Rocketman (2019)

“this year’s Bohemian Rhapsody”. No, let me nip that in the bud right now; this is not Bohemian Rhapsody. In terms of tone, structure, and style, this is completely different from Bohemian Rhapsody. They’re similar in the fact that they’re both biographies of musicians, but by that logic, Fawlty Towers is the same as Psycho. In terms of how it treats the subject, this is more like Get On Up than Bohemian Rhapsody. Whilst Bohemian Rhapsody builds the subject up, telling the audience about their greatness, this film almost delights in exposing their flaws. It’s brutally honest about the problems he has gone through and is so harsh towards them that if it wasn’t made with Elton Johns approval it would feel like a character assassination.

I felt that Bohemian Rhapsody’s biggest flaw is that it felt too restrained by the confines of the rating, it’s hard to tell that story under a 12 rating. Rocketman is a 15, and to be honest, it needs to be; if they toned down the drugs and sex this would be less of a story. The good thing though is that it never feels gratuitous, you don’t feel like they’re swearing for the sake of swearing, or showing sex solely for the purposes of titillation (although it did make me realise how rarely we see male gay sex in film).

I like how they told this story, it was almost a jukebox musical, the characters would randomly burst into Elton John songs in a way that could have been annoying. For me it really worked for two reasons:

  1. The story is being told via flashback, it’s Elton telling the story to people, so of course, he would express his history through songs he knows.
  2. It’s an Elton John movie. It has to be fantastical, it has to be out there, it has to be more extravagant than a movie.

That last point is very important. Bohemian Rhapsody was a good film, but it wasn’t a Queen film, there was nothing about the way they told that story that was Queen-like, it was a good film, but it was also quite standard in terms of the way the story was told (although the editing was ATROCIOUS for some of it, cutting way too quickly in conversations). The way they tell this story is very Elton John, it breaks the bounds of normality and does something unique and fantastic. And yes, it is fantastic in the way it looks. The set-pieces are unique and brilliant, it turns out Dexter Fletcher is REALLY good. The only film I’ve seen of his before was Eddie The Eagle and that was a different beast entirely. He did a part of the Queen movie (what was that called again?) but I can’t really tell which moments. He really should get plaudits for this, this had a budget of £40million yet looks larger. I genuinely believe if you gave him a Bond film he would knock it out the park (I mean, I still wouldn’t watch it, because ewww Bond). It’s not just Fletcher who deserves praise (but, and I cannot say this enough, he REALLY does), Taron Egerton does too. He gives a career-best performance here, him and Fletcher really seem to bring out the best in each other. It’s weird, he doesn’t look like Elton John at all at any time in this film, yet he plays him perfectly. It’s a bit like Michael Sheen in The Damned United (which you should all watch by the way), he doesn’t look like Brian Clough at all, but he behaves like him and captures the person’s essence so well that you cannot hope for someone to play them better. Actually, the best example would probably be Harry Enfield when he was on Spitting Image. He sounded nothing like the people he was doing impressions of, but he captured their personalities so well that it worked. It’s the same here, Egerton really captures Elton Johns personality in his performance (and his vocals are really impressive too).

So in summary: go see this film. Godzilla may be out now too, but this is true spectacle cinema.

How We Got Through…March 2017

Film

A Cure For Wellness

As you can read here I liked it, but it made me want to self harm. It’s basically this years Nocturnal Creatures, but not quite as great. I do wish Celia Imrie was in it more, she was in the trailer but her role in the film was really nothing more than an extended cameo. Mia Goth was superb however, as was Dane DeHaan (which reminds me, I really need to see Chronicle)

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“Why don’t we do the poster for Slither, but sexy?” “Genius! More cocaine”

Deadpool

Still very very funny, still lacking a compelling story though, but it’s so funny that that makes up for it. One of my favourite soundtracks from last year, although there were a lot of REALLY strong soundtracks last year; Deadpool, Edge Of Seventeen etc all showed that art of the mixtape method of soundtrack making isn’t dead whilst Moana and Kubo showed how you can use a soundtrack as an extensive mood piece for the film.

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Get Out

As you read here, really really good and I can’t wait to see it again to catch things I missed the first time. Got an almost perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, and it fully deserves that.

Hidden Figures

It was good, I wouldn’t call it “Oscar Worthy”. The main trouble with these sorts of stories is it’s impossible to have a good villain. The key to a good villain comes in two separate flavours:

  1. The “nobody knows anything about him” (usually used in horror films)
  2. The “I can see his point, but he’s very very wrong”.

Because these films are character pieces you can’t have the villains be the first one, so you need the second one. But they never work in these films for one simple reason; there’s no logical defence of racism. There’s no way of seeing their point. I had similar problems with Selma too, the villains are so clearly wrong that they don’t make compelling characters. Now I know this is what it was actually like at the time, and it is a truly fascinating story, but it does mean as a cinema experience it never really stays with you. So really my problem isn’t with the film, it’s with reality not conforming to my expectations, so maybe the problem is me.

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Definitely not with the performances which were strong all round

John Wick 2

If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll enjoy this. It’s basically the first film, but more so and in a way that never feels like it’s walking in the same footsteps. One of the first times in a while I remember leaving the cinema and being incredibly excited for the sequel.

Kong: Skull Island

I went into this with low expectations. I was thinking “but I’ve already seen everything, how can spectacle cinema work in this day and age? And you showed too much Kong in the trailer, you idiots, you ruined everything I hate you”. Looking back at it, that may have been an overreaction. The film was, well it was solid. It showed that spectacle can still work in a post Avatar world. It’s not a “I must buy this film immediately”, kind of film, but if it’s on on TV at some point, grab a couple of mates, get some beers in, and leave your brain at the door.

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Logan

One of the best films I’ve seen this year, without a shadow of a doubt. Fully deserves all the plaudits praising it, and more so.

The Great Muppet Caper

I always assumed The Muppets weren’t self referential until the new films came out, like all generations I assumed it was my generation that invented meta-comedy as we’re all so much smarter than all the previous generations. Yeah, I was wrong, and I’m an idiot. Some people say a good film is one that makes you ask questions, the major question of this film is “how the hell did they do that bicycle scene? That’s superb”

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Books

We Need To Talk About Kevin

A very very good book, but not a very nice one. Has a unique way of telling the story and very rarely comes off as exploitative. I’ve yet to see the film but I’m very excited to get round to it.

TV Shows

I should point out; a LOT of these are going to be BBC based. I went on a website I frequent to see what will be taken off netflix soon. There was A LOT of BBC based stuff coming off at the end of the month. As such I had to watch a lot before it got taken off. I got halfway through Doctor Who (which I was watching whilst I was reading Hitchhiker’s Guide, never do that as it creates a weird mash up in your head) and whatever legal issues there were with contracts ending etc was resolved, and a lot of the stuff stayed on. I went off list for no reason.

Extras/The Office

First season of The Office; very very good. Second series; still good. Christmas special; he tried so damn hard to make the main character likeable it’s like he forgot the point of his own story. Extras however is the point where Ricky Gervais just started angrily complaining about the state of comedy in a smug “I’m better than you all, only my comedy is true comedy” way. Which would be admirable if one of the points he was making wasn’t about people releasing comedy singles in-character, which he has since done.

Fawlty Towers

Surprisingly, I had never seen this show before, not all of it anyway. I’d seen an episode or two here and there, but never the whole thing. I get why people love this, very very funny. Does more in 14 episodes than most comedies could hope to do in 14 series.

That Mitchell And Webb Look

Like all sketch shows it’s a bit repetitive but not as obviously as most shows of the genre. I think the reason for this is the history behind it. A lot of sketch show characters have the catchphrase as the joke; so every line in the script is building up to a new way to say that catchphrase. This show tends to put the catchphrases at the start, due (it would seem) to the shows history on radio, which necessitated you put the catchphrase first so that the audience would know which sketch you were in. Has some sketches which are just brilliantly funny (I will never not find a way to use “our caps have got skulls on them, are we the bad guys?” in political discourse). But is also one of the few sketch shows which made me hate life and cry, the “Dementia Sherlock Holmes“. Completely heartbreaking.

The Trip

Yes, it is very up itself, but it is also very very funny, and features two actors self-evaluating every criticism they have of themselves, and they have a lot. New series starts next month, but not on the trusty BBC, instead on Sky Atlantic.

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The Wrong Mans

I’m a sucker for long-form storytelling, particularly in sitcoms (it’s one of many many reasons why I love Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Bojack Horseman), and this has a fantastic story thread running through it. It’s hard to explain just how tightly and intricately plotted this is without it seeming like hyperbole. Hopefully now that James Cordon is huge in America this will start to get strong DVD sales.

Twenty Twelve

Very very BBC. Not going to change your life, but a pleasant enough way to wile away the hours. Funny and enjoyable, just not very memorable.

Music

Shenanigans

Weird to think this is now halfway through Green Days career in terms of albums released, six albums either side of the releases of this and International Superhits. But let’s forget about how this makes me aware of my own mortality and focus on how good this album is; B-sides which are better than most bands release as singles. “Ha Ha You’re Dead” is still one of my favourite songs by the band but you can’t say that without sounding like a hipster douche who’s all like “oh, you probably won’t know my favourite song by them”, and nobody likes those kind of people.

Best songs: Ha Ha You’re Dead

Do Da Da

Suffocate.

Also check out; they have this album called Dookie that you might not know about, pretty good. Also, check out this other super rare album that nobody knows about called American Idiot

All That She Wants – Wizo

I love pop punk covers of songs, and this is no exception. The original is a simply wonderful slice of summer pop (and yes, to me that is a genre) and a pop punk version of it suits it so well.

Podcasts

Toku Podcast

A podcast about video games, biscuits, films, biscuits, tea, biscuits, tv shows, and biscuits. The two hosts are extremely likeable, funny, smart, and kind of strange in the most wonderful way. They spent a long time discussing which avengers would be which biscuits that was hilarious ((in case you were wondering what my choices would be: Iron Man; Jammie Dodger. Captain America; Hob Nob. Hulk: Those oat biscuits that crumble all the time. Spider-Man: Jaffa Cake (is it an avenger, is it a cake? Nobody knows)).

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They also have the best episode titles

So that’s that for this month; I’ll see you in April unless I get hit by a bus and die, then I might have to delay until May.