IS there anything left to know about the most impersonated man in the world?
Director Baz Luhrmann certainly thinks so, with his high tempo and ferociously flamboyant look at Elvis Presley’s relationship with his dodgy manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Similar to Luhrmann’s direction of The Great Gatsby and Romeo And Juliet, the first half hour barely lets you blink.
Camp and crazy love letter
It’s a high-speed spin through the first 20 years of Elvis’s life that makes you feel like you’ve just binged on a knickerbocker glory, with a huge dollop of glitz, glamour and decadence sprinkled on top.
There’s a young Elvis, growing up dirt poor, peeping through the curtains at a black evangelical church in the deep south.
He is spellbound by the music, as though it takes over his soul, and is heavily influenced by the beats, which he goes on to use in his own music.
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This soon finds him ostracised by the white community. He is deemed a freak and a troublemaker, but his desire to perform keeps pushing him on.
One man who spots this diamond in the rough is Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), a grotesquely obese country music promoter who needs to make money fast due to spiralling gambling debts.
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Parker entices Elvis’s parents with a contract and also sweet talks them into signing him as Elvis’ exclusive manager. Meaning he takes 50 per cent. Forever.
This is where the film really finds its gyrating feet. The pace evens out and it becomes a very watchable biopic, with a side to the story that has not been told before.
And an extraordinary performance from Austin Butler as the King keeps you hooked. With a convincing likeness, Butler, like a young Elvis, is so fascinatingly beautiful it’s impossible to look away.
Luhrmann’s portrayal of Elvis’s story — over more than two and a half hours — is certainly a rose-tinted one, with no scorn or judgment being put on Presley, who started dating a 14-year-old Pricilla when he was 24.
Hanks is uncharacteristically mediocre in the role as Parker, and despite the gift of a vast soundtrack of Elvis songs, some modern tunes are sprinkled in, which jars and feels unnecessary.
But that aside, this camp and crazy love letter to the biggest star the world has ever seen is well worth a watch.
GEORGE MICHAEL FREEDOM UNCUT
THERE are two groups of people that should go and see this documentary about the former Wham! singer turned pop royalty, which is on very limited release anyway.
Those that didn’t see the original version, George Michael Freedom, when it hit cinemas in 2017 and obsessive fans.
You would have to be a total devotee to find enough fresh material in this “uncut” version to justify paying good money to see it in a movie theatre again.
In truth, there is little to separate the two films and all of the most revelatory bits were in the first one anyway. It is, however, a quality product.
It is great to hear star names including Liam Gallagher and Elton John listen to George’s best songs on vinyl while talking about his importance.
There is also the final interview that the late pop singer gave prior to his death on Christmas Day in 2016. This is the tale of a star who was determined to be famous and, once he achieved that, was determined to change how fame was maintained.
Like this documentary, the results were mixed.
THE BLACK PHONE
(15) 102 mins
IF rail strikes, petrol prices and Ryan Gosling’s Ken outfit are not scary enough, I know a way to ramp up your nightmares.
Go watch The Black Phone. It’s the kind of horror movie that will give you night sweats and have you wrestling with your duvet as you desperately try to wake up from a disturbed sleep.
Ethan Hawke’s creepy, horned, mask-wearing child abductor, nicknamed The Grabber, will stalk your dreams.
Set in 1978 it has a slightly Stranger Things feel, mainly due to the plot revolving around a group of young teens in retro clothes.
The central characters are siblings Finney and Gwen Shaw, played brilliantly by newcomers Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw.
Director Scott Derrickson, who made the first Dr Strange movie, draws out the tension in this perfectly paced film.
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He does reach for a few stock teen narratives, such as the bullied kid, but the paranormal element of the old-fashioned phone gives the movie a fresh edge.
My advice is to dial into The Black Phone now before it is ruined by the inevitable sequels and, even worse, an origins story.
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