky franchise is certainly not the same as my experience with other franchises that I love like James Bond because despite what many assumed about yours truly when it comes to this series, I actually didn’t grow up with the Rocky series despite my love for the series overall. The original “Rocky” is a film that doesn’t need any introduction and is one of the few films that truly lives up to the hype and is easily one of my all-time favourite films. However, the thing that is truly impressing me about this series from “Rocky Balboa” and onwards is just how they continue to prove me wrong when it comes to my worries about the film. “Rocky Balboa” was a film that had the difficult task of redeeming the series after the disappointment that was “Rocky V”, while at the same time try and take the series back to its routes after the series becoming sillier with each entry before. “Creed” had the difficult talk of winning me over the idea of continuing on the Rocky franchise after “Rocky Balboa” did such a great job at being a finale by being the sort of film that “The Force Awakens” tried to be to only a decent level: being an effective passing of the torch film and still giving the characters from the previous installment something meaningful to do. “Creed II” also manages to put my worries to rest for a few reasons. How did it do this? Read this non-spoiler review and find out:

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The best way that I can describe this film especially when compared to the first “Creed” film is that is that my thoughts on it are very similar to the general opinion for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” when compared to the first film, even if I am one of the few people who prefers the 2nd film over the 1st film: it is a truly great film that put me in the right mood, but isn’t as surprising or refreshing as its predecessor. In defense of this film , that is not exactly a feel that can be replicated, nor does it really try to replicate such a feel and is simply a sequel that wanted to expand of certain ideas and characters from previous films, mainly “Creed” and “Rocky IV”. Speaking of “Rocky IV”, remember what I’ve said in my introduction in which I’ve said that the series from “Rocky Balboa” and onwards continue to prove me wrong when it comes to my worries about the film? Well, this film somehow manage to pull a miracle and managed to win me over of continuing on certain threads from “Rocky IV”. While “Rocky IV” is a film that I enjoy, I only really enjoy it in a guilty pleasure sort of way because of how the film really doesn’t tonally watch with some of the better entries in the series like “Rocky” or “Creed”, so mixing characters and themes from both “Creed” and “Rocky IV” seemed like the sort of weird recipient that would give me the odd taste in a way yours truly eating cheddar cheese mixed with chocolate ice cream together would feel like. Sure, I love the taste of both food types, but for different reasons that I would rather keep separate in order for preserve the good taste. Luckily, this film never gave such a feeling for me because it is a film with a tone that is more consistent with its predecessor since the film pretty much reinvented Ivan Drago and does seem like the natural way to go for the story of Adonis Creed and the themes that the previous film established.

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On a thematic level, this is a film that tackles many things themes such as fatherhood, guilt, stepping out of the shadow of the greatness that came before you, but overall the main theme that truly carries this film through is how legacy affects us and those we leave behind. For all those who know me as a film reviewer knows that my basic view when it comes to making an effective story is one in which the themes and ideas come entirely from thoughtful characteristics that have a natural and consistent flow throughout the narrative, whether the plot is a simple straight forward one like the original “Rocky” or a complex one like “The Dark Knight”. I am aware that the term “formulaic” is a term among film fans that often has a negative connotation (and I am more than guilty of using such a term in a negative term in some of my reviews), but this is certainly what I would call the kind of sequel that is certainly predictable one similar to that of “Rocky II” as it ticks all the boxes that you would expect from a “Rocky” film. However, unlike some of the Marvel films that go the formulaic route for some of their narratives, the “Rocky” series is usually where going the formulaic route is almost never a problem. Let’s just say whenever a Marvel film goes the formulaic route, they tend to struggle balancing the potentially unique character stuff with the all too familiar “go after a MaGuffin” plot stuff, the “Rocky” series does not have this issue as far as the plot goes because the entire point of the series is that they are truly character driven stories that are not plot driven (or at least as simply as you can get).

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These are hardly a series of films in which you get the feeling that someone is doing something for the sake of the plot, but because it truly is something that the character would do since the film doesn’t waste time with any plot exposition and talk in a way real people actually talk thus making the character development all the more effect and shows how universal and timeless the idea of the underdog story. However, the interesting thing about how “Creed II” handles the underdog idea that is often defies the series is that it really isn’t used as the character arc for the protagonist this time around (which is more of an arc of Adonis overcoming his pride), but is actually used as a way to define the characteristics of the films antagonist this time around who are the Dragos and let’s just say there was a lot of used of mirrored imagery used with Ivan Drago that juxtaposed with Rocky in “Rocky IV” that makes me wishes that we had a few more scenes with them. There’s probably a little too much down-time in the middle of the film where Adonis’s character is constantly casting self-pity and doubt, but it’s acted so well by the always reliable Michael B. Jordan that it’s hard to even matters. The strength of both Creed films, to me, has come from their extremely personal specificity and realness that doesn’t feel cliché or familiar at least for the most part. Tessa Thompson’s character’s struggle with hearing loss comes to mind as one of the very specific-but-human concepts that hasn’t been explored onscreen much in other films, and plays very authentic because of that, even if I would have liked that side plot to have a bit more development since the emotions of it do not quite land for me unlike the arcs of Adonis or the Dragos. These people don’t feel like cardboard cutouts or stereotypes, they feel like people. And in this film, that even applies to Adonis’s opponent Viktor Drago, who would’ve been so easy to write as a caricature but ends up being far more real than he has any right to be. As for Rocky himself, while this is a non-spoiler review overall, but I will say that if the news of Stallone retiring the character of Rocky Balboa are true, then I am glad that this is the film in which the character ends on. Let’s just say the b-plot went into places, I was hoping it was going when it comes to this film following threads from “Rocky IV”, mainly the whole idea of Rocky feeling guilty for not throwing in the towel for Apollo Creed that has led to his death. Sure, there was guilt to be found in parts of “Rocky IV”, but it so blink and you miss it that it would hardly count as an emotional arc, not the same for this film because Rocky like any good supporting character in a film does reflect on the arcs of the main protagonist as well as the antagonist to give the story some extra layers to the ideas of fatherhood and guilt.

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Now onto the technical stuff of the film or as I would like to call it for the sake of this film “the thrill of the fight” since I am mainly talking about the fights. While the fights in this film lack the balance between thrills and craftsmanship that Ryan Coogler brought to the table in “Creed”, it more than makes up for that for the sheer brutality of it all without resorting to being cartoonish with such an approach like “Rocky IV”. These are certainly fights that would please the teenaged fratboy crowd, but they certainly pleased me especially for a film that is rated 12A here in the UK (and presumably PG-13 in the US) because whenever a punch landed, whether it is Creed towards Drago or Drago towards Creed, I’ve felt such punches and the film lets you know it, especially when it comes to punches from Drago. The brutality of such fight scenes reminds me a lot of the brutality of the James Bond film “Casino Royale” in which it is a rare modern PG-13 film in which it actually felt like a hard PG-13 of yesteryear back when the rating generally had some meaning behind it rather than the watered down R rated one or the pathetic PG films that thing small doses of rather mild swearing somehow makes you more mature.

 

VERDICT:

“Creed II” doesn’t quite hold a candle to that of “Creed” since doesn’t quite feel as organic or refreshing as that film, nor do all the pieces of this film quite work together or at least don’t quite function as well as its predecessor. But this is still a damn good time that mostly hits the emotional beats that is required for a feel good film to truly work for a grumpy individuals such as myself.

 

My score for “Creed II” will be a score of 4.5 punches to the face out of 5.

Rating

Creed II review: The Right Sort of Feel Good Film

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald review – Newt Needs to Put His Magic Wand Away

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Yakko Warner: “Goodnight everybody.”

You know what I mean by that subtitle. But yeah, I know Harry Potter is one of those franchises that has its place within British geek culture as one of the big ones. While I do have some appreciation for the series and J.K. Rowling for their contribution in introduction an entire generation of children to the idea that reading is actually kind of cool, but it really is a franchise that I more appreciate than something that I am truly a fan of. My brother really is more of the guy who you should talk to when it comes to Harry Potter than I am since he is the guy who is more into the fantasy genre since he is more fascinated in world-building than I am. That being said, while I don’t completely dislike the first “Fantastic Beasts” film as it is a film with some charm and good ideas to it, but it has become one of those films that ages about as well as Kelly McGillis from “Top Gun” due to how some of the films structural problems become more and more noticeable for me as time goes on. Sadly, the sequel doesn’t do a lot to improve on the faults of the first film, nor does what made the first film a somewhat charming film barely had any presence in this film and I will explain why in this non-spoiler review:

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As I have hinted in my review for “Widows”, I am not the biggest fan of Rowling as a writer overall for a number of reasons and she is not a female writer who I would even consider putting in the same leagues of the likes of Agatha Christie, Jane Austen or even modern ones like Gillian Flynn. The issue that I have had with Rowling is that like a lot of fantasy writers, she spends way too much time on world-building rather than using the trappings of the fantasy genre as a way to develop an interesting narrative around the trappings. Granted, I will be the first person to admit that I am not the biggest fan of the fantasy genre, it is simply a genre than doesn’t quite grab me in the same way the science fiction genre does (even if that is also a genre with a lot of world-building), but there have been fantasy films that I truly loved in the past such as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (yes, that counts} and even one of the Harry Potter films. So there are ways of a film that falls under categories that are usually not my thing. I guess it helps with the Harry Potter series that it was overall a series that used the fantasy genre to tell one long overarching story about growing up, even if the series has the same issues that Rowling has always had as a writer.  It also helped with the fact that I was also growing up during the time the films were being released, so the other themes of the Harry Potter series such as the internal struggles of fitting in, knowing who to trust, finding your way, etc. I think that the Harry Potter franchise is at its most effective and really struck a core with my brother and I when the two of us watching the films together. However, as I have grew older, other than being a bit sloppy and contrived in the plotting, I do think some of the series attempts at being social commentary or political allegory is where I think the series both shows its age and does quite hold up on a narrative level, mainly because they fail to do anything past “it’s complicated”, so the movies had their time, place, and audience. “I’m sad, horny, and confused because my brain is still developing” works well for coming-of-age stories, but in “Fantastic Beasts” it’s merely perfunctory as the writers obviously have no basis for character exploration besides that tried and tested formula. As for adding moral relativism and the darkness of what is perceived is our political zeitgeist into the mix, no wonder our youths nowadays snorts bath salts and makes harsh noise wall music, he has conflated his inability to talk to pretty girls with the crushing collective guilt of the Western world’s last century of atrocities.

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Structurally, this film almost comes off as the Harry Potter universe version of “Iron Man 2” in not the best way and that is saying something since I hate “Iron Man 2” with a violent passion. The little substance or truly artistic merit that Rowling or Yates tried to go with this film is ultimately bogged down with so much wrong with today’s modern franchise film that whatever ideas are explored in this are ultimately irrelevant because they just end up coming off as more of a loss framework for what is essentially a massive advertisement for the next 3 films for the film. I know not every film follows the 3 or 5 act structure was of telling a story with the likes of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” being a film in which the plot really does just dwindle in the middle for a couple of hours, but you don’t really care because that film understands that the richness of a story really does come from well-defined, layered and consistent characteristics. Sadly there is simply no richness to be found in this film as far as the characteristics within the film goes because of the films lack of focus and too much filler that makes the filler within the middle parts of the first “Fantastic Beasts” film look like a slow burning tension scene within a good horror film. It doesn’t help that all the set up in this film that had no pay off really didn’t need to be in this film at all because what this film really should have done is what most good sequels should do and be more focused on deconstructing the main characters from the first film and give us as audience members a reason to care for Newt as a character the more we understand what makes him unique among other socially awkward but still endearing characters of the past rather than simply shoving so much fan service that only people who use Pottermore on a daily basis would get or care about.

3

When it comes to the characters of a Rowling story is usually what is considered to be one of her strengths as a writer and I can see why as a lot of them are certainly the types of what I would call memorable and likable overall. However, the odd thing when it comes to the characteristics is that none of them are either bland or the type of characters that makes me want to strangle them in the same way Rowling on Twitter has done for some people from time to time, since there are a few things about some of the characters that simply makes me want to learn more about them. I guess the main reason why people tend to really find characters by Rowling as likable as they are is mainly because she has a fairly decent understanding of pathos (although you could say that is more to do with the actors in this film) and gives them particular quirks and faults that defines them from the rest of the group. So why doesn’t the characters in the film despite having such strengths that I’ve just mentioned not quite work for me this time around? Simple, there is simply way too many in a film that is only 2 hours and 20 minutes long and it doesn’t help with the fact that at least half of them hardly contribute or develop the plot or themes of the film, while also not really taking advantage on what makes quirks and faults of a character endearing within a story, contrasting and playing off such faults as a method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of such characteristics, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.

4

Now onto to the perhaps the most positive thing about this film and that is the visuals. Considering that film was made on a $200 million budget, it simply puts the dodgy CGI in “Justice League” to shame since that film had a production budget of $300 million. While the muted colour palette is not something I really care for, the sheer creative looks for some of the magical creatures in this film are easily some of the most breathtaking and imaginative visuals that I have seen all year.

 

VERDICT:

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is not what I would call either a painful or an offensive type of bad film, but really one of the most frustrating films that I have seen in quite some time since there is so much potential to be found in this film, but it never truly capitalises on its potential since it is more concerned with world-building and sequel baiting.

 

My score for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” would be a score of 2 magical cat faces out of 5.

Rating

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald review – Newt Needs to Put His Magic Wand Away

Widows review: Ocean’s 8 With Some Actual Metaphorical Balls

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Steve McQueen is certainly a unique director in my eyes because he is made the films that liked, but never quite blown me away in a way they do for most critics and fellow film fans. The reason why I bring this up is because unlike most people when it comes to this film, McQueen wasn’t my main draw, it is in fact a rare case in which the writer of a film has the bigger draw to the film. That writer is Gillian Flynn who wrote “Gone Girl” (both the book and the film) which was my favourite film to come out in 2014. As far as modern female authors go, Flynn is to me what J.K. Rowling thinks she is, but I am not falling down that rabbit hole right now (at least not until I review the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts” sequel). Luckily for me in a year full of disappointments as far as films go, “Widows” is finally a film to come out this year that rivals the greatness to that of “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” as this is easily one of the best films to come out this year and I will explain in this non-spoiler review:

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To give you a good idea of the kind of film that you will get with this one is for me to describe the film as the following as a nice mixture of a tense slow-burner of the film (so don’t expect a Michael Bay film here) with a layered narrative that is as rich in themes as Bill Gates is rich with currency that helps elevate this film into more than your conventional heist film with women in it, something “Ocean’s 8” is certainly guilty of in more ways than one. While I wouldn’t say I am someone who has loved previous films by Steve McQueen, I certainly cannot deny that there is a genuinely talented guy behind the camera throughout all of his film from “Shame” to “12 Years a Slave” and truly is someone who wants to make a work of art and not simple product for the studios (*cough Russo brothers *cough) that you expect from a lot of heist films. You know a heist film has done such a good job at being a great piece of cinema when someone like yours truly was impressed by the film since I am not a big fan of the heist genre at all as they are one of those genres that really do give off the vibe of feeling the same, even if such a comment an unfairly generalisation. “Widows” was more than just your average heist film, not just with its engrossing atmosphere and maturely complex storytelling, but with the films core source of its drama being a film that explores heavy ideas such as trauma and burden of coming to terms with being a widow and the lingering effects that are left behind as consequences of the husband’s mistakes.

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While in previous films by Steve McQueen, his efforts in his direction of not holding his punches, but I’ve always felt like the scripts never quite benefited such emotions for a few reasons that I rather not going into. Luckily this is a film that was written by Gillian Flynn, the woman who wrote the modern masterpiece known as “Gone Girl” and it’s safe to say her script earned such raw emotions and doesn’t hold back from being as truthful and subversive as possible. If you want a good example of the subversive nature of this film, its use of the dog symbolism which in fiction is often used to symbolise ideas like guidance, protection, loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness, watchfulness, and love, yet goes into certain direction that either deliberately contradictions of what you expect for a dog to represent as a nice use of misdirection or give us a new perspective on such ideas.

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All of this could easily fall apart if the main character/main lead of the film wasn’t capable of holding it all together. It’s a good thing that the center of this film was Viola Davis as Veronica. This is a good reason this woman is considered to be one of the best actresses of this generation and why people with my geek circles say she was the perfect casting choice for Amanda Waller despite all of us agreeing that “Suicide Squad” being a terrible film overall since Davis is an actress with such a great level of command and authority that she could easily trick me into thinking that she could become president. As the films focus, Davis’ Vernonica is a character that is a character that is haunted by flashbacks of life with her husband (played by my future husband, Liam Neeson), cradling her little white dog like a lost child (as well as obvious symbolism that is carried out throughout the film).  All this might come off as standard and I wouldn’t say that is the case (but I can’t explain why because that would delve into spoiler territory), but the thing that really wins me over the character is how the film went about her struggles, both on a technical level and on the basis of the script. Bobbitt’s cinematography may catch her grieving in close-up, but its Davis’s silences that speak loudest. In one of the film’s most spine-tingling moments, she hesitates before a closed door, saying nothing but expressing everything and I understood everything that was going on inside her head, thanks to both Davis’ acting as well as the previous scenes informing the character that prevent this film from being an abstract piece of nothing like most films by Terrence Mallick. Although Davis has already won a supporting actress Oscar for “Fences”, Davis’s astounding performance deserves to attract best actress attention at the forthcoming Academy Awards. Yet in a collaborative effort almost overburdened by outstanding work, it seems strange to single out any single element for recognition since everyone else in this film also gave us some pretty stellar performances (even actresses who I usually don’t like such as Michelle Rodriguez), but saying that Davis was the films biggest strength would be a bigger understatement than saying Monica Belluci is Italian beauty perfection.

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Speaking of visuals, this is one of the most artistically stunning pieces of work of the entire year. McQueen allows his shots to fully linger on long enough so that they’ll never leave your mind without coming off as the sort of director who wants to jump in front of the camera and shout “ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS! ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS!” which a lot of lingering shots from so called “artistic” filmmakers tend to do. When the heist action does occur, it’s very thrilling and it immediately makes you jump from all of the built-up intensity. This is the sort of the film like “Batman Begins” by Christopher Nolan simply knows how use editing as an effective way to tell a story with it sometimes used as the films way of saying “and then” or “meanwhile”, “however” and the list is endless, all which is used as a way to use juxtaposition between scenes like how the characters grow or as a literal way to get inside of a characters end without coming off as a bit too silly with it like some aspects of “Daredevil” Season 3 fell under, despite myself being a really huge fan of that season of television.

 

VERDICT:

“Widows” truly was a special kind of film for me, especially in a year filled with films that mostly underwhelmed me. This is the right film for me in more way that one, despite what on face value might come off as a film that cares more about inserting its own politics, beneath the surface was a film that knows how to use social commentary as a framework to tell a generally universal story that many of us can appreciate as its appeals to the characters humanity and actions with believable consequences.

 

My score for “Widows” would be a score of 5 symbolic dogs out of 5.

Rating

Widows review: Ocean’s 8 With Some Actual Metaphorical Balls

Bohemian Rhapsody review: A Film That Is Kind of Magic

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As a British man, it is hard for someone like me to not have heard of the band Queen, even if none of my folks were huge fans of the group with my dad being more of a fan of the likes of The Beatles, The Smiths and AC/DC, while my mother was more of a fan of ABBA (it’s safe to say that my father was the one with better taste in music). But honestly, what can I say about the band that hasn’t already been said? There is a good reason why the band is still so fondly remembered after all these years with some of the catchiest and beloved songs to not only come out of the British culture, but western culture in general (with “Another One Bites The Dust” possibly being my favourite song that they’ve produced). So naturally I would be excited for a biopic film based on the band (or more specifically Freddie Mercury) and while the reception for this film has not been the most stellar of responses, I honestly thought this was one of the most enjoyable film experiences that I have had in quite some time and I will explain in this non-spoiler review:

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Let’s get one of the most consistently positive things when it comes to films directed by Bryan Singer and that is the casting and the acting in the film always bring in some top level performances that are usually remembered in years to come. Remember that this is the same man who gave us the likes of Kevin Spacey as Roger “Verbal” Kint from “The Usual Suspects” as well as both Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Sir Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier in his “X-Men” films. Now we can add Rami Malek as the late great Freddie Mercury can now be added to the list of memorable performances, something that even people hated this film can agree with me on. I really hated to use such a pedestrian way of describing such a great performance, but it has to be said: while I was watching this film with a friend of mine as well as her husband, I did not simply see Rami Malek trying to play Freddie Mercury in this film, I just saw Freddie Mercury. Talk about such commitment to a performance and trying to replicate one of the most iconic musicians within history of music cannot be an easy taste, but somehow Malek found a way and I do hope for at least an Oscar nomination for this guy because he deserves it.  But Malek isn’t the only the only actor in this film who is praiseworthy in my mind, I will say Gwilym Lee as Brian May is just as praise worthy as Malek as Mercury, it certainly helps that I’ve watched an interview with May fairly recently and remembering his performance in this film kind of scares me, similar to how Karl Urban was almost beat for me was almost beat for beat DeForest Kelley from the original Star Trek timeline while watching him as Bones in the rebooted Star Trek series.

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Now onto the story of the film, now this is the part of the review in which I am pretty sure a lot of you will claim in which I throw all objectivity out of the window considering how much of a fan of Queen I am. But responses to the film as a biopic is interesting to say the least as far as the comments of the historical inaccuracies of this film goes since many comment on how the film plays itself safe as far as the more questionable and controversy aspects of the history of Queen goes. While I can understand where people who have those issues are coming from, it doesn’t really bother me too much as this film is just as much about the celebration of Freddie Mercury and Queen in general and considering that the producers of this film are two former members of Queen, I am honestly not too shocked that the film was very loose at the bands or Freddie’s more questionable deeds. However, I am the sort of reviewer who is more concerned with how the film goes about it rather than judge the film for it didn’t do and as a celebration of Queen as a band, I would say the film achieves those goals quite admirably. Although the film doesn’t exclude some of the struggles Freddie went through like his sexuality and his coming to realise that he has AIDS, but it is worth mentioning that I’ve always thought that in order to make a victory or a sense of triumph tor truly work in any story whether it is a simple heroes journey or a film based on true events (however fictionalised they become within the product), you have to give such a journey a downfall or a struggle of some kind in order to give such sense of victory a sense of weight that felt earned. And as Freddie himself once said “I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend” and it’s safe to say that for me that this film achieved such a goal as a nice reminder of why I loved the band and it helps that I’ve watched it with a couple who also enjoyed the film just as much and who are also fellow fans of Queen. It also helps that Bryan Singer as well as his replacement director brought back the 1970s visual flare from the excellent “X-Men: Days of Future Past” as this film had a lot of 70s aesthetic behind it that almost makes it feel like a Queen song itself from that era has translated into the visual medium of cinema itself.

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Interestingly enough, I remember for a while before this film was released that I’ve wondered why exactly this film called itself “Bohemian Rhapsody” rather than simply “Queen” or “Freddie Mercury” or anything of that nature. Then I really started to listen to the song and do a little research on the meaning behind the song and it is pretty fascinating to say the least as not only were interpretations for the songs meaning differed from fans, but from band members themselves, whereas Roger Taylor said the actual meaning of the song is “fairly self-explanatory with just a bit of nonsense in the middle”. However, the thing with Bohemian Rhapsody is that, even if there were one intentional meaning to the song, which is unlikely, seeing as several members of Queen helped write it, the band never shared it. Based upon this, the best answer I can give is a mixture of general opinion, and my own on this matter. Based on what I’ve saw in the film and what I know when it comes to Bryan Singer as a person as well as familiar motifs from his previous films (mainly “X2: X-Men United”), I like to say that this film goes by the interpretation that the song as well as the film itself goes along with the rather popular fan theory that it is about Mercury’s bisexuality, the guy accepting his sexuality and the guy coming out of the closet and the writing of Bohemian Rhapsody itself, although this is subject to change. But for example, let’s look at the intro of the song for example which starts outs by saying stuff like “Is this real life?” or “Nothing really matters to me – to me”. Mercury is in a mixture of happiness and confusion – “Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?” shows the feelings he feels around men, feelings which he has seldom felt around women. He is realising, however, that he will have to tell his family and what it means for him (they are zoroastrians, as is he, and sexuality is a hotly debated topic in this religion). This has led to denial, which is incidentally the 1st stage of grief. It foreshadows the decisions he will later have to make. An idea that I feel like the film mostly captures well without becoming too obnoxious or sentimental to the point of being laughable or even being to alienating towards certain group members who so happen to be a fan of Queen.

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However, as much fun as I have had with this film, it is far from perfect as the main issue that I personally had with this film is its rather weird sense of pacing that almost reminds me of the pacing issue that I have with films like “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”. While I say the drama of the film is mostly fine and effective overall with its rather good sense and mix of realism and 1970s fantasy with its good sense of humour and overall humanity that make it such an easy watch for fans of Queen (as well as apparently some people who are not fans of Queen according to a co-worker of mine), there are quite a few moments in the film in which I felt like the film was in too much of a hurry to get to the next scene rather than let the scene itself really sink and let itself have any natural flow to truly impact the rest of the picture. It doesn’t help that you can have a drinking game of the amount of times in which this film relied on montages to the point in which I can perfectly understand why some people would call this film “The Queen Wikipedia Page: The Movie”. But at the same time, I am a little conflicted on whether this is an actual issue with the film itself since judging by the presentation of the picture and as I’ve said before, this film really felt like a picture that was more intended to be a celebration of the band rather than some true exploration or deconstruction of the bands history and conflict and I will be honest that if the films aims was to be a celebration and intended for the audience to have a good time, probes to the film for giving a grumpy young man in his 20s like myself the temptation to sing along with the film as soon as his favourite songs came up. Trust me, I usually don’t go that route, unless the film has done something right before or even after I’ve watched it to truly earn such a reaction from me. Although, I do wouldn’t say no to certain scenes and ideas in the film to get more focus than others.

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The music of the film is pretty much what you would expect from a film based on Queen. If you are at all a fan of songs by the band, then the score and soundtrack of this film is exactly your kind of jam that would put you in a feel good mood that will make you hum to the beats even after you finish watching the film. I know because I went to a pub quiz with the couple that I’ve went with and as soon as we finished the quiz (and came third overall), we’ve asked the DJ on the pub to play “Bohemian Rhapsody” afterwards and we had a good dance afterwards, even if I wasn’t quite the (bad) dancer that I was during my college years.

 

OVERALL:

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was not a master piece by any stretch of the imagination and while I wouldn’t say it is the kind of biopic that uses the genre tropes to tell a story that truly explores the layered psychology of a legendary musician, but really uses the genre as a means of a celebration of the greatest band to come out of the UK.

 

This might come off as too much of a generous score, but my score for “Bohemian Rhapsody” of 4 fabulous ‘taches out of 5.

Rating

Bohemian Rhapsody review: A Film That Is Kind of Magic