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Rocketman (2019)
Rocketman (2019)
2019 | Biography, Drama
Strong Lead Performance
I have to admit, I thought the Freddy Mercury bio-pic BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY was just "meh" and that Rami Malek was "just o'k" as the Queen frontman (personally, I would have given the Oscar to Christian Bale for his portrayal of Dick Cheney in VICE) so I was not rushing to the multi-plex to check out the Elton John musical film ROCKETMAN. And the fact that the release of this film was "buried" in the summer and not right before "Oscar Season" gave me room to pause.

And...I would be wrong...for ROCKETMAN is a fun, fantastical fantasy musical depicting the rise and fall (by drug and alcohol abuse) of one of rock's most flamboyant showman of the 1970's.

Following the "Jukebox Musical" blueprint of something like JERSEY BOYS, Rocketman follows a young Reggie Dwight as he discovers his musical talent and grows into the Global Superstar known as Elton John.

I was happy that the filmmakers went this route (vs the bio-pic route that BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY went) for they were able to use the vast catalog of Elton John/Bernie Taupin tunes to their fullest advantage, when it made sense to drive the narrative forward - or to give the storytelling a shot of adrenaline.

This film had Elton John's blessings and he was not kind to a few people in his life - most notably his mother (an almost unrecognizable Bryce Dallas Howard in a strong turn), his father (Steve Mackintosh, who I had never seen before) and his Manager, John Reid (Game of Throne's Richard Madden). All 3 are pretty one-dimensional villains that help contribute to Elton's drug and alcohol abuse.

On the other side of the coin is his writing partner, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell, the original BILLY ELLIOT in a performance that I think is the best of his career) and his Grandmother, Ivy (good ol' Gemma Jones BRIDGET JONES DIARY and Madam Pomfrey in the Harry Potter films). Both of these characters are generally positive influences on Elton's life, trying to understand and support our hero on his journey.

As for our hero, Taran Egerton (the KINGSMAN films) embodies Elton with panache and zeal while showing an underlying shyness and insecurity that helps lead to his abuse issues. Egerton is EXCELLENT in this role - both in acting and singing. He doesn't so much imitate Elton John but embodies the essence of Sir Elton and his performance is quite effective. If Rami Malek deserved his Oscar for playing Freddy Mercury in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY then Taran Egerton better be in the Oscar conversation this year.

The film was Directed by Dexter Fletcher (who was brought on to finish BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY once Bryan Singer was fired from that film for his on-set behavior), so he puts to good use his experience on the Queen movie, keeping the action moving fast, the characterizations simple (but satisfying) enough while showcasing just enough music to fill a "Best of" Album.

While BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY was a "meh" movie with a buffo ending (the recreation of the LIVE AID concert was amazing), ROCKETMAN suffers from just the opposite problem. Starting off strong and growing weaker until it ends in "meh" fashion. The fact that this film musical fantasy decided to end with a faithful recreation of the I'M STILL STANDING music video is at the heart of the issue. I understand the implied underlying meaning of this song selection, but it just doesn't pack the punch that a live concert appearance would have.

Come for the music, stay for Egerton's performance and you'll be glad you did.

Letter Grade: A-

8 stars (out of 10) and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
Rocketman (2019)
Rocketman (2019)
2019 | Biography, Drama
A dazzling, brutally honest biopic
Biopics are always challenging. Trying to condense the life of a public figure into a couple of hours is never easy, which is why it can go wrong. It must be even more intimidating when your subject is still alive, and in this case, Elton John is very much alive and kicking at the age of 72.

Rocketman was a project that was closely followed by a number of fans and media outlets, all of them keen to see how they brought his story to life on-screen. With Dexter Fletcher at the helm and a star-studded cast, the film certainly had potential. And boy did it deliver.

Something that took me by surprise was the fact the film was more of a musical, rather than a straight-up biopic. I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of musicals most of the time, but I was instantly charmed by the musical numbers in Rocketman. It felt appropriate to present someone so passionate about music in this way. The film is choreographed to perfection, with the key moments in Elton’s life brought to life through song and dance.

In the leading role, Taron Egerton absolutely shone as Elton. The fact he actually sang so many of his iconic songs, and did them well, is something that should be celebrated for years to come. But even beyond the music, the way he showcased Elton’s pain throughout his years brought me to tears several times, and I’d be as bold to say his performance was award worthy. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

It was also refreshing to see the brutal honesty in the film. Elton John himself said he ‘hadn’t lived a PG-13 life’, so the inclusion of sex, drugs and depression was absolutely necessary. Elton suffered from a lot of addictions, which are unapologetically presented on screen. There were so many tragedies I was not aware of, and it was so awful to see how he’d been treated by those close to him.

His parents in particular, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Stanley (Steven Mackintosh), weren’t accepting of him and created a toxic home environment for Elton. I wasn’t aware of these strained relationships so it was interesting to observe, and the performances felt incredibly raw and devastating.

Naturally, the film also explored Elton’s first relationship with music manager John Reid (Richard Madden). This was heartbreaking to witness, as there was a lot of abuse and manipulation from Reid throughout their relationship. I thought Madden was exceptional in this role; villainous yet charismatic, and he delivered some truly cutting lines that, again, made me cry.

The one constant good relationship in Elton’s life was, and still is, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). The two worked closely over the years to write the lyrics we know and love, and have endured lots together. As a key figure in his life, it was essential he was played well, and I couldn’t be happier with Bell’s performance. The energy between him and Egerton was a powerful thing.

These great performances are set against a beautiful backdrop of glitz and glamour, with some seriously impressive live shows where Egerton gets the opportunity to really shine. The gorgeous set design, costume design and cinematography only broke my heart further, when it became apparent a lot of it was a lie, and deep down Elton was battling with many demons. Fame does not always equal happiness, and this film is the epitome of that message.

Whilst it’s not an easy film to watch at times, it’s a beautiful celebration of Elton’s life that I can’t wait to experience again. He has came such a long way, and the film does everything in its power to show both the lows and highs, and remind fans where he came from. My advice would be to bring tissues, you’re going to need them.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four (2015)
2015 | Action
If you hold the film rights to an iconic and beloved comic book series, one would think you would do everything possible to see that it flourishes under you watch. For 29th Century Fox, The Fantastic Four is an asset that should be a gem of their studio as the long-running Marvel comic series has had legions of fans for generations.

The previous two films did well enough but still had their detractors amongst the fans. So, Fox opted for a hiatus and then a radical reboot of the series complete with casting choices that were considered very questionable.

The new version features Miles Teller as Reed Richards, a young man obsessed with teleportation to the point that his teachers and other students laugh at him for his odd and obsessive ways.

His only friend is Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), who despite a lack of scientific knowledge supports Reed in his efforts which eventually allow him to be recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who discloses that he is working on a large scale teleportation device and seeing how Reed pulled it off with a device he made in his garage, is eager to see what he can do at a fully-funded facility.

Reed meets Franklins adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), as well as his son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), while they work with the mercurial Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to complete the device.

When the team finds success, they are horrified to learn that the government plans to take over control of the project so Ben, Victor, Johnny, and Reed opt to use it themselves to visit the other dimension in order to leave their mark in history.

Things at first go well but when a mysterious force envelops them, odd things start to happen when they return home. Reed is capable of stretching himself, Johnny is a living fire, Ben is covered in rocks, and Sue is phasing in and out.

Flashing forward the group is under the watch of the government and Reed has fled not wanting to be a part of whatever is going on. Ben is used for special operations and blames Reed for abandoning them as Sue and Johnny are prepped for the field.

Now one would think a setup like this has some potential at the very least for some action and great FX. Sadly the film lurches ahead fairly light on action. The threat to the film appears, and within 10 minutes has moved to a fairly underwhelming final conflict that is so obviously done in front of a Green Screen that it loses much of the intended impact.

The best I can say for the film is that it is a forgettable and flawed film that tries to launch a new franchise in a new way. But the casting choices in the film are so wrong, that it undermines it at every step. Setting aside the debate over an African American Johnny Storm, Miles Teller is so bland; he just does not scream leading man or driving force behind the team.

The same can be said for pretty much the entire cast. The backstories hint at various things but their actions conflict several aspects of the film which to be honest are fairly forgettable.

The entire movie is like watching a Jr. College Fan Film where the cast has a Green Screen and studio funding, but not a clue on how to carry out a story, modern action sequences of character development.

Fox needs to take a serious page from Sony and work with Marvel if they are going to continue this franchise, or return the rights to Marvel so fans can finally get a film that does justice to the source material.

I am glad that Director Josh Trank is no longer associated with the pending Star Wars film as this movie is a train wreck that spits all over the history and legacy of the source material.