Rocketman Review

Rocketman movie posterSynopsis
A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. (via IMDb)

Review
It must be the time of the musical biopic. Last year saw the release of Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of Freddy Mercury, and now we have Rocketman, the story of Elton John. Both are about prolific rock singers and both are directed by Dexter Fletcher. Despite their similar subjects and shared director, Rocketman doesn’t feel like a BR clone. It takes a different approach to its story telling and takes advantage of its rating.

One of the highlights of the film was Taron Egerton as Elton John. Egerton captures a wide range emotions. He’s charismatic when he needs to be, he’s vulnerable when he needs to be, and he’s dour when he needs to be. It’s clear that Egerton is putting everything he can into the part and it really elevates the film, especially since it fails or succeeds on his performance. This movie doesn’t shy away from the darker moments of Elton John’s life and Egerton embraces it head first.

While this film has been touted as a “musical fantasy,” it leaned more heavily into the “fantasy” part than I expected. Montage-like sequences, often coupled with an Elton John hit, were used to move the story along. These sequences didn’t explicitly explain what was going on but rather implied it. At first I thought these were just ways to inject Elton John’s songs into the film. Not until after the montage finished and the next scene began did I realize the story was moving along during the previous sequence. It’s a rather unique implementation of a non-unique story-telling device.

When going into a biopic about a musician, you can expect their songs to be featured heavily. Rocketman did just that but the way it did it was interesting. Instead of being a movie with music like I was anticipating, it was more like a musical, with the characters breaking into song at random points. As different as this was, there were times it felt forced, with songs being used at weird times to make sure the film includes all of Elton John’s biggest hits. Sometimes only a few lyrics were used from a song making it feel more awkward. While I liked the approach, the execution was spotty.

I thought Rocketman was GOOD ๐Ÿ™‚ Not knowing much about Elton John’s life, I can’t say how historically accurate it is. However, what I can say is that it lives up to its label of “musical fantasy.” A stand-out performance from Taron Egerton and unique musical sequences make this biopic rock to new heights.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Dexter Fletcher – Director
Lee Hall – Writer
Matthew Margeson – Composer

Taron Egerton – Elton John
Jamie Bell – Bernie Taupin
Richard Madden – John Reid
Bryce Dallas Howard – Sheila
Gemma Jones – Ivy
Steven Mackintosh – Stanley
Tim Bennett – Fred
Matthew Illesley – Young REggie
Kit Connor – Older Reggie
Charlie Rowe – Ray Williams
Stephen Graham – Dick James
Sharon D. Clarke – Counselor

United 93 Review

This movie was recommend by Rob from MovieRob as part of my Anniversary Celebration 5.

United 93 movie posterSynopsis
During the 9/11 hijackings, the passengers of Flight United 93 stood up to the hijackers to prevent them from reaching their target.

Review
The September 11th terrorist attacks is one of those events that if you remember it, you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard the news. It was an emotional time and for many it still is. Five years later, in 2006, United 93 was the first movie to attempt to tap into the emotions of that day. Throughout the entire film, the movie is reflective. It looks at the events sincerely. What’s more, it paints the terrorists as the villains but doesn’t demonize them. Director Paul Greengrass is able to do this because the bombers are not the focus of his film, the men and women on the plane are. Greengrass does a fantastic job of portraying the passengers of flight United 93 as heroes and the sacrifice they made that day for their families and their country.

I don’t watch many biopics because more often than not, they don’t keep my attention. There are exceptions but unfortunately this is not one of them. For me, most of the emotion didn’t come from the film, but rather remembering that day and bringing back the emotions I felt that day. The material wasn’t there to make this a two-hour long movie. For the majority of the film, it felt like it was dragging on. This would have been more impactful as short film or an hour-long television special.

I thought United 93 was OK ๐Ÿ˜ While it did a good job evoking emotions from the day of the attacks, the amount of material doesn’t justify the run time. However, for the first film based around the September 11th attacks, it offers a reflective and sincere look at what happened that day.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Paul Greengrass โ€“ Director / Writer
John Powell โ€“ Composer

Christian Clemenson โ€“ Tom Burnett
Cheyenne Jackson โ€“ Mark Bingham
David Alan Basche โ€“ Todd Beamer
Peter Hermann โ€“ Jeremy Glick
Daniel Sauli โ€“ Richard Guadagno
Trish Gates โ€“ Sandra Bradshaw
Corey Johnson โ€“ Louis J. Nacke, II
Richard Bekins โ€“ William Joseph Cashman
Michael J. Reynolds โ€“ Patrick Joseph Driscoll
Khalid Abdalla โ€“ Ziad Jarrah
Lewis Alsamari โ€“ Saeed al-Ghamdi
Jamie Harding โ€“ Ahmed al-Nami
Omar Berdouni โ€“ Ahmed al-Haznawi
Opal Alladin โ€“ CeeCee Lyles
Nancy McDoniel โ€“ Lorraine G. Bay
Peter Marinker โ€“ Andrew Garcia
David Rasche โ€“ Donald Freeman Greene
J. J. Johnson โ€“ Captain Jason Dahl
Gary Commock โ€“ First Officer LeRoy Homer Jr.
Polly Adams โ€“ Deborah Welsh
Chip Zien โ€“ Mark Rothenberg
Erich Redman โ€“ Christian Adams
Kate Jennings Grant โ€“ Lauren Grandcolas
Starla Benford โ€“ Wanda Anita Green
Simon Poland โ€“ Alan Anthony Beaven
Trieste Kelly Dunn โ€“ Deora Frances Bodley
Jodie Lynne McClintock โ€“ Marion R. Britton
Marceline Hugot โ€“ Georgine Rose Corrigan
Rebecca Schull โ€“ Patricia Cushing
Ray Charleson โ€“ Joseph DeLuca
Tom O’Rourke โ€“ Donald Peterson
Becky London โ€“ Jean Headley Peterson
John Rothman โ€“ Edward P. Felt
Libby Morris โ€“ Hilda Marcin
Denny Dillon โ€“ Colleen Fraser
Susan Blommaert โ€“ Jane Folger
Tara Hugo โ€“ Kristin White Gould
Lorna Dallas โ€“ Linda Gronlund
Masato Kamo โ€“ Toshiya Kuge
Liza Colรณn-Zayas โ€“ Waleska Martinez
Olivia Thirlby โ€“ Nicole Carol Miller
Leigh Zimmerman โ€“ Christine Snyder
Joe Jamrog โ€“ John Talignani
Chloe Sirene โ€“ Honor Elizabeth Wainio
Patrick St. Esprit โ€“ Major Kevin Nasypany
Ben Sliney โ€“ Himself
Tobin Meller โ€“ Himself
Rich Sullivan โ€“ Himself
Tony Smith โ€“ Himself
Col. James Fox โ€“ Himself
Staff Sgt. Shawna Fox โ€“ Herself
1st Lt. Jeremy Powell โ€“ Himself
Curt Applegate โ€“ Himself
Greg Callahan โ€“ Himself
Rick Tepper โ€“ Himself

American Made Review

American Made movie posterSynopsis
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an American airline pilot, is approached by a CIA agent named Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who offers him a job taking covert pictures of insurgent operations in Central America for the US government. Seal is soon approached by Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) and his crew and is recruited into smuggling drugs into the US.

Review
I’ll admit, the only reason I really went to see American Made was because of Tom Cruise. Biopics aren’t normally my type of film and there haven’t been very many that I have greatly enjoyed. However, I was hoping that with Cruise at the forefront, this might actually be a biopic that I’d like. While it does contain several of the aspects of the genre I don’t care for, there was plenty more to enjoy than other biopics.

As I thought would be the case, Cruise’s charisma is one of the driving forces of the film. He plays Barry Seal in such a way that you like him, even though you know he is a terrible person and that you should detest him. It creates a very interesting experience. With Cruise’s infectious grin, you’ll be rooting for Seal all along the way.

Another actor who I thought did a great job was Domhnall Gleeson as the CIA operative Schafer. He was just as charismatic as Cruise except we don’t get much information about him. I supposed this works out alright because since he is CIA, this helps to build that air of mystery about him. I just wish I was able to see more of him and Cruise together because they both had an energy about them that was fun to watch.

The subject matter of American Made is actually pretty dark but you might have a hard time seeing that with the way it is presented. I’m sure part of it comes from Cruise’s charisma I brought up earlier but there is a lightheartedness to the film that was unexpected in a movie about a drug dealer. I think its unique tone made it more enjoyable for me because there are plenty of movies about criminals and drug dealers that are very grim and to see one that wasn’t was a breath of fresh air.

In the film Inside Man, the movie sporadically jumps into the future with interviews with the hostages to set up the upcoming scene. This film makes use of a similar technique. Throughout American Made, commentaries about what Seal was thinking and doing are interjected between scenes to prepare the audience for the scene ahead. I thought Inside Man should have made more use of this approach to telling its story, whereas here I think it is used the right amount. It never takes away from the experience too much and gives the audience a better insight into Seal’s character. Since this is a movie about Seal, it only helps better our understanding of him.

I thought American Made was GOOD ๐Ÿ™‚ Most biopics have a hard time keeping my attention it seems but I didn’t have that feeling during this movie. The lighthearted nature of such a dark movie and the energy from Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson makes it enjoyable. While I don’t think I will go out of my way to see it, I won’t shy away either if I happen to come across it.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Doug Liman โ€“ Director
Gary Spinelli โ€“ Writer
Christophe Beck โ€“ Composer

Tom Cruise โ€“ Barry Seal
Domhnall Gleeson โ€“ Monty ‘Schafer’
Sarah Wright โ€“ Lucy Seal
Caleb Landry Jones โ€“ JB
Mauricio Mejia โ€“ Pablo Escobar
Alejandro Edda โ€“ Jorge Ochoa
Fredy Yate Escobar โ€“ Carlos Ledher
Jesse Plemons โ€“ Sheriff Downing
Jayma Mays โ€“ Dana Sibota
Benito Martinez โ€“ James Rangel
E. Roger Mitchell โ€“ Agent Craig McCall
Jed Rees โ€“ Louis Finkle
Robert Farrior โ€“ Oliver North
Alberto Ospino โ€“ Manuel Noriega
Daniel Lugo โ€“ Adolfo Calero
Jayson Warner Smith โ€“ Bill Cooper (Snowbird #1)
Mark McCullogh โ€“ Pete (Snowbird #2)