Haunted Mansion Review

 Ready for a little spookiness in August? I'll be honest the desire to throw on a jumper, buy pumpkins and embrace all things spooky has hit me early this year, mainly due to the depressing summer weather here in the UK. But something still feels slightly off about releasing a ghost movie in the middle of summer but that is exactly what Disney have done with Haunted Mansion. Haunted Mansion is the second film of its name release by Disney, The Haunted Mansion (Rob Minkoff, 2003) was my go-to childhood scary movie, although there is no link between the two films. It is also the second film to be based on a Disney ride, the first being the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. The ride features at five Disney Parks, under three names: The Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor and Mystic Manor, and the film makes numerous nods to the dark ride. So, join me foolish mortals on a journey to the Haunted Mansion.  Haunted Mansion's opening act is perfect, scary and full of mystery. As we open

Elvis Review

If you are heading to the cinema this weekend then Elvis is the film to watch. Baz Luhrmann, the director that gave us the iconic Moulin Rouge! (2001) and the unforgettable Great Gatsby (2013) is back with his sixth feature film: Elvis. The film chronicles the life of Rock and Roll king Elvis Presley, from the start of his career to his tragic death. With focus placed on the turbulent relationship between Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Luhrmann, brings his artistic flare to Elvis, combining music with visual spectacle to create another brilliant piece of cinema. I was lucky enough to attend the Elvis press screening in London with my colleague at Future of the Force, which was an amazing experiencePlease check out Future of the Force by Clicking here!

Elvis movie
The narrative works as a biography, not always chronological. Instead, it jumps through time, showing us things in the past that lead to the present in the same way biographical books are structured. Elvis is not just a dramatization of a musical legend but a tool for education. This is to the benefit of those in the audience that like me knew very little about Elvis other than his music and his struggles later in life. Whilst some films about legends have left a rather negative impact on me, Elvis left a resounding positive yet saddened impression. His life is conveyed through a series of eutrophic highs, emotional peaks and tragic lows that give audiences a taste of his experience. 

The events of Elvis’ life are framed by voiceovers and scenes of Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) as he tries to alleviate blame for Elvis’ death whilst upon his own death bed. It’s a powerful way to tell a story, and perhaps not the standard approach, but it leaves an impact. Rather than absolving himself of any guilt, Parker implicates himself, garnering further sympathy for Elvis. Hank’s performance in this role is up there as a career highlight, he conveys the scheming, self-motivated Parker in a subtle and believable way. You almost do not see his full betrayal until it is too late, which must have been akin to the real events as Elvis was trapped by Parker in reality and only realised once it was too late. 

Hanks’ performance is only surpassed by one other, Austin Butler gives us a career defining performance as Elvis. Butler successfully brings life to Elvis at every stage of his life except childhood (where Chandon Jay gives us a wonderful few scenes). He captures Elvis’ in a way no tribute performer ever could, he has the charisma, the dance moves, the voice, the expressions and the emotion. During an early performance Butler gives the most astounding display of talent, his rendition of ‘Trouble’ is all consuming. You can feel the passion he brings to the role, the dedication to dutifully bring Elvis to life is electrifying to watch. Fully capturing Elvis’ Butler is simply sensational, I would be shocked if an Oscar nomination is not in his near future. 

The narrative structure, framing devices and incredible acting however are not the only reasons Elvis leaves such a profound impact. No Baz Luhrmann film would be complete without some artistic spectacle. Whilst his stylisation modernised both The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet (1996), in the case of Elvis the Baz style captures Elvis’ thrilling pursuit of the American Dream, allowing audiences to experience the highs and lows of fame.  In one particular scene Elvis walks through his favourite part of town - with his fame already growing this is an area he is not meant to be. But Elvis is enamoured by this area, the black community - their culture, fashion and music all part of his influences. The scene is a combination of shots and split screens, that show Elvis taking in life, fashion, music whilst juxtaposing with shots of the white area of town. During this scene Dojo Cat’s Vegas plays and the visual and track come together in a spellbinding way, it’s a moment of great cinema. Throughout the use of music from various artists including Elvis and Austin Butler bring life to the visuals, in an intoxicating way - I found myself wanting more, more songs, more performances just more of everything. Which reflects Elvis’ determination to please audiences, to sing, to continually improve. 

Overall, Elvis is a triumph that fully captures the addictive nature of fame and the passion Elvis had for his music and his fans. The tragic events that plagued Elvis are difficult to watch, the exploitation he endured from Parker, horrific. But the resounding message of this film is: who was the real Elvis? And until this film I don’t think we really knew, we see throughout how lost he becomes, how society pressures reduce him to a fragment of the man he could have been. It emphasises the message that all those Elvis impersonators that solely bring to life his later years during the Vegas residency, reflect nothing more than a caricature. The involvement of the Presley family in the creation of this film means that Baz Luhrmann with his distinctive flare has finally been able to show the world who Elvis really was. Which is powerful. Elvis is a resounding success, a fantastic piece of cinema. 

Thank you for reading xx