This Is a Movie Review: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is a Thoroughly Generic Music Biopic

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CREDIT: Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally published on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker

Director: Bryan Singer*

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for The Typical, Though Far From the Most Decadent, Rock Star Lifestyle

Release Date: November 2, 2018

About halfway through Bohemian Rhapsody, Mike Myers shows up as a record executive, and I am not sure if this casting was a good or bad idea. He’s got messy curls and patchwork facial hair that makes him look Will Ferrell as Gene Frenkel in the “More cowbell” sketch. He is adamant against Queen releasing the film’s namesake song as a single, certain that its nonsense lyrics and operatic structure will prevent it from ever being something that teenagers will bang their heads along to in the car (thus cheekily referencing the song’s most famous cinematic appearance). This scene is much more directly comedic than the rest of the film, offering an oddball flavor that could easily result in a tonal clash. The trouble is, the tone for just about every other scene can be summed up as “flavorless.” Myers’ committed character work might not truly belong, but it’s too hard to tell, because Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the most generic music biopics ever made.

On the one hand, there are plenty of cookie-cutter entries in this genre, but if anything could break the mold, one would think the story of Queen as directed by Bryan Singer and starring Rami Malek as one of the most electric rock stars of all time would have been a prime candidate. The problem might be with Singer himself, or his lack thereof. The X-Men and Usual Suspects director was failing to show up to set during production (some reports say it was due to a family health matter, while others noted that he was clashing with Malek), and he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher towards the end of principal photography (although per Directors Guild ruling, Singer retains sole directorial credit). The resulting product has an appropriately nameless visual aesthetic, with inexplicable shots of concert footage that rob the band of its dynamism. A few moments show off Singer’s signature kinetic flair (like the marathon recording of “Bohemian Rhapsody”), but overall this one has a real Alan Smithee feel to it.

If you love Queen, you can at least derive some enjoyment out of how thoroughly Malek conjures Freddie Mercury. And with a discography as eclectic and bombastic as Queen’s, it is impossible to not find at least a little positivity out of two hours jam-packed with their songs. But that deep musical lineup only underscores how much of a wasted opportunity Bohemian Rhapsody is.

Bohemian Rhapsody is Recommended If You Like: The Queen songbook

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Galileo’s

*-Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher towards the end of principal photography, but Singer has retained sole directorial credit, in accordance with Directors Guild of America rules.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Breathe’ Advocates Overcoming Polio for the Sake of Picnics

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CREDIT: Laurie Sparham/Bleecker Street/Participant Media

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2017.

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander

Director: Andy Serkis

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for the Medical Realities of Treating Polio

Release Date: October 13, 2017 (Limited)

It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do. After Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield)  is confined to a hospital bed due to paralysis from polio, he is all set to be resigned to a quick death. But then his wife Diana (Claire Foy) springs him out against doctor’s orders and gets him set up more permanently with a ventilator at home. They gradually become even more adventurous, lugging Robin (and the machine keeping him alive) along on a vacation to Spain and a medical conference in Germany. With Diana, their son Jonathan, dog Bengy, and plenty of other friends and family accompanying him on all these experiences, polio is no big whoop. He has plenty of reasons to live and remains unfailingly his slyly humorous self, now with an extra added gallows edge.

As dramatized in the film, Cavendish died in 1994 at the age of 64, 36 years after contracting polio, making him one of the longest-living responauts in British history. “Responaut” refers to someone who is permanently dependent upon a ventilator for breathing. It is also just a cool word in and of itself. Unfortunately, Breathe only uses that word once. It is simply an unconscionable fail to leave that opportunity on the table. This could have been a much more twisted and radical movie if its most commonly used word were “responaut.” I think the real Robin would have approved.

As it is, though, it is a perfectly agreeable film about defying the medical status quo and basking in the English countryside. The latter especially. Breathe would probably claim its raison d’ȇtre is the power of convincing medical professionals to go deeper and see towards the future. And indeed there are so many scenes of people being amazed that polio patients are actually able to go outside. But I see what Englishman Andy Serkis, in his directorial debut, is really up to. His message is clear: if you’re a Brit, paralysis is no big deal, so long as you can go out and picnic while taking in all the lush greenery, dense trees, beautiful fountains, and cricket matches. Do we have some stealth environmentalism going on here? Let’s learn from the past and not let Mother Nature contract polio!

Breathe is Recommended If You Like: Beautiful vistas, A Beautiful Mind, Inspiration to get yourself through medical school

Grade: 2.75 out of 5 Disabled “Prisoners”

This Is a Movie Review: Tulip Fever

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At the end of Tulip Fever, I thought, “Oh, that’s what that was all about.” It ultimately becomes clear that there is an incredible amount of kindness inherent to the main characters. They struggle because they find themselves in situations that are far from ideal and beyond their control, but they ultimately find a way out. That is a fine bit of satisfaction. But for the first 95%, the floral mania is totally confounding and there is little in the way of enjoyability beyond the (not-that-out-of-place) comedic relief from Zach Galifianakis and Christoph Waltz’s nicknames for his penis.

I give Tulip Fever 1 Bulb Just Barely in Bloom.