MOVIE BUFF-ET: Convincing re-enactments make ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ worth the price of admission

20th Century Fox

I very distinctly remember comparing the album covers of Queen’s “Night at the Opera” and Kiss’ “Alive” albums at a War-Mart in the spring of 1976, deliberating on which one to get.

My mother had promised to buy an album for me as an Easter gift.

The Kiss album featured a concert photo of the band, while the Queen album had an illustration of a swan, two mythological beasts I’d later learn were griffins, and a couple of fairies.

I took home the Kiss album. I thought it looked cooler, and it was a double album. At the time, I saw the value in getting two-for-one. There’s really no accounting for the taste of a 7-year-old.

New In Local Theaters

  • Bohemian Rhapsody (PG-13) 2 hr. 15 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight)
    » Watch trailer
  • Nobody’s Fool (R) 1 hr. 50 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG) 1 hr. 39 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight)
    » Watch trailer

I had heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” somewhere and was drawn to it; however, the song’s mention of Beelzebub scared me a bit. I knew from Sunday school that the funny sounding word was another name for the Devil. I didn’t want any part of that, so, of course, I got a Kiss album? Again, it’s hard to explain the interworking of the 7-year-old mind.

What does that have to do with the new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody?”

Not a lot, other than to expose my bottom-of-the barrel taste in music as a little boy.

I’d like to think my taste in music and films has matured and improved over the intervening decades, but maybe not, based on some of the criticisms of the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The movie, solely credited to director Bryan Singer – although he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher prior to the film being completed – traces the band’s history from its inception as a college band playing pubs in England through the group’s legendary performance at the 1985 Live AID concert.

The film has gotten mixed reviews, taking hits for a paint-by-the-numbers plot, and for not graphically depicting Freddie Mercury’s well-documented promiscuity and debauchery.

I guess such criticisms are fair. Queen’s history is well documented. The film contains no real twists or unexpected turns for those who followed the band to any degree.

Like many other rock lead singers, the iconic Mercury had more than his fair share of sex and drugs along with his rock and roll. The movie insinuates much of that behavior rather than delve too deeply into it. In this case, less may have not been exactly more, but it was certainly enough.

Such a decision was likely a business move to make sure the film received a PG-13 rating thus casting a wider net at the box office. Personally I appreciated the discretion. I liked that the film concentrated on Mercury’s relationships with his bandmates, his wife, his management, and his family as well as re-staging performances of many of Queen’s classic songs.

The film features several standout performances, particularly Rami Malek as Mercury. His daring work is the strongest aspect in the film, and I would not be surprised if he garners an Oscar nomination.

Gwilym Lee offers excellent support as Queen lead guitarist Brian May. Allen Leech is subtlety villainess as Paul Prenter, Mercury’s sycophant personal manager, and Tom Hollander is particularly good as Jim Beach, the band’s third manager.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” might not live up to everything everyone wants from a movie based on the career of a classic rock band like Queen or a performer as audaciously magnificent as Mercury, but the film was a straightforward showcase of the band’s music played out on a huge screen and with a fantastic sound system.

The movie’s best scenes are several thoroughly convincing re-enactments of concert moments. That made the price of admission worth it to me.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 15 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

Elvis The Movie


Most of the time the term ”made-for-TV-movie” speaks to the quality of the film as much as it does the mode of its debut, but that’s not the case with 1979’s “Elvis The Movie.”

The film directed by John Carpenter (Halloween and The Thing) and starring Kurt Russell as the King of Rock and Roll is a quality movie with a strong performance by Russell as Presley. Shot just a year after Elvis’ death, the 150-minute version of the movie details some of Elvis’ early life, but concentrates on his career from the late 1950s through his time in the U.S. Army, his days as Hollywood star churning out flimsy, formulaic but popular movies through1970 when the King enjoyed a resurgence in his career.

The film elected to neglect the latter years of his career as well as his tragic death at just 42 from an overdose on prescription drugs at Graceland, his Memphis home. Maybe, the events were just too soon to depict..

The movie was quite controversial before it aired on ABC. Some feared Russell didn’t have the chops for the role and that Carpenter wasn’t the man to direct the story of one of the greatest recording idols show business had ever seen.

However, the movie is an entertaining look at Elvis’ life and career, and Russell captured an effective portrait of the King. Aired before home video was the norm, the film played against “Gone With the Wind” on CBS and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” on NBC and defeated both in the ratings.

Interestingly, Bing Russell, Kurt’s father, played Vernon Presley, Elvis’ father. As a child actor, Russell had a smallish role in Elvis’ 1963 film “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” where his character kicked Elvis’s character in the shin. Russell, just 12 years old at the time, also met his future and now longtime partner Goldie Hawn, who was 18, while working on the film. Two decades later Russell and Hawn became a Hollywood item and have been together since 1983.

The movie, which was generally well received by fans and critics alike, proved that Carpenter could direct more than just horror pictures successfully, and it positioned Russell, who was best known at the time for starring in a series of Disney films fas an adolescent, to take on not only adult but also leading roles in a bevy of films in the 1980s, including Carpenter’s “The Thing,” “Escape from New York,” “Big Trouble in Little China,” and “Escape from L.A.”

“The Thing” is a bonfire horror classic, while the others are revered more as cult classics, but to me “Elvis The Movie” is my favorite of the Carpenter-Russell collaborations.