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I Hope You Don’t Mind That I Put Down In Words How Wonderful Rocketman Is…

Hot off the heels of the staggering success of the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody comes the next British musical star to have his story told on the big screen. Reginald Kenneth Dwight or Elton John as he likes to be called these days.

Just something I quickly want to  cover before I get into this. I should address is a slight problem I had with Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s rating. As I said in my review of the film, it was only rated 12A here in the U.K. which meant it couldn’t show some stronger elements of Freddie’s outrageous life. As much as I enjoyed the flick, it did feel a little diluted. Well Rocketman has a higher rating here, it’s been given a 15 certificate which means while still not exactly ‘adult’ (which would be an 18) it’s still a little more risque and can therefore delve into the slightly darker and more serious side of Elton John’s life… and it does. Elton John himself insisted they make it honestly and not to sugar coat anything. Rocketman is the first major Hollywood film to depict gay sex on screen for instance.

Rocketman is being billed as ‘a true fantasy’ or ‘musical fantasy’, so it’s not strictly meant to be a 100% factual telling of the life of Elton John. Then again, movie biopics never are, they all blend fact with fiction but Rocketman seems to be the only one to actually make that tit-bit part of it’s promotion, it’s telling you before you see it that it’s not going to be a 100% factual telling of the life of Elton John. It’s a fantasy, and fantasy is the perfect word to use too.

The Cast

I think it best to start this thing by looking at the main cast.

Jamie Bell plays Elt’s long time friend and lyric writer Bernie Taupin. He gives a subtle and quiet performance to counteract the hyperactive and overbearing style of Elton John. Their friendship really comes through in the film. There’s a good chunk of the flick where Taupin is absent as he feels he’s had enough of the high-life and goes back home (he should have stayed on the farm, should have listened to his old man) when Elt hits it big time. For those scenes and that part of the flick, Bell is really missed as the calming element to all the madness going on around and when he does return, that duality of two leads really works.

In the part of Elt’s manager/lover, John Reid is Richard Madden. A smooth but still rather nasty piece of work who would be more than happy seeing Elton John in a grave. As he says in the flick “I’ll still be collecting my 20% long after you’ve killed yourself.” They most definitely played Reid up to be much more of a villain than he was in real life. According to history, he was never a angel but was he ever really as evil as shown in the film? Anyway, it’s another good performance and one Madden seemed to enjoy playing.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elt’s mother, Sheila. If you know your Elton John history, then you already know they didn’t really get on, they didn’t speak to each other for years and only made up shorty before her death in 2017. The distance between the two is also shown in the film. It’s a strange performance as Shelia is never depicted as ice cold toward her son, but she’s definitely cold. There’s a scene where Elt comes out as gay over the phone to his mother and her response is pretty heartbreaking. It’s a subdued performance and perhaps the only one on the film I’m not quite sure on liking it or not.

Then of course we have to cover Elt’s father, Stanley played by Steven Mackintosh. Now this is an ice cold performance. He never hugs his son, never pays him much or any attention and Stanley walks out and leaves when Elt is still a boy.  The relationship shown in the film is horrendous and yet Elt never gives up. One of my favourite scenes in the film comes later when he tries to connect to his father once he’s become famous. I’m not going to spoil it here but the acting between Mackintosh as the father and Egerton as Elton John is tremendous. I don’t know, maybe I saw something deeper between the two as my father walked out when I was a kid too. Maybe that relationship shown in the film hit a nerve with me?

Rocketman Taron and Elton.jpg

Yes I’ve saved the best for last… Taron Egerton as Elton John. If Rami Malek can (deservedly) win an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury then Egerton deserves at least two. I need to get this out of the way first, Egerton singing sounds nothing like Elton John… but he was never meant to. The man himself advised Egerton not to copy him and do his own thing. And yes, that is Egerton actually singing too (unlike Malek), no he doesn’t sound like Elt… but the boy can sing and sing well too. As for the acting? Well he knocks it out of the park. From the first moment you see him in the film make a big entrance, the way he strides down the corridor is Elton John, the mannerisms are there and he has the smile down to a T… with a little help to get the gap-teeth right. Taron Egerton IS Elton John.

Oh, seeing as I like to throw in little bits of trivia when I wrote these things, how about this? When Taron Egerton was trying to get into RADA, he sang Your Song which helped him kick-start his career. Then he sang I’m Still Standing as a talented gorilla in the animated film Sing. Elton John appeared in the film Kingsman: The Golden Circle which starred Egerton. Seems Taron Egerton and Elton John have a link going back years.

The Film

I guess a quick synopsis of what the flick is about would be nice.

Obviously it’s about the life of Elton John, but like Bohemian Rhapsody before it, it’s not a full life story. What Rocketman tells is the story of Elt’s early life and career. It concentrates on young Reggie as a boy in Pinner, Middlesex, his strained relationship with his parents and him growing up in the mid 1950s, his becoming a pianist and forming his first band as a teenager, meeting Bernie Taupin for the first time in the 60s. To Elt’s early success,  eventual worldwide fame and his alcohol/drug abuse through the 70s to him finally becoming sober in the 80s. The film is told in flashback as it opens at the end with Elt checking himself into rehab in the 80s where he begins to tell his life story. We see his life unfold trough the decades inter-cut with Elt in the 80s pretty much confessing his sins.

Rocketman Bird Costume

As I said earlier, this is not a straight up biopic, it’s a musical fantasy. The best way to describe this would be with one of the earlier scenes with older Elton John from the 80s signing a duet of The Bitch Is Back with his younger-self from the 50s in the neighbourhood he grew up in with all his neighbours signing and dancing in the street. That’s the kind of films this is, where people will just spontaneously burst into song and dance to further to story. With a standard biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody, as great as the music is… it’s just music in a film. With Rocketman, the music is part of the storytelling, the songs and lyrics used take on a very different meaning when paired with the images on screen. It’s not just music in Rocketman, it’s musical storytelling and it’s really effective too. I have a much deeper understanding of Taupin’s words after watching this film.

And the flick is full of these kind of moments where things are not 100% true to life. I mean there’s a scene where ten year old Elt in the 1950s sings the song I Want Love with his family, a song that won’t exist for another forty odd years until 2001. Again, it doesn’t make sense in regards to the timeline it’s completely anachronistic but within the context of the film itself and the bit of the story being told at the point, it makes perfect sense and is logical. It’s a musical fantasy and it’s marvellous.

Rocketman Suicide

There are some truly amazing moments in the picture both from the music and just good old fashioned acting. The Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) number of the film where young boy Elt transitions into young man Elt is great. A stunning musical number with a lot of life. People are up and dancing, it even turns into a Bollywood thing for a while and is full of energy. Then there’s a scene when adult Elt, now a world famous rock star tries to reconcile with his absent farther… which doesn’t end happily and the acting is sublime, no singing, no dancing, just pure top-notch acting. Two very different sides of the same coin. Rocketman is a strange cocktail of several elements that most probably shouldn’t really work together and yet they do.

The mixing of fact and fiction is masterfully done. There a scene where Elt attempts suicide (without going into detail), it ends with him sinking to the bottom of his swimming pool where he sees his ten year old self and starts a Rocket Man duet. Now the suicide attempt was real, it happened in 1975… but I’m pretty certain that Elt singing a duet of Rocket Man underwater with his younger self didn’t actually happen. This is that mixing of fact and fiction that works and the film is full of it. Just after the suicide attempt, Elt is quickly dressed and pushed out on stage to perform. It all happens within a minute or two on screen in a staggering and disturbing dance routine that involves stomach pumping. The thing is that it was not that far removed from reality as only two days after the suicide attempt in 1975, Elt was on stage performing. That was just one of the many moments of pure fantasy and surrealism, I loved it.

There’s a lot of this kind of symbolic stuff through the flick too. As I said before, it starts with Elton John checking himself into rehab in the 80s. And it’s done in typical Elt fashion as he walks in wearing (what can only be described as) an Elvis style jumpsuit in bright orange full of sequins complete with a pair of wings and devil horns. You know what, it’ll be easier to just show you…

Rocketman Devil Costume.jpg

That’s the one. Completely lavish and over the top, pure Elt. Anyway, as the film progresses and as it jumps from the flashbacks of Elt growing up and becoming famous to him sitting in rehab. As he tells his story and as more and more sins get confessed to the group he’s taking to, the costume is slowly removed piece by piece. Showing the death of old Elt and the start the new, clean and sober Elt by the time the film ends. Subtle but clever stuff. Plus there is a moment near the end where ten year old Reginald Dwight gets a hug. Now reading that it pretty meaningless, but watching the film in it’s entirety and understanding that moment – I tell ya, I had a tear in my eye.

As I said before, the film has a 15 certificate, which means more ‘adult’ content can be shown as apposed to Bohemian Rhapsody’s 12A rating. Here drug use is shown as Elt snorts his way through so much cocaine, it would make Tony Montana green with envy. There’s plenty of swearing and if you know of Elt’s infamous tantrums… they’d need to be make him believable. Oh and there is the gay sex scene that is being made a big deal of. It’s really not that big of a deal, at least not for me. It’s not graphic and filmed tastefully too. I really do not see why others are kicking up such a fuss… it’s just a sex scene, a very tame one at that. Let me put it this way, I watched the film with my Mum and when we talked about the film afterwards, neither of us talked about the sex scene. Not because we were embarrassed but because it was nothing. The music, the acting, the story – now that’s worth talking about. The sex scene? It’s just a sex scene, calm down everyone.

Rocketman Elton Toilet

I don’t want to dwell too much on the story as to not spoil anything major but it’s a damn fine piece of film making and well worth watching. Director Dexter Fletcher (who stepped in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody when that flick ran into trouble) is clearly having a ball making this film. It’s bright, vibrant, emotional and funny. As mentioned, it has some sublime surreal moments and when the film keeps drifting into pure fantasy, it’s marvellous. A fairy tale who’s roots are firmly in the real world.

The Music

It’s Elton John, of course the music is great… except it not Elton John. This may need a little explaining. Elt doesn’t sing a single note in the film, they don’t use existing recordings either. See, normally in these musical biopics, they have the actor mime to recordings (or a sound-a-like) of the artist they are playing. With Rocketman, that’s not Elton John singing, it’s Taron Egerton singing every note. Every song has been re-recorded with new arrangements to fit the story of movie, so you’ll hear some new versions of classic tunes. Egerton singing Tiny Dancer was a particular highlight for me.

Rocketman Elton

The songs are integral to the story too. As I said before, Bernie Taupin’s lyrics have a much deeper meaning when the songs are used in the film. I don’t think I’ll ever listen to Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road the same way again.

Overall

Rocketman is superb. The story can be summed up pretty easily. It’s a film about a boy/man just wanting to be loved… that’s about it. But it’s how this tale is put together that makes it stand out. The acting is sublime, the music is astounding and the directing both crazy and wonderful.

When we came out of the cinema, Mum said to me that she thought Rocketman was far better than Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t think I can honestly make that claim because for me they are way too different to compare. Yeah they are both biopics of English rock stars but they are very different species of the same animal. I think both films are amazing but for very different reasons.

You know, I think I managed to put my finger on best how to describe this flick, you can’t just call it a biopic as it’s much more than that. It’s one of those classic ‘rock opera’ films from the 70s. The Rocky Horror Show, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Tommy (which featured Elton John). All those crazy and experimental flicks that told amazing stories through music… that’s what Rocketman is. Or I guess I could just stick with the promotion of the film itself – it’s a ‘musical fantasy’.

Rocketman is a film that’ll stay with me for a “long long time…”

 

Oh, just write the fucking songs, Bernie. Let me handle the rest!

– Elton John

 

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The Boy From The Hood, John Singleton

I was doing a spot of writing last night when “John Singleton Dead At 51” popped up on my news feed. I didn’t pay it much attention to it because of the age mentioned, I didn’t think it could be the same John Singleton I’m thinking of as he was older… so I thought.

Sadly it was the same John Singleton.

I don’t know, I always just thought he was older in his late 60s/early 70s, and there’s a reason why I thought that too – which I’ll get to later.

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1968, Singleton. He lived on the streets and knew some of the characters from his films personally. His life could’ve gone in a very different direction, he could have gone the easy route and turned to crime… but he didn’t Singleton chose films and graduated from USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1990. The next year he wrote and directed his first film. Through the early 90s and Singleton made big waves.

John Singleton 2.jpg

1993’s Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur told the story of Justice (Jackson) who after the death of her boyfriend falls into depression. She begins writing poetry as a form of therapy. Enter Lucky (Shakur) and after a rocky start, the two become close. They go on a road trip with their friends and soon discover how much they have in common. Poetic Justice is an okay film, it’s not bad, it’s not great. But it’s certainly watchable.

Higher Learning from 1995 is a film following the lives of three freshmen at Columbus University and how their lives intertwine, leading to a bloody and shocking resolve.  A film very much of it’s age and one you’d have great difficulty in getting made today. Definitely one of Singleton’s best.

1997’s Rosewood was a departure from Singleton’s style and tone. This was based on a true story, that of the 1923 Rosewood massacre in Florida. With an impressive cast including; Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Jon Voight and Michael Rooker. When a small town becomes the target for racists, the residents learn to stand up for themselves and fight back. Things get violent and bloody as the small town fight escalates into riots. Rosewood wasn’t a commercial success, it lost money. But critics loved it and rightly so, with some claiming it to be Singleton’s best film. Well worth watching.

In 2000, Singleton brought back one of cinema’s greatest characters…

Shaft

Shaft… not a remake as many people erroneously claim of the 1970s films but a sequel starring Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson plays the nephew of the original John Shaft from the 70s flicks. The original Shaft is even in this film. When NYPD cop John Shaft (Jackson) investigates a clearly racially motivated murder and the killer gets off due to his connections, Shaft quits the force and becomes a private detective (just like his uncle). He then takes to the streets to track down and bring the killer to his own brand of justice.

Shaft was a cracking flick. It was hardly high art, but it wasn’t aiming to be. It’s an action romp and Jackson playing John Shaft is amazing. The film was so good that only a short nineteen years later and it’s getting a sequel (confusingly) also called Shaft with three generations of Shafts kicking ass. Though John Singleton had nothing to do with this one…

Singleton’s career continued through the 2000s as a writer, director and producer with films like Baby Boy, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers and Abduction to name a few all with varying degrees of success. In the later years, Singleton turned his talent to T.V. directing episodes of Empire, American Crime Story and Billions. He even co-created, wrote, directed and produced the T.V. show Snowfall. Oh and he directed the Michael Jackson (I’m not afraid to use his name) music video Remember the Time in 1992.

Of course there’s one film I’ve not yet mentioned, John’s first from 1991 and the reason I always thought of him as being older…

Boyz N The Hood.jpg

Boyz N The Hood was one of those early 90s “gangsta” flicks that were popping up everywhere back then. There was this surge of black, urban films doing the rounds as gangsta rap exploded on the scene and most of the films were terrible. Some were good and a very small number were amazing. Boyz N The Hood fell into the latter. The film was and still is genius and for me John Singleton’s best ever film… sadly. I mean that as it’s a shame he’ll never get the chance to try and better it.

The film tells the tale of childhood friends Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Darrin “Doughboy” (Ice Cube), Ricky (Morris Chestnut) and Chris (Kenneth A. Brown) living and growing up in South Central, Los Angeles. The film starts in 1984 and shows the friends dong what 10 year old boys do… getting into trouble. The film jumps forward to 1991 with the kids now grown up and young men. Their friendship is tested and it looks like the boys might be splitting up for various reasons especially with both Tre and Ricky wanting to better themselves and get away from the life of crime that Doughboy and Chris seem to enjoy.

With an impressive cast including; Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett and Nia Long. Honestly, this flick is brilliant. This is Singleton at his rawest, he was only twenty three at the time and yet he wrote and directed this? For someone of such a young age, that’s impressive. That is why I had always though of Singleton as being older, because this film does not feel like a person just out if his twenties wrote and directed it. This flick feels like a much older man as behind it and I mean that in a respectful way. I’ve seen films from people who have been in the industry for decades that are not as well written and directed as Boyz N The Hood. There’s a lot of maturity here, a lot of pathos. A level of experience with emotions I thought came from a man in his late thirties/early forties not someone who was aged just twenty three. You want to know what I was dong at that age? Not writing and directing such a brilliant film. I love this flick so much that I have it playing as I write this…

Boyz N The Hood TV

Singleton was and still is the youngest person to ever be nominated for a directors Oscar as well as being the first black man (no I’m not using the term “African-American” as I don’t see an issue with colour. Love your skin man) too for this film. Sadly he didn’t win, he lost out to The Silence of the Lambs (directing) and Thelma & Louise (screenplay). And as great as those two films are, they are nothing compared to Boyz N The Hood. The Oscar board were wrong, so very, very wrong.

Singleton suffered a stoke on 17th of April, 2019 and was placed in intensive care. He fell into a coma on the 25th and on the 29th, he was taken off life support and died aged just fifty one.

John Singleton changed black cinema forever and his influence will be felt for many years to come. The boy from the hood did good.

John Singleton BnW.jpg

“The cinema saved me from being a delinquent. I could have been, but I didn’t get caught up. I never was going to get arrested or anything.”

– John Singleton

Avengers: Endgame, My Thoughts, Very Light Spoilers

So I got to see the epic finale to eleven years and twenty two films in the making and just wanted to offer my thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.

Now, I will be treading into SPOILER territory here. However – I’m going to tread lightly and avoid specifics. I’m not even using any pictures in this article just incase something accidentally slips in. I will highlight plot points including the ending but won’t go into exact detail on those points. So from this moment on, if you don’t mind knowing some of the basics then read on. But if you want to go into the film 100% blind then skip this article. Again, very light SPOILERS ahead…

I guess the first thing to bring up is my previous concern about time travel. Yes time travel does play a major role in the film… but it’s actually handled far better than I thought it would be. It was pretty clear that they’d have to go back in time to fix the fact Thanos killed 50% of the population of the universe, including a big chunk of the heroes. I really didn’t want them to get lazy and just hit the reset button… and they don’t.

The rules of the time travel are very clever in that you can’t just go into the past to change the present, nothing can change the present. If it’s happened then its happened. So going back and stopping Thanos would be pointless as he’s always going to collect the stones and gauntlet and always click his fingers. Again, I’m going to avoid specifics but let me just say that my biggest fear of them just going back in time and hitting the reset button does not happen even though they do go back in time.

I guess next I need to cover the return of all those who died in Avengers: Infinity War via Thanos’ click finger thing. We all knew even back then they would be coming back, of course they would… and they do. You don’t kill off Spider-Man after only a few appearances and expect the audience to believe it will be permanent – especially when you already have another Spider-Man film in the works. I’m not going to cover exactly how it happens, but just point out how well I feel they handled the return. See, my biggest worry aside from hitting the rest button (which they don’t do) was that I was concerned with how the characters would react after coming back from the dead as I didn’t want them just coming back not knowing of feeling the effects of what Thanos did.

This again is handled well. The best example given is when Peter Parker comes back and sees Tony Stark. Peter even says how he remembers everything, how he was turned to dust. He remembers dying. Which is very important for the character moving forward he and the rest have to know they failed to feel the effects in order to grow as characters.

Speaking if death, yes there are two major deaths in the movie. You have to remember there’s no coming back from these deaths either. I’m not going to say who dies or how but will just say how they worked in the film. The first was unexpected I admit… but also a bit dry. I just didn’t feel any great loss when it happened. I was just like; “Okay, so they’re dead then.” The second one is the polar opposite. I pretty much saw this death coming even going back to Infinity War. All through this film, I felt it was obvious this character would be killed off. Yet even with me knowing it would happen, I didn’t know how and when it did – it really worked. It’s an effective death and one that has been earned.

Okay so there was technically a third “death” in a sense. This one happens in the final few minutes of the film. I’m not sure how best to cover this without spoiling it. A major character dies, but the person behind that character does not… if that makes sense. It’s a very bitter-sweet end to both the character and the film. Fitting and satisfying. For me, my favourite part of the film was the final five minutes or so.

Let’s just get away from the more heavier moments for a whole and cover the humour. The film is as funny as it is emotionally draining. This is something Marvel films have always excelled at and Endgame is no exception. There are some really tense and suspenseful. Scenes of utter devastation and despair. And yet the film is still chock-full of funny quips and scenes. Hulk being a great source of the humour. From him messing around and experimenting with the time travel to him having to walk down some stairs… trust me it’s funner than it sounds.

Then there’s Thor. Oh my, what they do to Thor in this is hilarious. That’s something most definitely best not to spoil even in the slightest. It’s a funny, funny film and it’s not overused humour or in anyway misplaced. The humour is peppered though the film and just works.

If I have any criticisms then they’re only a couple. I don’t see the point in Captain Marvel as a character here. She really does seem like an afterthought and just shoehorned in because… why not? She doesn’t feel all that important to the film or the team. When you have characters like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the others who have been around for years and have worked off each other for the last decade or so. You feel their kinship the camaraderie between them. With Captain Marvel, she’s just too new to fit for me. Her debut movie only came out a month or so before this and yet she’s supposed to just slide into this epic finale as if she’s always been a part of it? She just turns up when it’s convenient for the plot. She just did not work for me and perhaps should’ve been saved for Marvel’s next phase and to kick-start a new ongoing epic. I’m pretty sure this film could’ve worked just as well without her.

Am I the only person utterly bored of these huge, epic battles? I realised how disinterested I am in these dozens upon dozens of CGI character orgies when I watched Ready Player One. Aside from playing spot the 80s icon… which was fun, I was just so tired of seeing the mass-mess of characters smashing people in the face. It’s tired now, dozens upon dozens of people stand at opposite ends of the battlefield, they stare at each other before letting out a war cry and run toward each other – screaming all the way, until they smash togther in a CGI rumble.

Of course I knew going in that the film would have to climax in a CGI-fest mass brawl. It’s not as if I thought The Avengers would just shake Thanos’ hand and call a truce. But it does not matter how many times filmmakers do these Lord of The Rings CGI battles, I just do not care for them. There are a few smaller and more personal fights that I found far more entertaining and interesting to watch – one featuring Captain America springs to mind. I’d be quite happy to never sit though another epic CGI battle ever again.

I’m also willing to bet that on repeat viewings that they’ll be problems with the time travel. There always are with time travel movies. In fact I can already think of a couple of issues.

Overall, Avengers: Endgame is a satisfying finale to an epic story line that has taken over a decade to be told. It’s a finale that isn’t that final and more so the start of a new beginning. I’m looking forward to what Marvel have planned from this point onward and how the aftermath from Endgame will surely feed into the up coming Spider-Man: Far From Home which should bridge the gap bewteen the end of this Thanos storyline as a new one begins.

Ready To Feel Ancient? The Matrix Is Twenty Years Old

Originally released on the 31st of March way back in the space year of 1999. The Matrix was the brainchild of Andy and Larry Wachowski the then Wachowski brothers… that’s a whole other article in itself. The Matrix changed cinema for years with it’s groundbreaking effects work. But it was not a film that was all looks an no substance, The Matrix is a flick that can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Just watch it as a kick-ass action romp and enjoy it on that level – or delve into its more philosophical elements and how it questions reality and existence.

I still remember the day I went to the cinema to watch the film. You have to bear in mind that we are talking about a film made by relatively unknowns. This was only the Wachowski brothers (yes I know, but at the time they were brothers) second film after the taught and incredibly sexy and stylish thriller Bound from 1996. Bound was very much an underground hit. It had it’s fans (I’m one) but it was hardly Hollywood blockbuster material – so expectations were low for The Matrix. Then there were the stars like Laurence Fishburne who now is instantly recognisable, but back in 1999? He was known as that guy from the Tina Turner biopic or Max from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Carrie-Anne Moss, aside from some bit-parts in T.V. shows, she was unknown and The Matrix was her big breakthrough. Hugo Weaving was perhaps even more unknown than anyone else in the main cast unless you were Australian. Joe Pantoliano had already had a steady acting carer by the time 1999 came around mainly playing bit-parts and character roles. He starred in the previously mentioned Bound… and that’s about all he would’ve been known for back then unless you were a die hard Goonies fan.

Plus it was a time when the internet was still till in its infancy, we didn’t have super-fast fibre optic broadband to watch trailers with, no social networks to spread the word, no smartphones to catch up on movie news on the go… it was a very different time.

The Matrix Cast

Oh and there was some guy by the name of Keanu Reeves. Yeah a household name now but not back in 1999, he was really only known for comedy rolls like the Bill & Ted films and small indie films. I guess the action flick Speed could be seen as his foot in the door of action cinema but he was still hardly known as an action film star afterwards in the same way he is today. It’s not as if Speed was to Keanu what Die Hard was to Bruce Willis. So really with The Matrix you had writer/directors not really know for anything with a cast of actors no one really cared about. It was not an easy film to see any merit in.

So yeah, quite honestly I had zero interest in the film. My brother called me up and asked if I wanted to go to the cinema – I had nothing going on so said yes. Didn’t see any trailers, paid no attention to who was in the film or who made it. Had no idea what I was going to watch just went along because I was bored and had nothing else to do. I went into the film 100% blind. But when I came out of that cinema? The first thought that went though my head was that must have been what it was like to have seen Star Wars at the cinema for the first time back in 1977. I felt that The Matrix was a game changer as if cinema had just taken several jumps forward not just in terms of effects work but also storytelling. I just knew then and there that The Matrix was something special, that people would still be talking about it decades later… twenty years later and here I am.

The Matrix Pills

But the big question is, two decades later, does The Matrix hold up? We live in an age where films date quickly. I’ve certainly seen films in the last decade or so that feel old only months after release. Yet some films are timeless no matter when they were made – The Matrix is one of them. Aside from some of the questionable technobabble and dated references/technology (remember when everyone wanted one of those Nokia flick phones?). The effects are still impressive, bullet time may not hold the impact it did when you first saw it, but it still looks good and just as satisfying as ever. The fight sequences are as exciting as they were back in 1999. Shoot outs are heart-pumping, that lobby scene is still one of the best shoot outs ever caught on film. As an action picture, The Matrix delivers. But it’s not just the impressive action sequences and still amazing effects work that hold up after twenty years. It’s the writing, the storytelling. It’s when you really get into the deeper aspects of The Matrix when the film comes to life.

The basic of good vs evil, human vs machine is nothing special I admit and yes the whole fulfilling a prophecy, being ‘the One’ shtick got tiresome. The love thing between Neo and Trinity was trite. Yet it’s the questioning reality, self-existence and everything that comes with it where the story excels. The multi-layered and textured story telling is fascinating and I love getting lost in the questioning of reality, the two worlds shown in the film – the simulation that is The Matrix and the real world of a desolate future where humans are dying out compliment each other perfectly. When Joe Pantoliano’s Cypher wants out of the real world by betraying his crew mates and when he is offered to be reinserted into The Matrix with a whole new life. The line “ignorance is bliss” he says speaks volumes. Seriously, given the choice of living in on a dead planet being hunted by machines, fighting a war that seemingly has no end or living in ignorance inside The Matrix is a tough call. I can’t be the only person who has often wondered if there is something better out there, something other than the life we believe is all we have?

The Matrix Gun

I’m going off on bit of a tangent here, but I quite honestly could write lengthy articles just on how deep The Matrix goes.  I don’t mean to get into questioning one’s own existence but just to look back at The Matrix after two decades and see if it still holds up. It does, very much so. Having just re-watched the film for the first time in a good few years – I still found it thoroughly entertaining. As I said earlier, it’s a film you can watch on so many levels. Yes it’s a great action flick, but it also asks and addresses much deeper themes and ideas if you really look beyond what is shown on the screen.

I’m not a fan of DVD commentaries, I find it’s usually full of nothing but overpaid people inflating their own egos by making themselves sound like cinematic geniuses. But the commentary for The Matrix is very different and highly unique. Instead of having the Wachowskis harp on about how creative and insightful they are, they decided not to do the commentary themselves. Instead what you get are two commentary tracks. One is from two film critics that didn’t like the film, while the other is from two philosophers who did. The two commentary tracks are amazingly interesting and show how one can perceive the film from two very different standpoints. The critics are negative but bring up several interesting flaws (some stupid ones too). While the philosophers, understandably get deeper into the subtleties of the story. Their polar opposite views really are interesting to hear and yet they really work together. Well worth checking out. I came out with a very different view of The Matrix after listening to the two commentary tracks.

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The Matrix is my generation’s Star Wars. Even two decades since it’s release, there just hasn’t been anything like it… plenty of imitators that have tired to delve into the depth The Matrix offers, countless flicks doing similar/same effects work – and yet none of them have managed to capture what made The Matrix so special, not even it’s own sequels and spin-offs.

It’s a film that is still talked about twenty years after it’s release and will probably still be talked about in another twenty, and still relevant in today’s cinema. Even films coming out soon like to throw in a The Matrix reference now and then, it seems even Keanu Reeves himself can’t escape them…

 

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.”

 

– Morpheus

Will Avengers: Endgame Do A Bobby Ewing?

SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: Infinity War.

It’s been a long time coming. What Marvel Studios have crafted with their shared universe is nothing short of genius. Whether you like the films or not, you can’t help but admire the sheer amount of planning, writing and overall work put into it. From separate flicks to interconnected ones and sequels. Films from so many different writers and directors all coming together to form one huge multi-layered universe. In short, it’s really bloody impressive. And everything has been leading up to to this one movie – Avengers: Endgame will see the resolve to the whole Infinity Stones/Thanos story arch that begun a decade ago and after last year’s Avengers: Infinity War which left many people with their jaws on the floor –  shit needs sorting out.

Infinity War Thanos

A lot of characters died in the last film… a lot. Some of them a shock, some of them no so much when you already know Marvel have planned films in advance… I’m looking at you Spider-Man. Still, the ending to Avengers: Infinity War has left a lot of fans theorising over exactly how the whole Thanos killing half the population of the entire universe is going to be resolved and how the many dead characters will return. And it’s one the most popular theories that is leaving me worried about Avengers: Endgame.

See this theory (click here for a full explanation) revolves around how and why Peter Parker is wearing the normal Spider-Man suit in the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer when the film is set after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Because Tony Stark gave Peter the Iron Spider suit which is far more advanced… so why isn’t Peter wearing the better suit?

Well the theory goes that what is left of the Avengers will somehow reverse time (possibly something to do with the Quantum Realm/Ant-Man and Captain Marvel) to an earlier point and stop Thanos or at least stop him from collecting the Gauntlet/Infinity Stones to begin with. No Thanos means no Infinity Gauntlet, no Infinity Stones, no clicky finger thing = no 50% of the universe are wiped out. Which also means Stark never needs to give Parker the Iron Spider suit… ergo, that’s why he does not have it in the new Spider-Man film. That’s the theory anyway.

Infinity War Iron Spider

You want to hear my theory? Well Peter Parker goes on an international school trip in Spider-Man: Far From Home, an international trip that involves going on an aeroplane. Which also means going though airports and airport security. Now, which do you think would be the easier of the suits to get through airport security? The normal Spider-Man suit or the Iron Spider one? Another theory could be he does have the Iron Spider suit, but you just don’t see it in the trailer but it will be in the film. 

Of course there is one thing my theory does not explain… how the fuck is Peter Parker alive anyway when he most definitely was turned to dust by Thanos’ clicky finger thing? See this is where the turning back time thing holds some water. Again, Spider-Man: Far From Home takes place AFTER the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and Spider-Man be dead at the end of Infinity War, but now he’s alive after these events?

Infinity War I dont feel so good

So let’s just say that yes they do turn back time and yes they do stop Thanos from collecting the Infinity Gauntlet/Stones (theory). So now everyone that died in Avengers: Infinity War can come back from the dead for (some of) Avengers: Endgame and subsequent films. I have a major issue with this because its lazy just writing. You can’t just hit the reset button after ten years of building to this entire event. All these flicks, all these characters, all these interweaving stories and plots… and they are just going to Booby Ewing it? Everything has been simmering away for a decade to reach this boiling point while Marvel have been carefully pre-planning each and every movie years in advance… only to say: “You know that whole Thanos murdering half of the population of the universe thing? Well it didn’t happen, in fact a lot of the events you have been emotionally invested in the last ten years didn’t happen… okay so technically they did but now we’re going to delete it so they didn’t.”

No, just no. You can’t do that to people who have invested hours up on hours into your movies – not to mention the cash fans have spent supporting this story line. It would be such a slap in the face if (IF) the time travel/stopping Thanos thing was the plot for Avengers: Endgame. Not just for the fans either as it’ll be cheating the characters in the film if they don’t have to deal with the repercussions of everything that happened in Avengers: Infinity War. Again, this is just a fan theory, maybe there will be no time travel at all? I hope not.

Still, I guess we’ll find out in a little over a month’s time when the film is released…

Bobby Ewing

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Neverland… Controversial?

I’m a bit of a Michael Jackson fan, I’m not one of those die hard, won’t listen to reason, he definitely didn’t do it types. In all honesty, I’m more inclined to believe he was a paedophile than not believe it. However, I don’t have any strong feelings or opinions either way. There’s too much time past to actually prove anything and I don’t think anyone will ever know the truth. But let’s just say that (for the sake of argument) it was 100% proven that he did sexually abuse children… I wouldn’t be surprised. That’s pretty much my stance on the whole thing.

MJ Bad

I grew up listening to his music and in my opinion, Bad was his last great album. After that, I think he lost his way musically and that’s when I lost interest in him, he got too ‘preachy’ in his music after Bad. So when the first wave of allegations came around in 1993 – I just didn’t really care that much and I’ve showed little interest since then with any other allegations made after those first ones.

Which brings me to this documentary that’s dividing opinions. Some say this documentary is full of shit, others think it’s a damning indictment that proves MJ’s guilt. Honestly, I really had no desire to watch it. As I said, I lost interest a long time ago. But watch it I have, we’ll the first half anyway. I didn’t watch it to form an opinion on the subject, I watched it due to the backlash that had come about due to its existence…

So far radio stations are refusing to play MJ’s music. The Simpsons producers have pulled the episode he featured in. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has removed all of it’s MJ memorabilia. Louis Vuitton has removed it’s MJ themed clothing from sale. As for MJ’s family/estate themselves… well let’s just say they’re not impressed. It seems this documentary has ruffled a lot of feathers. That’s why I watched because I’m trying to understand the effect the documentary is having. I mean, for big name brands pulling support and radio stations not playing his music and so on… there’s got to be something in the documentary that’s pretty concrete at proving MJ’s guilt… right?

So yeah, I went into this pretty much sitting on the fence. But maybe just leaning slightly in the he’s guilty camp, but as I said before – I don’t really have any strong feelings one way or the other.

Just a quick catch-up. Leaving Neverland is a four hour, two part documentary where Wade Robson and James Safechuck claim MJ sexually abused them when they were kids. They sit there telling their stories to the camera inter-cut with home video footage of these now grown men as kids along with MJ concert footage, etc.

Leaving Neverland Accusers

That’s all the documentary really is, just two grown men telling a story. Sometimes the families of the accusers chip in with a few comments, but it’s mainly just Wade Robson and James Safechuck telling of their relationships with MJ and how he sexually abused them over the years. This is where I have a big problem with this documentary as that’s it… just two guys telling a story. There’s zero evidence, zero proof of anything and just a case of ‘He Said, She Said’. The way both of them talk just feels disingenuous, it’s like they are reading off a script and not from the heart, as if they’ve practised and rehearsed each and every word and what you are watching is the best take of the day. Now I’m not saying that these guys and their families are lying… just that it feels ‘off’ and lacks genuine emotion.

As I said, this is a four hour, two part documentary split into two separate two hour parts and the first time any sexual abuse comes to light is around 40 minutes into the first part when James Safechuck claims MJ introduced him to masturbation. Then he goes on this soliloquy of quite unconvincing claims of various times he was sexually abused by MJ. There’s a part where Safechuck just lists rooms in the Neverland ranch and says “we had sex there” after each one. It all comes across as just being very “scripted”. I watch a few documentaries covering all sorts of subjects and I note how people often break down when they recount events from their past that have traumatised them. Here, there’s none of that. It’s really just two guys telling a story. A very emotionless and banal story. It’s a documentary with a lot of filler and not real meat to the stories being told. No need for this to be two hours long when what is told could’ve been told in 30-40 minutes.

The end of the first part just boils down to how Wade Robson became jealous when MJ befriended Macaulay Culkin (who for the record has always said MJ never abused him). That’s what this documentary comes across as, two now grown men jealous that MJ found other friends when they were kids.

If I went into this having no strong opinion but leaning more toward believing that MJ was guilty, then after watching this documentary… I not convinced of anything – innocence or guilt. Leaving Neverland has done nothing to sway me. This is why I’m not understanding the backlash the documentary is having. I don’t get why The Simpsons have pulled the MJ episode or why radio stations refuse to play his music and so on. Why are MJ’s family getting so upset when the documentary is so unconvincing? Because there is nothing here but hearsay. It’s a bad documentary that does nothing (in my eyes) to prove anything.

MJ Simpsons

As I said, I’ve only watched the first part. Maybe the real damning evidence is in the second part? Maybe that is where the meat and reasoning for this whole backlash, for the pulling of The Simpsons episode and everything else lies? The first part is two hours of sheer boredom and unconvincing stories and I just can not fathom the fallout the documentary is creating.

I’m going to watch the second part now and see if that can change my mind and help me understand why this documentary is so controversial.

Dick Miller, One Of Hollywood’s Greatest Character Actors.

I don’t have time to do a full and detailed look at the life of the recently deceased Dick Miller as I’m fully immersed in writing my novel right now. But I just had to do this, a quick remembrance from me to one of my all time favourite character actors who recently died aged 90. So I apologise in advance for the lack of material in this one, Mr Miller deserves so much better.

Dick Miller Young.png

Many people may not recognise the name, but the face is a different matter. Everyone has seen a film with Dick Miller in it… everyone. He started his career back in the 1950s with low budget horror flicks like It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth and A Bucket of Blood directed by schlock master Roger Corman. Dick also appeared in the original film version of The Little Shop of Horrors as well as turning up in The Dirty Dozen in the 60s. His career has spanned from the 1950s right up to 2018. He never really made a leading man but would always pop up in smaller roles in some of my most favourite moves ever, The Terminator, Gremlins – he even turned up in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. He would often play a character called Walter Paisley or same variation of the name, which started back in the Roger Corman days.

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Outside of his move career, Dick also had a good few strong T.V. appearances. Shows like The Flash (original version not the new one), Tales From The Crypt, Eerie – Indiana, Fame and Star Trek: The Next Generation to name just a few. As well as doing voice acting in animated movies, T.V. shows and even video games. He was a very busy man.

Dick Miller was one of the most recognisable faces in movies and T.V. even if the name didn’t ring a bell. He will be sadly missed. Dick passed away on 30th of January, 2019 aged 90.

It’s funny, looking at a picture that’s 50 years old and seeing that it hasn’t lost any of the… what’s the word? Magic, they had magic. They were cheap. They were inexpensive to make, but they’ve held up for 50 years.

– Dick Miller