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Elvis (2022) Review

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Elvis

Time: 159 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use
Cast:
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley
Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker
Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley
Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley
Richard Roxburgh as Vernon Presley
Director: Baz Luhrmann

Elvis Presley rises to fame in the 1950s while maintaining a complex relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

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Elvis was a movie that intrigued me leading up to its release. I’ve only seen three of Baz Luhrmann’s movies, I enjoyed his divisive adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but straight up disliked Moulin Rogue and Romeo + Juliet (which are generally liked by people). I just couldn’t get into his style and while I liked some aspects, Baz seemed to be just a filmmaker whose style just wasn’t for me. Then after a very long time since his last released movie, it was announced that he would be making a new movie, that being a biopic of Elvis Presley. I’m not big on music biopics and I’m not big on Baz’s movies but somehow them being combined intrigued me greatly. I was curious to see how Luhrmann would approach it and at the very least, he would provide the movie with a distinct style within a subgenre that’s generally repetitive and dull. So I’m happy to say that I ended up liking Elvis far more than I thought I would.

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I wasn’t familiar with Elvis Presley beyond a few of his songs, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie, overall I was satisfied with what we got. During its first act I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about the film, it was just leaving us to come to grips with Baz’s style. That being said, I feel like the movie hit its stride after 30 minutes. At this point we really see Elvis, his upbringing, and his rise to fame. The movie does contain music biopic tropes in the sense that it has familiar rise and fall aspects, but that is just about impossible to avoid when the movie is based on the subject’s true life. Elvis isn’t the most complex of music biopics, there is certainly more emphasis on the spectacle and getting the spirit of Elvis. But for what it is, it works. I much prefer the movie capturing the spirit of Elvis over feeling like a Wikipedia page converted into a movie. The film really doesn’t have much of a structure; it more feels like a bunch of events and sections of Elvis’s life strung together and relying on the audience to be riding the high of the vibe. If I watched it again, I’m not sure I would enjoy it as much, but on my first viewing I liked it. It helps that there is a contagious and consistent energy throughout. I also found myself engaged with what was happening with the story, I even found myself emotionally invested. There are some questionable choices with the way that Baz Luhrmann decided to tell the story. These help to make the movie interesting at least (and distinct compared to the other music biopics out there), but there are still parts which I wasn’t entirely on board with. Probably the weirdest choice is the way the story is presented. From the beginning, it is narrated by Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker as he presents his side of the story, and it’s like this throughout. It is an intriguing narrative decision, but I’m not really sure what the point of it was by the end. If Luhrmann were that insistent on having a narrator, I would’ve preferred it to be a random unknown person instead of making it Hanks. It is a very long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes long, and in some ways, it pays off as it is trying to tell 42 years of Elvis’s life. But with Baz’s style, it can be an admittedly overwhelming and exhausting experience.

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One of the best parts of the movie, if not the best part is Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, who is absolutely fantastic. He fully embodies the Elvis persona from beginning to end, with the movements, mannerisms and lines. Not only does he talk and sing like Elvis, but he also captures his essence well. He also shows such range; even though the movie could be very theatrical and flashy, the movie slows down at times to provide Butler moments to really shine with dramatic scenes. It was also interesting seeing Austin Butler evolve and grow older as Elvis did. Other actors are good including Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh who provide good supporting work. There is one other key actor alongside Austin Butler which I haven’t talked about yet, and that is Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker. Elvis may have had raving reactions when it was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but the one aspect that not everyone was on board with was Hanks’s performance. Having seen the movie, I can see why. I’m not sure I’d say that it’s a bad performance because Hanks certainly sells the sleaze aspect and its one of the rare times where he plays a villain. That being said, it is a strong contender for Tom Hanks’s most questionable acting work ever. He’s very cartoonish and evil, it’s like he was playing the role like a typical Baz Luhrmann villain (see Richard Roxburgh in Moulin Rouge for reference) than a real-life person. I guess that might work in some respects, but it has its issues. It’s a bit jarring when most of the other characters are fairly grounded especially Butler’s Elvis, the latter is giving a very realistic and believable performance, whereas Hanks is very close to morphing into a cartoon villain at many points. Its worth noting that if you dislike his performance, you might have a hard time with the film considering that he serves at the narrator.

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This is a Baz Luhrmann movie, and his style is very much not for everyone, you love it or you hate it. The frantic camera movements and editing can be a bit in your face. As for me, its hit or miss, but for whatever reason, it worked this time for me. I have heard some people say that it is Baz at his fullest Baz, and I’m not disputing that. It was a real experience watching it in the cinema, from the over the top and dazzling visuals to the loud sounds and music, it actually felt like you were in a concert. The musical  sequences were very entertaining to watch, Baz particularly excels here. Occasionally there will be the odd modern song which feels out of place here, but that’s to be expected given the director. Admittedly the movie can be overwhelming at times, especially toward the end I felt quite worn down and tired from the whole thing. For what its worth though, this might be the director’s most accessible film.

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Elvis was pleasantly surprising. It is another music biopic with some of the typical failings, and it can also be a bit overlong, messy and exhausting at times. However, it is made energetic, chaotic and entertaining with Baz Luhrmann’s stylish and fast paced direction. Not to mention, I was actually engaged with the story. Even if you’re like me and don’t generally vibe with Baz’s style I do think it’s worth checking out, at the very least for Austin Butler’s excellent performance as Elvis Presley. As far as music biopics go, this is likely among the best.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010) Review

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Legend of the Guardians - The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Some Scenes May Scare Very Young Children
Cast:
Jim Sturgess as Soren
Emily Barclay as Gylfie
Ryan Kwanten as Kludd
David Wenham as Digger
Anthony LaPaglia as Twilight
Helen Mirren as Nyra
Geoffrey Rush as Ezylryb/the Lyze of Kiel
Joel Edgerton as Metal Beak
Hugo Weaving as Noctus and Grimble
Adrienne DeFaria as Eglantine
Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Plithiver
Sam Neill as Allomere
Sacha Horler as Strix Struma
Abbie Cornish as Otulissa
Richard Roxburgh as Boron
Director: Zack Snyder

A father owl’s tales of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole enthrals his son Soren, but an older son scoffs at the stories of winged warriors who fought an epic battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones. Later the brothers become captives of the Pure Ones, but Soren makes a daring escape and, with the help of other young owls, seeks out the Guardians and brings them back to defend their people once again.

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This was actually the first film from Zack Snyder that I watched. It seems like an odd choice for him to direct looking back at his filmography. He’s more known for adapting comic books and graphic novels, not young adult books about animals. While it doesn’t rank among the best movies of his filmography, I thought it was pretty good.

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I actually had read the books this movie is based on some time ago, that being the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. I don’t have a strong memory of the plot in the books, but I recall movie’s plot being roughly similar to that from the novels, however there were some major changes in story and characters. The plot of this movie is quite a simple good and evil story. With that said, it’s darker than most children’s animated movies, and that is one of its biggest strengths. It was a while since I’ve read the books, but parts of the plot and the visuals are darker than you’d usually see. The only problem I have with this is that the tone is a little all over the place, as the humour is a bit unbalanced it has one too many jokes mixed in with this epic story. This movie covers the first 6 books in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole book series, and although the books aren’t that large, there’d be quite a lot of the story to be told in one movie. If it was going to be just one movie, it would probably need to be over 2 hours long to develop the characters and story enough, as well as not feeling a little rushed. As it is, the movie is under an hour and 40 minutes long, and the pacing is a little all over the place. It does feel like the movie doesn’t quite live up to its potential story-wise Also, maybe it’s because much of the movie is more mature than I expected, but I kind of wished for slightly more complexity from the story and characters, even though I know it’s essentially a children’s animated movie. The dialogue is also a little clunky at some points. The movie did leave at a point where it could go further with sequels, but unfortunately we didn’t get any.

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The characters aren’t particularly deep and are generally fine, the heroic characters are heroic, the quirky characters are quirky, and the evil characters are evil. I wish the was more to them but they are elevated by the voice cast, with the likes of Jim Sturgess, Emily Barclay, David Wenham, Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush and Joel Edgerton, making each of the characters stand out more and more memorable. The villain voiced by Edgerton particularly stood out and was quite effective in his scenes.

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This is the first and only animated film from Zack Snyder, and he’s done very well with his direction here. All of his movies are visually stunning, and Legend of the Guardians is no exception. It’s greatly animated, the environments, lighting and colours are outstanding, and when it particularly comes to the effects for the feathers and particularly elements like fire and water, it’s a wonder to watch. Although some had made fun of Snyder’s use of slow motion in some of his movies, it’s used absolutely perfectly here. While it definitely would’ve looked much better if it was made today, it still looks pretty good a decade later. The action involving the owls is also effective, especially some battle scenes towards the end. It’s hard to pull off making owls fighting look epic, but Snyder does it. This may be an animated movie, but you can still tell that this is one of his movies through and through. The music is generally good, except for a moment when a song played by Owl City is played, and aside from the pun with the band name, it’s really out of place and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie.

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is quite good, visually stunning, well made and enjoyable to watch. While there are some things holding back from being even better and reaching its full potential, I liked it overall, and I wished that we got to see more of these movies in this series. I’d like to see Snyder make another animated movie sometime, he certainly showed that here that he’s more than capable of it.

Mission Impossible 2 (2000) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium level violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Thandie Newton as Nyah Nordoff-Hall
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Dougray Scott as Sean Ambrose
Brendan Gleeson as John C. McCloy
Richard Roxburgh as Hugh Stamp
John Polson as Billy Baird
Radé Sherbedgia as Dr. Nekhorvich
Director: John Woo

Tom Cruise returns to his role as Ethan Hunt in the second installment of “Mission: Impossible.” This time Ethan Hunt leads his IMF team on a mission to capture a deadly German virus before it is released by terrorists. His mission is made impossible due to the fact that he is not the only person after samples of the disease. He must also contest with a gang of international terrorists headed by a turned bad former IMF agent who has already managed to steal the cure.

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The original Mission Impossible directed by Brian De Palma was a huge success, and would naturally get a sequel. Instead of the original director being in charge of it, it’s John Woo who directs this movie. Woo known for his over the top action movies like Broken Arrow and Face/Off, so you can expect the kind of movie that we got with Mission Impossible 2. It’s known by pretty much everyone as being by far the worst in the series and for very good reason. However, the biggest problem with the movie isn’t necessarily that it’s cheesy and stupid, its that it tries to do that while still having a rather dull plot, it’s a rather mixed bag.

From the very beginning you can tell that something is off. By the time we cut to Tom Cruise rock climbing, you begin to notice that this movie seems like it’s very much an 80s movie, whether it be the music, the slow motion, the cheesy dialogue, Tom Cruise wearing sunglasses (it’s not surprise that The Matrix game out the previous year) or Tom Cruise’s hair. In order to enjoy it, you have to know that it’s not really a Mission Impossible movie. Even the ridiculous aspects of the other films are amplified, for example there are at least 4 face mask reveals over the course of the movie with no explanation or showing of characters even creating them. This is very much a standard Tom Cruise action movie, not a Mission Impossible movie. At first one would think “okay, it’s not a Mission Impossible movie or a good movie, but at least it could be an entertaining movie”. However this movie is really dull and has such a mediocre story. On top of that, this movie has so much exposition dumps and ironically it tries way too hard to be serious. While this movie is very over the top with its action scenes, we don’t get many of them until over an hour into the movie, and no that first hour isn’t entertaining or intriguing in the slightest. If this movie was consistently cheesy and over the top at least this movie would work on some way. But here we have a really by the numbers and average action movie that just has some moments of enjoyable ridiculousness.

None of the cast do that great here. Tom Cruise is not Ethan Hunt here. He is trying to play an American James Bond (Brosnan era), it’s actually rather jarring how goofy he is here. He has a lot of charm, says one liners and acts like a playboy. Even the villain notes that he “grins like an idiot every 15 minutes”. While Ethan Hunt in the first Mission Impossible wasn’t particularly deep and had some moments where he was just invincible (the character improved in MI3), he still had some vulnerable moments and wasn’t a James Bond sort of character. For whatever reason that wasn’t present in the second film. Tom Cruise tries his best here though, to his credit he does go all in with whatever he was told to do, he does have genuine charisma and is very dedicated. Also all his stunts are great and he is worth all the praise for it, from rock climbing in Utah to having a knife nearly touch his eye halfway through a very intense fight scene near the end. Thandie Newton is a great actress but here she’s got really nothing to work with and doesn’t leave any kind of impression. The ‘relationship’ between her character and Cruise is so unbelievable and hilarious. Ethan Hunt has the smallest team here out of all the movies, with only 2 people. The first is Ving Rhames who returns as Luther Stickell, having appeared in every Mission Impossible movie, he’s one of the best characters of the series. Unfortunately it seems that all the personality and humour was sucked from him and I have no idea why. Despite this he still fared better than the second team member Bill Baird played by John Polson who was completely forgettable. The villain played by Dougray Scott is really silly, cliché and over the top, and not in an enjoyable way. He’s also really boring and dull, and he gets quite a bit of screentime so when he was on screen he was just kind of annoying. He’s really hard to take seriously and is by far the worst villain in the series. Richard Roxburgh plays another villain but he is a little better than Scott. Brendan Gleeson is in this movie for some reason, he plays such a small role it makes you wonder why he was in there to begin with. Anthony Hopkins is also in this movie in one scene for some reason, he just comes and he goes quickly.

John Woo is the most prominent person in the entire movie, his style is everywhere. There is an awful lots of slow-mo, even in non action scenes, there are people flipping and flying everywhere, and there are doves flying in front of the camera. To Woo’s credit, the action scenes, for as over the top as they are, are pretty good and entertaining for what they are. In the third act, John Woo dials up the craziness to 11 and is filled with explosions, motorcycles, slow-motion, people jousting with motorcycles and jumping in mid air to collide with each other, it’s absolutely wild. The third act is so ridiculously stupid and filled with so many action clichés that it’s actually entertaining, and you stop caring about the dull plot. Also the end fight features some pretty good stunts, in fact the fight scenes are all done pretty well, even if it does feel out of place from other Mission Impossible movies. The CGI is quite bad, and doesn’t really hold up today but its far from being the main problem with the movie. Hans Zimmer’s score is pretty good.

If you plan on watching the Mission Impossible movies, you don’t need to watch this one. There’s not really anything you’re missing. It really has a dull plot with not much of substance, and despite all the entertainment factors, it’s still not enough to make this a completely entertaining movie. With that said, there is some fun to be had with Mission Impossible 2. Tom Cruise despite not being Ethan Hunt here is very dedicated, some of the action is entertaining (especially in the third act) and it features so many silly moments that end up being hilarious. Just don’t treat it as a Mission Impossible movie, be aware that it’s not like the other Mission Impossible movies (and I mean that in a bad way).

Moulin Rouge! (2001) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains offensive language and sexual references
Cast:
Nicole Kidman as Satine
Ewan McGregor as Christian
Jim Broadbent as Harold Zidler
Richard Roxburgh as The Duke of Monroth
John Leguizamo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Director: Baz Luhrmann

A celebration of love and creative inspiration takes place in the infamous, gaudy and glamorous Parisian nightclub, at the cusp of the 20th century. A young poet (Ewan McGregor), who is plunged into the heady world of Moulin Rouge, begins a passionate affair with the club’s most notorious and beautiful star (Nicole Kidman).

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I was very sceptical about Moulin Rouge before watching it, although I liked Baz Lurhman’s The Great Gatsby, I really didn’t like his Romeo and Juliet. It didn’t help that Moulin Rouge seemed to have a lot of elements that I hated in 90’s Romeo and Juliet. Nonetheless I finally watch Moulin Rouge (I didn’t want to judge it without actually watching it) … and it took me a few viewings attempts to do finish watching it. While there are some good things in Moulin Rouge, for the most part it just really annoyed me and I personally don’t understand all the acclaim.

I didn’t care for any of the characters or the story. The movie is surrounding love, however in this movie, everything about love just feels really shallow and doesn’t really have much depth. It just pretty much boils down to “love is good because it’s good and people who don’t like love are bad because they are bad”. I wish I was exaggerating. I can’t say which act is best because it all goes in and out of quality, one moment it’s obnoxious, then there’s something that has potential or is even legitimately good, then it goes back to being annoying again. The movie tries to be funny and quirky at a lot of points and it’s irritating when they do this, it took me 5-10 minutes for me to regret trying to watch Moulin Rouge. A lot of the characters are annoying as well, on top of them being over the top and cartoonish, there really isn’t much to them. They also have a tendency to make stupid decisions for no reason at all, particularly Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman’s characters. I wasn’t heavily interested in the story throughout, there were times where I was partially entertained by some sequences but I didn’t really care what happened. So when you’re supposed to feel something at certain points, I really felt nothing at all. Of course I know that there are lots of people who had completely different experiences to me, a lot of people love Moulin Rouge, this is just I felt when I was watching it.

I’m very mixed on the acting. Ewan McGregor at times is good, the problem is that I found his character annoying, and at other times I found him unlikable. McGregor to his credit, does manage to elevate his role slightly and he does have some legitimately good moments. Nicole Kidman isn’t so lucky, not only is the character annoying, she has to act completely ridiculous and it’s just embarrassing to watch. There’s particularly a scene with her, McGregor and Richard Roxburgh, it’s their first scene together and it’s just the most embarrassing thing ever. Though really she’s ridiculous throughout. Kidman does try her best. I don’t put this against her acting ability, she’s definitely a very talented actress, it’s really the character, the direction and all the material that she was given that was the problem. In terms of acting, the best was Jim Broadbent, he was legitimately entertaining and I liked it when he was on screen. The villain is played Richard Roxburgh and he is incredibly over the top, and unfortunately not in a good way. The big problem is that we are supposed to take him somewhat seriously at the same time and I couldn’t take him seriously at all.

Baz Lurhmann’s direction is also a very mixed bag for me. There are some good parts to it, for example the sets are great and all well put together, the problem is that the editing a lot of the time doesn’t allow us to appreciate these sets. There is so much cutting during some sequences that is incredibly jarring and obnoxious. There are also some sequences which are legitimately good, even great, one in particular being El Tango De Roxanne. But there are still some parts to most of the direction that really frustrated me. The style and over the top nature was really irritating to me and was for me the most frustrating part of the movie. At the same time I am fully aware that people actually like this style and that’s part of the reason they love it so much, but for me, the erratic cutting, editing and camera movements were obnoxious and only made the whole experience worse. As for the songs, none of them are original, some of the songs are fine, others are not so much. It didn’t blow me away, save for maybe one or two songs.

Moulin Rouge definitely has some praiseworthy elements but it is overshadowed by the more flawed elements that distract from the better elements. It’s really the style, direction and story that brings this movie down, which on top of leaving no positive impact on me, also just ended up being straight up irritating at times. Despite my dislike of the film, I do recommend that people go out and see Moulin Rouge for themselves, I can’t tell who is going to love or hate it. I have noticed that some people who hate musicals really liked it. As someone who despite not being a massive fan of musicals but enjoys a lot of them, I really didn’t like Moulin Rouge, and I really wished I could see what everyone else sees in it.