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Tag Archive: Bryan Singer


Review by C.J. Bunce

The music biopic is as much a cinema fixture as Film Noir or the Western.  Just look back at a quick swath of the genre and you’ll find Clifton Webb as John Philip Sousa in Stars and Stripes Forever, James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy, Jimmy Stewart as Glenn Miller in The Glenn Miller Story, Gary Busey as Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story, Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams, Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in The Doors, Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, and Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.  If Milos Forman’s Amadeus was worthy of a Best Picture Oscarif the Academy gets it right–then director Bryan Singer’s new biopic Bohemian Rhapsody should also take home an armful of Oscars.  Actor Rami Malek, in one of the decade’s most immersive, riveting, and powerful performances, conjures the spirit of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury in a sweeping whirlwind of music and seismic spectacle celebrating individuality.

Few bands have the extensive catalog of music that can support a 2.5 hour film with familiar hit songs that fit the mood of every scene as Queen has.  With the participation behind the scenes of Queen lead guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor as executive producers, from the first scene Malek’s Freddie Mercury will take Queen fans back in time, and yet it’s the casting of the other three band members that provides a cohesive whole, convincing the audience this was a real band, and a real family.  Where Oliver Stone came close to getting his four actors lined up as mirrors for The Doors, anyone who grew up with the band can see how closely director Bryan Singer came to matching up the acting talent to Queen’s members (and it’s right there for comparison with archival footage in the film’s end credits).  Audiences already knew Malek was a unique talent from his series Mr. Robot and his previous TV and film appearances.  Like Val Kilmer transformed into Jim Morrison, American actor Malek becomes Anglo-Asian rock god Freddie Mercury.  British actor Gwilym Lee (Ashes to Ashes, Midsomer Murders) is the all-out doppelganger of Brian May, and the next acting talent to watch for.  The growth of American actor Joseph Mazzello from the boy in Jurassic Park to bass guitarist John Deacon (with a seamless British accent) is an eye-popping surprise.  And Ben Hardy (The Woman in White, X-Men: Apocalypse, Mary Shelley) holds his own as edgy drummer Roger Taylor.

Anthony McCarten‘s (The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour) script has several parallels to both Amadeus and The Doors.  Some clever–and some audacious–decisions include scenes incorporating Mike Myers (Wayne’s World, 54) as record producer Ray Foster, Tom Hollander (Gosford Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mission Impossible series) as lawyer Jim Beach, and scenes showing the development of Queen hits “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Will Rock You”–altogether 20 hit songs made the soundtrack, including five of the eight songs from the band’s memorable 1985 Live-Aid concert.

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20th Century Fox slipped in one more trailer in advance of San Diego Comic-Con, a new trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody.  It took a few years to get this film going, with Sacha Baron Cohen and Bryan Singer involved along the way and both dropping out.  But the result looks set to be a legendary music biopic, and Rami Malek is shown in more scenes conjuring Freddie Mercury like Val Kilmer mirrored Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors.  All those clips of hit songs pieced together provide only a glimpse of the breadth of the catalog of great tunes created by Queen.

Freddie Mercury was one of a kind, any way you describe him.  As we said with the release of the first trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s great that audiences have had the chance to see Rami Malek in a critically acclaimed major performance (Mr. Robot) before he goes all-in with such a beloved personality.  And it’s not only Malik.  Ashes to Ashes and Midsomer Murder’s Gwilym Lee is a ringer for Brian May, too.

Here’s the next great trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody:

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The biopic genre has a proven track record when it comes to musicians, despite the fact that it’s probably more difficult to achieve compared to other biographical attempts.  Each attempt is a bit of a Frankenstein tale.  On the one hand you must re-create the image, the look, the style, the flair, the charisma of the musician.  He or she must perfectly emulate the style of skill the musician was famous for.  The filmmaker must also encounter the emotion the music itself brings forth through the actor and somehow, via filmmaking skill or instinct–or just plain magic–resurrect the performances, the good and the bad, to trick us all into thinking we’re watching the real thing.  And yet filmmakers have succeeded over and over.  After months of waiting we now have our first look at Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the first trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody.  Check it out below.  It’s a great casting and a great trailer, and it may send chills down your spine.

Art is in the eye of the beholder, so you may not buy every instance where Hollywood has put music stars on the screen, but take a look at just a few attempts.  They can be from any time period.  Take Tom Hulce as Mozart in Amadeus.  Was that an easier task since modern audiences didn’t have a pre-conceived notion of what to expect?  Similarly, do we know whether Gary Oldman was successful as Beethoven in Immortal Beloved?  Flash forward to the first part of the 20th century and more contemporary audiences knew Clifton Webb made a great John Philip Sousa in Stars and Stripes Forever, James Cagney knew every step of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Jimmy Stewart had Glenn Miller’s mannerisms down in The Glenn Miller Story.  Sometimes these life stories brought out the very best work of their actors, like Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams, Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, Gary Busey as Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story, and Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray.  The best yet may very well be Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in The Doors.  Kilmer became Morrison for a legion of the band’s fans.

In the past three years social media has highlighted the aging of the rock ‘n’ roll generation, as the architects of the music begin to pass away at a quicker rate, not only the good–or great–who died young (like Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Jim Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Janis Joplin), but the founders that lived long lives, like Chuck Berry, and some of the biggest names in all of modern pop music: Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, and Tom Petty.  So it would seem moviegoers should expect a flood of biopics of musicians in the coming years.

Freddie Mercury was one of a kind, any way you describe him.  From a casting standpoint, he had a unique look that couldn’t have been easy to copy.  It’s great that audiences have had the chance to see Rami Malek in a critically acclaimed major performance before he goes all-in with such a beloved personality.  And it’s not only Malik.  Ashes to Ashes and Midsomer Murder’s Gwilym Lee is a ringer for Brian May, too.  Don’t take our word for it–here’s the amazingly cut trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody:

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If you thought audiences may be souring on the onslaught of television series based on superheroes and comic books, you’d be wrong.  Hollywood is fully engaged in the realm of continuing to adapt comic books to the small screen.  Along with all the current series moving into next seasons this year, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Gotham, iZombie, Riverdale, Supergirl, and Wynonna Earp, you’ll have at least three more new series featuring superheroes to check out this Fall.  Check out previews for all three below after the break.

Black Lightning is the latest character from DC Comics coming to the CW.  Cress Williams plays the title character who is Jefferson Pierce by day.  On paper Black Lightning sounds a bit like The Incredibles, with a retired hero returning to the superhero business.  The superhero debuted in the comic book Black Lightning Issue #1 40 years ago.  Tony Isabella and Dennis O’Neil wrote the original stories, with artwork by Trevor Von Eedon.  Black Lightning also stars China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, and Christine Adams.

The Gifted hails from a pretty powerful TV combo: Bryan Singer, known for everything from House, M.D., to The X-Men movie series, is co-producing the show with series creator Matt Nix, showrunner on the successful series Burn Notice.  The series stars Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker (Angel) as parents who take their family on the run after they discover their children’s mutant abilities.  The series producers have said it will not intersect with the X-Men movies, but you’ll see familiar characters like Blink, Polaris, Thunderbird, and Eclipse.  The show co-stars Burn Notice’s Coby Bell, Sean Teale, Jamie Chung, Emma Dumont, Blair Redford, Natalie Alyn Lind, and Percy Hynes White.  The show will air on Fox.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Superheroes in movies and television.  It’s the entertainment explosion of the past ten years, beginning with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008.  Yet after only ten years, after so many Marvel lookalikes and too many dark Dark Knights, what superhero shows rise above the rest?  All fanboys and fangirls have an opinion.  The best part is that there truly is something for everyone.  Maybe you like Netflix’s cool and gritty Luke Cage.  Or maybe the CW parade of DC series is your thing.  If you’re like us, you love Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy over all the Marvel and DC team-up movies.  Maybe you like it all.  Director Bryan Singer created another X-Men entry that was released last summer, overlooked by many, but a solid entry in the X-Men cinema archive: X-Men: Apocalypse.  It’s streaming now on Amazon Prime, and it’s not to be missed, especially for Logan fans collecting all of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine appearances and everyone looking for a great superhero assemblage.

How often do superhero movies, or any other drama, sci-fi, fantasy, or action franchise movie, threaten stakes as great as the end of the world?  How many actually take you through an apocalypse?  X-Men: Apocalypse delivers the rampage and destruction you read about as a kid inside the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  If you enjoy seeing great superhero powers on the big screen, as with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver remains the defending champion.  He gets even more character development and screen time in X-Men: Apocalypse.

X-men plane

As kids we debated over what power would allow you to triumph over your superhero peers, and Singer must have done the same thing and landed with the same answer.  Speed.  Despite giving us the best superhero TV series of the 1980s and today with its two looks at Barry Allen/The Flash, DC Entertainment has not yet shown us all a speedster could do.  Will that happen in Justice League this year?  Any speedster work will be compared to Quicksilver.  Until that film hits theaters, X-Men: Apocalypse is worth a second look for Quicksilver’s big scene alone.  But there’s more.

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Amid all the chaos and bombardment of superhero movies in the theaters these days, it’s often difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Not so long ago if someone asked about your favorite superhero movie you’d probably name it without hesitation.  These days?  You probably will need to mull it over in light of so many quality films.  Of the classic films I would have named Christopher Reeves’ Superman.  Of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I once would have named the first Iron Man.  Then after many Marvel lookalikes and too many dark Dark Knights, the three that rise to the top are Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Then Bryan Singer created another X-Men entry released this summer and I’m hedging again.  X-Men: Apocalypse, still in theaters, is exactly the movie I dreamed of when I was a kid reading comic books.

How often do superhero movies, or any other drama, sci-fi, fantasy, or action franchise movie, threaten stakes as great as the end of the world?  How many actually take you through an apocalypse?  X-Men: Apocalypse delivers the rampage and destruction I read as a kid inside the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  I was never an X-Men fan before X-Men: Days of Future Past and Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men monthly series, so I haven’t followed the ins and outs of the team for decades to know whether the movies are “loyal” enough for diehard readers.  But I do know what great superhero powers look like on the big screen, and as with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver remains the best realized superhero on-screen.

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As kids we debated over what power would allow you to triumph over your superhero peers, and Singer must have done the same thing and landed with the same answer.  Speed.  Despite giving us the best superhero TV series of the 1980s and today with its two looks at Barry Allen/The Flash, DC Entertainment has not yet shown us all a speedster could do.  Will that happen in Justice League next year?  Until then, X-Men: Apocalypse is worth a first or second look for Quicksilver’s big scene.  And more.

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Wolverine in X-Men Apocalypse

Just like the new Spider-Man made his first appearance last month in a surprise trailer reveal (see it here if you missed it) for Captain America: Civil War, Wolverine is making a similar showing in the latest trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse.  Is that Hugh Jackman’s arm?  We’re betting he’s back once again for his penultimate appearance with the claws before he goes off into the sunset after one last swagger in Wolverine 3.

Director Bryan Singer must have had a great time putting together the latest characters and actors for world of the X-Men.  This latest trailer is wall-to-wall action, previewing some of the humor the franchise is known for, and showcasing the leadership qualities of Jennifer Lawrence ‘s Raven/Mystique.  And we finally get a first good look at Olivia Munn’s Psylocke taking on Nicholas Hoult’s Beast.

X-men trailer

But don’t take our word for it.  Check out this supposed final trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse:

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Quicksilver X-men Apocalypse

One of the best directors of his generation, Bryan Singer teased us in 2014 with the year’s best superhero movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past.  He teased us by showing us Quicksilver, the young speedy mutant, but only for a small portion of the film.  Played by Evan Peters, the scene where he breaks Michael Fassbender’s Magneto out of a Pentagon prison is the single best transformation of a superhero from comic book to screen.  His disarming of guards in slow motion to the tune of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” is now the stuff of legendary cinema, and that just left fans begging for more.

And it looks like Singer is going to deliver what X-Men fans want the most: More Quicksilver.

Beast and Quicksilver

Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Oscar Isaac is Apocalypse, the original mutant the film’s (and the Marvel Comics Universe’s) biggest modern villain.  Rounding out the cast are actors both old and new to the franchise: James McAvoy as Professor X, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.

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Magneto

Bryan Singer’s next X-Men movie keeps looking better and better.  20th Century Fox released this new poster for this summer’s superhero release, X-Men: Apocalypse, honing in on Oscar Isaac’s villain Apocalypse.  He is watching over his henchmen in the form of Michael Fassbender returning as Magneto, and newcomers Olivia Munn as Psylocke, Ben Hardy as Archangel, and Alexandra Shipp as Storm.

Other actors old and new for the next mutant bash are James McAvoy as Professor X, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast), Evan Peters as Quicksilver (the best speedster to ever appear on film), Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.

If you missed 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past reviewed here at borg.com, or the expanded Rogue Cut from last year reviewed here, grab yourself a copy and experience one of the best superhero films of all time.  Here is an earlier image from the new film:

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And here is the new poster from X-Men: Apocalypse:

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X-Men Apocalypse clip

We’re big fans of Bryan Singer movies, and have always been amazed at how well the Marvel X-Men translated into the films under his guidance.  In fact last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past ranks at the top of all the Marvel movies, including every Avengers film.  If you missed it, check out our review of the original at borg.com here and the “Rogue Cut” here.

Although we are losing the older X-Men cast for next year’s latest entry in the X-Men “cinematic universe,” which was responsible for half the fun of X-Men: Days of Future  Past, X-Men: Apocalypse looks like it could be just as good in the first trailer just released.

Professor Xavier X-Men Apocalypse James McAvoy

Everyone looks great, from James McAvoy’s Professor X to Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, to Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, Nicholas Hoult’s Beast.  And then there’s the new additions: Yes, that’s really Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and Ex Machina’s Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, and Olivia Munn as Psylocke.

Check out this epic trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse:

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