“Elvis” (Biography/Drama/Music: 2 hours, 39 minutes)
With: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks and Olivia DeJonge
Director: Baz Luhrman
Rated: R (Strong language, suggestive material, substance abuse)
Movie Review: “Elvis” is made up of two movies. We vibrate disjointedly with energetic visuals. The other impresses with the talents of Austin Butler as “The King”. Director Baz Luhrmann’s style is unique but changes for the better during the second half of this photoplay.
Elvis Presley’s entry into music seems like a fateful one, told from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker (Hanks). Elvis’ early life as a boy in Tupelo, Mississippi, and later as a young man living in Memphis, Tennessee, are periods heavily influenced by gospel and African-American rhythm and blues.
Parker sees a major artist with Elvis. Parker sees money as Elvis’ manager and Elvis sees fame. The two become a successful couple that makes Elvis a rock and roll phenomenon.
These early scenes are fast and flashy bits that can cause motion sickness for some. Think of the first half of this film as well-sung segments set in jerky, fast-paced scenes that go back and forth between the late 1940s and 1997. Half of this script is a cacophony of several concepts mixed together. You could think of it as sections of an orchestra playing the same music in different rooms. As a musical, it is as artistic as it is confusing.
This is the style of Baz Luhrmann and it gets carried away for nearly an hour and it’s voluntary.
As a director-screenwriter, Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!” 2001; “The Great Gatsby,” 2013) makes Elvis’ life as bright and flashy as the legendary singer’s stage attire. The busy first half only sets the stage for a more tame second half that becomes solid drama. This is where Butler comes to show that he is a major player as an actor who can sing. He gains a certain swagger as he plays the entertainer.
The second half slows down to more dramatically show Elvis’ many interactions with people. The audience gets a slower depiction detailing their encounters with family and others. The second is the essential part of the movie because it allows for more dignified drama, especially between Butler and Hanks.
Butler plays the role of Elvis Presley. He sings. He acts. He dances. He charms like a charismatic gentleman with the handsome stature of someone made for a leading actor.
In one scene, Butler’s Elvis says he wants to be like actor James Dean and be a leading man in movies. Butler has a presence like Dean. He impresses, stealing scenes from veteran Tom Hanks.
Hanks is always fun to watch on the big screen, though his accent isn’t always consistent playing Dutch-American music entrepreneur Colonel Thomas Parker. Here, Parker, whose honorary rank was bestowed on him by the state of Louisiana, is the semi-antagonist of this story.
Parker is also the narrator of this film. It tells the story of Elvis as he imagined it. That leaves plenty of room for artistic license with this adaptation of Elvis’ life.
Luhrmann offers an artistic interpretation, examining the musical roots of his subject by highlighting important black influences on the style and presentation of Elvis, notables such as BB King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), Little Richard (Alton Mason) , Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (Gary Clark Jr.), Big Mama Thornton (Shonka Dukureh).
It creates an engaging biopic that shakes, rattles and rolls until the very end, where audiences see the real Elvis sing one of his most memorable songs, a 1977 performance of “Unchained Melody.”
Closing scenes featuring the actual performer singing are a very common addition to biographical storylines about legendary singers. such works. The ending is emotional. It’s a reminder of what a talented performer Elvis was and still is.
Grade: B (Elvis is still in the building.)
“The Black Telephone” (Horror: 1h43)
With: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw and Ethan Hawke
Director: Scott Derrickson
Rated: R (violence, foul language, drug use, bloody images)
Movie Review: ‘Black Phone’ sounds like a movie version of TV’s ‘Stranger Things’. It’s an appealing horror that isn’t as scary as it could be but is good.
A certain sense of realism exists with the characters, and co-writers Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill allow the film to fall into formulaic concepts like other films in the horror genre.
In 1978, “The Grabber”, a serial child kidnapper in a Denver suburb, captures Finney Shaw (Thames), a shy but smart 13-year-old teenager. The Grabber places Finney in a soundproof basement. The sparse bedroom contains a mattress and a black phone hanging on the wall.
The phone rings and Finney answers the phone to discover the voices of the sadistic, masked killer’s previous victims. The voices of the murdered offer to help Finney so that he does not suffer the same fate as them. Meanwhile, Finney’s sister Gwen (McGraw) also wants to help by giving law enforcement officials information about the visions during her psychic dreams.
The cast makes this movie appealing. He has a mystery to solve. And it has a few scares with perfectly timed comedic dashes that make this feature entertaining.
Similar to many horror movies, “The Black Phone” has some dodgy moments. Most importantly, parents let their children roam the streets with a serial killer who kidnaps mostly teens and tweens from the area.
Maybe they think “The Grabber” could instill some needed discipline or at least the girls are safe. This digression was a joke, but you’d think suburban parents would be a bit more worried.
That aside, “The Black Phone” is an appealing film. He entertains. It is based on the short story titled the same by Joe Hill, aka Joseph King. He is the son of the famous writer Stephen King. If the filmmakers are smart, they’ll find a number on Hill’s phone and see what other work he has.
Grade: B (Call it.)
Adann-Kennn Alexxandar has been criticizing films for over 20 years in South Georgia.