\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Rocketman

Rocketman tells the story of the life and career of Elton John, starting with his humble beginnings as a boy named Reginald Dwight, being raised by his mother and grandmother in Britain in the ‘50s.  Reggie’s piano skills quickly become apparent, and when he connects with song-writer Bernie Taupin, they form a friendship and a creative partnership that will last for decades.

Rocketman was written by Lee Hall and Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who worked on this film soon after helping to complete 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

The film leans into Elton John’s colorful public persona. My favorite sequences in the film were those when the film stepped outside of the box of a conventional musical bio-pic structure, and embraced a musical-fantasy element.  I enjoyed the song-and-dance numbers (an early sequence at a fair set to Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting was a highlight of the film for me) as well as the film’s framing device (in which an outrageously-attired Elton tells the story of his life, gradually stripping off pieces of his costume as we get closer to seeing the real Reggie inside).

But the film’s weakness is that, despite those trappings, it still hews fairly closely to the familiar structure of a musical bio-pic.  The film has a predictable structure of Elton’s rise and then his unhappy struggles and fall.  (I had a similar complaint regarding Bohemian Rhapsody.  And as was the case with Bohemian Rhapsody, I enjoyed the fun first half of Rocketman far more than the more somber second half.)

Taron Egerton is terrific as Elton John/Reginald Dwight.  Just like Rami Malek’s ferocious performance was, in my opinion, the main reason to see Bohemian Rhapsody, so too is Mr. Egerton’s charismatic turn here the best aspect of Rocketman.  I enjoyed Mr. Egerton’s work in the two Kingsman films (which were directed by Matthew Vaughn, who produced Rocketman), but I didn’t know he had this type of performance in him!  This is a star-making turn.  Mr. Egerton is electric with Elton John’s charisma and energy.  He also, apparently, did all of his own singing in the film!  That is amazing, because there is a lot of singing in the film (no surprise), and Mr. Egerton does a fantastic job in singing so many of Elton John’s famous songs.  (Much credit must also be given to the film’s musical director Giles Martin — son of the famous Beatles producer George Martin — who did a terrific job incorporating so much of Mr. Elton’s great music throughout this film.)

Mr. Fletcher has assembled a terrific supporting cast.  Jamie Bell (King Kong) is great as Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics for most of Elton’s songs.  … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Kingsman: The Golden Circle

I loved Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons comic-book mini-series The Secret Service, a delicious send-up of classic sixties-era James Bond spy capers.  I was a little less taken with Matthew Vaughn’s film adaptation, Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Mr. Vaughn is a terrific director (I love Layer Cake despite my dislike of its ending, and X-Men: First Class is one of the better X-Men films), and he had already made a movie adapting a Mark Millar comic-book series that was as good as, if not better than, the original.  (That would be Kick-Ass, a great comic and a great movie.)  But I thought Mr. Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service film muddled some of the original comic’s best jokes and ideas, and I found the anal sex joke in the final minute to be very distasteful.  But, I really like Matthew Vaughn and I like the idea of this series — taking the fun of those Classic Bond gadgets-and-babes adventures and bringing them into the modern era — so I was curious to see Mr. Vaughn’s second whack at this property.  (I must admit, I never expected to see a sequel, so I was intrigued to see what Mr. Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman had cooked up.)

At the very start of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the Kingsman agency is mostly wiped out by a new enemy.  The surviving Kingsmen agents — young Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the Q-like “Merlin” (Mark Strong), and the miraculously resurrected after getting shot in the head in the first movie “Galahad” (Colin Firth) are forced to turn to their fellow spy agency, the U.S.-based Statesmen, for help.  The dapper British gentlemen spies and their cowboy-esque American counterparts together attempt to outwit the drug-lord Poppy (Julianne Moore) and her plan to unleash a deadly virus across the United States.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a fun time in the movie theatre though, like the first film, I once again feel Mr. Vaughn and his team have somewhat missed the mark.  The film’s strength and its weakness is that every single element feels dialed up to eleven.  The film is packed to overflowing with one crazy, outlandish sequence after another, and few characters are elevated above caricature.  (Seriously, is this the way Matthew Vaughn sees Americans???)  Some of these crazy sequences are fun, but it all gets to be a bit too much after a while.  (Like the first film, I think this sequel is about ten-twenty minutes too long.)

The cast comes to play, and the reason the film works as well as it does is this terrific cast.  Taron Egerton is very solid as the young super-spy Eggsy.  He steps effortlessly into … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Kingsman: The Secret Service

I was thrilled when I head that Matthew Vaughn would be directing an adaptation of Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons’ wonderful comic book series, The Secret Service.  I adored the original comic, and I had loved Matthew Vaughn’s previous adaptation of a Mark Millar-written comic-book: Kick-Ass.  (Click here for my original review.)  That Matthew Vaughan would be adapting another Mark Millar comic book was very exciting to me.  As the release of the film adaptation grew closer, my excitement only grew.  I felt that I was privy to a secret that few knew.  I couldn’t wait to see movie-goers, who were unaware of the comic, have their heads spun by this deliriously profane, violent twist on the James Bond mythos.

But while I have read a lot of glowing reviews of Kingsman: The Secret Service, I found myself disappointed.  It felt like all the elements of a great film were there.  I love the central hook of the story.  (Both the idea of playing with the cliches of the James Bond films as well as the notion of a guy-centric, violent take on My Fair Lady.)  The casting of the film was spectacular, most notably the genius idea of casting Colin Firth in the role of the fearsome British super-spy.  The film looks great, and there are some terrific moments in the movie.

But I never felt the film quite lived up to the potential of its premise.  It didn’t capture the fun of the jaw-dropping twists and turns of the original comic, nor did it live up to it’s central idea as a spin on the concept of the James Bond-like super-spy.

I think my biggest over-all complaint is that the film is overly convoluted.  It felt like the filmmakers took the fairly simple, straightforward premise of the original comic and complicated-it-up with a lot of unnecessary meandering.  Here are two examples.  First, it’s a predictable idea that, in this sort of film, the mentor is eventually going to get pushed aside by the story so that the young protege can save the day.  In the film, that happens TWICE.  Colin Firth is introduced as the super-spy agent Galahad, mentor to the young Eggsy (Taron Egerton).  But then he falls into a coma, and Eggsy is left on his own in a dangerous world.  But then Galahad gets better, and so he and Eggsy can partner up again.  But then Galahad is again knocked out of play so that Eggsy can be the lone hero for the climax.  Why give us this same plot twist twice?? Consider also the film’s introduction.  In the comic book, the series opens with a James Bond-type agent attempting to rescue celebrity … [continued]