Elvis


Viewed – 23 December 2022 Blu-ray

Any movie about the ‘king of rock and roll’ for me is an enticing prospect. He lead a very colourful, demanding and extravagant life. When I heard Baz Lurhman, director of Strictly Ballroom and Romeo & Juliet was taking on the task, I thought… what a great fit. This stars Tom Hanks as Elvis’ long-time manager Colonel Tom Parker, who narrates the story, depicting Elvis’ life from his perspective.

Immediately Lurhman’s overwhelming style is showcased, and it takes some getting used to, with frantic edits, a rush of images & music. However once the movie settles into it’s story, I found myself getting absorbed. I’ve always appreciated Elvis’ music but watching this I discovered how little I really knew about him. Therefore this was an education. Lurhman for the most part sticks closely to the facts, whilst throwing in Colonel Parker’s observations for some artistic license. The movie delves into the prejudice & racial tensions of the 50s & 60s and much of the push back to Elvis’ style and charisma, whilst still showing his vulnerabilities and his personal battles. Austin Butler as Elvis is a revelation, capturing that cheeky sexiness but also delivering both the king’s on stage showmanship and his back stage struggles. He’s really excellent and at times uncanny. Less could be said for Hanks; one of my all time favourite actors who’s performance was a little too ‘caricature’ for my liking.

Overall, I found this a deeply fascinating, powerful and visually arresting portrayal of probably the most iconic musician of all time. This pretty much nails everything; the timeless music, the setting and especially the impact the man had on the world. A must watch.

Verdict: Essential

Avatar: The Way of Water


Viewed – 19 December 2022 Cinema

Director James Cameron has a grand vision for his Avatar franchise. Despite the first movie being one of the highest grossing movies ever… numerous delays and over a ten year wait, it began to feel like we may never actually see what he’d been working. That wait is finally over. Set a number of years after the first movie, Jake Sullly (Sam Worthington) and N’tiri (Zoe Saldana) live a peaceful existence on the planet of Pandora raising their family, consisting of two sons, the daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s character as well as a feral human boy. That is until a new threat from the humans arrives, and Jake & his family are forced to either fight or flee.

Like the first movie, the story is simple yet effective. This time around there is an emphasis on family, race, and nature and it quickly became clear to me the movie is basically one big advert for conservation of the planet etc. not that far removed from David Attenborough documentary at times. However this is still a movie, and a James Cameron one at that – so the visuals, action and technology on display are in a word – stunning.

The CGI is more often than not, jaw-dropping. It’s a step up even from the last movie. Considering that came out in 2009, it still looks better than most movies. Cameron has this time used a high frame-rate technique that gives the movie a near 3D aesthetic, yet takes some getting used to (it’s also available in 3D). I’m not entirely sure it was necessary, but some of the grander moments do look amazing because of it. At 3hrs and 15 minutes yes, the movie is long but that’s because Cameron takes time to develop the characters and story for the first two hours, before delivering some bombastic action in an exhilarating, emotional and impressive final act. A movie that demands to be experienced on the biggest screen possible. A must see.

Verdict: Essential

Terrifier 2


Viewed – 10 November 2022 online rental

The first Terrifier was a gory little slasher with a striking villain in the shape of ‘Art the Clown’, and had a tongue-in-cheek humour to it that helped gloss over any shortcomings in acting or budget. This bigger and bolder but still fairly low budget follow-up has the psychotic clown return to stalk a fresh set of victims on Halloween night.

With a run time of a surprising 138 minutes, this is far more ambitious than the first movie. It further develops the mystique of Art the Clown by introducing a haunting, freaky little girl version of him. The plot revolves around a teenager as she prepares to enjoy Halloween, creating a costume for the night etc. Her younger brother however seems obsessed with the stories of the killer clown from exactly one year earlier. The movie is a bit all over the place plot-wise throwing in dream sequences and hinting at a back story that’s never fully explored. However, director Damien Leone delivers a constantly freaky, unnerving and at times downright nasty experience. His style is very grind-house but there’s clear skill behind the camera. He was also partly responsible for the excellent practical effects and with that let’s get to the gore… oh my god! This has to be one of the most unrelenting and brutal slasher movies I have ever seen – seriously, no matter your disposition, there’s several scenes of savage violence here that are simply hard to watch.

The big failing though is that the plot doesn’t go anywhere, with any deeper lore kind of forgotten about as the movie nears its end. It’s also not as darkly funny as the first movie, preferring to be intense and nasty. Acting isn’t great either, with the younger brother especially cringe. That being said Lauren Lavera is at least a decent, gutsy heroine and her look and personality do stand out. Yet of course the star here is David Howard Thornton’s ‘Art’ – who cements his place in the halls of horror icon infamy. At over 2 hours this was too long and often felt self-indulgent… but as a movie it certainly packed a punch.

Verdict: Good+

Where The Crawdads Sing


Viewed – 30 October 2022 online rental

When a popular local guy is found dead under mysterious circumstances, the towns folk quickly point the finger at a girl who lives in seclusion in the marshland. Through a series of flashbacks we learn her origin and whether or not she’s as guilty as people suspect.

Based on a best selling novel by Delia Owens, this was a very absorbing drama. With a stand out performance from Daisy Edgar-Jones who reminded me of a young Holly Hunter, I was drawn in by this girl’s story, the backdrop of 50s / 60s North Carolina and exploration of prejudice. The courtroom drama aspects were very much a cross between To Kill a Mockingbird and Twelve Angry Men. There was also some eye-catching cinematography, showcasing the beauty and the eerie atmosphere of the setting.

Some of the support cast are a bit stereotypical and the ending was slightly predictable. But overall I was gripped by the story and very much found myself caught up in the girl’s situation. Emotional and powerful stuff.

Verdict: Recommended

My Best Friend’s Exorcism


Viewed – 12 October 2022 Amazon Prime

I went into this hoping for a fun 80s throwback horror like I grew up watching when first getting into horror. The concept is an appealing one. A nerdy girl begins to think her hot best friend may be possessed after a night at a drunken party summons a demon.

This did make me think of Megan Fox horror Jennifer’s Body. However with the casting of relative unknowns, the first mistake this makes is weak clichéd characters and only passable acting. Secondly for a demonic possession movie, teen comedy or not this is very watered down and tame. The horror aspects are not for a minute scary either. Even the effects work is poor (a vomit scene, obviously a nod to The Exorcist is just laughable).

For a movie set in the 80s, apart from the music and some posters, it fails to ever feel or look particularly 80s. Really, when I think the horrors I grew up on, this was just embarrassing.

Verdict: Avoid