Tag Archives: johnny knoxville

Elvis & Nixon – Review

3 May

Of all the historic photographs held in the National Archives, you might be surprised that the most requested picture of all time is of Elvis Presley shaking Richard Nixon’s hand in the Oval Office. The King of Rock n Roll and one of the most notorious presidents in American history sure make quite the duo. What’s even stranger is that there are no records to give the reason why these two American icons met in the first place. That brings us to Liza Johnson’s Elvis & Nixon, a pretty absurd comedy that offers a pretty hilarious fictionalized account and possibly reason behind the whole meeting. What I really love about this movie is that it knows what it is, and it also gives leaves some time between the absurdity to offer some interesting themes surrounding celebrity and a person’s real identity.

elvis-1

In 1970, Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) still has his status as one of the biggest superstars in the world, even though his impact on the entertainment industry has declined since his earlier days. Meanwhile, President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) has held the presidential office for a little over a year and has his sights set on re-election. After seeing the troubles plaguing the youth of the nation, Elvis decides that he hasn’t been doing enough to make the next generations of Americans safe and prosperous. This line of thinking leads to his decision that it’s time for him to be given a federal badge and be appointed a “federal agent at large.” Armed with his golden pistols and trusty entourage (Jerry Schilling and Johnny Knoxville), Presley makes his way to Washington D.C. for what he believes will be a monumental meeting with the president of the United States.

I’ve explained this movie to some people who haven’t heard of it, and the looks on their faces as I’m talking makes me feel like I have three heads. Elvis & Nixon is, without a doubt, completely absurd. That being said, however, a lot of the events surrounding these two cultural icons are even more absurd than most of the things in this movie. There’s a part of me that believes their secret meeting might have gone a little something like it does in the movie because we all live in such a crazy world anyway. This is where I give a lot of credit to the screenwriters (one of whom happens to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, himself, Cary Elwes). The story that they’ve constructed is very silly, but there is a lot of really snappy dialogue and an understated, yet very present, grounding in reality.

9d48c7681d1aa414960f6a7067006755_r900x493

When Elvis & Nixon takes a break from the over the top scenarios and barrage of witty banter, there is time to look at the characters for who they truly are. That, I believe, is the real point to this movie. What we have are two people that couldn’t have been different from each other, and having never met one another have their own judgmental opinions of the other. It’s interesting to see the interaction when they finally do meet and the real people behind what the media has created for them is revealed. There’s one excellent scene in the movie where Elvis says when regular people walk into a room they are recognized for who they are, but when he walks into a room he is only recognized by the preconceived notions and memories that his fame created. This idea of separating a celebrity from their works to see them as a person is a pretty timeless theme and it’s handled surprisingly intelligently in this film.

Besides the premise, the two main actors were the big reason why I was excited about this movie and they did not disappoint. Michael Shannon may not look a lot like Elvis, but he seems to have mastered all of the movements and swagger of the King, and even sounds a lot like him at times. The best part of Shannon’s performance is that he never makes it over the top. He brings a subtlety to the performance that feels real, and it reminds me why he is one of my favorite actors. Speaking of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey is hilarious as Richard Nixon. He has all the same subtlety as Shannon, and never turns Nixon into a caricature. I was concerned that Spacey would just come across as Frank Underwood from House of Cards, but he really does step away from that president and become Nixon.

What’s great about Elvis & Nixon is that it never tries to come across as more than it is. What this film is is a sometimes over the top satire of a time period, celebrity, and even politics, but done so in the most unpretentious of ways. There’s some real humanity amongst all of the jokes and absurdity, and the actors play their roles with real skill. Elvis & Nixon won’t go down as a classic or even a movie that’s going to be really remembered and discussed, but that’s ok. This is still a really good and fun movie that is well worth anyone’s time.

Advertisements

The Last Stand – Review

12 Feb

In 2003, action megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger reprised his famous career making role in Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines. Since then, he became the governator of California and made small appearances in The Expendables and The Expendables 2. In 2013, however, and for the first time in a decade, starred in an action film. This was Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand, a movie that runs on all cylinders, hits you like a shotgun blast to the chest, and renewed some of my faith in modern action films.

The-Last-Stand-poster-final

 

After a violent past working as an L.A.P.D narcotics officer, Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) moves to the small town of Somerset, Arizona where the only crime is keeping some drunks or local gun nut Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) quiet. Hurtling towards this small town at over 200 mph is an escaped cartel kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) who fled from his transport in Las Vegas and is now making his way to the Mexican border. Hot on his tail is FBI Agent John Barrister (Forest Whitaker) who also warns Owens that this criminal and his army are making his way to his town. Low on men and weapons, Sheriff Owens, his deputies, and Dinkum turn the town into a blockade and prepare to fight the criminals off with Dinkum’s arsenal of heavy firepower.

Wow. Honestly, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I loved this movie. After recently watching Parker and spring boarding off that to think about how action movies just haven’t been impressing me, it was great to watch The Last Stand and really enjoy it. Right from the beginning, this movie’s filled with humor and action, and anyone who tries to deny that obviously hasn’t seen the movie. Even the story of this movie makes me smile just thinking about it. Sure it has some cliches, but it’s more original than a lot of action movies Hollywood is producing. Having a speeding car jetting towards a small town that’s been turned into a blockade is something I wish I wrote. It was exciting and engaging the entire way through.

stand5

 

Another great thing is that the movie does a great job at making you care about its characters. While there is plenty of action and comedy, I was surprised that there was a large heaping of drama to go along with this movie. The characters aren’t really anything different from what you’d expect in an action movie of this kind, save maybe for Knoxville’s character, but there was still enough personality to make them three dimensional. When the action starts, I wanted to see all of the heroes get out alive. Unfortunately for them, the action in this movie seems bloody and relentless at points, which was just a joy for me.

The only problem I had with this movie was some really weird pacing and cuts in the scenes. At a certain point in the movie where the shit begins to hit the fan, we are literally all over the place and in three states at once. It made for some really awkward cutting. The characters in Somerset are obviously the main focus, but at the point I’m talking about the scenes in Vegas with the FBI was more important. Instead of staying with a certain group of people for an appropriate amount of time, I felt like I was being thrown all over the place to get a ridiculous amount of information really quickly. It was like riding a wooden roller coaster that has seen too many years.

All in all, The Last Stand was a really fun movie that I’d love to watch again and again. This isn’t a movie where you have to think too hard or really put effort into it, but if you want to see an action movie, then you really can’t go wrong here. It’s full of bullets, blood, laughs, drama, and an exploding torso. Doesn’t that just sound like a recipe for success right out of the Action Movie Cook Book? It may not become a classic, but it is one of the better films of the genre to be released in a very long time and I think The Last Stand has done me good and will do me good, and I say God bless it.