Movie Review: The Halloween Legacy Trilogy

Okay so, I’m a massive John Carpenter fan. He’s one of the great storytellers and filmmakers of my generation. They Live, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, In the Mouth of Madness and so on. I do love me a bit of JC. However and time for a confession, I’ve never really been much of a fan of Halloween. It’s just a very average slasher flick with a very memorable Donald Pleasence performance. I respect the film and what it did for the horror genre but given the choice, I’d rather watch something else.

When the recent Halloween legacy sequels came out, I just let them slide by without even so much as a sideways glance. Well, there’s a new Halloween legacy sequel out now and one that is said to be the definitive end to the story… until they decide to reboot it again in a couple of years. ‘Tis the season of Halloween, there’s a new Halloween film out and I always do a Halloween special for my blog. Plus, I did do a Halloween retrospective back in 2018. So, in order to finish what I started, I guess I have to take a look at the last three films as one of my Halloween specials this year. Oh yeah, I have more than one Halloween special coming for your eyes. But first, my view of the three Halloween legacy sequels.

Halloween

HALLOWEEN 2018

This flick, while the eleventh in the franchise, ignores all of the sequels and is a direct sequel to the 1978 original. Michael Myers, following his Haddonfield killing spree in 1978, has been locked away at the  Smith’s Grove Psychiatric Hospital for the last four decades where he has never so much as said a single word. Aaron and Dana, two real crime ‘investigators’ (read: annoying podcasters) visit Micheal, wanting to interview him about his murderous ways. Not getting anywhere as Michael Myers is not saying a word, Aaron pulls out Michael’s original mask that he wore for his killing spree, hoping to get some kind of a response. Nothing.

In Haddonfield, Laurie Strode has become a recluse and a bit of a cliché. She drinks, has a strained relationship with her daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson and lives in a heavily fortified home as she awaits the return of Michael Myers. Still haunted by visions of what happened that night and suffering from PTSD. As they got nowhere with Micheal, Aaron and Dana interview Laurie instead and don’t get a great deal out of her either. When Michael Myers is being transferred from the Smith’s Grove Psychiatric Hospital to a high-security prison, the bus that he is being transferred on crashes and Michael escapes on October the 30th. Of course, Michael Myers is freed, gets his mask back and makes his way to Haddonfield to finish what he started 40 years before.

HALLOWEEN 2018 2

My View

As a sequel to the original film, this works really damn well. One of my issues with the first film is the lack of any actual plot. It really is just a killer murdering annoying babysitters. Like totally. Here, there is a plot. You have Laurie struggling with her past and her family, who think she is going nuts. There’s Frank Hawkins, the officer who supposedly stopped and arrested Michael Myers back in 1978 and he seems to be the only one on Laurie’s side. Then, of course, there is all of the killing. Michael himself is genuinely creepy and feels like he did in the first film. If you have ever watched any of the fucking atrocious sequels, you’ll know what I mean.

Halloween has a great sense of atmosphere and dread running throughout. There are some well-done nods and references to the sequels (that no longer exist in this timeline), such as the clearing up of Laurie being Michael’s sister. The infamous masks from Halloween III: Season of the Witch and more. This is a film that was clearly made by people who had a passion for the original. It gets a bit cliché now and again, naughty babysitters obviously going to be killed, people falling over nothing for no reason as Michael Myers chases them. You know, all the typical slasher movie tropes, but they work and feel right. There are zero surprises here (except for maybe one character’s motivations). From the moment the film opens up, you know exactly where it is going. But there’s nowt wrong with that. Halloween doesn’t try to be pretentious and it knows what it is. I have watched all of the Halloween films and despite me not being a gargantuan fan of the original and that I don’t hold it up as the messiah of slasher films, like so many others do, I still have a huge amount of respect for it. I felt that this was way better than the original.

There’s an actual plot and the characters are not all annoying pricks. It is well-shot and has a genuinely unnerving tone. Of all of the Halloween films (discounting Halloween III as it is more of a stand-alone thing), this is my favourite. Jamie Lee Curtis is awesome and kicks some bum-cheeks as the ageing, but still very capable pensioner with a gun. Judy Greer as Laurie’s estranged daughter is great too. Then there is Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter, or ‘Laurie II’, she does very well. The three make a believable and very watchable trio. Halloween is a great start to this legacy trilogy and I am genuinely excited to see the next two.

Halloween Kills

HALLOWEEN KILLS

Starting out with a flashback to 1978 and showing just how Frank Hawkins ‘captured’ Michael Myers after the events of the original film. The film then jumps to the present time and picks up just minutes after the ending of the previous film. A party is being held, by Tommy Doyle, as a celebration of 40 years since Michael Myers was captured and sent to the Smith’s Grove Psychiatric Hospital. Joining Tommy in the celebration are some survivors of Michael’s 1978 killing spree. Back at Laurie’s house, firefighters turn up and try to put out the fire that Laurie started to kill Michael at the end of the previous film. The firefighters accidentally set Michael Myers free and he does what he does. Kills the firefighters and gets back to terrorising Haddonfield on Halloween.

Meanwhile, Laurie, Karen and Allyson are at the hospital and being taken care of after their run-in with Michael Myers. Also at the hospital is Frank Hawkins, following his own run-in with Michael during the events of Halloween (2018). News of Michael’s latest killing spree reaches Tommy Doyle and the other survivors and they decide to form a mob and hunt down Michael Myers themselves. Back at the hospital, Laurie and Frank reminisce about the old days while Karen learns that Michael is still alive.

HALLOWEEN KILLS 2

My View

Halloween (2018) really was a fantastic legacy sequel that improved on the original, told a great story and continued Laurie Strode’s history. Halloween Kills shits on all of that. Laurie is unconscious/in a hospital bed for 85% of this film. The other 15%? She gets to walk around the hospital for a bit (before going back to her room), and that is a massive waste of Jamie Lee Curtis and her character. Seriously, you could edit Laurie out of the film completely and it would not affect the plot in any way. The mob, led by Tommy, is just fucking annoying and gets way more screen time than they deserve. I think the idea of having Laurie in the hospital for the entire film was a reference to Halloween II, in which Laurie is in hospital for the entire film (just without the bad wig). I personally think it would have been better to have had Laurie actually doing something in the film other than lying in a hospital bed. ‘Cos, you know, she is the main character.

There are some great references to the original flick and even some of the original actors coming back to reprise the roles that they played over 40 years ago (and some recasts). Halloween Kills is a pretty bloody film too. But, you know what? It’s not scary, it lacks atmosphere and that sense of dread that was running through Halloween (2018) is gone. This almost feels like the filmmakers set out to make a bad horror sequel to a good flick to (meta) highlight that bad horror sequels to good flicks exist. Though I’m sure that was not the intent. As a continuation of Laurie Strode’s story, this fails. As a sequel to a good first film, it fails. As an example of how to not make a film, it works. When I finished watching Halloween, I said how I was genuinely excited to see the next two. After this, I just hope the next one isn’t this bad. I’d even settle for an ‘okay’ film at this point.

Halloween Ends

HALLOWEEN ENDS

Well, this it is, the finale. It’s Halloween 2019 and Corey is babysitting Jeremy… which does not end well at all. Three years later and Michael Myers’ killing spree of 2018 is still felt through Haddonfield, though Michael himself has disappeared. Laurie has moved into a house, a normal and everyday house. No fortifications, no hidden safe rooms, a house. Now living with her granddaughter, Allyson. In her downtime, Laurie is writing a memoir of her experiences with Michael Myers. Corey crosses paths with some local bullies and ends up with an injury. Laurie stops the bullies and takes Corey to the hospital, where Allyson is now working at. Corey and Allyson hit it off and strike up a relationship.

The couple agree to go to a Halloween party together. After seeing someone from his past, Corey leaves the party and crosses paths with the bullies, again. This time, they throw him off a bridge. He survives, but is taken into the sewers by ‘someone’. After regaining consciousness, Corey is confronted by Michael Myers, who has been living in the sewers since his murderous ways of Halloween night 2018. However, Michael doesn’t kill Corey, he lets him go. But why?

HALLOWEEN ENDS 2

My View

I tell you something, the opening of this film is amazing. Really moody and feels very Halloween and has quite a surprise outcome. Then, it all goes downhill and keeps going downhill. This is atrocious. I can see that the filmmakers wanted to try something different and subvert the fan’s expectations, but it really doesn’t work at all. Michael Myers is hardly in this, absolute bare minimum. And I don’t mean that he is underused to great effect like the shark in Jaws or even Michael Myers in the original Halloween. I mean that he is so underused that Michael may as well not even be in the film. This is kind of what they did with the previous film with Laurie by having her in a hospital and doing a whole lot of nothing. It’s now Michael’s turn to be in a film and do a whole lot of nothing.

Outside of the opening 10 minutes or so, there are no scares, no atmosphere and no surprises. It has very little to do with Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, 40 years of build-up for a finale that is nothing more than a damp squib. I mean, they basically stole the plot from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, just without the surprises. I’m actively trying to avoid spoilers here, but you know exactly where this film is going to go before it even reaches the halfway point. Yeah, Laurie finally kills Michael (again) but even that feels like a tacked-on idea just to give this bore-fest some kind of closure and tie it in with the franchise. This could’ve been a 20-minute short just to tie up loose ends following the events of Halloween Kills and yet, it drags on for almost 2 hours. This is dull, woefully dull. The only positive, outside of the opening, is that Jamie Lee Curtis actually has some stuff to do here (despite the little screen time that she has) and isn’t stuck in a hospital doing nothing for the entire film.


LAURIE

If you are looking for a good Halloween film to watch this scary season, watch the 1978 original Halloween and then watch the 2018 sequel afterwards. Then, just leave it at that. The 2018 flick did such a fantastic job of bringing Laurie and Michael back that, I guess the only way to go was down. The last two films of this trilogy are awful, lets just pretend that they don’t exist.

But is this truly the end of the Halloween franchise? Nope, they’ll bring it back somehow. Whether another remake, another reboot or of they leave it 40 years and do another legacy sequel with Andi Matichak retuning as Laurie’s granddaughter. Halloween, as a franchise, has not ended. Laurie even writes a line in her memoir at the end of Halloween Ends that hints that it is not over. Michael Myers is definitively dead at the end of Halloween Ends, no doubt about it. He doesn’t suffer one of those ‘well maybe he survived’ deaths. There is absolutely no way that he could’ve survived… but the film still hints that it is not over. They’re leaving their options open for more.

Movie Review: Hellraiser (2022)

Well, here we are, the Hellraiser remake. A film that has been a long time coming. I remember hearing of an up-and-coming Hellraiser remake around 10 years ago. It has been a long, long wait from then until now and the big question is, was it worth it?

Just for context, I kind of have to do this review because, a few years b?ck, I did an entire Hellraiser retrospective for the original film’s 30th anniversary as a Halloween special. So, I’m back with the latest film in the long-running franchise and on Halloween too. I just can not get away from these films, can I? Still, this can kind of be a Halloween special for this year, even though I already have something more substantial coming soon.

So then, synopsis time. Hellraiser (2022) begins with Joey (Kit Clarke) opening the famed puzzle box. He is stabbed in the hand by the box and is taken by the Cenobites. Several years later and Riley (Odessa A’zion), is a young woman struggling with drug addiction. She comes across the puzzle box and opens it but does not get stabbed, and so avoids the wrath of the Cenobites who tell her to find another to pass the box onto. Matt (Brandon Flynn), Riley’s brother, thinks that Riley is relapsing and using drugs again as she tries to tell her story about being visited by the Cenobites. Matt ends up cutting himself on the box and so, the Cenobites take him instead. Riley is offered a deal, solve more configurations of the box and use her own friends as bait, in exchange for getting her brother back. There is a bit more going on, but I don’t want to get into spoilers here, that is just the general gist of the plot.

HELLRAISER SCREEN 4

I have been thinking about how best to sum this film up. It took me a while, but I eventually got it. This is the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake all over again. A really great and interesting take on a horror icon (hey, I enjoyed Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy) but put in a film devoid of anything worthy of note. The main characters in this are instantly forgettable. I watched Hellraiser three times for this review. I watched it once just to watch it, again to take notes for this review and a third time to refresh my noodle as I sat down to write the review proper. Even then, even after watching this three times, I still had to look up the characters’ names on IMDb. Everything about the main characters is just so ‘cookie-cutter’,bland and taken from just about every horror film made in the last 20 years. I had the exact same problem with the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake too.

Just going back to the original flick for a second. Those characters were memorable. Uncle Frank, Julia (one of the best villainesses ever), Larry and of course, the awesome Kirsty. Even the delivery men hoofing the bed up the stairs. They’re memorable because they were well-written and acted. Here though, nothing. Just very bland, very forgettable characters. What you have are just some really annoying people who scream and run a lot, with IQs lower than your average TikTok user.

HELLRAISER SCREEN 3

Still, as I already said, I did like Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy in the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and I can say the same about Jamie Clayton as ‘Pinhead’ in this. Just to make this clear, she’s (if the Cenobites have a gender and is a she) not actually called Pinhead in the film, the character is credited as being The Priest, even though everyone is just going to call her Pinhead, if she is meant to be female. Anyway, I liked Clayton in the role and thought that the performance was good enough. Filling Doug Bradley’s shoes is impossible and not even worth trying (see the last two Hellraiser sequels for proof). Still, this new version of Pinhead (that’s not Pinhead) was good enough and one of the few things I actually enjoyed about the film.

The other Cenobites are used well too. They are kind of underused well in the first half of the film, but they begin to take centre stage as the film progresses and builds to its finale. There’s some great effects work here and it does get rather bloody and gruesome at times. That is, if you can see what is going on. This film is just too damn dark and I don’t mean for atmosphere or aesthetic reasons either. There is just poor lighting throughout the film. The opening scene with two characters talking, no horror, no Cenobites, etc. Just two people talking, it was really hard to make out what was going on. The entire film is like this too, just dark for no reason. Did the director not know that films can use lighting setups? Even so, this never feels as visceral or raw as the original film. It is bloody, but it is subdued gore.

HELLRAISER SCREEN 2

I did kind of enjoy how the lore of the puzzle box was done here. It is different to the original films and admittedly, it does do something interesting with the mythology. It is just a shame that it was used in a  film with really shitty characters that I didn’t care for. I would even say that there is actually too much going in here. There’s about two or three films worth of plot squeezed into 120 minutes and as a result, this film drags a lot because it gets weighed down by exposition. Then there are times when a whole lot of nothing happens. This is a Hellraiser flick it doesn’t need to be 2 hours long an doesn’t need to be this heavy with exposition. I don’t really understand why this is even a remake. Outside of its use of the box and the Cenobites, it has nothing to do with the original film. To the point where it could’ve just been another low-quality sequel that the franchise became known for. Seriously, slip this somewhere in between Hellraiser: Hellworld and Hellraiser: Judgment and it wouldn’t feel out of place at all.

HELLRAISER SCREEN 5

Look, I’m not saying that I expected a beat-for-beat recreation of the original. It is more a case of the fact that things are so vastly different here that it really does feel like one of the latter sequels over a remake (just wait for someone to tell me that it is not a remake and is a re-adaption of the novella). Good effects work, good make-up and they did the right thing by using the original Hellraiser music too. But the final product is a very bland and ‘meh’ experience. This film is okay, at best. Of course, it sequel-baits like crazy at the end (because a film can’t just be a film these days, it has to set up a franchise). But after this, I really don’t want another. Please stop making Hellraiser films for me to write about. At this point, my suffering is legendary, even in Hell.

Movie Review: Blonde

Okay, so truth be told. I watched this a while back and have been sitting on my review for several days now. At first, I really wasn’t sure of what to make of this one. Here we go with yet another biopic of a major star. These things are ten a penny at the moment and are becoming tiresome. Honestly, I really wasn’t in the mood to sit through another biopic and part of me really didn’t want to watch this at all. I kind of went into it with a preconception and a basic idea that I really wasn’t going to enjoy it.

So, I sat it out for a few days, just to see what other people had to say about this. Not critics, not professional reviewers, but just the general consensus from the public. The public really seems to dislike it too. I’ve read articles about viewers switching off after 20 minutes and being ‘horrified’ by the film. It’s been called ‘unwatchable’ and described as being a ‘hate letter’ about Marilyn Monroe. I read these articles and smiled, I’m not alone… even if I don’t necessarily agree with their sentiment.

“A look at the rise to fame and the epic demise of actress Marilyn Monroe, one of the biggest stars in the world.”

That brief synopsis does the job of summing up the film perfectly and still manages to not describe the film as well as it truly deserves. Before I get into the (none spoiler) review proper, this is not a biopic. At least, not in the traditional sense. Blonde is actually based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates. Now, the novel is not a faithful retelling of Marilyn Monroe’s life. The novel is more of a fictional take on Monroe’s life, set within her real life… if that makes any sense? Yes, the events in the book and film happened, but not necessarily as they did in real life. This is fiction with one foot in reality. And it is very important to know this before you get into the film because this is a major factor that a lot of the negative viewers just don’t get.

BLONDE SCREEN 1

There is another major factor that you need to keep in mind. As I said, this is not a biopic, this is a straight-up horror film. This is a movie that does not sugarcoat anything. It is a harsh, brutal, vivid and very graphic horror film that is based around a fictional take on Marilyn Monroe’s life. Blonde explores issues such as child abuse and trauma, rape, mental illness and so much more. If you are looking for a nice, flowery flick that paints Monroe as an all-American icon and international mega-star, you’re not going to find that here. Blonde is bleak, it is negative, it is depressing and it is amazing for it too.

There’s a very good reason that Blonde got a controversial NC-17 rating (18 here in the UK), because this is not an easy watch at all. People are being horrified by the film because it is a horror film and a completely unapologetic one too. I’m not going to get into spoilers here, so I do have to be careful with what I do and do not say. But, as no surprise to anyone, Blonde tells the life of Norma Jeane Mortenson (soon to become Marilyn Monroe) from her childhood and right through to her death in 1962 at just 32-years-old. The film explores her meteoric rise from an unknown actress to one of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars at the time. The many men in her life, her insatiable appetite for sex and her many issues that would eventually lead to her questionable death. Again, this is still fiction but set in the very real world of Marilyn Monroe’s life.

BLONDE SCREEN 2

Watching Blonde put me more in mind of classic horror flicks such as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and similar psychological horror films that followed it. Blonde’s writer/director Andrew Dominik has got to have been a fan of similar films too because this really does feel very much like a 1960s horror flick, but with a much more modern edge. Ana de Armas is amazing as Marilyn Monroe and she does not really play Monroe as she was in real life, the performance is more like a perceived version of what Marilyn Monroe was like. This is what I think is rubbing a lot of people up the wrong way. They think they are going to get an accurate Marilyn Monroe biopic. You’re not, you are going to get a deeply disturbing psychological horror with an impossible-to-believe depiction of Marilyn Monroe.

Some of the scenes here are very difficult to watch and I can honestly see how and why people have a lot of issues with what is shown in the film. Still, it does have the high age rating for a very good reason… trust me. Blonde is very graphic in its horror and often hits you in the face with a sledgehammer repeatedly, but it can be amazingly subtle too. This is a film about a person’s life completely crumbling and falling down around them. The fact that person is Marilyn Monroe should be largely irrelevant and once you do get that into your head, the more enjoyable the film is.

BLONDE SCREEN 3

As long as you don’t go into this thinking that you are going to watch a sweet Marilyn Monroe biopic and ready yourself for a bleak and graphic horror film, you’re in for a good time. Blonde is brutal and disgusting… but that’s the point, a point that a lot of viewers are massively missing. This film isn’t ‘woke’, far from it. It’s not for all the snowflakes either. I initially went into this not watching to sit through yet another biopic and I came out if it pleasantly surprised because it was exactly what I didn’t want it to be. As the film ended, I felt like I needed a shower. I didn’t have one though, I just watched the film again instead. One of the best films I have seen this year.

(Not A) Movie Review: Minions: The Rise Of Gru

I read a review of this film from The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw where he basically dumped on the entire film. Looking into Mr Bradshaw’s scrawlings, he just seems like a middle-aged, balding bloke who likes to dump on anything remotely enjoyable. Hey, I’m a middle-aged balding bloke too. However, I know that I’m not really the target audience for a picture like this. So I wanted to get a more reasonable view. I took my (almost) 5-year-old daughter, Sienna, to see this and my (not) review is based on my experiencing the film through her eyes. Just to offer a little bit of balance.

So then, Sienna is a massive Minions fan. She’s seen all of the films from the first Despicable Me through to (now) this one. When I told her we were going to watch the new film, her eyes lit up and she was counting down the days. When the big day came, she wore her yellow Minions t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans so she could look like a Minion. She was as excited as a kid going to see a new film based on her favourite characters.

Getting out of the car at the cinema, she held my hand tight with a big smile on her face, as we crossed from the car park, over to the path and walked towards the cinema… still with a huge smile on her face. A big Minion cut-out was there to greet us as we walked inside. We headed to the concessions stand and I had pre-ordered a little surprise. Some popcorn topped with Smarties and a drink in a Minions cup with a googly eye.

RISE OF GRU CUP

Yup, that’s the one. The look on her face when she saw the cup was magical. The girl who served me saw Sienna’s Minion t-shirt and said she looked cool. Still holding my hand, we walked to the screen after scanning our pre-ordered tickets, we found our seats. Row G for Gru (Sienna’s idea)… and that row was right in the middle for optimum viewing too.

After a few moments, the lights dimmed as the trailers began. DC League of Super-Pets, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and some other soon-to-be-released films. I can’t tell you what they were because I was too busy looking at Sienna who was transfixed on the screen. An amazing moment and wonderful memory for me to treasure, no doubt Sienna would’ve forgotten all about the trailers 5 minutes later though.

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After the trailers, the dimmed lights went out completely and Minions: The Rise of Gru began. The Universal logo appeared and the familiar fan-fare music played. Sienna took her eyes off the screen just long enough for her to look at me and say “Daddy, it’s Minions”, before turning her attention fully back to the big screen. The usual Minions interacting with the Illumination logo came up and Sienna was laughing before the film had even started proper.

The next 90 minutes flew by and aside from occasionally glancing over to grab some Smarties topped popcorn or to have a sip from her Minions cup, she never took her eyes off the screen. Laughing at the Minions and little Gru all through the film. I hardly watched the film as I was too busy enjoying Sienna’s enjoyment of it so much. The smile never left her face and the laughs kept coming until the credits rolled.

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See, this is why you don’t send middle-aged, balding blokes to review films that are aimed at children… take a child instead. Yeah, these flicks can be watched by adults and they can be thoroughly entertaining too. But the main audience is kids and my kid loved it. She’s not the kind of child that would just sit through anything either. If she’s bored, Sienna will tell you that she’s bored and won’t want to watch. With Minions: The Rise of Gru, Sienna was totally enthralled from start to end. To the point where, when the credits started, I got up to leave and Sienna said “not now Daddy, there’s more Minions”, telling me that there had to be an extra scene because all the films had something during the credits. She was right too.

As for the few moments of the film I did watch, when not looking at and getting lost in Sienna’s total and utter joy, I really liked it. Set in 1976, it has an awesome soundtrack, doing kung-fu training to Funky Town and the Minions singing You Can’t Always Get What You Want from The Stones was brilliant. The plot blistered along and never dragged once. It’s funny, charming and has quite a few nods to the first Despicable Me film… which I have seen many times thanks to Sienna.

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“The Rise of Gru review – feeble origin story hopefully lays franchise to rest”, is how Peter Bradshaw decided to open his review for The Guardian. Bollocks to that, as long as these films make my daughter and millions of other children around the world happy, as long as the cast and crew want to make them… keep them coming I say. Sharing my daughter’s joy with this film is a memory I’ll cherish forever, thanks to everyone invloved in making this film. Well worth the 2 year delay just to see Sienna laugh and smile as she did.

Movie Review: Elvis

I’ve been sitting on this one for a few days now. Originally, my review of this simply read: “Well, Tom Hanks was quite good.” and that was it. A one line review for a one-note film. This really isn’t very good. But that one line review, while justified, felt lacking… just like the film. I thought I’d better explain my disdain for this film.

So yeah, I really didn’t enjoy this at all, except for Tom Hanks, a performance that is really dividing people. Music biopics are all the rage recently, a trend that seemingly kicked off with Bohemian Rhapsody a few years back. Yeah, I know that these kinds of flicks predate the Queen biopic, but the recent trend seems to have really kicked off because of it. A few weeks back, I actually reviewed the Kurt Russell starring TV Elvis movie. A film I hadn’t seen for quite a few years. Despite its low budget and age, it has held up pretty well and Russell is a really good Elvis too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not great or anything but it does have one major saving grace… it’s not this film.

Rap music, rap music in an Elvis biopic! ‘Cos you know, Elvis and the 50s – 70s didn’t have much in the way of music to use eh? It was just so out of place and jarring. I don’t mind when films make artistic music choices. Quentin Tarantino using a mashup of James Brown’s The Payback and 2Pac’s Untouchable during the Candyland shootout in Django Unchained was awesome. But that was a fictional film set in a fictional universe with fictional characters. Let me bring this comparison closer to home with Rocketman, the Elton John biopic had songs being sung at times decades before they had been recorded. The Bollywood dance scene during the Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting scene was completely erroneous but wonderful. However, Rocketman was billed as being a ‘musical fantasy’ and it worked.

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This Elvis biopic is neither of those things, it’s not a fictional film telling the story of fictional characters. Nor is it a fantasy using a well-known musical artist’s life as its backdrop. It’s supposed to be a genuine and direct attempt at telling the story of Elvis… and it really is not.

There are several major events of Elvis’ life that are skipped over. Sun Records and Sam Phillips? Nope, aside from a very brief mention. Elvis’ long-standing friendship with Red West? Nope. Elvis’ close relationship with his mom? Nope, Gladys Presley is in this, but their close mother/son relationship is pretty much glossed over and when she does die (spoilers) it lacks any character or stroy depth. His time in the Army and being stationed in Germany? Blink and you’ll miss it. Even his marriage to Priscilla is glossed over and feels like a footnote. There are more instances of Elvis’ life that apparently didn’t happen, according to this film. Now, someone said that’s because this is told from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker and if he wasn’t there to witness events then they can’t really be part of his narrative. Okay, fine I accept that… so why are there so many scenes shown that Colonel Tom was not a part of? We see Elvis as a young boy years before Colonel Tom was even involved. Just one of many examples. If this film wants to use the narrative of this being told through Colonel Tom’s eyes, then stick with it and stop cherry-picking moments to tell a disjointed narrative.

ELVIS SCFREEN 3

This film just skips over major events of Elvis’ life… in a biopic about Elvis. You know, I actually really liked the idea of the story being told from the point of view of Colonel Tom Parker. It’s unique and hasn’t been done before. Tom Hanks was amazing in the role too (some say otherwise) and it’s very unusual to see Hanks playing the bad guy and he really is portrayed as being a bad guy too. But this is an Elvis biopic, it’s called Elvis and is centralised on Elvis. If they want to make a Colonel Tom film… then make a Colonel Tom film… and don’t call it Elvis.

Austin Butler as Elvis is both great and terrible. In the early years, showing his and Colonel Tom’s relationship, Butler was atrocious as young Elvis. I kept thinking he was going to stop and marry a couple in Vegas he was that bad. However, as older Elvis in the 1970s, Butler was fucking amazing. In fact, this film really doesn’t get even slightly interesting or good until the last 30-40 minutes with Elvis doing his Vegas thing. The film actually feels like a disjointed mess of scenes that is just bulldozing its way to the finale. I’m pretty sure the only research done for this film was reading a few paragraphs of Elvis’ Wikipedia page.

ELVIS SCFREEN 1

The main issue is that this is a Baz Luhrmann film. Stroy by, screenplay by, produced and directed by Luhrmann and he’s crap. He’s wearing so many different hats for this film that I’m amazed he didn’t do the catering. He lets his ego get in the way of his art and everything has to be ‘Luhrmannised’ to the point where his films become the epitome of style over substance. That is exactly what this flick is style on top of style, on top of more style… and a tiny bit of substance at the end. It tried to be Rocketman with its glitz and failed. Because unlike the Elton John flick, there’s no real story here, just scenes. A film with a 2-hour and 39-minute runtime and only the later 39 minutes feel anything like a watchable film.

This flick is just an over-bloated mess that doesn’t do anything particularly well (until the end) and what it does do, it does really badly… in style. Elvis is a film that straight up pisses on an icon, it is the cinematic version of someone doing a paint-by-numbers version of the Mona Lisa… with glitter paint and not following the numbers/colour coding…. while painting over the lines. Don’t bother watching this at the cinema, wait until it is on streaming services (which should take a few weeks going by recent trends) because you can just fast forward to the last 40 minutes when it finally gets good then and save yourself a couple of hours.

Oh well, at least Tom Hanks was quite good.