‘Rocketman’ Offers a Glimpse Into What the Music BioPic Could Be

Talking about Bohemian Rhapsody when discussing Rocketman, unfortunately, feels inevitable. Both are music biopics, both showcase extraordinary, proudly flamboyant gay icons from the 70s, and both launching relatively fresh-faced talent in their leading roles. I want to get it out of the way here, Rocketman easily puts Bohemian to shame, though that’s not a very high bar to pass. It’s more productive to focus on what Rocketman strives to be, what it fails to achieve, and what leaves to be desired as its own film. However, the music biopic genre is rigid and formulaic in general; so it would be helpful to use Bohemian, the most highly praised cookie cutter music biopic of them all, as a reference for the limitations of the genre.

 

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Rocketman is the story of the legendary Elton John; singer, songwriter, gay, fashion icon with a troubled childhood. Directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Taron Egerton as our titular Rocketman, this movie is based on a ‘true fantasy’ of music stardom. What sets this film apart from all the other music biopics on the shelf is the ‘true fantasy’ angle, which consistently is the best part of the film’s two-hour runtime. Breaking the formula are surrealist musical sequences and setpieces, which are loud and bright and expressive just as Elton John himself. The concept of itself seems brilliant on paper: let’s make a film that is just as over-the-top as the man it’s based on. Unfortunately, while the movie makes a valiant effort to revitalize some life into the music biopic, there are far too many genre constraints holding Rocketman from being a true home-run.

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‘Aladdin’ Flies Below Even the Lowest of Expectations

If you’ve seen the original 1992 Aladdin, which is probably most of the people who are reading this, then you know that this new remake has some big shoes to fill. Most likely, we all have the same exact reason why— the late Robin Williams simply makes Aladdin what it is. I rewatched the original just the other day, and I was only mildly enjoying it until Genie lit up the screen with his big, blue energetic personality, taking in the ‘Friend Like Me’ number in all its technicolor glory,  I fully remembered why the 2D-animated film was so cherished. Though, even in its original form, there’s a lot that is problematic with Disney’s take on Aladdin, from the ethnic hodgepodge of cultural tourism to the pop culture references that keep it from transcending the early 90s release date. But, one special quality that made the film stand out from a well-established canon of fairytales, was Williams as Genie, and his raw sincerity.

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And how could this remake ever recapture that spirit? Well, it simply doesn’t. I don’t think anyone truly expected it would. We know the story of Aladdin, the titular underdog street rat with a heart of gold, who learns the importance of staying true to oneself as he wishes on a magic lamp for a more extravagant life with Princess Jasmine. I’ll save the spiel. Although, I wish Walt Disney Studios would also give us the same amount of faith in our intelligence. Instead, we’re presented with a passionless retelling of the original Aladdin, the same, general, basic plot beats with only minor alterations (hold on, Genie fucks?!) that don’t seem to add anything besides runtime. Director Guy Ritchie does make sense for a more action/adventure based Disney story, but his directorial influence is only hinted at in small sequences of spectacle. So, we’re left with a question often raised whenever a new one of these remakes release, but seriously, what’s the point?

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VIDEO: Game of Thrones, A Farewell

It’s the end of an era. Game of Thrones ended this week, and while the finale didn’t live up to our expectations, it’s still sad to see it go. To honor this show and everything it has made us feel in this last decade, Lucy (@iconicaesthetic) commemorated the show with an amazing supercut that will remind you why you’ve loved visiting Westeros every weekend it in the first place.

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‘Detective Pikachu’ is Lovably Bizarre, as a Pokémon Movie Should Be

Yes, it is time for my obligatory anecdote about my relationship with the Pokémon brand! It probably goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of Pokémon because I’m an Asian kid who was born in 1999. Of course I am. I grew up endlessly playing Pokémon Emerald on my Gameboy Advance until my eyes would strain (which probably explains my deteriorating vision) and then go to bed only to wake up at 9 to catch the new episode of the anime show. In 4th grade, everyone called me Ash Ketchum because I had long, thick, and unruly hair that went all over the place. My best friend was a Piplup. I lived and breathed Pokémon. Imagine my excitement when the news broke that Nintendo would finally be letting Pikachu run with his small, little feet on the big screen!

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Honestly, I’ve been rooting for Detective Pikachu ever since the first trailer dropped. Nintendo has had a lot of—  well, issues adapting their material to new forms of media in the past, and ever since then, they’ve been notoriously protective of their gaming IPs and brands. If they were going to open up and take a risk on this project, in my mind I knew it had to be for a good reason. This makes Detective Pikachu a film of multiple firsts: it’s the first generally well-received mainstream video-game-based-blockbuster, it’s the first film in a very long time to break open the Nintendo IP floodgates, and it’s the first film you’ll see with an emotionally detached, caffeine-addicted Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds. And you’d really think, with all that this movie has to prove, that the cards would be played safe. Well, you really couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Detective Pikachu is surreal, ridiculous, but a heartfelt and warm, piece of popcorn entertainment. It’s also one that assumes you know what the significance of Mewtwo is, so if you have no investment in Pokémon, you really aren’t going to get much out of this.

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‘Infinity War’, ‘Endgame’ and a Year Without Gamora

This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

It’s been over a year since I’ve witnessed Gamora, one of the most strong-willed women of the Marvel universe, die by the hands of her own abuser.

I know that Avengers: Endgame is a three-hour film with an ungodly amount of baggage to sort through. I know that not only were directors Anthony and Joe Russo challenged with crafting a satisfying conclusion for our original six Avengers, but they were also tasked with forging a new direction for all other characters within the 22 movie franchise, post the aftermath of the cosmic-shattering events of Infinity War. Knowing all this to be true, and all that was at stake, I entered the theater aware that there was no possible way all of the Marvel fan community, with their own favorite characters and unique emotional investments, could realistically walk out of Endgame fully pleased with what they had watched; and yet, despite knowing all of this, even despite enjoying most of what I saw in Endgame, I’ve still had a festering, empty feeling in my heart over one character: Gamora. 

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Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I am aware that I will always carry a bias here. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies mean a lot to me. I love how over the top they are, from their nostalgic needle drops to their sometimes overbearing amounts of sentimentality. I love that they are two calculated, messy movies about scarred and lonely people full of regret, who realize that they are stronger together and that there is a greater meaning of life in the family connection they choose in each other. I’ll save you the specific details, but as someone with a messy relationship with my own blood family, and as someone who’s strongest emotional connections are amongst friends from all sorts of different places, these themes especially ring true. Gunn’s two Guardians films often pass boundaries (i.e. “green whore” line from Drax in Vol. 1, or the many jokes about severed limbs from Rocket) but despite all of that, they’re always being told from a place of sincerity and genuine growth that has struck a chord with me since seeing them on their opening weekends.

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VIDEO: It’s Alive! – Rebirth and Transformation in Horror

This month’s video was posted a little late, it marks the debut of our writer, Mary Beth McAndrews (@mbmcandrews), as part of our video team! Mary Beth is a cinema studies major with a focus on the horror genre, so her new video focusing on the themes of rebirth and transformation is a perfect encapsulation of her interests.

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‘Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019’ Reminded Me Why Fandom Matters

Introduction – My Star Wars Story

On December 18th, 2015, Star Wars awakened once again; a pivotal moment for the last decade of mainstream entertainment. And what made The Force Awakens a graceful, triumphant return was the fact that it was both a nostalgic trip back home for all those who were already invested in the Star Wars franchise, and also a call to people closer to my age to partake in its broad cinematic legacy.

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My photos from before the opening night of The Force Awakens on December 15th, 2015

I remember skipping a whole day of high school with my friends so that we could head straight to Disneyland in the morning, and then to AMC so that we could get the best seat possible in that bustling theater. I already had a history with Star Wars because of my family’s expansive DVD collection, but I was particularly eager to finally have a new trilogy of these films to call my own. I was wearing a quickly thrown together Han Solo costume, I got seated in the middle row, with only my friend and a bag of m&ms at my side when the projector lit up. My eyes gleamed up at the opening crawl, for I was ready to be transported once again to that galaxy far, far away– content with knowing that people like me had a place amongst those stars.

And when I came home from the cinema and fired up the Tumblr log in screen so I could write my first post about how much I loved the new Star Wars, I wasn’t aware of how that love would, in retrospect, become my first steps into a larger world of fandom.

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