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Posts Tagged ‘Bryce Dallas Howard’

Taron Egerton as Elton John

“ROCKETMAN” My rating: B+

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from “Rocketman” — probably just another musical biopic — but this retelling of the rise and near-fall of Elton John is nothing short of terrific.

Oh, sure, it has the standard-issue narrative — musical genius rises from nothing to fame and fortune, then almost loses it all in a whirlwind of drugs, drink and ego — but writer Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”) and director Dexter Fletcher (“Eddie the Eagle”) keep finding inventive, eye-popping ways to tell the story.

It doesn’t hurt that they had access to the Elton John musical library of hits (at one time he was selling nearly five percent of all albums worldwide) or that young star Taron Egerton (of the “Kingsmen” franchise) is absolutely riveting in the transformational starring role.

Toss in a slew of very fine supporting performances (especially Jamie Bell as Elton’s long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin) and you have one of the best musical biopics ever made, one that blows “Bohemian Rhapsody” out of the water.

The film begins with the flamboyantly attired Elton (orange sequined jumpsuit, red angel wings, horned helmet) charging into a rehab group session.

As he “shares” with the other addicts, the film shoots back in time to the boyhood of little Reggie Dwight (Matthew Illesley), keyboard genius and unloved son of an emotionally numb military man (Steven Mackintosh) and a borderline floozie mum (Bryce Dallas Howard, utterly convincing as a working-class British mater).

The first sign of just how off the rails this film is willing to go comes early with a scene set in the local pub where the teenage Reggie (now played by Egerton) witnesses a bar brawl and in one complex, uninterrupted shot stumbles out into the streets singing “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fightin’,” weaving in and out of dozens of gyrating dancers.

It’s a bacchanal of music and sex and heavy-breathing (it’ll leave audiences breathless) and announces that “Rocketman,” though remarkably factual, will at times be played like a Felliniesque musical fantasy. (At times I was reminded of Julie Taymor’s Beatles tribute “Across the Universe”…and that’s a very good sign.)

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jur ydln1orxqd4neeasuboo“JURASSIC WORLD”  My rating: C+ 

 124 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

Bigger. Faster. More teeth.

That’s the corporate mantra at Jurassic World, the island theme park built on the ruins of the original Jurassic Park. This business stays on top by every few years introducing a spectacular new genetically modified attraction to keep the crowds coming.

Because with the short attention span of the average tourist, plain old dinosaurs aren’t enough.

“Bigger, faster, more teeth” is also at the heart of the movie “Jurassic World,” the fourth entry in the groundbreaking special effects series.

Back in ’93, when Steven Spielberg unveiled the original “Jurassic Park,” just 10 minutes of CG-animated dinos was enough to guarantee a blockbuster. But in tech-savvy 2015, lifelike dinosaurs are a dime a dozen.

So we all know going in that the dinosaurs are going to be convincingly great. But can the series’ stewards surround the big brutes with a story and characters that matter?

Uh … no.

Director Colin Trevorrow (maker of the low-budget time-travel film “Safety Not Guaranteed”) works with three fellow screenwriters to distract us with a surplus of dinosaurs and action. But mostly “Jurassic World” is content to rehash ideas that were worn out when “Jurassic Park III” came out in 2001.

Not even uber-likable Chris Pratt can dispel the pall of been-there-done-that.

Pratt plays Owen, a Navy veteran working with a quartet of velociraptors (those man-sized mini-tyrannosaurs) he has raised like ducklings. Owen has trained these carnivores to treat him as their alpha male. They don’t take orders, exactly, but at least they don’t have him for breakfast.

What Owen doesn’t realize is that in the massive park geneticists have been mixing DNA to create the baddest dinosaur ever, the Indominus rex. Except that their new creation is way smarter than a lizard should be and has curious skills, like the ability to conceal itself by changing color and body temperature.
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Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in "The Help"

“THE HELP”  My rating: B+  (Now playing wide)

137 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

You can’t throw a rock at “The Help” without hitting an Oscar-worthy performance, making this adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s best-seller one of the best-acted films since, well, “The King’s Speech.”

All that thespian power comes in handy in diverting our attention from some of the story’s more Hollywood-ish plotting and an unimaginative visual style.

OK, maybe I’m being too much of a critic here. There may be a few pedestrian elements in this sure-fire box office smash, but there’s no ignoring the pure emotional power of this story set in the Jim Crow South.

This is a movie that will set audiences to laughing, then bawling, then laughing and bawling all over again.

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