Thursday, November 29, 2018

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts - The Crimes of Grindelwald

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

The main problem with this movie is not in its content but with its place in this film series.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald is the second part of a 5-part story that began with 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  In that film, what seemed to be a diverting adventure into the bygone days of the Harry Potter universe has instead morphed into a deep dive into the mythology of the Wizarding World before the adventures of the Boy Who Lived.

Crimes of Grindlewald picks up about six months after the first movie.  Grindlewald (Johnny Depp), escapes from his prison transport and seeks out Credence (Ezra Miller), who appeared to have died in the last film.  Credence is the carrier of an immense dark power known as an Obscurus that Grindlewald wants to use for his own ends.  Meanwhile our main hero Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), is being actively recruited in the fight against Grindlewald.  At first the Ministry of Magic try to lure him under the influence of Newt's war-hero brother Theseus (Callum Turner), who is engaged to Newt's childhood love Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz).  The Ministry wants Newt's help in tracking down Credence and killing him.  Newt balks at this, but then is approached by none other than Dumbledore (Jude Law), Newt's old teacher.  Dumbledore is working apart from the Ministry and wants Newt to find Credence and save him.  Newt is then met with a surprise visit from his friends from the last film: muggle (or NoMag) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and the mind-reading witch Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol).  After a fight, Queenie goes to meet up with her sister Tina (Katherine Waterston) in Paris, which is where Credence was last sighted.  This sets Newt and Jacob on their quest.

Director David Yates clearly loves the Wizarding World he has helped to create in cinematic form.  He makes sure that everything in this world feels as tangible and lived-in as possible.  One of the great charms of the Harry Potter mythos is that the magical world and the ordinary world exist side-by-side.  If we could only pull back the veil a little, we could see the wonders around us.  Yates does an excellent job of tying these two worlds together while keeping their aesthetics distinct.  He also hasn't missed a trick with the camera and his ability to draw you in with dynamic action and beautiful vistas.

As I stated at the beginning, the main issue with this movie is the structure of the franchise itself.  If this series were a trilogy, we would be much further along in important story points.  But even after two movies, it still feels like we are only at the beginning.  Towards the end of the film, we see a motley and unlikely crew of people assembled throughout the movie that we now recognize to be our main heroes going forward.  But the movie ends before we can spend any real time with them as a group.  It would be like if the Avengers only formed their team in the last 10 minutes of the movie.

The movie also gambles its emotional payout on Leta Lestrange.  She is the center point of two love triangles and she carries with her a secret that is essential to the plot.  Her arc is the most important emotional movement in the film and for me it just did not pay off like it should have.  In addition to our returning characters, Crimes of Grindlewald also not only introduces us to Dumbledore, Theseus, and Leta, but also the following important characters:

-Yusef Kama (William Nadylam): a mysterious stranger to Paris with scars on his wrist who is also searching for Credence
-Nagini (Claudia Kim): a woman who has been cursed with the ability to transform into a mindless snake who will one day be unable to change back into her human form forever.
-Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky): an ancient alchemist who adds some nice comic moments.

They have to juggle all of these new characters while giving compelling arcs to Newt, Tina, Jacob, Queenie, Grindlewald, and Credence.  There is simply not enough emotional breathing room to properly invest in Leta the way the story wants you to do.  This makes the extra attention focused on her feel more like a diversion than an essential emotional tether.  And because of this, you feel other storylines cut short.  It feels very much like they cut much of Nagini's story from this film.  That is a shame because Kim does an excellent job with the little screen time that she has and her slow-moving tragedy is something that I would loved to have explored in this film.

I have to take a moment to talk about Johnny Depp and his Grindlewald.  I was assuming that his performance would default to something completely outrageous like we have seen from him in a number of his recent movies.  I was so pleasantly surprised to see how grounded he made Grindlewald.  From the beginning of the movie, we are warned how dangerous Grindlewald is in using his words to seduce people to the dark side.  Most movies never quite deliver on this hype, but they do here.  JK Rowling does a fantastic job of writing Grindlewald's dialogue in a way that makes us not only understand his point of view but almost agreeing with him.  He speaks to the wizards and witches and asks them a simple question: why hide in shadow?  Do we not have the right to live free to be ourselves?  His words are so subtle in their prejudice that they border on genius.  He says "Muggles are not lower than us, just other.  They are not of less value, just different value."  You can feel how the subtleties of shifting the language can create a mental shield against the conscience's repulsion to prejudice.

And that is why it is so disappointing that Rowling did not have the guts to completely commit to the character.  What I mean is that she places too big of a stumbling block in front of you to let Grindlewald become an actual complex character.  Earlier in the movie and at other parts Grindlewald kills with glee and coldly sanctions the killing of child.  Rowling stacks the deck against any of his arguments because we have seen behind the veil and know he is a monster.  But if she had held back just a little and let dangle the possibility that Grindlewald isn't a fake hero but a misguided hero, then she could have created one of the great screen villains of all time.  But instead, they take the safer road of making clear that Grindlewald's seeming heroism is all a manipulative act.  What a missed opportunity.

Despite the above criticisms, Crimes of Grindlewald is still an an enjoyable adventure.  The characters of the first grow on you more.  Newt's awkwardness has become more endearing.  Tina's failing attempts at stoicism make us care about her and her relationship with Newt even more.  Fogler still knocks it out of the park as Jacob and actually takes his character to some surprising emotional depths.  Even characters that seemed flat in the first film like Queenie, are taken through a transformation.  Miller is a problematic actor for me here because he makes Credence so unpleasant to look at that I never want to spend time with his character and his arc.

I honestly do not understand the flack that Rowling has received for having "lack of representation" in this movie.  The cast and characters are incredibly diverse in ethnicity, age, and gender.  Knowing that Dumbledore is gay, you can clearly see his lingering romantic feelings for Grindlewald.  But the movie wisely chooses not to make it explicit so that the story is more accessible to children and families.  Dumbledore says that he and Grindlewald were once "closer than brothers."  There is nothing about that statement or anything presented that is in and of itself objectionable regarding Catholic moral theology.

Thematically, the movie makes clear that there is good and evil in the world and that we are all called to choose a side.  This is especially difficult when there are those on the other side whom you care about.  Nevertheless, sitting on the fence is an indulgence for when things are peaceful.  This film is about our characters choosing their sides of the coming conflict.

Nothing about this movie turns me off to the series.  It makes me want to see what happens next.  The problem is that what happens next is what I expected to happen in this movie here.

image by Yasir72.multan

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Film Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

Is a partial redemption a triumph or a tragedy?

That is the question that I have been wrestling with since I left the theater after seeing the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.  And make no mistake, this is not a Queen biopic so much as it is Mercury's story.  While they all play important parts in the story, they are never more than bit players in this haunting musical narrative.

The movie begins with Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) preparing for his reunion performance with his band mates at "Live Aid," a star-studded international concert meant to raise money for famine relief in Africa.  In this beginning sequence, we never get a full shot of Mercury, but we are given lavish detail of his life and surroundings.  He is surrounded by absolute opulence, but the wild herds of cats running through his empty home immediately set the main theme of loneliness we find in the rest of the film.

The story then flashes back to a young Freddie, still going by his birth name Farrokh Bulsara, is working as an airport baggage handler with big dreams.  He approaches a band he admires after their lead singer has quit.  The remaining members Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), decide to take a chance on the young singer after he shows them his incredible vocal range.  This, of course, turns out to be a great choice as the band begins to take off.  Along the way, Farrokh starts a relationship with the coed Mary (Lucy Boynton) and the band adds bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello).  Together, they rise through the ranks and get "discovered by agent John Reid (Aidan Gillen).  Reid's assistant Paul (Allen Leech), becomes more and more interwoven with the band's life, especially the no renamed Freddie Mercury.  What follows is an often told tale of the struggle for fame and success only to have that same fame and success tear our heroes apart.

There are a number of things that sets Bohemian Rhapsody apart from other stories of excessive celebrity.  The first thing is the screenplay by Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan.  One of the problems that most movies based on real-life has is that there is often a struggle to organize the events of that life into a coherent narrative.  There is often the understandable fear of taking too much dramatic license with real people and events.  But the adjustments to the events and timeline for Bohemian Rhapsody serve to illuminate the subject rather than obscure him.  This is one of the most humanely crafted portrayals of loneliness I have seen in a movie.  This is especially the case when Mercury's homosexuality becomes prominent in his life.  The screenwriters show us how Mercury desperately wanted a typical heterosexual life and romance, but his orientation made this impossible.  He clings to Mary like a wife but they can never really give each other what they need.  And so Mercury, having this void in his life, tries to fill this emptiness with illicit pleasures which only drag him further into the pit.

Malek is amazing at showing us Mercury's journey.  He was smart enough not to do a full on impression of Mercury.  Instead, he creates a general affectation and then lives out the character's inner most struggles on the screen.  Like Mercury himself, Malek shows us the absolute thrill and confidence of a rock star while also showing us the wounded, broken heart underneath.  In the movie's best scene, Freddie has just finished throwing a lavish party.  One member of the waitstaff, (Aaron McCusker) is cleaning up while Mercury is at his piano.  Mercury playfully gropes the man, which is an act of an entitled and powerful celebrity.  The server turns to him and in no uncertain terms lets Mercury know that if he ever lays a hand on him again, Mercury will regret it.  What follows is Mercury completely shedding the rock star persona and shrinking into an apologetic little boy asking for forgiveness.  What Malek does here is show us that Mercury's over-the-top persona is his armor to shield the painfully lonely and shy boy who feels unloved and unaccepted.  The scene is such a wonderful marriage of script and acting that this scene alone should earn Oscar nominations for acting and screenplay.

Another huge advantage this film has is the entire library of Queen songs at its disposal.  It amazed me how, when placed in the right point in the narrative, how autobiographical the songs are to Mercury's life.  Everyone has their favorite songs, but the film knows when to use them.  At one the turning point of the third act, Mercury must make a sharp, life-changing decision.  And playing "Under Pressure" only helps elevate his choice.  When coming to the slow realization about his health, "Who Wants to Live Forever" gives just the right level of solemn sadness.  And the way the concert scenes are shot makes you feel like you are not only in the massive crowd but you are on the stage receiving their overwhelming admiration.  Director Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher, so I do not know who is responsible for this effect, but whoever it was, they have created one of the best concert movies I have seen.  The film builds to the final "Live Aid" concert.  The sequence goes on much longer than the end sequence of a film should.  But I kept hoping that it wouldn't be cut short and that the songs would keep going.  That is a testament not only to Queen's music but also to how much the filmmakers get you to invest in the characters.

The film does have its flaws.  As stated at the beginning, the other members of the band feel like glorified extras.  Their performances are fine, but they fade way into the background.  The movie also likes to make fun of anyone who does not right-away recognize Queen's musical genius.  Music producer Ray Foster (Mike Meyers) points out all the practical reasons why their album "A Night at the Opera" shouldn't work.  And he's not wrong about that, since there really hasn't been an album like it.  While he does lack vision, he is derided almost like a villain.

My biggest struggle with the film has to do with Mercury's journey.  As he loses his connection to Mary, he darkens his soul by illicit sex, drugs, alcohol, and materialism.  Visually, it actually begins to take on a feeling of descending into hell.  At his breaking point, Mercury learns that losing yourself to random sex and addictive chemicals is wrong.  In that sense, the movie does a good job of showing how this lifestyle is ultimately unappealing and wicked.

But he never completely climbs out.  In this way it was very similar to my problem with Joseph Gordon Leavitt's Don Jon, in which a character who is addicted to pornography learns to abandon that empty pleasure.  However in the main character in Don Jon replaces that sin with an illicit (but monogamous) sexual relationship.  The same thing can be seen in Bohemian Rhapsody's Mercury who abandons the excesses that once had him, but he still ends up in an illicit (but monogamous) sexual relationship.

So do we admire Mercury for making it out of his darkest sins into the light of partial truth?  Or do we pity him for never quite finding the fullness of redemption that is offered to all mankind?  I am certainly not his judge.  That was taken care of when Mercury stood before the Lord decades ago.  Whether this change of heart was enough for God, I will leave that up to Him.

In the end, I left feeling stirred in my heart for Mercury.  It wasn't that he was some kind of hero to be admired.  I saw him as a man of loneliness who hungered so much for love that he sought it in so many of the wrong places.  My heart broke for him and this feeling lingered long after the movie ended.  And in an age where most movies leave your memory before you finish the car ride home, that is the best compliment I can give Bohemian Rhapsody.

image by Yasir72.multan

Monday, November 26, 2018

New Evangelizers Post: Another Reason for an All-Male Priesthood

I have a new article up at  

In my last article, I wrote about 7 reasons for an all-male priesthood. The teaching is very clear, but there are still many people, perhaps even with firm commitments to the spirit of fairness, that do not understand or accept the Church’s teaching. As always, we are called to be strong in the truth of Divine Revelation while patiently giving clear instruction.

This essay will not be a rehash of last week’s article. But I did want to add one more element to the discussion. I reserved this one for a separate article, because it is a bit more on the speculative side on my part. I have been playing around with this idea for a while. And while there is some thought here that is rooted in the Sacred Tradition, I did not want to add this line of thought to the much more solid reasoning of the last article.

One of the reasons, I believe, that Christ made sure to reserve priesthood only for men was to remind of a great natural and supernatural truth: men and women are different.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Film Flash: The Green Book

Green Book poster.jpg

The "Obama/Trump 1960's Road Trip" movie you didn't know you wanted.  Fine, uplifting film.

image by Yasir72.multan

Friday, November 23, 2018

Film Flash: Instant Family

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

A simple, sweet, and messy story about the joy and heartache of fostering

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Back from the Future - A Thanksgiving Day Reflection

Traditionally on this blog I repost the same essay each year on Thanksgiving.  I continue to get positive feedback on it and I am very grateful for everyone's kind words.

This year I thought I would do something a little different and share with you something a little person and a little strange.  Bear with me as I walk you through a mental habit I have acquired over the years.  I don't necessarily recommend it.  Perhaps its overall tone is too dark for you.  But I have found that it is a reflection that has born good fruit in my life. 

There is a quote attributed to the Buddhist Ajahn Chah which reads: “Do you see this glass?  I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.”

This is perfectly in line with the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence: the belief that everything in this material world is going away.  This world can be so lovely and there are so many people and things to love in it.  But this world can also be so cruel and it can take all of those people and things from our lives.  

As I've gotten older I've found that I have become more, not less attached to this world.  Perhaps this is a spiritual failing on my part.  I don't mean that I have become consumed by greed or lavish wealth, although the material comforts of life have become more appealing.  What I mean is that when I come to realize my affections for something, I have this horrible desire to hold onto it tightly and not have it leave my life.

I am a collector.  Right now I am sitting in my makeshift library surrounded by not only hundreds of books but also hundreds of DC Comics action figures organized all over my shelves.  Hal Jordan is pointing his ring right at me while Barry Allen runs on his cosmic treadmill.  Sometimes I will have my nieces and nephew over or my friends and their children.  I give them free reign to play with any of my collectibles.  I do this understanding that children are prone to breaking things.  I accept things will be lost and destroyed, although I have been pleasantly surprised by how little damage has been done.  This is in no small part to their parents' careful attention.

But when something does break, there is a part of me that hurts a little.  Most things can be repaired, but there is a tiny loss.  I know that these are small things, but they reflect the same attitude I have regarding large ones too.  

I loved my first car.  I had essentially lived in it when I was at college.  As a commuter, I would sometimes have long hours between classes.  The back seats folded into a bed and I would take naps in there while staring at the ceiling that I decorated with colorful pictures.  When it was time to give the car away, even though I was upgrading, I was filled with a strong sense of sadness.  I was losing something which had been a big part of my life.  It was just metal and upholstery, but I couldn't help how I felt.

And this story repeats over and over again throughout my life: affection followed by loss.  The only way to avoid the sense of loss, it seemed, was to withhold my affection.  Yet it seemed wrong not to open my heart to these things.  Again, these are only things, but it seems somehow wrong to not enjoy them.  But the more they are enjoyed, the greater the loss when they go away.

I thought about the above quote from Chah.  To think of the things as already broken seemed a little too dark.  To imagine these things cracked and crumbled in their present state seemed to put too much of a pallor over them.  And yet that is where they are destined to go at some future state.  And that is where my mind wandered: to this future state.

At some point in the future all the material things will be broken.  This is a certain truth.  What I could do in my imagination was go to this future and get a sense of that brokenness.  Then I could return to the present and see the thing in its present state.  This would put a concrete sense in my mind of how precious the time is and how I should cherish it.  

When I was a kid, I had a plastic Luke Skywalker lightsaber that would make sounds as the air passed through it while playing.  It has been broken and lost for a long time.  When I think about it, there is a small sense of sadness.  Part of me wishes I could go back in time, just for a moment, and hold it again.  My wife bought me a Master Replicas Luke Skywalker lightsaber.  It is one of my favorite possessions.  But I know that I cannot hold it forever.  One day it will break.  So sometimes when I have it, I close my eyes and I imagine some future date at which it is broken.  I then get in touch with that feeling of loss and the deep desire to go back in time, just once, to hold it again.  I then open my eyes and I am holding it and am filled with a deep sense of gratitude.

We are surrounded by so many blessings.  And yet I often forget to be grateful.  The old saying that you don't appreciate something until it is gone still rings true.  By doing this little reflection and imagining that it is gone, you can increase your appreciation of the thing in the here and now.

And this does not have to be only for material things.  

When I was in the hospital and couldn't walk, I felt so lost and helpless.  By God's grace I have made a full recovery.  And yet I know that time, age, and injury could steal away my mobility again.  Sometimes when I am doing simple chores around the house or walking down the long hallways at school, I close my eyes and take a moment and imagine some future date where I will be back in a wheelchair.  In that moment a feel the sorrow over the loss of my mobility and I feel the wish to go back in time just once and experience what it was like to walk again.  And then I open my eyes and am filled with gratitude that I am upright and walking with ease.

Time will take even more from us.

When I was babysitting my nieces and nephew over the course of several days I was exhausted.  Not having children of our own, the overwhelming time commitment hit my wife and I hard.  There were times all I wanted to do was crash on the couch.  But then my niece or nephew would ask to play a game with me.  As tired as I was, I would take a moment and close my eyes.  I imagined a future, not too distant I am sure, where they will be too cool to play with their uncle.  They will be more interested in hanging out with their friends and then they will be gone and grown with families of their own.  I feel how much I missed being with them as children and I wish I could go back just one more time and play one more game with them.  And then I open my eyes and I am filled with gratitude that I get to play their games.

Last year my mom got sick.  We thought she was getting better, but then she went back to the hospital and began her month-long decline towards the end.  I will never forget looking at her there in the hospital.  Her eyes were a little glassy, not with unconsciousness but with sadness and depression.  She was never going to get out of the hospital.  She would sit there so silent, so lifeless, just numbly watching TV.  We'd ask her questions and she would often just answer with a limp shrug.  It was hard to be there with her sometimes, to see her suffer in body and spirit like that.   

But then I closed my eyes and imagined the not too distant future when I would be sitting there at the funeral home looking at the casket as the closed it one last time.  It would be the last time I would ever see her face.  I was filled with an overwhelming, choking sense of loss.  I felt so deeply that I wished I could have one chance, just one chance to go back and tell her how much I loved her.

And then I opened my eyes and I was filled with gratitude that she was still here.  I held her hand and with tears streaming down my face I told her how much I loved her.  I told her I was sorry for everything I ever did that ever upset her.  I told her that I have a great life because of her.  I told her that if by God's grace I help people know the Lord and put them on the path of salvation, then it is only because she put me on that path.  All of the good things I've done in my life I owe to her for giving me life.  I told her how grateful I was to be her son.  I told her how grateful I was to be with her now.

Even now just writing that last paragraph, that moment hits me hard.  And when the time came soon after where they closed the casket for the last time I wished I could go back and have one chance, just one chance to go back and tell her all of those things again.

But I can't.  

Real time allows for no do overs.  The only time we get them is in our imagination.

As I said, this reflection may not suit your personality and is perhaps too dark.  But if you want to give it a try...

This Thanksgiving, if you are having a bad day with the kids or at work or with your spouse or in your broken down car, then close your eyes and imagine a time in the future when you will no longer have around you the kids, the job, your spouse, or that broken down car.  Let that unpleasant loss touch your heart for as long as you can stand it.  And feel yourself wish for one chance, just one chance to go back and enjoy those kids, that job, your spouse, and that wonderful broken down car.  

And maybe, just maybe you will feel a renewed sense of gratitude when you open your eyes and come back from the future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Film Flash: Fantastic Beasts - The Crimes of Grindelwald

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

As a stand-alone movie, it's lacking.  As a set-up to a bigger movie, it's excellent.

image by Yasir72.multan

Monday, November 19, 2018

New Evangelizers Post: 7 Reasons for an All Male Priesthood

I have a new article up at  

Recently, I had a former student ask me why the Catholic Church only ordains men to the priesthood. Below is my admittedly long-winded answer.

I know that this is a stumbling block for many. As a young Catholic, I did not understand, nor did I accept the teaching. I couldn’t see how it was fair that men could have access to something that women could not. It wasn’t until I had my conversion experience at 17 that the matter became clear to me. For me it comes down to this: did Jesus know what He was doing or did He not? Knowing Jesus, I knew my answer.

In his 1994 encyclical Ordonatio Sacerdotalis, Pope St. John Paul II settled the matter once and for all. He stated that the Catholic Church has no power whatsoever to ordain women to the priesthood. It should be clear that his statement does not say the Church will not ordain women. It says the Church won’t ordain women. That is an important difference. The encyclical is incredibly short and does not elaborate much on the rationale. You can read the letter yourself at your leisure. Here are a few explanations as to why this teaching holds. Many of these ideas are from John Paul II himself and Sr. Sara Butler

1. Christ did not choose women for priesthood.

All of the ones that Christ chose to be priests were men. This is an undeniable fact of Scripture and Tradition

2. This choice was free

Some have argued that He was only acting in accord with His culture. But even a simple glance at the Gospels would dispel this notion. Jesus broke many social taboos, especially regarding women. We see this with the Sinful Woman in Luke and the Samaritan Woman at the Well in John. The Gospel portrait we have of Jesus is of a Person who cares little for social opinion if it gets in the way of the morally correct thing to do. It was one of the reasons why He was killed.

3.This choice was done under the influence of the Spirit.

The choice of the 12 was down after Jesus had spent the night in prayer. Acts 1:2 makes clear that this choice was made under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This was not a simple bureaucratic or random choice. God the Son, in prayer to the Father and through the Spirit chose only men.

4. None of the successors to the Apostles were men

We must always go to those who knew Jesus as the first interpreters of Jesus’ words and actions. When they chose bishops and priests to follow them, they understood what was changeable and what was not. All of the Apostles were Jewish. But their successors were Jews and Gentiles. But not one of the bishops believe that they had the capacity to ordain women to the priesthood. And this has been the consistent teaching, unbroken, for centuries. This makes it part of unchanging Sacred Tradition

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Lack of Updates November 2018

Hello Dear Reader,

I'm sorry I haven't updated this blog in the last week.  I will also not be updating much this week (although I have a New Evangelizers Article due tomorrow).

Please forgive the delay.  I am currently in a two-week period where I have to do the following:

-turn in grades for the quarter
-have auditions for our student film
-we are in hell week for the fall play I am directing
-I have to finish my first draft of a term paper on Metaphysics.

I thank you for your patience with me as I try to juggle all of these responsiblilities, but that does limit my time to write on this blog.  I should be back up to speed on the 18th.

I appreciate your understanding and I will be back soon with:

Film Reviews for Life Itself and Bohemian Rhapsody
TV Review for Jack Ryan
Comic Review for Heroes in Crisis #2
A Film Flash for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
...and more.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sunday Best: Top 10 Queen Songs in Movies

In honor of Bohemian Rhapsody premiering this weekend, I thought I would look at the best uses of Queen's music in movies.  Queen always had a very distinctive style that would tend to kick the movies into overdrive. 

So here are the Top 10 Queen songs in movies.  To be clear, these aren't necessarily the best Queen songs of all time.  But these are the 10 best uses of them in film.

10.  "WE WILL ROCK YOU!"  - A Knight's Tale

This is an incredibly silly movie like Ella Enchanted, which tries to bring an anachronistic modern style to a medieval world.  Yet, the opening does a good job of transitioning you into this strange amalgam by getting your blood pumping with this sports anthem.

9.  "THE SHOW MUST GO ON." - Moulin Rouge! 

Jim Broadbent does a wonderful turn as the manipulative theater owner who is overwhelmed with guilt over putting the show ahead of the health and the love of the people in his life.  Queen's song is surprisingly apropos of everything this scene needs.

8.  "ONE VISION" - Iron Eagle

OK, I will admit that after watching Iron Eagle, I would listen to rock music while playing After Burn on my Sega Master System.  I haven't watched the movie in a while and I'm sure it would come off as incredibly silly today.  But watching this teenager fly a near-suicide mission into enemy territory to save his father while getting into dog fights with his F-16... well, I thought it was better than Top Gun.  And Queen's music helped cement that in my memory.

7.  "PRINCES OF THE UNIVERSE" -Highlander 

I think it speaks to the power of Queen's music that the opening of the film is just a simple credits sequence against a black backdrop but with this song playing at full volume.  Without having to see any visuals, the song lets you know the tone, tenor, and themes of the movie and primes you to enjoy what you are about to see, no matter how low the budget is.

6. "DON'T STOP ME NOW!" - Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright is a visual genius of a director; he is someone who does not waste shots but uses every visual the tell the story.  But he also is excellent at incorporating music as part of the narrative, as he did in his most recent Baby Driver.  But this sequence at the Winchester is funny, absurd, and scary all at the same time while Queen heightens all of those conflicting emotions.

5. "WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS" - Revenge of the Nerds

This is a raunchy film that is actually incredibly morally corrosive, even by 1980's standards.  But through all of that raunch it has a surprisingly heart-warming and uplifting ending.  Gilbert's speech about being an outcast always hit home for me.  And then the Queen song hit exactly the right note, starting with the sad piano solo and then building to ecstatic crescendo.

4.  "WHO WANTS TO LIVE FOREVER" - Highlander

Highlander is the only movie on here twice, not only because of how many Queen songs are on the soundtrack, but also because of the diverse ways in which they are used.  This may be the saddest ballad that Queen ever wrote and it is woven into the story so perfectly that it elevates the immortal pain of Connor MacCloud that stays with you and reminds you that immortality can be a curse

3.  "FLASH GORDON THEME" - Flash Gordon

That thumping base that builds the anticipation followed by that crash of energy as they sing the hero's name followed by the harmonious scream of ecstasy... this song is so over-the-top that only Queen could pull it off.  How can you not love a song with lyrics like "FLASH!... AAHHHAA.... HE'S A MIRACLE!"  Quite possibly the best comic hero theme song ever.

2.  "BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY" - Wayne's World

I will admit that I was completely ignorant of Queen as a band (though I was familiar with some of their songs), until I saw this movie.  This movie captured how ordinary people reacted to Queen's music in our daily lives of hanging out with friends and driving around town.  It showed how Queen could make our lives just a little more epic and fun.

1.  "UNDER PRESSURE" - Grosse Point Blank

This is a perfect union of rock music and visual storytelling.  Martin Blank is going through his existential crisis as a hit man at his 10 year class reunion.  But this one moment of really looking at a baby for the first time and seeing the miracle of life is a fantastic film moment.  Watch Cusack's performance as you feel the wheels in his head turning and the wall around his heart breaking through like the desperate emotional crescendo of the song.  And that is the power of Queen's music: it can break through and hit you right in the heart.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Film Flash: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody poster.png

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Feels like seeing Queen in concert.  A moving tale of loneliness, despair, and semi-redemption.

image by Yasir72.multan