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Bohemian Rhapsody

The rock group Queen probably don’t need any introduction. Famed for their hit songs of the 1970’s and 80’s, their influence is still felt. Much of their success was due to singer Freddie Mercury, whose energetic charisma carried the band to massive heights. Whilst Mercury is no longer with us, his legacy as well as the songs he performed endures. Several of their tracks have been used in multiple films, such as their soundtrack to the 1980 sci-fi classic ‘Flash Gordon’. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ charts their fortunes in the often topsy-turvy world of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

In the early 70’s, singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) forms the group Queen alongside his friends Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joseph Mazello). With their contrasting musical styles ranging from rock, pop and hints of opera, the band initially find it difficult establishing their fanbase. Gradually with diverse tunes such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We are the Champions’ and ‘Radio Ga Ga’, their popularity is assured. With the highs come the lows as they face personal tragedy amidst the fleeting allure of fame and fortune.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is an often clichéd and formulaic movie biopic. Queen’s path to success is generally seen in a dot-to-dot manner with all the usual tropes ticked. Only occasionally does it truly fly which is mostly during the concert sequences and still electrifying songs. Making ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ watchable is Malek’s performance which captures Mercury’s charismatic showmanship and determination. His relationships with the group and others provide most of the interest even if the script plays things very safe.

The film feels sanitized with the revisionist history going into over-drive. Mercury’s life was fascinating and debauched with the story barely capturing the true person. This water treading extends to the rest of the characters who make little impact except for Mike Myers as a harried record executive. The songs and fantastic cinematography go a long way in conveying the power of Queen’s music with the scenes set in the 1985 Live Aid concert especially dynamic.

Like a covers band who don’t quite capture the genuine essence of its subject, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is only entertaining on a surface level. There isn’t much underneath with the screenplay apparently too scared to further explore a complex performer. As a ‘Reader’s Digest’ or ‘Wikipedia’ version of Queen/Freddie Mercury history it’s fine with the tunes still having an impression decades after their creation.

Rating out of 10: 6

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Since the 1970’s, Swedish music group ABBA have cast a long shadow. Still a mainstay on easy-listening radio with their songs used in countless movies, their appeal has spanned generations. Continuing to be popular, it was a natural that a film based on their tracks would surface. When ‘Mamma Mia!’ exploded onto stage and screen, the spectacular success of both came as no surprise. ‘Mamma Mia! Here we go again’ is more of the same. Featuring a cast swanning around the Greek islands singing ABBA tunes, it’s another amiable ride through the Swiss supergroup’s back catalogue.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is expecting a child with her boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper). Managing her deceased mother’s villa in Greece, she worries about impending motherhood. Her mother’s friends, including Rosie (Julie Walters) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan) are on hand to aid Sophie in exploring her mother’s past. When Sophie’s grandmother Ruby (Cher) unexpectedly appears, her problems increase amidst the sun-kissed allure of the Greek climes.

‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is exactly as you’d expect. A plethora of ABBA tracks, good-looking cast, gorgeous scenery and light comedic drama. Taxing the brain-cells isn’t what this film is about although it’s unfortunate so little effort went into the script. Whilst lovely to look at, the plot drags considerably in its first half with the original cast making way for new characters. Only when the former cast return towards the end do things perk up considerably with the boredom threshold lessened.

Making this sequel the lesser of the two ‘Mammia Mia!’ films is how it contrives events to fit into the songs. Although the first movie also did this, here it’s glaringly obvious what song will appear due to the awkward set-up towards it. The new characters are uninteresting with flashbacks to the past increasing the tedium in between spectacularly staged music numbers. The Greek locations are always wonderful to view and hearing Cher tackle ABBA tunes makes up for the lack of vitality the film desperately needs.

Like re-heating a left over meal, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ may look enticing but on further inspection is less tasty than hoped. Given the enormous ABBA fan-base, the film will likely make a mint. But in terms of a movie experience, it’s fairly pedestrian with a third ‘Mamma Mia!’ outing as welcome as a mediocre ABBA tribute act.

Rating out of 10: 5