Tag Archives: Bryan Singer

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Bohemian Rhapsody Review, The story of the legendary rock band Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, leading up to their famous performance at Live Aid.

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Anthony McCarten (story by), Peter Morgan (story by)
Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McClusker.

As a die-hard Queen fan during the height of their popularity, I can confirm many of Bohemian Rhapsody’s historical inaccuracies regarding their career trajectory. The timeline of certain events has been changed, while others depicted in the film didn’t actually happen.

I can also attest that Freddie Mercury’s sexuality was never an issue with fans back then. We always suspected he was gay. We just never cared because his over-the-top flamboyancy perfectly enhanced the band’s bombastic, genre-bending approach to music. Even after media wagons began to circle around Mercury’s private life, none of their so-called revelations seemed particularly scandalous because most of us suspected as much all along. When Mercury publicly disclosed he had AIDS (the day before he died), we were extremely saddened, though not all that surprised.

So no, Queen was not an overnight success, not everything they touched turned to gold and Freddie was not diagnosed with AIDS prior to Live Aid. And if the film omits most of the more sordid details of Mercury’s life, so what? It is obvious from the first frame that Bohemian Rhapsody was put together by people who love the band – and its music – as much as everyone else. Accusations of the film glossing-over the truth are moot points. This is not-so-much a biography as it is a big, sparkling thank you letter to Queen and their legions of fans, both old and new.

As such, Bohemian Rhapsody is fabulous fun, much like Queen’s music. Their humble beginnings are superficially outlined – and greatly condensed – in order to present the Queen we know & love as much as possible. The concert sequences are depicted in all their glamorous glory, as are the band’s numerous numerous musical milestones. With a soundtrack that’s wall-to-wall with Queen’s best-known songs, the film plays very much like a greatest hits album. Historically, some of them appear out of order. “Fat Bottomed Girls,” for example, was not one of their early hits. Within the context of the narrative, however, the song’s timing is perfect. As it appears in the story, “Who Wants to Live Forever” achieves a level poignancy never reached in the movie it was originally written for (Highlander).

Much has already been said about Rami Malek’s amazing performance as Freddie Mercury. It is indeed phenomenal, but the actors playing the rest of the band are just as convincing (and criminally overlooked). While they may not be spitting images of their real-life counterparts (though Joe Mazzello as John Deacon comes damn close), they completely embody Queen’s on-stage moves and mannerisms.

Everything culminates with the band’s now-legendary performance at Live Aid. It wasn’t really a “reunion” as the film suggests (Queen never actually broke up), but by rearranging and altering certain events for dramatic impact, this scene is easily Bohemian Rhapsody’s emotional high point. Watching the band return to glory before a 100,000 fans (and a billion TV viewers) is enough to cause goosebumps. 

Ultimately, we don’t learn much more about Mercury than we did going in (though he appeared to have a lot of cats). The film is narratively disjointed and its historical accuracy is questionable. But as an affectionate tribute to a band we’ll still be listening to 100 years from now, Bohemian Rhapsody captures Queen the way we’d like to remember them: a great band with one helluva charismatic frontman. 

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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Bohemian Rhapsody

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Anthony McCarten & Peter Morgan (story), Anthony McCarten (screenplay)
Stars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee

I’m a sucker for a music biopic. As a musician who played in bands for years, I just lap this stuff up. It was Oliver Stone’s amazing biopic that first introduced me to the music of The Doors and it’s a film I still hold in high regard in this genre. These films are easy to get wrong, though, especially when the band get a say in the script. Ray Manzarek openly hated Stone’s biopic of The Doors and how he was depicted, so it’s a fine line you have to tread between telling an accurate story and telling a story that works dramatically on film.

So what do we have in this case? Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? Well, it’s a little of both. This project has been in development since 2010. Since then it has gone through a lot of different directors and stars, including a very public break-up with Sacha Baron Cohen, whose vision for the film was more about showing the hedonistic life of Freddie Mercury. The remaining band members wanted it to be more about the music so they parted ways.

The director also left the project mid-shoot. Bryan Singer, who is more known for helming superhero movies walked on the project and Dexter Fletcher was called in to finish the film, even though according to union rules he doesn’t get a credit for it.

So it’s been a troubled production to get here, but was it worth it? Well, that very much depends on what you want from this film. If you’re a Queen fan content to see the bands high points re-enacted by a very talented and enthusiastic group of actors, then you’ll probably be happy enough to sit through this with a grin on your face.

However, if you know nothing about Queen or Freddie and are coming to this film to judge it on its cinematic merits, then you may find it lacking. I think this is where you see the remaining band members’ input over the finished article, because there’s none of the dirty laundry that a production without their involvement may have produced and this might’ve given the film more substance. Everything’s just a bit easy in this movie. Freddie meets the band – boom, he’s in! Then they get a record deal, then they do an album and tour which is hugely successful. There’s no struggle. If you were to take this film as the unvarnished truth, it would seem like the band got everything handed to them on a plate and never had a moment of doubt or worry in their lives. The biggest obstacle in this film is trying to convince the record company executive (Mike Myers – look out for the Wayne’s World reference) to release Bohemian Rhapsody as a single. It makes for a feelgood film, but it also makes the film seem a little superficial.

If you’re wondering if this is a Freddie biopic or a Queen biopic, I’d have to say it’s all about Freddie. The other band-members are there, and definitely look the part, but there are never any subplots about what’s going on in any of their lives during this time.

Even though the film does centre on Freddie, it still leaves out a lot of stuff. The racism he had to deal with in the early days is touched on, but he wins over racists in the space of one song and it barely gets another mention. There’s also very little about him concealing his homosexuality. For the most of the film he seems out-and-proud and no one seems bothered by it. I’d like to believe that’s how it was in 1970s Britain, but somehow I doubt it.

The film also fudges the timeline in several places. In the film Freddie tells the band about his diagnosis while they’re rehearsing for Live Aid in July1985, when he actually wasn’t diagnosed until 1987. He also says they haven’t played together for years when they regroup for Live Aid, when they’d actually been on tour from August 1984 to May 1985 promoting their latest album The Works. These things are just moved around to amp up the drama and only a serious Queen nerd would probably know (or care) that they’re wrong, and there are probably many more things that don’t fit the true timeline that others will spot on repeated viewings.

Malek’s performance is gaining almost universal praise, and rightly so. For the first ten minutes you may be thinking ‘that’s not Freddie’ but after a while the line between them disappears. His movements and mannerisms are spot-on, but the film-makers made the wise choice of using the real Freddie’s voice on all the singing scenes. Val Kilmer did a wonderful job of becoming Jim Morrison in The Doors, but Mercury’s vocals were unique and on a whole other level, and I think trying to emulate his voice with another actor or singer would’ve been futile.

The film ends with their show-stopping performance at Live Aid in 1985. The seemless shots moving over a packed Wembley Stadium right up to the stage are impressive and the one section of the film where I saw Bryan Singer’s epic-scale fingerprints, but it really works. The recreation of that performance, with the original audio, gave me chills.

So if you’re looking for some escapist fun with some great music that doesn’t delve too deeply into the seedier side of things, then this film will probably satisfy you, and it may even encourage you to seek out one of the many documentaries on the band if you want to fill in the blanks.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

X MEN APOCALPYSE

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg (screenplay by), Bryan Singer (story by)
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne

Set in the 1980’s, the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

2 years after the successful X-Men: Days of Future Past I was interested to see where the next instalment would take the younger Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Raven and more importantly would it equal the previous or perhaps supersede  it. Quite frankly although it didn’t disappoint, it wasn’t as good as DOFP. The later had the post credit scene setting this movie up and I was excited to see how this would fair.

Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg are terrific writers and we owe a lot to them for their take on this universe and how they manage to appease the movie going public and the devoted comic book fans. In Apocalypse, I felt they played it safe with the usual formula of one of the main three characters conflicted with the other two trying to bring them back. In this instalment, it’s Erik Lehnsherr who is lost….again, although through personal tragedy he is drawn to help the world-destroyer Apocalypse flatten and rebuild the Earth to his plan.

Playing Apocalypse is Oscar Isaac. A fine actor but under the heavy makeup of En Sabah Nur it could have been anyone in there. I’m just glad he wasn’t computer generated completely. Was he that menacing as the movie villain? Not exactly. His plan is to use certain mutants like in a game of chess and the key mutant that he requires to mind control the entire planet is Charles Xavier. Personally I felt the character was a little two dimensional and didn’t add that much weight to the film. I actually preferred Kevin Bacon’s villain Sebastian Shaw who was perfect in “First Class” and although powerful had character and a cunningness about him.

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence again are solid in their portrayals and I’m glad to see all three of them are back for next years X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2018) We finally see McAvoy go all Patrick Stewart and lose his hair, Lawrence as Raven / Mystique is conflicted as usual but to be fair shows more authority in this movie than previous where normally she would be a bit of a lone wolf, here she is a team player. Fassbender is really coming into his own with his character and although I loved Ian McKellen’s Magneto, I must admit I am becoming a fan of Fassbender’s earlier version. Supported by Nicholas Hoult as Hank / Beast and the return of Rose Byrne’s Moira Mactaggert the cast was excellent and I was interested to see how the “new” mutants Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers / Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) would slot into this timeline. Thankfully they all performed well and again I look forward to seeing them in the next movie Dark Phoenix.

Going back to Singer and Kinberg “playing it safe. I felt the cameo from Hugh Jackman was unnecessary and it worked okay in First Class as a one off funny scene. Here there is no humour but it kinda reeks of no confidence adding him to this film. He doesn’t serve any purpose and although only in the film for about a minute I felt they should have left Logan out of this and show a bit more faith and confidence in the existing portrayals by McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence who are now in their third movie.

Visually some of the effect shots looked a little poor and off putting. To compare I would say some of them reminded me of Attack of the Clones and that’s me putting it nicely. The storyline as mentioned is simple and straightforward and the finale is a little predictable. Overall I was a little disappointed with this instalment after the successful DOFP and I understand that it was always going to be tough to match that film. Apocalypse isn’t the worst film in the franchise by any means and it’s enjoyable to watch a few times. I hope X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2018) is a lot darker and it appears that the franchise may be going in that direction with the releases of Deadpool (2016), Logan (2017) and the upcoming The New Mutants (2018) all going down a darker route. I would recommend Apocalypse to anyone who enjoys the series but don’t go into it like I did with high expectations.

Valkyrie (2008) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

VALKYRIE

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Nathan Alexander
Stars: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Carice van Houten

A tense, taut film about a group of German conspirators who attempt to murder ‘Der Führer’ on the 20th July, 1944. That’s the setting of Bryan Singers Valkyrie, a film that features an excellent cast and by Hollywoods standards, a reasonably accurate depiction of the plot itself.

It follows Claus von Stauffenberg, a German colonel and aristocrat who, along with other conspirators, came the closest during WWII to successfully assassinating Adolf Hitler at his notorious Wolf Lair in East Prussia.

I’ll get the negative out the way early. I was slightly disappointed at it’s tendency to shy away from bringing attention to the intricacies of Von Stauffenberg and the others motivations, not to mention chequered backgrounds . It felt like a deliberate attempt to create a distinct black and white, good versus evil story. This is perfectly understandable, especially when marketing it to mainstream, non-war buff, audiences, but it was an annoyance nonetheless. I feel like a large part of this may have been down to Cruise’s inability to play anything other than a heroic character.

For instance, von Stauffenberg, the lead conspirator, was an active solider, an aristocratic and, despite not officially joining the party, a staunch nationalist who happily championed Hitler in the early stages of his chancellery and indeed of the war. A devout catholic however, he soon became disillusioned with the Nazi regime when evidence of their cruelty became apparent, hence the decision to try and topple them. He was no second coming of Gandhi though and I feel a smidgen of context like this on the backgrounds of these men would’ve added so much more to the film and their development.

It’s a predominantly English spoken film, which usually grinds on me. A German dominated cast with subtitles would’ve been preferential, but I’ll give them a bye on that, especially with the cast they assembled and the fact it opened in German before switching.

The plot is pretty self explanatory really. It opens with von Stauffenberg serving in North Africa, before his jeep takes fire from an enemy plane, leaving him minus a hand and an eye, and with a new found desire to topple his leader. The rest of the film pretty much follows his attempts to recruit co-conspirators to his cause, lay the groundwork for the regime coup, including a tense scene with Hitler signing a document (didn’t happen in real life, but hey, artistic license), with it all culminating on the fateful date of July 20th. The final half hour or so focuses on the aftermath and the growing realisation of their failure.

Tom Cruise isn’t known for playing these type of characters, usually playing it safe and plumping for action roles instead, but I have to say the resemblance was uncanny and he did a pretty decent job for the most part. Bill Nighy was excellent as Freidrich Olbricht, the man who’s dithering played a large part in the failure of the coup. Terence Stamp as Ludwig Beck and David Schofield as von Witzleben were equally impressive, whilst Kenneth Branagh was decent enough without ever really imposing himself on any of the scenes or film. Tom Wilkinson’s Friedrich Fromm was a treacherous git and annoying, so credit for that, unless he’s equally annoying in real life, in which case I reserve the right to withdraw.

One real strong point in Valkyrie is the visuals, costume design and set design. They managed to perfectly capture the feel of 1940s Berlin. I’m aware of issues they had filming on location at some of the historical sights in the German capital, but thankfully they were eventually given permission and it’s a nice touch. The Wolf’s Lair scenes were very cool and gave an insight into a notoriously secretive location.

In the end, I enjoyed Valkyrie. It was a very well cast film and an enjoyable watch. It had moments of real tension and the final half hour is an excruciating watch. You find yourself willing them to succeed despite knowing they ultimately fail. There is some issues in there for sure. Most notably the 2D characters on the conspirators side, who could’ve been developed better and that were often made out to be heroic angels fighting for world peace when the reality was decidedly more complex.

Still, I’d recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in WWII.

Rating: 3/5

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg (screenplay), Jane Goldman (story by)
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender

With Bryan Singer back to basically do a “Doctor Sam Beckett” from Quantum Leap and put right what once went wrong he has the freedom of time travel to unravel the majority of plot holes from the disaster that was “The Last Stand” and a few little niggles from the impressive “First Class”

With the Movie opening in a bleak future controlled by Sentinels which are mutant hunting machines that can eliminate any mutant despite their powers. The Sentinels are adaptive and have the ability to counteract any of the abilities the last of the mutants are capable of and destroy them.

With only a few mutants left they have discovered a way of going back in time a few days earlier through the mind to warn their previous selves of any upcoming attacks and erase their existence in those scenarios. Time us running out for them though and Professor X and Magneto come together to devise a plan that could save the mutants from extinction. The X-Men send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to the early 1970’s in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

The event being Raven / Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) in her belief eliminating the creator of the Sentinels would be the end of the project. Unfortunately with a mutant murdering a human the government felt threatened by the mutants and continued with Trask’s project and through capturing Raven / Mystique where able to experiment with her DNA in creating more advanced Sentinels that could adapt and destroy any mutant despite their power.

Ellen Page is back as Kitty Pryde. You remember her? the tiny mutant that could run through walls. Well now she can send mutants back in time with mind control. I don’t get it either but it works and you are better not thinking too hard on that one and just accept it as this is the premise of the storyline. Also this movie is based on the Comic Book so you can’t argue with that okay.

After the events (a decade later) of First Class both Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier are no longer friends. Xavier is now a recluse living with Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) in the grounds that used to be “The School for Gifted Youngsters” and after the alleged assassination on President Kennedy, Erik Lehnsherr is now under heavy guard within the foundations of a purpose built prison inside the Pentagon. It is Wolverine’s task to unite the two former friends in preventing Raven / Mystique assassinating Trask.

The Director of Photography Newton Thomas Sigel who previously worked on X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003) and further Bryan Singer Projects (The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns and the sequel to this film X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) has his mark all over this movie and in a good way. The 1970’s are portrayed in an authentic fashion and not shoehorning everything 1970’s related into every shot that I felt That ’70s Show did (with intent or not) The film has a dark tone to it from the opening sequences that really portrays the future as a decelate environment and a reality with no hope to it.

Gathering an ensemble of Hollywood’s finest is also a Director’s dream or nightmare. You get the sense that everyone from both “generations” of X-Men films wanted to be involved in any small way. I will stop there as I don’t want to ruin any surprises that are in store for anyone who hasn’t saw the movie yet but I was impressed by how well balanced that screen time is for the main characters but also impressed with the screen time or limited from previous characters from previous x-men films receive, no matter how big or small the actor is, they are all there to be part of this event. All Egos have been left at the door.

Again Hugh Jackman is carrying the storyline from beginning to end and it will be interesting to see how the franchise copes with his absence now he finished his involvement in the superb Logan (2017) Both First Class (2011) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) have cameos that didn’t really have to be there but nevertheless both scenes are standouts in the movie no matter how brief they were.

Days of Future Past was necessary to keep the franchise in its current state continuing without a massive reboot and also complements the prequel First Class by having the main characters involved in this crossover that sets up the next couple of X-Men Films superbly with the acting credentials of McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence to name a few. I would put Days of Future Past up there with the excellent X-Men 2 (2003) and it is a film I can rewatch over and over again. Highly Recommended.