‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is incoherent, over-produced nonsense

Images courtesy 20th Century Fox.

1/10 The more I learn, the more I realize Bohemian Rhapsody is a vicious, intentionally revisionist insult to Freddie Mercury, the history of rock-and-roll, the very concept of film as an art form and the hundreds of thousands killed in AIDS crisis, but before it is any of that, it is a damn bad movie.

Bohemian Rhapsody is the completely fabricated true story of Queen, from the fictionalized formation of the band, around the mostly made-up tension over its signature song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” through its break-up that never really happened and up to its Live-Aid performance in 1985, which is still considered one of the single greatest rock performances by a band in any context. It centers around the band’s legendary frontman Freddie Mercury (Remi Malek), but completely erases everything that makes him an enduring icon and reduces his 1991 AIDS death to an afterthought.

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‘Suspiria’ is thoughtful, but it’s tough to watch two movies at once

Images courtesy Amazon Studios.

6/10 Suspiria, a forgettable proto-slasher from 1977 that became a cult classic in retrospect, has been remade for 2018, and director/producer Luca Guadagnino has done something rather thoughtful with it. The original is set in West Germany – Freiburg, to be exact – more or less by default, and it’s just a scary movie about witches running a dance company. This new version is explicitly about West Berlin in 1977 and the experience of watching the original with that cultural background.

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Oh look, it’s another ‘Halloween’ sequel

Where the shape’s mask looks pristine in many sequels, Halloween (2018) offers a textured, much older-looking version of the mask for a much older character. It’s a nice touch. Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

4/10 After 40 years, it’s finally here — the 11th Halloween movie!

Yeah, there are 10 others, but this one is different! This one ignores the preceding continuity — well, the 10, 20 and 30 year anniversary sequels all did that as well, so I guess that part isn’t unique. This one brings back Jamie Lee Curtis — oh, no, a lot of sequels did that. But this one has her children — oh, so did the 20 year anniversary movie, H20: Halloween 20 Years Later. It looks like the only movie producers were hoping we wouldn’t forget about was the 1978 original.

Forty years after the events of the original Halloween, we return Haddonfield, Illinois to meet a Laurie Strode (Curtis) who has been unable to live a normal life. Her mind and decisions have been dominated by the unresolved trauma of the massacre 40 years prior. She’s become a prepper who obsesses over Michael Myers’ (James Jude Courtney with original actor Nick Castle reprising his role in one shot) legal proceedings, an obsession that has ended two marriages and estranged her from her daughter, Karen Nelson (Judy Greer), and granddaughter, Allyson Nelson (Andi Matichak).

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You’ve probably already missed ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

After breaking out as an action star in Thor, Chris Hemsworth doesn’t get nearly enough credit as a dramatic actor. His versatility is on full display in Bad Times at the El Royale as a freakish cult leader who crashes the movie two hours in. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox.

8/10 I remember an era in my youth, before Marvel, before Lord of the Rings, when you could go see a movie and have it just be a movie. Any given show was expected to provide its own, complete world with a beginning, middle and end that made sense fully within its own context, with foreshadowing for sequels that weren’t guaranteed and pandering to fans of esoteric source material kept to a bare minimum. Movies that didn’t have a history in other media. Movies that couldn’t skate by on being the sequel to this or a prequel to that or “from the producers of” some other damn thing. Movies that had to stand on their own two legs, made for audiences that wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less. Good times.

Bad Times at the El Royale opens with a long take of Felix O’Kelly (Nick Offerman) burying something in the floorboards in a room at the El Royale Hotel, straddling the border of California and Nevada somewhere just west of Reno. Ten years later, four strangers, vacuum salesman Seymour “Laramie” Sullivan (Jon Hamm), Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), blues singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) and the mysterious Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), arrive at the hotel, now all but abandoned, each with a secret to hide and hoping for a smaller crowd. The group clashes in an extended second act before judgement arrives in the form of California cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth).

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‘First Man’ puts man on Moon, won’t put camera on tripod

This shot didn’t even make it into the final film. Or it might have and I missed it. I honestly wouldn’t know. (Images courtesy Universal Pictures)

3/10 April 20, 1962, less than 60 years after mankind first took wing. In the experimental North American X-15 hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft, Neil Armstrong climbs to 207,500 feet, more than seven times the height of Mount Everest. Armstrong attempts to dive back to Earth, but the aircraft bounces off the outside of the stratosphere. His control surfaces find no purchase on the thin air around him, and the X-15 begins to fall uncontrollably into outer space. Using the reaction control system, spacecraft thrusters designed to maneuver even in the endless vacuum, Armstrong banks the craft sideways and slices his way back into the atmosphere.

His pen and other knickknacks begin to float as tidal forces warp inside the cockpit. Though it was surely a top-of-the-line aircraft for its time, the X-15 feels like it could fall apart at any minute. The 2018 audience has truly stepped into a plane built in the 1960s. The camera stays in the cockpit and fixates mostly on Armstrong’s face, every blast of turbulence magnified by the seemingly unlatched camera’s bouncing. In surely one of the most pulse-pounding cold opens in cinematic history, First Man genuinely makes viewers feel that Armstrong is in mortal peril years before his final triumph.

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