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Rocketman review: nearly as shiny and spectacular as its subject

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Any movie about Elton John would have to be much, much larger than life. Its spectacular subject has been a legend for decades, his songs ubiquitous, his stage presence iconic.

So when I say there are at least four movies knocking around in Rocketman, I don’t mean it as a slight. It’s a biopic and a jukebox musical and a romance, and also a movie about addiction, all crammed into a frenetic, jewel-studded ecstasy of a movie.

And you know what? For the most part, I think it works.

Rocketman is smart enough to not try to outshine its star. It’s flashy because Elton John is a light source all his own. It’s absolutely exploding with energy because Elton John is its pulse. It stumbles a few times — as has its subject — but on the whole, it’s a consistently good performance from start to finish, a movie rooted in a real story that nonetheless doesn’t keep itself too tethered to the ground.

Which is a bit of a relief. You don’t have to be a fan of Elton John’s music to know his music; even the most pop culture-oblivious person knows “Your Song,” and “Tiny Dancer,” and “Rocket Man.” And it’s easy, watching Taron Egerton play Elton John whipping a crowd into a frenzy, to understand his genius. It’s a solid introduction to the singer that is also guaranteed to please his fans.

And if the movie doesn’t reach his level, well, that’s fine. Can you really blame it?

Rocketman turns Elton John’s life into a musical, scored by himself

Rocketman has been a passion project for Dexter Fletcher, who was originally attached to direct an R-rated version of last year’s Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. That film was taken from him by 20th Century Fox and handed to Bryan Singer; when Singer was eventually fired from the project after going AWOL from the set, Fletcher was brought back on to finish and clean it up. (According to Fletcher, the film’s star, Rami Malek, told him that if Fletcher were to “come to set and shit on the floor, you’ll still do a better job than this guy.”)

Fletcher didn’t get a directorial credit on Bohemian Rhapsody, which turned out curiously bland for centering on such a flashy figure, but the movie was still a monster box office hit and nabbed nominations and wins throughout awards season.

Now it seems safe to say that Fletcher’s own time has come, and he’s made a movie that is, above all, aggressively not bland. It opens with Elton John (Egerton, who is excellent throughout), in a fiery orange, campy sequined devil suit with horns, striding through a hallway that looks like it might be backstage at a venue but turns out to be the hallway to an AA meeting. He plops himself into a chair, declares himself to be addicted to alcohol — and cocaine, and pills, and weed, and plenty of other things — and starts telling his life story to the slightly dumbfounded group.


Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman.
David Appleby/Paramount Pictures

That rock-bottom moment provides the film’s frame, which means this is more than just a paint-by-numbers saunter through the life of an icon. The screenplay by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot, War Horse) tells the tale of a deeply lonely, deeply insecure man with addiction who’s launched to fame early but has a lot of hurdles to clear before he can learn to be a human.

Those hurdles start when he’s a child in an unhappy home, raised by a bitter mother (Bryce Dallas Howard), an attentive grandmother (Gemma Jones), and an emotionally absent father (Steven Mackintosh). He shows promise early, studying at the Royal Academy of Music and eventually attracting the attention of budding manager Ray Williams (Charlie Rowe), who connects him with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell).

The two men form what turns out to be a lifelong partnership, Bernie writing the lyrics, Elton writing the music and performing. And soon, it’s as if someone’s lit a rocket under Elton; in the film’s rendering, a gig at the Troubadour in Los Angeles makes him into a superstar almost overnight, by his mid-20s.


Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Richard Madden in Rocketman.

Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Richard Madden in Rocketman.
David Appleby/Paramount Pictures

It’s a wild ride, though the outlines are familiar: Unassuming boy from a small town hits it big, wins admirers, gets rich, finds love, loses love, alienates old friends, gets hooked on substances, crashes, and must overcome his own worst enemy: himself. Which is just what Rocketman does, particularly once his manager and lover John Reid (Richard Madden) enters the picture.

The film uses the rocker’s biggest hits as a trail of bread crumbs; although Taupin writes most of his lyrics, they’re still known as Elton John’s songs, and in Rocketman, they’re also the soundtrack to John’s own life, expressions of his longings and sadness and joy. It’s a jukebox musical about Elton John, using the music of Elton John, and the theatricality and personal nature of his songs work well for this purpose.

So even if the arc is somewhat predictable, it’s not a total wash. There’s a reason so many rocker biopics follow the same trajectory; it’s a mythology rooted in fact. We know, more or less, where this is going — the fun of Rocketman is how it gets there.

Rocketman tells a familiar story but in a mostly refreshing way

What Rocketman smartly does while telling a familiar arc is mess with some of the cinematic particulars to keep things from getting stale. (I saw the film at an 8 am screening, four weary days into the Cannes Film Festival, and I can say with certainty that it is never, ever boring.) The most successful technique Fletcher employs is letting the film stray away from too much realism; in the early Troubadour gig, for instance, when Elton starts playing “Crocodile Rock,” both he and the crowd begin to float up into the air. It’s a bit of fantasy that depicts the reality, the feeling of the music more than the literalism of it.

This happens throughout Rocketman, which employs everything from full-scale song-and-dance numbers on a carnival pier to cheeky montages seemingly mounted on a West End stage to the repeated appearance of Elton’s younger self. For the most part, it’s seamlessly woven into the narrative. We’re more inside Elton’s headspace than relying on Egerton to telegraph his emotions to us, as good as his performance is. (He can dance like a dervish and very competently does his own singing, if you were wondering.)


Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman.
David Appleby/Paramount Pictures

At times, though, Rocketman is less inventive than it should be — particularly at the end, when it employs the very tired but very common technique of showing us pictures of the movie’s characters next to real photos in order to, I don’t know, prove that they got it right? It’s unnecessary, a failure of imagination after hours of casting a magical spell over the audience. It suggests that the filmmaking team didn’t quite have the guts to go full throttle and lean into the spectacle that might have been possible.

Still, Rocketman knows its main job isn’t just to tell us about Elton John but to let us into his headspace, his struggles, and his lifelong search for love. And so it turns out the film is a romance — not between Elton and John Reid (though it does contain their much-touted, moderately explicit sex scene) but between Elton and Bernie, who is straight, loyal, and not afraid to plainly tell his friend that he loves him. The film spends less time dwelling on the machinations of celebrity and fame to focus on their story instead.

It’s a bit refreshing to see that kind of relationship portrayed with such openness and honesty, particularly in a friendship between two men that never slips into masculine buddy clichés. The composition of “Your Song,” with its familiar refrain of “how wonderful life is, now you’re in the world,” is collaborative for them precisely because it’s a song as well as a feeling that they share. And it’s Bernie’s steady love of his friend that is Elton’s anchor in the end. That’s what keeps Rocketman from becoming a tragedy.

So yes, Rocketman sometimes feels like it’s lost its way, especially near the end. But it’s still a joyous celebration, a colorful story about love that can help people heal. Filtered through Elton John’s beloved hits, it’s an outsize, audacious, jubilant take on a familiar story — and there’s no denying it’s shooting for the stars.

Rocketman opened at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, and opens in theaters in the US on May 29.

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Digital Trends Live – 7.10.19 – Nintendo Switch Lite Confirmed + India May Ban Cryptocurrencies

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On today’s episode: Nintendo officially announced the much rumored Switch Lite; WarnerMedia makes HBO Max official, launching with Friends in 2020; India to ban cryptocurrencies – could impact Facebook’s Libra; team sets out to topple the land speed record; Overtock.com President joins to talk about their new A.R. feature; The best CPUs and GPUs on the market; Passwords vulnerability discussion with Keeper Security CEO; If you make a ton of PPT decks, you likely need a CMS – Shufflrr has you covered; Gaming Editor Felicia Miranda takes the cover off the Switch Lite and the best Prime Day deals to watch out for.

View at DailyMotion

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25 Users Showed How Different Instagram Is From Reality, and It Can Make You Way More Confident

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According to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), Instagram is the most harmful social media for psychological health. Every day, we are disappointed when we start comparing our lives to the photos online without even thinking about how these perfect pictures were created. Fortunately, there are users who are ready to reveal what their lives look like without photoshop and filters.

Bright Side is happy to show the photos that will not only give you confidence, but will also improve your mood.

Before and after taken about 30 seconds apart

Nobody looks good in the morning.

Everything depends on the angle.

Trash looks bad no matter where it is.

“I love taking photos on the beach.”

It’s not just bodies and faces that get tune-ups on Instagram. The locals would be amazed to see the photo on the left.

Each successful photo actually means there were hundreds of failed attempts.

The photos I share vs The photos I’m tagged in

A black eye given by a unicorn

It appears that the rainbow is fake.

This is what’s behind a perfect life.

It’s always like this.

If people posted their real photos from the gym

10 minutes after cleaning and 10 hours later

Mud baths are attractive.

Behind the stage of perfect photo

Just imagine what the process looked like.

On hot days, you really need water-resistant makeup.

Before the party / after the party

When you are too hungry to arrange the food in a beautiful way:

This is the same girl.

There is something wrong with this photo.

Some people look like aliens in their photos.

It should be prohibited to tag people in photos.

Instagram vs Real-life motherhood

Do you prefer to post real or idealized photos?

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10 Powerful Sculptures That Tell a Story Better Than Any Novel Could

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We often take sculptures that surround us for granted, thinking that their only message is the one in plain sight. But it turns out that many of them have a deeper meaning like an angel that is made of weapons given up by those who never want to commit crimes again or a group of ginormous figures that tell us how a new life is born. Sculptures have a whole lot of good stories to share if you’re willing to listen.

Come with Bright Side on a little journey around the globe to see 10 eloquent monuments and sculptures and learn the stories behind them.

1. Knife Angel by Alfie Bradley has persuaded hundreds of people to give up violence.

Alfie Bradley created this breathtaking 27-foot-high angel made of more than 100,000 knives. These weapons were surrendered to knife bins around the UK and were collected by the UK police, knife crime charities, action groups and other people who were affected by knife crimes in one way or another. The Knife Angel travels around the UK to educate people on how important the problem of knife crime is and how dangerous these weapons are. You can learn more about The Knife Angel, the process of its creation, and its current locations here.

2. The Passer-Through-Walls by Jean Marais illustrates the final scene from a famous French novel.

Le Passe-Muraille is a French novel by Marcel Aymé that tells the story of a modest office worker who one day discovers that he has a superpower — he can walk through walls! The hero uses his gift to the fullest to solve problems and becomes a burglar, gets into prison, and escapes until one day he loses his power right on his way through a wall and gets stuck in it. This monument is also quite interactive — the man’s hands are polished by thousands of people who try to help him get out of the wall.

3. Building Bridges by Lorenzo Quinn shares a recipe for a better world.

How do we make our world a better place to live in? Friendship, wisdom, help, faith, hope, and love — these are the ingredients to a better world and happier people according to Lorenzo Quinn, a famous Italian artist. These 6 virtues are embodied in the 6 pairs of hands that build a bridge together. This is one of the latest works by Quinn that was built for 2019’s Venice Art Biennale.

4. Corporate Head by Terry Allen tells us about the danger of being focused on profit at all costs.

The impressive life-sized bronze sculpture of a man who has buried his head in the building resides in Los Angeles, California in the US. The sculpture embodies a businessman who has devoted all his life to gaining profit for himself and the company he works for. He is separated from the office building only from his neck down, which means his thoughts have been completely absorbed by the establishment he works for.

The sculpture illustrates the modern pace of life where people have to carry an economic burden and spend their whole lives working in businesses, often missing out on things that are way more important than material wealth.

5. Sphere Within a Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro reminds us of how fragile our planet is.

This wonderful statue mesmerizes viewers with a complex structure of fractured spheres — the outer one and the inner one — and numerous intricate gears inside. The artist, Arnaldo Pomodoro, liked to study simple geometrical forms in his work and managed to hide deep meaning behind those simple forms. The Sphere Within a Sphere once again reminds us how everything in the universe is interconnected, how fragile our world is, and how easily it can be broken into pieces.

6. The Man Who Measures the Clouds by Jan Fabre speaks about the struggles of measuring the immeasurable.

This unique artwork with the gold leaf finishing touch is part of 2019’s Venice Art Biennale and it shows viewers a man rising to a height of 29.5 feet (9 meters) and trying to measure the clouds with a ruler. This sculpture can be interpreted as a person’s desperate attempt to make the impossible possible, as our never-ending striving to surpass ourselves as mankind, or as a nod to ancient philosophy that thought that human beings were the measure of all things.

7. Inertia and The Bankers by Jason Decaires Taylor tackle social issues and call for our responsibility.

The Bankers, Inertia and other marvelous underwater sculptures by Jason Decaires Taylor reveal the most acute problems of modern society, like being obsessed with material wealth and being exposed to mass media’s influence. But apart from that, these unbelievable works serve as homes for coral that are on the verge of extinction in many regions of our planet. By placing his masterpieces underwater in Mexico, the Bahamas, and other places, the artist tries to attract more attention to global climate changes and the things we can do to protect the earth.

8. Absorbed by Light by Gali Lucas and Karoline Hinz honestly tell us how obsessed we’ve become with gadgets and technology.

3 people sitting on a bench, absorbed by their smartphones so much so that they don’t even notice each other. What could illustrate our era better? The installation that was part of the Amsterdam Light Festival symbolizes how modern technology connects and disconnects us at the same time. When you walk at night next time, look around and you’ll see the same picture — dozens of people all around with their faces lit up by their mobile phones. We actually are absorbed by these lights, aren’t we?

9. Trains to Life — Trains to Death by Frank Meisler commemorates children whose lives were saved and taken during the Holocaust.

The impressive work by Frank Meisler is located in Berlin, Germany, and it has 2 parts — 5 figures of boys and girls in dark bronze on one side, and a boy and a girl made of light bronze on the other side. The kids in these 2 parts of the monument gaze into different directions and symbolize 2 different outcomes that awaited children during the Holocaust. The group of 5 figures commemorates the 1.6 million Jewish kids that were sent to concentration camps and were killed, while 2 other kids pay tribute to those 10,000 children that were saved and transported to England.

10. The Miraculous Journey by Damien Hirst shows the stages of a baby’s growth in the womb.

This amazing monument located outside the Sidra Medical and Research Centre in Doha, Qatar, consists of 14 large-scale bronze sculptures, each of them showing a stage of an embryo’s growth in the womb from conception to birth. Being extremely explicit and bold, The Miraculous Journey evoked controversial feelings in the eastern audience and was even covered from public view for some time.

Here’s what Damien Hirst, the creator of the monument said about the ideas he addressed in his work: “Ultimately, the journey a baby goes through before birth is bigger than anything it will experience in its human life. I hope the sculpture will instill in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder at this extraordinary human process, which will soon be occurring in the Sidra Medical Center, as well as every second all across the globe.”

Which of these monuments would you like to see with your own eyes? Can you share with us a picture of a sculpture or a monument that impressed you?

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