Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rocketman (2019)

Image is property of Paramount Pictures, New Republic Pictures, Marv Films, Rocket Pictures

Rocketman – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Synopsis: A look at the life of musical icon Elton John from his first moments playing the piano as a youngster, to an international best selling superstar, and all the partying and drunken shenanigans that ensued…

Review: When two films about two icons of British music come out within a year of each other, comparisons between these two films are pretty much inevitable, especially since they share a director (kind of). However, while the first of these films ultimately chose to play things very safe with its source material about the life of its subject, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. For Rocketman, and the life of its subject, Elton Hercules John, this is decidedly not the case.

The film covers quite the broad spectrum, but it mainly initially on Elton’s younger years, back when he was known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight. As a rather timid child being held back by his not-so-supporting parents. Until when given some helpful supporting nudges, he gets a spot at a prestigious music school and that leads him down the path of becoming a very eccentric entertainer. From there he meets lyricist Bernie Taupin (Bell) and together with Bernie providing the lyrics and Elton providing the vocals, they become an effective and cohesive team committed on the journey to super-stardom.

Dress down Fridays definitely didn’t catch on…

Every so often, there is a casting choice that just feels absolutely perfect, and for Taron Egerton as Elton John, this is one of those instances. In what may be his best performance of his career so far, Egerton goes all out with just about every aspect of the role. The bright and wacky costumes, the mannerisms of the great man himself and, yes he does all of his own singing. With just about every facet of this performance, he captures the drama that he has in his life with his romances and the hard and intense party lifestyle that he leads in his younger years, without sugar-coating any of it, not least the relationships he has, most notably with Richard Madden’s John Reid. The friendship between Elton and Bernie is very heartfelt, and Bell brings a level of sincerity to his performance, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mum Sheila couldn’t have been more perfect.

Dexter Fletcher, who came into to complete Bohemian Rhapsody after the original director was fired, shows that he has got a real knack for these musical biopics. While he didn’t get the credit for BoRhap, this is completely his own movie, and with that he brings a great deal of visual flair to the film. There’s no jaw-dropping sequence like the Live Aid scene in BoRhap, but that doesn’t stop the musical numbers in Rocketman are entertaining and very unique in their own right. With the script from Lee Hall, Fletcher chooses to mesh the intense drama with some musical numbers that are interspersed throughout the film. Given that the life of someone in a business like this has its ups and downs, these can feel a little jarring at first, given how the film has moments in it which are really quite melancholic.

The film strives to avoid those familiar tropes of the musical biopic genre, but despite its best efforts, it does revert to some of these. Yet while Bohemian Rhapsody was a very safe, and (sometimes inaccurate) version of the man it was portraying, Rocketman is anything but by-the-numbers. There are some aspects of Elton’s life that are covered, but in such a fleeting manner that could have done with a bit more development. It’s above all else, a reminder that while such a career can be extremely rewarding, there are some dangerous pitfalls that can happen to anyone, no matter how rich, or famous, or popular they may be.

Visually striking and with a marvellous performance from Egerton, Rocketman blasts off but doesn’t quite stick the landing due to a tonally unevenly told story.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Marv

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Sophie Cookson, Pedro Pascal

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  After their organisation comes under attack, The Kingsman seek the help of their US Counterparts, the Statesman, to help them save the world…

Review: It is always nice when a film knows exactly what the audience wants and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In addition, when said film knew that it was a ridiculously over the top, almost parody of the the spy films that it obviously drew inspiration from, and plays that to its advantage to deliver an absurd amount of entertainment, and laughs, that’s always a most welcome outcome, and this is precisely what Kingsman: The Secret Service was. Therefore, a sequel to this surprise hit was almost inevitable, and Vaughn despite perhaps some initial hesitation, eventually came back to the director’s chair.

The first film was, for the most part British-centric, and more specifically on the Kingsman and the recruitment of young Eggsy into this elite spy organisation. The plot now goes a bit more global, well across the Pond to be exact. With the Kingsman on their knees following a vicious attack, a clue leads them to their US based allies, the Statesman. Their research leads them to something that is known as the “Golden Circle” and with the Kingsman and Statesman now side by side, they must band together to help save the world because as you would expect, as there’s always some dastardly villain looking to wreak world havoc.

Eggsy’s development from deadbeat chav, to a sophisticated gentleman spy was a central theme of what The Secret Service was all about. All the while saving the world with mentor Harry Hart (Firth) by his side. Though Harry initially seems to have suffered a grim demise, but with a presence that is hard to miss if you have seen any promotional material, it indicates that Harry did not meet said demise. Their character development was a key arc of the first movie, but there is much less focus on that arc, and indeed character development as a whole, which can be frustrating to say the least.

“We are the three amigos…”

Instead Vaughn and Goldman zone in on the action stakes, turning up the volume to maximum. If his past work is anything to go by, Vaughn is certainly a director who knows how to helm jaw dropping action scenes,  the church scene from the first film certainly stands out. They’re very fast paced and exhilarating, although sometimes they way they are cut together, with very fast, quick cut editing can make them a bit jarring to watch. The plot is again a bit far fetched to say the least, even more so than the last film, but the movie knows that this is part of its charm, and it uses that to its advantage.

Taron Egerton remains on great form as Eggsy and he is ably supported by the familiar faces of Merlin and Roxy, whilst continuing a relationship with his royal girlfriend. The main bunch of new recruits comes in the shape of the Statesman cast, with Bridges giving Rooster Cogburn a 21st century makeover in the form of Statesman top dog Champ. Tequila and Ginger Ale (Tatum and Berry) are welcome additions but both feel somewhat underutilised. Meanwhile Pedro Pascal as Whiskey is perhaps the most interesting of the new bunch, honing his Oberyn Martell-esque fighting skills to great effect, and while she does have some time to shine, Julianne Moore as the antagonist would have benefited from a bit more screen time.

Though it doesn’t get too bloated, the film does feel perhaps a tad too long, perhaps because Vaughn does cram so much into this new adventure. but there’s more than enough good material here for audiences to enjoy. Like last time, the movie remains very self-aware, it knows it is a bat shit crazy experience with spies, espionage, gadgets, action and VERY adult humour. And that’s just what you signed up for, suited and booted and all.

There’s not a great deal of character development to be found, but like its predecessor, The Golden Circle delivers those insane and thrilling action set pieces and adult humour that make it such a blast to watch.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Eddie The Eagle (2016)

eddie the eagle

Eddie The Eagle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Synopsis: A young British ski jumper has aspirations of going to the Olympics, finds his calling as a skier and harbours dreams of representing his country at the Winter Olympics.

Review: Everyone loves an underdog story, particularly when it comes to sport especially here in Britain given our questionable record when it comes to a handful of top international sporting tournaments. What’s more, everyone loves a story of one man pursuing his dream with seemingly every obstacle thrown his face and being ridiculed time after time, but no matter what, they keep on going. In the case of Michael “Eddie” Edwards AKA Eddie the Eagle, this is certainly the case as he stops at nothing to try and achieve his dream of becoming an Olympian, even it means making a fool out of himself in the process.

Fresh from his successful break out role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, along with a very humorous turn in the Kray brothers drama Legend, Taron Egerton really shines as the titular character. He is a bit of a dork, but at the same time he’s very sincere and genuine. What’s more, his indomitable spirit and desire to achieve his dream just make you want to root for him and will him to success. Aiding him on that quest is his fictional coach Bronson Peary, played by Wolverine himself Hugh Jackman. Haunted by his past in the sport, he decides to coach Eddie  and himself becomes determined to do everything he can to help Eddie achieve success. The two actors make a formidable duo and it is their friendship that drives the movie forward. Of course the writers did take liberties with the story, but at the core, it’s a powerful true story.

The ski jumping scenes themselves are executed very well with some tremendous camera-work that shows the jumps from the jumper’s perspective,and that might just make anyone watching to never wish themselves to be in that position. Visually these scenes are excellent and  the cinematography is tremendous. When Eddie is perched on the top of those ramps, the tension is kicked up a notch as you will him to succeed. The plot is a bit formulaic as we have seen many other sport movies where an underdog triumphs in the face of adversity.

It is a very by-the-numbers story, and it could have gone into more detail in places, but at the same time it is tremendously uplifting with a great feel good factor. Due to Eddie’s spirit and unwavering desire to succeed, you can’t help but smile by the time the credits begin to roll, and makes you think you can go and follow your dream yourself, even if time after time, obstacles keep blocking your road, or in Eddie’s case, his path to a frighteningly high ramp.

The plot is very by-the-numbers, but two very sincere performances from Jackman and Egerton, with enthralling jump sequences, mean Eddie The Eagle soars.

b

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman- The Secret Service (2015)

Image rights belong to Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Film Review

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Samuel L Jackson, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  A young man, down on his luck, is given the chance to turn his life around, and to apply for a unique organisation called the Kingsmen.

Review: When you think of the spy movie genre, the likes of a sophisticated gentleman sipping a Vodka Martini whilst dressed in a sharp looking tuxedo may come to mind. Over the years, the James Bond franchise has dominated the spy genre, and this film recognises that. Yet it is not a rip off, not at all, it is director Matthew Vaughn’s love letter to the genre. It’s not quite From Russia with Love, more like From Vaughn with Love. The class and sophistication that is reminiscent of 007 is most certainly present, but Kingsman comes along, and ups the fun ante by a considerable amount.

The focus of this story is Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Immediately it is apparent that this is a guy who is seemingly on the road to nowhere, almost destined for prison. This is until a gentleman in the shape of Harry Hart (Colin Firth) comes in. An opportunity has arisen to apply to become one of the Kingsman, a very unique organisation. All the while, as with almost all spy movies, there is a crazy villainous dude (Samuel L Jackson) who has some rather disturbing plans to bring about the end of the world via a device that many of us find ourselves glued to these days. Thus we descend into familiar territory, gadgets, crazy fights, and just some good fun entertainment, that is definitely worth the price of an admission ticket, and then some. The fun is here, and so is the vulgarity and the violence that would make Quentin Tarantino very proud indeed.

KSS_JB_D11_01307 – Harry (Colin Firth), an impeccably suave spy, helps Eggsy (Taron Egerton) turn his life around by trying out for a position with Kingsman, a top-secret independent intelligence organization.

As in 2010 with Chloe Grace Moretz, Matthew Vaughn has unearthed another gem of a young, talented actor in Taron Egerton. His character transformation from young troubled kid living in a rather sorry looking estate to a sophisticated gentleman is a joy to watch. There providing his support is an electric Colin Firth, who is definitely having the most fun he’s had in quite some time. Here is a gentleman who will sip a beer and then smash you over the face with the glass! Together their chemistry is enthralling to watch. You really witness that Harry sees something of a kindred spirit in Eggsy. While his character’s lisp is a little bit annoying at times, Samuel L Jackson also brings his A game to his villainous role, and like Firth, he definitely looks as though he’s having an absolute blast. Accompanying him is a lethal femme fatale in Gazelle, who is armed with some dangerous blades on her feet in a throwback to old school Bond villains.

To some this may feel like a James Bond rip off, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no denying that James Bond has a big influence, what with all the references that are littered throughout, but this is definitely a Matthew Vaughn picture. The action is handled extremely well with exhilarating scenes aplenty. Although some scenes may unsettle some as they venture into the Tarantino scale of madness. There are also times when it is seemingly apparent that there is a stunt double in action. However, the sharp, funny screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman packs plenty of emotion in there as well. The villainous plot is a little bit ridiculous and implausible, but you leave your brain at home here, you are here to be entertained, and Vaughn and co bring that in abundance, shaken and stirred to the best degree possible. Fasten your seatbelts, cos you’re in for a blast, innit bruv!

Enormously entertaining with plenty of wit, humour, vulgarity and some terrific action scenes, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down to Daniel Craig and co with this year’s Spectre. 

a