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Posts Tagged ‘Taron Egerton’

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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Colin Firth, Taron Egerton

“KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE” My rating: B- 

141 minutes | MPAA rating: R

For a movie that isn’t actually about anything, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is ridiculously diverting.

Those who saw the original “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a few years back will be treated to more of the same, only on steroids.  This sequel is bigger, faster, noisier and funnier than the original.

Plus, this time around writer/director Matthew Vaughn shows a surer hand at balancing the movie’s over-the-top violence with a refined comic sensibility.

Things begin with our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) trying to juggle his duties as a member of the super-secret Kingsman security apparatus against his romance with Tilde (Hanna Alström), an honest-to-God Swedish princess.  For a former car thief with a taste for a white rapper wardrobe (sweats, ball caps), Eggsy has come a long way in a brief time.

But it all comes crashing down when the entire Kingsman operation is destroyed in one fell swoop.  The only survivors are Eggsy (who was having dinner with the King of Sweden when it all happened) and the bald, tech-savvy Merlin (Mark Strong).

What happened? Well, an international drug lord named Poppy (Julianne Moore) and her Golden Circle gang are clearing the deck prior to a big push for world domination.  A nostalgia freak, Poppy lives in seclusion in the Cambodian jungle in her own private theme park…imagine Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. redone with a “Happy Days” theme.

She’s even kidnapped Elton John (playing himself) so that he can perform her favorite hits at will. (This year’s best bit of celebrity casting.)

Seeking allies, Eggsy and Merlin travel to Kentucky where they encounter the Statesmen, their Yank counterparts, a band of American free agents posing as a distilling concern.  These cowboys — literally…we’re talking Stetsons, boots and electric bullwhips capable of slicing steel — have names like Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger (Halle Berry).

Oh yes…the Statesmen have been providing shelter to an amnesiac who has suffered a rather nasty bullet wound in the noggin.  He is, of course, Harry Hart aka Galahad (Colin Firth), Eggsy’s mentor and a fatality (or so we thought) in the first film. (I’m not giving anything away here…Firth is all over the ads.)

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Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton

Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton

“EDDIE THE EAGLE”  My rating: B- 

 144 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

In the movies, a great story trumps just about every other consideration.

“Eddie the Eagle” is a stolidly inartistic effort burdened with washed-out cinematography, just-OK special effects and a faux-Vangelis soundtrack.

But the more-or-less real-life yarn it tells is such a laugh-inducing, lump-in-the-throat-producing audience pleaser that criticism is beside the point.

The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, gave us the Jamaican bobsled team, subject of the 1993 film “Cool Runnings.” But another oddity of those games was Eddie Edwards, a geeky Brit who showed up as the sole member of his country’s ski jumping team.

Eddie, who had taken up the sport only a year earlier, was clearly out of his league competing against the world’s best. But his goofball personality and obvious love of the sport won over the crowds, who dubbed him Eddie the Eagle and made him a celebrity.

In Dexter Fletcher’s film, Eddie is played by Taron Egerton, who in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” played the street punk who becomes a sophisticated James Bond-ish spy. Here he’s virtually unrecognizable, hiding behind a blond mop, bottle-bottom eyeglasses and an expression of earnest bewilderment.

Far from being a suave secret agent, Egerton’s Eddie is more like Forrest Gump. He’s not feeble-minded, exactly, but he’s childlike enough to believe that dreams come true. And just bright (and lucky) enough to figure out how to get there.

The screenplay by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton plays fast and loose with the facts of Eddie Edwards’ life and quest for Olympic immortality. What it gets right, though, is their subject’s never-say-die determination.

In a brief prologue we see Eddie as a boy with “weak knees” and a leg brace that squeaks with every step. Despite a near-total lack of athletic ability, he obsesses about competing in the Olympics. (more…)

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Colin Firth...the calm eye of the storm

Colin Firth…the calm eye of the storm

“THE KINGSMAN”  My rating: B- 

129 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE”

Tone is the secret sauce of cinema.

A film can have an interesting plot, good acting, great production values…but if the tone is off the whole thing sits queasily on the stomach like a cheap Mexican dinner.

Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman” has a lot going for it.  It’s a wicked spoof of Bondish spy films with tons of over-the-top action.  At its center it has a nifty mentor-student relationship.  And in Colin Firth and newcomer Taron Egerton it has a couple of hugely charismatic leading men.

And yet the tone is, well, iffy.

Borrowing the arched-eyebrow approach of Patrick Macnee’s John Steed from the old “Avengers” TV show, Firth plays Harry Hart, aka Galahad, a member of a super secret agency known as the Kingsmen.

Operating out of a men’s clothing shop in London (which explains why its agents are so nattily dressed with pinstriped suits, tortoise-shell glasses and deadly umbrellas), the Kingsmen were formed decades ago by a cabal of obscenely rich men who thought international security too important to be left in the hands of governments and politicians.

The story — adapted by Vaughn and Jane Goldman from the comic Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons — has two main components.

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