June 12, 2019

ROCKETMAN

RocketmanHindered by faulty construction and lax editing that tires out the audience long before its two-hour run time passes, “Rocketman” is nonetheless an energetic fantasy version of Elton John’s incredible career in music.

Inspired musical vignettes set to magnificent Elton John songs such as “The Bitch Is Back” or “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” arrive with dance sequences that put “La La Land” to shame. There are times when it feels like the scattershot story gets in the way of the music.

This film’s overall success derives directly from Taron Egerton’s infectious performance as Elton John. His facial expressions deserve their own chapter in the latest book on the craft of film acting. There is magic here.

Rocketman-Taron-Egerton

This picture should serve as Egerton’s break-out feature film role given the vast gifts of physicality, emotional register, and dynamics on display here. You may not be familiar with Taron Egerton from his part in the forgettable “Kingsman” movie franchise, but Egerton’s Elton John blows Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury off the stage. Judging from Egerton’s work here, it seems as if there is nothing this fine British actor cannot, or will not, do.

Rocketman

Jamie Bell elevates his supporting role as Bernie Taupin, Elton’s songwriting partner, to something sublime. Bell matches Egerton note for note, beat for beat, in every scene they share. The effect is mesmerizing. Bryce Dallas Howard fulfills her role as Elton John’s cruel mother Sheila with laser-like precision. It makes you want to see Bryce Dallas Howard in more movies.

Rated R. 121 mins. (B+)

Four Stars

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March 06, 2019

MADE IN SHEFFIELD

MadeThe industrial city of Sheffield, England was the birthplace for the electronic pop explosion of post punk bands like "Vice Versa," "The Human League," "Heaven 17," "ABC,” and "Cabaret Voltaire." Slick style and cultural cool pulses, heats up, and grows on an international level in a bastion of fearless creativity. Here is an essential chapter of musical history brought to relevant life and context.   

In this enthusiastic, if brief (it clocks in at only 52 minutes), documentary filmmaker Eve Wood charts the lineage of the daring young musicians who created a modern and challenging brand of utopic music that lives on today through bands like "Stereolab" and "Ladytron." 

Made In Sheffield

Through interviews with band members (such as Phil Oakey of The Human League), and rare live performance footage, "Made In Sheffield" fills an essential period that linked Punk to the British New Wave with bands intent on destroying rock music. Interview subjects like the late John Peel, The Human League’s Phil Oakey and Ian Craig Marsh, and music critic Andy Gill shed light on the indispensable influence of Sheffield’s electronic music scene. This documentary is an important film for any serious music lover.

Not rated. 52 mins. (A-)Four Stars

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February 28, 2019

HUMMUS! THE MOVIE

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More character and social study than the historically relevant document you might hope for, “Hummus! The Movie” comes up short. It doesn’t help that a stark omission of necessary subtitles will prevent English speaking audiences from understanding a significant portion of the documentary. A lack of chyrons places further distance from the viewer.

We’re introduced to several Middle East restaurateurs who feature hummus on their menu to the delight of crowds willing to wait on line for culinary delights. We learn that Christian monks in Abu Gosh, Jerusalem are big fans of hummus.  

Hummus

A tale of rival hummus shops fails to deliver a punch line. Still, the film wins points by introducing us to one hilarious individual in the guise of a man who is a teacher, mentor, hip-hop singer, DJ, rabbi, and grand master of an untitled martial arts system. This dude is a stone-cold trip. Here is one fascinating character who deserves a documentary more than hummus does, in the context of this picture anyway.  

Glaringly, the filmmakers don’t engage audience taste buds accustomed to watching Top Chef Masters. We need to hear a chef wax poetic about the fresh lemon brightness, and bite of parsley, to begin to imagine what makes this food such an ideal canvas for other flavors to harmonize.

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I love hummus; I eat it all the time. Sadly this movie doesn’t move me to understand or enjoy hummus any more than I already do. That’s not to say that this movie was obligated to do such a thing, but it didn’t hold my interest enough to not consider such details. Here is a perfunctory documentary that doesn’t inspire its audience on any level. What a waste.  

Two StarsGet cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

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