Browsed by
Month: November 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

  • Score: 3/5
  • Genre: 3/5
  • Did I enjoy it: Mostly.
  • Did it move me: Here and there (but definitely not everywhere).
  • Rewatch:  Could, eventually, but not planning to.
  • Art/Pop: Pretty Pop
  • Noteworthy/Significant: Academy Award for Rami Malek

Bohemian Rhapsody is a mildly stylish recounting of the rise of the rock band Queen and the life of flamboyant frontman Freddy Mercury. It is limited, though, because it appears uncertain of whether it wants to be the story of the band, which is still playing to this day despite the movie ending in 1985, or the story of Mercury, whose potentially interesting multinational youth we only hear snippets of through dialog, and who didn’t actually die until about 5 years after the movie ends, and during which time he kept, you know, doing stuff. So, it isn’t quite the full Queen story, but a big chunk of it, and it isn’t quite the Freddy Mercury story, but a big chunk of it.

I don’t know, perhaps in a subtle artistic nod, the film’s lack of a coherent identity is supposed to be reflective of Freddy Mercury’s apparent struggles with his own identify, but I doubt it. Brian Singer is a talented director, several of whose films I highly regard, but the majority of Bohemian Rhapsody lacks a certain focus and energy, and seems to be carried aloft more by Queen’s songs than by chemistry, dramatic tension and gripping writing. In fact, the scenes of the film seem like a string of Queen’s and Freddy Mercury’s personal greatest hits, as randomly assembled by the team as your average “best of” album is by some record company middle manager.

Rami Malek is an intense and talented actor who brings a vibrancy to the role, but often seems slightly out of phase with the larger movement of the movie. Some of the best scenes involve him and long time friend/girlfriend Mary Austin, played by Lucy Boynton, as well as the studio scenes of the band working. A nod also to Allen Leach of Downton Abbey fame, who gets to play the bad guy, and does so well.

The music of Queen goes far, but there is simply something missing from Bohemian Rhapsody. Easy come, easy go, I will let this film go.

Review Date: 07/08/2019

First Blood (1982)

First Blood (1982)

  • Score: 4/5
  • Genre: 4/5
  • Did I enjoy it: Definitely.
  • Did it move me: At times.
  • Rewatch:  Yes.
  • Art/Pop: Pop, with some darkness
  • Noteworthy/Significant: Seed film for the 80s action blockbuster genre

There are the Rambo movies, the many sequels of First Blood. They are cheesy 80s style action films (whenever made) of varying quality, but none of any particular quality. Then there is First Blood, which is a different kettle of fish. I notice that it has been rebranded as Rambo: First Blood, which is a patent shame. The Rambo movies are crap — big budget, sometimes enjoyable, and even influential crap, but crap nevertheless. First Blood is a great movie.

Sylvester Stallone, who rose to fame only a few years earlier for his wonderful work on the original Rocky (for which he received an academy award nomination), plays John Rambo, a Vietnam vet who has been wandering the country trying to re-connect with his old war buddies after facing the unfortunately normal re-assimilation-into-civilian-life problems that seemed to have struck the Vietnam-era soldiers the hardest, probably due to the difficult circumstances surrounding the war and the country’s politics in the 1970s. Having just watched his last chance to reconnect fizzle with the news that the last comrade he had to track down succumbed to cancer from Agent Orange, Rambo finds himself hassled by a small town Sheriff as a perceived vagabond and drifter, an assessment which is not completely untrue. The situation soon spirals out of control.

What makes First Blood different from its kin, and certainly its sequels, is the unexpected nuance and subtlety that is there if you only look for it. One would expect this to be easy: good guy misunderstood vet vs. bad guy small-minded corrupt local cops. 

Except that while Brain Dennehy’s Sheriff Will Teasle could have easily been a paper cutout “bad sheriff” he is not. He makes mistakes, but he clearly means to do good for his town. He is judgmental, but in a human foible way. Missteps by him and his men are compounded by very human reactions in a quickly escalating crises where cooler heads do not have time to prevail. The simple truth is that as mildly wrong as Sheriff Teasle’s initial act is, Rambo is depressed, despondent and looking for something to bounce off of. While there is one particularly bad cop on the force, most are just regular Joes. If anything, the film seems to show more cynicism toward the larger entities, including the National Guard, the Feds and and the media, something that is reflective of the era and still resonates today.  Richard Crenna’s DC military officer comes across as an almost intentional stereotype of Washington arrogance, and the scenes between him and Dennehy’s Sheriff Teasle are particularly well-played. 

The action stands the test of time. Coming from the pre-John Woo/Matrix days, it is not super flashy, but has a grit to it that is engaging and visceral. 

Don’t get me wrong, this film does not have the impact of something like The Deer Hunter, but it also is more action-oriented, mainstream and accessible. A powerful, well-edited and and engaging mix of message and entertainment. 

Review Date: 07/07/2019