Elvis – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film that is equal parts electric, chaotic, and uncomfortable       

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Elvis about to perform

Elvis Review –

If there is one genre that has exploded across the screen in recent years, it is the Biopic. Everyone from Aretha Franklin to the Sparkes Brothers and all in between being brought to life in a dramatic presentation or documentary. Given the strengths of these films, it was only a matter of time before someone would attempt to contextualise the life of the “King of Rock and Roll”. This would be no easy task given the life and death of Elvis and the legacy he has left in the world. Today we look at a film that might still be flawed in many ways, but it excels in capturing his energy and passion. 

So to set the scene, we open in the 1990s, and a frail Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) wants us to know the story of Elvis (Chaydon Jay), well, the story that he wants to tell. From here, we jump back in time as Elvis (Austin Butler), a young boy who discovers the power of music and movement and who incorporates it into his world. As he grows older, his sound spreads around the south when Parker runs a travelling show. Watching one show, Parker knew the skinny kid in the pink suit would be a star, and he needed to get in on the ground floor before someone else grabbed his meal ticket.    

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King Richard – Movie Review

TL;DR – A fascinating picture of a complicated man.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit sequence

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.

King Richard. Image Credit: Warner Bros.

King Richard Review

There has been a resurgence in biopics in recent years, mainly in the music space. However, if there is one area where we could see more coverage, it would be in the sporting space. Today, we are looking at just such a case, but instead of a sporting star, today we are looking at one of their parents.

So to set the scene, back in the day, Richard Williams (Will Smith) and his wife Oracene Price (Aunjanue Ellis) are raising their five daughters in a two-bedroom house in Compton, California. Richard works night as a security guard, and Oracene works as a nurse. Still, in all their free moments, they are helping their daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) by coaching them in tennis. But for the girls to take the next step, they need to have more professional support, but Richard has a plan for that.     

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Respect – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film anchored by a transcendent performance that captures you from the start and never lets you go.      

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Disclosure – I attended a Press Screening of this film

Respect. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Respect Review

It has been the era of the musical biopic, with Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and even the Sparks Brothers getting a film all about them. But if one person is missing from this list, it would be the seminal Aretha Franklin. Her voice is like no other, and you get taken to another world every time you hear it. Today, we get to look at a film that not only fixes that glaring gap but does so in a way that left tears in my eyes.

So to set the scene, we open in Detroit, 1952, in the house of Reverend C. L. Franklin (Forest Whitaker). He is hosting a party for several influential people in the African-American community. Making his way to the back of the house, he finds Aretha ‘Re’ Franklin (Skye Dakota Turner) asleep in her bed. He asks her if she wants to sing, and the answer is, of course, yes. Even at a young age, she leads the choir at her father’s church, but as Aretha (Jennifer Hudson) grows older, she wants to do more to help Martin Luther King Jr. (Gilbert Glenn Brown). But at a party, her father surprised her with a ticket to New York to meet with John Hammond (Tate Donovan), a famous music producer, who could make her into a star.

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The United States vs. Billie Holiday – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film with one of the best individual performances I have seen in a long time, bolstered by an amazing supporting cast but ultimately held back by some odd stylistic choices.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene.

Warning – Depicts scenes of abuse.

Disclosure – I was invited to a screening of this film.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday Review

Billie Holiday has one of those voices that you can instantly pick out. It has this uncanny ability to be soft and harsh all at once. When writing this review, I wondered when the first time was I had heard a recording of her performing? And it could have been off one of my grandfather’s records as he always had Jazz and Big Band playing. Or at the very least, it was on one of the radio stations in Fallout. But knowing about her voice, I realised before watching this film that I did not know much about her life at all. Well, today, I help fix that with a movie that charts some of the struggles she faced.

So to set the scene, we open with an older Billie (Andra Day) as she and her manager Miss Freddy (Miss Lawrence), sits down with interviewer Reginald Lord Devine (Leslie Jordan) to chart her life and explore why the government is so opposed to her. Well, we flashback in time to 1947, as a young soldier Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes) makes his way to a jazz club in New York City where Billie is about to perform a complete set, including the one song no one but the audience wants her to sing Strange Fruit. Someone who especially wants her to stop the song is Agent Harry J. Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund) from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

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Slim & I – Movie Review

TL;DR – A beautiful documentary looking back on the lives of  Slim Dusty and Joy McKean  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Awards

Nominated: Best Australian Film

Slim & I. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Review –

Growing up in Australia, even if you might not know who Slim Dusty is or even if just the name rings a bell, you will still know a bunch of his songs, even if it is only through osmosis. Songs like A Pub With No Beer and Duncan sit in the pantheon of Australian music, and you probably started humming at least one of those tunes to yourself just with the mere mention of the name. However, I must confess that I didn’t really know much about his life beyond those touchstone moments and even less about Joy McKean, the I in Slim and I and the main focus of the documentary.  

The documentary follows a (mostly) chronological look at the lives of Joy McKean and Slim Dusty’s from their start in music through to today. We get to see them go on these gigantic Australia wide tours, raise a family on the road, and also write at least two albums a year which might be the most bonkers part of the entire process. Indeed, over their 50-year love story, they wrote at least 107 albums which is frankly ridiculous. They show this story with a mix of interviews with both Slim and Joy’s family but also with key members of Australia’s Country Music scene like Keith Urban, Missy Higgins and Kasey Chambers. As well as this, we get archive footage going back to the 60s, both professionally shot and also just from home cameras. There is such a varied amount of footage that someone had to be well ahead of the curve in adopting that technology and preserving it all these years.

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The Black Emperor of Broadway – Movie Review

TL;DR – A look at a revolutionary figure in Broadway’s past and the layers of oppression he had to go through to get where he did.     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Warning – Extensive use of blackface

The Black Emperor of Broadway. Image Credit: Vision Films.

Review

If there is one large blind spot in my art history, it is Broadway. I didn’t come from a musical theatre background, so any introduction to this world is welcome. Today we look at a film that explores this through the life of Charles Sidney Gilpin one of its first Black stars. I should say that before we dive in as a bit of a warning that this is a film very much set in the 1920s and the language and depictions used in the movie are consistent with that time which may be difficult for some viewers.

So to set the scene, Charles Sidney Gilpin (Shaun Parkes) is working in a blackface minstrel show that goes around entertaining white people at parties. He hates the work and tries to get a job a legitimate actor which is difficult in a time when few roles are written for black men, and white people in blackface perform most of them. That chance finally comes when noted play write Eugene O’Neill (John Hensley) writes his newest play The Emperor Jones about a leader of Haiti and he wants Charles for the role.

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Movie Review – A Life of Speed: The Juan Manuel Fangio Story (Fangio: El hombre que domaba las máquinas)

TL;DR – An exploration of a pioneer of racing    

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

A Life of Speed: The Juan Manuel Fangio Story (Fangio: El hombre que domaba las máquinas). Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

There are whole worlds out there that I had no idea existed or no idea of the complexities involved. One of those worlds is racing and specifically the F1. I know it exists, the basic rules, even many of the races and racers. However, I know very little about its history or the people that shaped. Well, today I take steps to fix that with a look at the life of Juan Manuel Fangio.

So to set the scene, we open in on Balcarce, Argentina as a voice-over lets us know how specialised being a top F1 racer is. It is here where we get a sense of just who this Juan Manuel Fangio is and the power his legacy has over the sport and racing in general. We start back in 1941 at the height of the WW2 where tiers were hard to come by, but he scraped it together and in 1947 was sent to Europe in Galliate, Italy which became his European base as he raced around the world.    

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Movie Review – Dark Waters

TL;DR – A film that comes at you like the rising tide, slow at first and then before you know it you have become overwhelmed     

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Dark Waters. Image Credit: Universal Studios.

Review


Having grown up in the era of Erin Brockovich, I am hard-wired to like a good biopic, especially one where someone takes down a major corporation that should have known better. Well, today we get to see a film that does pretty much all of that and does it very well indeed.

So to set the scene, we open back in the 1970s as a bunch of kids go skinny dipping in a lake in Parkersburg, West Virginia only to get shoed away from the site by men from the DuPont Corporation in a boat firing foam at a residue building up on the surface. Sometime later, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) has just been made a partner in the Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm when he is interrupted in a meeting by Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) an old friend of Robert’s grandmother. He has a problem with his farm, ever since DuPont built a rubbish tip next door to his property all of his cattle have been dying of odd diseases. Robert is reluctant to intercede but he makes a trip out to Parkersburg and finds things are not what they seem.

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Movie Review – Dolemite Is My Name

TL;DR – A film that reveals in performances even as you sit almost in shock with what they are covering     

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Dolemite Is My Name. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

Comebacks are such a difficult thing to pull off because they rarely work, especially when you jumping into a genre that you have not been in for an age. However, if you are you need to commit fully and today we get to see a film that does just that. Full with powerful performances even as you go “They did not just say that!”.  

So to set the scene, in the 1970s Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) is a failed record star who now spends his days working at a record store and his nights MCing at a local club. He wants to succeed but he has never had a break. Well one day when he is shoeing one of the local homeless men (Ron Cephas Jones) from the store, he listens to one of his stories and finds his moment, a comedy record. From there things take off for Rudy is now Dolemite and nobody be messing with him.

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Exploring the Past – Into the Wild (2007)

TL;DR –.A really frustrating film that nevertheless sucks you in and leaves you heartbroken. 

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Into the Wild. Image Credit: Paramount.

Review

Well, last night I noticed Into the Wild had come onto Netflix. I had heard some good things about it a couple of years ago and I thought it would be a nice relaxing film to put on before going to bed. Oh wow, did I ever get that wrong.

So to set the scene, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) gets dropped off on an Alaskan trail and walks into the wilderness a lot less prepared than maybe he should have. Ignoring the concerns from the guy that dropped him off he begins the march into the wilds of the north until he finds an abandoned bus and uses that as a base of operation. When then jump two years into the past and see why it is Christopher set off on this journey.

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