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Rocketman – Review

Regardless of your taste in music, you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not love at least one Elton John song. The musical icon has been dominating the charts since the 1970s with his flamboyant image, musical genius, and larger than life persona.

Image result for rocketmanRocketman, named after one of the artists many hit songs, aims to tell the tale of the man behind the music. Starring Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Eddie the Eagle) as John alongside Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallace Howard, and Richard Madden, the film covers his childhood, rise to fame and later battles with drugs and alcohol. Despite its stellar lead performance and visual brilliance, the film never really reaches its potential with a weak, told-before narrative.

The film charts the life of John from humble beginnings in London, England to studying music and becoming the keyboardist for a soul band. After a chance meeting with lyricist Bernie Taupin, the pair embark on a musical partnership. From here fame, fortune, men, depression and drugs encapsulate Elton’s life. All the while John faces the trauma of his true sexual orientation and his difficult family.

The idea of a John biopic has been floating around for years. Some might remember Justin Timberlake being cast in an earlier draft. Here British independent filmmaker Dexter Fletcher takes the director’s chair. For the biopic musically trained Egerton has performed all of John’s music himself which only adds to his performance and the film.

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Beginning with John’s childhood, born Reginald Dwight in Pinner. At a young age he displayed musical talent and attends the Royal Academy of Music as a pianist. His talent is recognised when he partners with lyricist Bernie Taupin and together the two move to America and dominate the music industry. This is a rise and fall story with the added benefit of world class music.

The story is basic and never the element that holds your attention. It’s also very cliched and predictable. Even those not aware of Elton John (where have you been) will see where his story is going or how a character will effect him before it happens.

John himself had a large influence over the film and perhaps his input has steered the film in a safer direction. For all the film’s drug taking, gay sex and temper tantrums it always tries to justify the actions of its lead through extenuating circumstances. The emotionless father, the neglectful mother or the power hungry lover. It skims over less flattering elements of his life, such as his marriage to a female secretary. These gaps are felt and leave the film flat where deeper understanding could have been.

The film carries so many of the more stylistic quirks of Fletcher as a director. The flying musical scene, the under water breakdown sequence and the trip from the ambulance to stage via song. It’s all here and jumps from the screen. Fletcher’s style feels so at home next to an icon like John who has always been a visual performer alongside his musical work. Fletcher has also made sure the film carries humour amongst the music and trauma.

Image result for rocketmanRegardless of how you view the film and it’s story, there is little doubt that Taron Egerton is fantastic as the musical Icon. Flamboyant and exuberant his gives everything to the icon even when the material fails him. His performance captures the larger than life aura of the character while still displaying his struggles.

Richard Madden plays lover John Reid. Despite his strong presence, he is not given enough to work with and becomes the pantomime villain of the film. Jamie Bell plays John’s long suffering partner and best friend Bernie Taupin. Again although there are some touching scenes that explore their relationship, he is never fleshed out as more than just a plot point.

The long developed biopic of Elton John falls into safe, cliched territory. Yet the film is lifted by its cast, the music and the quirks of its director.


Rocketman is out in cinemas now! 

Aladdin – Review

Disney live-action remakes are a scourge of the film industry. Not one has been enjoyable on it’s own merits, feeding off nostalgia to make a few quick bucks. The highly unnecessarily practise adopted by the word’s biggest studio has produced mediocre films that fail to capture the magic and imagination of the animation that proceeded it.

So expectations for this new Aladdin were entirely on the floor, not helped by nearly everyone feeling a strong affiliation to the late great Robin Williams’ and his crazed blue genie from the first film as well as the fact they’d hired action-director Guy Ritchie to tackle the adaptation.

Surprisingly, Aladdin may just be one of Disney’s better remakes (Cinderella still being the best one.)

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Aladdin revolves around the titular street urchin who steals and robs on the streets of Agrabah. One day he meets a young woman and instantly falls in love only to find out she is Princess Jasmine and she can only marry a Princess. Despite being a petty thief, Aladdin has a heart of gold and is used by wicked Royal Vizier Jafar to hunt for a magical lamp. There Aladdin discovers the magical genie and soon uses his wishes to get closer to Jasmine… But Jafar’s dastardly plan isn’t far behind.

Ritchie has pulled the rabbit out of his hat and given us a colourful and enjoyable spectacle. The film is a fresh-breath of air – a colourful and musical ride that is filled with adventure and soul. It’s not just the classic (and new) songs that get you tapping along and fully invested in the films – it’s the great direction and the undeniable spirit that flows through the film.

This is largely down to it’s two leads – Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine. Massoud nails what makes Aladdin such a brilliant character. Dapper, charming, but with a heroic heart at the beginning (and, sorry, with a smile that’ll melt your cold soul,) Massoud is wonderful and charming, giving the audiences a fun and dashing character to root for.

But it is British actress Naomi Scott that wears the crown in this film. Scott’s Jasmine is how you excellently update characters to this modern world (I’m looking at you Emma Watson’s Belle.) Jasmine is headstrong but also kind, and her relationship with Aladdin is second to her determination to help her people and country. She also gets her own song and it is a beautiful belter of a track.

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Admittedly, Aladdin is dull in places. It’ll take audiences a few moments to adjust to the new movie as the lead character parkours through his city set to a new take of Alan Menkin’s songs. Will Smith definitely has a harder job at paying homage to Williams’ famous role whilst making it his own. He can be successful in this but there is a distinct lack of energy in places. Plus, they took away Jafar’s villainous reprise – which is unforgiveable.

Also, it is worth mentioning that the film is framed like a Bollywood movie in places. Aladdin is famously set in Arabia and whilst the city of Agrabah is fictional, it would’ve been nicer to pay true homage to Arabic cultures then borrowing what they can from any Asian background. It’s pretty to look at but does feel a little rotten.

Rest assured that the strength of the leads, especially Naomi Scott’s head-strong and determined Princess Jasmine, carry the film to excellence. Energetic, colourful, and with brand new songs to fall in love with, Aladdin triumphed where it was expected to fail. And whilst it isn’t flawless, it is definitely a diamond in the rough.


Aladdin is out in cinemas now! 

Monty Python’s Life of Brian – 40 Years On…

When it comes to splitting Monty Python fans, you have a couple of choices. On one hand you have people who deem The Holy Grail the best of the movies, the other Life Of Brian (And that odd one who prefers Meaning Of Life. Yes, I am talking to you.) Well, I am here to settle all of that. If you haven’t guess already by the title this, then I am saying that Life Of Brain is better. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love The Holy Grail. In fact, if I were to personally pick between the two, I’d pick Grail every time. It’s silliness, the music, the comedy; it’s the winner of my heart. But sitting down, and actually critically examining the two then Life of Brian is the champion.

Life of Brian tells the story of Brian, a normal citizen of Judea. But Brian has been plagued all his life. After all, being born in the same place and the same time as Jesus (the barn next door none the less,) it’s hard to not have people confusing you with the Son of God. However, after a series of unfortunate events, Brian is soon believed to be the Messiah and is followed around by a group of religious fanatics. Pestered by the Romans, hounded by the believers and pestered by his mother, poor Brian can’t get a break as his life leads him up to a dramatic finale.

As with every Monty Python film, television show, or stage show, the comedic timing and deliver are impeccable. Every scene is full of lashings of farce. From the rude Roman names to correcting Latin graffiti; there is a slice of humour everywhere Brian turns. There is no denying that the comedy troupe excel in comedic timing and their hilarious characters. Each of the Monty Python crew play multiple characters within the movie and play them convincingly well.

That’s great but we are used to this. After all, they play multiple characters in their television series and they do in Grail. What raises Brian above it all is the satire. Not actually a satire on the story of Jesus itself it is cleverly a stab at the worshippers. In one poignant scene, Brian tells the populous that they must all think for themselves and they eerily repeat what he says. It’s a poke at people who put too much faith into their beliefs that causes them to be narrow minded. In one instance, they kill a man for even angry denying Brian as the Messiah. It’s weirdly accurate and scarily real.

Controversially, they caused a hell storm. But that’s the brilliance of Brian. Instead of people appreciating the satire, people would instead angrily boycott the film believing it to be blasphemous against Jesus.

If you don’t believe the sheer anger of religious leaders, watch the debate Michael Palin and John Cleese with Malcolm Muggeridge and Meryvn Stockwood, The Bishop of Southwark on BBC show Friday Night Saturday Morning.  After the opposition missed the opening 15 minutes  where they showed the clear separation of Jesus and Brian, the two men soon delved into jibes and name calling. Watch whilst the two comedians who are being accused give a well thought out and researched points are subjected to schoolchild taunting. It’s fascinating to watch.

I digress; much like Jesus, Life of Brian’s message was taken and misinterpreted by the mass. But cleverly they used it to their advantage. In Sweden they advertised it as the film “so funny, Norway had it banned.” Life of Brian is so much more than the quotes you pass your fellow geek friends and fathers (me and my Dad try to slip one in at least once a day.) It is a clever and historical (See “What did the Romans ever do for us,” moment,) movie that gets legions of fans yearly.

And bloody hilarious.


Happy 40th Monty Python’s Life of Brian. 

Midsommar – Brand New Trailer!

Ari Aster ruined your sleeping patterns and your life with the utterly brilliant and compulsive horror Midsommar. 

Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, and Will Poulter, the film revolves around a group of students who find themselves at a Scandinavian celebration – but all is not what you think.

The pastel colouring of this trailer makes it look more terrifying. We loved Hereditary so we are so ready for this seeming modern  What do you think?


Midsommar is out later this year! 

Old Boys – Review

Alex Lawther has proven himself to be an incredible young actor. The performer has risen through the ranks of movies and television shows to become one hell of a rising star. From playing young Alan Turing in Oscar-nominated The Imitation Game to his absolutely ground-breaking performance in The End of the Fucking World. So we’re excited to see him in more daring roles and characters.

Now Lawther is working with director Toby MacDonald, the pair produce a tender, if albeit simple, adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac.

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Set in a private school, the film revolves around the young nerdy Amberson. He lives his school-life opposed to jocks and sporty-types of his school. When the daughter of a new French teacher arrives, his whole word is turned upside down. Instead of going straight for the young lady himself, Amberson spends his time playing matchmaker for the school’s popular sporting hero Winchester – who may be great on the field but on the field of love, he is anything but. However, Amberson finds himself falling in love with the girl himself…

Old Boys is a pretty nice movie. Reminiscent of boarding school movies such as Rushmore, the movie revolves around that kind of posh schoolboy fantasy with a modern flare that – despite its surroundings – learns more towards a modern feeling more so than a dated one. MacDonald makes his work appealing enough to fall into and there are some brilliantly written moments that cause you to laugh out loud.

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The film definitely works best because of the blossoming male friendship on display. The development of their relationship creates the most moving moments and the cast really hone in on that. Lawther is just an actor that oozes this awkwardness that is bloody charismatic. He is paired opposite Jonah Hauer-King as Winchester, who proves himself a brilliant actor on the rise!

Another strong performance comes from Denis Menochet as the glowering French teacher Babinot. The actor has had terrific performances, most recently in French drama Custody. So he has such terrific moments here. Pauline Etienne is fine enough as Agnes to be enjoyable.

Old Boys is an OK film. You know? It’s pleasant. It’s nice. It isn’t good and it isn’t bad – it’s just nice. And that’s OK! In this agonizing heavy world – it’s quite a break to have a movie as lovely as this is.


Old Boys is out in cinemas now! 

Capernaum – Review

Of all the Academy Award nominees this year, one category does stand out as the strongest – Best Film in a Foreign Language. From Hirokazu Kore-ade’s triumphant Shoplifters to Alfosonso Cuaron’s completely unstoppable Roma, the category is filled with compelling and impressive features that deserve to be celebrate.

Amongst the nominees is Lebanon entry Capernaum.

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Directed by Nadine Labaki, the film revolves around Zahn, a young boy living with his abusive and impoverished parents along with his many sisters and brothers. Zahn is particularly close with sister Sahar and is dismayed to find out that his parents have married her off to a much older man. When Sahar is taken away, Zahn escapes the clutches of his parents and finds solace in young immigrant mother Rahil who also takes care of her own baby. However, as his life begins to spiral out of control, Zahn decides to sue his parents for their neglect.

Labaki’s wonderfully understated film is an intimate portrait of the suffering that goes on in the country of origin. The grit and dust of gutters and the hustle of those on the streets is focused on as Zahn and people like him are repeatedly let down. Labaki showcases this horror of day to day life with a particular earnestness that echoes throughout.

What makes Capernaum a triumph are the child performers. Street-casting from actual Lebanon residents, Labaki has found a brilliant lead in ain Al Rafeea. The fourteen year old actor really tackles Zahn with enough grounding yet childlike exuberance that makes his journey feel real (and therefore adds to the pain.) Zahn is actually perhaps a greatly written child role as he cares for many and most around him. Yes, he is pushed to attack, and can be wildly uncontrollable but it comes from his circumstances and frustration – not just for him, but those around him.

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He is paired opposite Yordanos Shiferaw as Rahil and they work together to craft this impressive and endearing relationship. Though it is tested, the pair are lost souls that gravitate towards one another.

There is also, perhaps, the best performance by a baby you’ve ever seen. Sure, it probably took a long time to cut the child ‘s gurgling and fidgeting into something that meets the narrative but that child has range and charisma that you are transfixed to him.

Filming over five hundred hours of footage and editing it down to just two, Labaki works tirelessly to build a compelling story. Whilst the story does focus on the misery of Zahn and his child cohorts, Labaki does something crucial, she injects Capernaum with hope. Not cheesy, Hollywood hope in which Zahn finds a new family or even gets out of his circumstances – but she finds this natural childlike wishing. Capernaum showcases goodness out there despite humanity being somewhat lost.

As the tagline says, “it takes courage to hope,” and that has never been truer than in Capernaum.


Capernaum is out Friday 22nd February!