Richard joins CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the Disney holiday fantasy “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the horror remake “Suspiria.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the “Ho Ho Hums” of the Disney holiday fantasy “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the horror remake “Suspiria.”
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the Disney “It must be Christmas!” movie “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the horror remake “Suspiria.”
Richard has a look at the Disney holiday fantasy “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the horror remake “Suspiria” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
I have very fond memories of Queen. They were one of the biggest bands in the world when I was in my early teens and their brand of pomp rock appealed to my young ears. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the band’s best-known song and masterpiece, isn’t a dance song by any stretch of the imagination but that didn’t stop my classmates and me from giving it a go in the school gym.
The slower introduction and the rockin’ last part are fairly easy to move around the room to, it’s the operatic middle section that would have caused less determined kids to abandon the dance floor. But, in a moment I have never forgotten, my school chums spontaneously came together like a roomful of Maria Callases and Luciano Pavarottis to sing lines like, “Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the fandango?” at the top of their lungs.
That song brought us all together, the romantics, the head bangers, the nerds; everyone stood up and was heard. It was fantastic. Magnifico even. I wish I could say the same about the new film “Bohemian Rhapsody” starring Rami Malek as the late, great Freddie Mercury.
Mercury was not a subtle performer and that spirit has rubbed off on the film, for better but mostly for worse. The performance scenes are fun, over-the-top and enjoyable. It’s when Mercury doesn’t have a microphone in his hand that the movie suffers. “We need to get experimental,” he says to EMI executive Ray Foster (Mike Myers). Too bad screenwriter Anthony McCarten (“Darkest Hour,” “The Theory of Everything”) only wrote the line and didn’t take it to heart.
With a script researched by Wikipedia the film zips through the band’s career and singer’s personal life, focussing on the high points—the writing of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Live Aid—while giving the truly dramatic details a boilerplate treatment.
Mercury’s homosexuality is addressed but not deeply explored. He has relationships with two men, Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) and Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), and we see him visit a fetish club but not until the movie is half over. Before then it spends a great deal of time establishing the bond with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), a woman he called the love of his life.
In the film’s best dramatic scene he comes out of the closet, admitting to her that while he loves her he also thinks he may be bisexual. She disabuses him of the notion, admitting she knows he is gay. It’s a tender scene that sheds light on their connection more than anything that comes before or after.
As for the band, if not for their brightly coloured wardrobe, Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joe Mazzello) would barely make an impression. They are there to stand behind Mercury and start the occasional argument so he can whip out a bon mot, smirk and flit away.
Mercury, of course, is the most compelling character. Overcome with father issues and a desire to perform both on stage and off he’s also a man who allows himself to be manipulated by a lover who clearly does not have his best interest in mind. Malek, fake teeth and all, does a good imitation of Mercury. He can strut and swagger but it feels like an impression, a very good one, but one that never goes beyond skin deep. To paraphrase one of Mercury’s most famous lyrics, “it never feels like real life, it feels like fantasy.”
Brian May and Roger Taylor were directly involved with the making of the movie so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the story has an “authorized” feel to it, but it is puzzling how the timeline has been twisted to fit the narrative. The montage of their first tour of America is set to “Fat Bottom Girls,” a tune they wouldn’t write for another four years and the writing of “We Will Rock You” is off by three years.
Those are fan details and easily forgiven narratively. What’s more troubling is the film’s handling of Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis. The movie portrays Mercury telling his band mates, three men he calls “his family,” about his illness a week before Live Aid in July 1985. Jim Hutton, Mercury’s boyfriend at the time of his death, says the singer was diagnosed in late April 1987, years after the events in the film. Moving a song or two through time is one thing. Playing around with the life-and-death details of Mercury’s illness for dramatic effect is quite another.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” ends with a rousing recreation of the band’s legendary twenty-minute Live Aid set. Cut back to four songs (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Radio Ga Ga,” “Hammer to Fall” and “We Are the Champions”) it captures their fist-pumping triumph on the Wembley stage. It also sends audiences out of the theatre with some of Queen’s biggest hits ringing in their ears. It’s the Principle of Recency, wherein the thing you experience last is the thing you remember most, like a delicious, sugary dessert at the end of a bland meal. The “Live Aid” impersonation is an effective and memorable way to end a by-the-book movie.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the Disney fantasy “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” the Freddie Mercury bio “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the horror remake “Suspiria.”
The mid-seventies were a confusing time to be a music-obsessed kid looking to latch onto pop culture in Nova Scotia.
Old hippies weren’t my people—they were everywhere, sporting peace and love hangovers, tie dyed t-shirts and dazed looks. With them came bad hygiene and battered copies of Aoxomoxoa. The free love stuff sounded pretty good to me, but I never liked Birkenstocks and stoner rock wasn’t my thing, (although Silver Machine by Hawkwind was usually worth a fist pump.)
In syncopated lockstep with the 60s leftovers were the disco Dan’s and Dani’s, polyester-outfitted goodtime seekers looking to boogaloo to the top of Disco Mountain. I did the Bump at school dances, I suppose, and played the hell out of my Jive Talkin’ 45, but I was six three at age twelve so wearing platforms were out of the question. Even if I could have worn them the hedonistic woop-woop of disco felt alien to me, like it was emanating from a different planet where everyone had glittery skin and mirror balls for eyes.
Singer songwriters wrote about things that didn’t touch me. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover? I didn’t have a lover to leave once, let alone another 49 ways. Also, lover? Who did Paul Simon think I was? Marcello Mastroianni?
Country rock was OK, although at nine plus minutes Freebird overstayed its welcome by about six minutes. Country music was for hillbillies (it wasn’t until much later I discovered the joys of Waylon and Willie and the boys), soft rock was for girls and I’m pretty sure only dogs could fully appreciate Leo Sayers’ high-pitched wailing. I liked KISS although their “rock and roll all night, party everyday” ethos seemed unrealistic, even to a teenager.
My parents listened to the smooth sounds of Frank Sinatra which frequently clashed with the hard rock racket emanating from my brother’s room.
I was left somewhere in the middle.
Of course I had records. A stack of them.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was usually near the top. It was a touchstone then as it is now because of its exceptional songwriting, cool cover and otherworldly sounds. I also had the obligatory copy of Frampton Comes Alive! but I also had pop records, heavy metal albums and some disco. But I hadn’t yet heard the definitive sound. For my brother it was Jimi Hendrix’s string stretching. For my dad it was Bing Crosby‘s croon.
I was fifteen and hadn’t yet passed that most important—to me anyway—rite of passage: finding the combination of notes and attitude my parents wouldn’t understand.
In those days the top ten charts were really diverse and fans were regularly exposed to a baffling array of music. The Billboard charts hadn’t yet fragmented off into genre specific listings and radio wasn’t yet run by robots with limited imaginations. Playlists were all over the place, and if you weren’t quick on the dial you’d awkwardly segue from the slick jazz of George Benson into You’re the One That I Want’s pop confectionary.
There weren’t many stations were I grew up but there was a smörgåsbord of sounds to be heard, but around the time Barry Gibb became the first songwriter in history to write four consecutive #1 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart the music on the radio started to have less appeal for me.
On the quest to figure out your identity there are few things more soul destroying for a fifteen-year-old than finding yourself inadvertently humming along to a song on the radio as your dad drives and hums in harmony.
I didn’t want the shared family something-for-everyone experience radio offered. I wanted my own experience so I began to regard the radio I grew up listening to as Musicology 101. With its indiscriminate playlists, it’s ability to embrace all genres I had a solid base to build on, but like many good relationships we outgrew one another.
Songs by Kenny Rogers and the like were everywhere but tunes such as The Gambler sounded hopelessly old fashioned; like a Zane Grey dime store novel put to music. So when the radio, which had been my constant companion, fell away as a source of discovering new music I turned to Hit Parader, Circus, Cream and any other magazine I could to find out what was what.
There I saw pictures of the Comiskey Park Disco Demolition Night that lead to the jettisoning of my Bee Gees singles. I read about Elvis Presley dying on the toilet, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane bursting into flames, killing six while, ironically, promoting the Street Survivors LP.
It felt like the old guard was fading away. Sure Queen (liked them) and Barry Manilow (not so much) and Village People (see Manilow note) were still having hits, and Bruce Springsteen was still being loudly touted as the future of rock and roll (by rock critic turned Bruce’s co-producer Jon Landau who wrote, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”) but I wasn’t ready “to trade in these wings on some wheels.”
At the same time my one-time hero Alice Cooper got sober and made the worst record of his career to date but that stuff was quickly fading as I began to hear about—but not actually hear—some exciting music from London and New York.
The only thing I knew about New York came from TV and a family from Manhattan who rented a cottage every year at one of the three beaches that framed my hometown. They told me that if you left your bike unchained at the corner of Ninth Street and Second Avenue it would disappear almost immediately, as if by magic.
London I knew only from history books, James Bond and Monty Python.
But in the pages of my mags I learned about a new youth movement, a musical incubator spearheaded by bands like The Ramones, The Clash, Wire and Television.