Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Rocketman: a Brief Evisceration

Rocketman -- a review by FilmZ

I'm taking the reins from Guy S. Malone, Researcher on this one for the sake of Elton John.  Full disclosure: I didn't want to see the movie, either; after being a huge Elton John fan in the '70s, his songs became so overplayed that I'm just done (except for "Your Song").  And the Czarina warned me that the movie was dark, dark, dark, which cinched it.  But Serfing Dude, a connoisseur of classic rock said he "really wants to see it," and Don Swedanya said he would see anything that didn't have super heroes in it.  So, off we went, despite my desire to see Dark Phoenix--a Monty Python romp, by comparison.

First the positives.  The foundation is solid: it's directed by Dexter Fletcher (the man who saved Bohemian Rhapsody after Brian Singer was fired); it contained some of the most iconic music from a rock icon; it had an excellent cast, headed by Taron Egerton as Elton John, Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin, Bryce Dallas Howard as EJ's Mum, Gemma Jones as Grandmum, and Richard Madden as John Reid, EJ's manager.  Fletcher brought out convincing performances, top to bottom.

Rocketman, though, seems unable to decide what it wants to be: a rock biopic, a musical, a surreal fantasy, a group counseling session on excessive behavior, a poison pen letter to EJ's parents.  So, it tries to be everything and ends up being less than the sum of its parts as it jolts from genre to genre and backward and forward in time like a kidney-busting wooden roller coaster.  Even songs are played out of chronological order--as a pre-fame late 1960's teen, he performs "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting," a song not introduced until 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" album.  The film does check all of the tropes of musical biopics: the sensitive child, misunderstood by his parents; the recognition of talent; the skeptical recording executive; the rapacious (in this case, literally) manager; the big break, followed by a (ahem) rocket-ride to stardom; the downward spiral of substance abuse; the reckoning; the recovery.  The focus--too much--is on the excesses and the demons they rain down on Elton, and it's only in epilogue that we see happiness come to him.

Inevitably, Rocketman will be compared to Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born, to its detriment, we believe.  Several small warnings and one big one: While BR and ASiB are dramatic films with music, Rocketman is a musical with some big choreographic numbers.  Those musical pieces and the flights of fantasy take us away from the story (big turnoffs to Serfing Dude).  As good as Egerton is (he does his own singing, unlike Rami Malek in BR) and as great as Elton John's music is, those interludes are not energetic enough to lift us from the downbeat pall of self-indulgence, self-loathing, and self-destruction that weights the film.  Compared to Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody is inspirational, and A Star is Born provides much better balance, leavening humor and drama and a cinematic flow and synergy between story and lyrics.  But the worst, as pointed out by Don Swedanya, is the portrayal of Elton John's homosexuality.  This is surprising for an effort championed by John himself.  As portrayed in Rocketman, a person of the evangelical persuasion could conclude that Elton John's homosexuality was not genetic but rather a product of an overly strict, uncaring father and a vapid, distant mother, and thus make EJ a candidate for gay conversion "therapy."  To us, this is the major crime of Rocketman.
5.0 out of 10, strictly for the attempt at originality and the across the board performances

Avengers: Endgame - No Spoilers

Avengers: Endgame -- a review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

This 22nd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon brings a fitting, if bittersweet end to this storyline and this group of Avengers.  Again, Anthony and Joe Russo provide stellar direction, but the real brains behind the canon are the creator Stan Lee, of course, and producer Kevin Feige, who, over the past 11 years has fine-tuned this series to a point where we truly appreciate the intricacies and attention to detail throughout Endgame.  Realistically, even at a tad over three hours, this finale could not bring every character into play to a level one might desire, but Feige and the team of writers give us an engrossing story, full of terrific twists, Easter eggs, and absolute bombshells so that we left the theater exhausted and overwhelmed, but also in animated discussion and active Googling to gather in the massive event and all of its nuances.

A caveat: those looking forward to action scene after action scene, adjust your expectations.  Don't worry, Endgame has plenty of action, and it is scintillating, but remember, this is a film about endings, the end of this story line and the last we will see of the original team of Avengers.  So, yeah, there's a lot about the relationships and family, both blood ties and those among the superheroes.  So, more than most of the other films in the series, this film moseys along at times, but for those of us who care about these characters, it is at the quiet times where we see how much they care for each other, where story lines are brought to a climax, and where loose ends are tied up.  Trust us, you won't be looking at your watch, first because Endgame is engrossing, and second because, if you are like us your eyes will be too misty to check the time.

OK, to set Avengers Endgame up for those who have forgotten the events of Avengers: Infinity War: Thanos (Josh Brolin) had been a bit player for most of the past six years of the series, in the background but menacing,  In Infinity Wars, Thanos reveals his concern about an infintely increasing population in a Universe that has finite resources.  His solution: gather all of the powerful Infinity Stones, each with a special power (specifically, Reality, Mind, Time, Space, Power, and Soul).  The Avengers mission throughout the film is the frantic efforts by all to prevent Thanos from acquiring them.  In the end, though, he did indeed obtain all six, set them in a special glove, and with a simple snap of his fingers eliminated at random half the population of the Universe.  Among those dusted are Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch.

And, as Avengers: Endgame picks up, among the living are, conveniently, the original Avengers.  It is a difficult time, a time of both remorse and guilt--questions about those things they could have done differently (personally, I blame Peter Quill, and am having a lot of trouble forgiving him).  During this time of mourning, we get to see how these superheroes have handled losing.  As we all expect, though, a kernel of an idea comes to them, the idea sprouts into hope, and the hope fleshes out into a very cool plan.  Soon our original gang--Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)--aided and abetted by several surviving newer heroes (remember that signal Nick Fury sent out at the end of Infinity War?) reunite to try and undo Thanos’s genocide.  Our Avengers assembly comes with the stirring strains of Alan Silvestri's Avengers Theme and the Russos (along with the screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) witty, engaging dialogue and our superheroes are on their way again. Of course, the Avengers wouldn't be the Avengers without squabbling and setbacks, but watching these charismatic characters work their way through their problems--both technical and interpersonal--is part of the joy.

Those steeped in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will find Avengers: Endgame immensely satisfying because of their familiarity with the characters and their interrelationships and also because the film pays homage to moments from previous films, some of which are most pleasantly surprising.  Those not familiar with the MCU may want to at least watch Avengers: Infinity War in preparation; otherwise, they are likely to find the film confusing. maybe even contrived.  Sorry about that, but Avengers: Endgame is a reward for 11 years of geekish loyalty.
9.5 out of 10

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