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Rocketman’ Launch: Elton John Musical Biopic Blasts Off In World Premiere That Lights Up Cannes

“It is the movie I wanted to make, and that doesn’t happen often,” said no one other than Elton John on at the after-party for the world premiere of the movie all about himself, Rocketman. Paramount chose the 72nd Cannes Film Festival to launch its big summer hope, and if reaction with a seven-minute standing ovation was any indication, it is a hit.

The star, Taron Egerton, gives the first performance guaranteed to be an Oscar contender, actually used Elton’s classic “Your Song” as an audition to get into his drama school. He was clearly fated to play Sir Elton from that moment on, even if Tom Hardy was once touted for the role in which he planned to lip sync to John’s original tracks. Thank god that didn’t happen — Egerton is the real deal as Elton. It is not always easy to play someone still living and do them justice, but Egerton is, in a word, remarkable in the role in which he sensationally does all his own singing. That’s right, no lip syncing as Rami Malek did in Bohemian Rhapsody and still won the Best Actor Oscar. Egerton sounds like Elton but also fully captures the rock star’s spirit and passion in his interpretations of that immortal songbook. It may be the best musical performance since Sissy Spacek’s Oscar-winning turn as Loretta Lynn in 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Dexter Fletcher, who replaced Bryan Singer on the troubled production of the Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody and shot about 20% of the finished film, told me he made a musical in this instance and that is exactly what it is — not a musical biopic but rather a full-blooded musical with stunning numbers set around John’s vast catalog.

As for Elton John’s opinion of Egerton’s portrayal? “When I watch the movie I don’t see an actor playing me, I see myself, ” he said at the after-party before introducing Egerton to duet on the title song and first single from the soundtrack.

“Rocketman” hits theaters May 31, but based on the Cannes premiere that should resonate. Cannes needed a film like this, and it got one.

 

OPENING DOWNTOWN

At the Michigan (Opens Friday, May 31): The White Crow follows the life of Rudolf Nureyev, played by Acclaimed dancer Oleg Ivenko. From his poverty-stricken childhood in the Soviet city of Ufa, to his blossoming as a dancer in Leningrad, to his arrival at the epicentre of western culture in Paris in the early 1960s, this is the true story of an incredible journey by a unique artist who transformed the world of ballet forever. Director Ralph Fiennes’ The White Crow was inspired by the book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life by Julie Kavanaugh. Critics Consensus: It’s a movie full of small pleasures, such as the Polaroid-ish softness of the cinematography, Fiennes’ quietly noble performance as Nureyev’s mentor Pushkin, and the glimpses of the ballet studios. – Seattle Times

At the State (Sneak Peaks Thursday, May 30 and opens for full run Friday, May 31): Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. The film follows the fantastical journey of transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John. This inspirational story — set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton — tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. Rocketman also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother. Critics Consensus: It’s going to be a long, long time before a rock biopic manages to capture the highs and lows of an artist’s life like Rocketman.  – Rotten Tomatoes

 

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Breakfast at Tiffany’s plays Sunday, June 2 at 1:30 PM and Wednesday, June 5 at 7:00 PM at Michigan Theater as a part of The SavCo Hospitality Summer Classic Film Series, presented by the University of Michigan Credit Union with media support from MLive. In June, July, and August, we will be celebrating generations of filmmakers and their nostalgic treasures! Based on Truman Capote’s novel, this is the story of a young woman in New York City who meets a young man when he moves into her apartment building. He is with an older woman who is very wealthy, but he wants to be a writer. She is working as an expensive escort and searching for a rich, older man to marry.

Ann Arbor Academy Film Festival plays Monday, June 3 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater. Free and open to the public! Ann Arbor Academy and 2457 Productions present Film Fest 5. Ann Arbor Academy’s video production program has produced a hand full of short films and animations during this academic year. Come share in the excitement as these wonderful projects are premiered on the big screen.

how we live, messages to the family plays Wednesday, June 5 at 7:00 PM at the State Theatre, presented in partnership with the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Free for AAFF & MT Gold Card members! “Imagine we are sitting at home, the screen is set up, the projector ready, and we start watching home movies together,” suggests the calm voice of the filmmaker Gustav Deutsch at the beginning of how we live. The film assumes this same calm as it undertakes its journey via amateur film recordings gathered from archives in Austria, Italy, Holland, and England. The film “travels” from Boston to Italy; from the USA to Austria’s Burgenland; from Maryland to Greece; and between Vienna, Sydney, and Switzerland. And so the film not only produces a community between various people from various places, but also establishes a timeless togetherness, allowing generations of filmmakers to speak to one another and – via the medium of the movie screen – to us.

 

CONTINUING DOWNTOWN

At the Michigan: This year’s Direct from Sundance selection! The Biggest Little Farm chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. Through dogged perseverance and embracing the opportunity provided by nature’s conflicts, the Chester’s unlock and uncover a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons, and our wildest imagination.

In Red Joan, Joan Stanley (played by Academy Award® winner Dame Judi Dench) is a widow living out a quiet retirement in the suburbs when, shockingly, the British Secret Service places her under arrest. The charge: providing classified scientific information to the Soviet government for decades. As the interrogation gets underway, Joan relives the dramatic events that shaped her life and her beliefs.

Unique and surreal, Wild Nights with Emily sheds new light on the life one of our most celebrated poets. The poet Emily Dickinson’s persona, popularized since her death, has been that of a reclusive spinster – a delicate wallflower, too sensitive for this world. In this humorous drama, Molly Shannon captures the vivacious, irreverent side of Emily Dickinson that was covered up for years – most notably Emily’s lifelong romantic relationship with another woman (played by Susan Ziegler). After Emily’s death, a rivalry emerges when her brother’s mistress (played by Amy Seimetz) along with editor T.W. Higginson (played by Brett Gelman) published a book of Emily’s poems.

Shot in 1972 over a 48-hour period in Watts’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, this stirring documentary Amazing Grace captured the live recording of the most successful gospel album in history by Aretha Franklin. This album marked Franklin’s thrilling return to her gospel roots after she’d earned 11 consecutive No. 1 pop and R&B singles, won five Grammys and released more than 20 albums.

At the State: Told from a wildly original, fresh and modern perspective, Booksmart is an unfiltered comedy about high school best friends and the bonds we create that last a lifetime. The story follows two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, suddenly realize that they should have worked less and played more. Determined never to fall short of their peers, the girls set out on a mission to cram four years of fun into one night. From Director Olivia Wilde and starring Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis.

In Photograph, two lives intersect in Mumbai and go along together. A struggling street photographer, pressured to marry by his grandmother, convinces a shy stranger to pose as his fiancée. The pair develops a connection that transforms them in ways that they could not expect.

Chronicling the extraordinary rise of one of the most colorful and controversial religious movements in American history, Hail Satan? is an inspiring and entertaining new feature documentary. When media-savvy members of the Satanic Temple organize a series of public actions designed to advocate for religious freedom and challenge corrupt authority, they prove that with little more than a clever idea, a mischievous sense of humor, and a few rebellious friends, you can speak truth to power in some truly profound ways.

OPENING AT THE MULTIPLEX FRIDAY, MAY 31

The new story Godzilla: King of the Monsters follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species – thought to be mere myths – rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance. This is a sequel to the 2014 film Godzilla and the 35th film in the Godzilla franchise. Also stars Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Ken Watanabe, and more!

In psychological horror Ma, Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer stars as Sue Ann, a loner who keeps to herself in her quiet Ohio own. One day, she is asked by Maggie, a new teenager in town (played by Diana Silvers, Glass and Booksmart), to buy some booze for her and her friends, and Sue Ann sees the chance to make some unsuspecting, if younger, friends of her own. She offers the kids the chance to avoid drinking and driving by hanging out in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids must stay sober. Don’t curse. Never go upstairs. And call her “Ma.” But as Ma’s hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on earth.

That’s all for this week. See you at the movies!

 

From Russell B. Collins

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Exc. Dir., State & Michigan Theaters – Ann Arbor

Founding Director, Art House Convergence – Utah

Festival Founder, Cinetopia Festival – Detroit/A2