Rocketman DVD/BluRay review

Believe the hype…

The Elton John biopic should be heading to a digital and disc release in early September 2019 for those who missed its big screen release.

For those of you who are looking to compare it to the other music biopic of the last 12 months, Bohemian Rhapsody, forget it.

They are chalk and cheese.

Where they deviate is this is an unashamed musical in the old school sense. Every choreographed moment of what is a fairly warts and all treatment of Reg, sorry, Elton’s lifein show business is set brilliantly to his and Bernie Taupins songs.

From the opening with Elton strutting, bedecked with wings, into an AA meeting, to his closing as the nations favourite homosexual father, lead Taron Egerton is a fairly believable Elton John, although by the end, he does look a lot like Phil Collins…His voice is stretched at times, but he does a passable Elton vocally.

The whole tale is wonderfully backed up by an ensemble cast that includes the woefully under appreciated Stephen Mackintosh, Bryce Dallas Howard and Richard Madden as Elton’s manager (and sometime lover) John Reid.

One thing, Bryce Dallas is only 8 years older than Taron Egerton, and whilst this is OK when she’s mum to the young Reg, as time goes on, it does become fairly obvious they are closer to brother and sister than mother and son.

The songs are used so creatively as to weave a narrative across the years that lead Elton into sobriety out of the self inflicted drink and drugs fuelled singer of the 70’s.

On the whole, his story is dealt with sympathetically, as you would expect when the main thrust of the film is also its producer, but not so sympathetically that you don’t at points dislike the man.

It’s one of the most original biopics I’ve seen. Yes, it misses out the Lion King and Candle in the wind, but you do get a whole host of songs, imaginatively reimagined for the big screen.

It truly is a pleasure to sit and watch this film. It swings between the lows and highs of his life, and doesn’t shy away from anything.

If you can still catch it on a big screen, do. If you’re willing to wait, so be it, but when you finally do watch it, you will end up after 2 hours smiling with unadulterated joy.

5*

REVIEW: Strangeways, Here We Come

Here we have a movie that has been roundly panned by the (mainly) London bubble of reviewers. Indeed, the Guardian gave it just one *.

Lets have a proper look…

OK, I’ll freely admit, this movie isn’t going to bother any award ceremonies, but if it had been set in Hoxton, Brixton or any of the London “sink” estates, then the plaudits would be gushing, but outside of the London media darling bubble, the film is being enjoyed by pretty much everyone who goes to see it.

It’s a good laugh. What more do you want from 90 minutes of movie?

Its written to please an audience, not reviewers. I’ve lived in Salford, as well as on council estates across the North, and can testify that there isn’t a single character in this film that couldn’t be found on any estate, anywhere in the North of England.

Writer Chris Green knows his audience, and knows the area that the film is set. So complaining that they are caricatures in “implausible situations”  tells me that the writer has never set foot, never mind lived, on such an estate.

I enjoyed this, and so did the rest of the audience at Salford Arts theatre, where this film ended its run tonight with two showings.

As I say, it wont be winning any Oscars, but it is what it is, a bit of fun, set on an estate where people deal drugs, loan sharks are bas***ds who deserve a good kicking and people take drugs at weekend parties to escape the mundane boring life that Austerity Britain has become.

If you cant go into see this (or any piece of art) with an open mind, don’t bother, but I assure you that if you do, you will have a laugh.

It wont be a belly laugh for the full 90 minutes, but you will smirk, laugh out loud at times and leave with a smile plastered across your face.

If you want gritty, indy art house, look elsewhere. This film is aimed at the working class it portrays, maybe larger than life, but then, how else are they supposed to be played?

Ignore the mainstream media critics. What do they actually know about life on a council estate?

More than likely nothing, or if they did, they’ve long ago moved into middle class mediocrity and are denying their past…

Me?

3*/5

REVIEW: Film stars Don’t die in Liverpool

I can honestly say that until this film crossed my path, I’d never (probably like a lot of my generation) heard of Gloria Grahame, Oscar winner and star of both stage and screen, let alone seen her work, but despite its saccharine look back at her love affair with author and actor Peter Turner (on whose book this film is based), there is a real grittiness underlying the film that Annette Benning (Grahame) and Jamie Bell (Turner) try so hard to show, but despite the best efforts of a wonderful ensemble that includes Kenneth Cranham, Julie Walters and Stephen Graham, the film never really gets into the real lives of a couple who were separated by close to 30 years (The couple met when she was fifty-four and he was twenty-six).

Suffering from late stage cancer, Graham runs back into the arms of her younger lover, ostensibly saying she is ill, but eventually, having to admit the truth about her cancer.

Turner is torn between what to do for the best, for both Gloria and his family. His mother is due to fly to Australia to see her other son and Gloria is denying her illness, and is insistent that Peter shouldn’t tell her family back in the USA.

It would have been easy to gloss over the family and how they react to having Grahame under their roof, but in Julie Walters as the matriarch, and Cranham as the slightly downtrodden father, we see just how Grahame’s illness and her request to live with the family of Turner affects them, as well as him watching her die in their spare room.

The scenes where Bell is dealing with Grahame on screen alone are touching, but you feel there is always more to be found and yet never shown on screen.

The film jumps backwards and forwards  far too often for my liking, and this detracts from a story that deserves to be told, if not in a more linear sense, then certainly in a slightly more structured vein than that offered by Director Paul McGuigan.

The clumsy way the break up of our main protagonists is dealt with is particularly tough to watch, certainly seeing the same scene from two different sides is a bit messy, given that we see how it was designed by Grahame to sent Turner back to further his career at the expense of their relationship.

Flitting between Liverpool, New York and California cant have been an easy task for any director, but the film manages to do it clumsily in my opinion, and to the detriment of the story trying to be told under heavy handed direction.

Benning shines in her role as the faded star, while Bell really dotes on Grahame, doing everything he can to make her final days as comfortable as possible, even taking her to the stage of the Liverpool Playhouse to perform Romeo and Juliet alone together.

On the whole, its a very basic movie.

Thats not to say it’s not a good movie, it is, but given its source material, it could have been better. It’s what my wife describes as “one of those” particularly British movies she can enjoy on an afternoon off, she compared it to Brassed Off in that respect.

There was love in this movie, but not in the places you’d expect. I wanted to love this film, but can’t.

Its not a movie I’ll be rushing out to buy, but I’ll certainly be looking for a copy of Turner’s book on which it’s based, as I think I’ll learn more about the couple there than this film can ever hope to show.

3*