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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Backstae Musical > Music Industry > British > Comedy > Counterculture > History > Bohemian Rhapsody (2018/Fox 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray + Blu-ray/DVD Set)/The Graduate (1967/Embassy/Criterion Blu-ray)/Queen: Album By Album (2018/Hardcover/Voyageur Press Books)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018/Fox 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray + Blu-ray/DVD Set)/The Graduate (1967/Embassy/Criterion Blu-ray)/Queen: Album By Album (2018/Hardcover/Voyageur Press Books)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B & C+/A Sound: B & C+/A Extras: C+/A Films: C+/B- Book: B-

Here's three new releases deeply focused on and concerning great music, even when including narratives....

For a long time, we'd heard they're would be a film about singer Freddie Mercury, Queen or some combination thereof. As this started to finally shape up, there were still issues and many thought this would never happen. After over ten years of the involvement of the band itself, Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) finally was completed and despite mixed reviews, became a hit film with some critical acclaim. Controversies include the banishing of its first director (Bryan Singer, replaced by Dexter Fletcher of Rocketman), that the film took to many liberties with the facts and history of the band (annoying more than anything else), the movie soundtrack work is never discussed and even debate of how much of Mercury's sexual life to show, which is a separate essay to consider in itself.

What we do get takes some time to get started and picks up in 1970 when Mercury is about to become the lead singer of a band whose lead singer quits as he tries to talk to them about working with them in a songwriter capacity. Once they are convinced, they change their name to Queen and the story is off. The turning point is when one of the people they are working with is unimpressed by the song of the film's title, considered their magnum opus single/song, but one that somehow gets an unbelievable amount of hostility from all over the place. It is ironic now since the song is a classic, considered a landmark in British Music and keeps coming back to the singles chart, but it was not that way at the time.

The true authors of the film are not either director (Fletcher managed to save things at the last minute, though), but the band members and Producer Graham King, backed by an excellent cast who bring the people to life and enough solid costume and production design that it often feels like the era it takes place in. But that cast!

Everyone now knows that Rami Malek absolutely figured out how to transform into the many faces of Mercury over the years and if the film had not ended at Live Aid, he would have had to do even more and get Robert De Niro in his work, but the film only has two hours. Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aiden Green, Tim Hollander and many more just manage to also meld well into it all, allowing the film to overcome several of its issues to some extent, which is all the more reason taking so much liberty with the band's history is so unfortunate.

So with what we do get that works, it is definitely worth a look, unnecessary flaws and all, though some will still complain, sometimes rightly. I just wish there had been more about their music, especially in the later part of the 1970s where they permanently established that they were no fluke and songs like ''Bohemian Rhapsody'' and ''Killer Queen'' were not just lucky accidents.

Making it all better, Fox has issued this as one of their premiere 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with regular Blu-ray sets and the HD-shot 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10+; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image has the best color range, warmth and detail that matches the acting performances and greatness of the music. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is still good, but tends not to deliver it all as well. The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 X 1 image on the DVD is for convenience only, but should not be considered the best way to view the film by any means.

The Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) lossless mix on Rhapsody has some impressive sound work in the music and action moments where it counts, but is also smart enough to be laid back in the dialogue-driven moments, though I like the ambiance used. You can also here how good it can be in the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on the regular Blu-ray, but you can still hear and feel the missing tracks from the Atmos.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixdown on the DVD is passable at best, but at this point, a good few generations from the 12-track soundmaster, so don't judge the film sonically on this older codec.

Extras include The Complete Live Aid Movie Performance Not Seen in Theaters (featured in 4K Ultra HD HDR on the 4K Ultra HD Disc, in low def as the only extra on the DVD) and (at about 20 minutes each:) featurettes Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie, The Look and Sound of Queen and Recreating Live Aid.

Like any truly important, landmark works of capital-A Art, it's impossible to come at a film like The Graduate - Mike Nichols' seminal, Best Director-winning 1967 comedy satirizing the suburban malaise and ennui of America's teenagers and twentysomethings - free of the weight of decades of critical appraisals, scholarship, appreciation, and derision. So I'm not going to try. There are plenty of fine books (especially Mark Harris' Pictures at a Revolution) that authoritatively, compellingly account for The Graduate's outsize place in American movies. And, indeed, I don't think it's possible for me to do - even if I wanted to - such is my conflict with the film.

The Graduate has haunted my cinema life and education for 20 years. It was on the syllabus of my first film studies class, in high school. It was one of the the first films (along with The Manchurian Candidate) I owned on DVD. It was all over my textbooks in college, hardwired into nearly every conversation I've ever had about American film history, and, more than 50 years since its release, its Buck Henry one-liners (''Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me.'' ''Plastics.'') and Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack are fundamentally woven into the fabric of American popular culture.

The first time I saw it, as a senior in high school, I figured I needed to be a little older to really appreciate it. (For what it's worth, The Seventh Seal and Do the Right Thing were also screened in the same class, and both were immediately seared into my DNA.) It's a judgment I found myself returning to, over and over, in the intervening years. And then, I was older. And as I watched The Graduate again, on the Criterion Collection's superlative Blu-ray disc, I realized that not only do I dislike the film but that it's one that has aged poorly and, in fact, might be pretty crummy.

That's not to be contrarian. I say might be because I'm still not sure. I know what most others say: that the misadventures of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) graduating from college, listlessly floating through his summer in both his parent's pool and in an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), his dad's business partner's wife, then falling for the Robinson's daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross) and blowing up everyone's plans for the two of them by whisking Elaine away from her marriage to the local wet blanket All-American, is a funny, intelligent commentary on the state of American youth (indeed, suburban America itself) in the Vietnam era. And sure, it's that. And it was unlike anything else coming out of Hollywood at the time; along with Arthur Penn's sexy and violent Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate helped kick down the rotted edifice of old Hollywood.

But while I find plenty in the film to appreciate - Robert Surtees' gorgeous cinematography; the scene in a cramped boarding house room between Ben and Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) that lays total waste to who and what Ben is, even if he doesn't get it; the deliriously New Wave ''Sound of Silence/April Come She Will'' montage that ends with Ben pulling himself onto a pool floatie and collapsing on top of Mrs. Robinson - I never could connect emotionally with the 'will-he-or-won't-he' (get a job, get found out, get with Elaine) spine of The Graduate. And it always struck me as too low stakes for the high-minded commentary ascribed to the film.

More troubling, though, is the sexual dynamics of the film as it applies to its women characters. They're either hand-wringing housewives (Mrs. Braddock), unsatisfied suburban housewives out of a lurid soft-core paperback (Mrs. Robinson), or people with so little agency that are willing to throw away a college education for a likely fate as a hand-wringing, unsatisfied suburban housewife (Elaine). And to the men, these women are there for little more than sexual gratification, set dressing, or business-alliance builders. In a film where little has aged well, The Graduate's portrayal of women has fared the worst. (And that's to say nothing of how the revelations that Hoffman has been, uh, terrible to his female co-stars and some other women in his life might color how we watch the film.)

With each viewing of The Graduate, I hope to unearth the thing that sparked so much fervor in its contemporary audiences and, today, in so many viewers. But it has so far eluded me. It's still this cold, shallow totem - an American cinema signpost that points not to some robust legacy but instead a Boomer culture cul de sac (and, worse, films like American Beauty). Given its widespread appeal, the problem here is clearly (likely?) me. And that's fine. But The Graduate is hardly above reproach, and it feels like it's past time it came in for an honest reappraisal.

Fortunately, we have Criterion's excellent disc to begin the conversation. The 4K digital restoration is a revelation (even though the disc is not 4K), especially for anyone used to previous, bland DVD transfers, providing a wondrous showcase for Surtees' cinematography - the shimmering blues of the Braddock's pool, the foreboding shadows of bedrooms, hotels and clubs, the pink and taupe vomitorium of suburban interiors have never looked better. Similarly, the array of soundtrack options - uncompressed monaural on the Blu-ray, a Nichols-approved DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 surround remix give the dialogue, Simon & Garfunkel tracks, and Ben-breathing-in-his-scuba-suit the space to spread out and envelop the film.

And befitting a Criterion release of an American classic, the extras here are superb. The marquee feature is inaurguably the 2007 commentary track with Nichols interviewed by Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh is a master of the commentary, and when you put him in the room with someone as gregarious as Nichols talking about a film like The Graduate, it's hard to imagine demanding more. Still, there's a second commentary track, this one from 1987 featuring film scholar Howard Suber.

The rest of the set includes a new interview with Hoffman, a conversation between screenwriter Henry and producer Lawrence Turman, a new interview with film writer and historian Bobbie O'Steen about editor Sam O'Steen, a short documentary from 2007 on The Graduate's influence, a 1992 featurette on the film, a 1966 Barbara Walters interview with Nichols from The Today Show, a clip from a 1970 episode of The Dick Cavett Show with Paul Simon, screen tests, and a trailer. Frank Rich contributes the set's essay.

All things equal, this is a Blu-ray disc that demands a place on every film lover's shelf - even if, like me, the film sinks like scuba-suited Ben Braddock.

In an effort to fill in some of the music gaps Queen fans might have over Bohemian Rhapsody or in real life, Martin Popoff's Queen: Album By Album (2018) is a new hardcover book (published by The Voyageur Press here, not to be confused with Criterion and has a different spelling) that covers all 13 studio albums (excluding hit sets, live albums or anything with a new lead singer in the band) and helps to prove my point that we still do not have the whole untold stories of all the work between A Night At The Opera and The Game with A Day At The Races, News Of The World and Jazz. The work here helps.

I like the graphics chosen, the paper and print are very high quality and the writing is pretty good, but the twist here is that a few people are interviewed with the same questions in different groups for each album, especially those involved with the albums, but also fans of the band, inarguable experts (Paul McCartney) and other musicians who make sense to be here for the most part. Without naming a name, one here is a bit of a stretch and I was surprised to see, with contributions that did not exactly offer any surprises or deep insight, but at least the author can say he was trying not to be predictable.

Though it may be available elsewhere, I still would have liked a handy chart on all 13 albums, their singles, what was the label that released which albums in which country/market and the like, but there are still plenty of surprise facts and other solid research that helps make this a well-done book that will make it stand out among the many on Queen that have been issued over the last half century. That's good because more needs to be written.

To add to al that, we've covered Queen releases in several formats over the years and expect they're far from over. The actual catalog has been issued several times over on vinyl, CD, in stereo-only Japanese Super Audio CDs and a few 5.1 releases in the now-scarce DVD-Audio format, including The Game and A Night At The Opera here...


There are also several concerts and documentaries we've taken on, but this Complete Review set has the best combination of original music and facts...


- Nicholas Sheffo and Dante A. Ciampaglia (Graduate)


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