SynopsisThe life and times of the rock band Queen - told in two parts covering in part one the 1970"s and in part two the 1980"s and beyond.
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Very Good Documentary
Queen: Days of Our Lives (2011) *** 1/2 (out of 4) Very good documentary looking at the rise of the band Queen who packed sold-out stadiums before eventually losing their lead singing to the AIDS virus. As someone only familiar with the groups hits, I found the documentary to be very good in explaining every step of the band's rise to the top, their somewhat fall in the U.S. and their eventual rise with the help of Live Aid. The documentary was shown in two parts with the first covering the 70s and then the second half takes us from the 80s to today. Roger Taylor, Brian May, John Deacon and the band's manager are all on hand to give their memories on the events and it's clear that they all realize that they were a part of something special. The most touching moments happen towards the end once everyone learned that Freddie Mercury was dying and hearing the way he took it was quite inspirational. The documentary mixes the interview footage with archival material including Mercury interviews, concert footage, news clips and various other bits of footage. I'm sure die-hard Queen fans are probably going to already know most of this stuff but I'm sure they'll still get a kick out of the film simply because of how well-made it is. It's clear that everyone involved wanted this to be a very good example of Queen's work and I think the documentary does just that and it's bound to gain the band even more fans.
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The world"s greatest novelty act
Queen were the world's biggest rock band for several years; but they were arguably almost a novelty act, their desire for innovation and the combination of traditional rock with more operatic elements creating a distinctive (but not entirely serious) catalogue of songs. In some ways, its remarkable that they managed to hold their fans' attention for so long. But of course, they had, in Freddie Mercury, a lead singer of amazing charisma and vocal power (he also wrote arguably their most interesting material, although all band members contributed creatively). Mercury, born in Zanzibar and a transparently gay man in an otherwise straight band, died young of A.I.D.S., and is in someways considered a symbol of rock-and-roll excess. The nice thing about this documentary is that it provides a view not only of his showman side, but also of the surprisingly quiet, even shy individual, when off the stage. Mostly this is a very straightforward documentary, offering an "official view" of Queen's history told mainly by surviving members Taylor and May - John Deacon, the bassist, does not participate, although generally the tone is mutually friendly. But it genuinely seems that mostly, the foursome's friendship held up until the end, in spite of some inevitable down-times. I enjoyed the film, mostly as a reminder of how unique, and talented, Mercury was - even if you don't actually like Queen's music, you still have to gasp as the band's audacity.
A great dose of nostalgia
Queen put out some poor filler songs in their time, but this great doco shows how ultimately successful and persistent they were. Their big hits were stupendously good. Very original, with slick playing and impeccable vocal harmonies. They weren't afraid to try new genres, such as a cartoon soundtrack (Flash Gordon), to rockabilly, funk, lovely ballads, pop and hard rock. Guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor are both excellent storytellers. One of the nicest things is that all four band members wrote the songs. The bassist John Deacon wrote some of their killer melodies and riffs (Another One Bites the Dust, Under Pressure) and guitarist Brian May wrote some of the smash hits such as We Will Rock You. I gained new respect for Roger Taylor, who not only is an excellent drummer (especially live) and songwriter, but was a key singer on most of their songs. And of course the doco is a wonderful tribute to the late Freddie Mercury. His charisma, his great singing, but also his piano playing. He claimed he wasn't much of a pianist, but his piano playing is among the most beautiful passages of the band's work. My favourite scene is a simple instrumental version of We Are The Champions in the studio. It shows how utterly in tune the band were with each other.