February 19, 2019

YEAR OF THE DRAGON: The Cult of Mickey

Starring Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Ariane, Dennis Dun, Ray Barry, Caroline Kava, Leonard Termo, Eddie Jones, Victor Wong. Directed by Michael Cimino. (1985/134 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Stanley White (Mickey Rourke) is the best, most decorated cop in New York. Just ask him, he'll tell you. In fact, he'll probably tell you even if you don't ask, as he does at-least three times during Year of the Dragon. I guess we'll just have to take his word for it because all we mostly see is an innate talent for getting people around him killed.

When not putting partners & loved ones in harm's way, White is obsessed with bringing down the criminal underworld in New York's Chinatown, disrupting a mutual accord between the police and the mob. He's a big thorn-in-the-side of Joey Tai (John Lone), an ambitious young up-and-comer who ignites a war between two rival organizations so he can rise to power. Along the way, White alienates his superiors, bullies fellow officers, belittles his wife and seduces reporter Tracy Tzu (Ariane), who's inexplicably charmed by his obnoxious bravado. And given Rourke's penchant for weirdness, one can't help but suspect he had a hand in White's appearance, from the ill-fitting fedora to his Billy-Idol-on-crack hairstyle.

"Get off my lawn!"
Year of the Dragon is as awesomely bad as it sounds, chock-full of groan-worthy dialogue, laughable attempts at grittiness, embarrassing amounts of racism and wooden performances...except for Rourke, of course, who chews the scenery like one of his beloved chihuahuas. While not quite on par with Rourke's magnum opus, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, this trashy trainwreck is especially fascinating because its director, the late Michael Cimino, was the toast of Hollywood just a few years before. Then, of course, Heaven's Gate happened. Not to speak ill of the dead, but this plays more like one of those once-promising ideas butchered by Sylvester Stallone rewrites (ol' Sly did that a lot in the 80s).

Perhaps those are some reasons Year of the Dragon enjoys sort-of a cult following today. Without a doubt, the film encapsulates everything glorious goofy about the 80s, slapped together by a guy in the midst of one of Hollywood history's more spectacular career downfalls. Still, I gotta admit it's those same qualities that make it more entertaining than Heaven's Gate. Faint praise, to be sure, but at least it isn't boring.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Director Michael Cimino

THE POOP SCOOP (2/21): Oscars Edition

MARY POPPINS RETURNS On Digital 4K Ultra HD 3/12 and on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray 3/19
Bonus material explores the making of “Mary Poppins Returns,” going behind the scenes with the star-studded cast and crew who collaborated to make even the impossible possible. Extensive extras include a trip down Cherry Tree Lane with original cast member Dick Van Dyke, a sing-along version including the heartfelt Academy Award-nominated “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” bloopers, deleted scenes, a deleted song and filmmaker commentary. Features also reveal the magic and moxie that went into creating large-scale musical production numbers, such as “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” a rousing song-and-dance number led by Jack and his fellow lamplighters; “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” and “A Cover Is Not the Book,” showcasing the tremendous talents of  Blunt and Miranda; “Turning Turtle,” an upside-down sequence featuring Meryl Streep as Mary’s eccentric Cousin Topsy; and “Can You Imagine That?” an underwater adventure with Mary Poppins and the Banks children.
CAPERNAUM on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital 3/26
In addition to earning an Academy Award nomination, CAPERNAUM was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and won 3 awards at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, including the Jury Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. The film was also an Official Selection at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.  Special features available on the home entertainment release will include an insightful commentary track with director/writer Nadine Labaki and composer/producer Khaled Mouzanar, a Q & A with Labaki, Mouzanar and actor Zain Al Rafeea and a featurette detailing the process of bringing this heart-wrenching story to life.

VICE Arrives on Digital 3/12 and on Blu-ray & DVD 4/2
Nominated for 8 ACADEMY AWARDS, including Best Picture, VICE stars Christian Bale in his Oscar-nominated role as Dick Cheney in this epic tale of how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world. Co-starring Amy Adams, Steve Carell, and Sam Rockwell, VICE is a darkly comic look behind the scenes of American politics. Includes deleted scenes, featurettes and an image gallery.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE Arrives on Digital 2/26 and 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 3/19
The Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE has grossed over $350 million in theaters worldwide to date, introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the iconic mask. This Blu-ray is filled with engaging bonus materials that are fun for the whole family and give fans even more of the unique comic book style action that they loved in theaters with over 90 minutes of bonus content. 
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK Arrives on Digital 3/12 and on Blu-ray & DVD 3/26
From Academy Award Winner Barry Jenkins, adapted from James Baldwin’s acclaimed novel, comes this timeless love story set in early 1970s Harlem. Newly engaged 19-year-old Tish (KiKi Layne) and her fiancé Fonny (Stephan James) have a beautiful future ahead. But their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Now the pair and their families must fight for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream in this lush, moving, dramatic film, also starring Academy Award Nominee Regina King.
THE FAVOURITE Arrives on Digital 2/12 & Blu-ray 3/5
The Favourite has been one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year. It has received numerous awards including The Venice Film Festivals’ Grand Special Jury Prize for Director Yorgos Lanthimos, 10 wins at the British Independent Film Awards, selected as AFI’s 2018 Movie of the Year and a Golden Globe for Olivia Colman’s performance as Queen Anne. The film has also nabbed 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay.

February 17, 2019


Starring Donnie Yen, Eva Huang, Wang Bao Qiang, Simon Yam, Yu Kang, Jiang Shu Ying. Directed by Raymond Yip. (2018/88 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible🙀

This is a sequel to 2014's Iceman. If you haven't seen it, don't fret too much. Despite running a scant running time, the opening ten minutes of Iceman: Time Traveler consists of footage from the first film, with star Donnie Yen providing a voiceover that recaps the entire plot.

What's left is a disjointed, rambling and ultimately dull story that still feels unnecessarily padded out. Picking up where the first film left off, Ming Dynasty warrior He Ying (Yen) travels back to his own time, hopefully to save his village and clear his name. His former childhood friends & blood brothers - led by Cheung (Simon Yam) - have a different agenda: Use the time travel device to rule all of China.

Never mind that the film's temporal narrative makes little logistical sense (and grows increasingly perplexing during the climax). Gone are the amusing fish-out-of-water elements that at-least made the first film watchable. This sequel is overly-serious and relentlessly talky, not-to-mention boring. For an action movie, Iceman: The Time Traveler has precious little of it. Even then, the fight sequences are often enhanced by way too much CGI to be interesting or plausible.

Donnie Yen drops the mic.
I'm a big fan of Donnie Yen. He's a phenomenal martial artist and a good actor whose sincerity and charisma has elevated many films that would have otherwise been mundane. But in this one, Yen appears to be coasting on autopilot. While he isn't terrible, he's not particularly engaging, either. More distressingly, aside from a brief - and ridiculous - skirmish on-board a passenger train, nearly an hour passes before his formidable fighting skills are called upon.

While the original wasn't exactly a feather in Yen's cap, Iceman: The Time Traveler is one of the worst films in his lengthy filmography. Though elaborately produced, it's undone by a convoluted story, erratic pacing and an uncharacteristically indifferent performance by its star. For Yen fans, or even those who actually enjoyed the first film, don't say you weren't warned.


February 16, 2019

SO DARK THE NIGHT: Unconventional Film Noir

Starring Steven Geray, Micheline Cheirel, Eugene Borden, Ann Codee, Egon Brecher, Paul Marion, Helen Freeman. Directed by Joseph H. Lewis. (1946/70 min).


Review by Mr. Paws😸

Though largely unheralded, Joseph H. Lewis created some wonderful films with limited budgets. He was a true B-movie master in a variety of genres, though in this writer's view, film noir was where he excelled. Granted, I haven't seen many movies on his resume, but thought 1950's Gun Crazy was a quirky little gem. So Dark the Night, on the other hand, is a lot more perplexing. Though not a bad film by any stretch, it certainly doesn't appear to fit the definition of film noir...at least initially.

In fact, the tone is almost whimsical at first. When we first meet our overly-congenial protagonist, Henri Cassin (Steven Geray), he's strolling down a Paris street with a grin on his face, giving friendly greetings to children and shopkeepers. Hell, I have-expected him to break-out into song while skipping down the sidewalk.

Cassin is France's most famous detective who decides to take a break from police work to vacation in the country, where he meets Nanette (Micheline Cheirel), the young daughter of an innkeeper. She's half his age and, complicating things further, is already engaged to hunky, hot-headed young farmer Leon (Paul Marion). Everything's still bubbly at this point, though Nanette's manipulation of both men suggests she could turn out to be some sort of femme fatale.

Mister Pouty Puss.
When Nanette later turns up dead, Cassin must put his renowned detective skills to work. He initially suspects Leon, at least until his body is discovered later. For the first time in his illustrious career, Cassin has no leads and is completely baffled. So are we...right up until the killer's identity is finally revealed.

So Dark the Night doesn't play by the rules. It unfolds like a whodunit, yet offers no clues. The final revelation is nearly a red herring, a narrative suckerpunch with no overt foreshadowing. Yet at the same time, this is definitely what puts the film in noir territory, because in the end, all of Cassin's questionable decisions and subsequent problems are due to the love of a woman. Isn't that the narrative which drives so many movies of this genre?

For a crime film, So Dark the Night doesn't unfold as expected, which keeps it fairly interesting. While the denouement makes sense, some might feel it's sort-of a cop-out, coming out of nowhere like it does. But overall, though not film noir in the conventional sense, this relative obscurity is entertaining and worth checking out.

"A DARK PLACE: JOSEPH H. LEWIS AT COLUMBIA" - Author Imogen Sara Smith discusses the director at Columbia Pictures.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes credits, photos and an essay, "An Inspector Falls," by filmmaker/critic David Cairns.

OVERLORD Goes Over Easy

Starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Pilou Asbaek, Gianny Taufer, Iain De Caestecker, Dominic Applewhite. Bokeem Woodbine. Directed by Julius Avery. (2018/110 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

You know what's awesome about Denny's? Their menus. Whether you're still half asleep in the morning or trying to sober-up after the bars close, you can slide into a booth, grab an oversized laminated menu and find exactly what'll hit the spot without reading a single word. Just point to the glossy colored photo of their Grand Slam Breakfast and grunt to the waitress, "Me want that."

And no matter which Denny's you stumble into, that Grand Slam Breakfast will look and taste exactly like the picture promises. Nothing on their menu will ever be mistaken for fine cuisine, but unless the kitchen overcooked your eggs over easy, chances are you've never walked out of a Denny's disappointed.

Overlord is sort-of the action-horror equivalent of a Denny's visit, brought to your table just as advertised and prepared by cooks who may not be Bobby Flay, but at-least their way around a griddle. The cooks in this case are director Julius Avery, producer J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Billy Ray & Mark L. Smith, who've put together a heaping, greasy plate o' bloody horror, violent action and just enough character development so we care who lives or dies.

"Just hangin' around, huh?"
Taking place during World War II, the film has a squad of paratroopers charged with infiltrating a German-occupied village in France just prior to D-Day. However, in a riveting opening scene, their plane is attacked and only a few of them, led by Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), manage to survive the jump. Their objective remains the same, though: Destroy a radio tower - located in the village church - before their allies hit the beach at Normandy. But after inadvertently infiltrating the church on his own, newbie Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) discovers a lab where Nazis, under the command of lecherous SS officer Captain Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), have been experimenting on villagers to develop a serum that not-only resurrects the dead, it gives them unbelievable strength. Worse yet, they're almost invulnerable.

We've seen Nazi-zombie mash-ups before, mostly low-budget horror fare. But the undead depicted here aren't zombies in the purest sense and Overlord is just-as-much a war movie as it is a horror film. The plot is strictly meat & potatoes - or bacon & eggs, in this case - with an abundance of familiar tropes from both genres. Amusingly, most of the protagonists act like they've been hijacked from a 1940s war epic (right down to the wisecracking kid from Brooklyn), yet they're engaging nonetheless. And though the film is mostly bereft of surprises or suspense, the mission itself is a fun, gleefully violent adventure that comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Sometimes that's all you need from a meal. Like everything on the Denny's menu, Overlord delivers as expected without frills or fuss. Well written, solidly directed and briskly-paced, it isn't likely to become a classic (though cult classic isn't out of the question). However, it's equally unlikely that action-horror fans will walk away still hungry.

"THE HORRORS OF WAR" - A 6-chapter making-of documentary, totaling just over 50 minutes.

February 13, 2019

AUDITION and the Air of Despair

Starring Eihi Shiina, Ryo Ishibashi, Renji Ishibashi, Jun Kunimura, Tetsu Sawaki, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi, Ken Mitsuishi. Directed by Takashi Miike. (1999/115 min).


Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

Though I'm pretty well versed in the horror genre, this was actually the first time I ever sat down and watched Audition. Its reputation preceded it, of course, being one of the more infamous examples of extreme horror to come out of Japan and the first Takashi Miike film that recieved significant international notoriety.

Having seen Ichi the Killer and being aware of Miike's penchant for over-the-top violence, I figured I knew what to expect. But I was dead wrong. True-to-form, Audition has moments that are extraordinarily violent and disturbing, its imagery growing increasingly horrific. What I did not expect is the overall air of sorrow that hangs over the entire film. There are moments when the sadness is downright claustrophobic.

Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a widower whose loneliness threatens to overwhelm him. At the behest of his teenage son, he finally decides he'd like to start dating again, with the hopes of someday finding a new wife. Uncertain over what to do next, he accepts the help of producer-friend Yasuhisa, who suggests setting up fake auditions for a non-existent film. Though he has ethical misgivings, Shigeharu goes along with it. He becomes fixated with Asami (Eihi Shiina), a young ex-dancer whose resume reflects a disenchanted life...and perhaps a kindred spirit.

The two begin seeing each other, Asami's affection for him growing with each encounter. It's seems too good to be true, as Yasuhisha soon warns him of when her references turn out to be dead and little is known about who she really is. After Shigeharu promises to love nobody else during a weekend getaway, Asami disappears. And here's where things get weird...and increasingly surreal.

Extreme flossing.
Anyone reading this is probably already aware of Audition's premise, sort-of a deranged variation of Misery and Fatal Attraction. Of course, Asami turns out to be batshit crazy and her retribution on Shigeharu is twisted, vicious and graphic. However, the gung-ho violence Miike unleashes during the final act isn't what makes Audition difficult to endure. Movie gore is simply movie gore, no matter how wince-inducing it may be (and I found myself wincing a lot during the climax). What renders the entire scene truly harrowing is the first half of the film, when Miike takes great care in establishing Shigeharu as a supremely sympathetic family man we care deeply about. Despite the initial ruse of the audition, he's a genuinely nice guy whose quiet desperation is easy to empathize with.

Similar effort is made to present Asami as something of a victim herself. She commits atrocious acts, but is also a product of a phenomenally abusive upbringing. We get the sense that her actions are almost beyond her control. All of which renders the climax more mournful than terrifying. Unlike the cartoon brutality - and buffoonery - of Ichi the Killer, the violence in Audition merely amplifies the overall tone of despair.

Audition is a very good film...dark, surreal and consistently unsettling, aided by solid performances by Shiina and Ryo Ishibashi. But it's also an emotionally-draining experience and admiring a film's ability to manipulate an audience isn't always the same as enjoying it. I'm glad I was finally able to see it, though I think one time is sufficient. Miike fans probably think differently, of course, and they'll love this Blu-ray from Arrow, which offers an impressive 2K restoration and an abundance of bonus features, both old and new.

NEW: "DAMAGED ROMANCE" - An appreciation by film historian Tony Rayns (the guy's quite knowledgeable and interesting to listen to).
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY - By biographer Tom Mes
INTERVIEWS - Lengthy, individual interviews with actors Eihi Shiina, Ryo Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi and Ren Osugi (the "man in the bag")
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - featuring photos, credits and an essay, "Guilty of Romance," by Anton Bitel

THE POOP SCOOP (2/13): Monsters & Oscar Snubs Edition

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK Arrives on Digital March 12 and on Blu-ray & DVD March 26
From Academy Award Winner Barry Jenkins, adapted from James Baldwin’s acclaimed novel, comes this timeless love story set in early 1970s Harlem. Newly engaged 19-year-old Tish (KiKi Layne) and her fiancé Fonny (Stephan James) have a beautiful future ahead. But their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Now the pair and their families must fight for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream in this lush, moving, dramatic film, also starring Academy Award Nominee Regina King.
STAN & OLLIE Arrives On Blu-ray, DVD and Digital March 26
Two-time Academy Award nominee Steve Coogan (Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Philomena, 2014) and John C. Reilly, who received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance, star as the slapstick comedy legends Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in STAN & OLLIE arriving on digital, Blu-ray & DVD March 26 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film follows the pair through a farewell tour across the U.K. as they attempt to re-connect with both their fans and each other. STAN & OLLIE is directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth) and also stars Nina Arianda (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).
GODZILLA (1998) stomps onto 4K May 14
The action-packed 1998 monster spectacle from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the filmmaking team behind Independence Day, debuts on 4K Ultra HD May 14 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Jean Reno (Léon: The Professional) team up as the unlikely heroes out to save New York City from the giant, fire-breathing monster and its babies hatching in Madison Square Garden. Fully remastered in 4K from the original camera negative with High Dynamic Range, GODZILLA on 4K Ultra HD also includes new earth-shaking Dolby Atmos sound. The 4K Ultra HD disc also includes three trailers, including the original iconic teaser!
THE WITCH arrives on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (Plus Blu-ray and Digital) 4/23
One of the most original horror films of the past decade has never looked so good as when The Witch arrives on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital) April 23 from Lionsgate. Directed by Robert Eggers, winner of Best Director at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, this supernatural horror tale stars Ralph Ineson, Katie Dickie, and up-and-coming star Anya Taylor-Joy in a “breakout performance” (Jake Coyle, Associated Press). Experience four times the resolution of Full HD with the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which includes Dolby Vision HDR, bringing entertainment to life through ultra-vivid picture quality. When compared to a standard picture, Dolby Vision can deliver spectacular colors never before seen on-screen, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker. Available for the very first time in this absolutely stunning format, The Witch 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack includes an audio commentary with director Robert Eggers, a featurette, a Q&A with cast and crew, and a design gallery.

February 11, 2019


Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Silvia Tortosa, Telly Savalas, Julio Pena, Alberto de Mendoza, Helga Line. Directed by Gene Martin (Eugenio Martin). (1972/90 min).

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Equal parts horror, mystery and sci-fi (with just a dash of a disaster movie), Horror Express is a genre mash-up that's hard to resist.

In 1906, Professor Sexton (Christopher Lee) is an arrogant anthropologist who loads his latest prize - a crate containing a humanoid fossil - on a train to Moscow. Also on-board is Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing), a congenial rival who's understandably curious about what's in the crate, though Sexton is fiecely protective of it. But something's not quite right - or dead - with the professor's cargo. The beast escapes and begins killing passengers by draining the life out of them with its hellish red eye.

But even after it's shot dead, murders continue in the same gruesome fashion. A loony priest thinks it's the work of Satan and switches sides faster than Lebron James changes team jerseys, but an icky eyeball autopsy by Wells reveals something otherworldly...a malevolent, disembodied alien capable of moving from one host to another, absorbing the victims' knowledge and physical abilities. Later, a team of Russian Cossacks - led by flamboyantly-cocky Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas) - boards the train to root-out who they think is a good old-fashioned murderer.

"Who loves ya, baby?"
If the plot synopsis sparks a bit of deja vu, that's because Horror Express plays a lot like a dry run for John Carpenter's version of The Thing and sometimes appears to draw inspiration from the same source material, John W. Campbell's novella, Who Goes There? In fact, it's more conceptually-faithful to the original story than the classic 1951 adaptation.

In addition to the pleasure of watching two of horror's greatest icons at work - as protagonists! - there's also an endearing quirkiness to Horror Express that renders it wonderfully entertaining. The plot grows increasingly outlandish as it develops, eventually throwing zombies and a train wreck into the mix, yet never quite crosses the line into ridiculousness. Though told with a fairly straight-face, an off-kilter sense of humor bubbles just underneath, finally breaking the surface when Savalas shows up late to briefly steal the entire movie.

With an atmospheric aesthetic straight out of a Hammer film, Horror Express is fast-paced, crazy fun. While never particularly scary, it's cleverly written and stylishly directed. Somewhat neglected and overlooked through the years, the film is certainly worth discovering - or re-discovering - by 70s' era horror fans. This new Blu-ray from Arrow is also a significant overall improvement over Severin Films' 2011 release. In addition to a great 2K restoration, a comprehensive batch of new and vintage bonus features are included.

NEW: FEATURETTES - "Ticket to Die" (screenwriter Steve Haberman talks about the film); "Train to Nowhere" (with filmmaker Ted Newsom).
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY - with Stephen Jones & Kim Newman.
FEATURETTES - "Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express" (interview with director Eugenio Martin); "Notes from the Blacklist" (interview with producer Bernard Gordon); "Telly and Me" (composer John Cacavas - RIP - discusses his friendship with Telly Savalas).
OPTIONAL INTRODUCTION - by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander

February 10, 2019


Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McClusker. Directed by Bryan Singer (and Dexter Fletcher). (2018/135 min). 


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

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.

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.

Not quite a Windsor knot.
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 of poignancy never reached in the movie it was originally written for (Highlander).

Freddie Mercury: Punch-Buggy champion.
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 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.

FEATURETTES - "Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie"; "The Look and Sound of Queen"; "Recreating Live Aid" (All three of these feature substantial behind-the-scenes footage and interviews).
LIVE AID MOVIE PERFORMANCE - Queen's complete Live Aid performance, as recreated - but not entirely used - for the movie.


February 9, 2019


Starring Sonja Gerhardt, Tim Oliver Schultz, Nilam Farooq, Lise-Marie Koroll, Emilio Sakraya, Farine Flebber, Maxine Kazis, David Schultz. Directed by Michael David Pate. (2018/90 min). 


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😾

Even by found footage standards, Haunted Hospital is dire stuff.

Too bad, because the final act throws us a curve ball that may not be very plausible, but it's definitely surprising. Unfortunately, as gruesomely entertaining as the conclusion may be, it's not enough to make the preceding 75 minutes worth sitting through.

It's a plot we've seen countless times before: A group of young thrillseekers challenge themselves to spend a night in an abandoned hospital, supposedly haunted by the angry spirit of a patient who was killed there years earlier. This time, the group is a batch of German YouTubers conveniently armed with enough video cameras to stock a Best Buy warehouse, which of course means there's plenty of shaky-cam, night-vision and endless scenes where the camera operator is running in terror.

How to mask litter box odors.
Found footage is well-past its expiration date and Haunted Hospital adds absolutely nothing new to an already overcrowded subgenre. Worse yet, most of the characters are extraordinarily obnoxious. Perhaps that's intentional, since a great many YouTubers have indeed become minor celebrities by behaving like jackasses. Still, there's a deadly amount of exposition where they bicker, complain and verbally torment each other, none of which makes them remotely interesting, sympathetic or likable. So much for character development.

The story also requires most of them to be really stupid. Even after it's obvious something nasty is in the hospital with them, characters are constantly wandering off alone into pitch-black rooms, basements and hallways. These endless scenes comprise the bulk of the middle act, intended to produce suspense but mostly testing our patience. Only during the admittedly-bravura climax does the movie show any signs of life. It requires serious suspension of disbelief, but at-least it's unexpected and lively.

Until then, Haunted Hospital is a derivative, tedious, lethargically-assembled endurance test. Found footage was once a briefly-intriguing gimmick, but shamelessly pandering to the YouTube generation won't make anyone forget that The Blair Witch Project did it all before - and better - 20 years ago. The film's aforementioned red herring is welcome, but arrives too late to save it.