Rocketman


Viewed – 06 January 2020 Blu-ray

I’ve always appreciated the music of Elton John and consider several of his songs all-time classics. Following on from Bohemian Rhapsody this similarly tells the life story of one of the UK’s most iconic stars, this time with less of a tragic ending.

Told in a surreal musical style that takes those famous songs and matches them with key events in Elton’s life… this has Taron Egerton on amazing form, delivering all the nuance, emotion and flamboyance of the man himself whilst also singing all the songs as well. The musical approach is done very well even if at times I wished certain favourites were just delivered normally instead of other cast members stealing certain parts as way of delivering the story. Jamie Bell is very good as Elton’s writing partner Bernie, although Bryce Dallas Howard proves a bit forgettable as Elton’s disapproving mother.

The focus here is mostly Elton’s struggle to be accepted by his parents or find love. It’s occasionally a little overly stylish, and despite showcasing many famous songs, the omission of Candle In The Wind is puzzling. Yet this still delivers an occasionally moving, often eye-opening story with some seriously feel good moments, aided by a killer soundtrack. Recommended.

Verdict: 4 /5

Moonrise Kingdom


Viewed – 04 January 2020. Blu-ray

I’d say I’m becoming a fan of director Wes Anderson. His movies are so much pleasure to simply ‘look at’ with his captivating and whimsical camera work, shot competition and near-cartoonish approach to story telling. It’s a style that feels theatrical and obsessively planned out but retains a relaxed charm and personality that continues to draw me in.

This effort from 2012 follows the story of a young boy who runs away from a scout camp on a remote offshore island to embark on a back-to-nature adventure with the girl he loves. This causes the community including the girl’s parents Bill Murray & Francis McDormand as well as the local Police captain Bruce Willis to launch a search. This is a gentle, comical drama that has two strong turns from young actors Jated Gilman & Kara Hayward, perfectly supported by several recognisable faces including Edward Norton and Tilda Swindon. Although not the most compelling of plots, with a central love story that’s far from ‘deep’, Anderson’s direction is so charming that despite some slow moments I was still entertained.

It doesn’t have the infectious energy of say the more recent Grand Budapest Hotel, but with a fun setting and likeable performances this was another in the director’s back catalogue I’m very happy to have seen.

The Blu-ray release from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a pleasing image quality that is vibrant if a little soft probably due to the movie’s exaggerated sepia colour pallet. There’s also a perfectly acceptable 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that showcases the regular, off-kilter music cues and good use of surrounds and sub woofer (especially in the climactic rainstorm). However it’s in the extras this release excels, with a fun archive commentary from 2015 with the director along with select members of crew and cast. Add to this plenty of behind the scenes footage including a brief set tour with Bill Murray as well as footage filmed by Edward Norton. The movie is also presented in attractive packaging using the movie’s scout-camp imagery for a booklet, postcard and map of the island. It’s not in my opinion one of Wes Anderson’s best movies but perfectly fits in with a style that fans will be familiar with and is well worth a watch.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

Bottom Ten Movies of 2019


It wasn’t all home runs for the movies I watched in 2019. Not all here are ‘bad’ movies they just either underwhelmed or disappointed me compared to other movies in 2019. Listed in order of disdain

10.

Aquaman

 

9.

Men in Black: International

 

8.

The Highwaymen

 

7.

Cold Pursuit

 

6.

3 From Hell

 

5.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

4.

Blackkklansman

 

3.

Climax

 

2.

The Equalizer 2

 

1.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The 2010s – a decade in movies


The 2010’s has been an interesting decade. I think the popularity of superhero movies has dominated and we also got the return of Star Wars so yes, Disney were raking it in these past ten years. The decade has also further cemented the popularity of streaming services and how Hollywood has looked to these services with a greater amount of seriousness than previously and that is why big name directors like Martin Scorsese and The Coen Brothers to name but two, have launched big budget movies on these platforms. Add to this major Hollywood talent taking TV and streaming exclusive rolls, and the future looks bright for these services. That’s not to take anything away from the big screen cinema experience which I still feels has a great deal to offer, and although gimmicks like 3D have begun to fall off, nothing can beat what is still such an immersive form of entertainment.

Looking back over the decade and the numerous top tens I’ve done at the end of each year (look out for my 2019 top ten tomorrow), it’s also clear there’s been many top quality movies released, some that have gone on to become firm all time favourites. Black Swan and The Revenant especially are two of my favourites of the decade. Alongside these movies I’d also place the much underrated Stoker, as well as Shutter Island and Nightcrawler, all movies with stand out central performances and directors with a unique vision.

When it comes to the massive onslaught of comic book adaptations I’d call the first Avengers movie as well as Avengers Infinity War, the brooding (and brutal) Logan and the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie all solid gold entertainment. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Wonder Woman can also join that list. It’s a shame then that DC on a whole couldn’t live up to Marvel’s consistency with Batman V Superman and Justice League both disappointing.

Horror, so stuck in a rut for longer than I can remember began to finally discover a new lease of life with directors like Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Fede Alverez delivering breath-of-fresh air experiences like Us, Hereditary and Don’t Breathe, and even remakes like Evil Dead and IT didn’t feel as stale as they could have done. Add to this Far Eastern gems like I Saw the Devil and Train to Busan delivered a high level of quality to the genre.

If I was to pick my personal favourite movies of the decade, I’d have to choose Christopher Nolan‘s mind-bending Inception, Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s utterly unique Birdman, the aforementioned Black Swan from Darren Arronofsky and Wes Anderson‘s captivating Grand Budapest Hotel, although the fan-boy in me might also place J J AbramsStar Wars: The Force Awakens on that list just because…

So yes the 2010’s has been a great decade. It further pioneered special effects, unique approaches to story telling and proved the blockbuster still could have depth beyond the avalanches of CGI. It also gave us career defining performances. We also have it better than ever for home entertainment. What the next decade has waiting for us I can only dream but know that the much delayed but highly anticipated Avatar sequels will be a good start.

Roll on 2020 and beyond…

Star Wars: Episode IX


Viewed – 23 December 2019 Cinema

The Rise Of Skywalker

If this wasn’t my most anticipated movie of the year, I don’t know what was. I struggled with the last entry, The Last Jedi a movie that with subsequent viewings has gone up in my appreciation but remains highly uneven. This final movie though and the conclusion of the Skywalker saga brings forth the return of a long suspected dead enemy … The Emperor! With a new threat to the galaxy, Rey and her friends intend to seek out and destroy him once and for all, whilst conflicted Kylo Ren intends to turn to him for guidance as the new supreme leader of the First Order.

I’ll admit this storyline comes a little out of nowhere and is a blatant attempt to steady the ship following some of Rian Johnson’s ill-conceived plot twists in Last Jedi … but the return of Ian McDiarmid‘s Emperor Palpetine was welcome and the ageing actor nails the necessary maniacal menace. The immediacy of the threat propelled the action from the off as we’re treated to some great battle sequences, mixed with solid character moments that showcase the chemistry this new cast still has. The psychic bond between Daisy Ridley‘s Rey and Adam Driver‘s Kylo-Ren turns out to be the big focus and is further explored and the movie used it in several creative ways. It proves the best aspect and is surrounded by many highly entertaining scenes including a plot thread involving C3P0 losing his memory and some (thankfully) well-timed humour as well as a perfect tone that took me right back to how it felt seeing Star Wars as a kid.

If I had to nitpick it would be the obviously forced Emperor plot, and the first act overly frantic. And like all Star Wars movies it has some silly bits, and there’s a couple of jarring character moments (General Hux!?!). Yet in the grand scheme of things it’s so damn enjoyable, such gripes can be forgiven. As a story that has spanned over 40 years, this felt like a fitting conclusion and ticked many of my boxes. There was a lot riding on this final movie and the conclusion of such a long running saga. There’s not a great deal here that makes this trilogy a story that had to be told other than to reintroduce Star Wars to a new generation and make up for the failings of the prequel trilogy. Yet with highly memorable characters, some great moments (and some questionable ones) I feel this has still been a worthwhile endeavour for the filmmakers and as a fan I am overall satisfied with what they achieved.

Verdict: 4 /5