“Bohemian Rhapsody” hits theaters this weekend

The long-awaited Queen biopic arrives this weekend. The reviews are a bit mixed, but even the less complimentary reviews acknowledge it’s a fun ride celebrating the music and career of this great rock band. Also, most praise the performance of Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. With Queen’s amazing music on full display, it’s hard to imagine this one won’t be fun, even if it isn’t the most nuanced story one could tell about this band.

  

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RIP Dino De Laurentiis

Another link to cinema’s past has left us with the passing of the legendary Italian and eventually American producer at age 91. A truly old school style movie mogul with all the good and bad that went with that, creatively speaking, Dino De Laurentiis was instrumental in launching the worldwide vogue for European cinema, particularly in his partnership with fellow powerhouse producer Carlo Ponti and ultimate Italian auteur Federico Fellini.

During a period I personally consider Fellini’s creative prime, De Laurentiis co-produced two of the director’s most powerful films, the classic tearjerker “La Strada” with Anthony Quinn and the great Giulietta Masina, and “Nights of Cabiria” also with Masina, a great tragicomedy and a huge personal favorite of mine. He also produced two now somewhat obscure adaptations, a version of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with Audrey Hepburn and “Ulysses.” Fortunately, the latter was not an adaptation of the James Joyce stream-of-consciousness meganovel, but Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and starred Kirk Douglas in the heroic title role.

No snob, De Laurentiis had a gift for commingling arthouse fare, quality middlebrow entertainment, and complete schlock — some of it fun, some it merely schlocky. Geeks cried foul when he eschewed stop-motion for an unworkable animatronic monstrosity and, mostly, Rick Baker in a monkey suit for his silly mega-blockbuster remake attempt, “King Kong,” but that movie was a classic when compared to something like the hugely regrettable killer-whale flick “Orca.”

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It’s your Yom Kippur Friday movie news dump

Yom Kippur is the holiday where one abstains from worldly pleasures of all kinds, including eating and drinking, and reflects on spiritual and moral values, atoning for one’s sins, and becoming a better person. In other words, just another day in Hollywood!

*  The big news right now is the bombshell, but not unexpected, admission to the New York Times by Casey Affleck that “I’m Still Here” is a fictional film. Moreover, Affleck still may not have come completely clean because he stated that David Letterman wasn’t in on the truth during the notorious interview with star/co-conspirator Joaquin Phoenix. Via Company Town, we learn that Letterman writer Bill Scheft is comparing what went on to Andy Kaufman stunts and even took credit for one of the lines.

Joaquin Phoenix in A lot of people apparently think that Affleck, perhaps more than Phoenix, has some atoning to do, including Anne Thompson. I guess I can understand her frustration at being manipulated and lied to, but ultimately, it’s only a movie and we in the show biz press have all the credibility of car salesmen. Also it is, after all, a movie. From everything I’ve heard about the film, the far greater sin would have been if it had actually been real.

* Orthodox Jewish-bred Israeli-Brit Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be well on his way to a Shana Tova (good year). He’ll be moving into the world of “serious” acting in a planned biopic about the late multitalented Queen singer/songwriter/pianist Freddie Mercury to be written by the exceedingly busy docu-drama specialist Peter Morgan. I’ve read some ethnic quibbles somewhere (sorry, lost the link) since Mercury’s family hailed from parts of Asia. It seems to me the physical resemblance tells the tale and is no more offensive than the multi-ethnic Asian-Caucasian-Native American Lou Diamond Phillips playing a Mexican-American teen in “Stand and Deliver,” despite having not a drop of Latino blood in his veins. All ethnicities are really ethnic mixes anyhow. I can’t count the number of times I assumed someone was Jewish only to find out they were actually a mix of other groups that just came out looking all Jewy or people who look Latino who are actually Eurasian, etc.

No one seems to know whether Cohen, who can sing a little, will sing his own part. Considering Mercury’s remarkable voice, I wouldn’t complain if they simply used the old recordings. If it was good enough for “The Jolson Story” it’s good enough for this.

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“Midichlorian Rhapsody”

Freddie Mercury of Queen very sadly passed on back in 1991. On the plus side, that meant he never had got to miss the second “Star Wars” trilogy. Ironically, however, some very talented but so far nameless musical types have married Mercury’s most famous composition to those misbegotten prequels. The result is, needless to say, a lot more entertaining than their source material.

H/t Pajiba.

  

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American Idol: to cha ching or not to cha ching

Last night before the 11 hopefuls took the stage on American Idol,” judge Simon Cowell told Ryan Seacrest and all of us who cared to listen that he thought it was a critical night for the singers. That’s because the one that goes home this week will miss out on the American Idol summer tour. Only the Top 10 go (I’ve never quite figured out why the 12 finalists don’t all go), which means the 11th place finisher may miss out on all that tour dough. Seriously, that’s huge…and I’m glad Simon pointed it out. However, not too many of the contestants sounded like they were singing for their lives last night. Again. Oh yeah, and Miley Cyrus was the “mentor” this week, and I think we have to use “mentor” in very loose terms here. Here is the recap….

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