Reg Gets Even

I’ve seen this movie before. Dozens of times. It’s your typical rock ‘n’ roll biopic we saw in such movies as “Ray”, “The Doors”, “A Star is Born”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Hollywood has the template down so well, this is how an Elvis biopic might go:
Scene 1. Elvis is driving a truck in Tupelo.
Scene 2. Elvis is recording in Sun Records Studio.
Scene 3. Elvis signs with Col. Tom Parker.
Scene 4. Elvis sings and dances in the movie, “Jailhouse Rock”.
Scene 5. Elvis gets drafted.
Scene 6. Elvis meets his future bride, fourteen-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, while stationed in Germany.
Scene 7. Elvis gets out of the Army.
Scene 8. Elvis makes movies.
Scene 9. Elvis is unhappy at Graceland.
Scene 10. Elvis makes a comeback.
Along the way, there’ll be a scene with Elvis’ addiction to pills. There’ll also be a scene where Elvis talks about his spirituality. Throughout the movie, there will be song after song by Elvis. So many songs the viewer won’t be able to distinguish one from the other. Why so many? The director doesn’t want to miss your favorite.

This is basic biopic 101, and “Rocketman” follows this template. “Rocketman” is the story of how Reg Dwight became Elton John. In scene after scene, we see how his father mistreated him; how Mom didn’t take him seriously; how his employer, Dick James, wasn’t encouraging; how his manager, John Reid, abused him. Even Bernie Taupin, his songwriting partner and friend, ends up being unkind to poor Dwight. When the two go to California and Elton John triumphs at the Troubadour, Bernie takes off with a beautiful woman at the after-the-show party, abandoning Dwight to be alone with himself. Only his Granny treated him with any kind of respect.

“Rocketman” is Reg Dwight’s revenge. After all, this is his project. He was an executive producer on the film.

Along the way through these adventures, Elton John breaks out in song as a kind of song-and-dance man you’d expect from George M. Cohan. In quite a few scenes, so many songs are thrown at the viewer. So many pies that the director is hoping one will stick. Better to have selected five or six songs and used them to give meaning to the story. Then they would be memorable. Instead we are given a jukebox.

In the early seventies, seven of Elton John’s first nine studio albums were unbelievably brilliant. I won’t tell you which didn’t measure up. He could do any musical style from rock ‘n’ roll to blues to country to pop. The songs made you want to listen to them over and over again. Of all the musical artists I’ve listened to over the years, he was one of the few that blew me away from the get-go. When he started performing in a chicken suit, it made me sad.

If you’re in the hankering for some Elton John, put on his music. VH1 did a documentary of “Yellow Brick Road” as a part of his Classic Albums series. Great stuff. As for “Rocketman”, it saddens me the way that the chicken suit saddened me. Elton John is one of the great musicians of the twentieth century and he deserves .better than “Rocketman”. So I guess you might say I give this one two thumbs down. When all is said and done, it’s a mess. A real mess.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: Let the binge-ing begin.

ANNOUNCEMENT: For the last few years, I have spotlighted Creators, Music and Movies on a regular basis. Doing three or four blog posts a week takes up quite a bit of time. Unfortunately this has left me with less time to devote to longer project such as a noir novel called The Man Without a Tie and longer short stories such as Jesus Junction.

Beginning next week, I have decided to cut back to two blog posts a week.Those blog posts will be my anchor post on Sunday and my Wednesday post. From time to time, I will spotlight a creative artist, a movie and a song. Those will be included as a part of the Sunday and Wednesday posts.

I want to thank all my Readers who continue to follow and read Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such. So read on and enjoy the entertainment for today.

This week’s Spotlight Movie is the TV series, “The White Queen” (2013):

George R. R. Martin has said that his “Game of Thrones” was partially based on a series of English civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. Now that you’ve completed your “Game of Thrones” viewing and you’re thirsty for another series, maybe a series based on the inspiration might be just the thing. I recommend “The White Queen”.

“The White Queen” is a ten episode miniseries adapted from Philippa Gregory’s trilogy of what she calls “The Cousins’ War”: The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter.

The Wars of the Roses were a series of wars from 1455 to 1487. Two families, the Lancasters (the red rose) and the Yorks (the white rose), fought for the English throne. They were two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet.

But the rivalry didn’t start in 1455. It originated under the reign of mad king Richard II back in the Bad Old Days of the 1300s. King Richard exiled and stole the lands of Henry of Bolinbroke. Henry returned to England to reclaim his estate as Duke of Lancaster. Finding Richard unpopular, he did a why-not and crowned himself King Henry IV. After all, he had as much right to the throne as any of the other contenders, and he had the army.

Though there were uprisings during his reign, England was mostly at peace during his years and the years of his son, Henry V. When Henry V died at thirty-six, his son, and heir, Henry VI was only nine months old. While waiting for Henry to grow up, a Council of Regency ran things. When Henry became an adult, he was not a very good king, and things went from not-so-good to bad to worse.

The Yorks became fed up and went to war against the crown. They were just as Plantagenet as the Lancasters. At first, the Yorkist Richard, Duke of Gloucester, only wanted to get rid of Henry’s bad advisers. After a while, he decided he could do the king job much better than Henry. During one of the battles, Richard was killed. His son, Edward, took over the leadership and eventually defeated Henry and the Lancasters.

Much of this part of the story can be found in Shakespeare’s plays, Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, Henry V, Henry VI Parts One, Two and Three, and Richard III. Seven of these plays have recently become two excellent BBC series.

It is at this point that “The White Queen” picks up the story, a part of the story left out of Shakespeare’s plays.

One fine day, Edward is out doing Edward stuff. Chasing down the bad Lancastrians, going from here to there recruiting more troops. He comes across the widow, Elizabeth Woodville, and he is smitten. She is not only a Lancaster. She is also a commoner. Not the kind of wife a king should have. Not only does his mom disapprove, his buddy-in-arms, Warwick, isn’t happy either. He has other plans for the new king. He is to marry a French princess.

But Mel Brooks summed it up best when he said, “It’s good to be the king.” Edward decides he doesn’t want to learn French. He marries “the witch” and tells his subjects, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” You’d think that would be the end of it. You’d think there’d be no more civil war. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. It’s Game of Thrones English style.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: After the Sixty Minutes War

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Mortal Engines” (2018):

“Mortal Engines” is not the greatest movie that ever was. That’s the movie whose name we will not speak. But I’m sure that you know the one I’m talking about. The one that makes grown men cry.

I’ll get around to it eventually but not in the movie theaters. I’m waiting for the DVD to show up on Netflix.

If you’re like me and looking for a good two hours of entertainment, “Mortal Engines” might just be your thang. Sure, the title ain’t sexy, but don’t let that hold you back. And the trailer didn’t do much for me either. So my expectations were low to begin with.

Now there isn’t a lot of backstory. But I didn’t need a lot of backstory. I’m given just enough to throw me into the middle of the action and meet the heroine. And I got to tell you this heroine has guts.

“Mortal Engines” plunges the viewer into a steampunk world. It begins many years after the “Sixty Minute War”. Cities are on wheels, rolling around the countryside, chumping up smaller cities and towns. And the biggest, baddest chomper of them all is London. Guess that the Brits will never give up on the Empire on which the sun never set.

Hugo Weaving of Lord of the Rings fame may be the deputy mayor of London but he’s the villain. And Hester the heroine has good reason to stick a knife in his gut. In the opening scene, her town gets the old chomperoo. And before you can say “stempunk” backwards she’s doing her thang. The villain survives. Only because a historian stops her.

Hugo goes after her and throws her down a large dumpster, then he tosses the historian after her. And it is a fun ride after that.

One of the complaints in many of the reviews has been: we’ve seen this story before. Sure. We all recognize the story. But we recognized the Star Wars story. It was the Hero’s Journey. It’s like I’ve been told. There are only two original stories. Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella.

Will I see this one again? Sure will. I wouldn’t recommend it if I wouldn’t see it again.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: How hard can it be?

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is Whiplash (2014):

Many of us, and that includes me, settle for the mediocre when it comes to our art. We have the potential but we’re not willing to put in the time. We’re just not up to practice, practice, practice. We wait for the inspiration to strike us. As far as the work goes, commitment is not a road we’re willing to travel.

Not so for Andrew (Miles Teller). He doesn’t want to settle for being just another drummer. Drums is his religion and he goes after his art the way some people go after prayer. When Fletcher (R. J. Simmons) to join his class, he thinks he has hit pay dirt. He can’t believe the heaven he’s going to be in.

But Fletcher doesn’t promise Andrew heaven. He doesn’t promise him anything. And he definitely doesn’t promise a “good job.” Instead Fletcher asks a commitment and a perseverance he may not be able to give.

Is Fletcher a great teacher or is he a sadist? That’s for the viewer to decide. But “Whiplash” does make us think about what we haven’t given to our art.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Let the Audrey Shine

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961):

There are a few perfect movies that a remake of them would be blasphemy. “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “The Big Lebowski” and “Casablanca” and “The Ladykillers” (1955) and David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago” and “The Haunting of Hill House” (1959) and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. Oh, sure. Some have tried the remakes but they always turn out badly.

Blake Edwards knew something about making perfect movies. He directed some of the best of the best: Cary Grant, Peter Sellers, Tony Curtis and Julie Andrews. And, in his time, he would direct several very good movies, including “A Shot in the Dark” with Peter Sellers and “10” with Dudley Moore,Julie Andrews and Bo Derek. But “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is his masterpiece and that most perfectest of perfect movies.

There’s George Peppard and there’s Mickey Rooney and a cat named Cat and there’s New York City in the early 1960s and, of course, there’s Tiffany’s. What would a movie named “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” be without Tiffany’s? And then there is Audrey Hepburn. Nobody lit up the screen quite like Audrey Hepburn.

From the very first moments of Henry Mancini’s music and the cab driving down the empty New York City street, then stopping at Tiffany’s and Audrey Hepburn getting out of the taxi, I’m hooked. Audrey, with her hair all bunned up, wears a black dress and a necklace of fake pearls and long black gloves. I can’t think of another actress who could play that moment with the grace and charm of Audrey Hepburn. You don’t know class until you’ve seen Audrey Hepburn on the screen.

Patrica Neal has set her writer, George Peppard, up in an apartment in a brownstone building. He’s her pet and she’s got him on her lease. Until he meets his neighbor, Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn.

One night George is at his typewriter and he hears Holly outside his window,

There’s no going back for George. Like us, he is smitten. Truman Capote may not have meant for his Holly Golightly to be the very fragile little girl with the tough exterior of the film. But that is the performance that Audrey Hepburn gives us. And it’s the one that makes Holly Golightly so darned memorable.

I’ve loved this movie since I first saw it. So if you’re in need of a little magic, then let the Audrey shine. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” will definitely Audrey up your day.