Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Yesterday (2019)

Image is property of Working Title Films and Universal Pictures

Yesterday – Film Review

Cast:  Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Joel Fry

Director: Danny Boyle

Synopsis: Struggling musician Jack Malik (Patel)  finds that he’s the only person on Earth who remembers the Beatles. Sensing an opportunity, he makes an attempt to pass their songs in a bid to achieve worldwide stardom…

Review: It’s almost inconceivable to imagine a world in which one of the greatest bands of all time had never existed, indeed the thought of such a world alone is a horrifying one. Given that two musical related biopics about two hugely influential British musical icons have recently graced the big screen, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a Beatles biopic. Though that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, this film is unique in that it’s not that, though the iconic music that Messrs McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr created is front and centre.

Jack Malik is a talented musician doing little gigs here and there, desperately looking for his big break. He’s on the brink of giving his music career up but after a freak accident on his way home, he soon discovers that he’s the only one in the world who remembers the Beatles and their wonderful music. With this knowledge, he tries his best to reconstruct the iconic songs of The Beatles discography, and passes them off as his own work. As the whole world discovers this great music, seemingly for the first time ever, his popularity goes through the roof and he becomes an overnight superstar.

Of course the music of a great band alone, does not make a great film. With that in mind, screenwriter Richard Curtis crafts a very sweet story around this clever concept. Like any great song or piece of art, it all comes together (pun definitely not intended…) rather sweetly thanks to a very warm leading performance from Himesh Patel. He comes across as a very sincere, genuine hard working bloke just looking for that big break that he craves. However, as his career turns from pub singer to huge international superstar, it begins to test his relationship with his best friend/manager Ellie (James), who also gives a very sincere performance. Whilst at the same time, doubts begin to form in Jack’s mind as to whether he should admit the truth about the songs.

The screenplay blends the music of the Beatles with an insightful look at the music industry and what constitutes a successful career in that industry, with one current pop star in there for good measure. Danny Boyle on first glance might not seem the most obvious choice to direct a film like this, but he keeps everything moving along in a very light-hearted manner. Though the concept behind the film is extremely clever, it falls short in that certain things could could have explored in much more detail. In addition, it can’t help but be somewhat formulaic in terms of the ensuing drama and how everything plays out. It can come across as a bit saccharine, but if you are a fan of one of the Beatles, just let it be because Boyle and Curtis will sweep you along for a joyous ride.

No matter who we are, or what we do, music is an integral part of our lives, and our culture, and this film celebrates that in abundance. It just so happens to celebrate the music of one of the best bands to have ever graced our eardrums to tell its story, and you will find it difficult to not sing along and be smiling from ear to ear when the credits start to roll.

Taking some of the best songs ever recorded, and combining them with a sweet story about the music industry, and the end result is a charming, delightful ode to the Fab Four from Liverpool.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Regency, and Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody – Film Review

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

Director(s): Bryan Singer (Dexter Fletcher)

Synopsis: A look at the lives of the legendary rock band Queen, charting their formative years and initial success leading up to their Live Aid concert performance in 1985.

Review: There’s a moment in this biopic where one music executive completely rubbishes the idea a song that spans six minutes could possibly become a radio hit. Oh how wrong he was. That six minute song in question is of course “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the band behind this true masterpiece of a song was Queen. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that as a band, Queen produced some thumping great tunes, and the legacy and impact that they have had on the music industry is truly substantial, and will likely continue to endure for decades to come.

Of course, not every band achieves such phenomenal success instantaneously so when we first meet Farrokh Bulsara as he was known before adopting his more familiar name, he spends his days working at London’s Heathrow Airport and going to gigs at night. During one such gig, he meets Roger Taylor (Hardy) and Brian May (Lee), who as luck would have it need a new singer, which Freddie gladly accepts. With John Deacon (Mazzello) also on board as the bass player, their royal highness, Queen was born.

However, the journey to get this Queen biopic to the big screen has not been an easy one. With original director Singer having been fired quite late into filming, up stepped Dexter Fletcher to complete the film. In circumstances like this, there’s a substantial risk that the whole film could completely fall apart. Though Singer gets the sole director credit, the work that both directors put in ensures that this biopic does not bite the dust.

The screenplay by Anthony McCarten, does feel a little paint by-numbers in terms of its structure. The film spends a substantial amount of time focusing on Freddie’s relationship with Mary Austin. Which ultimately does leave certain aspects such as his relationships with men, and his battle with AIDS as something of an afterthought.  These aspects are touched upon, but it is perhaps in not the extensive detail that it maybe could have been. However, what this film does above all else, is choose to celebrate the band’s incredible music, which given how utterly amazing said music is, that’s not a bad thing at all.

The man to step into the great Freddie Mercury’s shoes was a bit uncertain for a long time. Initially it was Sacha Baron Cohen, then came Ben Whishaw, but ultimately Rami Malek was the man who stepped up to the microphone. Though it would have been interesting to see what the former could have done with the role, Malek is simply outstanding giving such an incredible performance that sees him pretty much transform into Freddie Mercury himself. Everything from the hair and make up, to the costumes is completely on point. Though Malek’s Mercury does steal pretty much every scene he’s in, the rest of the band mates are also excellent, but their development is scarce at best.

Towards the second act is where the tension is really injected into the film, but again certain aspects of Freddie’s career are only given the barest minimum of development. It is when we get to the Live Aid performance, that the film really perks right back up again. The work that is done to recreate that is just simply breath-taking, you will have a hard time not singing along. As Queen themselves sang “We Will Rock You,” Malek and co do exactly that. Killer Queen(s) indeed.

Though the screenplay could have gone into much more depth, Malek’s career-defining performance and the celebration of their stellar music ensures that this biopic hits (mostly) all the right notes.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

A Star is Born (2018)

Image is property of Warner Bros. Pictures, Live Nation Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

A Star is Born – Film Review

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay

Director: Bradley Cooper

Synopsis: Renowned musician Jackson Maine (Cooper) meets and falls in love with aspiring singer Ally (Gaga). As their romance blossoms, her career starts to take off, while his is on the wane…

Review: Hollywood right now certainly isn’t shy of remaking a great many films over the years. While some remakes can completely miss the mark entirely, there are instances in which a remake can achieve something remarkable. No matter what is being remade, one has to take whatever was made previously and make it feel new something new and fresh, a story that deserves to be introduced to a whole new generation, and that is precisely what writer/director/producer/star Bradley Cooper does.

Cooper is Jackson Maine, a singer who is no doubt talented at what he does. Yet right from when we meet him, it is clear that he is battling some intense personal demons, and is in the twilight of what seemed to be a glittering career. After one gig, he find a bar where Ally is performing, and almost instantaneously he is smitten by her and her incredible voice. The two begin a romance and during one show he invites her onto the stage to perform, and as the title of the film suggests, a star is most definitely born as Ally’s career begins a stratospheric rise to the top. Yet it is not all good for Ally, as Jackson’s demons begin to take a toll on him, which threatens to tear their relationship apart.

Cooper has shown his versatility in recent years with a diverse range of characters that has seen him pick up four Oscar nominations, but his portrayal of this troubled singer is potentially some of his best ever work in the acting department. You can just feel his anger at various things that have happened to him in his life, and the intense personal battles he is currently fighting that are just wearing him down. But it is Lady Gaga who is the real acting revelation. Though she has graced the silver screen before, her performance is nothing short of astonishing. She captures that anxiety of a woman who wants to pursue her dream, but is unsure of whether she really has the ability to make a success of it.

Given their relationship is a central piece of the film, Gaga and Cooper have excellent chemistry together, Like many relationships, they endure testing times, but you really feel their love for one another, even though they both have some concerns. For Jackson, it’s the direction that Ally’s career goes in, and for Ally, it is Jackson’s battles with addiction and substance abuse. The film has quite a bit to say about the modern music industry, that seems to favour extremely well polished and aesthetically pleasing artists, over those who harbour real musical talent. While Gaga has certainly had her controversial moments in the music business thus far, her talent as a singer cannot be disputed and along with Cooper, their is a plethora of raw and heartfelt emotion behind these beautiful songs.

There is a lot happening here but the screenplay by Cooper, along with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, does a tremendous job of balancing things out as for every euphoric moment of joy, comes a moment of melancholic sadness, but the film does not allow itself to get too bogged down in either for any significant amount of time. For a directorial debut, there is a lot to admire as to what Cooper brings to the table, most notably when it comes to the live performances. The camerawork and cinematography really makes you feel like you are at these gigs watching these talented performers bring these songs to life in a superb manner.

Remakes so often can feel like there simply was not a need for them to have been made. However the sterling work of Cooper and Gaga especially ensure that although this is the fourth version of this story to be told, it feels necessary for it to be retold to a new generation. With such raw emotion packed into its story and characters, A Star is Born will almost certainly be shining very brightly when we get to the business end of awards season.

Combining beautiful music with a story that packs emotion with extremely relevant themes for 21st century audiences, along with two electric leading performances, this is how you do a successful remake.