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)

2019 Midyear Oscar Report

We are officially at the midpoint of this thing called 2019 and that means a midyear Oscar report is before you today on the blog. First things first: as awards watchers already know, the bulk of the eventual nominees will come your way in the second half of the year. It will likely be festivals such as Toronto and Venice that produce their initial screenings.

We have, however, already had Cannes and Sundance producing first looks at some contenders. The most high profile is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is out July 26 but debuted in the French Riviera. The celebrated auteur’s ninth feature immediately became a player in Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor), Brad Pitt (probably Supporting Actor), and Margot Robbie (Supporting Actress), as well as down the line tech races.

Cannes also served as the launching point for two contenders in the newly termed Best International Feature Film. They are Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or. With Glory, expect lots of chatter for its star Antonio Banderas to receive his first nod in Actor.

As for other possibilities in the lead Actor derby, we have Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. If Rami Malek could take home the gold last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s certainly feasible that Egerton will have his supporters. Cannes also debuted  the horror pic The Lighthouse with raves for Willem Dafoe. And though it’s a reach, there could be a push for Robert Downey Jr. to garner recognition for his decade plus embodiment of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.

When it comes to Endgame, I would anticipate talk for a Picture nod, especially after Black Panther became the first comic book pic to get one last year. At this juncture, I’ll say it gets plenty of chatter and no nomination. Yet that paradigm could shift.

Sundance gave us the true life political drama The Report. That pic features both Adam Driver and Annette Bening in roles that drew acclaim. It’s out stateside in late September and is one to keep an eye on.

2019 has produced numerous female lead performances that could all be classified as dark horse contenders. The list includes Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Elle Fanning (Teen Spirit), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose).

Despite its disappointing box office grosses, Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy Booksmart might be considered in Original Screenplay. Same goes for The Farewell ahead of its release in a couple weeks.

For Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4 looks to be a slam dunk for a nomination and that also holds true for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Already released titles such as Missing Link and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are likely on the outside looking in.

As for documentaries, keep an eye on Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese. I would say Apollo is a strong contender for inclusion.

And that’s your report, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for a whole bunch of Oscar speculation in the second half of the year…

June 21-23 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (06/19): and it’s a significant one. Revising my Toy Story 4 estimate down from $191.5 million to $167.5 million.

It’s a toy fest at the box office this weekend as Pixar’s massive franchise and an iconic demonic doll look to populate the 1-2 spots on the charts. Toy Story 4 and the reboot of Child’s Play are the big debuts, as well as Luc Besson’s action thriller Anna. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/12/toy-story-4-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/13/childs-play-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/13/anna-box-office-prediction/

The question for the fourth iteration of Woody and Buzz is not whether it opens at #1, but whether or not it sets the all-time opening record for an animated feature. Unlike what we’ve seen in the past few weekends, this should not be a sequel that fails to meet expectations. In order to nab the record, it needs to top Pixar’s Incredibles 2 from last summer. That sequel made $182 million out of the gate. I’m predicting Toy Story 4 will outdo it by nearly $10 million.

I’m projecting that Child’s Play will reach high teens and that should be enough to put it in second place. I figure enough horror fans can assist Chucky’s return to multiplexes to get it there (as long as they’re not all holding their money for next week’s Annabelle Comes Home).

The real battle could be for the third position. Men in Black: International was a major flop. While I don’t see it plummeting over 70% like Dark Phoenix, a mid 50s (and maybe a bit more) dip is certainly feasible. That puts it in a horse race with The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Aladdin, which could benefit from drive-in pairings with Toy Story.

As for Anna, my lowly $3.6 million puts it outside the top five.

Here’s how I have it playing out:

1. Toy Story 4

Predicted Gross: $167.5 million

2. Child’s Play

Predicted Gross: $17.6 million

3. Men in Black: International

Predicted Gross: $13.1 million

4. Aladdin

Predicted Gross: $13 million

5. The Secret Life of Pets 2

Predicted Gross: $12.6 million

Box Office Results (June 1416)

While Will Smith’s genie in Aladdin is raking up the bucks, Sony was not granted their wish of a successful franchise reboot with Men in Black: International. The film opened in first, but with a disappointing $30 million (on target with my $30.7 million projection). Don’t look for Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson to don the shades again – though you’ll probably see them revise their Thor characters again.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 dropped to second with $24.4 million (I said $23.4 million) as it sniffs the century mark at $92 million after two weeks.

Aladdin was third with $17.3 million, topping my $15.7 million forecast. It’s up to $264 million as it should cross $300 million domestically.

Rocketman was fourth and I incorrectly had it outside the top five. The Elton John biopic took in $9.4 million and it’s at $52 million overall.

After its poor debut, Dark Phoenix tumbled to fifth with $9.3 million. I was more generous at $11.8 million. With just $52 million in ten days, this looks to be the first X-Men entry that won’t reach $100 million stateside.

The sequel and reboot fatigue manifested itself again with Shaft, which flopped in sixth with only $8.9 million, coming in far below my $16.8 million prediction.

Late Night expanded nationwide to so-so results in ninth place with $5.2 million, a touch more than my $4.5 million take.

Finally, zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die was 12th on just over 600 screens with $2.5 million compared to my $1.8 million projection.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

June 14-16 Box Office Predictions

A variety of new pictures debut or expand this weekend with franchise reboot Men in Black: International, another franchise reboot Shaft, critically appreciated comedy Late Night, and not so critically appreciated comedy The Dead Don’t Die hitting screens. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/05/men-in-black-international-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/06/shaft-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/09/__trashed/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/09/the-dead-dont-die-box-office-prediction/

With Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson taking over lead roles from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, International hopes to bring in a new generation of alien crime fighter aficionados. Yet this could go the way of last weekend’s Dark Phoenix, which set a franchise low for an opening weekend. I predict that a low 30s haul will achieve that dubious mark, but it should have little difficulty hitting #1.

My mid teens estimate for Shaft should put it in third after the sophomore frame of current champ The Secret Life of Pets 2, which itself suffered from an acute case of sequelitis.

The rest of the top five should be filled by holdovers Aladdin and Phoenix, which I anticipate having a severe drop just like Godzilla: King of the Monsters did in its second weekend.

As for Late Night, it had a terrific limited release on just four screens this past weekend, but it could face some difficulties with its 1500 theater release. My $4.5 million forecast puts it outside the top five. Same for The Dead Don’t Die, which I have at $1.8 million at its approximately 550 theater count.

And with that, my top five estimates for the weekend ahead:

1. Men in Black: International

Predicted Gross: $30.7 million

2. The Secret Life of Pets 2

Predicted Gross: $23.4 million

3. Shaft

Predicted Gross: $16.8 million

4. Aladdin

Predicted Gross: $15.7 million

5. Dark Phoenix

Predicted Gross: $11.8 million

Box Office Results (June 79)

It was not a good weekend to be a sequel as the two newbies placed 1-2, but with significantly less cash than their predecessors. The Secret Life of Pets 2 was first with $46.6 million, well under my estimate of $65.2 million. That’s not even half of the $104 million achieved by its 2016 predecessor and with Toy Story 4 on the horizon, it could fade quickly.

The X-Men franchise cratered as Dark Phoenix was second with $32.8 million compared to my $45.3 million projection. The previous lowest premiere in the series occurred in 2013 when The Wolverine made $53 million out of the gate. This fell more than $20 million under that. Studio Fox didn’t even bother sugarcoating it… it’s a serious flop. New owner Disney will need to figure out a new way to make this series of characters viable into the future.

Aladdin was third with $24.6 million (I said $26.5 million) for a three-week tally of $232 million.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters fell hard in its second frame with $15.4 million, under my $16.9 million prediction. It’s at $78 million.

Rocketman was fifth in its sophomore outing at $13.8 million (I said $14.9 million) for a ten day total of $50 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

June 7-9 Box Office Predictions

If there’s a theme to this first full June weekend at the box office, it might be sequels not matching up to what’s come before. The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Dark Phoenix are the two newbies hitting screens and you can peruse my detailed predictions for each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/29/the-secret-life-of-pets-2-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/30/dark-phoenix-box-office-prediction/

The original Pets got off to an animated start three summers ago with $104 million. Part 2 is not expected to match it and I’m going with a mid 60s beginning. It should still face no issues topping the charts as the prospects for Dark Phoenix look dim.

It’s the final entry in the current iteration of the X-Men Universe and buzz appears lackluster (especially after the ho-hum reaction to 2016’s XMen: Apocalypse). My mid 40s take gives it the worst premiere of any X title thus far.

As for holdovers, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a big disappointment and I anticipate a sophomore decline in the mid 50s range. That could drop it to fourth place with Aladdin in third and Rocketman rounding out the top five.

Here’s how I have the top 5 panning out:

1. The Secret Life of Pets 2

Predicted Gross: $65.2 million

2. Dark Phoenix

Predicted Gross: $45.3 million

3. Aladdin

Predicted Gross: $26.5 million

4. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Predicted Gross: $16.9 million

5. Rocketman

Predicted Gross: $14.9 million

Box Office Results (May 31June 2)

As mentioned, Godzilla: King of the Monsters landed with a thud with $47.7 million – well below my $58.7 million projection. The reported $200 million dollar production made just over half of what 2014’s Godzilla ($91 million) took in for its start. Additionally it couldn’t reach the heights of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island and its $61 million rollout. The two creatures will face each other next spring in Godzilla vs. Kong.

Aladdin was second with $42.8 million in weekend #2 and held up a bit better than my $40.3 million estimate. The Disney live-action hit has amassed $185 million total.

The Elton John biopic Rocketman had a decent start in third with $25.7 million. I thought it would fly higher at $36.1 million. It’s still a fine opening for an R rated counter programming offering in blockbuster season, though it is just half of what Bohemian Rhapsody accomplished a few short months ago.

Blumhouse horror pic Ma with Octavia Spencer was fourth and landed in line with expectations at $18 million (I said $17.2 million). Considering its tiny $5 million price tag, it’s yet another profitable success for the studio.

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum was fifth with $11 million (I went with $12.7 million) as it brought its earnings to $125 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

 

May 31-June 2 Box Office Predictions

After a sizzling debut over the long Memorial Day weekend, Aladdin could slip to third as two heavy hitters join the fray: monster sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters and critically lauded Elton John biopic Rocketman. We also have low budget Blumhouse horror pic Ma with Octavia Spencer that has breakout potential. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of the newcomers here:

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

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/23/rocketman-box-office-prediction/

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

Godzilla should manage to stomp the competition, but I do have it coming in lower than its 2014 predecessor and just under what 2017’s Kong: Skull Island achieved. As for Rocketman, there’s Oscar nod buzz for star Taron Egerton and the genre heat from last fall’s smash Bohemian Rhapsody. I have it debuting with about $15 million less than the Queen flick, but that still means mid 30s.

As for Ma, I have it over tripling its puny $5 million budget for fourth place. Aladdin may experience a mid 50s dip after ruling the holiday and John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum should round out the top five.

And with that, my forecast for the weekend:

1. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Predicted Gross: $58.7 million

2. Aladdin

Predicted Gross: $40.3 million

3. Rocketman

Predicted Gross: $36.1 million

4. Ma

Predicted Gross: $17.2 million

5. John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum

Predicted Gross: $12.7 million

Box Office Results (May 2427)

Despite a poorly received first trailer and questions about its potency with audiences, Disney’s Aladdin exceeded all expectations and granted the studio’s money-making wishes with $116.8 million. That blew away my $74.8 million estimate.

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum dropped to second with $30.9 million over the four-day, topping my $27 million take. The Keanu Reeves action sequel is already at $107 million in two weeks and has the set the franchise record domestically.

Avengers: Endgame was third with $22 million (I said $22.5 million), hitting an astonishing $803 million.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu was fourth with $17.2 million compared to my $16.4 million projection and $120 million thus far.

All newbies without a blue genie struggled. Horror superhero tale Brightburn was fifth with $9.6 million. I was right on target at $9.7 million. Acclaimed high school comedy Booksmart was sixth with $8.7 million. Again, I was on the money with an $8.6 million prediction.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

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…