Tag Archives: Taron Egerton

Rock and Roll Fantasy

Rocketman

by George Wolf

So, Elton John won’t be singing in the movie about Elton John?

Seems weird, until you see how well Rocketman incorporates decades of indelible music into one vastly entertaining portrait of the iconic rock star who stands second only to Elvis in career solo hits.

Driven by a wonderfully layered performance from Taron Egerton – who also handles his vocal duties just fine – the film eschews the standard biopic playbook for a splendid rock and roll fantasy.

Kudos to writer Lee Hall and director Dexter Fletcher for knowing we’ve seen this rise/drugs/fall arc before, and knowing how to pool their talents for an ambitious take.

Hall wrote Billy Elliot and Fletcher is fresh off co-directing Bohemian Rhapsody. Their vision draws from both to land somewhere between the enigmatic Dylan biopic I’m Not There and the effervescent ABBA glitter bomb Mamma Mia.

Narratively grounded in Elton’s first visit to rehab, Rocketman cherry-picks the hits for resplendent musical set pieces that accompany the blossoming of a shy English youngster named Reginald Kenneth Dwight into the flamboyant global superstar known as Elton Hercules John.

Wounded by an uninterested father (Steven Mackintosh) and an adversarial mother (Bryce Dallas Howard – never better) Reggie sought acceptance through his musical talent. A happenstance introduction to lyricist Bernie Taupin (a quietly effective Jamie Bell) brought unexpected success and then, the obligatory wretched excess.

Even without Fletcher’s involvement, comparisons to Bohemian Rhapsody (now the most successful music biopic to date) were inevitable, but Rocketman leaves the stage as a vastly superior film.

While the close-to-the-safety-vest nature of Queen’s trajectory rendered every artistic license ripe for scrutiny, Rocketman‘s R-rated frankness and fantastical tapestries leave ample room for crowd-pleasing maneuvers.

Of course the kickers-clad schoolboy didn’t pound out “The Bitch is Back” on his living room piano, the aspiring songwriter didn’t sing “Sad Songs” at a 1960s audition, and the overnight sensation didn’t “Crocodile Rock” at his legendary 1970 stint at The Troubadour.

But in the world of Rocketman, anything is possible. And even with all the eccentric flights of fancy, the film holds true to an ultimately touching honesty about the life story it’s telling.

And, oh yeah, the songs are still pretty great, too (no matter who’s singing them).

Merry, Indeed

Robin Hood

by Hope Madden

Hey, do you guys remember Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur? I mean, of course you don’t. It made like $9.

Had it been anything other than a global box office disaster, a likeminded retooling of the British legend of Robin Hood might have made sense. And yet, here we have it: a poor man’s Guy Ritchie (Otto Bathurst) trying to anachronism his way through the old bandit’s tale.

Taron Egerton stars as the Hood, billed by imdb as “a war-hardened Crusader” but coming off more as a precocious 12-year-old. He’s joined by battlefield adversary and post-war comrade John (Jamie Foxx), who insists on calling him English regardless of the fact that they are in England and, you know, every single person is English. (Let’s not even talk about his accent.)

Eve Hewson and Tim Minchin round out the merry band as the politically liberal/inappropriately dressed Marian and the only actor who doesn’t embarrass himself, respectively.

Ben Mendelsohn shoulders the evil Sheriff of Nottingham duties this go-round. If you only know Mendelsohn from Ready Player One, Rogue One or Dark Knight Rises, please believe me when I say that he needs to stop playing scenery-chewing baddies. He is one of the most versatile and talented character actors in film today. Please go watch literally anything else he’s ever made. (Give yourself the gift of the Aussie film Animal Kingdom.)

Writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly blandly reimagine Robin of Loxley’s origin story, casting aside any historical authenticity in favor of hip fun. Tragically, the result is never hip and rarely fun.

The film details some ludicrously debauched ties with the church and a global plot to bilk a few hundred peasants of more money than the whole of England would possess. Where do all those golden bowls and goblets come from? How many peasants are dining so flamboyantly?

They also reach to give the sheriff some Trumpian moments, though that backfires as well. As fine an actor as Mendelsohn is, it is tough for him to come off as a dumb ass.

The score feels cribbed, the action is video-game superficial and the costuming came directly from Forever 21.

Why did they make this movie again?





Whisky Dicks

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

by Matt Weiner

There was a fleeting moment early in Kingsman: The Golden Circle when I thought that the new film might be atoning for the biggest misfire in the first one. One hour and one novel use of an inside-the-body POV shot later, I realized I should have known better.

Just like first movie, Kingsman: The Golden Circle (again directed by Matthew Vaughn, and written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman) delights in its attempts to set up the familiar contours of a spy movie and then gleefully take the piss out of them, to hell with audience expectations.

Unfortunately, the film also doubles down on everything—the good, the bad and the truly repulsive—from the first one.

We barely have time to be reunited with Eggsy aka “Galahad” (Taron Egerton), Merlin (Mark Strong) and the rest of Kingsman before the two men find themselves all alone against a worldwide threat yet again. (This would be a good time to point out that for a super-secret highly trained spy agency, it sure seems easy to wipe them out every few years.) Following the only lifeline they’ve got, Galahad and Merlin head to America to revive a special relationship with Statesman, their booze-swilling, Southern-drawling counterparts.

The Statesman universe is an American funhouse of Kingsman, complete with a lone Q-type (Halle Berry) somehow serving the entire agency. While the Statesman introduction gets in a few digs at us bumpkins across the pond, it’s hard not to sense that the main purpose is to tease some big names for future installments. That, and also—spoiler—to explain the resurrection of Eggsy’s mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth).

Working together, Kingsman and Statesman cut, shoot and lasso a swath of carnage across the globe in pursuit of drug lord and big-time Elton John fan Poppy (Julianne Moore) attempting to murder hundreds of millions.

I want to like the world of Kingsman. I really do. The first film was fresh, briskly shot and gave its characters enough room and heart to make you overlook the script’s shortcomings. And despite the runtime bloat in The Golden Circle, the kinetic violence and over-the-top parody keeps the action moving.

But for a pastiche that has no reservations transcending its source material when it comes to sending up action and plotting, it’s impossible to ignore how the same can’t be said for the movie’s treatment of women.

This is, after all, a film where dogs play a more emotional role in the narrative arc than most of the female leads, and a running bit about reluctant anal sex is no longer the grossest punchline in the franchise. So congrats on that distinction, I guess.

But that’s not cheeky. It’s just dull. And it’s unforgivable in any film—but especially in one that so desperately wants to be seen as clever.





Has He Landed Yet?

Eddie the Eagle

by Hope Madden

If you are a sucker for plucky underdog stories, has Eddie the Eagle got a movie for you! Based very loosely on the story of British Olympic ski jumper Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards, director Dexter Fletcher’s film is far more interested in feeling good than digging in.

Taron Egerton (Kingsmen) plays Eddie with as much charm as the screen can hold. The performance marks a serious physical transformation for the actor, but it’s the endearing characterization that keeps the film afloat.

As a wee, myopic lad back in blue collar Cheltenham, UK, routinely heads out the door to find a bus and follow his dreams of becoming an Olympian, it’s hard not to immediately fall for this sweetly tenacious character. He never loses that dream as he grows up, finding more realistic pathways toward his goals – he was actually among the best speed skiers in England. But obstacle upon obstacle eventually redirect him to ski jumping, regardless of the fact that he’s never ski jumped before, or that England had no ski jumping team.

The facts of Edwards’s journey toward the 1988 games in Calgary are blurred and blended in favor of an 80’s style comedy, and it’s hard not to think that a more honest adaptation of his truly unique road to becoming an Olympian might have made for a more interesting film. Instead, he goes to Germany, finds a begrudging mentor in a failed Olympic hopeful with a bad attitude and a drinking problem (Hugh Jackman), and eventually charms the world.

The film is endlessly sweet with a focus, unlike other sports biopics, not on competition and success, but on the struggle and the dream. Unfortunately, the frothy confection does more to emphasize something quaint rather than something heroic – and Edwards’s commitment to his goal truly was heroic.

It’s a soft hearted and well-meaning film, just as cliché-riddled as any other sports flick, but somehow the gentle underdog at the center of it all remains as easy to root for today as he was in ’88.

Verdict-3-0-Stars