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*

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REVIEW: Green Book (2018)

With a couple of days to go before the Oscars ceremony, Andrew Riley looks at one of the front runners for the top award. Green Book.

I’ve been a fan of Viggo Mortensen going back as far as “A History of Violence”.

Yes, he’d appeared in many films before then, but when he took that lead role, he was transformed into a lead actor of real presence. From then on, in this writers opinion, he’s grown and grown into one of the finest lead actors.

We see him here share the screen with Mahershala Ali, who has grown into a leading actor, as a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

Based on a true story, it shines from start to finish as one of THE films of the last 12 months.

As they get to know each other throughout the eight weeks of the tour, we see each of them come to change. In one opening scene, we see Mortensen pick up two glasses that have been used by a pair of coloured workmen in his home and put them into the bin, rather than wash them and use them himself.

Yes, he’s prejudiced, but so is the pianist played by Ali.

Almost an outcast from his own race, because he’s been pampered in the New York glitterati who fawn over his playing and has never really suffered some of the racism people of his colour have had to put up with.

Neither fish nor fowl, he struggles to be accepted as he tours the deep south during the ’60s.

This is not helped when the Dr is caught In flagrante delicto with a white gentleman in a hotel pool, the Dr can’t quite believe that Tony is as good as his word in dealing with any situations that come up without judging him for his sexuality or race.

As the pair travel from concert to concert, Mortensen and Ali gradually begin to respect and change and grow into each others company, the Dr helping Tony write his letters to his wife that he promised to send her from the road, and Tony turning down an offer of better pay from some wise guys to stay with the Dr.

What we have here is a buddy movie for the 21st century. It’s a superb piece of work, and the direction by Peter Farrelly is fantastic. The interplay between the two leads is subtle and handled so very well.

Take two opposites, lock them in a car with each other for two months, add in the deeply ingrained racism of the time, and you see that both are struggling to make their own way in the world.

It’s easy to see why this is one of the favourites for Oscar glory.

Prejudice abounds across the tour, and as stoically as Ali tries to brave it out, eventually, something has to give.

This film is easily one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Would I put money on it winning the Oscar?

No, I think Roma has that sewn up.

What it does show is why when people like Jussie Smollett should never work in the industry again after his “stunt”.

5*/5*

 

REVIEW: MNIB The Glitch

Sometimes, great music appears on your radar from unexpected places.

That’s what happened with “The Glitch” by Manchester act MNIB.

I found myself chatting with a new work colleague when he happened to mention he was an artist, so, naturally, being a journalist, I asked him what he made and lo and behold, MNIB (My Name Is Billal) was on my radar and my playlists.

I have to say, as someone whose musical tastes have a broad range, I didn’t expect to be as blown away as I was.

Northern grime never sounded so good. Dropping onto my Spotify list via MNIB himself, each track is short, sweet and stings like a short jab from Golovkin.

The Glitch may well be explicit and not easy listening in front of your maiden aunt, but its as Mancunian as Oasis, and as hardcore as any other act you’ll hear.

Stand out tracks include “Save some belly”, “Dog Fight” and “The Glitch”, but for me the longer track of “No Stopping You” really hit the spot.

An album that looks both out and is introspective at the same time, MNIB delights in his ability to use expletives not to shock, but to actually put his point across in a manner that makes the album really jump out. Lyrically, it can sound a bit passe at times, but the quality of the production and the maturity of the writing makes it an easy flaw to overlook.

This could have so easily veered into self parody, but it straddles a line, and although not a colossus, it’s certainly an album you’ll enjoy listening to again, unlike some other acts you’ll discover.

 

MNIB Wants YOU

MNIB Wants YOU

I’ll certainly be keeping an ear out for other tracks, and, even if I can’t play it in front of some of the more easily upset members of the household, its worth keeping on Spotify for those hours when I’m alone in the car…

ALBUM REVIEW: Kacey Musgraves, Golden

Kacey Musgraves at The Greek Theatre

Kacey Musgraves at The Greek Theatre

This third album from the new princess of country shows a real maturity in both her writing and her vocals. Her previous outing, Pageant Material, was a little lighter in the lyric department, but this is a whole leap forward.
From the first single, Butterflies, and through the whole album, Musgraves has really developed as an artist, and is fast becoming one of the modern eras outstanding acts.
To find a weak link in this collection of tracks is difficult, but it’s probably Mother. I don’t know, I just don’t think it belongs on the album, but if that’s my only gripe, then so be it.
Tracks you will return to, again and again, include Space Cowboy, Velvet Elvis and Love is a wild thing.
Given the niche market of Country in the UK, it’s not surprising that her loyal following will make certain this album sells well, but if you are not a fan of the genre, this album will leave you very pleasantly surprised.
This new wave of country music is more than just The Shires and Faith Hill, give Casey Musgraves a listen.
It truly is a Golden period for this lady.