Julianne Moore shines in home video in the small “Gloria Bell” while in theaters, “Rocketman” sets things on fire with a superb take on the life of the great Elton John.
It’s Viewing the Videos
“Gloria Bell” is an intelligent, well done story of a woman in her 50s looking for love.
Dramatic films about adults are relatively rare and one that features a female lead are even more unusual. Both the central characters here are older than 50 and have grown up children on top of that.
Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), the woman of the title, has been divorced for about 10 years and lives an unsatisfying life
She’s seems alone even in a crowded dance club where she meets Arnold (John Turturro) and they begin an unlikely love affair.
The movie is a cascade of troubled relationships.
Usually when characters are struggling and complaining about their lives, I want to say, ”Just grow up.” But here, even though just about everyone is unhappy, the viewers will be left with thoughts about everyone’s search for happiness.
“Rocketman” is the latest in the recent string of musical movie stories and, in its own way, is just as good as “A Star is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Rocketman” is structured along the lines of a more traditional musical, with the characters breaking into song, and many musical numbers set away from concert venues or nightclubs.
Taron Egerton tears it up as Elton John, acting with consummate skill as well as doing an outstanding job as Elton John.
It’s a classic musician story. A tough childhood, a struggle to reach fame and glory, tragedy due to substance abuse, and final redemption.
But the movie, produced with the help of Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, hits all the right notes (sorry), allowing the audience to care about Elton through the highs and lows his life.
While the drama is very compelling, they don’t skimp on the music. Songs featured include “Crocodile Rock,” “Your Song,” “The Bitch is Back,” Pinball Wizard,” ‘Rocket Man” and 17 other tracks almost all written by John and lifelong friend and longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, played by Jamie Bell.
Egerton, star of the two Kingsman films, and Bell are two of the finest young actors around. Bell was first noticed in “Billy Elliott.”
John and Taupin started out as young kids in England. Before they knew it, a legendary appearance at the Troubadour in L.A. launched one of music’s great careers.
The story includes numerous flashbacks and movies usually stumble of sequences like this, but director Dexter Fletcher does a masterful job integrating the big musical moments with the dramatic story.
Fletcher is the director who was brought in to complete “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the story of Freddy Mercury, after the first director was fired. And we know what a good job he did with that one. This is just as good in its own way.
Easily one of the best movies of the year. Not to be missed.
Five Palm Trees
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is what happens when an undisciplined filmmaker has unlimited money and no restraint: a bloated, overlong collection of visually confusing special effects and a plot that’s incoherent.
Good actors try their best, but there’s really no way to follow the plot and the dialogue seems to use every monster movie cliché:
“We stop him and we stop them all.”
“I’ve got an ex-wife and a daughter out there in case you forgot.”
And the great, “We’re meddling with forces beyond our comprehension.”
When Godzilla and his cohorts like Mothra and Ghidorah (originally known is Ghidrah) first appeared in the 1950s, the movies were Japanese imports, made on the cheap, crudely dubbed and perhaps most importantly, much shorter than the two hour and 13-minute slog that is “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
The old movies didn’t waste too much time on plot or dialogue, and if the monster effects were crude, it didn’t matter. The monsters got loose, laid waste to the planet and were vanquished. Fans got what they wanted without confusion and plot.
This time a scientist (Vera Farmiga) wants to study the giant Titans (monsters like Godzilla), who once ruled the earth. An evil secret corporation has encased the monsters at secret locations around the world, but soon they start escaping.
Here the plot moves all over the world to China, Colorado, Bermuda, Antarctica, Mexico, Washington D.C. and Boston. But all the locations look pretty much the same.
The real fighting occupies about the last 30 minutes of the film, so this is really more suited to home viewing.
Two Palm Trees.
“Ma” is positioned as a horror film, coming from the Blumhouse company known for movies like “Get Out,” “Us,” and “Insidious.”
But it spends two-thirds of its time setting up the situation before getting down to the hardcore violence that the audience for these movies comes to see.
The story is relatively interesting, but if they wanted to be a horror film, they need to get to the gore faster.
The star of “Ma,” Octavia Spencer, worked with director Tate Taylor on 2011’s “The Help.” Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the story of black maids in the South in the early ’60s.
This time, Ma is a veterinarian’s assistant in a small northern town. One day she buys alcohol for a group of high school students who are clearly looking for trouble.
Ma invites the students to hang out in her basement to drink and party, but never go upstairs.
In most horror films, the kids would head upstairs right away, but this movie features extensive examinations of the kids and some of the other people who operate in Ma’s orbit in the town.
Spencer is an outstanding actress and her portrayal of Ma is sinister, carefully concealing the evil that occasionally flashes across her face.
Interestingly enough, race is not part of this story. Although there’s only one other black character, this is a straight-ahead horror film.
Despite the weaknesses of the story, this is an interesting part for Spencer. Black female leads are rare in movies generally, to say nothing of horror films.
It takes a long time to get to the gore. So if they wanted to make a valid horror film, they needed to get to the point faster.
Two Palm Trees. Disappointing, even for fans.
FROM THE VAULT
Kingsman: The Secret Service/Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
Before he showed considerable straight dramatic chops, to say nothing of singing ability, Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) co-starred as a juvenile delinquent groomed to be a super-sophisticated James Bond-style secret agent. Mostly action and drama, but some humor.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.