Tag Archives: Rami Malek

‘No Time to Die’ Review

Kind of crazy to think about it, but Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond (2006-2021) lasted than Robert Downey Jr.’s as Iron Man (2008-2019).

“No Time to Die” is the 25th installment in the long-running James Bond franchise, and features Daniel Craig in his fifth and final outing as the titular spy, this time in a race to locate a kidnapped scientist who is working for a mysterious madman with a world-threatening plan. Directed and co-written by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the film features Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, and Ralph Fiennes reprising their roles from previous films, with Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Billy Magnussen, and Ana de Armas joining the cast.

The 007 films have always been hit or miss, with Craig’s “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall” ranking among the best of the series and “Quantum of Solace” and “Spectre” usually being included among the worst. “No Time to Die” falls somewhere in the middle, acting as a fitting tribute to Craig’s time as the character and featuring several great action scenes from Fukunaga, but also runs far too long and is yet another installment with a weak villain.

It is hard to believe that people weren’t sold on Daniel Craig as James Bond at the time of his casting back in the mid-2000s, but much like Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck as Batman or Heath Ledger as the Joker he quickly shut doubters up with a gritty portrayal of the character. “No Time to Die” gives Craig a few chances to show Bond’s sympathetic side, as well as some dry humor. If you never warmed up to Craig then this won’t do you over, but the film makes a few nice nods to his decade-and-a-half as Bond.

The supporting cast is mostly very solid, with Lashana Lynch being the “new 007.” She has some fun fight sequences, as does Craig’s “Knives Out” co-star Ana de Armas in a limited role, showing that the franchise isn’t just a boy’s (and Dame Judi Dench) club. Christoph Waltz even gets to make a brief return from his role in “Spectre,” and thanks to some witty writing almost makes you wish we got an entire other film with him as the big baddie. And speaking of…

Rami Malek, who was cast fresh off his Oscar win as Freddie Mercury, is a different story than everyone else. Malek is doing the stoic, clenched jaw look that he has now known for, and his performance is as bland as the backstory his character is given. I really couldn’t tell you his exact motivations for why he wants to kill people, and in a franchise with so many rich bad guys, Craig has really only gotten to go up against one (Javier Bardem).

The action sequences are top-notch, with a few edge-of-your seat gun fights. Fukunaga even manages to get in a single-take stairway shootout that runs for about three minutes, something he loves to put into his projects (not only his famous four-minute one in “True Detective” but 2015’s “Beasts of No Nation”).

The biggest problem with “No Time to Die” (outside Malek) is that when guns aren’t going off, things can teeter on boring. There is a lot of talk about infections, de-population, and targeted groups of people, and for a film that was originally due out in April 2020 and now is released post(-ish) of a global pandemic, it may not be what some folk will deem as “entertainment.” The film runs 163 minutes and in no way justifies that length; if it had been a clean 140 then I think this could have been one of the better Bond films, but it wears out its welcome before a lackluster climax.

The latest 007 film is great news for theaters starving for blockbuster content, but only a ho-hum reward for actual cinemagoers. Sure, there is fun to be had; and the classic Bond cars, gadgets, and music are enough to make you remember why we love the movies. But there is something hollow at the core, and while there may be “No Time to Die” there was certainly time that could’ve been trimmed off this runtime.

Critics Rating: 5/10

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Likely Won’t Rock You

The behind-the-scenes drama of what it took to get this movie made is more interesting than the actual film itself…

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is the biopic of the band Queen, following frontman Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek). Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech and Mike Myers also star as Bryan Singer (“and Dexter Fletcher”) direct.

Originally in 2010 Sacha Baron Cohen was attached to this film to play Mercury, aiming to make an honest, R-rated telling of the singer’s life with David Fincher or Tom Hooper in the director’s chair. Eventually, due in large part of the involvement of Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor and their desire to make a more family-friendly and band-centered film, Cohen left. Singer and Malek then joined on, only to have their relationship come to a boiling point during production after Singer (allegedly) had emotional breakdowns on set and would show up late to shoots (not completely unlike the real Mercury). Singer was fired and Fletcher, who was at one point slated to direct the film anyways, took over. There are more interesting nuggets but I’ll let you find them for yourself. Needless to say, this film had a lot going against it before it ever even hit theaters, but if it was great and the blood, sweat and tears put into it resulted in a musical masterpiece then no one would bat an eye. So how is the final product? Ehhh, I mean, it’s fine.

Long before the first trailer even dropped, Rami Malek was getting Oscar talk simply for his appearance as Mercury. Sporting the porno mustache and (at times comical) overbite, Malek certainly embodies Mercury, or at least a caricature of him. I wasn’t alive during Freddie Mercury’s time but I’ve seen interviews with him and while he certainly has an oozing of charisma and cattiness about him, he never came off as the overly-flamboyant queen that the film portrays him as. Adding “darling” to the end of every sentence, Malek’s performance is certainly not bad but it is almost like what an SNL skit about Mercury would be. He feels like a character, not *the* character.

The rest of the cast is solid, including an eerily similar doppelganger Gwilym Lee as Brian May, and Mike Myers (yep, that one, not the one chasing Jamie Lee Curtis around cinemas at the moment) makes a meta and almost unrecognizable appearance as a record executive.

The high points of the film are entertaining, like when the band is performing (using Mercury’s real voice, not Malek’s) and when they are recording the songs that would eventually go down in history. Every time they begin to get at each other’s throats and it seems like the end of the group is near, one of them will start humming a beat or riffing on a guitar and suddenly another hit is born. Much like with “Jersey Boys” and “Straight Outta Compton” you forget just how rooted Queen’s songs are into pop culture until you hear them back-to-back.

The problem is that we have seen everything, and I mean everything, that is done here done before and done better. Comparing this to “Straight Outta Compton” is a bit unfair since that film is great, but it also features a group of outsiders (or “misfits” as Mercury calls the band) just hanging out and creating songs that went against the normal rules, only to have the main face fall victim to AIDS. But not even bringing “Compton” into the picture, if you have seen a musician’s (or any) biopic then you know exactly what scene will follow the one you are watching. Anthony McCarten has written some pretty bland films (like “Theory of Everything” and “Darkest Hour”) and this really feels like a made-for-TV effort sometimes, it’s that by-the-numbers and safe.

Now I don’t expect every film to be completely historically accurate, Hollywood has every right to twist and omit if it means condensing a story or adding a little tension, but the entire time you’re watching this movie something just feels off and inauthentic about it. And a quick Wikipedia search would show the filmmakers straight-up rewrote history in the third act, for reasons I won’t say here (ya know, in case 25-year-old history can be deemed a spoiler).

And you may not care but I’m a fan of things like this so I’ll touch on the cinematography real quick. Shot by Newton Thomas Sigel, who (allegedly) needed to act as director on set when Singer wouldn’t show up, the film looks crisp and clear (I assume it was shot on digital) so nothing about it feels like the 1970s and 80s. Other films, like “Compton,” “Walk the Line” or last month’s “First Man,” try and add a color tint or graininess to the shot to immerse you but just like the script and direction, skating by is good enough here.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t necessarily a bad film; it is just a disappointingly safe one. Watching any three minute interview with Freddie Mercury, a musical genius struck down in his prime, will show you that there is so much this film chose to omit about him and Queen’s legacy (again, due in large part to May and Taylor not wanting to risk hurting his or their image and place in history) and this feels like it just left so much on the table. That being said, the normies will eat it up and if you’re wondering if you’ll be able to forgive the film’s flaws enough to enjoy it, I have a test for you: did you enjoy “The Greatest Showman”? You’re answer there likely will apply to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Critic’s Grade: C

20th Century Fox