Flash Gordon

REVIEW: Queen – Flash Gordon (with 1991 and 2011 bonus tracks)

Flash Gordon – Original Soundtrack Music by QUEEN (Originally 1980, 1991 and 2011 Hollywood CDs)

When mom and dad rented the movie Flash Gordon, we sat and watched it as a family.  “It’s terrible,” a family friend told us.  There were only so many movies available to rent at the local store (Steve’s TV), just one small wall of VHS and Betamax.  Flash Gordon came home with us one weekend, and because we tried to make the most of our movie rentals (including the VCR, also a rental) we watched it twice.

I have not seen Flash Gordon since that childhood weekend.  It really was awful.  Maybe we hoped for more because Max Von Sydow was in it.  Neither Sydow, nor Brian Blessed, nor a young Timothy Dalton could save Flash Gordon.

Flash Gordon, New York Jets

Queen also could not save the movie, though their soundtrack is certainly one of the best things to come of it.  (Another is the movie Ted, basically a love letter to the original Flash Gordon).   All four Queen members wrote music for the film, and recorded it as a band.  Brian May wrote the lion’s share of material, though Freddie Mercury was responsible for “Vultan’s Theme”, later ripped off for an Atari video game called Vanguard.  I wonder if Freddie ever saw a dime from that?  I knew Freddie’s song from the video game by heart, long before I ever heard the album by Queen!

The soundtrack gave us one Queen hit single, “Flash’s Theme” written by May.  The 2011 double CD has a single version, and a live cut from Montreal in ’81 (also on Queen Rock Montreal), as bonuses to the album track.  “Flash’s Theme” is sparse but catchy, featuring movie dialogue that makes it seem like the film should be much better.  Queen’s bombast was ideal for this.  When Roger Taylor sings the highest notes in the chorus, it’s sheer musical delight.

The album plays like a soundtrack, with lots of atmospheric keyboard instrumentals and movie dialogue.  Because of its ambient nature, you might not at first recognise some tracks as Queen.  Some is similar to the ambient work that closed their last album, Made in Heaven.  The music is far more grand than its onscreen imagery.

One of the most memorable instrumentals is “Football Fight”, a Mercury synth workout.  Perhaps sometimes we forget what a great keyboardist Mercury was, simply because he was such an amazing vocalist.  “Football Fight” is super fun, and you can also get it in a piano-based demo version on the 2011 CD.  Check out a Queen-tastic version of Wagner’s famous “Wedding March” performed by May on guitar.  Finally there is the rock track “The Hero”, a riffy song with full vocals by Freddie.  It reprises some prior themes from the soundtrack, such as “Vultan’s”.  Queen is augmented by an orchestra on “The Hero”, which is as grand as you would expect.  Like “Flash”, you can also get “The Hero” on disc two in live form, in Montreal 1981.

A long forgotten bonus track for this album was released on the 1991 Hollywood Records CD.  A remix by somebody called “Mista Lawnge” starts off well enough, with a grinding beat synched to May’s guitar.  It goes downhill when somebody starts rapping, “Flash, one time!  Flash, two times!”  Note to all remixers:  Never, ever add random rappers to rock songs.  Don’t.

Rest assured, no matter which version of Flash Gordon you pick up, there are some definite musts on the album.  Much of it will only appeal to fans of soundtracks.  If that sounds like you, take a ride with Flash to planet Mongo and get down with some Queen.  Skip the movie!

4/5 stars

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MOVIE REVIEW: Ted (2012 blu-ray)

“Death to Ming!” – Sam Jones

TED FRONTTED (Universal, 2012, directed by Seth MacFarlane)

I don’t often go out to the store to buy a movie on the first day of release anymore, but I did for Ted.  I grabbed it at the local Best Buy and immediately popped it in, since I missed its theatrical run.  I’m a Seth MacFarlane fan, see?  I like Family Guy and recently American Dad too.  If you don’t like those shows, chances are, you probably won’t like Ted either.  May as well stop reading now.

Still with me?  Good.  Because this is a fuckin’ funny movie!  Once you get past the concept of the walking talking driving tweeting teddy bear who loves coke and prostitutes.

Patrick Stewart narrarates our intro, as we meet John Bennett, a little Star Wars loving boy who gets a teddy bear for Christmas.  He doesn’t have many friends, so one night he wishes that Teddy was alive.  Connect the dots from here.

Ted becomes a world famous superstar phenomenon (Johnny Carson show and all), only to crash and burn hard by the 1990’s.  Now today, he sits on John’s couch drinking beer, smoking pot, watching Flash Gordon; the 1980 bomb that starred Sam J. Jones as the titular Flash.  And once again, the lush strains of “Flash”, by Queen, fills the room.  This is all fine and dandy until Mila Kunis (insert hot girlfriend way too good for immature boyfriend here) says enough is enough.  If Marky Mark and Mila are to stay together, Ted’s gotta move out and get his own place.

Their lives pretty much go down hill from there.  Ted gets a job at the local grocer and starts banging a checkout girl on top of the lettuce.  But John just can’t separate himself from his best bud, especially when Sam J. Jones himself turns up to party with the boys.   Can John achieve the balance between friendship and domestic bliss that eludes him?

Throw in an evil, creepy stalker played perfectly by Giovanni Ribisi, and cameos by Norah Jones and Ted Danson as themselves, and you have a movie.

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you by saying that this is substantially different from any other bro-mances you’ve seen out there.  There’s the girl who’s fed up, the jerky male romantic rival, and the two dudes, one of whom wants to get his life together while the other seemingly holds him back.  If you’ve watched Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, or Seth Rogen films, you know where I’m going.

What makes Ted so much better than any of those movies (which I already like anyway) is MacFarlane himself.  Yes, Ted does sound like Peter Griffin (even acknowledged in the film) but that voice just works for this bear!  Ted is easily one of the sickest, yet lovable characters in cinema history.  A horny drug using teddy bear has never been depicted on film before, as far as I know.  Of course, Ted needs Johnny as much as Johnny needs Ted.  They are a movie pair, and they can never be happy apart.

The blu-ray gives you the “unrated” (boobs) and theatrical versions.  There’s a DVD, a digital copy, all that extra crap that I never use.  Deleted scenes, gag reels, commentary, all that good stuff.   Still, there’s no point buying a movie unless you plan on watching it more than once.  I’ve watched Ted five times so far, and I still love it.

I guess I have a thing for f-bomb dropping teddy bears that sound like Peter Griffin.  What does that make me?  Ahh, who cares.

4.5/5 stars