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Tag Archive: Joseph Mazzello


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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By C.J. Bunce

Once in a while I get gifts of food in the mail from nice people.  I’ve received frozen turkeys, frozen cupcakes, frozen brownies, cold-packed chocolates.  Food is good.  Food as gifts from friends is even better.

So today the Fed Ex man delivers an unexpected package to my doorstep:

PERISHABLE, TIME AND TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE, OPEN IMMEDIATELY.  I picked it up.  It was not cold like you’d think something cold-packed would be.  Someone sent me brownies!  But its warm… melted?  Lame.

So I brought it into the house.  And the first instance of creepiness sank in.  It wasn’t brownies.

Jefferson Institute.  Coma Patient Care You Can Trust?  Again… not brownies.  The container in the box had a disturbing shape.  I’d seen these on countless medical shows on TV.  For a second there I was hesitant to pull the container out of the box.  But I did.

At this point I was thinking.  No way.  Ohnotheydidn’t.  Not actually send me a… human organ… but set this whole marketing thing up?  This is bordering on brilliant.  Genius even.  At this point I knew this had to do with the new Coma TV mini-series I’d heard about at Comic-Con and received the strange brochure with a crazy scribbled remark across it:

But again, I was taken aback for a second.  So what the heck is in the container?  Fake heart prop? (Chocolate heart prop?)

The screener!  This has to be the most brilliant screener package ever.  Kudos for the marketing firm that talked someone into this campaign.  Bravo!

So a little background.  Once upon a time there was a movie called Coma.  It starred Genevieve Bujold in arguably her best career performance as a determined but naive doctor who stumbled upon an excessive number of comas resulting from patients having routine surgeries in OR 8 of the hospital she worked in.  Michael Douglas played a doctor she worked with, the great actor Richard Widmark played the evil chief of surgery, and Elizabeth Ashley played the equally vile administrator of a cold, chilling coma patient center called the Jefferson Institute.  And Tom Selleck played one of the poor bastards that ended up dead as a doornail by movie’s end.

The Jefferson Institute stuck with me.  It was the stuff of nightmares.  I will never have surgery in a room called OR 8.  Elizabeth Ashley’s “Mrs. Emerson” was right up there with Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West, only creepier because this was the real-world kind of creepy stuff.  Heck, I once didn’t apply for a job at a company because the offices looked like the Jefferson Institute.

Flash forward to working as managing editor for The Journal of Corporation Law.  We all were a little creeped out by the agreed subject of the annual symposium issue.  It was about the business and future of human organs–redistribution of donor organs and the like:

I remember reading the line above: “Other proposed procurement schemes, however, such as market sales and conscription, either currently are proscribed by law or are likely to encounter significant constitutional impediments.”  Creepy subject.  Reminded me of Coma.  (Insert hair standing up on back of neck here).

Suffice it to say, with my memory of the original series, I am definitely the audience for this marketing campaign.

So yes, of course, coming soon at borg.com, look for a preview of the A&E Network mini-series, Coma, by Ridley and Tony Scott, based on Robin Cook’s novel and Michael Crichton’s screenplay for the original movie Coma, with big name actors like Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Geena Davis (Beetlejuice, The Fly, Fletch), Ellen Burstyn (Poliitcal Animals, The Exorcist, Into Thin Air) as Mrs. Emerson, James Rebhorn (White Collar), and James Woods (John Carpenter’s Vampires), starring Lauren Ambrose (Law and Order, Torchwood), Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me), Joseph Mazzello (Jurassic Park, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) and Michael Weston (House, M.D.).

Meanwhile, check out comaconspiracy.com and jeffersoninstitute.com for some cool tie-ins.