Rocketing To New Emotional Heights And Artistic Portrayals

Rocketman Poster

 

Musical biographies, an ability to take a peek in the lives of the stars many idolize from the music and screens.  In hopes of getting their music and the drama, these films require trying to find a balance that will please many who flock out to see the great wonder.  While usually they take one side over the other, you’ll find that rare treasure that finds the balance.  Today I finish my weekly reviews with the epic film that has been built up for the last several months.  Legendary Elton John and company have put out a film to try to capture the legendary rock icon on his journey to greatness.  What’s the verdict?  Robbie K here to review:

 

Movie: Rocketman (2019)

 

Director:

Dexter Fletcher

Writer:

Lee Hall (screenplay)

Stars:

Taron EgertonJamie BellRichard Madden

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Make Up
  • Costumes
  • Setting/Special Effects
  • Musical Numbers
  • The Emotional Lessons/Moments

 

DISLIKES:

  • Slow At Times
  • Not Quite As Censored
  • Movie Dramatic Moments Over Concert Approach
  • Real Vs. Exaggerated
  • Not The Same Music Impact for me

 

SUMMARY:

To recreate a living legend you have to hire the right person and Taron Egerton killed it with the recreation of Sir Elton John. The mannerisms, the look, and the showmanship are all captured brilliantly in his performance, playing the tormented soul that is the Rocketman.  While the rest of the cast supports and plays their parts well, it is the focus on Egerton that draws everything into the movie. His vocal performance shows off his wide range of skills and he rounds out the full role with his talent.   Hollywood brings the full arsenal of creation into the film, doing wonderful work on the make up as Elton ages, with not only facial changes but hair line. The recreation of his costumes mirror the performers quite well in terms of detail in all the spectacle that they were. Going along so well is an impressive set design and shooting locations that drop us back in time and places that he made famous.  It’s these special effects that help bring you into the full moment of the movie as well as increasing the spectacle of the numbers.  Rocketman’s musical numbers go on the trend of utilizing the song and dance routine typical of a musical and cueing them to potentially hint at the points/events of their creation.  If you love those moments from High School Musical and show tunes of the theaters, then the numbers should get you real good, with similar techniques inspiring and highlighting some of his eccentric works.  It’s a different style compared to Bohemian, but the traditional route should get lovers of the genre smiling and potentially singing in glee.  And to top it all off, this movie really hits one in the heart, as you learn about Elton’s demons and the lessons he had to learn along the way.  The ending in particular gave me goosebumps, and really puts a perspective on someone I never even remotely knew compared to all his numbers.

            Yet, the thing about Rocketman is the approach they chose did not quite have the spunk and energy of Bohemian Rhapsody’s melody. The pace is slow at times, drawing on the drama to fill the gaps rather than the comedy/energy of the numbers.  For those who love the deep dive into the darker aspects of life, you’ve got it in this film, though I could have done more for the censorship myself, especially if it could have led to more concert and musical numbers.  In addition, the analysis of overdramatic vs. real is always a question, especially given how the drama moments take a firm grasp on this movie.  I myself like more of the musical spectacle and seeing that creative process, rather than getting downtrodden at the demons that plague us all.  And while I appreciate these moments quite well, and attempt to learn from this, I missed the full-blown musical edge that I’ve gotten in some other films, especially because those numbers were not interrupted like in this film.  As such, the numbers did not affect me as much as those in Bohemian Rhapsody, despite the mental moments they addressed.

Overall, Rocketman is a beautiful movie, focusing on the artistic side of things vs the full-blown concert relieving.  Utilizing the pain and struggles of the artist, the movie is grounded in the plot of discovery, recovery, and all out creation from the motivations life throws at us.  The special effects and showmanship will have musical numbers and John fans amazed, watching the recreation of the wonders unfold in modern day dynamics.  As much as these moments moved me though, the movie is by far for those with a passion for the drama vs the music itself.  Therefore, this movie is definitely a theater visit, but don’t go in expecting a repeat of Bohemian in terms of straight up musical grandiosity, they may not quite enjoy this as much, especially when the numbers are interrupted. Still a fine musical biography to say the least and worth it for those who like Jersey Boys, Get Up Off That Thing, and musical numbers from theater. 

 

My scores are:

Biography/Drama/Music: 8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

Queen Will, Queen Will, ROCK YOU! Bohemian Rhapsody Review

Bohemian Rhapsody Poster

 

The musical legend that took the world by storm.  A man’s whose voice is immortal and rings through the halls, rooms, and cars of today.  The legendary band of Europe with music for the people has been waiting for a movie to represent their majesty, and everything they brought to the world. Tonight, after months of advertising and media promotion, the wait is over and the movie is upon us.  With it, yours truly is back to give a later review, in hopes of helping bring justice and some help in determining your movie viewing pleasure.  So get your concert boots on, your voices warmed up, and your hearts open for Robbie K’s review on:

 

Movie: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

 

Director:

Bryan Singer

Writers:

Anthony McCarten (story by), Peter Morgan (story by)

Stars:

Rami MalekLucy BoyntonGwilym Lee

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting: You’ve got a legendary character, you need to be ready to step up to the plate, and the casting call nailed the pick with Rami Malek.  The Mr. Robot star continues to shine in his acting, apparently doing his homework to resurrect the legend for the modern age.  Watching clips in preparation for the interview, Singer’s direction with Malek’s skills are incredible to watch.  His mannerisms, his flair, his passion, and his approach match the various resources I picked up, and is the strong, central pillar to lift this movie to new heights.  Malek’s portrayal brings so many emotions to the screen to get you embedded into the movie and the actor’s lifeIn addition, the rest of the cast is amazing, each contributing member of Mercury’s life given incredible screen time and involvement to craft the family that got him through so much. The incredible involvement of everyone in this production really crafted the perfect cast to bring you into the full experience at hand.

 

The Direction: Musical biographies are always a challenge for me to review, because I go for the concert experience and a little for the life.  Sadly, the balance often shifts in the second half to the life, leading to usually a slower, depressing story.  Bohemian Rhapsody though, manages to break this mold and keep the energy of the movie going from start to finish.  Singer managed to find the perfect entanglement of personal story, band drama, creative process, and concert experience, leading to an energetic, cinematic experience that make syou feel like part of a VH-1 behind the scenes experience.  It crafts something for everyone and should be entertaining from start to finish for whatever type of story you want in this genre.

 

The Costumes/Setting/Craft:  You’ve got the director and the acting, but now you need the look and this is where Rhapsody’s crew excels at once more.  While not the most complex makeup at times, this film’s has managed to take us back in time to the 70s and 80s in setting, fashion, and look of the actors.  My friends and I agreed that they brought the band back in exact replica detail, from the hairstyles, to the looks that evolved over time in aging and appearance.  Transformation of the setting and decades keeps you immersed into the character’s evolution and further invest your interest to the story and movie at hand.  Of course Mercury’s recreation gets the top honors over all, but nevertheless, it’s a sensational piece of makeup, costumes, and detail worthy of an award or five.

 

The Concert Experience/Art/Music:  The biggest delight of this movie, outside of the balance of story to music, is the music itself. Bohemian Rhapsody highlights the music creating process, showing the struggles and inspiration of their work as they crafted what they considered the perfect tracks.  As the music comes to completion, the film jumps right into the performance, bringing the legendary vocals and music back to full, theater stomping delight, and unleashing it to the brim.  Rhapsody hits almost all of the classic songs without overplaying the work, and making sure to give you the concert experience you’ve been dreaming of.  This is especially true with the final scene, where the legendary 20-minute performance is recreated, almost every detail painstakingly recreated to pay honor to the legend. I hope many appreciate the hard work in this movie and more importantly the epic fire of Queen’s music.

 

The Class: When it comes to Queen’s and the band’s interesting history, one should expect a lot of topics and scenes that can make on uncomfortable.  A nod to the direction again, because in this film all these very sensitive topics are portrayed in a very dignified manner.  Rather than sexually aggressive, dirty, gritty portrayals and over the top dialogue, Bohemian Rhapsody manages to portray the darker moments in a dignified light to explain the history without detracting from the experience at hand. Even the comedy is magically crafted into the scene, not forcing itself upon the audience for a laugh, but instead flowing naturally with the personality of Queen and the scenes at hand.  It’s movies like these that make this reviewer smile wide and realize that Hollywood has not been completely lost yet.

 

DISLIKES:

The length: Hard to find fault in this movie, but I can say that the movie was a little long at point, a few scenes that could have probably been left out to minimize the run time to just about 2 hours.  A small dislike indeed, but I’m grasping at straws here.

 

A Little Less Of The Dark/Slower Moments:  The scenes to be removed would have been some involving Paul, who’s manipulation of the system crafted a good antagonist, but sometimes was a little long winded.  If I could have substituted these scenes with more of Mary and his family components I would have, because it may have shed a little more light on that aspect and kept in the positive energy of the movie.  I don’t want the darker moments erased completely, after all they made the band shine at times, but still a little less loss of momentum was my preference.

 

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Surprised that I don’t have more dislikes?  Well utilize that to note how much I loved this movie and how well put together it was. Queen’s epic legacy is captured beautifully in this movie, though how much is dramatized and real is something I don’t know.  Note however, that this is the musical biography that currently holds the throne in this reviewer’s eyes.  A balance of story and drama with music is the key, with direction to keep the momentum of the film going and the energy alive.  Fantastic acting and costumes further the experience, bringing you into the throngs of Queen’s struggles and drama, while paying homage to the craftmanship of their work.  Bohemian Rhapsody is the concert movie I’ve always wanted and with it, yours truly hopes to see it win big in the awards to come, not only for the movie itself, but for the legacy of Queen.  I strongly encourage everyone to see it in theaters, this weekend if possible, to get the most out of your experience with this film.  So please check it out asap. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Music:  9.5-10

 

Movie Overall:  8.5-9.0

Saved The Greatest For Last!: A Real Show Stopper

Greatest Showman

The Circus, a collection of assorted talent meant to wow and amaze the people the audience with their stunts.  At the head of this arena was P.T Barnum, a name associated with the Big Tent and imagination to continue bringing the magic to the world that so desperately needed.  So naturally, Hollywood would design a movie after him entitled The Greatest Showman, a musical piece that looks to be a big sensation this season.  But can Hugh Jackman

lead his cavalcade to victory, or is it just another flop the trailers bulked up.  Robbie K here to provide some thoughts, as we do yet another movie review.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Entertaining Pace:  You know I like a movie that moves, and Greatest Showman takes little time to get into the fun territory.  The excitement starts from the moment the opening credits begin, holding back little in order to get the magic started.  It’s a risky, but smart, move as their execution led to one of the most engaging movies of the holiday season.

 

The Acting:  I love a good cast coming together to bring the film alive, and again this film manages to accomplish this task.   Jackman takes the center stage as Barnum, capturing the imagination drive of the legendary ring leader and energizing the movie with his spirit .  The rebellious nature to take risks is portrayed quite well with him at the reigns, and the evolution his character goes through is spectacularly acted.  Michelle Williams was a great lead actress for the character Charity, bringing both beauty and class to role of a supportive wife doing her best to keep Jackman’s spirit in check with reality. Zac Efron and Zendaya, are wonderful supporting actors to the leads, they just needed a little more integration into the plot.  The rest of the cast knocks the movie out of the park, but I have more things to talk about so let’s move on.

 

The Messages: Greatest Showman by far has my favorite presentation of those pesky, yet important life lessons. Living your dreams, accepting yourself, and helping others are the key factors held in this movie.  This portrayed primarily from Barnum’s view, but the movie blends the perspective from the other performers and their judgement by the high society. A classy nod to the traditional, now outlandish, views, the movie does a great job clashing the concepts of society norms vs. uniqueness and the struggles of being brave to change the world. Seeing the emotional warfare unleashed on the performers tore at my heart strings, but made the relevant topic come to life in a fantastic way.  It’s a bit preachy at times, but given the quality and the use of multiple devices to bring it to life, it really does work .

 

The Numbers/Soundtrack: By far, my favorite aspect of the movie are the musical numbers.  Incredible is not nearly enough to describe the musical extravaganzas, each dance number being dynamic and fun with a well orchestrated choreography that combines Circus stunts with Hollywood footwork.  Outside of the thrilling movements though, these numbers are charged with emotion, bring the relevant messages to life with a powerful punch to penetrate the walls of hardened halls and bring with it joy, inspiration, or in some tears of joy. But if you don’t care about that component, then perhaps you’ll appreciate the story telling and relationship building of the numbers that help speed up the formalities of socializing. And if all that fails, well then just be stoked for awesome numbers with a good beat. I’ll admit that they all sound quite similar in many aspects, but there is enough of a twist to grant them their individuality.  Nevertheless, this is one soundtrack I plan to pick up.  Can you tell I liked the movie?

 

DISLIKES:

 

Wanted more:  For once I can say I wanted the movie to be longer.  Greatest Showman is a story that balances numerous things over the 105-minute run time with regards to love, loyalty, pressures of success, etc.  However, I wish that many of these qualities were either elaborated more, or held a little more struggle to provide a stronger development arc to the characters I loved so much. Most likely the extra content would not have felt longer due to the energy of the film, but this might have increase the run time to 3 hours so maybe it was a good thing. In addition, I wanted to have better integration of some of the other characters into the story, (i.e. Napoleon guy, bearded lady, and the wife) rounding out the experience of the film and giving us better backstories on our oddities. Those connections between the dots would have expanded the experience out and only further strengthen the story.

 

The CGI:  This component is not bad at all, but despite the spectacles you would have thought this production could have acquired some real live animals for the numbers.  The CGI work is good, fluid motion and semi-realistic design, but given everything they did with the live actors for the numbers, the CGI animals seemed a little like they were cutting corners.  Yeah, this is a picky dislike, it’s hard to find many big weaknesses in this film.

 

The Hollywood Treatment:  From the quotes we know the aspirations of P.T. Barnum, but like many biographies, one has to wonder how much of this is the Hollywood shine.  While uglier sides of Barnum do come out, I think the movie flew by his money making, business side because it didn’t fit into the story’s other moments or perhaps meant fewer musical numbers for our auto tuned cast to come up with. Still, I’m a sucker for seeing an uplifting tale, where the positives are the focusing point of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT

            Hands down, The Greatest Showman is one of my favorite films of the Hollywood season.  The movie is constantly entertaining the audience, utilizing the acting, the special effects, and more importantly the music to sell the moral points hidden in the 105 minutes.  Such a positive tale of friendship, self-discovery, and acceptance is a perfect match to the Holiday season and I for one cannot wait to see this film again.  Yes, Hollywood glamor is at work, and the movie could have expanded on both characters and plot elements to connect the dots a little more, but I was very pleased by this film.  Therefore, I highly recommend this one for the theaters, not only in terms of quality, but also because the songs rattling the theater adds to the experience that only the most expensive surround sound systems can begin to match. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Musical:  9.5

Movie Overall: 9.0

Go for the Music and Shows!

Get on up

            James Brown, a musical legend whose funk and soul spread from city to city over decades. With movies looking for anything to make a story about, these days, it was only a matter of time before the Godfather of Soul was chosen. Yet despite his musical influence, could the directors make a film that would do justice to him, or like other tributes fall short and are nothing more than a bore. Going in for my third movie this weekend, I’m here to share my thoughts about Get On Up, titled after one of my favorite songs.

 

After seeing Four Seasons, I worried that this movie would be another drawn out drama with only tidbits of music here and there. Yet the directing team decided to actually bring the music to the front and give the audience the music they knew and loved. Get On Up plays a plethora of songs from toe tapping Get On Up to the soulful Please, each timed in the story to mimic the emotions at hand. While some of the songs are only segments, the movie gives you enough of a show to satisfy the funk within you. The numbers are well designed, with Chadwick Boseman bringing some impressively choreographed moves, including the famous split that will have guys cringing. One feels like they are in a constant, at home with the crowd as the cameras circle around the bandstand. What’s also nice is that the songs are spread throughout the movie, and one doesn’t have to wait to long before another song is blasting through the speakers. However, this also leads to a little problem, as so many songs leads to a messy story that is fractured, sporadic, and sometimes confusing to follow.

 

This leads me to the next part, the story. Like many movies about musical icons the story is predictable mess, again showing traumatic backstories and showing their rise to fame. However, Get On Up diverges from the typical linear presentation and decides to jump around Brown’s life. In the beginning, it is confusing to follow, because the order doesn’t make sense, nor is it easy to find the relevancy at the time. As the movie continues, you get an idea of what the director is trying to do, using the scenes as an illustration of his thoughts at the time, the primal drive to his actions. It’s cool, but again confusing as you try to pick up what is going on at the times. Some of the flashbacks are also awkwardly timed and sometimes seem to are left untied as the movie continues. At times I asked, “What was the point of that scene?” only to get an answer an hour down the line. It’s diverse yes, but the approach needs to be ironed out a little more for this reviewer to get the most out of it. Unfortunately, this movie’s plot is still similar to all band stories, in the fact that there is an inevitable rise and fall that we will see them go through.

 

Despite the order of the scenes though, Get On Up has some impressive production behind the movie. As I already mentioned, the music scenes are the most entertaining of the bunch, but the drama surrounding it is well designed. Plenty of my fellow audience members commented on how well they captured the decade, designing the various cast in the costumes of the era. Backstage hassles, luxurious hotels, and studios were all crafted into smoke filled wonders, and you feel drawn in to Brown’s life. What was also nice to see was the lack of using a grey filter, a very popular filter at the moment, to make the already dismal world even more depressing. Instead, the world is colorful and vibrant, much like the music.

 

Finally the acting. Boseman steals the show, managing to bring a lot of energy and fun into the enigmatic Brown. His raspy voice sounds much like the voice in the singing, though it is not an exact match, I think he did nice on the vocals and delivery. He is funny, and seems to be a natural at playing the self-involved performer, because he didn’t seem to try too hard. Boseman captures the emotional spectrum of Brown brilliantly in this movie and next to the music, is the biggest highlight of the film. To counter the selfishness of Brown is his friend Bobby Byrd played by Nelsan Ellis who also does a great job. Although his character takes a backseat through most of the film, and only speaks at key points, Ellis does a lot with his limited lines. And just like Boseman, Ellis can bust a move, though his pipes are drowned out in the numbers. As for the rest of the cast, the iconic Dan Aykroyd plays the same arrogant business man he always does, though with a bit of a softer side when it comes to James. Viola Davis brings the same passion to her role, though like Ellis is limited to the amount of time on screen. Octavia Spencer brings her sass back to scene and has some guiding insight, but does take a back seat to Boseman as well.

 

Overall Get On Up is a visit to the past of powerful music. Fans will travel back in time with Brown’s hits, and the beat will have you tapping your toes. Yet the predictable drama, the dark and depressing mood, and the unique presentation had me feeling the movie lasted a little too long, especially at the slow parts. Recommended audience members are big James Brown fans, or those looking to take older audience members to a movie. Otherwise, skip this film and wait for it to come to your home entertainment set up. My scores for this flick are:

 

Biography/Drama/Music: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6