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Tag Archive: Rami Malek


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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orphan-black

Even more so than the annual Academy Awards for achievements in film, the Primetime Emmy Awards seem to either award the same thing every year or never get around to awarding series, actors, and creative voices that really push the bounds of the ordinary.  Is that a generalization ripe for argument?  Of course.  But when you watch as much television as we do here at borg.com, at some point years ago we just turned off the TV award shows and never looked back.

So what changed this year?  Tatiana Maslany won best actress in a drama for Orphan Black.  Rami Malek won best actor in a drama for Mr. Robot.  Louie Anderson won best supporting actor for Baskets.  And the special Sherlock–The Abominable Bride won for best TV movie.  So what poles shifted?  What constellations re-aligned?  What does that mean if our own best picks align with Emmy voters?  Are we finally “in-touch”?

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Take Tatiana Maslany, a top borg.com pick three years in a row for best actress in television (or any other medium).  Not to slight her wonderful supporting cast, but she’s practically a one-woman show, playing a half a dozen characters each season–and seven this year in her fourth season playing clone sestra–meaning every scene is critical and must reflect Maslany’s work–and viewer believability–as a completely different person.  She never gets the luxury of “phoning in” a performance.  The result is top-notch television, and the best acting and toughest role we’ve ever seen, executed with mastery.  Go Clone Club!

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Malek Robot

USA Network’s groundbreaking television series Mr. ROBOT returned this week and proved that Season 1.0 wasn’t just a chance encounter.  The hacktivist series Season 2.0 opener arrived just as the show and lead actor Rami Malek received Emmy nominations for last year’s efforts.  Every bit as compelling as what we liked best about its freshman season, Mr. ROBOT still has it all–intrigue, paranoia, and real-world parallels that should glue all of us to our TVs for another round of drama.  And bewilderment.

Season 1.0 had a few slips with episodes and subplots, reminding us it’s not easy to maintain excellence with a program so esoteric in its direction and plotting.  So beginning the season with a strong, fresh, and still unnerving first of a two-part story arc, titled “Unmask,” is something of a relief.  The show is still jarring in its intentional lack of clarity and slow reveal of what is happening next, yet it’s in part why we keep coming back for more.

The high point makes the viewer want to go back and re-watch all of Season 1.0 to answer the question:  Have we ever seen Malek’s character Elliot actually smile or really laugh?  It’s such a rarity that it seems even Elliot’s own hallucination of his father (Christian Slater) is suddenly hesitant and fearful of him when Elliot bursts into some maniacal hysteria.  Credit goes to showrunner Sam Esmail for revisiting all the series leads in a new way as we wonder what ever happened to Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström).

MR. ROBOT -- "eps2.0_unmasking.zip" Episode 201 -- Pictured: (l-r) Craig Robinson as Ray, Rami Malek as Eliot Alderson -- (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/USA Network)

Carly Chaikin’s Darlene, Elliot’s sister, is more confident this year, showing what a female Elliot may look like if he ever was able to take control of his psyche.  Will she ultimately be the one to take down E Corp?

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Mr robot

’round and ’round we go…

Last year television viewers were saying domo arigato to USA Network’s new series Mr. ROBOT, a new show providing a strange, mind-blowing look into the world of a subversive malcontent in the age of high-tech gadgets and shadowy subculture.  With top-notch, successful series like Monk, Psych, Burn Notice, and White Collar under its belt, USA Network proved it had another winner on its hands, and that you don’t have to be HBO or Showtime to produce compelling television.  An intense, psychological thrill ride, Mr. ROBOT was the cream of the crop in a season of new series including CW Network’s Stitchers, ABC’s The Whispers, Syfy’s Killjoys, Dark Matter, and The Expanse, TNT’s Proof, AMC’s Humans, Netflix’s Between and BBC America’s Orphan Black, CW’s iZombie, and Fox’s Wayward Pines.  Mr. ROBOT is back this summer and we have the first preview of what promises to be an exciting second season.

Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, Medium, 24, Battleship, The Legend of Korra), returns as Elliot, a tech for a cyber-security consulting firm, a drug addict, a loner, a genius.  But what is he really, and will we learn anything true about him this season?  Is he Hero, Villain, Vigilante, Cyber-terrorist, or something of each? Will that dark and gritty, fourth-wall breaking Ferris Bueller-style continue?

Malek Robot

Check out this preview for Season 2.0 of Mr. ROBOT:

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Arnold Terminator Genisys

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and as with last year we’re certain we reviewed more content this year than ever before.  This year was a big year for borgs in TV and film, so we had some difficult decisions to make.  All year long we sifted through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre TV, films, comics, and other books we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.

Today we reveal the entire list–the best genre content of 2015–with our top categories Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero FixBest Animated Fix,  and Best Borg selected regardless of medium.  A dozen properties garnered multiple mentions.

We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2016!

Killjoys

Best Sci-Fi Fix – Killjoys (Syfy).  Surprised?  Killjoys pulled together great worldbuilding, characters and actors in a year of a dozen new sci-fi shows to provide us the closest thing to the next Firefly we’ve seen in a long time.

Galavant

Best Fantasy Fix – Galavant (ABC); Runner-up The Librarians (TNT).  It aired early in 2015 but nothing surpassed Galavant’s medieval high adventure and all-out Princess Bride-style fun.

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Best Superhero Fix – The Flash (CW).  Of all the Marvel movies and TV series from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Agent Carter and from Arrow to Supergirl, nothing had us coming back for more each week like the superhero world in The Flash.

Rebels season 2

Best Animated Fix – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  Compare it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and see if you think this animated Star Wars galaxy had an even better story and characterization, along with the return of its own group of original trilogy actors, compelling visuals and rousing music.

Terminator Genisys image

Best Borg – Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Terminator Genisys (Paramount).  Schwarzenegger created yet another borg that could stand up against his prior successful characters from the series.  A cool, moving character in a big year for borgs on screen!

Ava from Ex Machina - borg

Best Borg Movie –  Ex Machina (DNA Films).  Incredible storytelling and a small cast of talented actors provided a classic science fiction story and Oscar-worthy film about our favorite subject.

Humans series

Best Borg TV SeriesHumans (AMC).  On television the most in-depth look at life as a borg and among borgs has never been portrayed more dramatically than on this year’s surprise sci-fi hit series from AMC.

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Best Kickass Genre Movie Heroine – Rey (Daisy Ridley), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney); Honorable Mentions: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Terminator Genisys (Paramount); Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Mad Max: Fury Road (Village Roadshow)

Liv Moore

Best Kickass Genre TV Heroine – Liv Moore (Rose McIver), iZombie (CW); Honorable Mentions: Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), Killjoys (Syfy); Helena (Tatiana Maslany), Orphan Black (BBC)

Want to know who we picked for best villain and best comic books of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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Mr Robot

Review by C.J. Bunce

The term “mind-blowing” is one of the most over-used phrases on the Web.  In truth, I am not sure I have ever seen anything I would call mind-blowing.  Yet if something were to come close, it may be the pilot to USA Network’s new intense, psychological thrill ride, Mr. Robot.  Although I haven’t seen roughly half of the pilots for the new series hitting the small screen this summer, of what I’ve seen this will top the watch list.  That’s saying a lot considering the eight other new sci-fi series I previewed here at borg.com this past week: CW Network’s Stitchers, ABC’s The Whispers, Syfy’s Killjoys, Dark Matter, and The Expanse, TNT’s Proof, AMC’s Humans, and Netflix’s Between And don’t forget about BBC America’s Orphan Black, CW’s iZombie, and Fox’s Wayward Pines, sci-fi series already airing.  Never before have viewers had more new sci-fi options on TV to choose from.

With top-notch, successful series like Monk, Psych, Burn Notice, and White Collar under its belt, USA Network may have another winner on its hands, and prove once and for all you don’t have to be HBO or Showtime to produce compelling television.

Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, Medium, 24, Battleship, The Legend of Korra), stars as Elliot, a tech for a cyber-security consulting firm, a drug addict, a loner, a genius.  I suspect we’re not supposed to know yet what he truly is:  Hero, Villain, Vigilante, Cyber-terrorist, or something of each.  He suffers from depression and possibly schizophrenia, he makes bad personal decisions, and his political views and odd mannerisms fuel his paranoia.  Paranoia, suggesting someone is always watching, as he roams, cloaked under his hood, wandering the streets of New York City.  Is any of this real, or it it all in his head?  Will we ever know?  Is Mr. Robot even sci-fi as the title would suggest, or a strange fantasy, or supernatural, or something entirely different?  Filmed like a modern but dark and gritty, fourth-wall breaking Ferris Bueller and emitting the uneasy dread of an updated WarGamesMr. Robot faces current social issues head on (and even the wall-breaking may not be real, and only something in Elliot’s mind).  We last saw a show take on similar subversive themes in the excellent Syfy series Continuum.

Christian Slater Mr Robot

With single-camera cinematography by Tim Ives, creator/writer Sam Esmail reaches right into our world of social networking and power in the hands of an elite group of decision makers and plunges the viewer into Elliot’s personal fears.  Something almost painterly goes into each shot, often surreal like a Wes Anderson movie, yet the stylishness never slows down the pace of the action.  In one set of scenes, an approaching Ferris wheel car off-camera appears to jar the actors and us out of our seats and keep us on our toes–twice.  Elliot is unaffected.

Malek gives us a character first unlikable–his world is disturbing and ugly, yet this anti-hero quickly grows on you to be somehow sympathetic, his dodgy eyes, uneasiness, and jittery mannerisms will keep you on edge for the entire hour.  The pilot may be the best pilot we’ve seen since the premiere of Lost.  Rounding out the experience, like John Carpenter would use to support his own thriller, Mac Quayle (American Horror Story) provides an intense, thumping, almost Daft Punk-inspired soundtrack that speeds the narrative along. 

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