2 posts categorized "Music"

February 15, 2020

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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April 04, 2016

BORN TO BE BLUE

BLUEEthan Hawke certainly has the acting chops to play the legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. What's more, Hawke resembles Chet in middle age before the ravages of heroin devastated his iconic good looks. But there’s more to Hawke’s portrayal of Chet Baker than keen acting skills and physical resemblance; demons. The Gen X survivor who caught fire in 1994 with “Reality Bites” has battled plenty of personal sprites, all the while testing the limits of his talents by writing (plays, novels and screenplays), directing, and acting. Always acting. His work here represents his finest performance to date.

“Hello fear. Hello death. Fuck you.” Hawke’s Baker repeats the lines being fed to him by the scantily clad actress playing a one-night stand in a film-within-the-film about his life. She uses a tourniquet to tie his arm off before giving him his first shot of heroin. He’s a wounded child seeking sex, approval, escape, and love in equal parts. Chet’s personal life comes barging though the hotel room door in the guise of his jealous girlfriend Jane (Carmen Ejogo). The narrative telescope compresses as black and white turns to color. We’re on a film set in 1966 Hollywood where Chet tries his hand at playing himself for a film director who rescued him from a filthy Italian jail where he was due to spend the next couple of years. So it is that writer/director Robert Budreau submerges his audience into the appropriately cold narrative waters of Chet Baker’s mid-life story.

Ethan-Hawke-Carmen-Ejogo

The role of Chet Baker’s heroin addiction in ruling, and ruining, his life is fully expressed when he tells Jane that he’s “only hurting himself.” Hawke downplays the self-delusion in the statement. Passive aggression is just another defense mechanism in Baker’s arsenal of survival tricks.

When angry drug dealers pistol-whip Chet in the mouth, the vicious attack comes with the cruel soubriquet, “no more jazz motherfucker.” Relearning to play the horn with dentures means creating three placements of embrasure — left, right, and center. As painful as it is watching Baker bleeding from the mouth while attempting to play, Hawke’s performance hooks us.

BLUE2

Where Don Cheadle’s concurrently running Miles Davis filmic love letter “Miles Ahead” is an ambitious embrace of the great jazz trumpeter’s music, humor, and imagination, “Born to be Blue” is an impressionistic chamber piece made up of composite elements from Baker’s life. Linear facts don’t matter. Both films eschew the traditional biopic formula, and in so doing achieve a sublime dramatic effect of floating through the air that both trumpet players breathed. Forget about dueling super-heroes, “Born to be Blue” and “Miles Ahead” are the real McCoy to see phenomenally gifted men sparring for supremacy on their chosen field of battle. The blood and spit they spill is in the service of a transcendent musical beauty that no comic book creation can imagine.

Rated R. 97 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

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