REVIEW: ‘Elvis’ is an exuberant, exhausting experience

Elvis Presley has been portrayed on the large and small screen many times before. However, none of them featured the flair of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, until now.

The story of Elvis (Austin Butler) in this biopic is told from the perspective of the performer’s infamous manager, Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The movie begins with Parker on his deathbed and from there, the former manager recounts the events of his time with the singer, from when he discovered him to the performers final days in Las Vegas.

The movie showcases how Elvis’ popularity surged, his inspiration from African American musicians, his controversial stage movements and his attempt at a comeback after some down years. It also features the decline of his health during his time doing several shows in Vegas.

Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Elvis’ is an exuberant, exhausting experience”

REVIEW: ‘The Phantom of the Open’ is a below average biopic

Some sports biopics inspire, others make you laugh, and there are those that do both.

“Phantom of the Open,” unfortunately, isn’t such a film.

The movie tells the true story of Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) a middle class shipping worker in an English port town. Upon hearing that the company he works for may be downsizing in the years to come, he begins considering what else he can do in life.

After a night of watching golf on TV, he decides to try his luck at the sport, entering the 1976 Open Championship. The only problem is Flitcroft is a complete amateur entering a professional competition. Despite this, he goes forward with support from his family.

Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘The Phantom of the Open’ is a below average biopic”

REVIEW: Biopic ‘Being the Ricardos’ drops the Ball

It’s easy to love “I Love Lucy.” But that’s not the case with “Being the Ricardos.”

The film stars Nicole Kidman, who portrays Lucille Ball, the actress well known for the series “I Love Lucy.” The movie picks up during a week of filming the “I Love Lucy” show, where the production has been impacted by some recent news.

Rumors are swirling around Hollywood about Ball possibly being associated with communism during the height of the Red Scare. The film follows how this affects production, and Ball’s marriage to her husband, Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem).

Continue reading “REVIEW: Biopic ‘Being the Ricardos’ drops the Ball”

REVIEW: ‘Tick, Tick… Boom’ is an enjoyable, touching tribute

The legacy of late composer Jonathan Larson is honored in this new Netflix feature, based on his own autobiographical musical, “Tick, Tick… Boom.”

Andrew Garfield stars as Larson in the movie, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film has a framing device of Larson of performing “Tick, Tick… Boom” as a one man show, where he tells the story of himself in 1990, struggling to get a new production off the ground.

That production is “Superbia,” and the story Larson tells includes details about how he worked at a small diner, his strained relationships because of his focus on his work and how he grieved for friends he lost to the AIDS epidemic.

Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Tick, Tick… Boom’ is an enjoyable, touching tribute”

REVIEW: ‘House of Gucci’ grabs a viewers’ attention, despite flaws

Al Pacino hasn’t been in a family this intense since the Corleones.

“House of Gucci” follows the famous fashion family from the late 70s until the dynasty fell apart in the mid-90s. The movie’s main focus is on Patrizia (Lady Gaga), a woman who in 1978 met and married one of the Gucci heirs, Maurizio (Adam Driver).

From there, the movie follows how the two maneuvered to gain more power in the family. Their efforts to do so put them in conflict with other members of the family, and eventually, each other.

Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘House of Gucci’ grabs a viewers’ attention, despite flaws”

REVIEW: ‘King Richard’ can please crowds but could have been more

The Prince of Bel-Air has ascended to a higher monarch level, now having the title of king.

Will Smith is Richard Williams in this new sports drama, the father of tennis greats Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton) who had the nickname of King Richard in Compton, Calif. The film begins with Richard helping his daughters with tennis practices, and making an effort to find them a professional coach, as he knows their potential.

From there, the movie follows how Richard worked to advance his daughters’ talents, while also halting their careers from advancing too fast. The movie also explores how Richard got along with Venus’ coaches and his marriage with Oracene Williams (Aunjanue Ellis).

Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘King Richard’ can please crowds but could have been more”

REVIEW: ‘Spencer’ is a master class character study

Diana, Princess of Wales, has been portrayed on screen for decades, in everything from TV movies to the critically acclaimed series “The Crown.”

Perhaps no film has featured a portrayal as intimate and powerful as the one in “Spencer,” though.

Kristen Stewart stars as Princess Diana, who’s joining the rest of the British Royal Family in Norfolk at the Sandringham Estate for the holidays in 1991. The film follows Diana closely, from Christmas Eve through Boxing Day, showcasing her strained relationship with the rest of her family, her struggles with mental health and commitment to be a strong parent for her sons.

Where “Spencer” differs from other biopics about Princess Diana and other films about the royals is the hyper-focus. The movie centers nearly exclusively on Diana, and what she has to go through.

Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Spencer’ is a master class character study”

REVIEW: By the numbers biopic about Tammy Faye salvaged by cast

This biopic starts by showing Tammy Faye’s youth, and she just happened to share the hometown of yours truly.

Before her career as a television evangelist, this film shows Tammy (Jessica Chastain) growing up in the small northern Minnesota town International Falls (Go Broncos). From an early age, Tammy loves the energy and music of the church and it leads her to attending North Central Bible College in Minneapolis.

There, she meets Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). The two quickly fall in love and soon get married. Rather than continue the college route, the two decide to be preachers on the road. Their talent soon get them picked up on TV and from there, build their own media empire. Unfortunately, it’s all too good to be true for the Bakkers.

Continue reading “REVIEW: By the numbers biopic about Tammy Faye salvaged by cast”

REVIEW: Hudson’s stunning performance not enough to fully salvage generic ‘Respect’

Aretha Franklin was a powerful force in music and Civil Rights, and this movie certainly touches on both of those aspects.

One just wishes the quality of the film had been above that of a standard biopic.

“Respect” mainly follows Franklin’s (Jennifer Hudson) childhood and roughly the first 10 to 15 years of her career. The film opens with Franklin losing her mother and the impact the death leaves on her.

From there, it follows how music helped Franklin open up again after her mother’s death. Then, the picture focuses on how Franklin went from a lead singer at her father’s (Forest Whitaker) church to a struggling singer, and then finally breaking through to success.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Hudson’s stunning performance not enough to fully salvage generic ‘Respect’”

REVIEW: Despite strong lead performance, ‘U.S. v Holiday’ doesn’t hold up

There are many politicians, musicians and others who deserve good biopic movies. There are also a lot of not so good biopics out there about interesting people.

Unfortunately, Billie Holiday meets the former and this film fits the latter.

“The United States vs Billie Holiday” follows the titular singer (Andra Day) mostly during her career in the 1940s, with a heavy focus on her song “Strange Fruit.” The song references lynching and came not long after an anti-lynching bill was rejected by the United States Senate.

Early on in the film, the FBI is shown as being paranoid of the song to the point where they fear the music will encourage the Civil Rights movement more. Driven by this, the agency targets Holiday, mainly by going after her on drug charges, as Holiday was using substances during her career.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Despite strong lead performance, ‘U.S. v Holiday’ doesn’t hold up”