Thursday, November 29, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

Today I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek and Lucy Boynton.

The life of Freddie Mercury (Malek) is explored with great flair in this loose retelling, which chronicles his rise to fame with Queen through to their landmark performance at Live Aid.

First of all, it can't be understated how good Malek is at capturing Mercury's movements and mannerisms. If you squint you may just not be able to tell the difference. He was a joy to watch because you could tell he was having a ball portraying this legend.

Second, Mary (Boynton), who many claim was the true love of Mercury's life, is given a respectable place in his history (though before this film casual fans may never have heard of her).

Third, the finale, which replicates the famous Live Aid performance is stunning. Note-for-note, prance-for-prance, it's all there in its incredible glory. I went right home afterward and watched the real performance and marveled about how close the film truly got to it.

Now, for the issues: the creative team took liberties with some key facts, which is forgivable if it makes the story better, but I'd argue that Mercury's story was plenty interesting as it really occurred.

Also, the film is called "Bohemian Rhapsody," and we get teased by seeing how the song came to fruition, but we never get a full performance of it, which I thought was a missed opportunity.

And while we're on the topic of songs, I sort of felt like this was a wanna-be musical that would only tease us with the beginnings of the hits (i.e. "We Will Rock You") and then move on to the next scene before our thirst for the music was quenched.

It was also too long. This is a trend in movies these days, to exceed the standard 2-hour running time, but really, less is more. It could've been shorter or they could have used some of the time they took to remind us of his bisexuality and just played the title song.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Can you ever forgive me?

This morning I saw Can you ever forgive me? Starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

Lee Israel (McCarthy) was an acclaimed writer of biographies in a bit of a slump. Her agent wasn't doing anything to promote the book she was working on and her financial situation was dire. One day as she was doing some research at the library, a personal letter by the author of the book she was reading fell out. She kept it and sold it to an independent bookstore that dealt in collectibles. Amazed by the amount of money she received for it, she came up with a plan to make more.

Because she was such a gifted writer, Israel was able to mimic the style of several long-gone authors and forge believable letters, which she would then "weather" to appear old. She found a few reliable dealers who would purchase from her and made a good living, affording her to catch up on her rent and save her ill cat.

When a savvy customer catches on to her deception, she is blacklisted around town and enlists the help of her only friend Jack (Grant) who enjoys stepping in to take the reigns. Soon enough they're in real trouble and must face the consequences.

Although there were perhaps too many scenes of her sickly cat and too many references to the bugs in her apartment (it's clear that her situation was bad), McCarthy is never boring and the uneven pace is forgivable just to watch her magic. She makes a very unlikable person sympathetic and convinces you to root for her, though she way she treats people (including herself) is awful.

It's sad that someone so talented couldn't sustain success under her own name, but of course the ordeal gave her enough material to write the book upon which this film is based. If she were alive today, I'd bet she'd get a kick out of McCarthy's portrayal of her.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians

Today I saw Crazy Rich Asians, starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding.

American Rachel (Wu) is happy to head to Singapore to meet the family of her boyfriend, Nick (Golding) for a wedding. He doesn't talk much about them, so she's unaware that they are one of the most prominent, wealthy families in the city.

Upon her arrival, she's received in a very cold manner by Nick's mother, who doesn't believe Rachel is good enough for her son. Coupled with that are all the jealous women in Singapore who resent an American claiming the heart of one of their most eligible bachelors. She has to overcome this and Nick has to prove to her he won't side with the community that created him.

The entire film is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad look at the cultural boundaries that often end relationships that would otherwise thrive. The diversity of a fully Asian cast is undoubtedly refreshing (and I love what the success of the film will hopefully do for more non-white filmmakers), but the story is incredibly formulaic and predictable, no matter how appealing the actors are (and they're very appealing).

I enjoyed this for what it was, and would rate it on par with any average romantic comedy. Other than that, it's nothing special.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018


Tonight I screened Widows, starring Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki.

Veronica (Davis) is married to Harry (Liam Neeson), who is a criminal. He orchestrates a heist that goes horribly wrong and his whole crew is killed as a result. When the dirty politician he did business with comes to collect his debt, Veronica is forced to take matters into her own hands.

She enlists the help of her fellow widows from the heist crew to assist her in carrying out a final "job" using meticulous instructions left behind by her husband. Alice (Debicki) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) are hesitant at first, but are also desperate to stay afloat financially, so they agree to the plan. Amidst the back-and-forth are several (unnecessary) supporting characters that don't do much except chew scenery (Colin Farrell and Daniel Kaluuya). There are crooked representatives, white collar men who pay for escorts, saintly drivers, innocent children—you name it, the gang's all here.

Of course Davis can carry any film, no matter how flawed. She's extraordinary alternating between grieving wife, angry widow, badass leader-of-the-pack and fierce opponent. Just to sit and watch her work is worth the price of admission. And there are many clever twists that were fun to absorb although the overall story had too much going on to be truly effective.

I'd say if you just want a ride that bumps and crashes and moves at a fast pace, you may leave satisfied, but if you're craving substance or something more clever than your average thriller you may be disappointed.