Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

bohemian rhapsody poster

The first proper album I ever bought was Queen’s A Kind of Magic. I sort of remember the Live Aid concert (I was a little young!) which forms the framework for this bio-pic of, if not the band, certainly lead singer, Freddie Mercury.

I’m still struggling to completely have an opinion on the movie. I *loved* the 2+ hours in the cinema – I laughed, I sniffled, and I could not sit still with the fabulous music. Is it a good movie? I dunno, but it was fun. Is it an accurate biography? I have no idea – certainly the timelines are messed about a little for dramatic effect, but I have to assume that band mates and producers, Brian May and Roger Taylor, weren’t going to let anyone be too mean to the late, great Freddie.

Certainly it all starts well. Moving away from his parents’ traditional family life, Farouk Bulsara offers to replace the singer in Brian and Roger’s band. From the first moment, his showmanship starts to grow and we get a super-speed through Queen’s creation and rise to mega-stardom, with some nice scenes of certain songs being crafted.

The real focus of the plot, however, isn’t the band but the frontman. Freddie has to come to terms with fame, his family’s disapproval of his lifestyle choices, his sexuality, and how these things collide. Fame and fortune aren’t guards against loneliness. Adrift in his own life, he’s easy pickings for the unscrupulous. He does come across a little as a victim, with perhaps hints that the ‘scandalous’ lifestyle was more association and gossip than reality, which may or may not be true.

You can’t review Bohemian Rhapsody without heaping praise on Rami Malek. The climax of the movie – that Live Aid set – is played almost in full. As the camera pulls out over the massive audience, I actually wondered if the big screens at the side of the stage were playing the real footage, so spot-on is Malek’s physical performance.

Absolutely recommended. Make up your own mind on how well it all fits together, but you are guaranteed a foot-stompingly great soundtrack along the way.

Released: 24th October 2018
Viewed: 26th October 2018
Running time: 134 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 8.5/10


Venom (2018)

venom poster

Investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is having a run of bad luck – losing his job, his girlfriend, and his home – when things take a turn for the worse. Trying to get his revenge on totally-not-Elon-Musk entrepreneur and space nut, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Eddie breaks into a lab that turns out to be holding an alien symbiote – which decides Eddie is just the host it needs.

Venom is a Spiderman villain, and the announcement of this Spider-verse movie without the webslinger always sounded a bit odd. However, that’s one bit of this movie I did like: the focus is on the villain, not the yawn-some conflict with a superhero, meaning the character is far from the usual one-dimensional offering.

And, Tom Hardy is pretty darn good at playing crazy, as he holds conversations with himself and reacts to the voice only he can hear, saying such wonderful things as “Let’s bite off all the heads – pile of bodies, pile of heads.” The CGI is… fine?

Alas, that about ends the things that were particularly good about this movie. When it hit one of the highs, it was very enjoyable – but most of the movie was not at that level. The plot is a bit meh, the baddy is as one-dimensional as a regular superhero villain, and Michelle Williams’ girlfriend role is not good.

I did enjoy this well enough as I watched, but I won’t be looking to see it again. I might hope a sequel could build on the strengths, as this is an interesting way to add to the very very crowded superhero market. But I’m too ‘meh’ about this one to care if they don’t try for a follow up.

Released: 3rd October 2018
Viewed: 26th October 2018
Running time: 112 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 5/10

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

bad times at the el royale poster

When several strangers turn up at an otherwise deserted hotel, there’s no prizes for guessing that each has their own secrets. And indeed, the hotel itself may not be all that it seems…

There’s a lot to like about this movie. After a super-noir 1950s opening, the bulk of the movie is set in 1969. The period-ness is very appealing although it’s worth knowing a little about the era to get some of the (veiled) references – JFK’s assassination (1963 but still raw), Nixon’s presidency, the moon landing, the Charles Manson cult murders – this backdrop is worth being at least superficially aware of.

The story is told using the hotel as a framing reference, so characters are referred to by their room number on old-fashioned title cards between sections. As well as unravelling the mysteries of what each is doing at the El Royale, flashbacks give us more detail about each life: the femme fatale, the priest, the vacuum salesman, and the black woman in a time that isn’t kind to either of those things. The hotel itself is a great setting, full of its own mysteries.

I also really liked the Pulp Fiction-esque zig zagging with the timeline a little, so that key scenes can be viewed from different points of view. All done very well.

However, one character’s background involves adding a new face to the group, who rather parachutes in for the third act, changing the story and not, in my view, for the better. It feels just a little bit disappointing to change direction at this point, as if no one was quite sure how to contain the story that’s already on the go. And, while I am in the half of the audience that, urm, appreciates Chris Hemsworth’s abs rather a lot, I’m not entirely sure a character whose main appeal is being shirtless for most of his scenes is entirely in keeping with the rest of the story.

So… yes, recommended, especially the first two thirds. The ending isn’t bad by any means, but I left with a vague ‘meh’ that the wonderful atmosphere and quirky story telling could have been done just a little more justice in the overall.

Released: 12th October 2018
Viewed: 12th October 2018
Running time: 141 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 7.5/10

A Simple Favour (2018)

A Simple Favour poster

Single mom Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) has a seemingly perfect life: bubbling with energy, running half the school committees, and host of her own cookery vlog. But one day she meets fellow mom Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) and finds a new level of ‘perfect’. Which woman has it better? Perhaps their growing friendship – however odd Emily seems – might have improved things for both women, until the day that Emily disappears.

I absolutely loved this movie, despite a few inconsistencies in tone. The beginning and end are definitely black comedy, but in the middle things just get a fair bit darker and less fun. There are twists I did and didn’t seem coming, but through it all I was completely engrossed.

There was something here that made me think, too. The two ‘perfect’ lives are of course anything but, and the slow reveal of secrets is very well done. That said, it’s easy to see why Stephanie finds Emily so inspiring – I, too, was eyeing up Blake Lively’s wardrobe and music tastes and overall chicness, and thinking ‘wow’. Ironically, on-screen hubby isn’t quite up to Ryan Reynolds standards, but amusingly enough her tipple of choice is Aviation Gin…  😉

This is one to see without spoilers, but definitely one to see, I reckon. Like the character’s lives it’s not quite perfect, but it’s a cleverly done thriller with eye candy to spare.

Released: 20th September 2018
Viewed: 23rd September 2018
Running time: 117 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 9/10

The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)

House with a Clock poster

Orphaned Lewis Barnavelt goes to live with his eccentric uncle, Jonathan (Jack Black). From the moment he enters his new home, however, he can tell something isn’t right… stained glass windows that rearrange themselves, an armchair that’s never where you left it, were those tentacles purple!?, and so many clocks – but not all the ticking is coming from them…

Lewis is soon learning magic from his warlock (“More than just a boy witch!”) uncle and strange neighbour (Cate Blanchett). But the ticking goes on, and Lewis’s attempts to fit in lead to some disastrous decisions.

I’ve not seen the Goosebumps movie, but kid-friendly horror starring Jack Black does sound familiar. He plays pretty much the same character he always does, but it works well with the creepy yet family-friendly vibe here – which, to be fair, is about the only level of ‘horror’ I’m okay with these days! Child star (Owen Vaccaro) manages not to be too annoying despite the character’s moments of neediness. Stand out for me (always!) is the lovely Ms Blanchett, rocking a purple wardrobe and swapping insults with Jack Black in a humorous fashion.

I’ve also not read the book this was based on, but there are many ideas here that intrigue me. The 1950s setting, the use of WWII as a catalyst for magical issues – I’d like to read more of this. The visuals are a high point of the screen version, right enough.

Director Eli Roth is not known for children-appropriate movies, being one of the drivers of the ‘torture porn’ genre. It’s an odd mix, and I think pushes the boundaries just a little in odd ways. For instance, creepy as heck puppets, and there’s a scene with a ‘baby’ that I found rather… unsettling.

My level of halloween movie, this is a decent enough younger scares kind of a flick without being particularly outstanding.

Released: 21st September 2018
Viewed: 15th September 2018
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7/10

The Predator (2018)

predator poster

It’s been over 30 years since Arnie first encountered the Predator in the jungle, would you believe? I’m not as huge a fan as some, but director Shane Black (who coincidentally was also the Pred’s first victim in the original!) clearly is, and this movie does a great job at following on with great nods back.

When army sniper Quinn McKenna sees an alien ship land, those in the know would rather send him to the looney bin than risk word getting out. Too late, he’s already sent some evidence home, much to the delight of his Asperger’s-suffering young son. Looking for revenge for his slaughtered team, Quinn gathers the other inmates and goes after the creature, with the help of a biologist called in to explain the strange discovery in the beast’s DNA…

This was a whole lot more fun than it had any real right to be, I think. The nostalgia vibe is strong, adding to the laughs, and it never takes itself too seriously. For daft B-movie gore, this ticks a lot of boxes. However, it does get a bit too frenetic and when the violence comes from the humans rather than the aliens then it feels a bit off at times.

I’m surprised at the number of familiar faces in the cast, too, including Thomas Jane (The Expanse), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, Handmaid’s Tale), and Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones), none of whom have particularly meaty roles but hopefully were having a lot of fun!

Also, the ‘blood splatter’ was rather effective in 4DX… o_O

Released: 12th September 2018
Viewed: 14th September 2018
Running time: 107 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 6/10

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

spy who dumped me poster

When Audrey (Mila Kunis) discovers that her ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux) is actually a CIA spy, she and best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) are soon caught up in a deadly espionage game that leads them all over Europe and through more wacky situations than you could shake a loaded gun at. Who, if anyone, can they trust?

I went into this expecting a daft comedy and I was not disappointed. It’s not a spoof, the spy side is pretty gory and violent, but over that we have our two leads bumbling through in all sorts of humorous ways.

And… that’s about all there is to say about it, to be honest. It’s not deep or meaningful in any way. I adore Kate McKinnon and it’s great that she gets almost a co-lead billing here. I spent too much of the movie wondering where I’d seen spy Sebastian (Sam Heughan) before (he’s Jamie from Outlander, apparently).

I wasn’t rolling about laughing, and there are almost as many winces as chuckles, but actually it worked. Two ‘funs’ up 😉

Released: 22nd August 2018
Viewed: 1st September 2018
Running time: 117 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 6.5/10