Friday, November 2, 2018

Actors (and actresses) mostly carry this cinematic quintet opening today

If it's November, it must be the the start of the busy movie season, with holidays and awards possibilities beginning their annual dances in many Hollywood heads.
Malek (as Mercury) and Gwilym Lee (as lookalike Brian May) are Queen band mates.

This weekend, at least seven new films, including the resurrection of an old one from Orson Welles, make and take their bows on northeast Ohio screens. Here are some short takes on the five we've seen.

Maybe the best -- and easily the most entertaining of the bunch -- is "Bohemian Rhapsody," the long-awaited music bio about Freddie Mercury, lead singer of  the '80s chart-topping outfit known simply as Queen.

Obviously the soundtrack is spot on, with all of the essential British band's memorable hits sprinkled prominently throughout. And, if that's not really Rami Malek carrying the main tune, so what. The "Mr. Robot" Emmy-winner is electrifying as Mercury, whether he's on stage; partying and prancing during the seriously scary AIDS Era; or expressing his feelings to the alleged "love of his life" (played nicely by Lucy Boynton) and even to his parents in a very moving final act.

Speaking of endings, Queen's stunning, 20-minute performance at 1985's star-studded "Live Aid" charity concert seems perfectly re-created, too, in helping bring down the curtain on a film that might actually really rock you.

Rated "PG-13": thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language; 2:14; $ $ $ $ out of $5 

Steve Carell and Amy Ryan, a doozy of  a TV couple in the last few seasons of NBC's popular "The Office," are reunited in "Beautiful Boy," as divorced parents in a hard-to-watch little film that simply belongs to young Timothee Chalamet.

Chalamet and Carell, as troubled son and worried father.
The latter, an Oscar nominee in last year's "Call By Your Name," soars again, this time devouring his role as young addict Nic Sheff, whose memoir, "Tweak," became one of two books on which his death-defying experiences in the movie are based. The other, also called "Beautiful Boy," comes from his dad, successful freelance-writer Dave Sheff, a man mostly played by Carell with a kind of Charlie Brown slouch.

Certainly, such a fatherly countenance is likely deserved since Dad Dave constantly is being hoodwinked by son Nic's continuing deceptions, as well as the so-called "relapsing that's part of recovery." That's where the film slides between compelling and heartbreak, not to mention a little too frightening to absorb for any parent in the crowd.

Nic's addiction affects everyone in the family, including two young siblings who adore him, a supportive step mom (Mara Tierney), and his real mother (the ever-fine Ryan), whose late arrival to the proceedings might cause you to wonder about her maternal instincts.

Chalamet's performance, one of the year's best, deserves to be seen, but it certainly doesn't exactly make for a fun night at the movies.

Rated "R": drug content throughout, language and brief sexual material; 2:00; $ $ $ out of $5

A gaggle of ghastly gals, led by Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, and a short-lived Chloe Grace Moretz, sometimes creepily inhabit "Suspiria," a very long movie that twists and turns in and out of its most macabre settings.

Johnson dances away with the lead role in "Suspiria."
All are elaborately staged by director Luca Guadagnino (the same guy who put Chalamet through his paces in the previously mentioned "Call Me By Your Name"). Alas, Luca's remake of Dario Argento's much shorter 1977 version (which I never saw) occasionally comes across as a self-indulgent overstatement by a talented filmmaker who cares more about art than story.

No doubt he and screenwriter David Kajganich, a Lorain, Ohio, native who teamed with the director before in "A Bigger Splash," easily could have done without a couple of intrusive -- and convoluted -- sidebars involving hijackers and Nazis and perhaps even the Johnson character's own Ohio roots in Amish country, of all places.

From there, her naive young Susie, an alleged brilliant dancer and sweet young thang, somehow finds her way to Berlin to audition for a place in a high-end academy run by women with tastes leaning toward the bizarre and grotesque.

Meanwhile, without giving anything more away, Swinton, as the school's artistic director, literally goes all over the screen to impress us, and here she always does. Horror fans likely will embrace much of it most readily, but the ubiquitous Swinton, the seductive Johnson, and seven acts, including an epilogue, offer plenty more to give it a gander.

Rated "R": disturbing, content involving ritualistic violence, bloody images and graphic nudity, and for some language including sexual references; 2:32; $ $ $ out of $5

Sometimes it seems as if every small indie film from jolly ol' England is connected to 19th century author, humorist, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, and now he gets the full-blown treatment in "The Happy Prince," a not-so-aptly named bio.

Titled after one of his children's stories, the screen telling is in no way as pleasant as it sounds. In fact, it's very likely that actor/writer/director Rupert Everett chose the movie name to highlight Wilde's popular use of irony in his internationally admired works, especially since the film concentrates on the last few, excruciatingly sad months of his subject's life.

Those came after Wilde, once known as the most famous man in London, served two years of hard labor simply for being gay. What follows then, is a dark, dreary and often uneven telling of the trials and tribulations of a man who remains very much revered today.

Everett surely gives his all in portraying his flawed hero, but his account never matches the heft of his own performance.

Rated "R": sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use; 1:45; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Finally, that last movie from Orson Welles starts steaming on Netflix today (and will be shown in big screen 35 mm tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at Cleveland's famed Cinematheque, which is featuring a special Welles retrospective this month and next).

It's called  "The Other Side of the Wind" and watching it in all its mish-mash glory gives you an oddly captivating feeling of deja vu, especially when it comes to its grand assortment of character actors.

Oscar-winners Edmond O'Brien and Mercedes McCambridge appear with notables like Susan Strasberg and Cameron Mitchell, while esteemed director (and Welles confidante) John Huston chews up the scenery in the lead role as -- what else? -- a despised director trying to make a comeback.

Another famous director, Peter Bogdanovich, not only co-stars as an up-and-coming auteur but also apparently became instrumental in getting Netflix involved in salvaging the movie, which Welles started in 1970 and was still working on when he died in 1985.

Certainly, some of the remaining product becomes occasionally incoherent, and Welles' co-writer (and apparent Croatian companion at the time) Oja Kodar plays the sexy siren in a film within the film. Still, it often makes for fascinating viewing and, among many other things, all the docu-drama going on will have you wondering: Is any or all of it autobiographical? What, are you kidding me? Was Huston anything like the miserable pain in the ass he portrays here (and in other movies)?

The Welles genius -- and his opinions on the the movie business -- emerge from the light and shadows, too, in a curious project that's definitely worth an adventurous look.

Rated "R": sexual content, graphic nudity and some language; 2:02; $ $ $ out of $5

Also opening (but not screened for reviewers) is writer/director Tyler Perry's latest comedy, the R-rated "Nobody's Fool," with the red-hot Tiffany Hadesh, and Disney's "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms," which is obviously one of the aforementioned films inspiring the holidays to dance in those heads. (I wouldn't worry about its awards possibilities just yet, though.)

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