Elvis Movie Review

There are only a handful of artists who are known by a singular name. Their image and influence have permeated the culture in a way that everyone knows who they are and what they represent. Elvis Presley is one of these artists.

The new biopic, Elvis, hit theaters last week. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the film stars newcomer Austin Butler as the title character and Tom Hanks as his manager with sometimes questionable intentions, Colonel Tom Parker. The narrative follows both of them from the early days of Presley’s career until his death in 1977 at the age of 42. The Colonel tells the story, casting himself as the manager who saw the potential of an unknown artist. As Elvis becomes a megastar, he faces criticism for his supposedly “wild race music” and its effect on the nation’s young people.

As the years pass and he becomes a has-been, Presley, and the Colonel pivot. After a very successful television special, he becomes a Las Vegas regular. But while his client is on stage, the Colonel is enriching himself. When everything comes to a head, Elvis has to choose between staying with his manager or trying to go his own way.

Though Butler does not look exactly like the King, he completely inhabits the man and the legend. Playing him from his teenage years until his early 40s, Butler is enigmatic and completely convinces the audience that he is Presley. Hanks, as usual, is up to the task. His character is a man who sees an opportunity and takes it, even if means crossing some boundaries.

What made the movie work for me was the man behind the icon. Presley was a devoted son to his parents, Gladys and Vernon (Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh). He was also madly in love with his wife Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) and a devoted father to their daughter. He respected the black artists whose music he “borrowed” (depending on your perspective) from. What Luhrmann does brilliantly as a filmmaker is to point out that while African-American musicians of the era were largely ignored outside of their community, Presley made a fortune singing the same songs.

My only complaint is that the middle of the narrative could have been trimmed down a bit. Other than that, the film is incredibly good and definitely worth the price of a movie ticket.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Elvis is presently in theaters.

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Two Podcasts You Should Be Listening To If You Aren’t Already: Can I Just Say & Unorthodox

These days, everyone and their mother has their own podcast.

But for me, there are two podcasts that I count myself as a fan of: Unorthodox and Can I Just Say.

Unorthodox

There is an old inside joke about Jews: For every two Jews, there are three opinions. From my perspective. is the backbone of Unorthodox. Created by Tablet Magazine,  the podcast is hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick and Liel Leibovitz. Every week they talk about news relating to the Jewish world and have two guests: one Jewish and one not Jewish. What I appreciate about this podcast is that Mark, Liel and Stephanie not only mesh well together, but their unique world views allow all three to stand out in their own way. I’ve been listening for a couple of years; it’s a pleasure to wake up on Thursday morning knowing that the week’s episode is waiting for me.

Can I Just Say

Pop culture podcasts can sometimes get a little dull. Either they can veer too much into the fan boy or fan girl lane or they are just a tad too intellectual.

Thankfully, Can I Just Say is the perfect pop culture podcast. Hosted by Daphne Olive and Elizabeth Stevens, the ladies have unique and stimulating conversations about everything from Star Wars (their newest podcast about The Last Jedi was very interesting) to novels and their various adaptations (their comments about Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility got me thinking) to a hand-picked selection of Baz Lurhmann films opened my eyes to his abilities as a filmmaker. They also host a podcast entitled Fathoms Deep: A Black Sails Podcast, an equally interesting podcast about the television series Black Sails.

I recommend both.

 

Throwback Thursday-Vintage Baz Luhrmann- Romeo + Juliet (1996) & Moulin Rouge (2001)

Every successful filmmaker, over the course of their career, develops his or her unique style of film making.

Baz Luhrmann is known for his colorful and sometimes eccentric films.

Bursting into Hollywood with his 1992 film, Strictly Ballroom, Lurhmann often tells stories of characters trying to succeed against seemingly impossible challenges.

His 1996 adaptation of Romeo + Juliet, starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Clarie Danes as the young lovers. Standing in the way of their happily ever after was John Leguizamo as Tybalt, Paul Rudd as Paris and Paul Sorvino as Fulgencio Capulet. The genius of this film was that while the Shakespearean text was unaltered, Lurhmann wisely chose to set the film in modern day Verona.

Five years later, he tried his hand at the musical genre with Moulin Rouge. In 1899, Christian (Ewan McGregor) is an idealistic young poet who has come to Paris to follow the Bohemian Revolution. His companions take him to the Moulin Rouge, where the star  is Satine (Nicole Kidman). Christian and Satine fall in love, but the Moulin Rouge’s patron, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) also has eye on Satine.  Utilizing modern pop music, the story is about love against all odds.

I recommend both.

Best And Worst Movies of 2013

2014 is nearly upon us and with that in mind, I would like to share the best and worst movies of 2013.

Best Movies

1. Much Ado About Nothing

Joss Whedon + William Shakespeare= Movie magic.

2. Mandela: Walk To Freedom

This biopic of the recently deceased Mr. Mandela reminds the audience of the power of  the human spirit.

3. 12 Years A Slave

A brutal and honest look at slavery shows the best and worst qualities of humanity.

4. Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s modern reboot of Streetcar Named Desire is just as powerful as the original.

5. Man of Steel

A refreshing take on the Superman mythos.

Honorable Mentions

The Butler

The civil rights movement was never more powerful than on screen.

Anchorman 2

Not as quotable as the original, but still extremely funny.

Worst Movies Of The Year

5. Don Jon

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut wasn’t as good as it could have been.

4. Romeo and Juliet

Don’t bother with this movie. If your hankering to see R&J on the big screen, try either the 1968 movie or Baz Luhrmann’s mid 90’s reboot.

3. Vamps

Everything about this movie is a waste of time. It’s not even worth the dollar bin.

2. Lone Ranger

It could have been so good, but it wasn’t.

1. Austenland

I wonder if the filmmakers had a secret plan to mock the audience they were looking for.

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