Rocketman Movie Review

Rocketman, the biopic of legendary piano man Elton John, exists in familiar territory. Yet it manages to do so in an often inventive fashion with a commanding performance by its lead. The pic is directed by Dexter Fletcher, who filled in on Bohemian Rhapsody when Bryan Singer was dumped. They share similar themes of a shy boy coming into his own as an eventual iconic music figure. Unlike Rhapsody, Taron Egerton quite capably and bravely provides the vocal work of the man he’s playing.

The opening finds Elton in a high place both literally and figuratively as he’s about to once again play to a sold out crowd. He’s also at a low in terms of multiple kinds of addiction. Finally asking for help via Alcoholics Anonymous, Lee Hall’s screenplay then provides the framework for flashbacks of his life. It begins with him as the pint sized Reginald Dwight in 1950s England. He’s ignored by his father (Steven Mackintosh) and treated with ambivalence by his mum (Bryce Dallas Howard). His discovery of the piano is a watershed moment. Reginald has natural talent but a laser focus on perfecting the craft.

His most significant encounter comes through Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). He writes the songs and Elton provides the melodies. Bernie is often the only figure in his life who genuinely cares about the newly christened Elton. Fighting through timidity, the newly named vocalist gets loud on the mic and with his outfits. Fame, fortune, and drug addiction follow as they so frequently do.

Those plot points are as known as the lyrics to many Elton tunes. Lucky for us, this isn’t just about a musician. It’s a genuine musical with tightly choreographed numbers set to high energy bangers like “Saturday Night’s Alright” and “The Bitch is Back” and contemplative pieces like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” and the title track. It has the second best movie scene set to “Tiny Dancer”. It’s a tall order to top Almost Famous.

Elton’s love life and homosexuality are explored from an ill-conceived marriage to a woman to his turbulent romance with manager John Reid (Richard Madden). By the time “I’m Still Standing” rises over the speakers, I felt pretty satisfied with this journey through his career and road to sobriety. There’s certainly a theme of Elton forging through his issues and creating his own reality with his outlandish persona. He may not have written all of the words that skyrocketed him to superstardom, but he provided the unforgettable notes. Rocketman often succeeds at capturing them.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Pain and Glory

It’s been over three decades since Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar was first on the radar screen of Oscar voters. In 1988, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown nabbed a nod for Foreign Language Film. Eleven years later, All About My Mother won the award. In 2002, Almodóvar won for his original screenplay for Talk to Her.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival has provided further chances for the auteur to garner favor from the Academy. Pain and Glory casts Antonio Banderas as an aging director focused on his past. The drama has earned praise from critics as it stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. If the pic turns out to be Spain’s selection for the newly termed Best International Feature Film, it could definitely get in. An inclusion for Almodóvar’s script is also possible.

Another opportunity lies with Banderas. The veteran actor has never been nominated and he’s earning kudos here (he won Best Actor at Cannes). The French festival has given us three other contenders in the lead actor space: Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman and Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Bottom line: it’s been some time since Almodóvar has been a factor come Oscar time, but Pain and Glory could change that. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Rocketman Box Office Prediction

After a stellar premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Rocketman plays its way into theaters next weekend. The long planned biopic of legendary piano man Elton John starring Taron Egerton comes on the heels of similar genre entry and smash hit Bohemian Rhapsody. It even shares a director in Dexter Fletcher, who filled in on the Freddie Mercury tale after Bryan Singer was dropped from the project. Costars here include Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

The film’s French Riviera rollout resulted in praise for Egerton. An Oscar nod for him (especially after Rami Malek won in 2018 as Mercury) is certainly feasible. Some reviews were mixed, but this currently holds an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score.

As mentioned, the easiest comp is Rhapsody, which debuted to an amazing $51 million in November with $216 million total domestically. However, while buzz is strong here, it likely won’t reach those heights in the busy summer season. I still think mid to high 30s can be reached and that would have Elton’s story still standing tall.

Rocketman opening weekend prediction: $36.1 million

For my Godzilla: King of the Monsters prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/23/godzilla-king-of-the-monsters-box-office-prediction/

For my Ma prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/24/ma-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Rocketman

The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing over in France and the highest profile feature so far has screened (with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood following next week). That would be Rocketman, a flashy musical biopic featuring Taron Egerton as legendary performer Elton John. Costars include Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Ahead of its May 31st stateside bow, festival goers rewarded the pic with a lengthy standing ovation (with Elton and Egerton attending). This might prove to be an audience pleaser. Some early reviews are glowing while others are more mixed.

Box office could be strong, but will this blast off with awards voters? We have very recent history to consider. I’m referring, of course, to last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Despite its rocky critical reaction, that film was a hit with audiences and Oscar voters. The Freddie Mercury biopic ended up winning four gold statues, including Rami Malek’s portrayal of the Queen frontman in Best Actor.

Rhapsody made an astonishing $903 million worldwide. Rocketman may not reach that territory. If it does, it could be impossible to ignore. Yet even if it turns out to be a sizable crowd favorite, Academy voters could nominate this in a variety of categories. That includes Picture, Actor, and the sound races (for which Bohemian was victorious in both). The comparisons between Rhapsody and Rocketman don’t end there. Dexter Fletcher took over directorial duties from Bryan Singer on the former. He is behind the camera again for the latter.

Bottom line: there’s a chance that voters might not honor Mr. John like they did Mr. Mercury, but Cannes reaction at least indicates it’s a possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Top 25 Elton John Songs: Numbers 5-1

It’s reached my personal top 5 for my all-time 25 favorite songs by Sir Elton John. It’s been a fun trip down memory lane with this fantastic artist and I’m already thinking about which performer/band I’ll do next!

If you missed numbers 25-6 of my Elton entries, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/12/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/13/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/14/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-15-11/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/15/top-25-elton-john-songs-number-10-6/

Let’s get to it!

5. “I’m Still Standing” from Too Low for Zero (1983)

4. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from Honky Chateau (1972)

3. “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

2. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” from Too Low for Zero (1983)

1. “Tiny Dancer” from Madman Across the Water (1971)

Top 25 Elton John Songs: Number 10-6

We’ve reached the top 10 of my personal top 25 songs by the amazing Elton John, who is embarking on a lengthy retirement tour. If you missed my posts listing numbers 25-11, you can find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/12/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/13/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/14/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-15-11/

I’ll have the top 5 up tomorrow!

10. “I Don’t Wanna Go on with You Like That” from Reg Strikes Back (1988)

9. “Your Song” from Elton John (1970)

8. “The One” from The One (1992)

7. “Rocket Man” from Honky Chateau (1972)

6. “Blue Eyes” from Jump Up! (1982)

Top 25 Elton John Songs: Numbers 15-11

Continuing on with my personal top 25 Elton John tracks of all time, we arrive at day 3 and numbers 15-11 on my list. If you missed my previous posts encompassing my 25-16 picks, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/12/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/13/top-25-elton-john-songs-numbers-20-16/

Let’s get to it with the top ten starting tomorrow!

15. “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore” from Songs from the West Coast (2001)

14. “Bennie and the Jets” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

13. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

12. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)

11. “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” from The Thom Bell Sessions (1979)