THE VAST OF NIGHT (2019)

A nice, simple little scifi thriller with the look and feel of an early Cold War-set episode of STRANGE TALES or THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Does a great deal with very little, and has some really creative camera work that beautifully describes the distances around a small town somewhere in 1950s America.

Some incredibly long and seamless shots and two extremely charismatic lead performances, but to say anything of the plot would be to ruin the tone and the expectation it so wonderfully builds with steady, thoughtful pace. Could have perhaps gone a little further with some of its more creative reaches to really elevate itself it greatness, but I’m not going to hold that against it since restraint stops it tipping over into gimmicky and helps it feel authentic.

Recommended — don’t read anything up about it!

ONWARD (2020)

Somewhere around the middle of the Pixars — not as stellar as COCO or even the underrated RATATOUILLE, but comes back in the third act with an unexpected final stretch that puts it above, say, the similarly medium MONSTERS UNIVERSITY or BRAVE.

Feels like a lot of time was spent worldbuilding but then it sort of half-asses doing anything really creative or interesting with the pretense. Whereas something like WALL-E feels rich and vibrant with barely a line of dialogue to drive it, there’s a missed mark in an inconsistency to the logic of the world of ONWARD that feels flat and unremarkable despite its gorgeous design.

Not bad, just suffers from the absurdly high expectations that Pixar fare tends to generate.

ROCKETMAN (2019)

I’ve really never been one much for biopics, finding that the restrictions of condensing a person’s lifetime down to a relatable 90-120min slice with a clear through-line and character arc tends to oversimplify what it is to be a person, even a great and notable one.

So I come out the other side of Elton John’s story feeling that Taron Egerton’s performance deserved more attention than it got and that the method of interweaving music and theatricality into a musician’s life story was creatively handled and well produced, but that what makes someone who they are is harder to quantify than with a handful of scenes, quick sketches of a time and a place punctuated by abstracted narrative music videos. These were/are real people who all lead rich and complex lives, and so much is lost in the simplification to a product. Life is still going on for them. Elton is even due in town on his farewell tour fairly soon.

The best “biopic” is still WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY – a parody of the genre that plainly states the story beats of this type of film so bluntly that it necessitates a more creative angle from anyone hoping to do it seriously, much like how CABIN IN THE WOODS so thoroughly satirised the horror genre that filmmakers had to think twice about their own approach.

I digress.

If you’re a fan of his music and are intrigued a little more by the life behind it then there is certainly plenty to love about ROCKETMAN. Egerton was hand-picked for the role and truly does great things with it, going so far as to learn to sing in brilliant mimickry of one of the all time rock’n’roll greats. It’s very straightforward, but that’s not a bad thing.

Absolutely watch this over the trainwreck that was BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.