Yesterday, Rocket Man, Bohemian Rhapsody

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Yesterday directed by Danny Boyle is all the movie poster promises — it’s a feel-good movie of the summer. If, you are a Beatles fan. If you aren’t bothered by the preposterous premise, and if you enjoy the direction of Danny Boyle. I can say “yes” to all my ifs, so I enjoyed the movie. It’s a nostalgic, love story paying homage to The Beatles and that was Danny Boyle’s intent. The strength of the film owes to the performance of Himesh Patel who is the boy-next-door nowhere man, Jack Malik, who suffers a twelve-second bicycle accident and wakes up as the only one on the planet who knows who the Beatles are. He becomes the rock n roll star by passing himself off as the originator of the Beatles music. Feeling guilty for living a lie, he wins the girl, straightens things out, and they live happily ever after. First, when the script focused on the music — remembering the lyrics, the reactions to them — the music uplifts and is still timeless after all these years. I loved the scene where current pop star Ed Sheeran takes on Jack Malik in a song-writing contest at a party. “The Long and Winding Road” wins, what a surprise, and it’s Patel’s clear voice and emotion that sells it. Also, Jack Malik’s viper, L.A. manager Deborah, was played to perfection by Kate McKinnon. Finally, while it made no sense, I couldn’t help but gasp at the end of the movie where Jack Malik goes to a lone seaside house and knocks on the door. What a shock when the door opens. It would be a spoiler, so I’ll refrain from describing the scene except by saying it made me wish the scene were true. The weakest part of the movie was the love story. Poor Lily James, who could be Keira Knightley’s little sister, who played the one-dimensional girl-next-door, Ellie. Boring and predictable. I wanted Mr. Boyle to get back to the music. Favorite scene? “We all live in the Yellow Submarine.” Yes, a world without the songs of the Beatles would be a sad world, indeed. 3.7 of 5.

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I went to see Rocketman knowing it was more musical than a biopic. It has to be said that Elton grips my emotional heartstrings more than Queen or the Beatles. I vividly remember walking along dusty roads feeling lonely and uncomfortable with being twelve, and there was “Bennie and the Jets” playing on the radio. It cheered me up. I grew up listening to Elton. His over-the-top costumes and the sex, drugs, and rock and roll seemed “normal” for me living through the seventies and eighties. Therefore, little surprise, I enjoyed Rocketman very much. Taron Egerton possessed the talent to convince me he was Elton John. Director Dexter Fletcher took an audacious story and executed Elton’s life with some magical realism that worked for me. I enjoyed many of the dance numbers set to his songs to match the stage of his life. Two brilliant scenes stand out: “Pinball Wizard” choreographed to match Elton’s out of control lifestyle. The second when he announces on his swimming pool diving board that he is committing suicide. In he goes and he’s floating at the bottom of his pool looking up and singing “Rocketman”. Abused little Reggie (Matthew Illesley) accompanies the adult Elton (Taron Egerton) throughout the movie. The two learn how to forgive and survive. Melodramatic? Overplayed with the emotionally vacant father and condescending mother? You bet. The interesting parts of Elton’s life are not his sexual forays but his brotherly relationship with Bernie Taupin played perfectly by Jamie Bell. I was interested in the story of collaboration the most. It’s a film I could watch again if only for the outrageous costumes and dance numbers. I haven’t seen anything this crazy and fun since The Who’s Tommy. 4.2/5.

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Bohemian Rhapsody was released in November 2018, and I was surprised how much it affected my high school students. They were obsessed with Freddie Mercury and fell in love with Queen. I thought it amusing when I casually mentioned how they were from “my” generation and when I shared personal accounts about their songs from a person “who was there” (Live Aid Concert, televised) I held their attention. Anyway, the only thing really worth mentioning about is the fantastic performance by Rami Malek, who most are aware won the major awards. I was happy to see he got all his accolades. 4/5. 

Which one of the three did you like the best? There seems to be a trend, yes? What British star will we hail tomorrow? David Bowie must be curious about walking through that nostalgic turnstile. 

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