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.

Rocketman' Review: The Fantastical Tale of Elton John, Survivor, Rock God,  Camp Icon - The New York Times

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.

Taron Egerton Takes Style Cues From Elton John at Cannes | Elton john,  Taron egerton, Entertaining

Rated R. 121 mins.

Four Stars

COLE SMITHEY

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This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ECHO IN THE CANYON

Echo_in_the_canyonThis beautiful musical performance/documentary love letter to Los Angeles’s mid ‘60s Laurel Canyon music scene that gave rise to The Association, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, and The Mamas and the Papas is an addictive musical journey. Jakob Dylan proves the perfect unobtrusive guide through L.A.'s prolific utopian Laurel Canyon musical scene that existed between 1965 to 1967. I’ve watched this doc 8 times, and will gladly watch it again anytime.

Michelle Phillips

Jacques Demy’s underseen L.A.-set 1969 romantic drama “Model Shop” serves as inspiration for Jakob Dylan (a revelation as the band leader for a concert with a rotating group of co-singers that include Jade Castrinos, Cat Power, Fiona Apple, Beck, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones) to interview the musicians who created such classics as “Go Where You Wanna Go” and “Never My Love.” Tingles run up your spine. 

Echo petty

Jakob's cool-hang interviews with the likes of pop music royalty as Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Roger McGuinn, and Lou Adler allow for some hilarious tales told outside of school. Jakob Dylan’s subtle sense of humor get nice traction with Brian Wilson when discussing a song’s key. Jakob offers to “get out the capos.” Funny musician humor, I know, but I love it. Jakob Dylan is as unpretentious as they come  

Echo

Recording sessions as historic Los Angeles recording studios where great artists have recorded countless hits segue into Jakob Dylan’s live concert celebrating Laurel Canyon’s 50-year anniversary. The briefly utopic community of musicians who gravitated to Laurel Canyon created a Niagara of poetic pop songs turning folk music into rock ‘n’ roll. This is a groovy movie about a brilliant period of music that flourished before its awe-inspiring flight came to an inevitable end. This is a really fun movie to savor. My only complaint is that they didn't feature another four or five songs.

Echo2

Sidebar: Although it's never brought up in the film, the Laurel Canyon music was a direct outgrowth of Bossa Nova. Bossa's utopian romanticism came out of João Gilberto's Sinatra-inspired idea to soften samba into a more romantic ballad-based style. The early '60s period of Bossa Nova's explosive popularity in the country occurred prior to a movement of young musicians to turn up the heat on folk music and make it rock with the same attention to songwriting that Gilberto and Jobim utilized for their timeless songs. "Never My Love" meet "The Girl From Ipanema."

Laurel Canyon Music Doc 'Echo in the Canyon' to Open LA Film Festival -  Variety

Rated PG-13 — 88 mins. Five Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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

Cole Smithey on Patreon

FORD V FERRARI

Ford_v_ferrariExhilarating, hilarious, and soulful to the bone, this fast car rollercoaster of a drama runs like a legendary Shelby Cobra hitting top speed. Power plays between strong-willed men pitted at diametrically opposed angles, provides brutally funny depictions of ego, determination, and one-upmanship. Audience laughs come fast and often. Matt Damon and Christian Bale could not have been better cast for such a demanding story of desire, drive, and determination.

Ford-v-ferrari-movie

The racing sequences are stunning. The 1966 Le Mans makes for one hell of a centerpiece. You really get a feel for how fast these guys were driving in supremely unsafe conditions. Catching on fire is no joke regardless of how fireproof the driver’s suits are. For many fast car lovers Ford v Ferrari will be be a must-own Blu-ray. This is one fun thrill ride of a movie that commands repeated viewings. Emotional and physical gravity tear out like rubber peeling on hot asphalt.  

Ford-v-ferrari-

Here is an addictively entertaining true-life drama that focuses on how gifted and less-gifted men communicate and jockey for position. What takes place on the racetrack comes down from corporate orders above. We love the drivers, the corporate bean-counters not so much. Multiple antagonists loom large over races that send your heart racing.

Caitriona-balfe-ford-v-ferrari

Caitriona Balfe steals the movie as auto engineer Ken Miles’s (Bale) super cool wife Mollie. For his part Christian Bale chews up every beat and line with a romantic sense of purpose. Christian Bale playing a hot tempered race car driver and mechanic, sign me up.

Damon

Matt Damon carries his ineffable charm with such humility that you almost feel sorry for him having to balance intention and motivation with such ease. “Ford v Ferrari” is an example of Hollywood living up to half of its promise. It might not be a perfect movie, but it is a pretty damn good one.  

Ford-vs-Ferrari-behind-the-scenes-Matt-Damon-Christian-Bale-James-Mangold-3  - postPerspective

Rated PG-13. 152 mins.

Five Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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