His Dark Materials
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Bohemian Rhapsody isn't the kingly biopic of Queen that it thinks it is. Possibly the most frustrating cinema experience I've had all year. Why? Squandered potential. It's Queen. Quite possibly the biggest rock band to ever exist. Influential to millions. Idolised by thousands. The risks they took with their musicality and stage appearances were aspirational. And yet here we have a biopic that, whilst undoubtedly entertaining, just doesn't know what it wants to be. Chronicling the formation of Queen, Freddie Mercury rises to fame as their lead singer and soon starts clashing with the other band members. Malek singlehandedly saved this film. His performance was both transformative and engrossing, occasionally fully embodying Mercury's eccentric personality. The exaggerated false teeth did initially distract me, but these are diminished once the story starts to unfold. The other members were also well acted and certainly looked the part, particularly with the 70s hair styles. The whole plot intelligently culminates to the infamous Live Aid performance that shot Queen's reputation to stratospheric heights, which evidently is the greatest segment of this biopic. It allowed the music to come through and force Mercury's emotions to be conveyed through auditory senses. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is deservedly one of the greatest songs of all time, and just the Live Aid performance alone showed its importance to Mercury and the band. It wants you to sing along, it wants you to tap your feet to the beat. It's infectious. It will leave you wanting to listen to their other fantastic songs. The development beforehand was well paced, nuanced and enjoyable to watch. However, there are two huge detriments to this biopic that lead to an underwhelming result. Bryan Singer's direction and McCarten's screenplay.
Singer is unsure what angle to use to portray Mercury. He had a big career, with personal failures equalling his musical successes. Yet Singer attempts to balance the narrative with Mercury's life and what is essentially Queen's greatest hits. The two do not marinate seamlessly. Is it a Queen tribute? Or a Freddie Mercury biopic? Can it be both? Yes it can. But this is not substantial enough. The band has so much history and acute details that were glossed over in this film, ultimately feeling rushed. The time shifts range from a month to five years. Singer attempts to tackle too much, and it shows. In the first twenty minutes, they've already conceived their first album! That's ludicrous. Then we come to the screenplay. I'm sure Brian May and Roger Taylor's inclusion in this production somewhat hindered the telling of the band's history. It's completely sanitised. The often comedic dialogue juxtaposes the tonal shift of Mercury's eventual loneliness and battle with AIDS. There is literally a scene of Mercury contemplating the idea of conceptualising a solo career, only for the proceeding scene to joyfully create 'Another One Bites The Dust'. The script tries too hard at being a crowd pleaser, that the more important issues are diluted and consequently forms a tonal shift. Sure it allows Malek to show off his acting ability, but at what cost? There's no emotional resonance. Nothing feels memorable. It's a shame, as this could've been an excellent biopic. However the mediocre directing and script really hindered the emotional investment required to make this a successful trip down memory lane. It's a biopic that general audiences will enjoy, it's just not the biopic I wanted.
Geostorm is a disaster of a film. Both ice cold with its one-dimensional characters and blazing hot with its stupidity. A raucous tsunami of unappealing visual effects that never strike a balance between political thriller and global disaster blockbuster. It's hailed as an outdated illogical mess, and I for one agree. Having said that, some moments of enjoyment are to be had if you are willing to suspend your disbelief. A space station that controls Earth's weather system is being hacked and used as a weapon. It's up to Butler to save the day (because apparently no one else can...). It commences with a condescending expositional narration from a child about climate change, and how we as humans have caused this. Make no mistake, it's an important topic. But, it's never referenced in the film again. As if we're being told off and now our punishment is to watch Geostorm. The story balances a political story where NASA employees and secret service agents attempt to work out what the heck is happening, with Butler's heroic bravura as he works on the space station to also investigate satellite anomalies. The former is interesting, the latter is stupid. Let me explain. Watching agents investigate a global investigation where someone wants them dead, is slightly captivating. Witnessing a spacesuit being hacked (me neither...) as Butler attempts his best Bullock impression from 'Gravity', is not fun. The disasters themselves are tertiary, an afterthought if you will and boy do some of them look terrible, particularly the Dubai tsunami. It's another case of characters seemingly outrunning outlandish weather types whilst everyone else melts, freezes or drowns. At least the space station looks decent, so there is some hope! The culprit(s) was obvious and lacked authentic motives. Every character was one-dimensional. And, as always, Butler sacrifices himself...only to miraculously survive. Oh, don't even start on the special code system that him and his brother created. Moronic. If this was released in the 90s, it could've been. It wasn't, and therefore shouldn't have been.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is brimming with memorable characters. Films today just don't have that sense of story and character, it's more visual narrative and overacting. There's no overacting here, every performance is understated in their own unique way. Nurse Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher, is cool, calm and collected and yet her mannerisms exude terror. Her authoritative figure and soft spoken voice just adds to this, so much so that the patients in the state mental hospital are petrified of her. Randle McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, is just a common criminal who to start with plays along with the other patients. However, upon the realisation that he may not ever get out...he starts to find ways in order to escape. I found his performance captivating and clearly he is great and portraying crazy people, just look at The Shining. He is able to control the smaller scenes with his charisma and own the bigger crazier scenes with his excitable energy. His raucous behaviour puts the other patients at risk of certain procedures such as the controversial electro therapy. What really compelled me was the similarities between the mental patients and the outside world, to which McMurphy says that there is no difference. The screenplay for that scene, well every scene actually, brings life to each character. From the first 30 minutes, every character's personality and state of mind is indicated to us. There are no boring characters, each of them have unique qualities and that is something you don't see in every film. Loved the fishing boat scene, adored Chief's and McMurphy's friendship and appreciated the time and effort spent on character interactions. The way they talk to each other in the therapy sessions just felt natural, and to balance the screen time between them all was just genius. You just don't get films like these anymore.
Evil Dead is probably one of the goriest films I've ever seen. I can only assume that the film makers supplied several swimming pools filled with fake blood...because there is so much of it. Blood on the floor, blood on clothes, blood on faces, raining blood, blood on...wait a minute, raining blood!? Yes, it goes to that extreme. So Evil Dead is a remake of the original of the same name, we follow a group of teens in a cabin in a remote location who try to help their friend to stop taking drugs. They find the book of the dead and what ensues is a heck load of blood and gore! Oh, and all of the following: tree rape, slicing tongue and snogging someone, car crushing a girl's hand and her pulling it out...and my favourite, absolutely decimating someone with a chainsaw. I'm talking ripped to shreds! Total annihilation! Ohhhh so satisfying to watch...in a sick weird way. As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the hell out of this and have done for several viewings. It knows exactly what it is, a fun gory flick that does not take itself too seriously. Yes the characters are bland and expendable and yes the acting is mediocre, except Jane Levy who was actually really good. But you didn't watch this for an Oscar nominated performance. No no no you wanted to see a girl slice her mouth open with a shard of glass! I mean the enhanced use of makeup, prosthetics, costumes etc. just made the experience all the more enjoyable and authentic. I appreciated the dark comedic undertone, particularly from the possessed Mia, that definitely harked back to the original. Director Fede Alvarez did a good job, lots of creepy camerawork and I adored the opening bird's eye view shot where the teenagers are driving along the road. His usage of visual exposition, such as flashbacks to the opening scene, were pointless and unfortunately spoon fed us everything. You'll guess the whole plot in the first 10 minutes, which is its downfall. However, I wanted to see gore and it delivered...massively. My advice: don't read a book made of skin and wrapped in barbed wire. Just don't.
A Ghost Story is a thematic contemporary minimalistic piece of cinema that will not appeal to many people. Straight away there were people leaving the cinema or sniggering at the concept. It might sound like a horror film, it is not. Do not watch this expecting jump scares...although, funnily, there were one or two. This is an extremely heavy story that explores deep themes including existentialism, legacy and the passage of time. A couple reside peacefully in a small house until one of them is killed in a car accident and returns in a ghostly form. The ghost is presented simply as a man under some bed sheets with some eyes cut out. Minimalistic. The dialogue is sparse to enhance the visual narration of the story. Minimalistic. The camera, for many scenes, will not move for a good 5 minutes. Minimalistic. The majority of the film takes place in one house. Minimalistic. Ok fine, you get the idea. Director David Lowery did not require a massive budget to convey the idea of time. That's the beauty of this! The purpose is to interrogate the question of: "who suffers the most pain, the widow as they mourn or the ghost that observes them moving on?". An absolutely fascinating premise. Seemingly trapped in the afterlife in what I can only describe as a time loop, the ghost not just observes their widow moving on, but other generations after. An imprisonment fuelled by sorrow. The ghost cannot communicate verbally and yet somehow I felt their pain through the limp and slow movement which made the whole film melancholic. The genius move to have the camera in a 4:3 aspect ratio in order to enhance the idea of being trapped. There were times though that I found Lowery slightly borderline pretentious. A 3 minute take of Mara and Affleck in bed was too slow for its own good. In contrast, Mara eating a pie for a 5 minute take was far more gratifying to watch. I did also find that a scene where a guy talks about legacy and existence just ruined the subtlety that the narrative was clearly trying to convey. Deeply thematic, but borderline pretentious.