“Rocketman” takes old, stale songs from an old, stale rocker and makes them and him fresh again. Rarely do I say all mature — emphasis on mature — people ought to take the time to see a film.
See this one.
Elton John is one of the producers of his own biopic. He wanted it done and is the power behind the production. “Rocketman” is his life dramatically — and sometimes comically — shown through the music and lyrics of his and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s songs.
I’m an early Elton John fan. I loved his music up through his album Honky Chateau. From there forward, John fell in love with long, overdubbed choruses, and in Hey Jude-like fashion proceeded to bore me — and a lot of us — to tears. Fat, drunk and drugged, John’s music went from fresh and rocking to ponderous. His outrageous on-stage outfits were often blinding and his over-produced concerts turned him from a brilliant rocker into a cliche and a mid-1970s version of Vegas Elvis.
The movie tells you why.
Director Dexter Fletcher (“Eddie the Eagle”) and screenwriter Lee Hall (“Victoria & Abdul,” “Billy Elliot,” “War Horse”) put the songs together in a way that tell you what made John tick until he got sober 29 years ago.
“Rocketman” looks more like a broadway musical than a movie. At first, it made me cringe. I’m not a fan and musicals like this don’t usually work. Most are overloaded with glitzy dance scenes and are just too flamboyant. However, considering John’s penchant for everything outrageous, the movie is kind of tame.
In fact, nothing about this movie is tame. It’s why it works so well. Fletcher gives you a wonderfully edited story that is loaded with very clever music sequences, sets and excellent performances.
Taron Egerton (the Kingsman movies, “Robin Hood”) plays John. “Billy Elliot” and “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’s” Jaime Bell gets the nod as Taupin. Bryce Dallas Howard grabs a surprisingly good Cockney accent and plays John’s mom. Gemma Jones steals all of the movie’s early scenes and plays John’s grandmother Ivy.
My favorite scene in the movie is when mom, grandma and Taupin first hear Your Song. The look on Jones’ face said it all and it is at that point that I fell in love with “Rocketman.” And if you haven’t, you will then.
It also is very hard not to be absolutely blown away by Egerton’s performance. He does all of his own singing and sometimes if you shut your eyes, what you hear is Elton John. In some spots in the movie Egerton looks so much like the singer that you almost swear it’s John and not the actor.
Good stuff and a film that rocks at all levels.
▪ Rated R for mature themes, language, drugs and sex. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 5 out of 5
‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’
Is Godzilla really the king of the monsters? When it comes to pure silver screen time, the Japanese whatever it is — and whatever Godzilla is depends on the movie — has been in somewhere between 33 and 35 films. That number, too, depends on the source.
As a comparison, King Kong has only had 11 films. Except for the original King Kong, those films — like the flicks on the Godzilla list — have pretty much sucked. And before we go any farther, this movie suffers that same fate. It’s terrible.
By the way, next up for both monsters is “Godzilla vs. Kong” and it’s scheduled to be in a theater near you next March.
Godzilla films have evolved with technology. CGI and other special effects improvements managed to move the monster away from people in rubber suits who stomped around on miniature villages and cities, miniature military vehicles and miniature toy people to something that looks more believable. In a way, the visual improvements have also improved the stories.
Just not enough.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” picks things up a few years after Godzilla defeated the MUTOs and tore up San Francisco and other parts of the world in 2014. By now a company called Monarch is finding ways to communicate with and control Godzilla and the other monsters. One of the scientists working with them is Dr. Emma Russell.
She develops a communication system but turns rogue as soon as the machine is done and allies with a guy who wants to let the monsters rule. Some kind of ecology message is behind the madness. They travel from locale to locale where the monsters are hidden and housed and let them go.
The worst of the bunch is Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, a hydra who rules all the bad guy beasts. To save the planet, Godzilla has to defeat it, and his human supporters have to beat Russell and the other bad guys. They must save the planet from those trying to save the planet.
Or something like that.
Russell’s estranged husband and daughter are part of what passes for a plot. His goal is to save their daughter. The daughter’s purpose is to propel the story toward the pumped up climax and all other characters — including the monsters — are there to fill space and toss off cliche lines.
The film’s top-billed stars are Kyle Chandler, Conjuring-series star Vera Farmiga, “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobby Brown and Ken Watanabe from the 2014 version of “Godzilla.” They and their co-stars do excellent work in front of green screens and at various locations.
The real stars — as in all these films — are the monsters. Director Michael Dougherty and his special effects crews do a pretty good job of making the beast battles and the destruction around all that fighting look real. The destruction, the monsters and the effects are all done at an epic level. On that level, Dougherty, the cast and Godzilla succeed.
The story is a different story. It starts out wobbly, then trips, and ultimately falls and falls very flat.
You have a civilian popping into a military operation and suddenly gets all kinds of decision making power. Real life says he’d be asked a few questions, thanked for the help and left at the nearest base. The daughter also plays a part in a climax that is even less realistic than behemoth creatures taking over the world.
As usual, actors die in their order of importance to the plot. I suspect many begged to be killed off before having to endure much more of this inane script. Maybe Dougherty and the producers complied.
Whatever happened with the actors doesn’t matter anyway. The film’s real stars bring home the reality of this franchise, and that reality is that reality doesn’t matter. People attending Godzilla movies only want only one thing. Carnage. Unfortunately, in this case the carnage just isn’t that interesting.
▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes and violence. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 2 out of 5