‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ review: An easy come, easy go biopic

Bohemian Rhapsody rocks well as a safe and mildly scandalous musical biopic.

Bohemian Rhapsody treats the life of Freddie Mercury with a cautious affection. The film starts in London 1970, when Freddie (Rami Malek), still known in his birth name Farrokh Bulsara, is a young man who works as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport, but he intends to make his name as a musician. One night, after watching the local band “Smile” perform, Freddie convinces their guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) to make him their new lead singer, after giving them a taste of his incredible vocal range. The trio later add bass guitarist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) to their ranks and dub their new band as Queen, a name picked out by Freddie himself. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. As they reach unparalleled success, lead singer Freddie has to traverse his career and personal life surrounded by darker influences along with the possibility of pursuing a solo career.

With a run time of over two hours, Bohemian Rhapsody supplies as a reminder that the band will forever come down as a legend. As a biopic, this film tips more favor on fleshing out the lead singer’s life than the band Queen itself. The film puts much drama in the band’s rise – the struggles and its cheerful trip through the hits. While on Freddie’s life it struggles to find focus, the film does not go for a more liberal approach other than what might have been a public knowledge already. It revolves much time to his relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and to his solitary to gay relationships. The film doesn’t seem to know what to do with his homosexual desire. His love affair with Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) only played a nightmare of scandal, addiction and exploitation with him being innocent. It only views Paul as a villain and AIDS as a punishment. In attempt to stay polite, the film gives an untarnished image to the surviving members of Queen.

Rami Malek, on the other hand, brings an extraordinary performance that deserves all the cheers it gets. No wonder why the film makes much better viewing because he almost gets the good lines and he offers something more beyond the material. Malek outshines all the other cast members, especially in the recreation of Live Aid in which he gives everything he has by performing it like it might be Freddie’s last time. It’s one of the most truly affecting scenes to the viewers.

Where the film feels lacking and flawed, the music compensates much for it. Bohemian Rhapsody would make you feel that something essential is missing but the band’s performance will make you appreciate the film more. Many of the major Queen hits are heard in the film and these will let you get into the film’s groove. The excitement along with the audience participation is what the film does best with. “Bohemian Rhapsody” “We Are the Champions”, “We Will Rock You”, and “Radio Ga Ga” are all great hits to sing along worthy ofb an IMAX viewing.

4 out of 5 stars

Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Allen Leech, Aiden Gillen, Tom Hollander, and Mike Myers. Produced by 20th Century Fox, Initial Entertainment Group, and Regency Enterprises. Run time: 135 minutes.

‘To Love Some Buddy’ review: It’s harmless to fall in love with your best friend

Jason Paul Laxamana’s To Love Some Buddy posits that it’s harmless to be in love with your best friend.

To Love Some Buddy revolves around best friends, Faith (Maja Salvador) and Julius (Zanjoe Marudo), who chose to give in to love and live with the consequences of choosing to cross the line and risk their friendship. As best friends they are inseparable because they both share the same dreams, same songs genre, and same perceptions in life. They agree with each other and know how to never leave each other’s side. Faith was always the one who runs to Julius every time she has a boy problem even when Julius is busy with other stuff. Since they’re so close, they are inevitably asked by other people if they’re just best friends or more than that. Julius is always the one who frustratingly explains to others that they are just friends—and that’s it. Until one night, he starts seeing Faith in a different way and tries to convince her to start dating. Faith agrees and they decide to become more than just best friends with the hope that their decision will make their bond much stronger.

The movie is for those who took the risk to find answers to the what-ifs beyond the friend-zone. It’s a journey that crosses the line in an enjoyable way. It’s very relatable and somehow very crazy because one can always entertain the thought of romantic love towards a best friend—that it’s possible to try to tell the truth that you are in love. Yes, it’s weird to be in love with a best friend, but it’s all about taking it to the next level while enjoying the relationship. The story tackles everything that usually happens when you are in a kind of relationship that begins wit friendship—the hopes, the flaws, the mistakes. Because what’s more nakakakilig is that when two persons start out as friends and end up being lovers. This movie just makes one laugh out loud, cry out loud, and love out loud.

Director Jason Paul Laxamana gave his best hugot movie yet with a fresh team-up of two of the biggest stars. Maja and Zanjoe really have the chemistry. Also, the romantic connection between them is surprising. They exude more of the friendship feels rather than the typical cheesy feels. The two have long expressed their fervor to work with each other and this indeed is a good material that made that possible.

4 out of 5 stars

Directed by Jason Paul Laxamana. Starring Maja Salvador, Zanjoe Marudo, Donny Pangilinan. Produced by Black Sheep under ABS-CBN Films.

‘Halloween’ review: A fresh take on the iconic slasher

David Gordon Green’s ‘Halloween’ brings dignity to an increasingly disappointing franchise.

Coming in 40 years later, Green’s new Halloween movie ignores every single sequel that came after John Carpenter’s 1978 cult classic. This game-changing move serves as a course correction to deliver a well-made and thrilling sequel that brings some form of closure to the franchise.

The film talks about the trauma of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who this time around is the last line of defense against the masked serial killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle). Laurie’s experience on the first Halloween film has fully consumed her for the past four decades, making her obsessively security conscious and beyond paranoid that profoundly affects her relationships with both her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). When Michael escaped after imprisoned for 40 years he headed home to Haddonfield on the night before Halloween. On his way to Haddonfield he managed to scare and kill victims that stand in his way – this includes Allyson Strode and some of her teenage friends, some cops, and a few other locals. Michael didn’t know that Laurie turns out to be prepared for the worst. Until he get to face Laurie and her family in a cabin were a huge satisfying and incredible tense showdown happen.

The film honors the classic forebear while developing an identity of its own. This new Halloween movie was clearly made not just by the people who adore the original film but also the modern type of horror films, with enough loving wit and self-awareness to acknowledge the film’s genre. The visuals and sound maintain the exact blend of bluntness that makes this film terrifying. The sound design is heavy, chunky, and harsh, complemented by a musical score that absolutely shreds, combining the classic Halloween theme with newer, darker material

Green creates a fresh take on the iconic slasher film, nodding to the original but used an entire modern horror toolbox. Green makes a number of explicit references to Carpenter’s film with dialogue and even shots but relies heavily on subverting expectations and the long-awaited showdown between Michael and Laurie, from which the film became more interesting. Green cleverly finds a way to relate it to the original only with the roles reversed where Laurie is no longer the prey – forming in some sort of closure to Michael. The Laurie and Michael segments are worth celebrating in the film. It succeeds at giving Laurie her due while making Michael scary again.

To cut to the chase, the film is particularly made to revive its silent killer and its closure to Laurie Strode. Audiences who longs for the same taste for the original film would actually be disappointed but there’s a lot to see in the film which has more to offer for after those disappointing sequels. Because after all, it would be a blast seeing Michael Myers back.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Nick Castle, Virginia Gardner, and Will Patton. 109 minutes

‘First Love’ review: Refreshing love team leaves you aching

Paul Soriano’s romantic drama ‘First Love’ touches the viewers’ hearts with a refreshing team-up of Bea Alonzo and Aga Mulach’s refreshing teamup.

Like most tales of love, First Love marks an emotional journey between two kindred souls meeting in one fateful day. There’s Ali (Bea Alonzo) as the optimistic, free-spirited photographer and Nick (Aga Muhlach) as the typical, calculated and reserved businessman. Both of them have contrasting life philosophies. For Ali who’s diagnosed with a congenital heart disease, it’s about living life to the fullest by seizing each moment. While for Nick who seeks closure for his troubled past, it’s about reeling from the past to find peace in the present.

But ultimately the film’s message can be summed up in Ali’s mantra: “carpe diem” – to realize that the past is irreversible and the future is uncertain, but the present is something you can firmly grasp. As you go along their roller-coaster journey, the film redefines what ‘first love’ means. It is in Nick’s compassion that you’ll truly feel that there’s so much good in this world, that a simple act of kindness can go an extra mile and change someone’s heart in an unexpected way. With a love story that is so pure and beautiful, it’s not hard to surrender to this film’s charm.

First Love does not wallow in heartbreak but it rather focuses on the bittersweet happiness found in those painful moments, hoping that this silver lining will be enough to change the course of your life. The emotional highs and lows may leave you aching (in a good way) but what will prevail is the universal feeling of desire to live a life that’s filled to the brim. Through this way, this family-oriented movie also works as a wake up call.

Director Paul Soriano beautifully crafts the film with the help of a dynamic cast and awe-inspiring visuals (Vancouver is a perfect backdrop too). Muhlach still proves that he’s the leading man to beat while Alonzo solidifies her spot as this generation’s movie queen. Even Edward Barber has shown the potential to be the next big thing in the industry.

To cut to the chase, you know that the film does magic with its material if it hits you right in the feels. This tear jerker stirs up one’s emotion – it’s a heart-wrenching tale yet an avenue for salvation. First Love is something new for the hopeful romantics to savor.

5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Paul Soriano. Starring Bea Alonzo, Aga Muhlach, Edward Barber, Albie Casino, G Tongi, and Sandy Andolong. Produced by Ten17P, Star Cinema, and Viva Films.

‘Wild and Free’ review: Unexpected and intense love affair

Connie Macatuno’s ‘Wild and Free‘ is not as just skin-deep as its trailer teases.

The trailer for Regal’s Wild and Free promises passionate and erotic scenes that would surely awaken your most basic senses – the snippets are steamy and the onscreen chemistry of lead stars Derrick Monasterio and Sanya Lopez sizzles to the brim. But apart from the physical tension going on, director Connie Macatuno matches it up with a wonderful and intense true-to-life love story.

The film marks a turning point in Ellie (Sanya) and Jake’s (Derrick) passionate relationship when a secret from the past has been led out to the broad daylight. As both sides suffer from the consequences of their actions, the two must learn how to accept and love one other even in their worst moments. The film executes this notion in a way that will resonate most to modern real-life couples.

Above all, this movie is not just about its steamy scenes. Yes, the intensity adds a whole new layer into it, but the film exhibits restraint by knowing where to be gratuitous and where to be conservative, making sure that you’re teased enough to glue your attention to the screen. The scenarios played here are what usually happens to couples. There’s drama – the typical fights and jealousy are shown but they’re never played just for the sake of spectacle. It wants to connect to its viewers, have them react “Uy ganun tayo diba” or “Uy ganun ka diba.” The story may look simple from an outsider but in reality, love stories are much complex than what it is. Wild and Free bares this tricky aspect in relationships.

The performances of both lead stars are all fantastic. Derrick successfully conveys a bold and fierce characterization underneath his handsome and charismatic looks. While Sanya embodies a sexy, strong-willed girl who knows her limitations when it comes to loving someone. For both young actors, this is their first mature movie role, but the way they have prepared for this makes them look assured and spontaneous. Ultimately, the oozing chemistry of Derrick and Sanya makes Wild and Free an interesting and gripping flick for its audience.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Connie S.A. Macatuno and produced by Regal Multimedia, ‘Wild and Free’ stars Derrick Monasterio, Sanya Lopez, Juancho Trivino and Ashley Ortega. Run time: 105 minutes.

‘Venom’ review [1 of 2]: A parasite that bites the dust

“Ruben Fleischer’s ‘Venom’ crafts a mediocre film without Spider-Man.”

For Marvel comic fans, the idea of ‘Venom’ starring in a stand-alone movie is a dream come true. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 may have relegated the character to a third wheel villain, but it nevertheless gave hope for the possibility of having its own spin-off. It is Ruben Fleischer, best known for his work in Zombieland, who confidently steps up in an attempt to bring the anti-hero to life. It has the strong potential to be one of the most MARVELous movies yet made in the superhero genre.

But Venom disappoints immediately with a dull first half. A spaceship crashes on earth, leaving an amorphous, liquid-like form symbiote (‘Venom’) that requires a host to bond for survival. Then it follows the introduction of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who lives in San Francisco with his fiancée Annie Weying (Michelle Williams) whose work is connected to Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the founder of Life Foundation that specializes on symbiotes. Enter its lengthy setup where Eddie loses his reporting gig and his fiancée – his life going off the rails when he decides to confront Drake on his malicious practice of experimenting human test subjects. To cut the long story short, Venom ends up merging with Eddie and together they try to figure out how to work in a shared body, while being hunted by Drake’s henchmen.

Coming into the screening with the preconceived notion that Venom will be bad, I decided that it’s best to enjoy this film as a casual viewer than a critic. But with so many flaws, it’s hard not to be critical. Whatever success that Fleischer pulled in Zombieland, he didn’t quite find the correct, same angle for Venom. The bromance relationship, comedic banters, and personality clashes between Eddie and Venom are really fun to watch but it doesn’t fit on the serious tone that the movie demands. The action is thrilling – seeing Venom brutally taking off heads of an entire SWAT team gives a little verve, albeit the camera angles sometimes mess up. Most of the time, the movie sets up the action in night where the Venom’s features are begging to be highlighted. It’s quite hard to keep track of what the audience are supposed to see, save for an amazing final battle where Venom and another symbiote, Riot, have both discernible forms. Overall, the plot is decent enough – it’s easy to understand yet not too boring. I can pick several moments in the film genuinely enjoyed.

Hardy suits the character very well and it’s safe to say that he did a better job than Topher Grace, but the lack of chemistry between him and Williams make the performances unengaging. There’s no strong establishment of their relationship in the beginning, considering that Eddie’s personal goal here is to reconcile with her.

Venom squanders its potential to do more. The decision to cut 40 minutes of Hardy’s favorite scenes and to switch the rating from R to PG-13 ultimately lowered the film’s capacity to fully embrace its anti-hero side. Somewhere in Fleischer’s file is a R-rated director’s cut that is much worthy of viewing. But as far as I’m concerned, this theatrical version bites the dust. That is not to say that this film will flunk in the box office – films with negative reviews can still find commercial success, and Marvel still has the option to connect this to their cinematic universe.

P.S. There are two end credits scenes. One will give more hype and an unimaginable follow up, while the other will take you to ‘another universe.’

2.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, ‘Venom‘ stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, and Reid Scott. Run time: 140 minutes

‘Night School’ review: Potentially squeaks out passing grade

Malcolm D. Lee’s Night School smartly puts the talents of Tiffany Haddish to her reliable co-star Kevin Hart.

Kevin Hart playing the lead in Night School will surely elicit a fun time filled with cheeky jokes and great laughs. But setting aside the hilarity, the film subtly focuses on broad important issues in education like race and religion bias, the consequences of unaddressed learning disabilities, and the need for sensitive teachers and administrators. Night School is more than just a passing grade.

The movie talks about Teddy (Kevin Hart), a salesman that lives beyond his financial means who inevitably comes to a realization that in life, there are truly no shortcuts. After a series of unfortunate events, including his failed attempt to impress his beautiful, self-sufficient fiancée Lisa (Megalyn Echikunawoke), he decides to finally get his high school G.E.D. There he meets Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), a no-nonsense, hardworking yet underpaid teacher who won’t tolerate any form of slacking or cheating. She may have an unorthodox and unique approach to teaching, but underneath all of it is a big heart for her students.

Teddy’s classmates come from different backgrounds and are likewise impacted by their different life choices. There’s the housewife who believes she’s still blessed despite having ungrateful kids and an overbearing husband. There’s the pretty hipster who’s only attending classes to avoid being sent by her parents to juvenile detention. There’s the wannabe dental hygienist who can’t properly pronounce his profession title. There’s the enlightened, “woke” brother who’s a know-it-all. There’s the prison inmate who studies via Skype. And then, there’s the father who’s at odds with his son and thinks about giving up on school. Night School has a dynamic ensemble to entertain you throughout.

The film lives up to the expectation of being funny but it also has its serious moments which would come handy in real life. It presents the attitude of indifference that many parents have when interacting with other students who learn differently. Teacher Carrie, on the other hand, is not afraid to go the extra mile in getting the best out of her students. She may indulge with excessive cursing and wrestling/choking methods to encourage student participation, but her genuine intentions triumphs over.

Night School is actually a film about second chances. A high school dropout comes back to education in an attempt to make things right, the film telling that it is never late to start over again. Teddy’s emotional speech in the end teems with the humor and life realizations. Director Malcolm D. Lee squeaks out a passing grade by using education as a fun tool that gives plenty of takeaways.

3 out of 5 stars

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee starring Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Romany Malco, Keith David, and Loretta Devine.
Run time: 111 minutes