Bohemian Rhapsody

Right off the bat, I will say I was not looking forward to Bohemian Rhapsody. The song is fine. And I love Queen! I have very fond memories growing up, watching Wayne’s World and hearing Queen’s greatest hits. My family owned two VHS tapes collecting their music videos. I saw them all the time. I really enjoyed I Want To Break Free because the men were dressed like ladies with facial hair, but the instrumental part freaked me out.

Hey. I was a kid.

But why don’t I care about this film? Because production woes made me indifferent. I was in love with the idea of Sacha Baron Cohen playing Freddie Mercury, it was perfect, and he could sing!

Production woes! Cohen left! Creative differences! The band wanted a feel good movie about the band and PG-13, the actor wanted the real story, the R rated stuff, the Oscar winning Mercury stuff. And eventually we now got this movie. Let’s not forget that the director, Bryan Singer, probable diddler of young male talent in Hollywood, was kicked off the project when it was almost done, and they had to finish it without him.

Even the well edited trailer did nothing to me. I got to hear so many Queen songs in under 3 minutes. With Mercury singing. Is this whole thing going to be a film with Queen songs just spliced on top? Fuck. On my films, even my biopics, I want the actors do the singing, at least in a studio. I don’t need to see Remi Malek doing an air band performance for a few hours.

Mercury
And aerobics!

In the 1970’s, times were changing. Disco wasn’t yet in a full swing, but people still liked music, and still had dreams. Like a young Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek), who later would change his name to Freddie Mercury. He didn’t want a normal job at an airport, he wanted to sing in a band. And he just so happened on a band who just lost their main singer. That is where he met Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy). A guitarist and a drummer. They didn’t want him, due to his teeth and look, but his talent did not lie. They eventually found a bassist in John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) and the rest was history!

Oh, and some more things happened. Not an instant success, but honestly, it didn’t seem to take long either.

They were a band who worked together and competed together. To get songs on albums, to try new things, to go into places they had not gone before. Especially true for Mercury, who found himself eventually with men, despite being married with his long term love, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and with kids.

There were a lot of influences on their music and on their lives. Roadies, managers, other lovers, groupies, fans, and what not. And of course, eventually the story ends in tragedy, but not before one of the best live concerts televised around the world.

Starring Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, and Aaron McCusker.

Band
They definitely look cooler in this picture. Too cool. Ice cold.

Behold, for I am disappoint.

People will praise this movie for several reasons, and these are things you should be leary about. The number one aspect being nostalgia. Hey, they like Queen, so a movie with Queen songs is alright. Just having music that you expect to hear inside of it is not a reason for something to be automatically good. Queen music is expected.

Malek’s performance is praised because he gets to prance about on stage like no fucks are given, with some big facial expressions. But you know what he didn’t do? Sing. I think maybe once, or twice in this movie he actually had to sing, and when he did it was all very little. Basically all of it is just actually Mercury singing and again, if I wanted to hear Freddie Mercury sing, I have YouTube and CDs for that. Is it weird to have a double standard when it comes to performances? I want my actors if they are playing singers to actually sing, but of course I wouldn’t care if an actor is actually playing piano, guitar, or drums, although it can surely help make things authentic.

Honestly, one of my favorite aspects of the film ended up being the other members of Queen. I just loved that these members looked so much like their counterparts, who I recognize from seeing their music videos over and over again. They all also had their own personalities and traits, consistently through the film. I guess it is easy to get them right when the real figures are alive and backing the film. They weren’t outstanding acting performances or taking away from Mercury, but they felt like real people and that was a good change.

The way they chose to portray actual events in the film is really what bugged me. Honestly, it took way too long to have Mercury come out as gay in the film. They had hints about it, like stupid teases. Sure, being gay at that time was way more frowned upon, but as modern viewers, there is no need to keep such an obvious and important focal point hidden. And honestly, about 3/4 of the way through the movie, I was wondering if they would even say the word AIDS in the movie. I almost thought they wouldn’t mention it at all (they did). But they did it first through a weird news cast that Mercury happened to see. And the scene where he went to the hospital and was tested was just so…odd looking. It ended with a fan singing at him, and felt way too much like an awkward TV PSA about…drugs or anything really. It didn’t feel impactful, it felt awkward.

Biopics often have moments where they have people who doubt their talent who later are shown regretting it and being angry. These scenes are ALWAYS bad, and seem petty and unnecessary. But they really went full out with it in this movie. First, they had Mike Myers as the character in question. They made him say a line about how teenagers would never be banging their head to Bohemian Rhapsody, obviously referring to the scene in Wayne’s World decades later. We get to see him angry in his office later in the movie, because why not. Also during the Bohemian Rhapsody scene, it decided to have news/review quotes fly through the screen about how it was a bad song and destined for nothing.

Like, was the entire point of this movie actually to just rub it in some critics faces that people ended up liking Bohemian Rhapsody? Enough to name the Queen biopic after the song (which feels unoriginal and uninspired), just to prove that people like it.

The whole thing is incredibly average and standard as a biopic. This feels like a disservice to a band that was anything but average and standard. And because of that, I disliked it even more. This movie played it safe and boring. I, for one, will be ready for the better film in twenty years.

1 out of 4.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

The Blackcoat’s Daughter, if you check it out on IMDB, says it came out first in 2015. Shit, it must have been in the festival game for a long time.

Because today (March 31, 2017) is its actual release date, at least in this area. Maybe part of it is that it is a foreign film, from Canada! And you know it is indie, because it has a VOD release on the same day as its theatrical release.

But I digress. The real important thing I want to talk about is that this film used to be called February. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is definitely a better title, so if anything, it has props for that. And naming it after a month, and releasing it in a different month is super weird.

Waiting
These poor girls have been waiting patiently for this movie to release for almost 2 months thanks to the title confusion!

This story is about a few girls and a really nice Catholic school. We have Kat (Kiernan Shipka) who is having weird dreams of car crashes, and Rose (Lucy Boynton), an older girl who is afraid she might be pregnant. On an extended break in February, both girls find themselves stuck at the school, neither having a ride home from their parents.

Kat has no idea where her parents are (but assumes they are dead). Rose admits that she “accidentally” told them the wrong date, because she wants to tell her boyfriend about the pregnancy first if she is indeed pregnant. So they are sent to stay with caretakers near the school, because they cannot just live there forever. Rose doesn’t take good care of Kat though, leaving her alone and telling her ghost stories.

But we also have to talk about Joan (Emma Roberts)! She is a weird girl, alone, seemingly homeless. And she gets a ride from strangers because of how cold it is out. Linda (Lauren Holly) and Bill (James Remar) decide to pick her up because Bill says she reminds her of someone. What is her mysterious story and how is she connected?!

Also, demons!

Scream
And she is screaming into bloody hands. Or eating bloody stuff. Or maybe some spicy cheetos?

First of all, let’s just say I don’t have any clue why this movie is called The Blackcoat’s Daughter. I might have missed it. It could have been in a story Rose told. But I don’t know. I would have understood why it was called February at least.

The film itself is very tense and slow. It takes awhile to realize how the girls are connected and the why, but it has some great reveals. The death scenes, unfortunately, feel very realistic. They are not glorified in violence, but they are graphic and still shocking. I was definitely at the edge of my seat by the end.

At the same time, it still was a bit confusing. It was also a little bit too slow at points in the middle. It has an okay story and some decent frights, it just takes awhile to get there.

Roberts/Boynton aren’t the strong suits here, even though I watched it for them. Shipka does really shine in creepiness. It must be those intense Mad Men eyes of hers.

Overall, The Blackcoat’s Daughter has a small scale story, but it offers some real thrills. It just didn’t overall do it for me as a movie and had me lost in a few places.

2 out of 4.

Sing Street

Originally, 2016 was looking to be a poor year for musical films. We would have movies about music, sure, but not enough musicals. Most of them are coming later in the year, up to this point I would say we have exactly 0 for the entire year.

But let’s take a step back and talk about John Carney. When I first saw Once I was disappointed, because it was hyped up as this wonderful musical, so I expected synchronized dancing and ridiculous situations. But it was raw and realistic. On later viewings, I understood it better, but still cannot fully appreciate it. Begin Again I have still only seen once, but thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a very different film, going from indie to main stream, both in theme and reality.

And now we have Sing Street. Another movie about people who just want to play music and make a living off of it. And hey, this one has street in the title, so you know this time the singing on streets is expected and not just a bonus. This time he is returning back to his indie roots and writing a whole lot more music. But this one isn’t about adults. Screw adults. This is about a boy making a band to impress a girl, which is how most bands ever got their starts.

Band
And clearly they are the funkiest teenage group in Dublin!

Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is just a teenage kid, the youngest in his family, and his parents (Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy) are going through a tough time. Hell, this is 1985 Ireland, everyone is going through a tough time. Jobs are getting lost and many Irish youth are flocking to London for work and leaving their homes in a worst state. And now due to their financial state, Conor is transferring schools to a much cheaper Catholic school, where the boys are rough.

And now Conor gets bullied by Barry (Ian Kenny) and the head priest, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). But then he sees her. Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a girl who looks like she belongs in on film, with wild hair and jewelry. She says she is a model, so Conor asks her to be in a music video. After hearing him sing a bit, she agrees once they figure out the details. Great, now he just needs to get a band together.

He gets Darren (Ben Carolan), our little ginger kid who knows people, to be their manager/producer/camera man and introduce him to other musical kids. Conor knows how to play the guitar a bit and sing, but they need more than that. They are introduced to Eamon (Mark McKenna), who plays basically every instrument and owns them all, because his dad is in a wedding cover band. They get Ngig (Percy Chamburuka), Larry (Conor Hamilton) and Garry (Karl Rice) to complete the rest of the band.

Great, he has a band! And now, with the help of his older stay at home stoner brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), he can write some songs, so they can make the music video and maybe win the heart of a mysterious model. You know, while all the other problems are going down. Also featuring Kelly Thornton as his older sister, Ann.

Stoop
Stoop girl afraid to leave stoop?

Feelings, this film is full of feelings, how can I express these, with a sonnnng?

Sing Street was good. It was really good. Carney is some musical directing genius, that is the only way all of this makes sense. I was extremely skeptical going into this film. Based on the description, I took the film to its most basic parts, and all of his movies just sounded the same. I wondered how long he could make similar movies before we stopped caring. Well, after watching Sing Street, I could easily take at least another half dozen of these, as long as the lyrics remain original with a different overall plot.

As advertised, this film is about a boy just trying to impress a girl by starting a band. But the film is more than that. Just like it is more than a comedy. It is certainly more comedy than drama, but it deals with some serious issues involving divorce, infidelity, abuse (sexual and physical), giving up and following your dreams. I technically only cried one and a half times, but I had another half cry on the way home from the film just thinking about some of the plot.

Perhaps the strongest subplot in it is the brotherly bond between Conor and Brendan. Reynor does an incredible job as his pseudo role model while they both live in a house with parents who just don’t understand. Reynor is a complete scene stealer and you can see all of the deeper issues he is working with, culminating with not just one but two powerful emotional climaxes. If it sounds sexy that is because it WAS sexy. Reynor, I judged you badly for Transformers: Age of Extinction, now I want you to become Han Solo and win a supporting actor award for this film.

Reynor
Heh. I said climax.

Ahem. Sorry. The acting from our lead was also good from Walsh-Peelo. In fact, basically the entire band and manager were all first time movie actors. Walsh-Peelo and McKenna were the main two that mattered, but the other boys held their own pretty good. Seeing the transformation of Walsh-Peelo as he learned about new bands was amusing and how he eventually coped with the failing home and school life that made up his current reality.

And finally, the soundtrack for this movie is just a blast. Both the original songs by our boy group and the 80’s music that inspires them create an overwhelmingly nostalgic experience. I have already listened to most of the original songs 3-4 times since watching the movie, thanks to YouTube. My favorite song is called “Up” and you should check it out if you are unsure if you will like the music in the movie.

Thank you Carney, you have given me a great pseudo-musical to give hope to this dry musical year.

4 out of 4.